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The Police Officer Murdered By Trump’s ‘Law And Order Patriots’

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

The grieving family of a slain Capitol Police officer says he was a private man whose death shouldn't be politicized. But now it is forced to make sense of the reality that he is a victim of political violence, his legacy forever linked to an insurrection in the U.S. Capitol.

"He spent his life trying to help other people," the officer's eldest brother told ProPublica. "This political climate got my brother killed."

Brian David Sicknick, 42, died Thursday of injuries he sustained while trying to protect the Capitol from a mob of violent rioters supporting President Donald Trump who rushed the building to disrupt the certification of the presidential election.

Before the officer's death had officially been announced late Thursday, the Sicknick family was rushing from its home in New Jersey to see him in a Washington-area hospital as word circulated on social media that a Capitol Police officer had succumbed to grave injuries.

Last they had heard, Sicknick was in critical condition on a ventilator, according to family members who spoke to ProPublica. While some news reports had said an unnamed officer was in critical condition after being bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher, family members did not have details of his injuries. They say Sicknick had texted them Wednesday night to say that while he had been pepper-sprayed, he was in good spirits. The text arrived hours after a mob's assault on the Capitol had left more than 50 officers injured and five people dead.

"He texted me last night and said, 'I got pepper-sprayed twice,' and he was in good shape," said Ken Sicknick, his brother, as the family drove toward Washington. "Apparently he collapsed in the Capitol and they resuscitated him using CPR."

But the day after that text exchange, the family got word that Brian Sicknick had a blood clot and had had a stroke; a respirator was keeping him alive.

"We weren't expecting it," his brother said.

As apparently premature news of Sicknick's death spread in law enforcement circles, the U.S. Capitol Police Department remained silent, including no response to an early request for confirmation from ProPublica on Thursday evening. The family learned from reporter phone calls that something was wrong.

"We have not gotten any calls," Ken Sicknick said when first contacted. Brian Sicknick was the youngest of three siblings, all boys. "We're kind of overwhelmed right now. You guys are getting reports of his death before I even got anything."

Nearly an hour later, the department issued a statement rebutting news reports that an officer had died. The department finally reported that Sicknick had died at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, adding that this was the result of injuries sustained during the attack the previous day.

By the time family members reached the hospital, they say, Sicknick was dead.

In separate interviews with ProPublica, family members say they are still waiting to learn exactly what happened. They described Sicknick as the kindest of the three siblings. They said he went to a technical school to study electronics but ditched it to follow his dream of becoming a police officer. They couldn't confirm the time of death.

The family's grief and confusion comes amid serious questions about how a secretive police department that is well-funded and highly trained at quelling violent protests and protecting members of Congress had failed to protect one of its own from an attack that had been planned out in plain sight.

In a press release, the department said: "The entire USCP Department expresses its deepest sympathies to Officer Sicknick's family and friends on their loss, and mourns the loss of a friend and colleague."

The Sicknick family issued its own press release Friday, urging the public and reporters to not politicize Sicknick's death.

"Please honor Brian's life and service and respect our privacy while we move forward in doing the same. Brian is a hero and that is what we would like people to remember," the statement said.

Still in shock, one family member, who agreed to talk but asked not to be named, said Sicknick had sometimes expressed frustrations with his job.

"Occasionally he would mention that they were very understaffed and they worked a lot of hours," the family member said. "And morale could be low."

Larry Schaefer, who spent 34 years on the force before retiring last year and knew Sicknick, said Wednesday's breach of the Capitol was unfathomable until he saw it on his TV screen.

"We handle demonstrations on a regular basis," Schaefer said. "We're prepared for this kind of stuff. We hold people back in a perimeter. We're set up for mass arrests, to load buses of people away."

He said he blames department leaders for the tragedy. Under pressure from congressional leaders, Chief Steven Sund of the Capitol Police and two other security officials have resigned.

After Sicknick struggled to find a policing job early on, his family said, in 1997 he joined the New Jersey National Guard "as a means to that end." He was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was honorably discharged in 2003, according to a Guard spokesman.

He subsequently trained to be a Capitol Police officer, graduating in 2008. The family came down to see the graduation ceremony, in "one of those big fancy buildings," one family member said.

One of his first assignments was working the inauguration of former President Barack Obama, a moment that filled Sicknick and the family with pride.

Twelve years later, Sicknick was a member of the department's First Responder Unit when Trump, in the final days of a presidency that fomented anger and division, held a rally that precipitated the Capitol attack.

In a press release Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said, "The violent and deadly act of insurrection targeting the Capitol, our temple of American Democracy, and its workers was a profound tragedy and stain on our nation's history."

"I send our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Officer Brian Sicknick," Pelosi said. "The perpetrators of Officer Sicknick's death must be brought to justice."

After a forced hiatus from Twitter, Trump returned to his favorite platform on Friday to honor his supporters, whom he called "patriots," and to announce he will not attend the inauguration of Joe Biden.

In a statement, Trump's deputy press secretary Judd Deere said: "Anytime a member of law enforcement dies in the line of duty it is a solemn reminder to us all that they run toward danger to maintain peace. The President and the entire Administration extend our prayers to Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick's family as we all grieve the loss of this American hero."

Mollie Simon contributed reporting.

Capitol Rioters Plotted Publicly For Weeks, But Police Were Unready

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

The invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was stoked in plain sight. For weeks, the far-right supporters of President Donald Trump railed on social media that the election had been stolen. They openly discussed the idea of violent protest on the day Congress met to certify the result.

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Shady Executive Got $4.5 Million Federal Mask Deal Despite FTC Sanctions

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Desperate to acquire masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, two federal agencies gave nearly $20 million in contracts to a newly formed California company without realizing it was partly run by a man whose business activities were under sanction by the Federal Trade Commission, court records show.

On Tuesday, a U.S. District Court judge froze the company's assets, most of which had come from the Department of Veterans Affairs in a $5.4 million mask deal. A story by ProPublica revealed Jason Cardiff's role in operating VPL Medical LLC in June.

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Trump Administration Paid Millions To Sketchy Supplier For Useless Test Tubes

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Since May, the Trump administration has paid a fledgling Texas company $7.3 million for test tubes needed in tracking the spread of the coronavirus nationwide. But, instead of the standard vials, Fillakit LLC has supplied plastic tubes made for bottling soda, which state health officials say are unusable.

The state officials say that these “preforms," which are designed to be expanded with heat and pressure into 2-liter soda bottles, don't fit the racks used in laboratory analysis of test samples. Even if the bottles were the right size, experts say, the company's process likely contaminated the tubes and could yield false test results. Fillakit employees, some not wearing masks, gathered the miniature soda bottles with snow shovels and dumped them into plastic bins before squirting saline into them, all in the open air, according to former employees and ProPublica's observation of the company's operations.

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Hundreds Of Federal Coronavirus Contractors Were Hired Without Bids — Or Qualifications

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

A firm set up by a former telemarketer who once settled federal fraud charges for $2.7 million. A vodka distributor accused in a pending lawsuit of overstating its projected sales. An aspiring weapons dealer operating out of a single-family home.

These three privately held companies are part of the new medical supply chain, offered a total of almost $74 million by the federal government to find and rapidly deliver vital protective equipment and COVID-19 testing supplies across the U.S. While there's no evidence that they obtained their deals through political connections, none of the three had to bid against competing firms. One has already lost its contract for lack of performance; it's unclear if the other two can fulfill their orders on time, or at all.

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How ‘Pirates’ Caused Supply Delays That Led To VA Deaths

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Before embarking on a 36-hour tour through an underground of contractors and middlemen trying to make a buck on the nation's desperate need for masks, entrepreneur Robert Stewart Jr. offered an unusual caveat.

“I'm talking with you against the advice of my attorney," the man in the shiny gray suit, an American Flag button with the word “VETERAN" pinned to his blazer, said as we boarded a private jet Saturday from the executive wing at Dulles International Airport.

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White House Pushed FEMA To Let Biggest Pandemic Contract Without Bids

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Last month, as a deadly new virus swept over the globe, one Canadian defense contractor predicted on an earnings call that it would lead to a big business opportunity in the U.S. Thanks to the White House, that bet paid off just a few weeks later in a $96 million no-bid deal.

In an unusual move, even in times of disaster, the White House stepped into the federal purchasing process, ordering the Federal Emergency Management Agency to award a contract to AirBoss of America. The Trump administration has rushed through hundreds of deals to address the pandemic without the usual oversight, more than $760 million reported as of this week, but the AirBoss transaction is the single largest no-bid purchase, a ProPublica analysis of federal purchasing data found.

While FEMA placed the order, it was directed to do so by the White House, ProPublica found.

It is unclear why the White House chose AirBoss for the protective equipment, which is similar to products made by other vendors.

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