- Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a memo Friday that effectively bans the display of the Confederate flag on U.S. military installations.
- Notably, the memo does not include the words “ban” or “Confederate flag,” but rather, it omits it from a list of flags that are allowed to be displayed.
- Officials close to the matter said that the precaution was taken to avoid angering President Trump, who has defended the flag and other Confederate symbols.
- However, numerous top military officials disagree with Trump and have pressured Esper to ban the flag, as well as to take action to remove other Confederate symbols on military bases.
The Pentagon effectively banned displays of the Confederate flag at all U.S. military installations Friday in a carefully-worded memo that does not use the word “ban” or mention the flag by name.
The memo, issued by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, outlines the flags that are allowed to be displayed, including the American flag, the flags of states and territories, military flags, and flags of U.S. allies.
The Confederate flag, however, is not on that list, and by omission, it will no longer be allowed in any military installations.
“The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols,” Esper said in the memo, noting that the guidance applies to all public displays of flags by service members and Department of Defense civilians “in all DoD work places, common access areas, and public areas.”
The display of any unauthorized flags will still be permitted in museums, historical exhibits, works of art, and other educational programs.
One defense official told The Washington Post that Esper chose to not list any flags that are explicitly prohibited in order “to ensure the departmentwide policy would be apolitical and withstand potential free speech political challenges but that the services are still free to act on other flags.”
However, other officials familiar with the matter also told reporters that the mention of the Confederate flag was left out in order to not anger or contradict President Donald Trump, who has defended people’s rights to display it.
Trump and Military Officials Divided on Flag
The extreme caution taken by Esper further reflects the growing divide between how the president and top military leaders view the need to respond to the movement for racial justice that has swept the country since the death of George Floyd.
In recent weeks, military officials have been grappling with how to address the long legacy of racism and racist symbols within the institution. Specifically, Esper has faced mounting pressure from military service leaders to ban the Confederate flag, according to POLITICO.
In early June, the Marine Corps officially banned displays of the flag on its military bases. A week later, the Navy announced that it would also prepare its own ban.
Other top military officials have also been vocal about their desire to change divisive and racist symbols, including Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who was reportedly among those leading the charge to push Esper to ban the Confederate flag.
“Anything that is a divisive symbol, we do want to take those out of our installations and keep that sort of thing out of our formation,” McCarthy told reporters during a call Thursday.
However, the calls to remove Confederate symbols do not just stop at the flag. During a House hearing last week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told members of Congress that the Pentagon must “take a hard look at the symbology, the symbols, things like the Confederate flags and statues and bases.”
“There is no place in our armed forces for manifestations or symbols of racism, bias or discrimination,” he said.
Esper, for his part, has also acknowledged his willingness to remove the names of Confederate officers from ten military bases, but President Trump has fervently defended Confederate symbols and repeatedly argued that they should remain in place.
Trump has openly criticized NASCAR’s decision last month to ban displays of the flag at all future events, claiming the flag is a matter of “freedom of speech.” In early June, he voiced his strong opposition to renaming the ten military bases honoring Confederate military leaders.
“These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars.”
“Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,” he continued. “Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!”
However, it is not just top military leaders that disagree with Trump on these matters.
Next week, the Senate is expected to move forward with an amendment to the annual defense bill that would require the Pentagon to change the names of the bases and remove other Confederate symbols from military installations within three years. The House is also expected to go ahead with a similar measure.
In late June, Trump threatened to veto the defense bill if the Senate passed the amendment, which was proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). However, top Republican leaders have voiced support for the move.
In an interview earlier this week, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he would not block the effort to rename the bases. Last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), also told reporters that he was “not opposed” to renaming the bases.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (POLITICO)
Feds Investigate Classified Files Found in Biden’s Former Office
The documents reportedly include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom
What Was in the Files?
President Biden’s legal team discovered about 10 classified files in his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington D.C., the White House revealed Monday.
The Department of Justice has concluded an initial inquiry into the matter and will determine whether to open a criminal investigation.
According to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, they include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
A source also told CBS News the batch did not contain nuclear secrets and had been contained in a folder in a box with other unclassified papers.
The documents are reportedly from Biden’s time as vice president, but it remains unclear what level of classification they are and how they ended up in his office.
Biden kept an office in the. Penn Biden Center, a think tank about a mile from the White House, between 2017 and 2020, when he was elected president.
On Nov. 2, his lawyers claim, they discovered the documents as they were clearing out the space to vacate it.
They immediately notified the National Archives, which retrieved the files the next morning, according to the White House.
What Happens Next?
Attorney General Merrick Garland must decide whether to open a criminal investigation into Biden’s alleged mishandling of the documents. To that end, he appointed John Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump appointee, to conduct an initial inquiry.
Garland reportedly picked him for the role despite him being in a different jurisdiction to avoid appearing partial.
Lausch has reportedly finished the initial part of his inquiry and provided a preliminary report to Garland.
If a criminal investigation is opened, Garland will likely appoint an independent special counsel to lead it.
The case mirrors a similar DoJ special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified materials and obstruction of efforts to properly retrieve them.
On Nov. 18, Garland appointed Jack Smith to investigate over 300 classified documents found at Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago.
Trump resisted multiple National Archives requests for the documents for months leading up to the FBI’s raid on his property, then handed over 15 boxes of files only for even more to be found still at Mar-a-Lago.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many houses of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters he will investigate the Biden files.
Republicans have been quick to pounce on the news and compare it to Trump’s classified files, but Democrats have pointed out differences in the small number of documents and Biden’s willingness to cooperate with the National Archives.
The White House has yet to explain why, if the files were first discovered six days before the midterm elections, the White House waited two months to reveal the news to the public.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (BBC)
Lawmakers Propose Bill to Protect Fertility Treatments Amid Post-Roe Threats
The move comes as a number of states are considering anti-abortion bills that could threaten or ban fertility treatments by redefining embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for IVF.
The Right To Build Families Act of 2022
A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would codify the right to use assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments into federal law.
The legislation, dubbed the Right To Build Families Act of 2022, was brought forward by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Il) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) alongside Rep. Susan Wild (D- Pa.). The measure would bar any limits on seeking or receiving IVF treatments and prohibit regulations on a person’s ability to retain their “reproductive genetic materials.”
The bill would also protect physicians who provide these reproductive services and allow the Justice Department to take civil action against any states that try to limit access to fertility treatments.
The lawmakers argue it is necessary to protect IVF because a number of states have been discussing and proposing legislation that could jeopardize or even ban access to the treatments in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal.
“IVF advocates in this country today are publicly telling us, ‘We need this kind of legislation to be able to protect this,’” Murray told HuffPost. “And here we are after the Dobbs decision where states are enacting laws and we have [anti-abortion] advocates who are now starting to talk, especially behind closed doors, about stopping the right for women and men to have IVF procedures done.”
Fertility Treatments Under Treat
The state-level efforts in question are being proposed by Republican lawmakers who wish to further limit abortions by redefining when life begins. Some of the proposals would define embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for those that are created through IVF, where an egg is fertilized by a sperm outside the body and then implanted in a uterus.
For example, a bill has already been pre-filed in Virginia for the 2023 legislative session that explicitly says life begins at fertilization and does not have any specific language that exempts embryos made through IVF.
Experts say these kinds of laws are concerning for a number of reasons. In the IVF process, it is typical to fertilize multiple eggs, but some are discarded. If a person becomes pregnant and does not want to keep the rest of their eggs. It is also normal that not all fertilized eggs will be viable, so physicians will get rid of those.
Sometimes doctors will also implant multiple fertilized eggs to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, but that can result in multiple eggs being fertilized. In order to prevent having multiple babies at once and improve the chance of a healthy pregnancy, people can get a fetal reduction and lower the number of fetuses.
All of those actions could become illegal under proposals that do not provide exemptions.
“In my case, I had five fertilized eggs, and we discarded three because they were not viable. That is now potentially manslaughter in some of these states,” said Duckworth, who had both of her daughters using IVF.
“I also have a fertilized egg that’s frozen. My husband and I haven’t decided what we will do with it, but the head of the Texas Right to Life organization that wrote the bounty law for Texas has come out and specifically said he’s going after IVF next, and he wants control of the embryos,” Duckworth added.
In a hearing after Roe was overturned, Murray also raised concerns about “whether parents and providers could be punished if an embryo doesn’t survive being thawed for implantation, or for disposing unused embryos.”
Experts have said that even if anti-abortion laws defining when life begins do provide exceptions, it would be contradictory and confusing, so providers would likely err on the side of caution and not provide services out of fear of prosecution.
“[Abortion bans] are forcing women to stay pregnant against their will and are, at the very same time, threatening Americans’ ability to build a family through services like IVF,” Murray said in a statement to Axios. “It’s hard to comprehend, and it’s just plain wrong.”
The federal legislation to combat these efforts faces an uphill battle. It is unlikely it will be passed in the last few days of lame duck session, and with control of Congress being handed to Republicans come January, movement in the lower chamber will be hard fought.
Duckworth, however, told Axios that she will keep introducing the legislation “until we can get it passed.”
Hundreds of Oath Keepers Claim to Be Current or Former DHS Employees
The revelation came just weeks after the militia’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
An Agency Crawling With Extremists
Over 300 members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group claim to be current or former employees at the Department of Homeland Security, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reported Monday.
The review appears to be the first significant public examination of the group’s leaked membership list to focus on the DHS.
The agencies implicated include Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service.
“I am currently a 20 year Special Agent with the United States Secret Service. I have been on President Clinton and President Bush’s protective detail. I was a member and instructor on the Presidential Protective Division’s Counter Assault Team (CAT),” one person on the list wrote.
POGO stated that the details he provided the Oath Keepers match those he made in a sworn affidavit filed in federal court.
The finding came just weeks after Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“Law enforcement agents who have associations with groups that seek to undermine democratic governance pose a heightened threat because they can compromise probes, misdirecting investigations or leaking confidential investigative information to those groups,” POGO said in its report.
In March, the DHS published an internal study finding that “the Department has significant gaps that have impeded its ability to comprehensively prevent, detect, and respond to potential threats related to domestic violent extremism within DHS.”
Some experts have suggested the DHS may be especially prone to extremist sentiments because of its role in policing immigration. In 2016, the ICE union officially endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump for president, making the first such endorsement in the agency’s history.
The U.S. Government has a White Supremacy Problem
Copious academic research and news reports have shown that far-right extremists have infiltrated local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
In May, a Reuters investigation found at least 15 self-identified law enforcement trainers and dozens of retired instructors listed in a database of Oath Keepers.
In 2019, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that almost 400 current or former law enforcement officials belonged to Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia Facebook groups.
The Pentagon has long struggled with its own extremism problem, which appears to have particularly festered in the wake of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nearly one in four active-duty service members said in a 2017 Military Times poll that they had observed white nationalism among the troops, and over 40% of non-white service members said the same.
The prevalence of racism in the armed forces is not surprising given that many of the top figures among right-wing extremist groups hailed from the military and those same groups are known to deliberately target disgruntled, returning veterans for recruitment.
Brandon Russell, the founder of the neo-Nazi group AtomWaffen, served in the military, as did George Lincoln Rockwell, commander of the American Nazi Party, Louis Beam, leader of the KKK, and Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nation.
In January, NPR reported that one in five people charged in federal or D.C. courts for their involvement in the Capitol insurrection were current or former military service members.