Embattled U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been under fire by Democrats ever since he directed the slowdown of mail delivery before the November 2020 election along with the dismantling of hundreds of millions of dollars of proprietary federal government assets like mail sorting machines and post office mail drop boxes.
But as Yahoo News reports Friday, now Republicans are on the attack after the Chief Postal Inspector revealed to lawmakers on Wednesday that, as part of its Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), DeJoy personally ordered the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to begin to monitor Americans’ social media accounts. The USPIS is a full law enforcement agency that is part of the USPS and is under DeJoy’s purview.
That directive to monitor the accounts, or as one GOP Congressman called it this week, to “spy on Americans,” came after the start of the George Floyd protests, and after DeJoy was allegedly personally threatened on social media.
Yahoo News adds, “it does appear that DeJoy was personally involved in the program’s shift toward social media surveillance. A GOP aide said that after DeJoy was appointed postmaster general in 2020, he reallocated some of the eight-person iCOP team, currently staffed with only five analysts, to focus on protesters.”
News broke last week of the existence of the existence of the “covert” group of postal inspectors and that they are monitoring Americans’ social media posts.
But Republican lawmakers expressed concern because the platforms the Postal Inspection Service has been monitoring include far right wing social media sites that are home to some of the most extreme elements of conservative America, including Parler.
iCOP is a Trump-era creation, having been started in 2017. But its mission changed dramatically after DeJoy and USPS assets were threatened after the start of the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests swept the nation.
Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale’s testimony Wednesday to the House Oversight Committee was not well-received, by Republicans.
“The chief postal inspector was unprepared to the point of incompetence,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) told Yahoo News, blasting his “complete inability to give us answers to basic questions” as “unacceptable.”
“He couldn’t tell me when this program started, how much money is spent on it or where the authority to spy on Americans came from,” said Mace, who is one of a very few Republicans who stood up to then-President Donald Trump on January 6.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Chair of the extremist House Freedom Caucus, told Yahoo News he “was not satisfied with their answers.”
“Their theory of the case is, they’ve got to protect their workers and properties,” Biggs said. “I asked, ‘If you already have engagement with other agencies like FBI, Homeland Security, NSA, whatever, then why aren’t you asking them for help?'”
“Why not just call the agencies whose job it is, who are probably already surveilling American citizens?” he said.
Biggs says Barksdale told members of Congress other federal law enforcement agencies “would not cooperate” with the USPIS, so they “made an executive decision” to have iCOP monitor Americans’ social media accounts.
“It’s really uncomfortable to think you can look on any event and you’re going to do keyword search on social media that’s related — that seems pretty broad to me,” Biggs told Yahoo News. “If you think your mandate includes this, your mandate is too broad.”
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The GOP Is an ‘Organized Conspiracy’ That Exists for ‘No Purpose Other Than Power’ Says Steve Schmidt
On MSNBC Wednesday, longtime Republican strategist Steve Schmidt tore into the GOP for abandoning its principles for the blind pursuit of power.
“I do not understand how elected Republicans like Mitch McConnell, and even right-wing hosts like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, do not say, today, there’s a line that can’t be crossed and that’s violence,” said anchor Nicolle Wallace.
“That line is in the rearview mirror, Nicolle,” said Schmidt. “They crossed it. They crossed the Rubicon. We cannot be fantastical in wishing what has not happened has happened in our thinking. It has happened. We’ve watched it play out. We’ve watched Trump and his loony attorneys. We’ve watched the declarations of fraud. We’ve seen United States senators, members of the House of Representatives, they all knew — they all know that Biden has won the election. What they’re doing is for no purpose other than power. The Republican Party is an organized conspiracy for the purposes of maintaining power for self-interest, and the self-interest of its donor class.”
“There has never been a force that has achieved power, or is within reach of achieving power in the next election, that’s been so hostile to the history, the foundings, the essence and the entire meaning of the country, as is this Trump and Trumpist movement that has taken over lock, stock, and barrel the Republican Party,” added Schmidt. “It’s no longer dedicated to American democracy. It is dedicated to Trump and Trumpism and to his family, to defense of his indecencies, his autocratic manner, his corruptions, an apologist for the profound damage he has done.”
McEnany to Hold First Press Conference in 50 Days. In Her Last One She Refused to Denounce Proud Boys or White Supremacy
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who has not held a press conference in 50 days, just announced she will appear before reporters at noon Friday. McEnany’s last time at the podium was October 1.
White House press briefing at 12:00 PM. See you then!
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) November 20, 2020
In that time she has repeatedly appeared on Fox News and other right wing outlets, usually not as a White House official but as a Trump campaign spokesperson and advisor.
The last time McEnany appeared at the podium she “repeatedly refused to denounce white supremacy,” The New York Times had reported that day, “insisting that President Trump had already done so and angrily accusing the media of refusing to accept his answer.”
Reporter: “Does the President denounce white supremacism and groups that espouse it in all of their forms?”
— The Hill (@thehill) October 1, 2020
In a series of remarkably heated exchanges with reporters, even by the standards of the Trump White House, Ms. McEnany said that Mr. Trump has “always denounced any form of that” and read from past quotes from the president in which he condemned bigotry and racism, including “the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups.”
But she would not explicitly condemn white supremacy from the briefing room lectern or specifically denounce the Proud Boys, a far-right group that Mr. Trump said should “stand back and stand by” during Tuesday’s presidential debate with Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Meanwhile, experts have accused her of breaking federal law.
Former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart says her actions are “against the law.”
It’s getting lost in larger outrages, but @PressSec behavior is both outrageous and damaging. You can not be both a paid government employee and a spokesperson for the White House. It’s against the law. You can’t refer q’s to yourself wearing a different hat. Prosecute this. https://t.co/E9AaP6665z
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) November 12, 2020
Last week McEnany showed it’s not possible to pretend to not be a White House official while representing a political candidate:
WAIT. When asked about whether Joe Biden will receive access to intelligence briefings, Kayleigh McEnany says, “That would be a question more for the White House.”
Kayleigh McEnany IS the WH Press Secretary, though she is appearing on FOX as a Trump 2020 adviser. pic.twitter.com/34gfs72fzE
— The Recount (@therecount) November 12, 2020
“The problem with Kayleigh McEnany is that she is paid with taxpayer dollars and uses that time to volunteer for the president’s already-lost campaign,” said Citizens for Ethics (CREW) in response to McEnany’s Fox appearance.
Hate-Motivated Murders Double, Hate Crimes Highest Since 2008 – Surge 21 Percent During Trump’s Presidency: FBI
An FBI report released Monday reveals hate crimes under President Donald Trump are surging.
For all of 2019, the latest results available, hate-motivated murders more than doubled, and hate crimes hit their highest level since 2008, when George W. Bush was president. For President Trump’s first three years in office hate crimes surged a staggering 21%.
“The latest rise in hate crime signals a new brutal landscape, where targeted attacks against rotating victim groups not only result in spikes, but increases are also being driven by a more widely dispersed rise in the most violent offenses,” Brian Levin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, told Voice of America (VOA).
The FBI reports there were “7,314 criminal incidents and 8,559 related offenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.”
Criminal incidents involving race, ethnicity, or ancestry made up the majority of the crimes, at 57.6%. Religion-based bias crimes were the second-highest, at 20.6% of the total.
Sexual orientation (16.7%) and gender identity (2.7%) bias crimes combined were the third- highest, at 19.4%.
Disability bias crimes comprised 2.0%, and gender bias crimes just under one percent.
Hate-motivated homicides have increased every year since Trump became President.
“Hate-motivated homicides more than doubled to a record 51, driven by attacks carried out by white supremacists, including an August 2019 massacre at an El Paso supermarket which left 23 people dead,” VOA adds.
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reveals “racist killers dominated the overall category of ‘extremist motivated’ homicides with a total higher than that of all extremist killings combined for 2018.”
Hate-driven aggravated assaults are now at their highest point in nearly two decades, since 2001.
The “Trump effect” on America and hate-motivated violence is not new. A 2016 study by the Southern Poverty Law Center found “almost 900 incidents of harassment following Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential election,” the BBC reported.
“Hate crimes reportedly jumped by 226 percent in counties that hosted Trump campaign rallies,” Vox reported last year.
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