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Jan. 6 panel moving swiftly as it sets Steve Bannon contempt vote

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Jan. 6 panel moving swiftly as it sets Steve Bannon contempt vote

WASHINGTON — A congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has moved aggressively against close Trump adviser Steve Bannon, 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. And late Friday, President Joe Biden said he thinks his Justice Department should prosecute.

“The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas,” Thompson said in a statement Thursday. 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.

Asked if the Justice Department should prosecute those who refuse to testify, Biden said yes.

“I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable,” Biden told reporters Friday at the White House.

Later Friday night, White House press secretary tweeted that Biden “supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.”

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 Trump had directed him not to produce any information protected by executive privileges afforded to a president, and Bannon wouldn’t comply “until these issues are resolved.” 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 hold him into contempt.

Even though 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.”

While Bannon has outright defied the Jan. 6 committee, other Trump aides who have been subpoenaed appear to be negotiating. And other witnesses are cooperating, including some who organized or staffed the Trump rally on the Ellipse behind the White House that preceded the riot.

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 false claims of widespread fraud as they marched through the Capitol, even though the results of the election were confirmed by state officials, upheld by courts and even rejected by Trump’s own attorney general.

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

A Senate committee report issued last week showed that Clark 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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MLB owners lock out players, 1st work stoppage since 1995

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MLB owners lock out players, 1st work stoppage since 1995

IRVING, Texas — Major League Baseball plunged into its first work stoppage in a quarter-century when the sport’s collective bargaining agreement expired Wednesday night and owners immediately locked out players in a move that threatens spring training and opening day.

The strategy, management’s equivalent of a strike under federal labor law, ended the sport’s labor peace after 9,740 days over 26 1/2 years.

Teams decided to force the long-anticipated confrontation during an offseason rather than risk players walking out during the summer, as they did in 1994. Players and owners had successfully reached four consecutive agreements without a work stoppage, but they have been accelerating toward a clash for more than two years.

“We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. “We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time. This defensive lockout was necessary because the players’ association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive.”

Talks that started last spring ended Wednesday after a brief session of mere minutes with the sides far apart on the dozens of key economic issues. Management’s negotiators left the union’s hotel about nine hours before the deal lapsed at 11:59 p.m. EST.

MLB’s 30 controlling owners held a brief digital meeting to reaffirm their lockout decision, and MLB delivered the announcement of its fourth-ever lockout — to go along with five strikes — in an emailed letter to the Major League Baseball Players Association.

“This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the players’ resolve to reach a fair contract,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that enhances competition, improves the product for our fans, and advances the rights and benefits of our membership.”

This stoppage began 30 days after Atlanta’s World Series win capped a complete season following a pandemic-shortened 2020 played in empty ballparks.

The lockout’s immediate impacts were a memo from MLB to clubs freezing signings, the cancellation of next week’s annual winter meetings in Orlando, Florida, and banishing players from team workout facilities and weight rooms while perhaps chilling ticket sales for 2022.

The union demanded change following anger over a declining average salary, middle-class players forced out by teams concentrating payroll on the wealthy and veterans jettisoned in favor of lower-paid youth, especially among clubs tearing down their rosters to rebuild.

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Trump tested COVID-positive pre-debate, ex-aide says in book

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Trump tested COVID-positive pre-debate, ex-aide says in book

By JILL COLVIN

Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 three days before his first presidential debate in September 2020 with Joe Biden, according to a new book by Trump’s former chief of staff.

In “The Chief’s Chief,” obtained by The Guardian before its Dec. 7 release, Mark Meadows writes that the then-president received a negative test shortly after the positive test and resumed his usual activities, including attending the debate against his Democratic challenger. Trump on Wednesday called the story “Fake News.”

The revelation, if confirmed, would further show that the Trump White House did not take the virus seriously even as it spread among White House and campaign staff and eventually sent Trump to the hospital, where he required supplemental oxygen and experimental treatments.

The former president said Meadows’ story “of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News. In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate.”

Meadows retweeted Trump’s statement. In an interview late Wednesday with Newsmax, Meadows said the story was being spun by the press.

“Well, the president’s right, it’s fake news,” Meadows said. “If you actually read the book, the context of it, that story outlined a false positive. Literally he had a test, had two other tests after that that showed that he didn’t have COVID during the debate.”

The book’s publisher, All Seasons Press, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House began a testing regimen for Trump’s senior aides and those who would be in contact with him after earlier positive cases. But aides repeatedly refused to disclose when Trump was tested the week of the debate, leading to speculation that he may have had COVID-19 while onstage with Biden.

Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News had said previously that he believed Trump may have had COVID-19 at the time of the debate because of the virus’ incubation period. It typically takes several days between the time a person is exposed to the virus and when there is enough viral load to be detected.

Trump was 74 and Biden was 78 at the time, putting them at higher risk of serious complications from the virus. COVID-19 vaccines were not then available.

Trump announced in a tweet early on Oct. 2, 2020, that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. He was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center later that day.

But Meadows writes that Trump received a positive test on Sept. 26, three days before the debate and the same day that he held a Rose Garden ceremony for his final Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, according to the paper. Trump traveled that evening to a rally in Pennsylvania.

Meadows, Trump’s fourth and final chief of staff, writes that he received a call from the White House doctor as Trump’s helicopter was lifting off from the White House for the rally. Meadows says he was informed that Trump had tested positive and was instructed to stop the president from departing.

When Meadows told Trump of the result, the president’s reply, according to The Guardian, “rhyme(d) with ‘Oh spit, you’ve gotta be trucking lidding me.’”

But Meadows said the test had been conducted with an old model kit and he told Trump it would be repeated with a newer version. After “a brief but tense wait,” Meadows reported that the second test had come back negative.

Trump took that result as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened,” Meadows wrote, according to The Guardian. In subsequent days, he held news events, met with Gold Star families at the White House, attended several fundraisers and appeared at the debate.

On the day of the debate, Sept. 29, Meadows wrote that Trump looked slightly better — “emphasis on the word slightly.”

“His face, for the most part at least, had regained its usual light bronze hue, and the gravel in his voice was gone. But the dark circles under his eyes had deepened. As we walked into the venue around five o’clock in the evening, I could tell that he was moving more slowly than usual. He walked like he was carrying a little extra weight on his back,” Meadows was quoted as writing.

Meadows noted that both candidates were required to test negative for the virus within 72 hours of the debate, but wrote that, “Nothing was going to stop (Trump) from going out there.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser, who also served in the Trump administration, said he was not aware of the test results but anyone who tests positive should isolate from other people.

“I’m not going to specifically talk about who put who at risk, but I would say as I said, not only for any individual, but everybody, that if you test positive you should be quarantining yourself,” he said at a news briefing Wednesday.

Biden brushed off the report. “I don’t think about the former president,” he told reporters.

___

This story has been corrected to reflect that the book publisher is All Seasons Press, not All Season Press.

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Wizards dunk all over the Wolves

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Wizards dunk all over the Wolves

The Timberwolves’ defense that’s been so good this season was, well, not Wednesday in the nation’s capital.

The Wizards got dunk, after dunk, after dunk, after dunk in their 115-107 home victory over Minnesota. Washington scored 68 points — including 34 of its 45 made field goals — in the paint.

Washington tallied 18 dunks, per the play by play.

Minnesota looked a step slow for much of the night, as guys like Jarred Vanderbilt, Anthony Edwards and Jaylen Nowell played through illness.

The Wolves held Washington to 30-percent shooting on non-paint shots, but that didn’t matter much, because the Wizards were able to get the ball into the interior with such ease.

Washington attacked Minnesota’s point of attack pick-and-roll defense, using ball movement to find one easy look inside after another.

Minnesota relies on its wings to come down from the corner to serve as the “low man” protecting the paint on drives to the rim. That spot was rarely filled Wednesday.

“We didn’t have low man, and our weak side kept pulling out,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “I don’t know if it was fear of shooting or whatnot.”

Finch and Co. tried everything to shore up the paint defense, switching up coverages multiple times. That even included what looked to be a 1-2-2 zone late in the game. On the first possession of that look, Montrezl Harrell tallied another slam.

Harrell finished with 27 points on 11 for 12 shooting. Fellow center Daniel Gafford added 18 points and 10 rebounds on 7 for 10 shooting.

“I think guys were being a step slow. We were reacting a little late, I feel like pretty much on everything — low man, X outs, switching and stuff like that,” Vanderbilt said. “It caused a little confusion. I felt like we were so focused on the high wall, trying to contain (Wizards star guard Bradley Beal) that we opened up the roll a lot, and the roll got pretty fast, giving them a little lane. …They took advantage of that tonight.”

Minnesota was beat in every sense of the physicality battle. Improved rebounding had been the catalyst for the team’s recent run of success, but the Wizards outrebounded the Wolves 52-39 on Wednesday.

It got so bad that Finch turned to a three-man grouping of Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid and Vanderbilt — Minnesota’s primary three bigs — on the floor at once late in the game to see if anyone could grab a board.

It still didn’t really happen.

“There was just too much space interior-wise, so guys were able to hop around and re-position themselves,” Finch said. “We didn’t hit first.”

Offensively, Washington single-covered Towns for much of the night, often with smaller defenders such as Kyle Kuzma. It was almost as if the Wizards were daring Towns to beat them.

He did for much of the night, finishing with 34 points on 11 for 25 shooting before exiting the game late after he slipped off the rim on a dunk and landed on his tailbone. Towns said his X-Rays were negative, and he felt “much better” after the game.

“I feel better than I thought I was going to feel. I was in extreme pain for sure. I don’t know how much I can divulge of it,” he said. “Just going to have to deal with it.”

Towns wouldn’t commit to playing Friday in Brooklyn, noting he’ll have to see how he feels Friday.

“I’m not going to rush it. I almost tried to go back in tonight,” Towns said. “I don’t know. I don’t know much it would’ve gave. But that’s the game of basketball. You got to keep fighting.”

In allowing Towns to go off, Washington (14-8) prevented Minnesota’s other players to get into a rhythm. D’Angelo Russell had an off night offensively, going 3 for 18 from the field, and 1 for 12 from deep.

“I thought he had clean looks early, and late I thought he was trying to make something happen out of nothing,” Finch said of Russell. “Shot selection in the fourth overall was not very good for us.”

The Wolves (11-11) shot just 30 percent from 3-point range as a team. Anthony Edwards finished with 25 points.

“For all the bad that happened tonight, I thought we gave ourselves a chance. Which is a good sign to know that even when we play probably some of our worst basketball of the year, we still felt we should’ve won the game and we were right there and we should’ve won,” Towns said. “Just minor things we have to clean up and we do that we’ll be in a better position.”

BRIEFLY

The Timberwolves’ ninth-annual broadcast auction raised more than $104,000 for the Fastbreak Foundation — a new record.

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