By Robert A. Vella
Today, the U.S. surpassed 4 million COVID-19 cases and 145,000 deaths. New jobless claims announced by the Department of Labor confirm that the “economic recovery” (i.e. the easing of social restrictions which had contained the coronavirus pandemic) pushed by President Trump and some Republican governors has reversed back into recession. With unemployment benefits, rental eviction moratoriums, and other financial aid measures enacted earlier this year (to lessen the economic impact on workers) set to expire by next week, Congress is under great pressure to pass additional legislation.
Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen anytime soon because the GOP is beholden to Donald Trump (who is only pursuing his own perceived self-interest) and to its delusional ideology of Social Darwinism which is antithetical to government working democratically for the public good (see: The Defenders of Democracy counterattack against the Tide of Authoritarianism). Republicans, who have been bickering amongst themselves, said today that they have reached an agreement with the White House but didn’t release any specific policy details – leading many to suspect that there is no such agreement. Regardless, their intent to pass something inconsequential as a political ploy to portray themselves as acting responsibly is certainly not a well-hidden secret (their top priority is to grant legal immunity to corporations which force employees back to work without COVID-19 safeguards). After their “agreement” was announced, Democrats declared that the GOP ploy was a non-starter and that any new legislation must be substantive, comprehensive, and address the needs of all Americans.
Ironically, GOP resistance to helping workers conflicts with their reelection hopes. If the pandemic continues to surge and the economy continues to suffer, both Trump and Republicans in Congress will be rightly blamed at the ballot box.
Yesterday, Trump stood alone behind the podium for the second day of his “press conference” revival. Again, he read from a prepared script giving false information about the worsening public health crisis, tried to shift blame and attention towards his handpicked scapegoats, and ran off the stage before reporters had a chance to ask him difficult questions (see: Trump undermines new virus strategy by hiding experts and facts). In my opinion, the news media should not be covering these propaganda sessions live without context and fact-checking.
Meanwhile, the Republican National Convention is falling apart (see: RNC plans in jeopardy as Jacksonville council president opposes city bill), and Trump is exercising his inner fascist dictator by provocatively deploying paramilitary goon squads against racial injustice protesters in a domestic wag-the-dog maneuver intended to regain some public support. Although many judges are predisposed to arbitrarily giving law enforcement agencies wide leeway in policing activities (for a variety of reasons), what these obscure federal forces are doing here is clearly in violation of constitutional protections regarding the right to peaceably assemble (1st Amendment), the right to due process (5th and 14th Amendments), and states’ rights to police their own residents (i.e. powers not delegated to the federal government nor prohibited from the states – i.e. the 10th Amendment) (see: Neal Katyal: Donald Trump is ‘fighting the American people’).
Finally, we’ll examine evolving scandals in the United Kingdom involving the Tories, Russia, and the President of the United States.
Trump’s paramilitary goon squad
Portland, Ore., Mayor Ted Wheeler was among the protesters tear-gassed Wednesday evening by an assortment of Department of Homeland Security agents President Donald Trump has deployed to the city amid mass demonstrations and unrest against racial injustice and police brutality.
Videos of the protests circulating online show the mayor’s encounter with federal agents came after he waded into crowds of protesters and was confronted by calls for his resignation and various law enforcement reforms.
Wheeler then apparently walked to the city’s federal courthouse, which has become a focal point of the protests, where he and others were targeted by federal officers with volleys of tear gas.
The federal response has seemingly reenergized protesters in Portland against what they perceive as heavy-handed federal intervention following nearly two months of continuous demonstrations. They said they were seizing a groundswell of national support to continue pushing for police reform.
Wednesday night once again saw large numbers of white middle-aged Portland residents joining the protests, which have drawn hundreds of local activists nearly every night since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died on Memorial Day after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes over a report of an alleged counterfeit $20 bill.
On Wednesday, four volunteer medics who have been aiding protesters sued city police and the federal government, arguing their Constitutional rights have been violated by law enforcement officers targeting them with tear gas and rubber bullets. Filed with the help of the ACLU, the lawsuit says law enforcement officials at all levels have mistreated protesters.
Over the weekend, he posted images on Twitter of a group of moms who had created what they called a “Wall of Moms” to protect protesters. On the other side of their barrier, however, were not the city’s own police force, but rather federal authorities. A few hours after they’d formed the wall, the moms were among protesters who were tear gassed by these agents during violent clashes.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would remove statues and busts in the Capitol that honor individuals associated with slavery, the Confederacy and White supremacy. The measure, approved 305-113, would also commission a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice, to replace one of Roger Taney, author of a key Supreme Court decision backing slavery. Every Democrat voted in favor while Republicans split on the issue, 72 for and 113 against.
President Donald Trump said he will expand a federal law enforcement operation to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to address rising crime. The move sets up a showdown with state and local leaders, who have warned they will resist attempts to deploy federal agents in the way the administration did in Portland.
More than a dozen mayors want the Trump administration to remove federal forces from their cities or stop upcoming deployments, according to a letter addressed to the heads of the Justice and Homeland Security departments on Monday and signed by the mayors of Portland; Seattle; Atlanta; Chicago; Washington; Boston; Philadelphia; Denver; Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland, California; Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; and Kansas City, Missouri.
“The unilateral deployment of these forces into American cities is unprecedented and violates fundamental constitutional protections and tenets of federalism,” the mayors wrote. Unlike local law enforcement agents, federal officers dealing with protests or crime have little accountability toward the communities they police.
The mayors cited the use of federal forces in Portland, Oregon, claiming they had “‘snatched’ an individual from the street” without identifying themselves and put him in an unmarked vehicle. “These are tactics we expect from authoritarian regimes — not our democracy,” the mayors wrote.
Hundreds of agents and investigators from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Drug Enforcement Administration will be sent to Chicago under the new operation, which will also bring in hundreds more from regional outposts of the US Marshals Service and a division of the Department of Homeland Security, Barr said. Two dozen Justice Department agents will go to Albuquerque.
But the President’s attacks on Democratic-run cities over their handling of anti-racism protests in recent weeks has overshadowed the new initiative, which is now generating strong pushback from some mayors and officials, who’ve expressed shock at the federal tactics in Portland and say they want the feds to stay away.
That’s given rise to concerns among law enforcement officers and agents that their work is being politicized and could undercut their mission to reduce crime in cities that need the help.
U.K. scandals involve Tories, Russia, and Trump
New details emerge of Conservative party donors with ties to the Kremlin.
14 ministers in Boris Johnson’s government and two MPs on the Intelligence & Security committee received donations from individuals and companies linked to Russia
Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former minister in Putin’s government, and energy firm chief Alexander Temerko have donated thousands of pounds to Conservative MPs.
A highly-anticipated report this week accused successive UK governments of failing to shield Britain from Russian influence.
The report said Russian influence at the highest levels of society was “the new normal.”
The US ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, was reportedly investigated by a state department watchdog over alleged racist and sexist comments to staff and for allegedly trying to use his position to advance Donald Trump’s business interests.
The outcome of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has not yet been published, and the former inspector general Steve Linick was fired in May.
Johnson, a billionaire Trump supporter, is reported by CNN to have become agitated before a Black History Month event in 2018, asking aides if the audience would be “a whole bunch of black people”.
Related story: Trump Posed Risk to U.K., Ex-Spy Steele Tells Dossier Trial