An extremely heated exchange between Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) ended with the DHS Secretary calling the Missouri Republican’s comments “despicable.” Mayorkas was forced to respond to Hawley’s remarks by informing him he is “the child of a Holocaust survivor,” whose “mother lost almost all her family at the hands of the Nazis.”
In Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Hawley showed what he said were online comments from one DHS employee calling Israel an apartheid state and denouncing Israelis.
Hawley, who has targeted Mayorkas for impeachment for months, read from the comments, calling them, “pretty extreme rhetoric.”
Ageeing, Secretary Mayorkas added, “I think there is a distinction between espousing or endorsing terrorist ideology and speech that is odious, that does not rise to that level.”
“This person works for you,” Hawley then stated, naming her and identifying her as “an employee of the Department of Homeland Security.”
He then showed what he said was a graphic, “a fake graphic. I want to be clear, but I think we understand it. This is a paraglider a Hamas paraglider depicted here with a machine gun flying into Israel. She posted it under her online alias with the celebratory ‘Free Palestine.'”
Hawley then slammed Mayorkas.
“Mr. Secretary, what what’s going on here? Is this, is this typical of people who work at DHS? This is an asylum and immigration officer who is posting these frankly, pro-genocidal slogans and images on the day that Israelis are being slaughtered in their beds. What have you done about this?”
“Four things I’d like to say to you,” Mayorkas began. “Number one, your question to suggest that that is emblematic of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security is despicable.”
“I’m sorry,” Hawley replied. “This person works for the Department of Homeland Security. Have you fired her?”
“That was one of four answers,” Mayorkas continued, plowing through.
“Have you fired her?” Hawley demanded. “Have you fired her – don’t come to this hearing room when Israel has been invaded and Jewish students are barricaded in libraries in this country and cannot be escorted out because they are threatened for their lives. You have employees who are celebrating genocide, and you are saying it’s despicable for me to ask the question. Has she been fired?”
“Mr. Chairman, after the consumption of Senator Hawley’s time, I’d like to speak,” Mayorkas interjected.
“Frankly, Mr. Secretary, I think that your performance is despicable,” Hawley continued. “And I think the fact that you are not willing to provide the answers as to this committee is absolutely atrocious.”
“Mr. Chairman, may I?” Mayorkas asked, before serving up a strong rebuke to the Senator from Missouri.
“Number one. What I found despicable is the implication that this language, tremendously odious, actually could be emblematic of the sentiments of the 260,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, number one. Number two, Senator Hawley takes an adversarial approach to me in this question, and perhaps he doesn’t know my own background.”
“Perhaps he does not know that I am the child of a Holocaust survivor. Perhaps he does not know that my mother lost almost all her family at the hands of the Nazis, and so I find his adversarial tone to be entirely misplaced. I find it to be disrespectful of me and my heritage. And I do not expect an apology. But I did want to say what I just articulated. Thank you.”
Hawley asked for time to respond but was denied.
Watch both clips below or at this link.
Wow. Mayorkas gets very fired up over Hawley’s line of questioning, which he describes as “despicable!” pic.twitter.com/QyjUp23Kbn
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 31, 2023
Wow Mayorkas just slammed Hawley pic.twitter.com/ctZnnGLxbS
— Acyn (@Acyn) October 31, 2023
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On World AIDS Day, DOJ Says Tennessee Law Discriminates Against Those With HIV
The Department of Justice celebrated World AIDS Day by calling out a Tennessee law that discriminates against people with HIV.
The DOJ released a report Friday that the state’s aggravated prostitution law violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. A person arrested under the aggravated prostitution law is normally changed with a misdemeanor, and faces up to six months in prison and a $500 fine. However, if the person arrested has HIV, the crime becomes a felony, and if they’re convicted, they would face between three and 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“Tennessee’s aggravated prostitution law is outdated, has no basis in science, discourages testing and further marginalizes people living with HIV,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “People living with HIV should not be treated as violent sex offenders for the rest of their lives solely because of their HIV status. The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are protected from discrimination.”
The law was originally passed in 1991. It classifies HIV-positive sex workers as violent sex offenders, according to WKRN-TV. This means that in addition to the sentence, those convicted are put on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry, usually for the rest of their lives.
The DOJ advised the state—and particularly, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, which enforces the statute most frequently, the department says—to stop enforcing the law. It also calls on the state to repeal the law and remove anyone from the registry when aggravated prostitution is the only offense. If this doesn’t happen, Tennessee could face a lawsuit.
Tennessee isn’t the only state to have laws applying to only those living with HIV. In 1988, Michigan passed a law requiring those with HIV to disclose their status before sex, according to WLNS-TV. The law is still on the books, but was updated in 2019 to lift the requirement if the HIV-positive person has an undetectable viral load. The law now also requires proof that the person set out to transmit HIV.
Laws like these can work against public health efforts, according to the National Institutes of Health. The NIH says these types of laws can make people less likely to be tested for HIV, as people cannot be punished if they didn’t know their status. In addition, critics say, the laws can be used to further discriminate. A Canadian study found a disproportionate number of Black men had been charged under HIV exposure laws.
World AIDS Day was first launched in 1988 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations to highlight awareness of the then-relatively new disease. The theme of the 2023 World AIDS Day is “Let Communities Lead,” calling on community leaders to end the AIDS epidemic.
Featured image by UNIS Vienna/Flickr via Creative Commons License.
John Fetterman Says Bob Menendez ‘Senator for Egypt,’ Should Be Expelled Next
Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) called Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) a “senator for Egypt,” and said he needed to be expelled from Congress, much like the now-former Representative George Santos.
Fetterman appeared on The View on Friday. The live broadcast aired as Santos had been kicked out of the House. When host Joy Behar asked what he thought of the vote, Fetterman immediately replied, “I’m not surprised.”
“If you are going to expel Santos, how can you allow somebody like Menendez to remain in the Senate? And, you know, Santos’ kind of lies were almost, you know, funny,” Fetterman said. “Menendez, I think is really a senator for Egypt, you know, not New Jersey. So I really think he needs to go.”
Host Sunny Hostin then asked if Fetterman was uncomfortable with expelling Menendez, as, like with Santos, he had only been indicted, not convicted.
“He has the right for his day in court and all of it, but he doesn’t have the right to to have those kinds of votes and things. That’s not a right,” he said. “I think we need to make that kind of decision to send him out.”
This September, Menendez was indicted on corruption charges. He is accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold and a car, as well as giving “highly sensitive” information about U.S. Embassy staffers in Cairo to the Egyptian government, according to USA Today. Menendez was forced to step down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was replaced by Ben Cardin, Maryland’s Democratic senator.
Menendez denied wrongdoing, and has refused to resign, despite many calls to do so from both Democrats and Republicans.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said in a statement following his indictment. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
This is not Menendez’s first brush with the law. Menendez was indicted in 2015 on federal corruption charges. He was accused of helping Salomon Melgen, one of Menendez’s campaign contributors, by intervening in a dispute with federal regulators and helping Melgen get a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.
In 2017, Menendez’s trial ended with a hung jury, and the Department of Justice declined to retry the case, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Menendez denied all wrongdoing.
House Votes to Boot George Santos 311-114
Representative George Santos (R-NY) has been expelled from Congress following a 311-114 vote; two House members voted “present.”
The expulsion of Santos follows a debate on his fate on Thursday. The vote required a two-thirds majority, or 290 of the 435-seat chamber. This is Santos’ third vote of expulsion; last month, a vote failed with 31 Democrats voting against, according to The Hill.
While the vote was decisive, some notable Republicans voted to save Santos, including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN).
“We’ve not whipped the vote and we wouldn’t,” Johnson told CNN Wednesday. “I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Santos himself had harsh words for the House following the vote. Leaving the capitol building, he briefly spoke with reporters.
“The House spoke that’s their vote. They just set new dangerous precedent for themselves,” he told CNN. “Why would I want to stay here? To hell with this place.”
He then cut his time short, telling reporters, “You know what? As unofficially no longer a member of Congress, I no longer have to answer your questions.”
Santos also faces 23 federal charges, which include fraud, money laundering and misuse of campaign funds, according to CNN. He has pleaded not guilty. An Ethics Committee report found evidence that Santos used campaign funds for Botox and even an OnlyFans account.
On Thursday, Santos said he refused to resign because otherwise, “they win.”
“If I leave the bullies take place. This is bullying,” Santos said. “The reality of it is it’s all theater, theater for the cameras and theater for the microphones. Theater for the American people at the expense of the American people because no real work’s getting done.”
Santos also threatened to file a resolution to expel Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). Bowman pulled a fire alarm in September. Bowman pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge, and said it was an accident. He said he thought the fire alarm would open a locked door as he rushed to a vote. Bowman paid a $1,000 fine.
There have only been six total expulsions from the House, including Santos. Santos is the only Republican to ever be expelled from the House.
The previous expulsion was in 2002, when Representative James Traficant (D-OH) was expelled after a 420-1 vote. Traficant had been convicted on 10 counts of corruption-related crimes.
Before Traficant, Representative Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-PA) was the first representative of the modern era to be expelled. Myers got the boot following his conviction for accepting bribes. Myers couldn’t keep out of trouble; in 2022, he was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison on charges of election fraud.
Prior to Myers, the only expulsions from the House were in 1861, at the start of the Civil War. Henry Cornelius Burnett (D-KY), John William Reid (D-MO) and John Bullock Clark (Whig-MO) were all expelled for joining the Confederacy.
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