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Jan. 6 panel moves against Bannon, sets contempt vote

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Jan. 6 panel moves against Bannon, sets contempt vote

By MARY CLARE JALONICK, ERIC TUCKER and LISA MASCARO

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection moved aggressively against close Trump adviser Steve Bannon on Thursday, swiftly scheduling a vote to recommend criminal contempt charges against the former White House aide after he defied a subpoena.

The chairman of the special committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the panel will vote Tuesday to recommend charges against Bannon, an adviser to Donald Trump for years who was in touch with the president ahead of the most serious assault on Congress in two centuries.

“The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas,” Thompson said in a statement. Bannon, he said, is “hiding behind the former president’s insufficient, blanket and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke. We reject his position entirely.”

If approved by the Democratic-majority committee, the recommendation of criminal charges would go to the full House. Approval there would send them to the Justice Department, which has final say on prosecution.

The showdown with Bannon is just one facet of a broad and escalating congressional inquiry, with 19 subpoenas issued so far and thousands of pages of documents flowing to the committee and its staff. Challenging Bannon’s defiance is a crucial step for the panel, whose members are vowing to restore the force of congressional subpoenas after they were routinely flouted during Trump’s time in office.

The committee had scheduled a Thursday deposition with Bannon, but his lawyer said that Trump had directed him not to comply, citing information that was potentially protected by executive privileges afforded to a president. Bannon, who was not a White House staffer on Jan. 6, also failed to provide documents to the panel by a deadline last week.

Still, the committee could end up stymied again after years of Trump administration officials refusing to cooperate with Congress. The longtime Trump adviser similarly defied a subpoena during a GOP-led investigation into Trump’s Russia ties in 2018, but the House did not move to hold him into contempt.

Even though President Joe Biden has been supportive of the committee’s work, it is uncertain whether the Justice Department would choose to prosecute the criminal contempt charges against Bannon or any other witnesses who might defy the panel. Even if it the department does prosecute, the process could take months, if not years. And such contempt cases are notoriously difficult to win.

Members of the committee are pressuring the department to take their side.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who also sits on the Jan. 6 panel, said he expects the Justice Department to prosecute the cases.

“The last four years have given people like Steve Bannon the impression they’re above the law,” Schiff said during an interview for C-SPAN’s Book TV that airs next weekend. “But they’re going to find out otherwise.”

Schiff said efforts to hold Bannon and others in contempt during the Russia investigation were blocked by Republicans and the Trump administration’s Department of Justice.

“But now we have Merrick Garland, we have an independent Justice Department, we have an attorney general who believes in the rule of law — and so this is why I have confidence that we will get the answers,” Schiff said.

While Bannon has outright defied the Jan. 6 committee, other Trump aides who have been subpoenaed appear to be negotiating. A deposition by a second witness that had been scheduled for Thursday, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel, was delayed, but Patel is still engaging with the panel, a committee aide said. The aide requested anonymity to discuss the confidential talks.

Two other men who worked for Trump — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and longtime Trump social media director Dan Scavino — were scheduled for depositions Friday, but they have both been pushed back as well. Meadows, like Patel, has been given a “short postponement” as he is also engaging with the panel, the aide said, and Scavino’s deposition has been rescheduled because there were delays in serving his subpoena.

It is unclear to what extent Trump has tried to influence his aides, beyond his lawyers’ attempts to assert executive privilege. In a statement Thursday, the former president said the members of the committee should “hold themselves in criminal contempt” and that “the people are not going to stand for it!”

Other witnesses are cooperating, including some who organized or staffed the Trump rally on the Ellipse behind the White House that preceded the riot. The committee subpoenaed 11 rally organizers and gave them a Wednesday deadline to turn over documents and records. They have also been asked to appear at scheduled depositions.

Among those complying was Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm was hired to provide Ellipse event security that day, and two longtime Trump campaign and White House staffers, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem. It is uncertain whether any of the others subpoenaed have complied.

Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 marched up the National Mall after attending at least part of Trump’s rally, where he repeated his meritless claims of election fraud and implored the crowd to “fight like hell.” Dozens of police officers were injured as the Trump supporters overwhelmed them and broke through windows and doors to interrupt the certification of Biden’s victory.

The rioters repeated Trump’s claims of widespread fraud as they marched through the Capitol, even though the results of the election were confirmed by state officials and upheld by courts. Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, had said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have overturned the results.

The panel has also issued a subpoena to a former Justice Department lawyer who positioned himself as Trump’s ally and aided the Republican president’s efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.

The demands for documents and testimony from that lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, announced Wednesday, reflect the committee’s efforts to probe not only the insurrection but also the tumult that roiled the Justice Department in the weeks leading up to it as Trump and his allies leaned on government lawyers to advance his election claims.

Clark, an assistant attorney general in the Trump administration, has emerged as a pivotal character. A Senate committee report issued last week showed that he championed Trump’s efforts to undo the election results and clashed as a result with department superiors who resisted the pressure, culminating in a dramatic White House meeting at which Trump ruminated about elevating Clark to attorney general.

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New York, Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, and Farnoush Amiri and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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Developers planning Denver apartments pay $11.7 million for Golden Triangle site

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A pair of development firms planning a large apartment complex in the Golden Triangle have purchased the land.

Denver-based Summit Capital Venture Group and New York-based Rockefeller Group paid about $11.7 million across four separate deals this week for parcels at the southeast corner of 12th Avenue and Delaware Street, according to public records.

The parcels — 328 W. 12th Ave. and 1140, 1150 and 1158 N. Delaware St. — add up to 0.72 acres, according to property records. That makes the collective deal worth about $373 a square foot for the land. Travis Hodge and Tony Bobay of Capstone represented the seller in two of the transactions.

Summit and Rockefeller said in a statement that they plan to build a 13-story, 250-unit apartment complex with about 2,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

“With the current focus on the redevelopment of the Golden Triangle area, this was an ideal opportunity to launch a partnership with Rockefeller Group,” Jason Marcotte, a founding partner at Summit Capital Venture Group, said in a statement. “We are excited to further enrich the neighborhood with quality housing options and thoughtful retail activation at the street level.”

The properties are home to multiple structures, including an office building at 1140 Delaware St. used by and sold by the Junior League of Denver.

Golden Triangle site scaled

The site is home to multiple structures, including an office building used by the Junior League of Denver. (Thomas Gounley photo)

“Our plan is to find another stand-alone building that is right for our purposes,” Junior League President Caryne Mesquita told BusinessDen Thursday. “We are in the process of looking at buildings right now. As we look at the market, we’re finding there aren’t many out there. We may be doing a short-term lease to give us time. We still want a Denver address, somewhere in the Central Business District or a little bit farther south. But probably not right in the middle of downtown.”

Rockefeller and Summit’s project is expected to break ground in April and be completed in early 2024, according to the companies.

Summit has 466 multifamily units in development, and owns another 174 units between Denver and Salt Lake City that it acquired, according to the company. Rockefeller, meanwhile — whose top local executive is Jay Despard, formerly of Hines — is one of the two firms that owns the former Greyhound block in downtown Denver.

The Golden Triangle has become a hub for significant multifamily development in recent years, and changes approved by the Denver City Council this summer paved the way for taller buildings.

Major developers active in the neighborhood include Denver-based Urban Villages, Charlotte-based Lennar Multifamily Communities and Charleston, South Carolina-based Greystar.

BusinessDen reporter Eric Heinz contributed to this story.

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A battle between pedaling and peace heats up over plans for mountain bike park in Conifer

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A battle between pedaling and peace heats up over plans for mountain bike park in Conifer

CONIFER — A titanic battle of Colorado values and priorities is brewing over a proposed mountain bike park on a 9,000-foot mountain overlooking this quiet foothills community 40 minutes from Denver.

On one side are the thousands of cyclists who take to the state’s roads and trails every day, seeking the thrill and challenge of rolling across world-class terrain amid jaw-dropping settings. On the other are long-time mountain residents, adamant about keeping Colorado’s relentless growth at bay while protecting a peacefulness and quietude that is increasingly under strain.

The battle lines in this faceoff are drawn on a heavily wooded 250-acre parcel along Shadow Mountain Drive just west of Conifer, where a plan to build Colorado’s first dedicated lift-access mountain bike park — with 16 miles of trails and an 830-foot vertical drop spanned by a chairlift — has resulted in dueling campaigns for and against it.

A Change.org petition in support of the project has gathered nearly 2,500 signatures while an effort to stymie the plan has garnered around 4,400 signatures.

John Lewis, a member of a well-organized group fighting the proposed project, said he and his neighbors are ready for the Full Send Bike Ranch proposal to land in front of the Jefferson County Planning Commission. The men behind the project say that could come as early as next month, with a hoped-for opening in 2023 should the county give its blessing.

Lewis last week pointed to a vast slope of evergreen trees fronted by North Turkey Creek burbling through a sun-dappled mountain meadow as natural features he doesn’t want to see degraded or disturbed by the construction of a downhill mountain bike facility with a 300-space parking lot.

He worries about hundreds of vehicles traversing narrow Shadow Mountain Drive every day, negotiating blind curves and racing past driveways to reach the bike park. He worries about impacts to wildlife and to the bucolic views he and his neighbors have enjoyed for decades.

He also worries about an increase in wildfire danger — a flicked cigarette from a moving car, perhaps — to an area that is already tinder dry.

“It’s just not appropriate for a residential area,” Lewis said, driving his truck several miles up Shadow Mountain Drive and passing dozens of signs denouncing the project. “I don’t mind these guys building their bike park — but why here?”

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Ranch near the corner of Shadow Mountain Drive and South Warhawk Road. in Conifer, Colorado on Friday, December 3, 2021. Full Send Bike Ranch will be a 250-acre lift access downhill mountain bike park at the area. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

“Just about the riding”

“These guys” are Jason Evans and Phil Bouchard, lifelong friends and bike aficionados from New Hampshire who moved to Colorado last year just as the COVID-19 pandemic was descending on the state. Bouchard, who describes himself as the “strategy” side of the Full Send operation, defends the project as a net gain for the Conifer area.

He said he and his business partner will be working with the U.S. Forest Service to do major wildfire mitigation on the site, removing dead and down trees to make it far safer than it is now. And he said the Full Send Bike Ranch will help draw cyclists off other trails in the area that are currently overcrowded.

“We think the park will alleviate a bit of pressure on a lot of trail systems,” Bouchard said.

Opponents, he said, have painted the project as an assault to the neighborhood. But there will be no nighttime operations lit up with bright lights and no plans to have competitions with loudspeakers blaring riders’ names and results, Bouchard said.

“It’s a relatively low-impact recreational development that is closed six months of the year,” he said.

The park, he said, answers an unmet demand from Colorado’s avid cycling community. While a number of the state’s ski resorts — including Breckenridge, Keystone and the popular Trestle at Winter Park — offer lift-assisted downhill freeride mountain bike runs, Bouchard said they are sideshows to their primary ski operations.

“It’s just about the riding,” he said of Full Send Bike Ranch.

Full Send would be just over a half hour from the metro area via U.S. 285, and because it’s at a lower elevation than the state’s ski resorts, could be open for more days in the year — with a season extending from April to November.

“If you want to go mountain biking, you don’t have to wait until Saturday and put in a three-hour commute on Interstate 70,” Bouchard said. “You could go after work on a Wednesday.”

Plans also call for a lodge where riders can enjoy a beer after a run. Tickets would be priced at $50 to $80 a day, with season passes available, Bouchard said. The effort to build the park would be a multi-million dollar one, money Bouchard and his partner are confident they can raise if the project is approved by Jefferson County.

The friends are working on a lease arrangement with Colorado’s State Land Board, which owns the parcel.

Gary Moore, executive director of the Colorado Mountain Bike Association, said the Full Send Bike Ranch “scratches an itch” among the state’s earnest pedalers.

“They’re coming at this from a clean sheet design,” he said. “They could really just do what they want to do without facing restraints. There’s a huge contingent of mountain bikers on the Front Range that aren’t getting access to that style of riding.”

1638627057 690 A battle between pedaling and peace heats up over plans

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Stop Bike Ranch sign near the corner of Shadow Mountain Drive and South Warhawk Road. in Conifer, Colorado on Friday, December 3, 2021. Full Send Bike Ranch will be a 250-acre lift access downhill mountain bike park at the area. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

“God’s country”

But neighbors point to Jefferson County’s own Conifer/285 Area Plan, updated in 2014, which notes that residents “value the community’s natural environment and rural neighborhoods.”

“Passive and active recreation facilities, including recreational buildings and outdoor multi-use fields, should be designed to respect and be compatible with the area’s natural resources, rural character and adjacent land uses,” the document states.

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A tech whistleblower helps others speak out

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A tech whistleblower helps others speak out

By Erin Woo, The New York Times Company

In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed a bill to expand protections for people who speak up about discrimination in the workplace.

A new website arrived to offer tech workers advice on how to come forward about mistreatment by their employers.

And Apple responded to a shareholder proposal that asked it to assess how it used confidentiality agreements in employee harassment and discrimination cases.

The disparate developments had one thing — or, rather, a person — in common: Ifeoma Ozoma.

Since last year, Ozoma, 29, a former employee of Pinterest, Facebook and Google, has emerged as a central figure among tech whistleblowers. A Yale-educated daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she has supported and mentored tech workers who needed help speaking out, pushed for more legal protections for those employees and urged tech companies and their shareholders to change their whistleblower policies.

She helped inspire and pass the new California law, the Silenced No More Act, which prohibits companies from using nondisclosure agreements to squelch workers who speak up against discrimination in any form. Ozoma also released a website, The Tech Worker Handbook, which provides information on whether and how workers should blow the whistle.

“It’s really sad to me that we still have such a lack of accountability within the tech industry that individuals have to do it” by speaking up, Ozoma said in an interview.

Her efforts — which have alienated at least one ally along the way — are increasingly in the spotlight as restive tech employees take more action against their employers. Last month, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, revealed that she had leaked thousands of internal documents about the social network’s harms. (Facebook has since renamed itself Meta.) Apple also recently faced employee unrest, with many workers voicing concerns about verbal abuse, sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination.

Ozoma is now focused on directly pushing tech companies to stop using nondisclosure agreements to prevent employees from speaking out about workplace discrimination. She has also met with activists and organizations that want to pass legislation similar to the Silenced No More Act elsewhere. And she is constantly in touch with other activist tech workers, including those who have organized against Google and Apple.

Much of Ozoma’s work stems from experience. In June 2020, she and a colleague, Aerica Shimizu Banks, publicly accused their former employer, the virtual pinboard maker Pinterest, of racism and sexism. Pinterest initially denied the allegations but later apologized for its workplace culture. Its workers staged a walkout, and a former executive sued the company over gender discrimination.

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