- On Monday, the electoral college began the process of certifying Joe Biden as the official president-elect. The process will conclude with the state of Hawaii, which will convene its electoral college at 7 p.m. ET.
- The news follows a weekend of violence in Washington, D.C., where four people were stabbed Saturday during a protest that attracted thousands.
- A similar protest in Washington state resulted in one person being shot following several clashes between armed protesters and counterprotesters.
- The incidents signal a notable uptick in unrest compared to previous weeks of demonstrations. They also follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who asked the court to throw out election results from four key swing states that Biden won.
SCOTUS Rejects Texas Lawsuits
After a tumultuous weekend of protests, the electoral college is set to officially certify former Vice President Joe Biden as the future 46th President of the United States on Monday.
Biden’s confirmation follows protests in Washington D.C. and Washington state that left dozens injured, the worst of which involved four stabbings and one shooting.
Both protests follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reject an election fraud-related lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). In the lawsuit, Paxton directly asked the Court to throw out election results in four states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
On Friday, SCOTUS — a court with three Trump-appointed judges and a conservative majority — said in a brief, unsigned order that Texas lacked standing.
“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections,” the Court added.
While Biden won in all four states in question, Paxton’s goal was to overturn millions of legally-casted votes in the hope that President Donald Trump would then be declared the winner of each state. Seventeen other states then joined this case — none of them being any of the four states in question.
A group of more than a hundred House Republicans also joined, claiming that the election was “riddled with an unprecedented number of serious allegations of fraud and irregularities.” Oddly enough, they said that about the same election that resulted in most of their re-elections.
Last week, Trump referred to the Texas lawsuit as “the big one,” though Trump has previously said that about other election fraud lawsuits that didn’t hold up in court.
Texas Politicians Call for Secession
In a highly controversial statement, on Friday, Texas GOP Chair Allen West advocated for Texas’ secession in response to SCOTUS’ rejection of the lawsuit.
West’s idea was quickly condemned by members of both major political parties, including by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.), who said the Texas GOP “should immediately retract this, apologize, and fire Allen West and anyone else associated with this. My guy Abraham Lincoln and the Union soldiers already told you no.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hi.) said the Texas GOP “have lost their minds.”
West’s insinuation that Texas should secede from the Union is not the first talk of secession this month from the Texas GOP. Last week in a Facebook post, Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann promised to file a bill that would “allow a referendum to give Texans a vote for the State of Texas to reassert its status as an independent nation.”
Biedermann tagged his post with the hashtag #Texit.
Texas has been rife with rumors of secession throughout much of its modern history, but the only time it has ever attempted to secede from the United States was during the Civil War. Talk of secession occurred following President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 but never resulted in any proposed legislation.
D.C. Protests Follow SCOTUS Rejection
On Saturday, thousands of Trump supporters protested outside of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. for a “Stop the Steal” march. Like similar protests this year, many demonstrators were maskless and crowded close together.
The march included the likes of the Proud Boys — a far-right, male-only group with ties to white nationalism.
During the morning, while several tense situations and even smaller scuffles arose, there were no significant reports of violence.
“My final message is everybody keep the faith because we’re in the greatest revival in history,” Michael James Lindell, the creator of My Pillow, told Fox News around noon.
“And this is an anomaly, and when we get through it, we’re going to look back and say, ‘This all had to happen the way God’s intended it to and it’ll all — you’ll all be okay.’ I just want everybody in the country to have faith that God’s got his hand in all of this, and it’ll all be a blessing when it’s all over. And there’s our president!”
“There’s our president for four more years!” Lindell said as the president’s helicopter, Marine One, flew past the crowd of protesters. “There he is! God bless America! We are one nation under God!”
As the day passed, the situation began to grow tenser. At one point, while speaking on stage, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said Joe Biden “will be removed one way or another.”
Meanwhile, officers in riot gear reportedly worked to keep the Proud Boys and a group of counterprotesters separate. As The Washington Post noted, the Proud Boys became “increasingly angry as they wove through streets and alleys, only to find police continuously blocking their course with lines of bikes.”
From there, a number of fights erupted between the Proud Boys and counterprotesters. The Post noted that “agitators determined to find trouble were successful — and posturing quickly turned into punching, kicking and wrestling.” It also reported that multiple Proud Boys were seen openly drinking beers, whiskey, and White Claws between fights.
In response to the fights, police intervened, oftentimes using their batons or firing chemical irritants in order to try to maintain a wall between themselves and each side.
“Each time a fight was de-escalated, another soon began in a different part of town,” The Post reported.
In one incident, people who appeared to be members of the Proud Boys were seen tearing down a Black Lives Matter banner and burning it in the street.
Notably, that banner was taken from outside the Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in D.C.
Rev. Dr. Ianther M. Mills, the church’s senior pastor, described the scene as reminiscent of a cross burning.
Later, a similar scene occurred at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, another Black church in the city.
On Sunday, the D.C. Metro police announced they are investigating both incidents as potential hate crimes.
Four Stabbed in D.C. Protest
The most violent situation of the night came when reports surfaced that at least four people had been stabbed near a gathering point for the Proud Boys.
At first, it wasn’t clear what exactly happened or who stabbed who, though reports did mention that the four victims had been rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. On Sunday, that assessment was then dialed back when D.C. police confirmed that all four are in non-critical condition.
The same day, The New York Times reported that the confrontation began “after dozens of supporters of Mr. Trump, many of whom appeared to be members of the Proud Boys… shouted and pointed at a Black man in dark clothes who was alone and against a wall.”
The Times then said at least three of those Trump supporters “offered to let the man leave and implored the others to let him go in peace,” but that “after about a minute, as the man hesitated, more demonstrators closed in and began to punch and kick him.” The latter part of that confrontation has been captured on video by the New York Post.
Following that, The Times said the man drew a knife and “began slashing with it as more demonstrators piled onto him.” Part of that account was then corroborated by the D.C. Metro Police, which said the man was pushed in the back before he produced the knife.
The Times noted that the man broke free from the Trump supporters twice but was then grabbed and beaten again before police intervened. When police lifted him, The Times said the man’s face was swollen and bloody.
That man has been identified as 29-year-old Philip Johnson, and police have now charged him with assault with a dangerous weapon. Still, many of the details around this situation remain unknown.
Police have now confirmed that, in total, they arrested 33 people from Saturday into Sunday morning. The list of arrests includes assault, riotous acts, possession of a taser, and crossing a police line.
At least five others were injured and taken to the hospital over the course of the night, including two officers who suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
One Person Shot at Washington Protest
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country in Washington state, a similar protest formed on the same day.
According to the Associated Press, both protesters and counterprotesters “clashed on the streets in Olympia before moving onto the grounds of the Capital building, where they continued engaging in violence against each other.”
The AP also noted that many of the protesters were armed with helmets and carried shields and clubs.
“Both groups were heavily armed, including firearms,” Lt. Paul Lower of the Olympia Police Department said. “They were fighting amongst themselves, two factions with opposing political beliefs.”
From there, police said the two crowds began to disperse from the Capitol and back to the city streets; however, as this was happening, one person opened fire, shooting someone.
Like the situation in D.C., at first, it was unclear who fired the shot and who was hit. It was only known that the victim had been rushed to the hospital.
Police have since identified the shooter as 25-year-old Forest Michael Machala, who’s now been arrested on a first-degree assault charge. In a 2017 piece, The Seattle Times featured a then-22-year-old man by the same name, describing the man as a Trump supporter. It is unclear if this is the same man, and like the D.C. stabbing, many details are still unknown.
The Seattle Times noted that protests are “becoming a regular weekend occurrence at Washington’s Capitol.” Last week, a Trump supporter at one of these protests allegedly fired his gun at counterprotesters.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)
Matt Gaetz Reportedly Venmo’d Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Sent Money To Teen
- A report published by The Daily Beast Thursday alleges that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) sent $900 through Venmo to accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, who then used the funds to pay three young women, including one teenager.
- Gaetz is currently under federal investigation as part of a broader inquiry into Greenberg, a former politician who has been charged with 33 counts, including sex trafficking an underage girl.
- Investigators are reportedly looking into the involvement of politicians with women who were recruited online for sex and paid in cash, as well as whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and violated sex trafficking laws by paying for her to travel with him.
- Greenberg’s lawyer did not comment on the new allegations but said Thursday his client would soon enter a plea deal and implied that Greenberg would testify as a witness against Gaetz. Meanwhile, Gaetz has accused The Daily Beast of spreading “rumors, gossip and self-serving misstatements.”
Gaetz’s Alleged Venmo Payments
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) allegedly sent money via Venmo to accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, who then used the money to pay three young women, including at least one teenage girl, according to a new report from The Daily Beast.
Greenberg, a former local Flordia politician and an associate of Gaetz, was indicted last summer on 33 counts, including sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl. He initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but his lawyers said in court Thursday that he would plead guilty as part of a plea deal.
Legal experts say the move almost certainly indicates that Greenberg plans to cooperate as a witness against Gaetz, who is currently under investigation by the Justice Department as part of a broader probe into Greenberg.
According to The New York Times, among other things, the DOJ inquiry is looking into their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and paid cash, as well as whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him in violation of sex trafficking laws.
Investigators reportedly believe that Greenberg met the women through a website for people willing to go on dates in exchange for gifts and money, and then arranged for them to meet with himself and associates including Gaetz, The Times reported.
The new report from The Daily Beast, published Thursday, appears to support this narrative. According to the outlet, which viewed the transactions before they were made private this week, Gaetz sent Greenberg two late-night Venmo payments totaling $900 in May 2018.
In the text field of the first payment, Gaetz wrote “Test.” In the second, he asked Greenberg to “hit up” a teenager who he allegedly referred to by her nickname. The Daily Beast did not publish the name of the girl “because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.”
The next morning, Greenberg transferred a total of $900 to three different young women using the same app.
One of the transfers was titled “Tuition,” and the other two were both listed as “School.” The Daily Beast also said it was able to obtain “partial records” of Greenbergs Venmo, which is not publicly available.
Those records, the outlet reported, show that the two men are connected through Venmo to at least one other woman who Greenberg paid with a government-funded credit card, and at least two other women who received payments from Greenberg.
Gaetz, for his part, has not directly addressed the latest allegations. A representative from the Logan Circle Group, an outside PR firm, provided The Daily Beast with a statement from the congressman.
“The rumors, gossip and self-serving misstatements of others will be addressed in due course by my legal team,” the statement said, with the firm also informing the outlet that their lawyers would be “closely monitoring your coverage.”
Greenberg’s defense attorney, Fritz Scheller, also declined requests to comment, but during a press conference Thursday, he implied that the plea deal his client is expected to accept spelled trouble for Gaetz.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said.
The Daily Beast story also comes amid reports that that the FBI has widened its probe of Gaetz. According to The Times, sources familiar with the inquiry have said investigators are also looking into a trip he took to the Bahamas with other Florida Republicans and several women.
Sources said the trip took place shortly after Gaetz was elected to Congress in 2016, and that the FBI has already questioned witnesses about whether the women had sex with the men in exchange for money and free travel.
It is illegal to trade sex for something of value if prosecutors can provide the exchange involved force, fraud, or coercion.
The Times also reported that investigators are now additionally looking into Gaetz’s alleged involvement in discussions to run a third-party candidate in a State Senate race to make it easier for an associate of his who was running for the seat to win.
The act of recruiting so-called “ghost candidates” who run for office purely to divert votes from one candidate is not usually illegal. However, paying a ghost candidate is normally considered a violation of campaign finance laws.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (The New York Times) (The Hill)
Biden Announces Executive Actions on Gun Violence
- President Biden unveiled several executive actions on Thursday to address gun violence in America, which he described as “an epidemic” and “an international embarrassment.”
- Biden’s measures include new limits on “ghost guns,” which are built from separate parts and usually do not have traceable serial numbers, as well as stabilizing braces, which functionally turn pistols into more lethal weapons.
- Biden also said he would direct the Justice Department to publish a model for states to use in implementing “red flag” laws that allow law enforcement or family to petition a court to temporarily block a person in crisis from accessing firearms.
- The president characterized these actions as first steps, noting that congressional approval will be needed for his agenda and urging the chambers to take action.
Biden’s Plan for Gun Violence
President Joe Biden announced a series of executive actions on Thursday aimed at addressing gun violence in America.
“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment,” he said in remarks from the Rose Garden. “The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation.”
Among other measures outlined, the president said he will tighten restrictions on so-called “ghost guns,” which are firearms built at home by buying individual parts or kits to assemble guns that often lack serial numbers, making them hard to identify and trace.
Another rule will require devices to meet the requirements of the National Firearms Act if they are marketed as a stabilizing brace that can functionally turn a pistol into a short-barreled rifle. The alleged shooter who killed 10 people in Boulder last month appeared to have used a pistol with an arm brace, which Biden said made the weapon more stable and accurate.
Additionally, Biden will also direct the Justice Department to publish a model for states to use to enact “red flag” laws, which allow family members or law enforcement officials to petition a court to temporarily ban a person in crisis from accessing firearms. He will also as require the agency to publish an annual report on firearms trafficking.
In addition to those actions, the president said that he will nominate gun control advocate David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has not had a permanent director since 2015.
Finally, Biden also emphasized that his administration will invest in community violence intervention programs. That includes proposing $5 billion for the initiatives over the course of eight years as part of his infrastructure plan.
Mounting Press and Continued Gridlock
Biden’s announcement comes as he is facing pressure from gun control activists and Democrats to act on gun violence following the mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder.
Many have also condemned the president for not making gun control a top priority for his first days in office, as he promised during his campaign.
According to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, 57% of Americans disapprove of the way Biden has handled gun violence so far, and two-thirds “believe reducing gun violence should be a higher priority than protecting the right to own a wide variety of guns.”
Biden, for his part, has repeatedly pressured Congress to take action on gun violence, specifically pointing to two bills passed by the House last month. Both were dead on arrival in the divided Senate. In his remarks Thursday, the president characterized the actions he outlined as the first steps.
“This is just a start, we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go, it seems like we always have a long way to go.”
However, he also acknowledged that further, substantial action will require the approval of Congress, which he urged to close background check loopholes, ban assault weapons, and narrow protections for gun manufacturers from litigation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (USA Today)
Matt Gaetz Reportedly Asked Trump’s White House for Blanket Preemptive Pardons
- The New York Times reported Tuesday that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) allegedly asked former President Trump to preemptively pardon him and unknown congressional allies for any possible crimes they might have committed.
- The request reportedly happened the same time federal investigators started looking into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl in violation of sex trafficking laws, though it is unclear if either Gaetz or the White House were aware of the inquiry at the time.
- Gaetz denied that he privately asked for a pardon in connection with the investigation, and Trump said the congressman had “never asked [him] for a pardon.”
Gaetz Scandal Deepens
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) allegedly asked former President Donald Trump to grant blanket preemptive pardons for any crimes he or his other allies in Congress may have committed, according to a report from The New York Times published Tuesday.
Four people familiar with the matter told the outlet that the ask came around the same time Gaetz was publicly calling for broad pardons. About two weeks after Trump lost the election, the congressman publicly said that he should “pardon everyone” before he left office, or they would be targeted by the “radical left.”
At the time, federal investigators from the Justice Department had already begun looking into whether he had a previous sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him in violation of sex trafficking laws — revelations that surfaced last week — which Gaetz denied.
According to The Times, it is unclear if either Gaetz or the White House knew he was under investigation at the time he allegedly made the request. The sources said he did not tell White House aides.
It is also unclear who else he sought a pardon for, though, as the outlet notes, “In recent days, some Trump associates have speculated that Mr. Gaetz’s request for a group pardon was an attempt to camouflage his own potential criminal exposure.”
The sources also said that aides told Trump about the request, though Trump himself released a statement Wednesday claiming he had not discussed the matter directly with Gaetz.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” he said. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
A spokesperson for Gaetz also denied that he privately asked for a pardon in connection with the DOJ investigation.
“Entry-level political operatives have conflated a pardon call from Representative Gaetz — where he called for President Trump to pardon ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic’ — with these false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him,” the spokesperson said. “Those comments have been on the record for some time, and President Trump even retweeted the congressman, who tweeted them out himself.”
Gaetz and Allies Ramp Up Rhetoric
Meanwhile, Gaetz has continued to go on the offensive in the last week since news of the sex trafficking investigation broke — a story The Times also first published.
Also on Tuesday, Talking Points Memo reported that Gaetz is now using allegations that he sex-trafficked a minor to raise money. In a screenshot of a campaign fundraising email published by the outlet, Gaetz accused The Times of publishing the allegations in an attempt to end his career, and accusing “the Left” of trying to drag his “dating life into their political attacks.”
So far, the growing scandal does not appear to be hurting the congressman’s image among Trump allies. While many have remained silent, Trump’s statement Wednesday about the pardon — his first public comment on any of the allegations — clearly implies that he still backs the congressman who has been one of his biggest allies.
The Flordia representative has also been asked to speak at a conservative women’s conference at Trump’s Miami golf course this Friday. In a tweet Tuesday, the organization said they were “honored” to have Gaetz speak at the event, despite the ongoing investigation.