“House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer released a 65-page memo detailing a sprawling investigation into Biden and some of his relatives, particularly his son Hunter Biden. Nowhere in the massive document was there a specific allegation of a crime committed by Biden or any of his relatives.”
Nazis’ Lawyers Accuse Charlottesville Victims of Being Communist Sympathizers in Sixth Day of Wild Trial
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — As the second witness in the landmark lawsuit against white nationalist organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally took the stand on Monday, defendants sought to discredit the victims of violence that engulfed the city in August 2017 by attempting to make strained connections to violent left-wing counter-protesters and communists.
During jury selection, several prospective jurors expressed negative opinions about “antifa,” revealing how deeply right-wing conspiracy theories falsely portraying left-wing, antiracist activists as uniformly violent have become entrenched since the election of Donald Trump. Lawyers for the plaintiffs were able to get several of the prospective jurors with the most extreme views of “antifa” struck.
Defense counsel began cross-examination of Devin Willis, a plaintiff who was an 18-year-old African-American student at the University of Virginia in August 2017, on Monday morning. Willis and fellow plaintiff Natalie Romero, who testified on Oct. 29, were the only people of color among a group of counter-protesters who were surrounded by a torch-bearing mob as they linked arms around the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the University of Virginia campus on Aug. 11, 2017.
White nationalists in the mob yelled, “Go back to where you came from,” made monkey noises at them, and hurled lit torches at their feet.
A member of the Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia, Willis helped organize a respite area in nearby McGuffey Park, where antiracist counter-protesters could find food and water, listen to poetry or take time for meditation, during the day of the Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12, 2017.
Defendants questioned him about the language in a press release announcing the project by asking him to distinguish between “nonviolent civil protest” and “direct action.” Through cross-examination, the defendants attempted to cast the respite effort in a sinister light by highlighting the fact that Willis also went to what was then Emancipation Park and stood with a group of people who attempted to block the white nationalists from traversing the street.
Richard Spencer, the one-time figurehead of the alt-right movement, asked Willis if his intention of maintaining a “safe space” at McGuffey Park would “have included blocking people from traveling to a permitted rally.”
“I don’t think so,” Willis replied. “The first thing is the safe space was in McGuffey Park. I think what you’re referring to took place somewhere else.”
But Willis also rejected the defendants’ attempt to characterize his participation in the blockade as “direct action,” instead describing it as “a symbolic gesture,” similar to when he joined counter-protesters to surround the Jefferson statue the previous evening.
“That’s why there was space left to walk around,” he added.
Bryan Jones, counsel for the two League of the South defendants, used his cross-examination of Willis to attempt to undermine the plaintiffs’ characterization of themselves as peaceful counter-protesters. Jones presented images of the counter-protesters blocking Market Street adjacent to Emancipation Park that included at least two individuals holding sticks or flagpoles. Others in the line were wearing red bandannas, which Jones suggested in his cross-examination were indicative of support for communism.
Willis acknowledged on the stand that he joined what Jones called “this human barricade” on at least two occasions.
During direct examination, Willis had testified that he had witnessed people using sticks and poles as weapons to hit people near Emancipation Park. When Jones showed Willis a photo of person who appeared to be a counter-protester in the human chain holding a flagpole, Willis acknowledged that it was consistent with, as Jones worded it, “the type of weapons you saw used during the confrontation and conflict that day.”
Willis also identified co-plaintiff Romero in a photograph of people on the line.
Jones referenced Romero’s earlier testimony when she said that white nationalists spit at her and threw her against a police car next to Emancipation Park on the morning of Aug. 12. She testified that she couldn’t understand why they assaulted her because there was plenty of room to go around her.
“If someone were to say that Natalie was only standing on the side of the road, that would be incorrect, wouldn’t it?” Jones asked.
“I don’t think that invalidates the other thing she said,” Willis responded.
Jones also questioned Willis about red bandannas worn by people in the line blocking Market Street.
“You didn’t realize that there were communist supporters?” Jones asked.
“I wasn’t really paying much attention to that,” Willis replied.
Jones’s questioning also sought to shift blame for the violence from the defendants to members of law enforcement, who stood on the sideline as hand-to-hand combat raged on the Market Street on the morning of Aug. 12, before declaring the event an unlawful assembly and ordering people to leave.
Jones contrasted the police handling of Unite the Right with their response to a rally a month earlier by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Willis agreed with Jones that the Klan rally was relatively uneventful and that there was a significant police presence at the earlier rally, in comparison with Unite the Right. In contrast to Unite the Right, during the Klan rally, police kept the two groups separated.
“Could it be that one of the reasons you experienced violence at the August rally is that you were standing with other counter-protesters blocking a roadway, but in July you didn’t do that?” Jones asked.
Willis responded: “I don’t think standing in the roadway is an invitation to be attacked, but you could say that, yes.”
Before the trial started, Jones had unsuccessfully sought to introduce the 220-page Heaphy Report, an independent review of the breakdown of order during the Unite the Right rally that was commissioned by the former city manager, into evidence in entirety.
The Heaphy Report concluded that the city of Charlottesville failed to protect both free expression and public safety on Aug. 12, 2017.
“The city was unable to protect the right of free expression and facilitate the permit holder’s offensive speech,” the report said. “This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions — the protection of fundamental rights. Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury and death.”
Timothy Heaphy, the lead author of the report, is a former US attorney for the Western District of Virginia who was recently hired as chief investigative counsel for the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol.
The plaintiffs have argued that the Unite the Right organizers sought to use the report “as a central pillar in their defense at trial” in an effort “to shift the blame of their racially motivated violence onto others.”
Judge Moon turned down the defendants’ request, ruling the report inadmissible as hearsay.
The defendants are likely to sharpen questions about plaintiffs allegedly impeding their access to Emancipation Park, where they held a permit for a rally, when the Rev. Seth Wispelwey takes the stand. Wispelwey, who is a plaintiff in the case, organized a response from clergy. As Wispelwey and other clergy members, including Professor Cornel West, marched arm-in-arm to Emancipation Park, white nationalists charged through them, knocking Wispelwey into a bush.
Defendant Christopher Cantwell, a neo-Nazi podcaster, took the defendants’ efforts to link plaintiffs to violent left-wing activists a step further by extensively questioning Willis about various individuals who counter-protested the Aug. 11 torch march. At one point, Cantwell asked Willis to name the people who were in the car with him when he traveled to campus to counter-protest the torch march. During his direct examination, Willis had explained that when the white nationalists attacked them at the Jefferson statue he covered his face to avoid being doxed.
Responding to Cantwell’s question on Monday about his fellow counter-protesters, he told the court: “I’m hesitant to name them. Some of them live here.”
“You have to name them,” Judge Moon told Willis.
Plaintiffs’ counsel asked to approach the bench for a conference.
Cantwell resumed his line of questioning, and Willis asked if he had to respond.
“This is your lawsuit, and this is information they need to ask,” Moon said.
Cantwell, whose legal strategy has occasionally earned the scorn of counsel for his fellow defendants, has aggressively cross-examined the first two plaintiff-witnesses, running the risk of alienating jurors who sympathize with the injuries they incurred during the weekend of violence. At times, Cantwell’s courtroom comments have seemed more directed towards his white nationalist podcast audience than the court.
Jordan Green covers right-wing extremism for Raw Story. A Kentucky native, he now lives in North Carolina, where he spent 16 years writing for alt-weeklies and freelancing for the Washington Post and other publications.
Image: Peter Cvjetanovicm (Twitter)
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Extremist Group Targets Florida High School’s Yearbook Over Inclusion of LGBTQ Students Section
The publication of a Florida high school yearbook that included an LGBTQ section has drawn rebuke from a conservative group, The Orlando Sentinel reports.
Lyman High School’s 256-page yearbook includes two pages that highlight the school’s LGBTQ students and features gender identity terms such as “genderfluid” and “nonbinary.”
The Seminole County Public Schools in response to the criticism is offering to issue refunds or reprint the yearbook without the LGBTQ section that the conservative Seminole County Moms for Liberty claims is offensive.
“They shouldn’t have any sexual definitions in a yearbook,” the group’s chapter chair Jessica Tillmann told The Sentinel.
“This is a yearbook that goes to every student as young as 14.”
The school’s yearbook is stirring controversy for a second straight year after the district in 2022 considered putting stickers over photos of a student walkout protesting the so-called “don’t say gay” law, the report said.
The Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher reports that “An LGBTQ+ section in this year’s yearbook includes a picture of members of the student’s Gay-Straight Alliance, definitions of key LGBTQ+ terms, a passage on the evolution of pronouns and a profile of a student who advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Danielle Pomeranz, the school yearbook’s faculty advisor, isn’t on board with the district’s decision to remove the LGBTQ content.
“They are definitions,” Pomeranz told The Sentinel.
“They are not teaching anything about sex at all. … Nobody is teaching anybody about sex acts. It is ridiculous.”
Pomeranz has since resigned from her position in the district, citing in part the Sunshine State’s political climate and an unsupportive district, the report said.
“We’ve always had the LGBTQ+ spread in there,” she said.
“Our job as journalists and members of the yearbook staff is to provide coverage of the entire school and that includes all of the communities, including the LGBTQ+ community.”
Image via Shutterstock
Watch Live: President Biden to Deliver Rare Address to the Nation on Bipartisan Debt Ceiling Agreement
President Joe Biden will make a rare address to the nation Friday evening, to share with the American people the results of successful negotiations with Republicans to avert what could have been not only a national but global economic disaster had the debt ceiling crisis not been averted.
Biden is being credited for smart and savvy negotiations while keeping out of the public eye and allowing Republicans to control the narrative, while steering the agreement to one best for the American people.
Even Speaker Kevin McCarthy “conceded that he had been impressed with Biden’s negotiating team during the talks, calling them ‘very professional, very smart’ and ‘very tough at the same time,'” HuffPost reported Wednesday.
Many extremist House Republicans were hoping for a default, and over the past several weeks they made clear they did not understand what the consequences would have been.
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Watch President Biden below at 7 PM ET, or at this link.
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FBI Agrees to Brief Top House Oversight Leaders on Unsubstantiated Allegation Against Biden
Under threat of a contempt of Congress referral against FBI Director Chris Wray, the Bureau has agreed to allow a briefing for the top Republican and top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee on a years-old unsubstantiated allegation, which has been called a second-hand tip, accusing then-Vice President Joe Biden of a supposed wrongful act.
The existence of the lone, unclassified document, called an FD-1023 form, until recently was not even verified by the FBI.
Chairman Jim Comer (R-KY) and Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) “will receive a briefing from the FBI and review the FD-1023 form behind closed doors in a secure SCIF, a sensitive compartmented information facility at the Capitol rather than going to FBI headquarters, as the bureau had initially offered,” CNN on Friday reported.
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“While the document contains the allegations made by an unnamed whistleblower, it doesn’t provide proof that they are true, people briefed on the matter said. The FBI and prosecutors who previously reviewed the information couldn’t corroborate the claims.”
Chairman Comer, who has been accused of using his position on the powerful Oversight Committee aid Donald Trump’s efforts to regain the presidency, late last month appeared to validate that accusation.
The unverified FD-1023 form “has origins in a tranche of documents that Rudy Giuliani provided to the Justice Department in 2020, people briefed on the matter said,” CNN notes.
“According to Comer,” CNN adds, the FD-1023 form, “dated June 30, 2020, says [a] foreign national allegedly paid $5 million to receive a desired policy outcome, based on unclassified and legally protected whistleblower disclosures.”
On Thursday, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has teamed up with Chairman Comer, came under fire for admitting he does not care whether or not the accusations against President Biden are true or not, he wants to pursue them regardless.
READ MORE: Classified Pentagon ‘War Plans’ Document Trump Bragged About in Audio Recording Is Missing: Report
CNN earlier this week reported that even then-Attorney General Bill Barr questioned the validity of the alleged document.
“The allegations of wrongdoing by the then-vice president, many originating from sources in Ukraine, were dubious enough that Attorney General William Barr in early 2020 directed that they be reviewed by a US attorney in Pittsburgh, in part because Barr was concerned that Giuliani’s document tranche could taint the ongoing Hunter Biden investigation overseen by the Delaware US attorney.”
Ranking Member Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, in a statement this week characterized the FD-1023 as containing “unsubstantiated, second-hand claims,” and called it a “tip.”
Raskin has also accused Comer of being determined to send a contempt of Congress referral for Director Wray to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
“It is increasingly clear that Committee Republicans have always planned to hold Director Wray in contempt of Congress to distract from the obvious fact that they do not have evidence to support their unfounded accusations against President Biden. This latest political maneuver underscores Chairman Comer’s determination to use the Committee to help former President Trump’s reelection efforts and pander to extreme MAGA Republicans.”
Last month, The New Republic reported, the “House GOP accused Joe Biden and his family … of engaging in business with foreign entities—but were unable to provide any actual evidence linking the president to any wrongdoing.”
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