Source: Reuters/ Jay Paul
- In court Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask alleged that the militia group that planned to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also discussed targeting Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
- Like Whitmer, Northam was potentially targeted because of his aggressive coronavirus lockdown orders earlier this year.
- Northam has directly blamed President Donald Trump for emboldening the group, though White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president and denounced this claim.
- One Michigan sheriff, Dar Leaf, is facing resignation calls after people also criticized him for emboldening similar groups after he seemingly suggested that the plot against Whitmer wasn’t a “serious thing” or that the plotters were simply making a citizen’s arrest.
Gov. Northam Was Targeted
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) was discussed as a potential target by the same militia group that is accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), according to the FBI.
That claim is just one of several shocking claims that were laid out in court by FBI special agent Richard Trask on Tuesday.
State and federal agencies have arrested 13 men in connection to the plot against Whimter.
They face a slew charges, including terrorism, conspiracy, and weapons possession. According to prosecutors, their plan involved storming the Michigan State Capitol, trying Whitmer for “treason” in a mock court, and instigating a civil war.
Like Whitmer, Northam was potentially targeted because of the aggressive coronavirus lockdown orders he imposed in his state earlier this year. In both states, those orders restricted much of the economy.
Northam’s restrictions were heavily criticized in April by many conservative groups, including by President Donald Trump, who tweeted, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
The same day, Trump also tweeted both “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”
Northam’s press secretary, Alena Yarmosky, directly referenced those tweets Tuesday in a statement regarding the news that Northam had been potentially targeted.
“The president regularly encourages violence against those who disagree with him,” she said. “The rhetoric coming out of this White House has serious and potentially dangerous consequences. It must stop.”
However, in a statement to CNN, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump.
“President Trump has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate. Governor Whitmer, and now Governor Northam, are sowing division by making these outlandish allegations,” she said. “America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot.”
Nonetheless, Wednesday morning, Northam directly launched more criticism against Trump, saying that “these people take their marching orders from individuals like the President.”
“It’s unfortunate and it needs to stop,” he added.
The Plan for Whitmer Potentially Included Murder
Among other allegations laid out by Trask on Tuesday, some members discussed murdering people they described as “tyrants.”
It’s highly likely that the reference was meant to include Whitmer. In fact, during one plotting exercise, the militia group allegedly discussed mugging a pizza delivery worker, stealing their identity, and posing as that delivery person in an attempt to shoot Whitmer.
Another plan included taking Whitmer out on a boat into the middle of Lake Michigan and leaving her stranded by disabling the engine so someone would have to “come rescue” her.
Trask alleged that the men planned to execute their attack on Election Day.
Calls for Michigan Sheriff to Resign
Connected to the militia plot, many are also calling for Dar Leaf, a sheriff in Barry County, Michigan, to resign, with some calling him a protector of terrorists.
Leaf is in hot water over a few different controversies, but most notably, the calls for his resignation came after it was discovered that he once shared a stage with one of the plotters at an anti-lockdown rally on May 18.
For months, Leaf has been outspokenly critical of Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders, even likening them to an unlawful arrest.
Calls for his resignation also come following comments he made defending the militia group.
After it was revealed that these militia members had allegedly planned to kidnap Whitmer and engage in mock court, Leaf told a local TV station: “Well, it’s just a charge. And they say a plot to kidnap, and you got to remember that, are they trying to kidnap? Cause a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested, so are they trying to arrest her or was it a kidnap attempt? Cause you can still, in Michigan, if it’s a felony, you can make a felony arrest.”
“I’m hoping that’s more of what it is,” he added. “In fact, these guys are innocent till proven guilty, so I’m not even sure if they had any part of it.”
While Leaf has said that Whitmer deserves the right to be safe, he has openly questioned if the plotters were actually serious in carrying out their plan.
Collectively, those comments have results in fierce backlash.
“As Michigan’s top law enforcement official, let me make this abundantly clear-Persons who are not sworn, licensed members of a law enforcement agency cannot and should not “arrest” government offficials with whom they have disagreements,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “These comments are dangerous.”
Leaf later walked back his comments, saying that he wasn’t trying to suggest the militia group was planning to make a lawful citizen’s arrest.
“I have a hard time swallowing this was a serious thing,” he still said.
Leaf said Tuesday that he has no plans to resign and argued against the point that he and Trump are enabling terrorists.
He also stated that the militia movement “has been brewing for quite some time,” claiming it is growing because of a gradual loss of rights.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (MLive)
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.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Politico) (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Signs 17 Executive Order During His First Day in Office. Here’s What You Need to Know
- In the first hours of his presidency, Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders and proclamations, many of which focused on rolling back Trump administration policies regarding immigration, the environment, and protections for minority groups.
- Biden also implemented several measures to tackle the coronavirus, including requiring masks to be worn on federal property and by federal employees. He is also expected to announce a new national strategy aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.
- On Thursday, Biden will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.
Biden Rolls Back Trump Policies
President Joe Biden signed 17 executive actions and proclamations Wednesday afternoon. Many of his first acts in office are focused on rolling back several policies implemented by former President Donald Trump that Biden’s aides said have caused the “greatest damage” to the country.
“I thought there’s no time to wait, get to work immediately,” Biden told reporters present during the signed of several of the orders.
Here is a breakdown of some of the key measures Biden implemented.
Biden immediately ended all construction on the border wall by overhauling the national emergency declaration Trump had enacted to divert billions in federal funds to his central campaign promise.
The new president also expanded protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and overturned a Trump policy that made immigration enforcement more strict and
In similar actions, he also ended the travel ban on multiple Muslim-majority countries and revoked a Trump administration order that would have excluded non-citizens from the 2020 Census count.
One of the most significant actions Biden took was signing a letter to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. It will take 30 days for the return to go into effect.
The president also issued a sweeping order that reversed a number of the Trump administration’s environmental policies, including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, re-establishing a working group to look into the social costs of greenhouse gasses, and temporarily banning oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Justice for Minority Groups
In one far-reaching order, Biden directed all federal agencies to review equity in their programs and policies. They are required to issue a report within 200 days that, among other things, details how each will remove barriers to opportunities and ensure all Americans have equal access to federal resources.
Biden also ended Trump’s policy that limited federal agencies, contractors, and other organizations from holding diversity and inclusion training. The same order also disbanded the 1776 Commission created by Trump to study his claims that the education system was too liberal in its teaching of American history.
In a separate order, the president issued changes that will broaden federal protections against sex discrimination to include LGBTQ+ Americans, reversing a previous action by Trump.
As part of a broad measure aimed at general accountability in the executive branch, Biden issued an order that will establish ethics rules for all people in his administration. The same order will also require all executive branch appointees to sign an ethics pledge.
Separately, the president additionally froze all new regulations Trump had put in place during his last few weeks in office until they can be further evaluated.
Economy and Coronavirus
Chief among Biden’s first acts in office were his plans for the coronavirus pandemic and the damage it has caused to the American people.
In terms of financial relief, Biden extended the ban on evictions and foreclosures and paused student loan payments until September.
As for direct actions concerning the pandemic, the president imposed a mask mandate for all federal employees and anyone on federal property. He also signed an extensive order aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.
Biden is expected to enact more policies in regards to the coronavirus in the coming days, including taking more executive actions to ramp up testing and vaccine distribution, safely reopening schools and businesses, and provide more money to states to help carry out those efforts, among other things.
To achieve these goals, he will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which will compel American companies to manufacture supplies for the pandemic response such as PPE and other items needed for vaccines.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC News) (The Washington Post)
U.S. To Join WHO-led Vaccine Distribution Plan as Biden Implements a Flurry of COVID-19 Executive Orders
- Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated Thursday that President Joe Biden will join COVAX, a World Health Organization-led COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
- Fauci’s announcement comes one day after Biden signed an executive order reversing former President Donald Trump’s plan to remove the United States from the WHO.
- Among other orders, Biden plans to implement a mask mandate for airports, planes, trains, and other forms of interstate travel. He has already ordered masks to be worn on all federal property.
- Biden is also expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.
U.S. To Join COVAX
Just one day after President Joe Biden signed an order to keep the United States in the World Health Organization, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the country will join its global COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
That plan, COVAX, is a collaborative effort between 92 countries to ensure that COVID vaccines aren’t only distributed in wealthy countries.
The idea behind the plan is that establishing a global herd immunity will be much more effective at curbing the spread of the virus than just establishing herd immunity in countries that can afford to buy large quantities of the vaccine, especially when international travel picks back up.
The plan is not without its shortcomings. Earlier this week, the WHO stated that some countries participating in COVAX have been disregarding the plan and buying large quantities of vaccines for themselves.
Nonetheless, in a video conference call Thursday morning with the WHO’s executive board, Fauci — now chief medical advisor to the president — said the Biden administration believes it can inoculate every American while also helping people in other countries.
Biden’s plan to join COVAX is a stark contrast from the Trump administration, which refused to participate in the program.
Fauci said Biden will issue the directive to join COVAX later Thursday.
Additionally, Fauci noted that the U.S. once again “intends to fulfill its financial obligations” to the WHO.
In his attempt to leave the organization, Trump cut off payments from the U.S.; however, his administration never got the chance to fully cut ties with the organization because the U.S. wasn’t scheduled to officially leave until July of this year.
Biden Signs Mask Mandate, Other Orders To Come
Among other COVID-related executive orders signed Wednesday, Biden implemented a national mask mandate for people on federal property.
Sometime Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign another order requiring masks to be worn in airports, as well as on airplanes, trains, and other interstate transit systems.
Also on Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign an order that will establish a COVID-19 testing board. Once implemented, the board will be responsible for increasing testing rates, addressing supply shortfalls, and determining the rules and regulations for international travelers coming into the U.S. It will also have the power to distribute resources to minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
On top of that, Biden plans to sign an order that will direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse states and Native American tribes for their emergency response efforts. Notably, those reimbursements include costs related to reopening schools.
Finally, Biden is expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday. Such a move would speed up the production of masks and other equipment needed to help administer vaccines.