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ANALYSIS

Republicans Demand Congressional Investigation Into COVID Origins After Denouncing Efforts to ‘Litigate the Past’

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In an angry 4-page letter House Republican leadership on Friday issued a demand Speaker Nancy Pelosi begin a congressional investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The demand comes just weeks after GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blasted efforts to “re-litigate the past” and just days after Senate GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized Democrats for wanting to focus on “things that occurred in the past.”

Both McCarthy’s and McConnell’s remarks are tied to their opposition to a January 6 commission to investigate the Trump-incited insurrection. McCarthy’s were an attack on Rep. Liz Cheney’s fact-based remarks that Trump lost re-election.

McConnell claimed that “at the heart” of a January 6 commission is that Democrats “would like to continue to debate things that occurred in the past.”

Earlier this month in a letter to House Republicans urging them to remove Cheney from her leadership role, McCarthy wrote: “Each day spent re-litigating the past is one day less we have to seize the future.”

On Friday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise posted the letter (below) to Speaker Pelosi, blaming the “Chinese Communist Party,” which has become the GOP’s favorite term when speaking about China, for the deaths of 600,000 Americans.

President Joe Biden this week instructed the U.S. Intelligence Community to re-investigate the original of the coronavirus and report back to him in 90 days. Despite no additional evidence Republicans are insisting the virus came from a “lab leak” in Wuhan, instead of via transmission in a Chinese wet market.

Washington Post foreign affair correspondent Emily Rauhala, formerly the Post’s China correspondent, says: “Conclusion since last summer has not changed: leak theory is possible, worth pursuing, but no conclusive evidence either way — so far.”

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ANALYSIS

Here Are the Two Avenues the DOJ Will Now Follow After Seditious Conspiracy Indictments

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The Department of Justice has two new investigatory avenues to pursue after indicting eleven Trump supporters for seditious conspiracy for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“The most interesting aspect of the recent indictments of 11 people accused of involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on charges of seditious conspiracy isn’t who has been charged — but who might be charged next,” former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade wrote for MSNBC.

The former U.S. Attorney wrote that it is “likely that prosecutors aren’t done yet.”

McQuade explained that the indictments help prosecutors move up to the higher people behind Jan. 6 and may result in cooperation agreements.

“Working up the chain of organized criminal conduct is part of the standard Justice Department playbook. Lower-level offenders can provide leads to higher-level offenders in two ways. One way is through the investigation of simpler crimes. For example, prosecutors may find ample evidence that a particular subject unlawfully entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. If prosecutors can also demonstrate probable cause that the person used his cellphone as a so-called instrumentality to commit the crime, a search warrant can be obtained for the contents of his physical device. A phone may contain evidence of criminal conduct, and it can also provide links to other offenders. Access to phones is particularly valuable in cases in which, as here, the defendants are alleged to have used encrypted messaging applications, such as Signal, to communicate, making it impossible for investigators to obtain the content of incriminating text messages through the normal route — from the service providers,” McQuade wrote.

She also explained the indictments may make it more likely suspects will “flip” and testify against other co-conspirators.

“Another way lower-level offenders can lead to evidence against more serious offenders is through cooperation. Defendants who are charged with crimes and are likely to face conviction can often help themselves by sitting down with prosecutors and providing debriefings of everything they know. Prosecutors refer to this process as ‘flipping’ a defendant from the defense side to the prosecution team. If that information is valuable, prosecutors will ask the court to reduce the cooperator’s sentence. Cooperators can provide verbal testimony, as well as point investigators to documents and other witnesses who can corroborate their stories. Cooperators can even voluntarily share the contents of their cellphones, providing access to encrypted messages that prosecutors may have been unable to obtain in the absence of probable cause that they used the phones as instrumentalities for the crime,” she explained.

The evidence obtained from this methodical approach can be “devastating.”

“The recent charges indicate that this methodical approach has yielded results. The indictment includes verbatim quotations from encrypted text messages among the Oath Keeper defendants, and they are devastating,” she wrote. “The content of other text messages appears throughout the indictment. No evidence is more powerful than the incriminating words of a defendant himself.”

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ANALYSIS

Trump’s Latest Endorsement? A White Christian Nationalist Xenophobic Strongman

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Donald Trump recently has thrown the GOP into disarray, endorsing far right wing extremists who are opposed by Republican Party leadership, but his latest move is more an endorsement of his own political philosophy – and a statement about how he would govern if he becomes president again.

On Monday Trump, the one term, twice-impeached, insurrectionist former president who is under investigation by multiple legal authorities, endorsed authoritarian Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary.

Calling Orbán the “American right’s favorite strongman,” VOX in 2020 reported he “has given significant state support to Hungary’s churches, officially labeling his government a ‘Christian democracy.’ He provided generous subsidies to families in an effort to get Hungarian women to stay at home and have more babies. He launched a legal assault on progressive social ideals, prohibiting the teaching of gender studies in Hungarian universities and banning transgender people from legally identifying as anything other than their biological sex at birth.”

There’s more.

“After winning Hungary’s 2010 election, the prime minister systematically dismantled the country’s democracy — undermining the basic fairness of elections, packing the courts with cronies, and taking control of more than 90 percent of the country’s media outlets.”

And as NPR reported in 2019 when Trump hosted Orbán in the White House, the Hungarian authoritarian said: “We must state that we do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed: we do not want our own colour, traditions and national culture to be mixed with those of others. We do not want this. We do not want that at all. We do not want to be a diverse country.”

Last year Orbán was slammed for a “racist and xenophobic” speech, likening it to “fascist, Nazi, violent and genocidal ideologies that led to the Holocaust.”

Does all this sound familiar?

“Viktor Orbán of Hungary truly loves his Country and wants safety for his people,” Trump said in a statement Monday, The Washington Post reports. “He has done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs, trade, and should be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming Election. He is a strong leader and respected by all. He has my Complete support and Endorsement for reelection as Prime Minister!”

Ben Rhodes, the former Obama White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, responded to the Trump endorsement, saying “we aren’t headed for a Hungary model – we are almost there.”

 

 

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ANALYSIS

Jan 6. Committee Report on Mark Meadows Is a ‘Blueprint of a Coup’: WaPo Columnist

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Washington Post opinion columnist Greg Sargent is serving up a damning look at former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows‘ refusal to give a deposition before the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, saying it appears he is the one person who can testify to “how Trump responded to all these repeated demands that he call off the violent assault.”

Late Sunday night the Committee released its 51-page report that outlines its case against Meadows, including the bombshell that on Jan. 5 Meadows sent an email saying the National Guard was on standby to “protect pro Trump people.” The House will vote on sending the report to the Dept. of Justice for possible prosecution of Meadows for criminal contempt of Congress. The vote is expected to be successful.

Sargent says the “committee’s report on Mark Meadows is extraordinary — it’s a detailed blueprint of a coup. Notably, it shows Meadows can testify to Trump’s reaction to the violence as it unfolded. This is a huge element of what he’s covering up.” He adds that it “blows a big hole in Meadows’s pleasing little propaganda piece.”

He calls Meadows’ book “almost comically sanitized,”

“In his telling,” Sargent adds, “the rioters attacked the Capitol with ‘absolutely no urging’ from Trump, and the notion that Trump sought to incite them to disrupt his loss is purely an invention of the ‘Fake News.'”

In a passage that would embarrass a North Korea disinformation specialist, Meadows writes that the mob assault left Trump “mortified.” But, Meadows piously insists, this didn’t distract Trump from focusing only on the welfare of the country in his final days as president, a noble and selfless impulse that “never wavered.”

Sargent says the “whole coup blueprint is right there in black and white. And so is the scope and reach of what Meadows and others stonewalling the Jan. 6 committee are so eager to cover up. But we’ve now learned the committee has extensive receipts, and soon enough, we’ll see all of them.”

 

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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