Time for Donald Trump to 'sail into the sunset': Elon Musk
Author of the article:Reuters
Publishing date:Jul 12, 2022 • 17 hours ago • 1 minute read • Join the conversation
Elon Musk said on Monday it was time for Donald Trump to “hang up his hat and sail into the sunset,” days after the former U.S. President mocked the billionaire at a political rally and called him a “Bull—- artist.”
Writing on Twitter, Musk said, “I don’t hate the man, but it’s time for Trump to hang up his hat & sail into the sunset.”
“Dems should also call off the attack – don’t make it so that Trump’s only way to survive is to regain the Presidency,” he added without explanation.
Musk’s remarks were in response to comments Trump made at a rally in Anchorage, Alaska on Saturday, where he was speaking in support of U.S. House of Representatives candidate Sarah Palin and U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka.
The former president said at the rally that Musk was not going to buy Twitter Inc and that the Tesla Inc chief executive had got himself a mess.
“(Musk) said the other day, I’ve never voted for a Republican. I said I didn’t know that; he told me he voted for me. He’s another bull—- artist, but he is not going to be buying it (Twitter),” Trump said.
Last month, Musk said at the Qatar Economic Forum that he had not decided whom he would support in the next presidential election, a week after saying on Twitter that he was leaning towards supporting Florida governor Ron DeSantis for president in 2024.
On Monday, Musk added that if DeSantis ran against Biden in 2024, “then DeSantis will easily win” and that “Trump would be 82 at end of term, which is too old to be chief executive of anything, let alone the United States of America.”
Trump incited Jan. 6 attack after 'unhinged' White House meeting, panel told
Author of the article:Reuters
Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan
Publishing date:Jul 12, 2022 • 11 hours ago • 4 minute read • 56 Comments
WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday accused Donald Trump of inciting a mob of followers to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a last-ditch bid to remain in power fueled by a chaotic meeting with some of his most ardent supporters.
The House of Representatives committee also produced evidence that aides and outside agitators knew before the riot that Trump would urge thousands of his supporters to march on the Capitol that day.
The panel’s seven Democrats and two Republicans have used the hearings to build a case that Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election constitute illegal conduct, far beyond normal politics.
As the three-hour hearing ended, Republican Representative Liz Cheney said Trump had tried to phone a potential committee witness, raising the possibility he might have illegally tried to influence witness testimony.
In video testimony shown during the hearing, witnesses described a loud late-night six-hour meeting on Dec. 18, 2020, where Trump disregarded White House staffers who urged him to concede the November 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.
Instead, Trump sided with outside advisers who urged him to keep pressing his baseless claims of election fraud.
Committee members said Trump ultimately was responsible for the chaos that followed.
“President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. … He is responsible for his own actions and his own choices,” said Cheney, the committee vice chairperson.
Committee members said Trump incited the riot through his refusal to admit he lost the election and through comments like his Dec. 19, 2020, Twitter post, shortly after the meeting, for supporters to flock to Washington for a “big protest,” saying, “Be there, will be wild.”
Trump, a Republican who has hinted he will seek the White House again in 2024, denies wrongdoing and has falsely asserted that he lost only because of widespread fraud that benefited Biden, a Democrat.
‘NOT TOUGH ENOUGH’
The committee played recorded testimony from White House aides describing the angry Dec. 18 meeting where a handful of Trump’s outside advisers, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, attorney Sidney Powell and Patrick Byrne, former chief executive of Overstock.com, encouraged him to fight the election result.
“I don’t think any of these people were providing the president with good advice. I didn’t understand how they had gotten in,” Pat Cipollone, Trump’s former White House counsel, said in video testimony.
Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democratic committee member, displayed a text from White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who gave explosive testimony last month, saying of the meeting, “The West Wing is unhinged.”
Giuliani, who was escorted from the White House grounds, said in video testimony his argument had been: “You guys are not tough enough. Or maybe I put it another way: You’re a bunch of pussies, excuse the expression. I’m almost certain the word was used.”
The attack on the Capitol, following a speech Trump gave at a rally outside the White House, delayed certification of Biden’s election for hours, injured more than 140 police officers and led to several deaths.
‘A MOB WAS BEING ORGANIZED’
The committee presented evidence that it said showed Trump’s call for his supporters to march on the Capitol was not spontaneous but had been planned in advance.
The panel showed an unsent Twitter message about the rally, with a stamp showing Trump had seen it: “Please arrive early, massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!”
The committee also played audio testimony from a former employee of Twitter describing his fear after Trump’s December tweet and deep concern on Jan. 5 about the possibility of violence on Jan. 6.
“It felt as if a mob was being organized and they were gathering together their weaponry and their logic and their reasoning behind why they were prepared to fight,” the Twitter employee said, his voice disguised.
About 800 people have been charged with taking part in the Capitol riot, with about 250 guilty pleas so far.
The hearing also looked at links between right-wing militant groups, including the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and the QAnon internet conspiracy movement, with Trump and his allies. Many Oath Keepers and Proud Boys participated in the Jan. 6 attack.
Two witnesses testified in the hearing room – Stephen Ayres, who has pleaded guilty to a federal charge for participating in the attack on the Capitol, and Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers.
Ayres said he joined the march because he believed Trump, and that he had since lost his job, sold his house and no longer believes Trump’s “Big Lie” that the election had been stolen. “It changed my life, you know, definitely not for the good.”
Trump and his supporters – including many Republicans in Congress – dismiss the Jan. 6 panel as a political witch hunt, but the panel’s backers say it is a necessary probe into a violent threat against democracy.
Third arrest made in alleged Colorado election security breach
Author of the article:Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 13, 2022 • 13 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
DENVER — The former elections manager for a Colorado clerk indicted on charges of tampering with voting equipment has been arrested on allegations that she was part of the scheme, an official said Wednesday.
Sandra Brown, who worked for Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, turned herself in Monday in response to a warrant issued for her arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation and attempting to influence a public servant, said Lt. Henry Stoffel of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. The arrest was first reported by The Daily Sentinel newspaper.
Peters and her chief deputy, Belinda Knisley, are being prosecuted for allegedly allowing a copy of a hard drive to be made during an update of election equipment in May 2021. State election officials first became aware of a security breach last summer when a photo and video of confidential voting system passwords were posted on social media and a conservative website.
Peters, who has become a hero to election conspiracy theorists, following the lead of former President Donald Trump, lost her bid to become the GOP candidate for Colorado secretary of state last month.
Peters is charged with three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation, two counts of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, one count of identity theft, first-degree official misconduct, violation of duty and failing to comply with the secretary of state.
Knisley is charged with three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, one count of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, violation of duty and failing to comply with the secretary of state.
Neither have entered a plea yet and both have dismissed the allegations, with Peters calling them politically motivated.
Mesa County, in western Colorado, is largely rural and heavily Republican while Colorado’s state government is controlled by Democrats.
Brown was released the day after her arrest.
Efforts to reach for comment were unsuccessful via phone numbers that may be associated with her. Court records did not say whether Brown has an attorney who could speak on her behalf.
U.S. Secret Service deleted Jan. 6 text messages, watchdog says
The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector Genera said the messages were erased "as part of a device-replacement program."
Author of the article:Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 15, 2022 • 23 hours ago • 2 minute read • 14 Comments
WASHINGTON — Secret Service agents deleted text messages sent and received around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol even after an inspector general requested them as part of an investigation into the insurrection, the government watchdog has found.
The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, said the messages between Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were erased “as part of a device-replacement program.” The erasure came after the watchdog office requested records of electronic communications between the agents as part of its probe into events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack.
Additionally, Homeland Security personnel were told they couldn’t provide records to the inspector general and any such records would first have to be reviewed by DHS attorneys.
“This review led to a weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced,” states the letter, which was dated Wednesday and sent to leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, “We take strong issue with these categorically false claims and I will be responding in detail shortly.”
The erasure of the messages is sure to raise new questions for the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack, which has taken a renewed interest in the Secret Service following the dramatic testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about former President Donald Trump’s actions the day of the insurrection.
Hutchinson recalled being told about a confrontation between Trump and his Secret Service detail as he angrily demanded to be driven to the Capitol, where his supporters would later breach the building. She also recalled overhearing Trump telling security officials to remove magnetometers for his rally on the Ellipse even though some of his supporters were armed.
That account, however, was quickly disputed by those agents. Robert Engel, the agent who was driving the presidential SUV, and Trump security official Tony Ornato are willing to testify under oath that no agent was assaulted and Trump never lunged for the steering wheel, a person familiar with the matter told the AP. The person would not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Prosecutors seek 15-year sentence for armed Capitol rioter
Author of the article:Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 15, 2022 • 11 hours ago • 4 minute read • Join the conversation
Federal prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison sentence for a Texas man who was convicted of storming the U.S. Capitol with a holstered handgun, calling him a militia group member who took a central role in the pro-Trump mob’s attack, according to a court filing Friday.
If a judge accepts the Justice Department’s recommendation, Guy Wesley Reffitt’s prison sentence would be nearly three times the length of the longest sentence among more than 200 defendants who have been sentenced for crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in the nation’s capital.
The longest sentence so far is five years and three months for Robert Palmer, a Florida man who pleaded guilty to attacking police officers at the Capitol.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich is scheduled to sentence Reffitt on Aug. 1. The judge isn’t bound by any of the recommendations or the sentencing guidelines calculated by the court’s probation department, which call for a sentence ranging from nine years to 11 years and three months,
Defense attorney Clinton Broden, who is asking for Reffitt to be sentenced to no more than two years in prison, said he was shocked by prosecutors’ recommendation. He noted that Reffitt wasn’t accused of entering the Capitol or assaulting any police officers that day.
“It’s absolutely absurd,” he said during a telephone interview Friday. “I certainly don’t condone what Mr. Reffitt did. And I think everybody realizes the seriousness of the offenses. But at the same point, there has to be some proportionality here.”
Prosecutors argue that an “upward departure for terrorism” is warranted in Reffitt’s case, which would lead to significantly longer sentence if the judge agrees to apply it. They say the trial evidence showed that Reffitt planned for weeks ahead of January to travel to Washington, D.C., “with the specific intent of attacking the Capitol and taking over Congress.”
“Reffitt did not intend to simply obstruct Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote. Rather, Reffitt intended to physically remove the legislators from the building (using his firearm and flexicuffs, and the power of the crowd) and actually ‘take over’ Congress,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler wrote.
Reffitt, the first Capitol riot defendant to be tried, was convicted by a jury in March of all five counts in his indictment. Jurors found him guilty of obstructing Congress’ joint session to certify the Electoral College vote, of interfering with police officers who were guarding the Capitol and of threatening his two teenage children if they reported him to law enforcement.
Prosecutors say Reffitt was a leader of a Texas militia group. He told other militia group members that he planned to drag House Speaker Nancy Pelosi out of the Capitol building by her ankles, “with her head hitting every step on the way down,” Nestler wrote.
Reffitt, a resident of Wylie, Texas, didn’t testify at his trial.
During the trial’s closing arguments, U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower told jurors that Reffitt proudly “lit the fire” that allowed others in a mob to overwhelm Capitol police officers near the Senate doors.
Jurors saw videos that captured the confrontation between a few Capitol police officers and a mob of people, including Reffitt, who approached them on the west side of the Capitol.
Reffitt was armed with a Smith & Wesson pistol in a holster on his waist, carrying zip-tie handcuffs and wearing body armor and a helmet equipped with a video camera when he advanced on police, according to prosecutors. He retreated after an officer pepper sprayed him in the face, but he waved on other rioters who ultimately breached the building, prosecutors said.
Reffitt drove to Washington, D.C., with Rocky Hardie, who said he and Reffitt were members of the Texas Three Percenters militia group. The Three Percenters militia movement refers to the myth that only 3% of Americans fought in the Revolutionary War against the British.
Hardie testified that both of them were armed with holstered handguns when they attended then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before the riot. Hardie said Reffitt talked about dragging lawmakers out of the Capitol and replacing them with people who would “follow the Constitution.” Hardie also said Reffitt gave him two pairs of zip-tie cuffs in case they needed to detain anybody.
Reffitt’s 19-year-old son, Jackson, testified that his father threatened him and his sister, then 16, after he drove home from Washington. Reffitt told his children they would be traitors if they reported him to authorities and said “traitors get shot,” Jackson Reffitt recalled.
Reffitt is “done with politics,” his lawyer said in a court filing Friday.
“His only goal now is to put his family back together while recognizing that as much as he spent the past two decades providing for them, he is the one who has driven them apart,” Broden wrote.
More than 840 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot. Over 330 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors, and over 200 of them have been sentenced. More than 100 others have trial dates.
Panel: Hearing to show Trump's Jan. 6 'dereliction of duty'
After year-long investigation, House Jan. 6 panel is seeking to wrap up what may be its last hearing
Author of the article:Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 17, 2022 • 13 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
WASHINGTON — A House committee’s prime-time hearing Thursday will offer the most compelling evidence yet of then-President Donald Trump’s “dereliction of duty” on the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection, with new witnesses detailing his failure to stem an angry mob storming the Capitol, committee members said Sunday.
“This is going to open people’s eyes in a big way,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a member of the House committee investigating the riot who will help lead Thursday’s session with Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. ”The president didn’t do anything.“
After a year-long investigation, the House Jan. 6 panel is seeking to wrap up what may be its last hearing, even as its probe continues to heat up.
The committee says it continues to receive fresh evidence each day and isn’t ruling out additional hearings or interviews with a bevy of additional people close to the president. One such figure is Steve Bannon, whose trial begins this week on criminal contempt of Congress charges for refusing to comply with the House committee’s subpoena.
The committee also issued an extraordinary subpoena last week to the Secret Service to produce texts by Tuesday from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, following conflicting reports about whether they were deleted.
But panel members say Thursday’s hearing will be the most specific to date in laying out and weaving together previously known details on how Trump’s actions were at odds with his constitutional legal duty to stop the Jan. 6 riot. Unlike members of the public who generally have no duty to take action to prevent a crime, the Constitution requires a president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
“The commander in chief is the only person in the Constitution whose duty is explicitly laid out to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed,” Luria said. “I look at it as a dereliction of duty. (Trump) didn’t act. He had a duty to act.”
Thursday’s hearing will be the first in the prime-time slot since the June 9 debut that was viewed by an estimated 20 million people.
Luria said the hearing will highlight additional testimony from White House counsel Pat Cipollone and other witnesses, not yet seen before, “who will add a lot of value and information to the events of that critical time on January 6.” She cited Trump’s inaction that day for more than three hours, along with a tweet that afternoon criticizing Vice President Mike Pence for lacking courage to contest Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election that may have served to egg on the mob.
“We will go through pretty much minute by minute during that time frame, from the time he left the stage at the Ellipse, came back to the White House, and really sat in the White House, in the dining room, with his advisers urging him continuously to take action, to take more action,” Luria said.
The hearing comes at a critical juncture point for the panel, which is racing to wrap up findings for a final report this fall. The committee had originally expected at this point to be concluding much of its investigation with a final hearing but is now considering possible options for additional interviews and hearings, panel members said.
“This investigation is very much ongoing,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. “The fact that a series of hearings is going to be concluded this Thursday doesn’t mean that our investigation is over. It’s very active, new witnesses are coming forward, additional information is coming forward.”
For instance, the committee took a rare step last week in issuing a subpoena to the Secret Service, an executive branch department. That came after it received a closed briefing from the Homeland Security Department watchdog that the Secret Service had deleted texts from around Jan. 6, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The finding raised the startling prospect of lost evidence that could shed further light on Trump’s actions during the insurrection, particularly after earlier testimony about his confrontation with security as he tried to join supporters at the Capitol.
“That’s what we have to get to the bottom of,” said Luria, regarding possibly missing texts. “Where are these text messages? Can they be recovered? And we have subpoenaed them because they’re legal records that we need to see for the committee.”
Luria spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Lofgren was on ABC’s “This Week,” and Kinzinger appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
— Associated Press writer Will Weissert contributed to this report.
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on trial for defying congressional subpoena
Author of the article:Reuters
Sarah N. Lynch
Publishing date:Jul 18, 2022 • 17 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
WASHINGTON — Jury selection began on Monday in the criminal trial of Steve Bannon, a prominent former presidential aide to Donald Trump, for defying a subpoena from a congressional panel investigating last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
Bannon, 68, is facing two misdemeanour counts of contempt of Congress after he declined to provide testimony or documents to the Democratic-led House of Representatives select committee.
As of mid-morning, lawyers for both sides had agreed on three of the 12 jurors and two alternates needed for the trial in federal court. Three jury candidates were rejected.
Bannon had unsuccessfully tried to persuade U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols to delay the trial, arguing that the committee’s high-profile public hearings could make it harder to assemble an impartial jury.
The committee presented evidence last week that Bannon spoke with Trump at least twice on the day before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. The committee also played a clip of Bannon saying on a right-wing talk show on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” Bannon made those comments after his first call with Trump, the committee said.
The committee plans to hold another hearing on Thursday evening, aimed at reaching a broad television audience. Bannon’s trial will likely still be going on at that point. Nichols said on Monday it could extend into next week.
Bannon has argued that the material sought by the committee was protected by a legal doctrine called executive privilege that can keep certain presidential communications confidential.
Trump told Bannon this month he was waiving any executive privilege claim.
Bannon reversed course this month and announced that he wanted to testify before a public committee hearing, nearly 10 months after defying the subpoena. There has been no indication of any plan to have him do so, as the committee likely would want him to first testify in closed sessions in order to cover a wide range of matters.
Nichols has ruled that Bannon cannot use executive privilege as a defence and cannot claim he relied on his attorney’s advice when he declined to testify or provide records. Nichols has left open the possibility that Bannon could present evidence of his recent offer to cooperate with the panel as a defence.
Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol in a failed effort to block formal congressional certification of his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
As a top adviser to the Republican Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign who later served as White House chief strategist, Bannon helped articulate the “America First” right-wing populism and fierce opposition to immigration that helped define Trump’s presidency.
Bannon separately was charged in 2020 with defrauding donors to a private fund-raising effort to boost Trump’s project to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump subsequently issued a pardon to Bannon before that case could go to trial.
9/11 families blast Donald Trump for hosting LIV golf event
Author of the article:Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 18, 2022 • 14 hours ago • 2 minute read • 10 Comments
NEW YORK — A group of Sept. 11 victims’ family members who have long accused Saudi Arabia of aiding the terrorists who carried out the attacks are condemning former President Donald Trump for hosting the Saudi-backed LIV golf tour at his New Jersey course later this month.
In a letter to Trump on Sunday, family members said they felt “extreme pain, frustration and anger” as a result of Trump’s decision to host the controversial Saudi-sponsored league at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey for three days starting July 29.
“The evidence against Saudi Arabia and its role in the attacks is more clear than ever and, despite knowing that, former President Trump has accepted their money and is allowing them to enter a state devastated by 9/11,” said Brett Eagleson, president of 9/11 Justice and the son of a World Trade Center attack victim.
Eagleson’s group has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Saudi Arabia of being complicit in the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001 and has sought the release of classified FBI documents related to the Saudis’ role in the attacks.
The Saudi government has denied any involvement in the attacks. But the family members said Trump, a Republican, blamed the Saudis himself in a 2016 Fox News interview. “Who blew up the World Trade Center?” Trump said on “Fox & Friends.” “It wasn’t the Iraqis — it was Saudi. Take a look at Saudi Arabia. Open the documents.”
Requests for comment on the Sept. 11 family group’s letter were sent Monday to representatives for Trump and for LIV Golf.
Critics have accused the LIV Golf series, set up as a rival to the PGA Tour, of ignoring Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights abuses including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Democratic President Joe Biden met Friday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and said afterward that the prince told him he was “not personally responsible” for Khashoggi’s death. “I indicated I thought he was,” the president said he replied.
Georgia fake electors may face charges in election probe
Author of the article:Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 19, 2022 • 8 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
ATLANTA — The Georgia prosecutor who’s investigating whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally interfered in the 2020 general election in the state has informed 16 Republicans who served as fake electors that they could face criminal charges.
They all signed a certificate declaring falsely that then-President Trump had won the 2020 presidential election and declaring themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors even though Joe Biden had won the state and a slate of Democratic electors was certified. Eleven of them filed a motion Tuesday to quash their subpoenas, calling them “unreasonable and oppressive.”
Also Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, agreed to file any challenges to a subpoena in the investigation in either state superior court or federal court in Georgia, according to a court filing. He had previously filed a motion in federal court in South Carolina trying to stop any subpoena from being issued to him there on behalf of the prosecutor in Georgia.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last year opened a criminal investigation “into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.” A special grand jury with subpoena power was seated in May at her request. In court filings earlier this month, she alleged “a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”
Willis’ office declined to comment Tuesday on the motion to quash the subpoenas.
A lawyer for Willis’s office said in a court filing Tuesday that each of the 16 people who signed the false elector certificate has received a letter saying they are targets of the investigation and that their testimony before the special grand jury is required.
In the motion to quash the subpoenas, lawyers for 11 of the fake electors said that from mid-April through the end of June, Willis’s office had told them that they were considered witnesses, not subjects or targets of the investigation. For that reason, they had agreed to voluntary interviews with the investigative team, the motion says. Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer and another of the fake electors appeared for interviews in late April.
On June 1, grand jury subpoenas were sent to all 11 of those fake electors. And on June 28, the district attorney’s office told their lawyers for the first time that their clients were considered targets, rather than witnesses, the motion says.
On Dec. 14, 2020, when Georgia’s official Democratic electors met to certify the state’s electoral votes for Biden, the fake Republican electors also met to certify a slate of electoral votes for Trump. They did that because there was a lawsuit challenging the election results pending at the time, and if a judge found that Trump had actually won their electoral slate would become valid, the motion says.
The district attorney’s office knew all that and properly labeled them witnesses, prompting them to agree to voluntary cooperation, the motion says.
“The abrupt, unsupportable, and public elevation of all eleven nominee electors’ status wrongfully converted them from witnesses who were cooperating voluntarily and prepared to testify in the Grand Jury to persecuted targets of it,” the motion says. As a result, their lawyers advised them to invoke their federal and state rights protecting them against self-incrimination, and they “reluctantly” accepted that advice, the motion says.
Their lawyers assert that the change in status from witnesses to targets was based on “an improper desire to force them to publicly invoke their rights as, at best, a publicity stunt.” Therefore, they should be excused from appearing before the special grand jury, the motion says.
The motion asks Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s overseeing the special grand jury to excuse the 11 electors from appearing before the panel. It also asks him to look into Willis’ actions “indicating the improper politicization of this investigatory process.”
And it asks him to grant a motion filed Friday by state Sen. Burt Jones seeking to remove Willis and her office from the investigation. Jones, who’s the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, alleged that the investigation is politically motivated because Willis is an active supporter of his Democratic opponent. McBurney on Tuesday set a Thursday hearing on that motion.
Willis’s office has said Jones’ claims are without merit and a lawyer representing the office wrote in a filing Tuesday that Jones has identified no actions that show political motivation.
Ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon's defence seeks acquittal, rests case
Author of the article:Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 21, 2022 • 15 hours ago • 4 minute read • 9 Comments
WASHINGTON — Trump ally Steve Bannon declined to testify and his lawyers did not call any witnesses in his contempt of Congress trial on Thursday, instead arguing the judge should just acquit him, saying prosecutors hadn’t proven their case.
The decision to forego calling any witnesses in Bannon’s defense cleared the way for closing arguments to begin Friday. The judge didn’t immediately rule on the motion for an acquittal and the case is likely to end up in the jury’s hands by midday Friday.
One of Bannon’s lawyers, David Schoen, contended they should able to call Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the House Jan. 6 committee which had subpoenaed Bannon’s testimony, to question him under oath instead of the congressional lawyer who testified during the trial. The judge had previously ruled against that request.
In court, Bannon nodded and smiled as another of his lawyers, Evan Corcoran, argued that the timing of when Bannon could comply with the congressional subpoena was flexible and said testimony from the House panel’s chief lawyer, Kristin Amerling, had made clear “that the dates were in flux.”
In making the argument, Corcoran said that “no reasonable juror could conclude that Mr. Bannon refused to comply.”
Bannon’s team also told the judge that Bannon saw no point in testifying since the previous rulings had gutted his planned avenues of defense. Schoen said Bannon “understands that he would be barred from telling the true facts.”
Corcoran then rested the defense case. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said he would rule later on the motion for an acquittal.
Throughout the trial, Corcoran has tried to establish that the deadline for the onetime strategist to former President Donald Trump to appear before the House committee investigating the Capitol riot was flexible, as long as the two sides were on negotiating terms.
In opening statements, Corcoran argued that the charges against Bannon were politically motivated and that the former adviser was engaged in good-faith negotiations with the congressional committee when he was charged. “No one ignored the subpoena,” Corcoran told the jury.
In reality, Corcoran said, one of Bannon’s previous lawyers, Robert Costello, contacted an attorney for the House committee to express some of Bannon’s concerns about testifying.
“They did what two lawyers do. They negotiated,” Corcoran said, adding that Bannon and his legal team believed “the dates of the subpoena were not fixed; they were flexible.”
At other times in the courtroom on Thursday, Bannon, wearing two collared shirts, a T-shirt and a black jacket, fiddled with his telephone and rocked back and forth on his chair.
Bannon was in an unofficial capacity to Trump at the time of the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, and is charged with defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the aftermath of the 2020 election and the events leading up to the deadly riot.
Bannon was indicted in November on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, a month after the Justice Department received the House panel’s referral. Each count carries a minimum of 30 days of jail and as long as a year behind bars upon conviction.
The Justice Department rested its case Wednesday after calling just two witnesses: Amerling, and FBI special agent Stephen Hart. The prosecution’s case was dominated by testimony from Amerling, who explained the extent to which the committee tried to engage Bannon and the timeline leading up to the missed deadline.
During cross examination Corcoran asked Amerling whether it was common for witnesses to appear before a congressional committee several weeks after the deadline date on a subpoena. Amerling answered “yes,” but added only “when witnesses are cooperating with the committee.”
Amerling said Bannon was uncooperative from the start, so there was no such leeway.
The committee heard nothing from Bannon until after the first deadline had passed, at which point his lawyer sent a letter to the committee stating that Bannon was protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege and would not be providing documents or appearing. The committee responded in writing that Trump’s claim was invalid — Trump was no longer president, and Bannon was not employed at the White House at the time of the riot.
The panel gave Bannon a hard deadline of Oct. 14 to come before the committee. When that deadline passed, Thompson the committee chairman, wrote Bannon’s lawyer on Oct. 15 threatening criminal prosecution.
The committee, which is holding a prime time hearing Thursday, wanted to speak with Bannon because it had information that Bannon was actively involved in planning, logistics and fundraising for efforts by Trump, a Republican, to overturn the 2020 election and stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. The subpoena demanded any documents or communications relating to Trump and other people in his orbit, including lawyer Rudy Giuliani and extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
The emphasis on the subpoena timeline is one of the few avenues of defense that Nichols left Bannon’s legal team after a hearing last week. Nichols ruled that major elements of Bannon’s planned defense were irrelevant and could not be introduced in court. The judge said Bannon could not claim he believed he was covered by executive privilege, which allows presidents to withhold confidential information from the courts and the legislative branch, or that he was acting on the advice of his lawyers.
Trump spurned aides' pleas to call off Capitol mob, Jan. 6 probe hears
Panel documented how former U.S. president watched violence unfold on TV
Author of the article:Associated Press
Lisa Mascaro, Farnoush Amiri And Eric Tucker
Publishing date:Jul 22, 2022 • 1 day ago • 5 minute read • 84 Comments
WASHINGTON — Despite desperate pleas from aides, allies, a Republican congressional leader and even his family, Donald Trump refused to call off the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol, instead “pouring gasoline on the fire” by aggressively tweeting his false claims of a stolen election and celebrating his crowd of supporters as “very special,” the House investigating committee showed Thursday night.
The next day, he declared anew, “I don’t want to say the election is over.” That was in a previously unaired outtake of an address to the nation he was to give, shown at the prime-time hearing of the committee.
The panel documented how for some 187 minutes, from the time Trump left a rally stage sending his supporters to the Capitol to the time he ultimately appeared in the Rose Garden video that day, nothing could compel the defeated president to act. Instead, he watched the violence unfold on TV.
“President Trump didn’t fail to act,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a fellow Republican but frequent Trump critic who flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “He chose not to act.”
After months of work and weeks of hearings, the prime-time session started the way the committee began — laying blame for the deadly attack on Trump himself for summoning the mob to Washington and sending them to Capitol Hill.
The defeated president turned his supporters’ “love of country into a weapon,” said the panel’s Republican vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
Far from finishing its work after Thursday’s hearing, probably the last of the summer, the panel will start up again in September as more witnesses and information emerge. Cheney said “the dam has begun to break” on revealing what happened that fateful day, at the White House as well as in the violence at the Capitol.
“Donald Trump made a purposeful choice to violate his oath of office,” Cheney declared.
“Every American must consider this: Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted in any position of authority in our great nation?” she asked.
Trump, who is considering another White House run, dismissed the committee as a “Kangaroo court,” and name-called the panel and witnesses for “many lies and misrepresentations.”
Plunging into its second prime-time hearing on the Capitol attack, the committee aimed to show a “minute by minute” accounting of Trump’s actions with new testimony, including from two White House aides, never-before-heard security radio transmissions of Secret Service officers fearing for their lives and behind-the-scenes discussions at the White House.
With the Capitol siege raging, Trump was “giving the green light” to his supporters by tweeting condemnation of Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to go along with his plan to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, a former White House aide told the committee.
Two aides resigned on the spot.
“I thought that Jan. 6 2021, was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Sarah Matthews told the panel. “And President Trump was treating it as a celebratory occasion. So it just further cemented my decision to resign.”
The committee played audio of Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reacting with surprise to the president’s inaction during the attack.
“You’re the commander-in-chief. You’ve got an assault going on on the Capitol of the United States of America. And there’s Nothing? No call? Nothing, Zero?” he said.
On Jan. 6, an irate Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol after his supporters had stormed the building, well aware of the deadly attack, but his security team refused.
“Within 15 minutes of leaving the stage, President Trump knew that the Capitol was besieged and under attack,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.
At the Capitol, the mob was chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” testified Matt Pottinger, the former deputy national security adviser, as Trump tweeted his condemnation of his vice president.
Pottinger, testifying Thursday, said that when he saw Trump’s tweet he immediately decided to resign, as did Matthews, who said she was a lifelong Republican but could not go along with what was going on. She was the witness who called the tweet “a green light” and “pouring gasoline on the fire.”
Meanwhile, recordings of Secret Service radio transmissions revealed agents at the Capitol trying to whisk Pence to safety amid the mayhem and asking for messages to be relayed telling their own families goodbye.
The panel showed previously unseen testimony from the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., with a text message to his father’s chief of staff Mark Meadows urging the president to call off the mob.
Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner also testified in a recorded video of a “scared” GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy calling him for help.
And in a gripping moment, the panel showed Trump refusing to deliver a speech the next day declaring the election was over, despite his daughter, Ivanka Trump, heard off camera, encouraging him to read the script.
“The president’s words matter,” said Luria, D-Va., a former Naval officer on the panel. “We know that many of the rioters were listening to President Trump.”
Luria said the panel had received testimony confirming the powerful previous account of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson of an altercation involving Trump as he insisted the Secret Service drive him to the Capitol.
Among the witnesses testifying Thursday in a recorded video was retired District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Mark Robinson who told the committee that Trump was well aware of the number of weapons in the crowd of his supporters but wanted to go regardless.
“The only description that I received was that the president was upset, and that he was adamant about going to the Capitol and that there was a heated discussion about that,” Robinson said.
Chairman Bennie Thompson, appearing virtually as he self-isolates with COVID-19, opened Thursday’s hearing saying Trump as president did “everything in his power to overturn the election” he lost to Joe Biden, including before and during the deadly Capitol attack.
“He lied, he bullied, he betrayed his oath,” charged Thompson, D-Miss.
“Our investigation goes forward,” said Thompson. “There needs to be accountability.”
The hearing room was packed, including with several police officers who fought off the mob that day, and the family of one officer who died the day after the attack.
While the committee cannot make criminal charges, the Justice Department is monitoring its work.
So far, more than 840 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Over 330 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanours. Of the more than 200 defendants to be sentenced, approximately 100 received terms of imprisonment.
No former president has ever been federally prosecuted by the Justice Department.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that Jan. 6 is “the most wide-ranging investigation and the most important investigation that the Justice Department has ever entered into.”
Five people died that day as Trump supporters battled the police in gory hand-to-hand combat to storm the Capitol. One officer has testified that she was “slipping in other people’s blood” as they tried to hold back the mob. One Trump supporter was shot and killed by police.
Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking, Mike Balsamo, Chris Megerian in Washington and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.
Ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon convicted of contempt charges in Jan. 6 case
Author of the article:Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 22, 2022 • 17 hours ago • 3 minute read • 7 Comments
WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, was convicted on Friday of contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Bannon, 68, was convicted after a four-day trial in federal court on two counts: one for refusing to appear for a deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents in response to the committee’s subpoena. The jury of 8 men and 4 women deliberated just under three hours.
He faces up to two years in federal prison when he’s sentenced on Oct. 21. Each count carries a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail.
David Schoen, one of Bannon’s lawyers said outside the courthouse the verdict would not stand. “This is round one,” Schoen said. “You will see this case reversed on appeal”
But Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney in Washington, said in a statement, “The subpoena to Stephen Bannon was not an invitation that could be rejected or ignored. Mr. Bannon had an obligation to appear before the House Select Committee to give testimony and provide documents. His refusal to do so was deliberate, and now a jury has found that he must pay the consequences.”
The committee sought Bannon’s testimony over his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Bannon had initially argued that his testimony was protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege. But the House panel and the Justice Department contend such a claim is dubious because Trump had fired Bannon from the White House in 2017 and Bannon was thus a private citizen when he was consulting with the then-president in the run-up to the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Bannon’s lawyers tried to argue during the trial that he didn’t refuse to cooperate and that the dates “were in flux.” They pointed to the fact that Bannon had reversed course shortly before the trial kicked off — after Trump waived his objection — and had offered to testify before the committee.
In closing arguments Friday morning, both sides re-emphasized their primary positions from the trial. The prosecution maintained that Bannon willfully ignored clear and explicit deadlines, and the defence claimed Bannon believed those deadlines were flexible and subject to negotiation.
Bannon was served with a subpoena on Sept. 23 last year ordering him to provide requested documents to the committee by Oct. 7 and appear in person by Oct. 14. Bannon was indicted in November on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, a month after the Justice Department received the House panel’s referral.
Bannon’s attorney Evan Corcoran told jurors Friday in his closing arguments that those deadlines were mere “placeholders” while lawyers on each side negotiated terms.
Corcoran said the committee “rushed to judgment” because it “wanted to make an example of Steve Bannon.”
Corcoran also hinted that the government’s main witness, Jan. 6 committee chief counsel Kristin Amerling, was personally biased. Amerling admitted on the stand that she is a lifelong Democrat and has been friends with one of the prosecutors for years. Corcoran also vaguely hinted that the signature of Jan. 6 committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss) looked different on the subpoena than on other letters but dropped that topic when the prosecution objected.
Prosecutors focused on the series of letters exchanged between the Jan. 6 committee and Bannon’s lawyers. The correspondence shows Thompson immediately dismissing Bannon’s claim that he was exempted by Trump’s claim of executive privilege and explicitly threatening Bannon with criminal prosecution.
“The defence wants to make this hard, difficult and confusing,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn in her closing statement. “This is not difficult. This is not hard. There were only two witnesses because it’s as simple as it seems.”
The defence Thursday motioned for an acquittal, saying the prosecution had not proved it’s case. In making his motion for acquittal before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran said that “no reasonable juror could conclude that Mr. Bannon refused to comply.”
Once the motion was made the defence rested its case without putting on any witnesses, telling Nichols that Bannon saw no point in testifying since the judge’s previous rulings had gutted his planned avenues of defence. Among other things, Bannon’s team was barred from calling as witnesses House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or members of the House panel. David Schoen said Bannon “understands that he would be barred from telling the true facts.”
Associated Press reporters Michael Balsamo and Gary Fields contributed to this report.
Colorado man pleads guilty to casting missing wife's ballot
Author of the article:Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 22, 2022 • 14 hours ago • 1 minute read • Join the conversation
DENVER — A Colorado man who had been charged in the presumed death of his missing wife has pleaded guilty to forgery for casting her 2020 election ballot for then-President Donald Trump.
Barry Morphew pleaded guilty Thursday and was fined and assessed court costs of $600, The Denver Post reported. He avoids jail time as part of a plea agreement.
Suzanne Morphew was reported missing on Mother’s Day in 2020 after she did not return from a bike ride near her home in the Salida area in southern Colorado. Barry Morphew, who pleaded for help finding his wife, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in 2021, but prosecutors dropped the charges in April.
That decision followed the judge’s move to bar prosecutors from presenting most of their key witnesses during Morphew’s scheduled trial because they repeatedly failed to follow rules for turning over evidence in his favor. The evidence included DNA from an unknown male linked to sexual assault cases in other states, which was found in Suzanne Morphew’s SUV and raised the possibility of another suspect being involved.
Suzanne Morphew’s body has not been found.
In the voter fraud case, investigators said Barry Morphew filled out his missing wife’s ballot because he thought Trump could use the extra vote. Trump lost Colorado to President Joe Biden by 14 percentage points.
“Just because I wanted Trump to win. I just thought, give him another vote. I figured all these other guys are cheating,” he told an FBI agent who confronted him about the ballot in April 2021, according to court documents.
Trump has made repeated claims about fraud and “rigged” election results, but experts say there has been no evidence found of widespread fraud that would have changed the election’s outcome.
Morphew also told the agent he didn’t know it was illegal to fill out a ballot on behalf of a spouse.