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Republicans Undermining Democracy With Pointless 2020 Election Probes

A Pennsylvania courtroom last month became the latest battleground over claims the 2020 presidential election was rigged, as Republicans around the country pressed ahead with efforts to investigate the voting despite a lack of evidence of widespread fraud.

On December 15, a five-judge panel in Harrisburg heard Democrats' arguments to block a subpoena sought by Senate Republicans, seeking information on voters and election systems. Democrats argue the subpoena is an abuse of power and serves no legitimate legislative purpose.

A lawyer for Senate Republicans insisted lawmakers have a legitimate interest in getting the information to improve election law, regardless of the backdrop of former President Donald Trump trying to get allies in battleground states to turn up evidence of election fraud.

"The fact that there's noise floating around out there shouldn't concern the court," lawyer Matt Haverstick said.

The election review in Pennsylvania and another in Wisconsin are part of the larger story, as GOP lawmakers elsewhere make their case for similar efforts in their states. They cite concerns raised by claims made by Trump and his allies, who have referenced various conspiracy theories to explain his loss last November to Democrat Joe Biden.

Among the claims is that widespread voter fraud occurred, but an Associated Press review found fewer than 475 instances of potential voter fraud in the six states disputed by Trump — a number that would have made no difference in the election.

Though Republican leaders argue their probes are needed to restore public confidence in elections, experts say it's the reviews themselves that are undermining faith in U.S. elections.

"The intent of these reviews is to continue to create doubt, distrust and confusion around an election that has been canvassed, certified, audited, litigated and reviewed so they can keep the narrative going. So they can continue to raise money and raise their political profiles," said Matt Masterson, a former top election security official in the Trump administration.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans led by Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman insist the undertaking has nothing to do with Trump or trying to overturn last year's election. Rather, they say the point is to fix problems with the state's elections.

However, the 2020 election has been the focus of Republican-controlled committees in the Senate and House. There have been numerous hearings, hours of testimony, and proposed legislation.

In an interview on December 14, Trump praised the work of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and argued that many of the problems that arose in the election were due to pandemic-related changes made outside of the legislative process.

"They used COVID in order to cheat, as a way of cheating," Trump said. "In Pennsylvania, Sen. Corman and a whole group of people are totally engaged because they've now found that things were much different than they were told."

To conduct the review, Pennsylvania Republicans have hired a small firm with little track record and no experience in elections. There was no bidding for the contract, and no public request for proposals. A similar situation unfolded in Arizona, where Senate Republicans seeking a review of the 2020 election hired an outside firm that was criticized for its lack of knowledge of election systems and processes.

The Arizona review ended in September without offering proof to support Trump's claims of a stolen election.

Earlier in December, in Wisconsin, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the investigation he ordered into the 2020 presidential election will spill into 2022 and cost more money. So far, the effort has cost taxpayers nearly $680,000.

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman was tapped to lead the investigation and has sought subpoenas of the mayors of the state's five largest cities and the state's top elections official.

Democrats and some Republicans in the state have criticized the investigation as a sham, given that some of those hired by Gableman worked in Trump's administration or have supported conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. Trump lost Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes, an outcome that's been upheld following recounts, multiple court rulings and a nonpartisan audit.

Wisconsin election officials have so far identified 31 potential cases of voter fraud. In 26 of those cases, prosecutors declined to bring charges after conducting a review, according to the AP's findings.

Around the same time, Republican state Sen. Kathy Bernier, chair of the Senate elections committee and the former Chippewa County election clerk, called the review a "charade" designed to appease the GOP's conservative base and said questioning the integrity of elections will ultimately hurt turnout for Republicans.

"I understand there is frustration when you have a president saying there is massive voter fraud," Bernier said. "We have a great system here and no one should falsely accuse election officials of cheating."

The wave of demands for reviews of the election also includes reliably Republican states that Trump won in 2020.

Last week, a panel of majority-GOP lawmakers in Utah approved an audit of the state's election system. Unlike Arizona, the Utah effort will be conducted by nonpartisan legislative auditors and is not focused solely on 2020.

Republican Lt. Gov. Deirdre Henderson cautioned that efforts questioning the integrity of the state's voting system are "destructive" and "very concerning."

"From all of the things that I have seen, the endgame here is to fundamentally destroy the voting system we have here in the state of Utah," Henderson said in an interview.

H/T American Independent

Biden: School Shooting Victims Deserve More Than 'Thoughts and Prayers'

In a video on Dec. 14, President Joe Biden spoke directly to the families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School nine years ago, saying the nation owed families of mass shootings "more than our prayers. We owe them action."

"No matter how long it's been, every one of those families relives the news they got that day," Biden said in the video. "Twenty precious first-graders, six heroic educators, a lone gunman, and an unconscionable act of violence. Everything changed that morning for you. And the nation was shocked."

A gunman killed 20 first-grade students and six educators inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012. The 20-year-old shooter, Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their Newtown home before the massacre, then killed himself as police arrived at the school.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont called for flags to be lowered to half-staff across the state Tuesday in remembrance of the 26 people killed inside the school.

"We will never forget the twenty innocent children and six devoted educators whose lives were taken all too soon that terrible morning," said Lamont, a Democrat.

Biden said it was one of the "saddest days" he and former President Barack Obama had in office. Biden said he found hope in the strength of the families and felt they could pass meaningful reform, but it came up frustratingly short."

And it's still frustrating now, for you and me and so many others," he said, citing other mass school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and recently in Oxford, Michigan. "In countless communities across the country there's these horrific shootings and make national headlines and embarrass us as a nation."

He said such shootings happen all the time, particularly in communities of color, and there is no mention in the news.

"As a nation, we owe all these families more than our prayers, we owe them action," he said.

Biden pointed to executive action he's taken to stop the spread of so-called ghost guns and promote safe firearms storage. He also hopes communities use some of the money from the massive spending plan to help end gun violence.

A senior White House official said Biden shared frustrations expressed by many gun violence prevention groups that Congress is acting too slowly to implement new gun legislation. The official also pointed to the administration's multifaceted approach to preventing gun violence from enforcement to addressing systemic and root causes.

So far, Justice Department strike forces focusing on gun trafficking corridors in several cities — part of the administration's comprehensive approach to combat surging gun violence — have led to the recovery of about 2,000 crime guns, the official said.

The White House withdrew its nomination in September of gun-control advocate David Chipman to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after he ran into bipartisan opposition in the Senate. His nomination had stalled for months and he was widely seen as one of the administration's most contentious nominees.

The official said the administration is also working to identify another "highly qualified nominee" to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

But the official said the Biden administration was still doing all it can, even without a confirmed ATF director, to reduce gun violence. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also spoke of the measures Congress is trying to enact.

"Nearly a decade after Newtown, an average of over 100 Americans are being killed by gun violence every day, shattering families and terrorizing communities across the country," she said.

"In the memory of all those we have lost, and strengthened by our survivors' hopeful spirit, let us renew our resolve to build a world free from gun violence, so that every child may grow up safe, secure and able to reach their fulfillment."

Article reprinted with permission from The American Independent

Biden Dumps Two DeJoy Allies On US Postal Service Board

President Joe Biden announced plans Friday to nominate two new members to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, a potential first step in removing Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

A Trump appointee, DeJoy became a political lightning rod during the 2020 elections as changes he made to the postal service slowed delivery times during a key period when voters were trying to mail in their ballots. Biden is replacing two of DeJoy's backers on the board, chair Ron Bloom and John Barger. However, the president would likely have to make additional appointments as terms expire in order for the board to replace DeJoy.

The president is nominating Daniel Tangherlini and Derek Kan to the board. Up to nine governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate can serve on the board. And to give the board joint partisan representation, only five governors can belong to the same political party.

Tangherlini works as the managing director of the Emerson Collective, a private philanthropic firm. He served as the administrator of the General Services Administration during the Obama presidency and also as the chief financial officer of the Treasury Department.

"If confirmed, I look forward to serving and working to make sure the Postal Service is run as efficiently and effectively as possible," Tangherlini said in a statement.

Kan is an executive at Deliverr, an ecommerce fulfillment startup. During the Trump presidency, he was the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and also served as the under secretary for policy at the Transportation Department. He also worked as a policy adviser to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Kan said he "will work to strengthen the Postal Service so that it will continue to serve the American people well into the future."

Feds Seek Tough Sentences For Veterans In January 6 Prosecutions

During his 27 years in the U.S. Army, Leonard Gruppo joined the Special Forces, served in four war zones and led a team of combat medics in Iraq before retiring in 2013 as a lieutenant colonel.

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Federal Grand Jury Indicts Four Ex-Cops In Floyd Murder​

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd's arrest and death, accusing them of willfully violating the Black man's constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air.

A three-count indictment unsealed Friday names Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao. Chauvin was convicted last month on state charges of murder and manslaughter and is appealing. The other three are set for state trial on Aug. 23. It's not clear what will happen in this case, but generally the state charges play out before federal charges do.

The indictment sends a strong message about the Justice Department's priorities. Floyd's May 25 arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked mass protests nationwide that called for an end to racial inequalities and police mistreatment of Black people.

When President Joe Biden was elected, he promised he'd work to end disparities in the criminal justice system. The indictments were handed down about a week after federal prosecutors brought hate crimes charges in the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and announced two sweeping probes into policing in two states.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said the federal charges against the officers show the Justice Department "does not excuse it nor allow police to act as though as what they do is acceptable behavior in the line of duty."

"What we couldn't get them to do in the case of Eric Garner, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and countless others, we are finally seeing them do today," Sharpton said.

Floyd, 46, died after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, even as Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn't breathe. Kueng and Lane also helped restrain Floyd — state prosecutors have said Kueng knelt on Floyd's back and Lane held down Floyd's legs. State prosecutors say Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.

Lane, Thao, and Kueng made initial court appearances Friday via videoconference in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, and remain free on bond. Chauvin is held in state custody as he awaits sentencing on the state charges and hasn't yet appeared in federal court.

While all four officers are charged broadly with depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority, the indictment breaks down the counts. A count against Chauvin alleges he violated Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure and from unreasonable force by a police officer.

Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd's neck. It's not clear why Lane, who held down Floyd's legs, is not mentioned in that count, but evidence in the state's case shows that Lane had asked twice whether Floyd should be rolled on his side. All four officers are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care.

Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment, stemming from the use of force and neck restraint of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, argued during his murder trial that Chauvin acted reasonably and Floyd died because of underlying health issues and drug use. He has filed a request for a new trial.

Nelson had no comment on the federal charges. Kueng's attorney also had no comment. A message left for Thao's attorney wasn't immediately returned, and Lane's attorney was unable to talk when reached by The Associated Press, and messages left later were not returned.

Ben Crump and the team of attorneys for Floyd's family said the civil rights charges reinforce "the strength and wisdom" of the Constitution. "We are encouraged by these charges and eager to see continued justice in this historic case that will impact Black citizens and all Americans for generations to come," the attorneys said in a statement.

To bring federal charges in deaths involving police, prosecutors must believe an officer acted under the "color of law," or government authority, and willfully deprived someone of their constitutional rights. That's a high legal standard. An accident, bad judgment or simple negligence on the officer's part isn't enough to support federal charges; prosecutors have to prove the officer knew what he was doing was wrong in that moment but did it anyway.

The indictment in Floyd's death says Chauvin kept his left knee on Floyd's neck as he was handcuffed and unresisting. Thao and Kueng allegedly were aware Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck, even after Floyd became unresponsive, and "willfully failed to intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin's use of unreasonable force." All four officers are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of liberty without due process, including the right to be free from "deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs."

The other indictment, against Chauvin only, alleges he deprived a 14-year-old boy of his right to be free of unreasonable force when he held the teen by the throat, hit him in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the boy's neck and upper back while he was prone, handcuffed and unresisting.

According to a police report from that 2017 encounter, Chauvin wrote that the teen resisted arrest and after the teen, whom he described as 6-foot-2 and about 240 pounds, was handcuffed, Chauvin "used body weight to pin" him to the floor. The boy was bleeding from the ear and needed two stitches.

That encounter was one of several mentioned in state court filings that prosecutors said showed Chauvin had used neck or head and upper body restraints seven times before dating back to 2014, including four times state prosecutors said he went too far and held the restraints "beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances."

Bob Bennett, an attorney for the teenager, said the "familiar behavior" from Chauvin showed Floyd wasn't his first victim.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the state charges, said the federal government is responsible for protecting the civil rights of every American and "federal prosecution for the violation of George Floyd's civil rights is entirely appropriate."

Chauvin was convicted on state charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Experts say he will likely face no more than 30 years in prison when he is sentenced June 25. The other officers face charges alleging they aided and abetted second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Any federal sentence would be served at the same time as a state sentence.

At the White House on Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden didn't have a direct reaction to the indictments. She added that the George Floyd case was "a reminder of the need to put police reform in place through our legislative process."

Why Trump Will Suffer Legal Torment For Years To Come

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Acquitted by the Senate of inciting the U.S. Capitol insurrection last month, Donald Trump faces more fallout from the unrest, including a lawsuit from a congressman Tuesday. But his biggest legal problems might be the ones that go much further back.

In one of what is expected to be many lawsuits over the deadly riot, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) accused Trump on Tuesday of conspiring with far-right extremist groups that were involved in storming the Capitol.

Trump, who made a fiery speech to supporters prior to the riot, could also be hit with criminal charges — though courts, wary of infringing free speech, have set a high bar for prosecutors trying to mount federal incitement cases.

But riot-related consequences aren't the only thing Trump has to worry about.

With his historic second Senate trial behind him, here's a look at the legal road ahead for Trump.

Criminal Investigations

Atlanta prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into whether Trump attempted to overturn his election loss in Georgia, including a January 2 phone call in which he urged the state's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to reverse Biden's narrow victory.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat elected last November, announced the probe Feb. 10. In the call, Trump told Raffensberger: "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have" to get to erase Biden's lead, and argued that Raffensberger could alter the results, an assertion the Republican secretary of state firmly rejected.

Details of the call, such as Trump's focus on the vote total, "lets you know that someone had a clear mind, they understood what they were doing," Willis told MSNBC last week. "When you're pursuing the investigation, facts that like that might not seem so important become very important."

Willis' office declined to identify who was under investigation but said it was focusing on "the matters reported on over the last several weeks," including Trump's call. The Washington Post obtained a recording of the call and published it January 5.

Trump spokesperson Jason Miller described the Georgia inquiry as the continuation of a "witch hunt" — a term Trump himself has used to describe some investigations — and the "Democrats' latest attempt to score political points" at Trump's expense.

___

Karl Racine, the attorney general for Washington, D.C., has said district prosecutors could charge Trump under local law that criminalizes statements that motivate people to violence.

But the charge would be a low-level misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Federal prosecutors in Washington, meanwhile, have charged some 200 Trump supporters with crimes related to the riot, including more serious conspiracy charges. Many of the people charged said they acted in Trump's name.

But the bar is very high to charge Trump with any crimes related to the riot. There has been no indication that Trump would be charged in the riot though prosecutors have said they are looking at all angles.

Trump could also be sued by victims, though he has some constitutional protections, including if he acted while carrying out the duties of president.

___

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, is in the midst of an 18-month criminal investigation focusing in part on hush-money payments paid to women on Trump's behalf, and whether Trump or his businesses manipulated the value of assets — inflating them in some cases and minimizing them in others — to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.

Vance's office hasn't publicly said what it is investigating, citing grand jury secrecy rules, but some details have come out in court fights mounted by Trump's lawyers over prosecutors' access to his tax records. Trump's lawyers have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court twice to block a subpoena for the records, with a ruling on the latest challenge expected in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Vance's prosecutors have been speaking with Trump's former lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen about the payoffs he arranged to porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign so they wouldn't go public about alleged affairs with Trump, as well as Trump's relationship with lenders Deutsche Bank and Ladder Capital and other issues.

Last month, Vance's office sent subpoenas to local governments in the New York City suburbs seeking information about a sprawling Westchester estate Trump owns there, and 158 acres of land he donated to conservation land trust in 2016 to qualify for an income tax deduction.

Vance, whose term expires at the end of the year, hasn't announced if he will seek reelection, leaving questions about the future of any Trump-related prosecutions.

___

Trump no longer has the cloak of immunity from federal prosecution he did while in office, although federal prosecutors in New York who had been looking into the hush-money payments have essentially abandoned that probe.

The same U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan also appears to have moved on from its investigation of Trump's inaugural committee. That inquiry examined the committee's spending, including whether foreigners illegally contributed to inaugural events.

A major donor to the inaugural, Imaad Zuberi, pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and failing to register as a foreign agent. He's scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in Los Angeles.

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Civil Litigation

New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil investigation focuses on some of the same issues as Vance's criminal probe, including possible property value manipulation and tax write-offs Trump's company, the Trump Organization, claimed on millions of dollars in consulting fees it paid, including money that went to Trump's daughter Ivanka.

James' office issued subpoenas to local governments in November 2019 for records pertaining to Trump's estate north of Manhattan, Seven Springs, after Cohen provided Congress with Trump financial statements that listed the 213-acre property was worth $291 million in 2012 — far higher than the $56.5 million value that a Trump-commissioned appraisal placed on it in 2015.

James, also a Democrat, is also looking at similar issues relating to a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago, and a golf course near Los Angeles. Recently, her office has won a series of court rulings forcing Trump's company and a law firm it hired to turn over troves of records.

Investigators have yet to determine whether any law was broken. If criminal wrongdoing is uncovered, James' office could pursue charges through a county district attorney or with a referral from Gov. Andrew Cuomo or a state agency.

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Revisiting The Russia Probe

The Justice Department, under attorney general nominee Merrick Garland, could still pursue matters left uncharged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While campaigning for the White House, Biden said he would not direct the Justice Department to pursue charges against Trump, nor stand in the way of investigations it might take up on its own. In one of his first acts as president, Biden issued an executive order requiring all executive branch political appointees to sign a pledge that they won't interfere with Justice Department investigations.

Mueller's report included multiple accusations of Trump obstructing justice, including firing FBI Director James Comey over his unwillingness to say Trump was not personally under investigation; pressuring Comey to end an investigation into Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn; and instructing White House counsel Don McGahn to have Mueller removed amid media reports that his team was investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice.

___

Private Lawsuits

Trump's election loss could hasten the resolution of lawsuits brought by two women who've accused him of sexual misconduct.

Lawyers for Summer Zervos, a restaurateur who worked with Trump as a contestant on The Apprentice, asked New York's high court last week to dismiss as moot Trump's appeal that argued a sitting president can't be sued in a state court.

Zervos came forward during Trump's 2016 campaign with allegations he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping when she sought to talk to him about her career in 2007. Trump denied her allegations and retweeted a message calling her claims "a hoax," leading Zervos to file the defamation lawsuit against him.

A defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist who accused Trump last year of raping her in the mid-1990s, is on hold as an appeals court weighs Trump's argument that the United States government, rather than Trump as an individual, should be the defendant.

Government lawyers have argued that statements he made about Carroll — including that she was "totally lying" to sell a memoir — fell within the scope of his work as president because Carroll was, in effect, questioning his fitness to hold public office.

A ruling in Trump's favor would allow the Justice Department to represent him in the matter and could put taxpayers on the hook for any payout that might result. It's unclear whether the department would maintain that position under Biden.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, unless they come forward publicly as Zervos and Carroll have.

Following Paranoid Facebook Rant, HHS Flack Caputo On Leave

The Trump administration health official embroiled in a furor over political meddling with the coronavirus response is taking a leave of absence, the government announced Wednesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that Michael Caputo was taking the time "to focus on his health and the well-being of his family."

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Whistleblower Puts DHS Nominee Wolf Under Sharp Scrutiny

A whistleblower's complaint and a tight timeline are making it increasingly unlikely that the Senate will confirm Chad Wolf as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security before the election.

Donald Trump formally sent the nomination late Thursday to the Senate after announcing his intention to appoint Wolf in a tweet last month. But Republican senators, who are fighting to keep their majority in November, appear in no rush to launch a heated confirmation that will force uncomfortable questions about whether agency actions were driven by Trump's political agenda.

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Democrats Accuse Trump Of ‘Fanning The Flames’ Of Violence

Democrats have charged Donald Trump with aiming to inflame tensions and incite violence after he praised supporters who clashed with protesters in Portland, Oregon, where one man died overnight, and announced he will travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid anger over the shooting of another Black man by police.

Trump unleashed a flurry of tweets and retweets the day after a man identified as a supporter of a right-wing group was shot and killed in Portland, where a large caravan of Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters clashed in the city's streets. Trump praised the caravan participants as "GREAT PATRIOTS!" and retweeted what appeared to be the dead man's name along with a message to "Rest in peace."

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Supreme Court Orders Montana To Fund Religious Schools

States can't cut religious schools out of programs that send public money to private education, a divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

By a 5-4 vote with the conservatives in the majority, the justices upheld a Montana scholarship program that allows state tax credits for private schooling in which almost all the recipients attend religious schools.

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International Criminal Court Condemns Trump’s ‘Unacceptable Attempt To Interfere’ With Prosecutions

The International Criminal Court has condemned the Trump administration's decision to authorize sanctions against court staff, saying it amounted to "an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court's judicial proceedings."

An executive order by Donald Trump announced Thursday authorizes sanctions against ICC staff investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

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Far-Right Extremists Arrested In Floyd Protest Plot

Three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities say was a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.

Federal prosecutors say the three white men with U.S. military experience are accused of conspiring to carry out a plan that began in April in conjunction with protests to reopen businesses closed because of the coronavirus.

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Sen. Graham Seeks Subpoenas To Hype ‘Obamagate’ Conspiracy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham is scheduling a vote that would allow him to subpoena more than 50 current and former officials who were involved in the Justice Department's investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, as Donald Trump and his allies have launched a broad election-year attack on the investigation as a "deep state" conspiracy.

Graham, a close ally of Trump, is effectively turning the investigation on the investigators, asking the officials for documents, communications, and testimony about the FBI's investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

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Trump Is Playing A Deadly Numbers Game — And Losing

Donald Trump likes to talk about the most, the best, the thing that nobody has ever seen.

Now he is trying to make a virtue of a lower number, arguing that the efforts of his administration have warded off a far greater death toll than otherwise would have been seen.

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Pelosi Warns That Trump’s Lies Are Costing Lives

As Donald Trump spoke during his daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a stark warning for Americans to "ignore the lies" and "insist on the truth" while the U.S. assesses next steps in the crisis.

Pelosi's scathing outline of Trump's monthslong handling of the virus outbreak contrasted with his eagerness to reopen the economy.

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Pentagon Says 109 Troops Have Suffered Brain Injuries From Iran Strike

The number of U.S. service members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries has shot up to more than 100, the Pentagon said Monday, as more troops suffer the aftereffects of the Iranian ballistic missile attack early last month in Iraq.

The department said the latest total is 109 military members who have been treated for mild TBI, a significant increase over the 64 reported a little over a week ago.

The number of injuries has been steadily increasing since the Pentagon began releasing data on the injuries about a week after the Jan. 8 attack at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. Pentagon officials have warned that the number would continue to change.

The department said 76 of the service members have returned to duty, while 26 are in Germany or the United States for treatment, and another seven are on their way from Iraq to Germany for evaluation and treatment.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Pentagon reporters more than a week ago that the department was studying ways to prevent brain injuries on the battlefield and to improve diagnosis and treatment.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it’s possible, in some cases, that symptoms of TBI from the Iranian missile attack won’t become apparent for a year or two. He said the Army is in the early stages of diagnosis and therapy for the troops.

In a statement Monday, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah credited medical professionals with provide care “which has enabled nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty. We must continue to address physical and mental health together.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump Fires Sondland And Vindman Over Impeachment Inquiry

Taking swift and harsh action against those who crossed him, Donald Trump on Friday ousted two government officials who had delivered damaging testimony during his impeachment hearings. Trump made the moves just two days after his acquittal by the Senate.

First came news that Trump had ousted Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, the decorated soldier and national security aide who played a central role in the Democrats’ impeachment case. He was escorted out of the White House complex Friday, according to his lawyer, who said he was asked to leave in retaliation for “telling the truth.”

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” David Pressman, an attorney for Vindman, said in a statement. The Army said in a statement that Vindman and his twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, who also was asked to leave his job as a White House lawyer on Friday, had been reassigned to the Army.

Next came word that Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, also was out.

“I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Sondland said in a statement.

Alexander Vindman’s lawyer issued a one-page statement that accused Trump of taking revenge on his client.

“He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril,” Pressman said. “And for that, the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit — has decided to exact revenge.”

The White House did not respond to Pressman’s accusation.

“We do not comment on personnel matters,” said John Ullyot, spokesman for the National Security Council, the foreign policy arm of the White House where Vindman was an expert on Ukraine.

Vindman’s status had been uncertain since he testified that he didn’t think it was “proper” for Trump to “demand that a foreign government investigate” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s dealings with the energy company Burisma in Ukraine. Vindman’s ouster, however, seemed imminent after Trump mocked him Thursday during his post-acquittal celebration with Republican supporters in the East Room and said Friday that he was not happy with him.

“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him?” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “I’m not. … They are going to be making that decision.”

Vindman, a 20-year Army veteran, wore his uniform full of medals, including a purple heart, when he appeared late last year for what turned out to be a testy televised impeachment hearing. Trump supporters raised questions about the immigrant’s allegiance to the United States — his parents fled the Soviet Union when he was a child —and noted that he had received offers to work for the government of Ukraine, offers Vindman said he swiftly dismissed.

“I am an American,” he stated emphatically.

Trump backers cheered Vindman’s removal, while Democrats were aghast.

“The White House is running a two for one special today on deep state leakers,” Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, wrote on Twitter.

A Twitter account used by Trump’s reelection campaign, @TrumpWarRoom, claimed Vindman leaked information to the whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s call ignited the investigation, and “colluded with Democrats to start the partisan impeachment coup.”

Former Trump NSC official Tim Morrison testified that others had brought concerns that Vindman may have leaked something. Vindman, in his own congressional testimony, denied leaking any information.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the firing was another example of how the “White House runs away from the truth.”

“Lt. Col. Vindman lived up to his oath to protect and defend our Constitution,” Schumer said in a statement. “This action is not a sign of strength. It only shows President Trump’s weakness.”

Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, recalled how Vindman in testimony before the House impeachment panel said that he reassured his worried father that would be “fine for telling the truth.”

“It’s appalling that this administration may prove him wrong,” Clinton said in a tweet.

At last fall’s hearing, when the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, addressed him as “Mr. Vindman,” the Iraq War veteran replied: “Ranking member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman please.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper was asked what the Pentagon would do to ensure that Vindman faces no retribution. “We protect all of our service members from retribution or anything like that,” Esper said. “We’ve already addressed that in policy and other means.”

Alexander Vindman is scheduled to enter a military college in Washington, D.C., this summer, and his brother is to be assigned to the Army General Counsel’s Office, according to two officials who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pressman said Vindman was among a handful of men and women who courageously “put their faith in country ahead of fear” but have “paid a price.”

“There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House,” Pressman said. “Lt. Col. Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”