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    Are New Voting Bill Talks for Real or for Show?

    Senators involved in the negotiations underway say the discussions are serious and substantive, but some Democrats remain wary.WASHINGTON — Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, was finally closing in on a hard-fought agreement with Republicans on a gun safety measure, following a string of horrific shootings in 2019, when the talks suddenly collapsed.New plans in the House to impeach President Donald J. Trump meant that Republicans were no longer in the mood to compromise with Democrats on anything, and the emerging accord went the way of so many seemingly promising ones on Capitol Hill in recent years, stymied by Republicans who said they were willing to accept some sort of deal — just not that one.“The world has become so polarized that our Republican colleagues come so very close to closing a deal, but then they begin staring down the abyss of their base and they recoil,” said Mr. Blumenthal, who attributed the Republican recalcitrance to fear of a political backlash for any cooperation with Democrats.The same has been true for other politically charged issues where efforts at compromise have ended up going nowhere in Congress. Republicans initially seemed willing to engage on legislation addressing immigration and police misconduct, for example, only to abruptly pull back, blaming Democrats for what they called unreasonable demands or a refusal to take hard steps that might anger their liberal supporters.So as a rump group of senators in both parties has recently ramped up discussions aimed at reaching a compromise on voting legislation, leading Democrats who saw their far broader voting rights package stall in the Senate last week have been wary.They worry that the emerging legislation could be a distraction from the pressing issue their bill was meant to address — Republican voter-suppression efforts at the state level — and amount to little more than cover for Republicans who want to appear interested in protecting election integrity despite uniformly opposing Democrats’ voting rights bill.They have taken note that Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, has blessed the effort — a telltale sign, say Democrats who have learned to be endlessly suspicious of his motives, that it might go nowhere.The Democratic fear is that once the moment passes and attention shifts away from election law to spending issues and now a contentious Supreme Court nomination, the talks will fizzle and Democrats will be left with nothing to show for their voting rights drive, even as the 2022 midterms loom and the 2024 election is just over the horizon.But leaders of the talks that now include at least 16 senators divided between Republicans and Democrats say they are substantive, gaining momentum and could produce legislation that might prevent another Jan. 6-style confrontation by focusing on fixing the deficiencies in the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act.They point to the bipartisan infrastructure measure that many of the same lawmakers were able to produce last year as their model for negotiations, and as proof that compromise is still possible.“I’m encouraged by the fact that almost every day, someone calls me and asks to join our group,” said Senator Susan Collins, the centrist Republican from Maine and a leader of the compromise effort. She characterized its members, who met virtually this week, as ranging from “pretty conservative to pretty liberal.”“This is a serious, committed group of senators from both sides of the aisle,” she said in an interview. “This is not a surface effort.”Aiding the outlook for the talks is the fact that Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, is also now encouraging them. He is taking what one ally described as a wait-and-see attitude after initially lashing out at the potential compromise as a ruse to undercut the Democratic voting rights package.A separate group that includes Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and chair of the Rules Committee, and Angus King, the Maine independent, is drafting comparable legislation.Virtually all Democrats back the idea of fixing the Electoral Count Act, which lays out the ceremonial process by which Congress makes an official count of the presidential election results to confirm the victor, to guard against its being exploited in the way that Mr. Trump and his allies attempted to do so.But they caution that it is no substitute for their proposals, which focus on countering efforts to make it harder for minorities to vote and restoring parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act.“I don’t think anybody is against fixing the piece,” Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, said about the electoral vote counting process. “But nobody should pretend that this in any way solves the bigger issues regarding the attack on our democracy.”Ms. Collins, however, says that the focus on how presidential electoral votes are tallied should be the aim of any new voting legislation as a direct response to the assault on the Capitol last January by Mr. Trump’s supporters seeking to interfere with the tally.“That the Democrats didn’t put anything on the Electoral Count Act in their 735-page bill is astounding to me given the link to Jan. 6,” Ms. Collins said.Understand the Battle Over U.S. Voting RightsCard 1 of 5Why are voting rights an issue now? 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    What the Trump Documents Might Tell the Jan. 6 Committee

    Following last week’s Supreme Court ruling, the House panel has received material that it hopes could flesh out how the attack on the Capitol came about.The National Archives has turned over to the House select committee investigating the assault on the Capitol last Jan. 6 a large batch of documents that former President Donald J. Trump had sought to keep out of the panel’s hands, citing executive privilege.The committee has yet to make the documents public or disclose how far along it is in scrutinizing them for any new information about the roles played by Mr. Trump and his inner circle in the effort to delay certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.But in court filings, Mr. Trump, his legal team and the archives identified the documents that he was seeking to shield through claims of executive privilege, an argument that the Supreme Court rejected last week.It remains unclear how valuable the documents — at least 770 pages — will be to the investigation. But here is a list of them as identified in the court filings, what is known about them and how they might fit into the larger narrative being assembled by the committee:Proposed talking points for Mr. Trump’s press secretary and documents related to allegations of voter fraud (629 pages)Even before Election Day, Republicans and the Trump White House were pushing the notion — not backed by any evidence — that there could be widespread election fraud because of changes states enacted in response to the pandemic that made it easier for people to vote.Mr. Trump refused to concede on election night, saying publicly: “This is a fraud on the American public.” In the weeks that followed, the White House — through Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary at the time — amplified Mr. Trump’s messaging from the briefing room and on television and social media.The materials could help the committee document the extent and intensity of the effort inside the White House to promote the baseless claims, along with more details about which members of the administration were most involved in the false claims.Presidential activity calendars and a handwritten note concerning Jan. 6 (11 pages)In a typical White House, a president’s calendar can provide an intimate picture of who the president meets with and the topics he may be discussing. Though Mr. Trump had a far less regimented schedule, there were still some meetings and events on his calendar, and aides kept track of where he was and what he was planning to do. The committee has indicated that it is especially interested in any communications that Mr. Trump had around Jan. 6 with top aides like Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, or with Vice President Mike Pence. A detailed calendar or notes could also help shed light on Mr. Trump’s activities as the riot unfolded on Capitol Hill.Mr. Trump’s supporters before his rally on the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021.Jason Andrew for The New York TimesA draft of Mr. Trump’s speech for the “Save America” rally that preceded the mob attack (10 pages)On Jan. 6, Mr. Trump and his allies spoke at a rally on the Ellipse before his supporters marched more than a mile to the Capitol. The draft speech — which Mr. Trump’s longtime aide, Stephen Miller, helped write — would show whether Mr. Trump’s incendiary language that encouraged the protesters was ad-libbed by him or whether it was included by his speechwriters, who may have been coordinating the president’s messaging with others. In his book, Mr. Meadows claimed Mr. Trump had ad-libbed his remarks telling the crowd to march on the Capitol.A note from Mr. Meadows about briefings and calls about the certification of the election and related issues (2 pages)In the days leading up to Jan. 6, there was a flurry of meetings in the Oval Office. Among the most dramatic was one on Jan. 4, when Mr. Trump had a lawyer named John Eastman — who had written a memo essentially saying that the vice president had immense powers to decide who won the election — make the argument directly to Mr. Pence that he could delay the certification of the election on Jan. 6. (Mr. Pence later rejected the advice.) On Jan. 2, three of Mr. Trump’s advisers — Rudolph W. Giuliani, Peter Navarro and Mr. Eastman — held a conference call with about 300 state lawmakers about election fraud. On Jan. 4, Phil Waldron, a former U.S. Army colonel who rose to prominence in Mr. Trump’s inner circle after the election, said members of his team briefed some senators on foreign interference in the election. Mr. Waldron said he personally gave the same briefing the next day to members of the House.Details of meetings like those, and the planning for them, could help the committee assess whether Mr. Trump’s efforts justify a criminal referral to the Justice Department on a charge like obstructing an official proceeding in Congress.A draft executive order on the topic of election integrity (4 pages)A range of outside advisers were pushing for Mr. Trump to sign executive orders to help him block or slow certification of the election. Among the most audacious was one that said Mr. Trump could use the Defense Department to seize voting machines based on false claims that there had been foreign interference in the election. Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and a lawyer advising him, Sidney Powell, were urging Mr. Trump to take this action. A copy of a draft executive order about seizing election machines was posted on Politico’s website on Friday.But that memo is three pages, and the National Archives described a memo that is four pages. There is another memo, mentioned in a recent disclosure to the committee by the Trump ally Bernard Kerik, that could also fit this description. It was withheld by Mr. Kerik under the theory of executive privilege but was described in a log of documents that Mr. Kerik refused to turn over as, “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS.”Handwritten notes from the files of Mr. Meadows (3 pages)As chief of staff, Mr. Meadows served both as a top aide and as a conduit for outside advisers, including members of Congress, to contact Mr. Trump and visit him at the White House. Mr. Meadows has provided investigators with hundreds of pages of documents that he had on his personal phone but has refused to sit for questioning, leading the committee to ask the Justice Department to prosecute him. His notes could potentially shed light on what Mr. Trump was hearing and saying at key moments.Key Figures in the Jan. 6 InquiryCard 1 of 17The House investigation. More

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    Ivanka Trump asked to cooperate with Capitol attack committee

    Ivanka Trump asked to cooperate with Capitol attack committeeInvestigators seek testimony from former first daughter, with panel increasingly focused on Donald Trump’s inner circle The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack is asking Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the former president, to appear for a voluntary deposition to answer questions about Donald Trump’s efforts to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.Biden warns Russia will ‘pay a heavy price’ if Putin launches Ukraine invasion – liveRead moreThe move by the panel marks an aggressive new phase in its inquiry into the 6 January insurrection, as House investigators seek for the first time testimony from a member of the Trump family about potential criminality on the part of the former president.Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chair of the select committee, said in an 11-page letter to Ivanka Trump that the panel wanted to ask about Trump’s plan to stop the certification, and his response to the Capitol attack, including delays to deploying the national guard.Ivanka Trump was a senior adviser to her father during her presidency, as was her husband Jared Kushner. The two were seen as a power couple very close to the inner workings of the Trump White House.The questions to Ivanka appear directed at a key issue: whether her father oversaw a criminal conspiracy on 6 January that also involved obstructing a congressional proceeding – a crime.The letter said that the panel first wanted to question Ivanka Trump about what she recalled of a heated Oval Office meeting on the morning of the 6 January insurrection when the former president was trying to co-opt Mike Pence into rejecting Biden’s win.The former president was on the phone with the then vice-president in an Oval Office meeting with Ivanka and Keith Kellogg, a top Pence aide, the letter said. When Pence demurred on the former president’s repeated request, Ivanka turned to Kellogg and said Pence was “a good man”.Thompson said in the letter that the panel wanted to learn more about that exchange with Pence she heard, as well as other conversations about impeding the electoral count at the joint session of Congress on 6 January that she may have witnessed or participated in.“The committee has information suggesting that President Trump’s White House counsel may have concluded that the actions President Trump directed Vice-President Pence to take would … otherwise be illegal. Did you discuss these issues?” the letter said.Thompson added House investigators had additional questions about whether Trump could shed light on whether the former president had been told that such an action might be unlawful, and yet nonetheless persisted in pressuring Pence to reinstall him for a second term.The letter said the select committee was also interested in learning more from Trump about her father’s response to the Capitol attack on 6 January, and discussions inside the White House about the former president’s tweet castigating Pence for not adopting his plan.Thompson said the nagging question for Ivanka Trump – who White House aides thought had the best chance of having the former president condemn the rioters – was what she did about the situation and why her father did not call off the rioters in a White House address.The select committee said in the letter that they also wanted to ask her about what she knew with regard to the long delay in deploying the national guard to the Capitol, which allowed the insurrection to overwhelm law enforcement into the afternoon of 6 January.Thompson said that House investigators were curious why there appeared to have been no evidence that Trump issued any order to request the national guard, or called the justice department to request the deployment of personnel to the Capitol.Speaking to the Guardian and a small group of reporters on Thursday, the chairman of the select committee said that the immediate focus for the investigation was on the former president’s daughter and not subpoenas to Republican members of Congress.Thompson said the panel would be “inviting some people to come and talk to us. Not lawmakers right now. Ivanka Trump.”The letter comes after the US supreme court, in another blow to the former president, late on Wednesday rejected his request to block the release of more than 700 of the most sensitive of White House documents he had tried to hide from the select committee.The former president’s defeat means those documents – including presidential diaries, notes and memos from the files of top aides including the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – that could shed light on the Capitol attack can now be transferred to Congress.TopicsUS Capitol attackIvanka TrumpUS politicsDonald TrumpHouse of RepresentativesnewsReuse this content More

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    How Jan. 6 Gave the 14th Amendment New Life

    Legal scholars say a long-forgotten provision of the Constitution could bar from office anyone who encouraged the Capitol riot.An obscure 19th-century provision of the U.S. Constitution that barred members of the Confederacy from holding political office is back in the national conversation — and some are hoping it can keep Donald J. Trump and his allies off the ballot.After the Civil War, Congress sought to remake the politics of the states they had just defeated on the battlefield. Fearing that the grandees of the Old South would slink back to power, they crafted Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, known as the Disqualification Clause.The provision applied to anyone who had previously taken an oath to support the Constitution and then either “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States or gave “aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”The clause, tucked into an amendment better known for extending citizenship to African Americans, was largely an object of academic curiosity until last week. That’s when lawyers representing a group of North Carolina voters filed a novel legal challenge seeking to keep Representative Madison Cawthorn off the ballot this year.Cawthorn is a close ally of Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, and has made comments suggesting he supported the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. The complaint alleged that his actions trigger the Disqualification Clause, making him ineligible to serve in Congress.Cawthorn has shrugged off the challenge.“Over 245,000 patriots from Western North Carolina elected Congressman Cawthorn to serve them in Washington,” said Luke Ball, a spokesman for Cawthorn. “A dozen activists who are comically misinterpreting and twisting the 14th Amendment for political gain will not distract him from that service.”For now, the challenge is on hold while redistricting litigation in the state plays out. But it’s likely to be just one of many similar actions to come.“Madison Cawthorn was the first, but it’s safe to say he won’t be the last,” Ron Fein, a lawyer for Free Speech for People, the group behind the complaint, said in an interview.An outside-in strategyWin or lose, the Cawthorn case could help investigators in Washington by unlocking new evidence about the North Carolina lawmaker’s activities related to Jan. 6. He might have to sit for a deposition and have to turn over, say, his phone and email records.As the litigation makes its way through the court system, it could also help clear up a few broader questions:Was Jan. 6 an “insurrection,” legally speaking?What does it mean to be “engaged” in insurrection, and what level of involvement triggers the Disqualification Clause?Does Congress need to pass a law or resolution to activate it?“Most people, me included, think it was an insurrection, but neither Congress nor the courts have made that official determination,” said Mark Graber, a legal historian at the University of Maryland.Laurence Tribe, an influential law professor at Harvard University, has held private conversations with several members of Congress on the topic as they puzzle through how statutes written in the 1860s might apply in an entirely new context. And while Tribe’s view is that Jan. 6 was indeed an insurrection, it is by no means obvious how courts will interpret the 14th Amendment without clearer signals from Congress.“You’re dealing with a very murky and open area of constitutional law,” Tribe said in an interview.Even one of the foremost experts on the Disqualification Clause, Gerard Magliocca of Indiana University, called it “vestigial” in a well-timed paper on the subject published in 2020 three weeks before Jan. 6. He has since become an advocate for applying it to disqualify Trump from running for president in 2024.“We have to dust it off,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat of Maryland who has consulted with Tribe on the topic. “It hasn’t been used in more than a century.”In fact, it’s been used precisely once since the Reconstruction era — in the 1919 case of Victor L. Berger, a socialist from Wisconsin who was removed from Congress after being accused of harboring pro-German sympathies. Berger was later reinstated when the Supreme Court tossed out his conviction for espionage, on the grounds that the judge harbored an anti-German bias.Fox News weighs inFor now, the Disqualification Clause is getting more attention on Fox News than it is within Congress — driven almost entirely by a single tweet from Marc Elias, the Democratic Party’s top election lawyer, who had predicted the provision might soon arise in litigation.Tucker Carlson, the Fox News opinion host, held a nearly four-minute segment on Elias’s 38-word post.“So, if you don’t want to lose the Congress, just ban the other side from running,” Carlson said sarcastically, going on to compare the idea that Jan. 6 was an insurrection to a belief in U.F.O.s.“This would require establishing that such individuals supported an actual insurrection,” Laura Ingraham, Carlson’s Fox News colleague, said of the Elias tweet a day later. “Good luck with that.”Inside the committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, however, the Disqualification Clause has not come up in any detail.Some Democratic lawmakers — including Raskin, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and a few others — did float the idea a year ago. At the time, they were searching for a way to hold Trump accountable that would require only a simple majority vote in the Senate.But when Democratic legal experts investigated the concept, they determined that the Disqualification Clause was not “self-executing” — that is, Congress would need to pass a law or resolution to use it and clarify how it applies today. One can’t just declare someone an insurrectionist, they decided; Congress has to create the legal infrastructure to try someone and give them due process before taking away their right to hold public office. That made it less attractive as an alternative to impeachment.Depending on what the Jan. 6 panel uncovers, it’s possible to imagine the committee will recommend punishing lawmakers who were somehow involved in the riot. It’s also possible Democrats will decide to take their case to voters instead.Key Figures in the Jan. 6 InquiryCard 1 of 16The House investigation. More

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    Rudy Giuliani and 3 Others Subpoenaed by Jan. 6 Committee

    The House committee investigating the Capitol riot called for documents and testimony from Rudolph W. Giuliani and other members of President Donald J. Trump’s legal team.WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol on Tuesday subpoenaed Rudolph W. Giuliani and other members of the legal team that pursued a set of conspiracy-filled lawsuits on behalf of former President Donald J. Trump in which they made unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.In addition to Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and a ringleader of the group, the panel subpoenaed three others who played central roles in his effort to use the courts, state legislatures and Congress to try to overturn his defeat.Jenna Ellis drafted a memo on how Mr. Trump could invalidate the election results by exploiting an obscure law. Sidney Powell, a lawyer who worked on many of the lawsuits with Mr. Giuliani, ran an organization that raised millions of dollars based on false claims that election machines were rigged. Boris Epshteyn pursued allegations of election fraud in Nevada and Arizona and is said to have participated in a call with Mr. Trump on the morning of Jan. 6, “during which options were discussed to delay the certification of election results,” the committee said.“The four individuals we’ve subpoenaed today advanced unsupported theories about election fraud, pushed efforts to overturn the election results or were in direct contact with the former president about attempts to stop the counting of electoral votes,” Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, said in a statement.The subpoena to Mr. Giuliani, obtained by The New York Times, seeks all documents he has detailing the pressure campaign he and other Trump allies initiated targeting state officials; the seizure of voting machines; contact with members of Congress; any evidence to support the bizarre conspiracy theories pushed; and any arrangements for his attorney’s fees.The panel instructed the four witnesses to turn over documents and submit to an interview in February.The latest subpoenas came as the committee, which has interviewed nearly 400 witnesses, has issued a wide range of demands for records, including to banks and phone companies. On Tuesday, CNN reported that the committee had also obtained logs of phone calls and text messages belonging to the former president’s son Eric Trump and to Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of another son, Donald Trump Jr. The logs do not reveal the content of the messages.A committee spokesman declined to comment on that report.For weeks after the election, Mr. Giuliani and his team — which Ms. Ellis described as an “elite strike force” — promoted baseless claims of voter fraud through failed lawsuits, news conferences, media appearances and meetings with lawmakers.The committee said in a letter to Mr. Giuliani that its investigation had revealed “credible evidence” that he participated in attempts to “disrupt or delay the certification of the election results,” persuade state legislators to “take steps to overturn the election results” and urge Mr. Trump to order the seizure of voting machines.Mr. Giuliani claimed fraud at a series of unofficial state legislative hearings, and even argued one election fraud case himself, in federal court in Philadelphia, where he suffered a decisive defeat.“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president,” the court declared at one point.On Jan. 6, speaking to a crowd of Trump supporters before the attack on the Capitol, Mr. Giuliani called for “trial by combat.” Later, as the building was under siege, he called lawmakers in an attempt to delay the certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.“Senator Tuberville, or I should say Coach Tuberville, this is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer,” Mr. Giuliani said in a voice mail message intended for Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, but mistakenly left on the phone of Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah. “I’m calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down.”Ms. Ellis, the committee said, “prepared and circulated” two memos analyzing the constitutional authority for former Vice President Mike Pence to reject or delay counting electoral votes from states where Mr. Trump’s allies had attempted to arrange for the submission of an alternate slate of electors. In the memos, obtained by Politico, Ms. Ellis advised that Mr. Pence had the authority to not count electoral votes from six states in which the Trump campaign falsely alleged there was widespread fraud.Ms. Powell was among the leading promoters of some of the most far-fetched and fantastical claims of widespread voter fraud, including a bizarre conspiracy theory alleging a vast plot by China, Venezuela and the financier George Soros to hack into Dominion Voting Systems machines to flip votes away from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden.She, too, urged Mr. Trump to seize voting machines, according to the committee.In December, Mr. Trump considered naming Ms. Powell to be a special counsel overseeing an investigation of voter fraud, even after his campaign had sought to distance itself from her as she aired wild and baseless claims about Dominion voting machines.Her organization, Defending the Republic, raised $14.9 million between December 2020 and July. Ms. Powell’s group has more than $9.3 million in funds on hand, according to an independent audit filed with Florida, which investigated the organization and alleged multiple violations of state law.Mr. Epshteyn reportedly attended planning meetings at the Willard Hotel in the days leading up to Jan. 6, the committee said. The panel, citing reporting from The Guardian, said he also participated in a call with Mr. Trump the morning of Jan. 6 that included a discussion of Mr. Pence’s “unwillingness to deny or delay the certification.”Key Figures in the Jan. 6 InquiryCard 1 of 14The House investigation. More

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    Schumer insists Senate will vote on voting rights bill ‘win, lose or draw’ – live

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    White House launches ‘beta’ version of website to order Covid tests

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    Trump’s attorney general Barr to publish book

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    Psaki: Russia attack on Ukraine could come ‘at any time’

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    Senate will vote on voting rights ‘win, lose or draw,’ Schumer says

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    Schumer files cloture on Democrats’ voting rights bill

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    Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer argued Democrats have an obligation to do everything possible to pass voting rights legislation, despite the high likelihood of failure because of Republican filibustering.
    “If Republicans choose to continue their filibuster of voting rights legislation, we must consider and vote on the rule changes that are appropriate and necessary to restore the Senate and make voting rights legislation possible,” Schumer said in his floor speech.

    CSPAN
    (@cspan)
    .@SenSchumer: “If Republicans choose…their filibuster of voting rights legislation we must consider and vote on the rule changes that are appropriate and necessary to restore the Senate and make voting rights legislation possible.” pic.twitter.com/gbmNQZKMS9

    January 18, 2022

    But as of now, Schumer does not have the votes necessary to change the filibuster, as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema remain opposed to doing so.
    Because of the 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, Schumer needs the support of every member of his caucus to reform the filibuster.

    4.39pm EST

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    White House launches ‘beta’ version of website to order Covid tests

    The Biden administration has launched the “beta” version of its website to order free, at-home coronavirus tests.
    The site, CovidTests.gov, includes a link to a US Postal Service form that allows Americans to request four tests to be shipped to their homes.
    White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the site will officially launch tomorrow morning and noted there may be some glitches until then.
    “CovidTests.gov is in the beta phase right now, which is a standard part of the process typically as it’s being kind of tested,” Psaki said at her daily briefing.
    “Every website launch, in our view, comes with risk. We can’t guarantee there won’t be a bug or two, but the best tech teams across the administration and the postal service are working hard to make this a success.”
    The Biden administration has already ordered 1bn free at-home coronavirus tests to be distributed to Americans as the country confronts the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

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    Trump’s attorney general Barr to publish book

    Martin Pengelly

    William Barr, Donald Trump’s second attorney general and perceived hatchet man until he split from the former president over his lies about election fraud, has a book deal. More

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    Capitol attack panel grapples with moving inquiry forward: to subpoena or not?

    Capitol attack panel grapples with moving inquiry forward: to subpoena or not?The committee is undecided on making the near-unprecedented step as the threat of Republican retaliation looms The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack is weighing whether to subpoena some of Donald Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill as it considers its options on how aggressively it should pursue testimony to move forward its inquiry into the January 6 insurrection.The Republican House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican members of Congress Jim Jordan and Scott Perry may have inside knowledge about Trump’s plan to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election and whether it was coordinated with the Capitol attack.But the outright refusal of McCarthy and the other Republican lawmakers to testify voluntarily with the investigation has intensified discussions among the panel’s members and investigators about whether to force their cooperation.Mike Pence equates voting rights protections with Capitol attackRead moreThe select committee is undecided on whether to take that near-unprecedented step, in part because of one major concern that has emerged in recent days, according to two sources familiar with the matter: Republican retaliation against Biden and Democrats in future inquiries.In private conversations, some members and investigators on the select committee have expressed how appalled they are at the refusal of McCarthy and the Republican lawmakers to help the investigation, and feel prepared to subpoena for their testimony, the sources said.But the one major recurring worry raised in discussions, the sources said, is that subpoenas might create moral hazard for Republicans plotting an onslaught of partisan investigations into the Biden administration should they retake the House after the 2022 midterms – as many observers think likely.Republicans in Congress have openly floated the prospect in recent days of launching political probes into the Biden administration’s coronavirus response, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the personal life of Biden’s son Hunter, as well as an impeachment inquiry.In response, some members and investigators on the select committee have quietly raised the possibility that if the panel declines to subpoena Republicans now, then a Republican majority might not subpoena Democrats in the future, the sources said.The issue has proved a difficult conundrum for the select committee, which started serious discussions about subpoenas to Republicans after Jordan and Perry refused to cooperate, and escalated the urgency of talks after McCarthy also declined to help the inquiry.The panel was particularly outraged by McCarthy’s refusal and his statement attacking their request for an interview as “abuse of power” and intensified its research into parliamentary rules governing their ability to authorize subpoenas, the sources said.Even in the absence of any formal decision, the possibility of subpoenas has already become a touch point as the select committee grapples with the so-called speech and debate clause in the constitution that shields lawmakers while they perform their official duties.The clause says lawmakers “shall not be questioned in any other place” about speech or debate, and is generally interpreted to cover all legislative actions – which Republicans argue precludes them from having to answer the select committee’s investigation.But the members on the panel believe the law does not extend to protect lawmakers from Congress’s own investigations, rejecting the idea that McCarthy, Jordan and Perry have any claim to immunity as the panel investigates whether Trump oversaw a criminal conspiracy.There is also precedent for the House to subpoena its own members. The House ethics committee, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing by members of Congress, for instance has the authority under House rules to subpoena lawmakers – orders they cannot refuse.A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment on internal discussions about how aggressively the panel might act to secure cooperation from McCarthy, or whether counsel for the panel has reached a determination on the matter.Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, previously said in his request for cooperation to McCarthy that the panel was interested in details about McCarthy’s conversations with Trump before, during and after the Capitol attack.But it is also not immediately clear whether McCarthy would have substantially new information to share with House investigators beyond what is already public – meaning the marginal benefit to getting his testimony may not outweigh the potential political consequences.There remains a possibility that McCarthy, Perry and Jordan might cooperate with the select committee in the event of a subpoena, using the potential legal threat to justify their reversals to Trump, who the Guardian reported last month is agitated by the investigation.If the select committee decides it has the authority and resolve to issue subpoenas, the sources said, then the primary remaining question would likely be a matter of timing, and when best in the investigation the panel should force their cooperation.But the worry about Republican retaliation reflects the select committee’s recognition that the stakes of issuing subpoenas to Republican lawmakers and McCarthy, the man poised to become speaker in 2022 should his party retake the House majority, could not be higher.Additional concerns have centered on the ability to enforce subpoenas to Republican lawmakers if the select committee did take that step, and whether a federal judge would countenance becoming mired in what is essentially becoming a partisan fight in Congress.Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the select committee, suggested on MSNBC the panel, for that reason, would likely not pursue criminal contempt of Congress proceedings with recalcitrant lawmakers as it did with Trump’s former aides Mark Meadows and Steve Bannon.Moving ahead with criminal contempt of Congress against the Republican lawmakers would mark an escalation that tests the limits of congressional subpoenas, threatening to touch off a legal fight the panel might not have time to conclude as it races to finish its report.The former Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, Trey Gowdy – who also oversaw the inquiry into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails – demurred on subpoenaing Democrats over concerns about enforceability, a source close to Gowdy said.Gowdy faced internal pressure from the House Republican conference for his reluctance to subpoena Democrats, the source said, but that was in part to make sure lawmakers would not defang the power of congressional subpoenas if they simply refused to comply.That leaves the select committee with only a handful of options, which appear to rest on a gamble over whether it can shame Republicans into cooperating, including a formal resolution on the House floor censuring or admonishing the lawmakers.TopicsUS Capitol attackRepublicansDemocratsJoe BidenDonald TrumpUS CongressHouse of RepresentativesanalysisReuse this content More

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    Recruitment of veterans by extremists may increase, top Democrat warns

    Recruitment of veterans by extremists may increase, top Democrat warnsChair of House veterans affairs committee holding hearings on issue highlighted by veterans’ participation in US Capitol attack A top US lawmaker who heads a congressional committee investigating the targeting of veterans by extremist groups has warned that the problem is a serious one and could get bigger unless it is effectively combated.In an interview with the Guardian Mark Takano, a Democratic congressman from California, said he was concerned about the recruiting strategy being deployed by violent rightwing extremist groups, especially in America’s increasingly fraught political climate in the wake of the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.Leader of Oath Keepers militia group faces sedition charge over Capitol attackRead moreTakano is the chairman of the House veteran affairs committee, which has begun hearings into the rising threat to veterans. The first of three hearings occurred in October last year, but Takano has been concerned about the threat for years.“Targeting of veterans by violent extremist groups is a problem and it could become a bigger problem if we don’t understand what’s involved and the dimensions of it,” Takano said.Takano said the issue was bipartisan and the definition of extremism did not favor liberal or conservative. “We define extremism not by the content of the ideology of the group, but whether a group espouses, advocates, endorses or promotes violence as a way to achieve their ends,” said Takano.But he was clear the current threat of veteran recruitment comes more from the extremist right.“We are seeing that this violence is occurring to a far greater degree among rightwing groups, especially within the last six years,” said Takano. “As far as we can tell, rightwing extremist groups are the ones targeting veterans for recruitment. And there’s not really any evidence that we’re seeing that leftwing groups are targeting veterans,” said Takano.Data shows violent attacks from rightwing groups in the United States are significantly more prevalent than from leftwing or international or Islamist terrorist groups. An analysis by the Center for International Strategic Studies, a non-partisan thinktank, looked at 893 terrorist plots and attacks in the United States between January 1994 and May 2020.It found that “far-right terrorism has significantly outpaced terrorism from other types of perpetrators, including from far-left networks and individuals inspired by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.”The report also found that “‘rightwing extremists perpetrated two-thirds of the attacks and plots in the United States in 2019 and over 90% between January 1 and May 8, 2020.”The 738 defendants charged in the 6 January attack on the Capitol include 81 with ties to the military, while five were active-duty service members. Air force veteran Ashli Babbitt was shot dead by police while attempting to break into the House chamber. Recently, three retired army generals wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post warning of the threat of a coup in the 2024 US election, saying it could succeed with the aid of rogue military elements.Takano’s committee conducted its first hearing in October. “We looked into how and why veterans were being recruited by violent, extreme groups: at the history and the track record of groups like the Proud Boys, Three Percent militia, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Boys and others,” said Takano.Takano said extremist groups see an advantage in having veterans in their ranks. “In that sense they are a greater target for recruitment than non-veteran Americans,” said Takano.Takano described friction in addressing the problem among some Republican lawmakers on his committee. “At least two members … wouldn’t even engage the subject,” said Takano. “When it came for their turn, they didn’t ask the witnesses any questions, including the witness that was chosen by the Republican team.“The two members instead just used their five minutes to attack me for holding the hearing,” said Takano.Takano sees the issues that leave veterans vulnerable to extremism as being the same as for the general population. “The things that contribute to veterans being vulnerable are the same things that affect all Americans: social isolation, addictions, mental health issues and emotional trauma,” said Takano.“We need to recognise that there is a problem that we have politically motivated violent extremist groups that are targeting veterans. We need to look at ways that we can protect veterans,” he added.TopicsUS militaryThe far rightUS Capitol attackHouse of RepresentativesUS politicsnewsReuse this content More