- Twitter added a “manipulated media” warning on a video that was made and uploaded by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
- The video edited a clip of an interview between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan, an activist who speaks with a computerized voice by taking words Barkan had said earlier in a different context to make it sound like Biden was saying he supported defunding the police.
- After receiving backlash and demands to apologize, Scalise defended the video, arguing that Biden had said he was open to redirecting funds, which he claimed was the same as defunding the police. He later deleted the video but did not apologize.
- Biden has repeatedly said he does not support defunding the police, and Barkan himself has said that Biden did not say he supported defunding the police during their interview.
“Manipulated Media” Warning
Twitter placed a “manipulated media” warning on a video Sunday posted by House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.)
“No police. Mob rule. Total chaos,” the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House wrote in the tweet sharing the video. “That’s the result of the Democrat agenda. Ask yourself: Is this what you want in your town next?”
The video included in the post showed a clip of an interview last month between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Ady Barkan, an activist with ALS who speaks through a computerized voice.
“Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding for police?” Barkan asks.
“Yes. Absolutely,” Biden responded.
However, that was not the way Barkan posed the question in that interview. Barkan asked Biden if he was open to reforms that would redirect some of the responsibilities and funding from police into social services like wellness counselors who could respond to non-violent incidents.
Biden said yes, and laid out some of his own reforms that did not seem to involve shifting funds, and Barkan followed up with: “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?”
Barkan did not add “for police,” but as The Verge explains: “The version Scalise tweeted edits in the words ‘for police,’ to the end of the question, words which Barkan says in a different context earlier in the video.”
Scalise Receives Backlash
Many responded to the video by not only condemning Scalise for creating and uploading a video with manipulated audio, but also for intentionally capitalizing on the computerized voice of a disabled person for political gain.
“Your team changed his words using his computer voice because they could,” Liz Jaff, the president of Barkan’s Be A Hero political fund wrote on Twitter.
Barkan himself also took aim at the Minority Whip.
“These are not my words,” he wrote on Twitter. “I have lost my ability to speak, but not my agency or my thoughts. You and your team have doctored my words for your own political gain. Please remove this video immediately. You owe the entire disability community an apology.”
Biden, for his part, retweeted that post, referring to the video as “doctored” and calling it “a flagrant attempt to spread misinformation at the expense of a man who uses assistive technology. It should be removed. Now.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also retweeted the Barkan’s post and echoed his demands for Scalise to take down the vide and apologize.
Scalise defended the video in another tweet shortly after Barkan called for it to be taken down.
“Twice in one interview Biden says ‘yes’ & ‘yes absolutely’ to questions about ‘redirecting’ police funding,” he tweeted. “Dems & their partners in the media want to blame ‘editing’ to pretend this isn’t exactly what he believes.”
In an emailed statement to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for Scalise said that the video was, “condensed … to the essence of what he was asking, as is common practice for clips run on TV and social media, no matter the speaker.”
“We paired the police portion with Barkan’s final question for clarity because we couldn’t include an entire 3-minute clip in a one minute montage,” the spokesperson added. “We believe Biden’s position and answer is clear regardless: When asked twice, he says ‘yes’ he is open to redirecting funding away from the police, and that is clear in our video.”
Scalise did eventually delete the video, though he did not apologize and continued to defend the video in a tweet he posted announcing the move.
“While Joe Biden clearly said ‘yes,’ twice, to the question of his support to redirect money away from police, we will honor the request of @AdyBarkan and remove the portion of his interview from our video,” he wrote.
Scalise also deleted the video from Facebook, but according to reports, Facebook did not flag the post as manipulated media even though it appeared to violate the platform’s guidelines— a point brought up by many social media users.
Under its current rules, Facebook defines manipulated videos as content that “would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words they did not actually say.”
Biden and Defunding the Police
While the manipulated audio appeared to be the catalyst behind Twitter’s decision, it was also not the only problem with Scalise’s video. The other issue is that Biden has repeatedly said he does not want to defund the police, despite the fact that President Donald Trump has continually made false claims that he does.
Notably, many have cited the interview with Barkan as evidence that Biden wants to defund the police and made the same argument that Scalise did about any reallocation being the same as defunding.
But Barkan himself has said that is different and that Biden did not say he wanted to defund the police during their interview.
“Though Ady would have loved Joe Biden to announce in this interview that he is in favor of defunding the police, the Vice President never said it,” Jaff said in a statement following the interview last month.
In fact, while Biden has proposed funding increases for community policing through social services, he has explicitly said he does not want to cut funding from police budgets. When asked if he supports defunding the police during an interview with ABC News last week, he again reiterated that he does not.
“I don’t want to defund police departments,” he said, referring to the fact that annual White House budgets under Trump have recommended billions of dollars worth of cuts to the Office of Justice Programs, which gives grants to local law enforcement. “The only guy that actually put in a bill to actually defund the police is Donald Trump.”
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.