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Trump Ignored Cyber Defense, But GOP Blames Biden For Pipeline Hack

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

EDITOR'S UPDATE: Colonial Pipeline announced that its East Coast gas line resumed operations around 5 pm ET on Wednesday evening. But the company cautioned that operations will ramp up for a few days before the line reaches full capacity.

Gas prices are up this week after a hacker attack shut down a major East Coast gas pipeline. Congressional Republicans are blaming the increased prices on President Joe Biden.

On May 8, the Colonial Pipeline Company announced it had been the victim of a cyberattack involving ransomware. The attack forced a shutdown of most of the privately held company's 5,500-mile East Coast pipeline, which ordinarily delivers 45% of the region's fuel and runs from Houston to New York. Panic-buying since the announcement has resulted in gas stations running out of fuel and the highest gas prices in six years.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a group of hackers with ties to Russia is behind the attacks, though there is no evidence they are acting on behalf of any government. The group, DarkSide, has a history of extorting money after hacking into company computer systems in the United States and Europe.

Rather than blame the problems on the group behind the attack or inadequate security at Colonial Pipeline, several Republican lawmakers have blamed the shutdown and the gas price spikes on Biden and cited it as evidence to condemn his presidency.

"Increased taxes, the largest increase in inflation since the '08 Obama jobless economy, and skyrocketing gas, energy, and household goods prices," accusedSen. Todd Young of Indiana on Wednesday. "American workers and families are being pummeled by the Biden economy."

"Highest gas prices in 6 years," tweeted Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma. "Working families cannot afford Joe Biden's America."

"The people of NC-11 are feeling the effects of Biden's utter incompetence as they see gas prices soar and inflation loom," complained Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. "Biden is hurting our people. I will fight for a better life for my neighbors every day. Enough is enough."

"Skyrocketing gas prices," wrote Alabama Rep. Barry Moore. "This is Joe Biden's America."

"Lines around city blocks for a gallon of gas," said Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson. "By any objective measure, Biden's first 100 days have been a disaster."

"In Joe Biden's America you can't get gas or a job," added Colorado Rep. Ken Buck.

"In the 1970's, during the last major gas shortage, Joe Biden was already in government," said Rep. Lauren Boebert, also of Colorado.

While Republican lawmakers are busy tweeting, the Biden administration saysthe attack "has triggered a comprehensive federal response focused on securing critical energy supply chains." This includes creating an interagency response group, temporarily waiving fuel standards, giving emergency safety waivers to those transporting fuel, and providing security guidance for other infrastructure.

Colonial Pipeline Company praised the White House on Tuesday for "leadership and collaboration in resolving this matter."

Ransomware attacks predate Biden's 112-day-old administration, but few, if any, GOP lawmakers attacked Donald Trump for his handling of cybersecurity.

Experts say Trump not only failed to take the problem seriously, but actually made things worse. "Much of the work done … [during the Trump administration] was weakened by a president who didn't prioritize cyber-issues and who, in many cases, actively undercut any actions or messaging against our adversaries," Chris Painter, who coordinated cyber operations at the State Department under President Barack Obama, told the Washington Post in December.

Biden announced Monday that his administration will do everything possible to "disrupt and prosecute ransomware criminals" and "will be pursuing a global effort of ransomware attacks by transnational criminals who often use global money-laundering networks to carry them out."

But, Biden noted, much of the nation's vital infrastructure "is privately owned and managed, like Colonial," and those "private entities are making their own determination on cybersecurity."

The president added, "So to jumpstart greater private-sector investment in cybersecurity, we launched a new public-private initiative in April. It begins with a 100-day sprint to improve cybersecurity in the electric sector, and we'll follow that with similar initiatives in natural gas pipelines, water, and other sectors."

Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee used the exposure by hackers of the vulnerability of one company to claim that America needs another oil pipeline.

"America is facing a gas shortage," Blackburn tweeted on Wednesday. "We need to get the Colonial pipeline back to work, and the Keystone pipeline back to construction."

Unlike the Colonial Pipeline, the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline would not transport oil to Americans; it would be used by a Canadian company to transfer tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of that refined oil would then likely be exported overseas.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Violent Threats By Trump Supporters Are Multiplying Nationwide

A Maryland man was arrested last week on federal charges for making violent threats toward Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, according to local prosecutors, the latest in a line of threatening incidents against the candidates and their supporters.

James Dale Reed was caught leaving a graphic and violent letter on a doorstep Oct. 4, the incident captured by a doorbell camera installed on the homeowners' porch.

"Warning!" it read in big, bold letters.The letter informed the homeowners that if they were Biden/Harris supports, they "will be targeted."

"We have a list of homes and addresses by your election signs," the letter claimed. "We are the ones with those scary guns."

Reed then threatened to capture Biden and "severely" beat him to "the point of death." He also threatened to sexually assault Harris.

"Then for the Grand end (they) both will be executed on National Television," Reed wrote. "I would prefer CNN."

After initial denials, Reed admitted to writing the letter and said he left it at the first house he saw with a Biden/Harris campaign sign in the lawn.

He has been charged with the federal offense of threatening a major candidate, carrying with it a prison sentence of up to five years.

Reed was also charged with threatening mass violence and voter intimidation, both violations of Maryland state law.

This isn't the first threat Biden and his supporters have faced this election season.

In a viral video in October, a self-proclaimed "Trump supporter" threatened to start a war if Biden were elected.

In it, Zachary Poole of Williamsburg, Ohio claimed that if Trump won the election, Black Lives Matter and Antifa would protest and cause problems. So, he said, he and other Trump-supporting friends were ready to secure a Trump victory.

"We comin' ... and we comin' strong," he said.

Local police suspected he might be affiliated the Proud Boys, the white supremacist group that Donald Trump recently told to "stand back and stand by," but they were unable to independently verify that claim.

Poole was not charged, but police continue to monitor his social media accounts and reported the incident to the FBI as a potential hate crime.

Elsewhere in October, in an unidentified location, a woman was caught on a Ring doorbell camera accosting her neighbor, threatening to sue her if she did not remove her Biden lawn sign.

The woman on the porch pointed out neighborhood bylaws regarding no signage on property, and then launched into a verbal attack on her neighbor.

"If you don't take this Harris-Biden shit down, I will sue you," she said to the homeowner.

She proceeded to shout that she was "going to have (the neighbor) sell (her) house," but "that's not going to happen now," and threatened the homeowner's business.

"You're going to lose a lot of business because of this crap," she said. Eventually she departed, shouting, "You get out your neighborhood association bylaws, section 5.20!"



In the clip, Buck also threatened former Texas congressman and Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke.

These threats are, tragically, nothing new for either Biden or Harris.

In 2018, a teen was indicted for making death threats against Harris for her pro-gun control stance.

The teen wrote a message to Harris' Instagram account saying he would make sure "she and her radical lefty friends never get back in power."

"You will never run for president, because you won't make it to see that day."

He was taken into federal custody.

But Trump's inflammatory rhetoric is not doing anything to assuage the recurring threats to Biden and Harris' persons.

Trump continues to call Harris "nasty" and a "monster," while questioning her citizenship. Meanwhile, he's leveled attacks on Biden's supposed dementia and continues to assert his opponent is a criminal and a pedophile.

Eric Trump also referred to Harris in a now-deleted retweet as "whorendous."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Republicans Urge Trump To Withhold Relief From Undocumented

Even though the current law limits stimulus checks Congress authorized in the coronavirus relief law to citizens and legal residents, more than three dozen Republican lawmakers insisted Donald Trump make sure that the IRS doesn't give undocumented immigrants a penny.

In a letter sent to Trump on Monday, 39 Republican members of the House, led by Ken Buck of Colorado, said they "are concerned that language and definitions contained in the CARES Act may allow illegal immigrants to also take advantage" of the relief checks.

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Mueller: Prosecutors Can Charge Trump After Presidency

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former special counsel Robert Mueller, in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, informed Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) that the president can be charged with a crime after leaving office, a moment that appeared to stun the Republican representative.

Buck was in the middle of a line of questioning designed to criticize Mueller’s refusal to indict or exonerate President Trump for alleged obstruction of justice.

“You made the decision on the Russian interference,” Buck said. “You couldn’t have indicted the president on that and you made the decision on that. But when it came to obstruction you threw a bunch of stuff up against the wall to see what would stick. That is fundamentally unfair.”

“I would not agree to that characterization at all,” Mueller replied. “What we did was provide to the Attorney general in the form of a confidential memorandum our understanding of the case. Those cases that were brought, those cases that were declined. And that one case where the president cannot be charged with a crime.”

“Okay,” Buck replied. “But could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?”

“Yes,” Mueller said.

Watch the exchange below:

 

At Hearing On Equality Bill, Republicans Spew Anti-LGTQ Bigotry

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday held a historic hearing on the Equality Act, a bill that would legally “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.”

And while Democrats on the committee asked thoughtful questions of the witnesses — including two people who had been fired or denied medical care because of their sexual orientation or gender identity — Republicans instead built straw men arguments about why transgender individuals shouldn’t receive the same protections as everyone else.

There was GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert, the Texas crackpot who argued that allowing transgender women into women’s shelters with cisgender women (women who are not transgender) was a “war on women.”

“Women they seem to have more post-traumatic stress disorder on sexual assault, and yet we’re going to force them to have men in confined spaces in shelters where they’re seeking a refuge away from men inflicting violence on them?” Gohmert said, grossly misgendering transgender women. “And because we’re going to stand up here and say, ‘Well it’s just too bad we’re going to force men to be into your spaces and you’re going to have to like it I think is a war on women that should not be allowed.'”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who has gone to great lengths to protect Trump, suggested there are “bad actors” who would somehow pretend to be transgender to “exploit the provisions of this law for their own gain.”

“Consider this possibility, if President Trump were to say, ‘I am now the first female president.’ Who would celebrate that?” Gaetz said, eliciting boos from onlookers in the hearing room. “Would those who support the legislation think that was a good thing? Or would they be dismayed?”

Of course, this is a ridiculous straw man argument. Transgender individuals are discriminated against and subjected to violence at higher rates than cisgender individuals. And the thought that someone would pretend to be transgender to get rights that everyone else already had makes absolutely zero sense.

If you thought that was the worst of the comments from Republicans on the committee, well, you thought wrong.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) made possibly the most insane and offensive remark of the day.

He asked Jami Contreras — a lesbian whose infant daughter was refused medical care by a doctor because the doctor didn’t want to treat the child of a same-sex couple — whether a Jewish doctor should be forced to treat a Nazi.

Yes, Buck — who was just elected chairman of the Colorado Republican Party — compared a child of lesbian mothers seeking medical treatment to a Nazi.

Contreras was clearly caught off guard by such a hateful question, comparing her gender identity to a Nazi, that she asked other experts on the panel to weigh in. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, a Jew himself, piped in to remind Buck that Nazis are not a “protected class.”

Of course, at the end of the day, this bill would simply provide the same equality protections to LGBTQ individuals and women that cisgender men have enjoyed for centuries. And Republicans reverted to such patently absurd and vile hypotheticals because there is no good reason not to codify those rights into law.

“No one is hurt when trans people live authentically,” the ACLU tweeted as Republicans spewed their vile bigotry. “Not in the restroom. Not in the locker room. Not on the court, field or track.”

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)

Ken Buck Is Back, And This Time He Says He Doesn’t Hate Women

Failed 2010 Senate candidate Ken Buck (R) is ramping up another run, and he’s determined to overcome the gender gap that destroyed his previous attempt to join Congress.

Buck, who has served as Weld County district attorney since 2004, is widely considered to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to oppose incumbent Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) in Colorado’s 2014 midterm elections. The thought makes some Republicans cringe, given Buck’s disastrous failure four years ago.

In 2010, Buck rode a wave of Tea Party support to the Republican nomination opposing Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), who was among the most vulnerable incumbents on the ballot. Throughout the campaign, Democrats eagerly turned Buck into an avatar for the far-right’s war on women. Buck himself provided the ammunition for these attacks; among other gaffes, he urged women to vote for him over primary opponent Jane Norton because “I do not wear high heels,” and suggested to a local newspaper that he declined to prosecute a suspected rape because it was merely “a case of buyer’s remorse.” Although Buck led Bennet in the polls for most of the race, on election night the Democrat scored a narrow victory. Bennet defeated Buck by less than 1 percent overall — but he ran up the score among women voters, winning them 56 to 40 percent according to exit polls.

Now Buck is running again, and with early polling finding him within striking distance of Udall, he hopes to avoid making the same mistakes twice.

“I ran in 2010 and the liberals — the progressives — did a masterful job of lying to the public about who I am,” Buck told the right-wing Daily Caller in a recent interview. “I’ve been a prosecutor for 25 years, I’ve helped people — rape victims, domestic violence victims, victims of senior fraud, in every way. I have spent my free time volunteering to help at-risk kids so they don’t choose a life of crime.”

“I decided if I was going to run again, I was going to make sure that I portrayed myself [in a way] that was honest and allowed people to make a judgment — hopefully on the issues — and not on some personality that the Democrats create,” Buck added.

To that end, Buck has released a new ad presenting a different side of him. In “Ken Cares: Stephanie’s Story,” Buck is not the misogynist Democrats successfully presented in 2010, but a crusading district attorney who went out of his way to protect Stephanie Drobny and her two young children from her abusive husband.

The web video is the first in a planned series of roughly 10, Buck told the Daily Caller. Unfortunately for the would-be senator, however, it will likely take more than a few touching ads to repair his image with women voters.

A softer touch will not change Buck’s unapologetically hardline positions on issues such as reproductive rights. Buck opposes abortion rights even in cases of rape and incest, and his wife — state representative Perry Buck — is at the forefront of legislative efforts to criminalize abortion in the state.

Buck also hasn’t stopped committing unforced errors that let Democratic attack ads pretty much write themselves. Most recently, he compared his past battle against lymphoma to being pregnant, saying, “It’s certainly the feeling that I had when I was a cancer patient, I wanted to be in control of the decisions that were made concerning my body.” (Note that this sympathy did not moderate his position on a woman’s right to choose.)

Ultimately, the biggest roadblock on Buck’s path to the Senate may not be women voters; instead, it could be money. Buck raised just $154,109 in the fourth quarter of 2013, leaving him with $262,347 in cash on hand. By contrast, Udall raised over $1 million in each quarter last year, and sits on a war chest of nearly $5 million as he awaits his general election opponent. In other words, for every ad Buck airs portraying his kinder, gentler side, Udall can afford to air several more reminding Coloradans of why they rejected Buck four years ago.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons