During the late Friday evening news dump, President Donald Trump fired U.S. State Department Inspector General Steve Linick without the required 30-day notice to Congress and replaced him with Ambassador Stephen Akard, the director of the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions.
Linick is the third inspector general Trump has fired since April, under the cover of the coronavirus epidemic, and the third to have exerted oversight that would’ve challenged and put a check on Trump’s power. While Trump will announce his official nominee to replace Linick in the coming days, his current replacement is generally regarded as unqualified for the last job Trump nominated him for.
Akard once served as then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s senior foreign affairs advisor. But Akard is perhaps best known on Capitol Hill as Trump’s failed October 2017 nominee as director general of the Foreign Service.
At the time, anonymous State Department officials referred to Akard as a “political pawn” and a “yes man” because Akard had only served eight years in the foreign service from 1997 to 2005 whereas the position normally went to highly distinguished ambassadors with decades of experience in the foreign service office. That’s because the job involves “heading human resources, running trainings and promotions, advising the secretary on management and personnel, and handling difficult internal conflicts and issues with U.S. ambassadors and diplomats abroad.”
So after officials and legislators criticized his lack of experience and his prior work under Pence, Akard withdrew his nomination in March 2018, but now he’s back, and as a temporary appointee, he requires no congressional scrutiny or approval.
Even more concerning is that Linick’s firing seems to follow a pattern of getting rid of watchdogs who’ve criticized Trump administration. Linkick was reportedly investigating Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks for himself and Mrs. Pompeo” when he was fired — in fact, CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju said Pompeo actually made the call to fire Linick. Also, during the January 2020 impeachment proceedings against Trump, Linick gave House members documents that the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani had handed to the State Department.
In mid-April, Trump fired Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson after his handling of a 2019 whistleblower complaint alleged that the president had tried to extort Ukraine to start a corruption investigation into presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Mike Pence.
In early April, Trump removed acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine who was set to oversee the president’s management of a $2 trillion dollar coronavirus relief fund for American businesses.
“The President’s late-night, weekend firing of the State Department Inspector General has accelerated his dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people,” wrote Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California in a statement issued Friday night.
The slow removal of oversight continues within the tRump regime. IG Steve Linick will be replaced with Pence's ally, Stephen Ackard.
👉🏼 No oversight
👉🏼 Only loyalty rules
— Mara *Staying the F Home* Jade 🇺🇸 🇵🇷 🏳️🌈 (@MaraJade_2017) May 16, 2020
A senior State official confirmed that Pompeo made the recommendation that Linick be removed, but the official did not know the reasons why. The decision to choose Akard as his successor was done in consultation with his management team, but Pompeo ultimately made the decision https://t.co/cQtjULjLN1
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 16, 2020
The administration always does the things it’s most proud of late Friday evenings, such as firing the State Department’s well-respected internal watchdog https://t.co/i7pXvlpUWq
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) May 16, 2020
Totally legal. Totally normal. Totally cool. Nothing to see here at all! This is how all strong democracies operate!
“the new inspector general will be Stephen Akard, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence”https://t.co/3Wu85PsZbZ
— Brad Bowman (@beeradb) May 16, 2020
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Russia Explodes with Protests Against Putin Poisoning and Jailing His Biggest Opponent
Russian citizens in 38 cities are protesting the country’s sham elections in which Russian President Vladimir Putin has felt so threatened by the opposition candidate, anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, that he has had him imprisoned and poisoned in an attempt to silence his voice and kill his movement.
The Russian presidential elections are a complete sham used to legitimate Putin’s power. In the last election, Putin “won” nearly 77 percent of the vote amid claims of ballot stuffing, the Kremlin choosing which candidates get to run, police arresting any anti-Putin protesters and pro-Putin candidates receiving far more financial backing than his opponents.
Navalny himself, a popular anti-corruption campaigner who is one of Putin’s most outspoken critics, according to The Week, has previously been barred from running due to a trumped-up and controversial fraud conviction allegedly masterminded by Putin. In August 2020, Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent called Novichok and survived his hospitalization. Navalny has said he got a Russian federal agent to reveal how he was poisoned, though the Kremlin has denied any involvement.
Three days ago, Navalny was jailed once more for allegedly violating his parole. He now inhabits Matrosskaya Tishina or Sailor’s Silence, a jail in Moscow’s north-east region that has housed high-ranking prisoners that authorities have wanted to cut off from the outside world since the Soviet era, according to Reuters. The jail is notoriously deadly.
Russian citizens across the nation have seemingly had enough and have begun protesting his imprisonment, as the videos below attest. Hundreds have been arrested as police fight to maintain control.
The U.S. Embassy in Russia has weighed in by saying, “We’re watching reports of protests in 38 Russian cities, arrests of 350+ peaceful protesters and journalists. The U.S. supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression. Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights.”
Putin can’t rob the Russian people of hundreds of billions of dollars over twenty years and expect to get away with it. This is the reaction of the Russian people, chanting “Putin vor” which means “Putin thief”. It’s happening all over Russia right now. https://t.co/UhVSdWVeBX
— Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) January 23, 2021
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) January 23, 2021
Сейчас в центре Петербурга pic.twitter.com/F0piyWGyRZ
— Дождь (@tvrain) January 23, 2021
Images from Russia today are transfixing: thousands all across the country defying authorities and protesting for @navalny’s release. So brave.
— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) January 23, 2021
I’m just hoping against all hope this guy somehow independently came up with this outfit. https://t.co/VBKuZxhOHq
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) January 23, 2021
US embassy in Russia weighs in. https://t.co/99OJgKSXS1
— Bianna Golodryga (@biannagolodryga) January 23, 2021
Protests are taking place across Russia today, calling for Navalny’s release.
This is Vladivostok, in the country’s Far East pic.twitter.com/luO4oudeH9
— Matthew Luxmoore (@mjluxmoore) January 23, 2021
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) January 23, 2021
— Jake Rudnitsky (@Rudnit) January 23, 2021
BREAKING: Clashes between riot police and Alexei Navalny supporters / protestors in Yekaterinburg, Russia. – #Protests
— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) January 23, 2021
— Global News (@GlbBreakNews) January 23, 2021
Иркутск: «Мы не уйдём!» pic.twitter.com/9HIsGgXAcp
— Борис Золотаревский (@ZolotorevskiyB) January 23, 2021
Online Database Has 426 Videos of Police Attacking George Floyd Protestors
The nationwide protests against police violence have created numerous instances of police violence. As hundreds of thousands have non-violently protested without incident, they’re capturing police attacks against demonstrators on camera, and now there’s a database where you can watch them all.
Lawyer T. Greg Doucette and mathematician Jason Miller have placed these clips into a public Google Sheet entitled “GeorgeFloyd Protest – police brutality videos on Twitter.” It contains links to at least 426 videos of police violence committed in cities across the United States.
“[The videos] come in from a variety of spots, but the vast majority are sent via DM. I’ve got nearly 1,000 unopened DMs at this point plus ppl I’ve already talked with sending me more,” Doucette told Vice News.
Doucette makes sure to verify the time and place of each video so he doesn’t re-circulate old footage from years ago.
The importance of cataloging such videos is that they counter police narratives about police being provoked into violence or lies about protestors being injured after “tripping” or “resisting arrest.” After all, if it weren’t for the now-viral video of George Floyd having his neck kneeled on by police, the national public might not be rallying in such large numbers in the first place.
“I’m a political “anti-state” conservative, and police brutality angers me on a visceral level,” Doucette said. “People need to understand that what they’re seeing now is *normal.* It happens several times a week, every week, every year, for years now. It’s not a one-off; it’s cultural rot and flagrant lawlessness.”
Police attacks against journalists have also been increasing since the Floyd protests began. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is now suing on behalf of journalists assaulted by police. In 2018, the U.S. was named as one of the top five most dangerous countries for journalists to work by the organization Journalists Without Borders.
Shady U.S. Department Trump official used his position to get his son-in-law an EPA job
An inspector general report published Friday found that Assistant Interior Secretary Douglas Domenech at the U.S. Department of the Interior used his position to help his son-in-law Eric Frandy get a job at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to the report, Domenech reached out to a senior EPA official in person and via email in 2017 to persuade them to hire Frandy. He also encouraged the official to use another family member’s wedding-related business.
When asked about his pressuring the official to hire his son-in-law, Domenech admitted he was “trying to influence the process to move along.”
What’s troubling is that Domenech didn’t technically break the law because the law around this states you can’t use your political influence to benefit yourself, your wife, child or business… but shilling for in-laws is totally okay.
Regardless, Domenech will be forced to undergo ethics training. But House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva, believes the training will be useless because Domenech already received two rounds of ethics training when first joining the Trump administration.
Instead, Grijalva wants Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to fire Domenech. “Firing Mr. Domenech is the only serious course of action at this point,” another round of ethics training is clearly just a waste of time, since it hasn’t sunk in by now,” Grijalva said.
This is just the Domenech’s second ethical violation that we know about so far.
“Investigators in December found that he broke federal ethics rules by twice meeting with his former employer, a conservative Texas-based policy group, to discuss legal disputes between the group and the agency in early 2017,” the Star Tribune reports.
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