By Robert A. Vella
In the news today, we’ll cover Attorney General William Barr‘s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, the geopolitical fallout from President Trump’s planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the division between congressional Republicans over additional coronavirus financial aid and the impact it will have on their reelection chances, new developments on the continuing racial injustice protests, plus the latest pandemic news.
By far, the biggest takeaway from Barr’s testimony yesterday was the intensity of the questioning. It was quite apparent that Democrats were not going to allow Barr to obfuscate and filibuster the inquiry like he did during his Senate confirmation hearings. Instead, the members used their allotted time to challenge Barr for violating his oath of office, his brazen disregard for the U.S. Constitution, his blatantly biased support of Trump’s corrupt practices, and his ideologically-driven suppression of racial injustice protesters. Barr seemed unprepared for this aggressiveness from Democrats, and he was visibly shaken during several exchanges. In my opinion, Barr sees himself as a fascist enforcer like Heinrich Himmler but feels personally offended when publicly branded as such. The truth hurts, I suppose.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., also suggested people have been distracted from the original cause of the protests, but any similarities with Barr ended there.
“Let us not be distracted by you or my GOP colleagues as to what these powerful and massive protests were actually about, they were about the persistent killing of black bodies by law enforcement and finally, finally an awakening in America of the conscience of our country, and yet your response, Mr. Barr, was to direct federal officers to … clear the area just so the president could get a photo op” she said, referring to use of force against protesters in Lafayette Square.
As Barr debated the use of the term tear gas rather than chemical irritant, she said, “I’m losing my patience.” Jayapal also said that Barr uses his power unevenly, noting that federal officers were not sent to Michigan when people with guns and Confederate flags threatened Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over the state’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
“You take an aggressive approach to Black Lives Matter protests but not right-wing extremists threatening to lynch a governor, if it is for the president’s benefit,” Jayapal said.
Barr’s long-sought testimony comes as House Democrats investigate alleged political interference at the Justice Department, claiming that the attorney general has turned it into a political annex of the Trump White House. The hearing touched on a year’s worth of grievances, from the widely criticized rollout of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report in 2019, to interference in criminal investigations involving Trump’s allies, to the controversial ouster of Manhattan’s chief federal prosecutor, to the use of force against protesters in Portland and at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Spurred on by President Donald Trump’s demand to pull troops out of Germany, the U.S. will bring about 6,400 forces home and shift about 5,400 to other countries in Europe, U.S. defense officials said Wednesday, detailing a Pentagon plan that will cost billions of dollars and take years to complete.
Members of Trump’s own political party have criticized the troop move as a gift to Russia and a threat to U.S. national security. Twenty-two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee fired back with a letter to Trump saying a reduced U.S. commitment to Europe’s defense would encourage Russian aggression and opportunism.
It’s also unclear if the plan would survive if Trump is not reelected in November.
The report by the London-based defence think tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) suggests that the Kremlin is waging a campaign of political interference in the country, focused on creating instability in the region.
The threat from Russia comes as Beijing also focuses on expanding its own influence in Germany, posing “a series of political and economic-based hazards emanating from China.”
The report’s author, RUSI’s John Kampfner, states that “Germany is on the frontline of Russian and Chinese hybrid actions of interference and influence in Europe.”
However, Merkel’s government feels that it can no longer rely on the US to “underpin its security” after a series of clashes between Chancellor Merkel and President Trump.
WASHINGTON — When it comes to the new coronavirus recovery package roiling the capital, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana could use some detective help from the F.B.I., which has unexpectedly found itself an unwitting accomplice in a legislative meltdown.
“I’d like to know what’s in the bill,” Mr. Kennedy, who is part of the Republican majority that wrote the measure, proclaimed Tuesday afternoon as he exited a closed luncheon where his colleagues met with top Trump administration officials to unsuccessfully hash out their deep differences over new legislation that apparently remained a mystery to many.
All you need to know about the state of that bill is that Mr. Kennedy said he had set his own staff to sleuthing through the measure to determine what it contained — and what it didn’t — and would decide how to proceed from there.
“I think it’s a statement of the obvious that I have members who are all over the lot on this,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, told reporters after the closed lunch session. “There are some members who think we’ve already done enough, other members who think we need to do more. This is a complicated problem.”
Publicly, House GOP leaders are declaring they can still net the 17 seats needed to flip the chamber. But privately, some party strategists concede it’s a much grimmer picture, with as many as 20 Republican seats at risk of falling into Democratic hands.
Far from going on offense, the GOP could be forced to retrench in order to limit their losses. There’s a growing fear that Trump’s plummeting popularity in the suburbs could threaten their candidates in traditionally favorable districts, and that their party’s eagerness to go on offense might leave some underfunded incumbents and open GOP-held seats unprotected.
Internal Democratic surveys in recent weeks have shown tight races in once-solid GOP seats in Indiana, Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Montana that President Donald Trump carried handily 2016 — data that suggest the battleground is veering in a dangerous direction for the GOP.
Racial injustice protests
The tall man, dressed head to toe in black, including a black gas mask and a black umbrella, can be seen in a video wielding a sledgehammer as he calmly smashed the windows of a Minneapolis auto parts store.
The scene was one of the first widely shared images of wanton destruction to emerge from the protests in Minneapolis after George Floyd was killed by the police there. Yet the figure remained mysterious. He was given the nickname “Umbrella Man” and became the subject of online conspiracy theories.
The Minneapolis police unsuccessfully tried to identify the man based on a glimpse of facial features seen in the bystander video. But after receiving a tip about his identity, they used other photographs, including a driver’s license, to zero in on a suspect who they say has ties to the Hells Angels and a prison biker gang.
In a search warrant affidavit filed in Hennepin County District Court on Monday, the police requested cellphone records that would establish the suspect’s whereabouts on May 27, when the store was vandalized. They have not charged anyone with a crime.