- 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)
Josh Hawley Claims Ethics Complaint Against Him Is “Cancel Culture”
- Seven Democratic Senators filed an ethics complaint against Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz last week over their efforts in leading objections to the certification of the presidential election.
- The group urged the Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into whether Cruz and Hawley’s actions inspired violence or if there were any connections between the two Senators, their staffers, and the insurrectionists.
- Hawley filed a counter-complaint against the seven Democrats Monday, arguing that they were engaging in cancel culture.
- “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together,” he wrote.
Ethics Committee Complaints
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) filed a counter-complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee Monday alleging that a group of Democratic senators were engaging in “cancel culture” by calling for a recent investigation into his conduct.
Last week, seven Democratic senators, lead by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), filed an ethics complaint against Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) for leading the objection to the certification of the presidential election
In the complaint, the members accused Hawley and Cruz of legitimizing the false claims that prompted the insurrection in the first place and then continuing to “amplify the claims of fraud that they likely knew to be baseless and that had led to violence earlier that day,” by still voting to object.
The letter also noted that both Cruz and Hawley touted their plan to object to the certification as a way to collect more campaign donations. It argued that they continued to do so while the Capitol was literally under siege and even after the insurrection.
As a result, the seven Democrats urged the Ethics Committee to investigate whether there was any coordination between Hawley, Cruz, or their staffers and the insurrectionists, if they knew about the plans for the Jan. 6 rally, or if they took donations from people and organizations involved.
They also implored the committee to look into whether the actions of the two Senators actions inspired violence or “otherwise engaged in criminal conduct, or unethical or improper behavior.” If any evidence is found, the Democrats recommended the committee take “strong disciplinary action, including up to expulsion or censure.”
Hawley Speaks Out
In his counter-complaint, Hawley accused the Democrats of trampling on free speech in an attempt to “cancel” him.
“This line of thinking is, however, sadly consistent with the new woke-mob mentality that you should cancel anyone who disagrees with your views,” he wrote. “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together.”
Hawley also echoed that sentiment in a cover essay published by The New York Post on Monday, where claimed he has been “canceled” and “muzzled” over his attempts to stop the Democratic election of President Joe Biden from being certified.
Both the letter and the article attracted significant backlash online and in the media. In a particularly scathing critique, CNN Tonight host Don Lemon condemned Hawley for claiming he was being censored.
“No one has muzzled Josh Hawley. What happened to Josh Hawley isn’t cancel culture. It’s called consequences,” Lemon said. “That’s how the First Amendment works. Say whatever you want, but you gotta pay the price if you say something stupid, or you do something stupid or treasonous, or if you try to overturn a duly elected president, right?”
“Don’t fall for this, people,” he continued. “Think about the actions in the Capitol. Think about what happened, think about the people who died, think about the cops who were beaten by people. Think about all that.”
Dominion Files $1.3 Billion Defamation Suit Against Rudy Giuliani
- Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company, including that the manufacturer led an effort to flip votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
- The lawsuit alleges Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer, spread the disinformation in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.
- It also links his false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at a rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
- This is the second suit Dominion has filed against a Trump campaign lawyer, and an attorney for the company said it might bring similar cases against pro-Trump media outlets or Trump himself.
Dominion Sues Giuliani
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company.
Dominion, which is one of the largest voting machine manufacturers in the U.S., became the main target for widespread election fraud conspiracies spread by Giuliani and other Trump allies. Those individuals falsely claimed with no evidence that Dominion machines, widely used in key battleground states, were flipping votes from Trump to President Joe Biden.
Now, the company claims that Giuliani and his allies “manufactured and disseminated the ‘Big Lie,’ which foreseeably went viral and deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election.”
The lawsuit alleges that he did this in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast. It notes that Trump’s top lawyer “reportedly demanded $20,000 per day” for his legal services to the president, and arguing that he “cashed in by hosting a podcast where he exploited election falsehoods to market gold coins, supplements, cigars and protection from ‘cyberthieves.’”
The 107-page suit also specifically outlines more than 50 statements Giuliani made on Twitter, his podcast, to the conservative media, and during legislative hearings. Notably, the company points out that he never mentioned Dominion in court where he could face legal ramifications because he knew what he was claiming was false.
Despite that, Giuliani continued to push the false narrative, even after Dominion sent him a letter in December warning they were going to take legal action against him.
The lawsuit also links Giuliani’s false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at the rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
According to reports, even after the insurrection, he has still continued to spread those falsities as recently as last week.
“Dominion’s founder and employees have been harassed and have received death threats, and Dominion has suffered unprecedented and irreparable harm,” the court document states.
Other Defamation Cases
The case against Giuliani is not the first defamation suit Dominion has brought against Trump allies in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the company filed a similar claim against former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell where it also sought $1.3 billion in damages over her false assertions that Dominion was part of a world-wide communist plot to rig the election.
Separately, one of Dominion’s top executives has also filed lawsuits against Giuliani, the Trump campaign, and several pro-Trump media outlets after he was forced into hiding due to conspiracies that he masterminded the plot to steal the election.
These cases could just be the start. According to NPR, an attorney for Dominion said it was possible that the company would file additional suits against pro-Trump media outlets — such as Fox News — and even potentially Trump himself.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Axios)
House To Send Impeachment Article Monday, Starting Impeachment Trial Process
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the impeachment trial process.
- The news comes one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
- The senators could still come to their own agreement to delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
- Some Democrats have signaled support for this move because it would give them extra time to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominations before the trial starts.
Pelosi To Send Impeachment Article
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.
The move will officially trigger the start of the impeachment trial process. The announcement comes one day after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
Despite Pelosi’s decision, the senators still could come to their own agreement to start the ceremonial proceedings but delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
In fact, Democrats, who have been pushing for a schedule that would allow them to still confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees before the trial proceedings start each day, have signaled that they might not oppose a delay because it would give them extra time for confirmations.
During his announcement this morning, Schumer indicated that the details were still being hashed out.
“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” he said. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.”
McConnell, for his part, responded by reiterating that his party will continue to press for Trump’s team to be given enough time.
“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” he said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense.”
While the leaders may not have worked out the particulars yet, according to reports, both parties have already agreed that this trial will be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment, which lasted three weeks.
Implications for Power-Sharing Deal
The new impeachment trial deadline could also speed up the currently stalled negotiations between Schumer and McConnell regarding how power will be shared in a Senate with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats effectively control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote, but she cannot always be there to resolve every dispute.
As a result, McConnell and Schumer have been working to come up with a power-sharing deal for day to day operations, similar to one that was struck in 2001 the last time the Senate was split 50-50. However, those negotiations have hit a roadblock: the legislative filibuster.
The filibuster is the long-standing Senate rule that requires a supermajority of at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on a given piece of legislation before moving to a full floor vote. Technically, all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris could agree to change the rule to just require a simple majority to legislation advance, or what’s known as the “nuclear option.”
That move, in effect, would allow them to get through controversial legislation without any bipartisan support, as long as every Democrat stays within party lines. Many more progressive Democrats have pushed for this move, arguing that the filibuster stands in the way of many of their and Biden’s top priorities.
Given this possibility, McConnell has demanded that Democrats agree to protect the filibuster and promise not to pursue the nuclear option as part of the power-sharing deal.
But top Democrats have rejected that demand, with many arguing that having the threat of filibuster is necessary to get Republicans to compromise.
In other words: if Republicans fear that Democrats will “go nuclear,” they will be more likely to agree to certain bills and measures to avoid that.