Adam Kinzinger and his family are getting so many death threats over his Trump criticism that his office put together a 3-minute audio clip
Camila DeChalus – July 5, 2022
Rep. Adam Kinzinger says he’s been getting threatening calls to his office in Washington, DC.
People have also threatened to go after him and his family.
Kinzinger is a member of the House committee investigating the insurrection.
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger on Tuesday released a three-minute audio clip of recent threatening calls his office has received, highlighting the increased harassment he and his family have faced in light of his participation in the House committee investigating the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
“Threats of violence over politics has increased heavily in the last few years. But the darkness has reached new lows,” Kinzinger tweeted. “My new interns made this compilation of recent calls they’ve received while serving in my DC office.”
In one call, a person threatened to come to Kinzinger’s house and go after his wife and his newborn baby.
“I’m going to come to protest in front of your house this weekend,” the caller said. “We know where your family is, and we’re going to get you … We’re going to get your wife, going to get your kids.”
Another caller said, “I hope you naturally die as quickly as fucking possible.”
Some of the callers alluded to Kinzinger’s involvement in the House committee, accusing him of lying and going against former President Donald Trump during recent hearings.
Last month, Kinzinger said he and his family had received a death threat over his sitting on the committee. He shared the letter, which was addressed to his wife, Sofia, on Twitter. “That pimp you married not only broke his oath, he sold his soul,” it said, adding, “Therefore, although it might take time, he will be executed.”
Citing data from the US Capitol Police, Axios reported late last month that threats against lawmakers had significantly increased in the past five years. The report said that in the first three months of the year, the Capitol Police opened cases into more than 1,800 threats.
Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming are the only two Republicans sitting on the House select committee investigating the insurrection and Trump’s involvement in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Following the recent testimony from the former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, Kinzinger, who’s been highly critical of the former president, said Trump and his allies including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were “scared.”
The Supreme Court Isn’t Done Carrying Water for Right-Wing Activists
The conservative court just finished issuing a string of devastating decisions made with little regard for precedent. It’s just getting started
By David S. Cohen – July 1, 2022
Law is supposed to be an objective discipline. We praise the “rule of law” as an immutable hallmark of the American legal system, and take solace in the ideal that justice should be dispensed fairly and evenly regardless of who is dispensing it. Our judges wear black robes because they are meant to be indistinguishable. It theoretically shouldn’t matter which one hears a case because the law, not the individual, determines the outcome.
But here’s the spoiler: This is all hogwash. At least when it comes to the Supreme Court, who the judge is matters immensely, while what the law is matters very little. In fact, as the cases decided in the past few weeks make clear, the current justices are going to take almost every chance they get to issue the most politically conservative decision possible.
Let’s review what the court has done just in the past week or so. First, last Thursday, it gutted one of the key protections from the Miranda rights everyone knows (“You have the right to remain silent…”). Now, when police don’t give the required warning, defendants can still have their statements suppressed in court, and they can’t sue the police for the violation. Overturning Miranda v. Arizona has been one of the conservative legal movement’s goals ever since the case was decided in 1966. Its whittling last Thursday happened not because the Constitution changed, but solely because the court’s personnel changed. When Miranda was decided over 50 years ago, the court was at its most liberal. A more conservative court reconsidered the case in 2000, but refused to overturn it. In 2022, however, with the court now packed with conservative justices, the case has been partially rebuked, and the groundwork laid for a more complete rejection later.
Something similar happened with guns. In 2008, a conservative Supreme Court reversed decades of precedent to rule in District of Columbia v. Heller that an individual has the right to own a handgun. It was signal enough that court decisions are all about personnel, but what happened Thursday drove the point home. Ever since that 2008 decision, gun rights advocates have pushed the court to expand the ruling to get rid of even more gun laws. But the court never had enough votes to do it, refusing to hear subsequent gun cases as its most conservative members complained that liberal justices were avoiding important issues. That was until former President Trump appointed three new conservative justices to the court, which subsequently took up New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, ruling last week that there is a constitutional right to concealed carry. There’s now little doubt this motivated group of conservative jurists will soon expand gun rights even further.
The same personnel change animated Friday’s abortion ruling. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health involved a ban on abortion at 15 weeks pregnancy, starting its journey before the court with the state of Mississippi asking only that the court approve this particular ban, not that it also overturn Roe v. Wade. But when Mississippi fully briefed the case, it asked the court not only to uphold the Mississippi law but also to strike down the landmark 1977 case guaranteeing a constitutional right to abortion access. What changed? Ruth Bader Ginsburg was replaced by Amy Coney Barrett. Because of that personnel change alone, Mississippi changed what it asked of the court. It got its wish on Friday, with the court’s conservative majority overturning Roe. Without Barrett and with Ginsburg, this would not have happened. That it did is a reflection not of law but of the people wearing the robes.
Then came Monday’s decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton. In that case, the court ruled that a public school football coach can pray after a game on the 50-yard line and not be disciplined for doing so, with the court’s conservative majority saying the coach has a free speech and freedom of religion right to pray right after games. In ruling this way, the court put the nail in the coffin of a 50-year-old precedent that determined what constitutes crossing the line separating church and state. In fact, the court’s ruling this week almost reads that protection out of the First Amendment entirely, which, again, has been a long-standing project of legal conservatives.
Unfortunately, the decisions the court handed down this term are just the beginning. The new right-wing majority on the court is showing everyone that it is not shy about flexing its conservative muscle. The justices are not doing anything piecemeal and are using every opportunity to rule in the most expansive way possible on some of the country’s most divisive political issues. There’s more in the pipeline for next year, such as matters related to affirmative action, religious exemptions to anti-discrimination law, and the ability of state legislatures to control elections. It’s a conservative activist’s wish list of issues for the court to tackle, and these justices are complying.
In dissent in the abortion case last week, liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan wrote: “The American public … should never conclude that its constitutional protections hung by a thread — that a new majority, adhering to a new ‘doctrinal school, could by dint of numbers’ alone expunge their rights. It is hard — no, it is impossible — to conclude that anything else has happened here.
They are right. The group of justices committed to enshrining the conservative legal agenda into law means the outcomes of almost all coming cases are very unlikely to surprise. Ask what the conservative policy position is, and that’s how these politicians in robes will rule.
New recycling method could eliminate the climate impact of plastic
Gianna Melillo – July 1, 2022
Story at a glance
Plastic pollution is one of the more pressing issues for conservationists and environmentalists alike.
Researchers in Sweden harvested a byproduct of plastic disposal and used it to create a new sustainable plastic.
By incentivizing collection of this byproduct, experts hope to scale the process and create a more sustainable plastic recycling process.
Declining plastic recycling rates coupled with increased plastic pollution on the Earth’s surface and within its oceans spell concern for the planet’s health.
In an effort to combat these trends, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden developed a recycling method that replaces all fossil raw materials used in new plastic production with carbon atoms from mixed waste. The technique has the potential to eliminate the climate impact of plastic and may rid the air of carbon dioxide.
“While fossil fuel use is the main cause of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and a transition away from the use of such fuels is essential to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 [degrees celsius], the production and use of materials such as plastics, cement and steel entail significant GHG emissions,” researchers explained in the Journal of Cleaner Production.
They hypothesized carbon atoms in plastic waste serve as an important untapped resource. These existing resources are currently incinerated or find their way to landfills. Thermochemical technologies can target this wasted carbon and use it as a raw material to produce plastics of similar quality to those created with fossil fuels.
According to investigators, enough of these atoms already exist to meet the needs of all global plastic production. The atoms can be harvested from waste with or without food residue.
“If the process is powered by renewable energy, we also get plastic products with more than 95 percent lower climate impact than those produced today, which effectively means negative emissions for the entire system,” said co-author Henrik Thunman in a press release.
To complete the process, the carbon atoms would need to be heated to 600 to 800 degrees celsius, converting the material to gas. Adding hydrogen to this gas can replace the building blocks of plastics and researchers are working to ensure the gas can be used and converted in the same factories currently used to manufacture plastic.
This process can also be powered by renewable sources like solar, wind or hydro power, making them more energy efficient than current systems in use. Experts would also be able to harvest excess heat produced in the process to offset heat production from waste incineration, thereby eliminating carbon dioxide emissions resulting from energy recovery, they explained.
Creating an economic structure to collect and use these carbon atoms can help incentivize this new form of recycling.
The process has already proven successful in one Swedish plant in collaboration with Borealis, a plastic manufacturer.
“Global application of advanced thermochemical recycling technologies has great potential: less energy than used in today’s material system may likely be required, and carbon emissions can be reduced using different energy sources, leading to near-zero carbon emissions with renewable energy,” authors concluded.
More research is needed to better understand best deployment strategies and determine their economic and energy implications.
Court Decision Leaves Biden With Few Tools to Combat Climate Change
Coral Davenport – July 1, 2022
WASHINGTON — One by one, the tools available to President Joe Biden to fight climate change are being stripped away.
After a Supreme Court decision Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency will have less authority to limit carbon dioxide from power plants, a major source in this country of the pollution that is dangerously heating the planet.
It is one in a series of setbacks for Biden, who came into office with the most ambitious climate agenda of any president, pledging to the rest of the world that the United States, the world’s largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases, would cut that pollution in half by the end of the decade.
In a statement, Biden called the ruling “another devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards” and said the conservative majority on the court was siding “with special interests that have waged a long-term campaign to strip away our right to breathe clean air.”
“The science confirms what we all see with our own eyes — the wildfires, droughts, extreme heat, and intense storms are endangering our lives and livelihoods,” Biden said. “I will take action. My administration will continue using lawful executive authority, including the EPA’s legally upheld authorities, to keep our air clean, protect public health and tackle the climate crisis.”
Some experts say that after the Supreme Court’s decision in the case, West Virginia v. EPA., it will soon be mathematically impossible for Biden to meet his goals.
“At this point, I don’t see any way to hit the kind of targets they laid out,” said David G. Victor, an expert in climate policy at the University of California, San Diego.
The consequences could be severe. Scientists say the United States must hit Biden’s target if it is to do its part to limit average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with temperatures before the Industrial Revolution. That is the threshold beyond which the likelihood significantly increases of catastrophic impacts such as deadly heat waves, drought, wildfire and storms. The planet has already warmed an average of about 1.1 degrees Celsius.
Biden has faced obstacle after obstacle in his push for climate action, ranging from conflicts within his own party to a worldwide energy crunch triggered by the war in Ukraine to well-funded legal challenges from Republicans and the fossil fuel industry.
Patrick Morrisey, the Republican attorney general of West Virginia and the lead plaintiff in the case, called the decision a “great win for West Virginia and her residents,” adding, “We are pleased this case returned the power to decide one of the major environmental issues of the day to the right place to decide it: the U.S. Congress, comprised of those elected by the people to serve the people.”
The problem for Biden is that Congress has so far failed to act on climate change. The centerpiece of the president’s climate plan, legislation to replace coal and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energy, was deleted from a major domestic policy bill last fall after objections from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Manchin, who has personal financial ties to the coal industry, has been able to single-handedly set the limits of Biden’s legislative ambitions as the key swing vote in an evenly divided Senate.
The domestic policy bill in limbo on Capitol Hill still includes what would be a historic increase in tax credits to spur the wind and solar industries. But it is unclear if Manchin will support the plan and the legislation could die if Republicans, who have shown little interest in climate action, retake one or both chambers in the midterm elections.
Biden has focused on the nation’s top source of greenhouse gas pollution — transportation — by directing the EPA to craft tough new limits on tailpipe emissions to speed up adoption of electric vehicles. But those rules are already under legal assault in lower courts by many of the same plaintiffs who were victorious in this week’s Supreme Court case.
As a candidate, Biden promised to end drilling on public lands — oil, gas and coal extraction from federal land and waters generates 25% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. But when he tried to pause new drilling, it was overturned by a legal challenge from Republican attorneys general from states that produce fossil fuels. The administration held its first onshore drilling lease sale this week in seven Western states.
“The judicial branch and the legislative branch are seriously hindering Joe Biden’s ability to get the job done on climate,” said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard, who served on Biden’s EPA transition team. “A lot of the optimism that everyone had a year ago is being replaced by pessimism. They’re running out of options right now.”
The Biden administration contends that it remains possible for the United States to meet its climate targets, by cobbling together a mix of executive actions.
“Ambitious climate action presents a singular opportunity to ensure U.S. global competitiveness, create jobs, lower costs for families, and protect people’s health and well-being, especially those who’ve long suffered the burden of inaction,” Michael S. Regan, the EPA administrator, said in a statement. “EPA will move forward with lawfully setting and implementing environmental standards that meet our obligation to protect all people and all communities from environmental harm.”
The Supreme Court ruling left intact the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions but blocked any attempt by the agency to write regulations so broad that they force the closure of coal-fired plants, which generate the most carbon dioxide, or compel utilities to switch from fossil fuels to wind, solar and other clean sources.
The EPA still plans to issue tougher regulations to control methane, a potent greenhouse gas that leaks from oil and gas wells. And it plans stricter limits on other types of pollution generated by power plants, such as mercury, smog and soot. The idea is that cracking down on those pollutants could force electric utilities to clean up or shut down the dirtiest facilities, such as coal-burning power plants, which produce more carbon dioxide than gas-fired plants.
“Those air pollution rules will have co-benefits — as they are being enforced, they will squeeze out some CO2 pollution,” said Leah Stokes, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Santa Barbara, California, who has advised congressional Democrats on climate legislation. “It wouldn’t be the same amount. Every time we take a tool off the table we’re in a worse position.”
Meanwhile, the private sector has already been shifting away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources.
Electric vehicle sales have doubled over the past year, making up about 5% of new vehicle sales in the United States in the first quarter of 2022, compared with about 2.5% in the first quarter of 2021. General Motors has pledged to stop producing gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, with other carmakers setting similar goals. Ford Motor is producing an electric version of the F-150 pickup truck, the country’s best-selling vehicle, and has taken customer reservations for more than 200,000 of them.
With the cost of solar and wind energy dropping below the price of coal and natural gas in many parts of the United States, renewable sources of electricity now make up 20% of the nation’s energy mix, up from 15% a decade ago.
But the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, combined with the war in Ukraine and the related ban on Russian oil have scrambled global energy supplies, and prompted Biden to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and urge producers to pump more oil, at least in the short term. Clean energy producers in the United States also face significant obstacles from an outdated electricity transmission system.
And the private sector is not moving quickly enough to cut emissions to the level that scientists say is needed to avert climate catastrophe. Biden wants half of new cars sold in the United States to be electric by 2030, and all electricity to come from wind, solar and other zero-carbon sources by 2035.
“We do see a powerful trend emerging in the private sector both driven by consumers who are demanding cleaner options, that is driving a shift in our energy mix, and toward electric vehicles, but that pace of change is really not sufficient to meet the long-term targets,” said Sasha Mackler, an energy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington research organization. “For that, you still need policy. The administration doesn’t have the right tools to get us all there. Success in the time that we need it, according to the scientific community — that requires Congress.”
Congress in the coming weeks could still pass a scaled-back version of the spending bill that has been stalled on Capitol Hill for months. A version of the bill that passed the House last year includes $300 billion in clean energy tax incentives for producers and purchasers of clean electricity and electric vehicles.
But its current status is uncertain: Manchin blocked the larger spending bill that includes the tax credits last December, although he has recently restarted talks with the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about the prospects for a less ambitious version. Under Senate rules, that bill must be passed by Sept. 30. The Senate is in recess through the second week of July, and will break again for the month of August, leaving Democrats limited time to reach agreement on a package that has eluded consensus for the past year.
Democrats say the Supreme Court decision lends urgency to the push to pass that bill. Schumer said the decision will “put American lives at risk, making it all the more imperative that Democrats soon pass meaningful legislation to address the climate crisis.”
Stalled action on the federal level puts a spotlight on dozens of states that are moving ahead with their own climate plans. “If the state actions are put on steroids as the federal government realizes its impotence, the effects of that will be significant,” Victor said.
Just under half the states have already enacted significant climate policies. Their leader is California, which in the coming weeks is expected to finalize a first-in-the-nation regulation requiring that all new cars sold in the state must be electric or zero-emission by 2035. Seventeen other states are in line to adopt the same rule when it passes in Sacramento.
California also requires that 100% of its electricity be generated from zero-carbon sources by 2045. Twenty-one other states have some version of that clean electricity standard, and several are advancing legislation for even more stringent versions.
“Today’s ruling makes it even more imperative that California and other states succeed in our efforts to combat the climate crisis,” said Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California. “While the court has once again turned back the clock, California refuses to go backward — we’re just getting started.”
But those state-level tools are also in the sights of many of the same Republican attorneys general who brought the power plant case to the Supreme Court. They have already filed a suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — considered the second-most powerful court in the country — seeking to block state authority to mandate a transition to all- electric vehicle sales. Oral arguments have yet to be scheduled.
“It’s a knife fight,” said Stokes. “We have to fight with every single tool we have on every level and it’s going to get harder.”
In that last instance, Thomas didn’t write the majority opinion but he did pen an inflammatory concurrence inviting challenges to the rights to same-sex marriage and contraception, but notably not interracial marriage, something that’s obviously very dear to his heart.
Then Thomas hit us all with a “hold my beer”, squeezing a reference to the debunked conspiracy theory that Covid-19 vaccines are made of cells from aborted fetuses into his dissent in the Court’s decision to decline a challenge to New York’s vaccine mandate for medical workers.
A group of healthcare workers sued to challenge the mandate, arguing they should be allowed to continue working, unvaccinated, in medical settings, during a pandemic, under a religious exception. Lower courts kicked their challenge to the curb but they appealed to the Supreme Court, where a 6-3 majority, including three Conservative justices, agreed that the case wouldn’t be heard.
Thomas, joined by fellow conservatives Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, went in his bag, writing that the Court should have taken the opportunity to sort out whether or not a religious exemption should have been granted. He noted that there was a “broad exception” to the mandate—that exception being that you didn’t need a vaccine if it might endanger your life—but noted that the plaintiffs’ argued there was no such consideration for their religious beliefs.
What, exactly, were those beliefs that should make them exempt from vaccination? “They object on religious grounds to all available COVID–19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children.”
Pfizer and Moderna used fetal cell lines early in their Covid vaccine development to test the efficacy of their formulas, as other vaccines have in the past. The fetal tissue used in these processes came from elective abortions that happened decades ago. But the cells have since replicated many times, so none of the original tissue is involved in the making of modern vaccines.
So it is not true that Covid vaccines are manufactured using fetal cell lines, nor do they contain any aborted cells.
The good thing is the Supreme Court’s term ended yesterday and given his history of sitting on the bench for years without saying anything, it’ll probably be awhile before we hear from Clarence Thomas again.
Mark Meadows’ associate threatened ex-White House aide before her testimony
Hugo Lowell in D.C. and Martin Pengelly in New York – July 1, 2022
The former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson received at least one message tacitly warning her not to cooperate with the House January 6 select committee from an associate of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The message in question was the second of two warnings the committee disclosed at the end of its explosive special hearing on Tuesday, when Hutchinson testified about matters including how Donald Trump directed a crowd he knew was armed to march on the Capitol, the sources said.
“[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know that he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal, and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition,” the message read. The redaction was “Meadows”, the sources said.
The message was presented in closing remarks at the special hearing by the committee vice-chair, Liz Cheney, who characterized the missive as improper pressure on a crucial witness that could constitute illegal witness tampering or intimidation.
On Wednesday, another committee member, the California Democrat Pete Aguilar told CNN he believed the messages constituted witness tampering, adding: “I think that that’s something that should be looked at by our committee and potentially by the Department of Justice.”
The identity of the person who sent Hutchinson the message – beyond the fact they were an associate of Meadows – could not be confirmed. That may be in part because the committee may wish to interview that person, the sources said.
That appears to indicate that the person who sent the message was a close associate of the former White House chief of staff and may be a fact witness to what Trump and Meadows were doing and thinking before and during the Capitol attack.
Neither a spokesman for Meadows nor Hutchinson responded to a request for comment.
The other message disclosed by the committee was also directed at Hutchinson, the sources said. The quote displayed was from one of several calls from Trump allies that Hutchinson described to House investigators.
“What they said to me is, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in the good graces in Trump World,” the slide read.
“And they reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts and just to keep that in mind as I proceeded through my depositions and interviews with the committee.”
The identity of the people who called Hutchinson, presumably warning her not to implicate the former president, could not be established beyond the fact they were close to Trump. The committee is understood to be aware of all of the people.
Politico, which first reported that the message came from a Meadows associate, also said it came before Hutchinson’s second interview with the committee. Hutchinson changed lawyers before a fourth deposition that preceded her public testimony.
Since that testimony, given in answer to questions from Cheney, the deputy chair has taken her message of defiance to Trump to other stages.
On Thursday, she participated in a primary debate in Sheridan, Wyoming.
Pointing to testimony presented by the January 6 committee, Cheney said: “It is not true that there was sufficient fraud to change the results of the 2020 election. The president’s own attorney general has said that, the president’s own deputy attorney general has said that and … President Trump’s campaign manager said that; President Trump’s White House counsel said that; President Trump’s own family said that.”
She added: “We are now embracing a cult of personality. I won’t be part of that, and I will always stand for my oath and stand for the truth.”
After every county election official in the state – both Republican and Democrat – certified the results as good and true, as did a Republican governor and a Republican attorney general …
After then-President Donald Trump’s own attorney general said there was no credible evidence of widespread fraud …
After millions of dollars wasted and 18 months of searching turned up no proof of any widespread conspiracy …
… three of Arizona’s four Republicans running for governor believe the election was stolen.
If Kari Lake loses, 2022 is fraudulent, too?
Only Karrin Taylor Robson hasn’t taken the swan dive of delusion down that rabbit hole, though she’s quick to assure Republican voters that she doesn’t believe the election was fair.
But she, at least, stopped short of crying “Fraud!” given the complete and total absence of any credible evidence.
Meanwhile, Kari Lake continues to spout utter nonsense about hundreds of thousands of conspiracy-laced ballots that resulted in a “corrupt” election and an “illegitimate president”. She even suggested that she might not accept the results of the Aug. 2 primary unless she’s the winner.
“We have a movement. Our campaign is a movement,” she said, when asked whether she would accept the results of the primary election. “We’re going to show up in droves. They are going to have to cheat even harder to win it.”
So there you have it. If Kari Lake loses, the election must be fraudulent. (Haven’t we seen this movie before?)
And scariest part?
Kari Lake may just win this thing.
No proof that voters returned to their senses
I’d say our beloved state is in a state of temporary insanity except 18 months of psychosis is hardly temporary and there’s no evidence that a good chunk of this state’s voters are returning to their senses.
Election deniers are leading in the polls for the state’s three top jobs: Blake Masters (Senate); Mark Finchem (secretary of state) and Lake (governor). This, as early ballots for the Aug. 2 primary hit mailboxes next week.
Unless the non-deluded wing of the Republican Party prevails over the next month or Democrats somehow pull off a miracle in November, this swing state could well be about to careen from temporary insanity into full-blown, flat-out crazy.
As bellwethers go, this one should be clanging loudly all across the land.
Hutchinson’s testimony raises fresh questions about Secret Service’s handling of Jan. 6
Lucien Bruggeman and Josh Margolin – June 30, 2022
A former White House aide’s stunning testimony before the House panel investigating the Capitol attack indicated that the U.S. Secret Service may have had advanced warning of the potential for violence at the Capitol, raising new questions about the agency’s planning ahead of the riot and actions taken by agents on Jan. 6.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a top deputy to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, told lawmakers on Tuesday that the security team guarding then-President Donald Trump and senior White House officials were aware there was a serious threat posed by some descending on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, when Trump was planning to address a rally to support his baseless accusations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
In Hutchinson’s telling, the agency famous for its teams of bodyguards, sharpshooters and hyper-skilled drivers was aware that among the throngs headed to Washington were some who were planning to carry a variety of weapons and military gear, and were seeking to target members of Congress and breach the Capitol building.
If so, the Secret Service apparently failed to coordinate effectively with law enforcement partners, the public, or congressional leaders to strengthen the security posture — and instead ferried a number of people under their protection to the Capitol complex with little more than their personal security details.
The Secret Service declined to answer questions from ABC News.
If true, the lapse in security — laid out on national television during a committee session Tuesday — represents perhaps the most glaring evidence to date that the Secret Service, responsible for guarding key political figures and their families, failed at its most basic responsibilities in how it dealt with Trump’s rally and the meetings of the House and Senate on Jan. 6, according to John Cohen, a former ranking Department of Homeland Security official who is now an ABC News contributor.
“It appears that senior officials at the White House were not only aware of plans to march on the U.S. Capitol, but also appeared to be planning for the president to join,” Cohen said, citing another of Hutchinson’s allegations. “This testimony raises highly disconcerting questions about what the Secret Service knew about this event and why more wasn’t done to prepare.”
Notoriously tight-lipped about their job and how they do it, the Secret Service is under renewed focus this week after Hutchison, 26, alleged shocking new details about the president’s interactions with his security agents on Jan. 6 and how they were so concerned about possible violence at the Capitol that they refused Trump’s directive to drive him there.
“The president said something to the effect of, ‘I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now’ — to which Bobby [Engel, the head of Trump’s security detail], responded, ‘Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing,'” Hutchinson testified she was told by Tony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official who was at the time White House deputy chief of staff for operations.
Trump, responding to Hutchinson’s testimony, said, “I hardly know who this person, Cassidy Hutchinson, is, other than I heard very negative things about her (a total phony and ‘leaker’).”
Hutchinson also testified that in the days leading up to Jan. 6, Meadows at one point said, “Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.”
And on the morning of Trump’s planned speech at the Ellipse, just south of the White House grounds, Hutchinson said, Trump was made aware of individuals with weapons seeking to attend his rally and that many of them declined to pass through security checkpoints because they would have needed to surrender their weapons. Frustrated that those requirements were suppressing the size of the crowd, Trump suggested that the metal detectors be removed, Hutchinson testified.
Cohen said that, as concerned as he was about those developments, he was most troubled by the picture Hutchinson’s testimony painted of possible failures on the part of the Secret Service, an agency Cohen has worked closely with since it was folded in to DHS after the 9/11 terror attacks.
“Hutchinson’s testimony raises serious questions regarding security planning by the Secret Service on Jan 6. that will need to be answered,” Cohen said. “Did the Service leadership have advanced notice of the planned march on the Capitol? Did they have advanced notice of the president’s intent to join the crowd?”
Hutchinson said that Ornato, whom she described as “the conduit for security protocol between White House staff and the United States Secret Service,” was aware of possible violence planned for Jan. 6 in the preceding days — and alerted Meadows and Trump on the morning of Jan. 6.
Even with this information allegedly circulating among senior White House staff, the Secret Service ferried at least three of its protectees to travel to the Capitol — Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, who was still a senator from California — without supplementing their details with additional agents or coordinating with other agencies to shore up protection.
Ornato, a longtime Secret Service employee, currently serves as a senior official in the agency’s training branch. The Jan. 6 committee has expressed interest in interviewing him, and the Secret Service has said he is available to testify under oath, but did not provide further details.
Law enforcement officials have broadly characterized Jan. 6 as an intelligence failure, claiming that Washington’s myriad of law enforcement agencies did not fully grasp the threat landscape — despite warnings that appeared on social media in the weeks leading up the rally.
Secret Service officials have also said that local officials did not ask DHS to establish a special national security designation for the Jan. 6 sessions of Congress, so their hands were tied — though Cohen said DHS and the Secret Service don’t have to wait for local officials to reach out if they are aware of active threats.
Hutchinson’s testimony indicated that the Secret Service either had advanced warning of the threats and failed to notify others and formulate an appropriate response plan — or they were misled by White House officials who had a clearer understanding of the potential for violence and neglected to alert the appropriate agencies, Cohen said.
“These security lapses may not have been a result of incompetence, but instead due to deliberate actions taken by senior White House officials,” Cohen said. “If this information was not provided to the Secret Service, or if it was and the Secret Service failed to expand security operations, that would be highly disconcerting.”
Don Mihalek, a former senior Secret Service agent who is now an ABC News contributor, said the “interplay of information” among senior White House staff and protective agents about possible threats happens regularly — but that agents cannot prevent a protectee from doing their job, except in the rare instance of a specific and credible threat.
Mihalek said he believes the breakdown in coordination between agencies handicapped the Secret Service’s planning and response as protesters marched on the Capitol building. He defended agents’ decision to allow Pence, his wife, and Harris travel freely to the Capitol, despite possibly knowing the risk in advance.
“Nobody has a crystal ball,” Mihalek said. “There’s always a threat environment, and the Secret Service’s job is to mitigate threats as much as possible — and they don’t have the authority to override a protectee’s movement, outside of citing a credible and specific threat.”
In the wake of her appearance on Capitol Hill, Hutchinson has faced a deluge of criticism from Trump associates and supporters who have questioned her credibility. Republican Rep. Liz Cheney told “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl in an exclusive interview that she has full faith and confidence in Hutchinson’s word.
“I am absolutely confident in her testimony,” Cheney told Karl in a wide-ranging interview set to air in full on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” this Sunday. “The Committee is not going to stand by and watch her character be assassinated by anonymous sources, and by men who are claiming executive privilege.”
The campaign to discredit Cassidy Hutchinson has begun
Nolan D. McCaskill, Freddy Brewster – June 29, 2022
In the hours after Cassidy Hutchinson delivered bombshell testimony to the Jan. 6 committee Tuesday, former President Trump and his allies rushed to attack the former White House staffer.
Hutchinson, who served as an aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, told the panel that Trump was aware that some of his supporters were armed when he urged them to march to the Capitol. She also testified that Anthony Ornato, then the deputy White House chief of staff, told her the president was so “irate” that the Secret Service would not drive him to the Capitol that he reached for the steering wheel and lunged at an agent.
Trump and his allies have seized on media reports of unnamed Secret Service sources rejecting those statements to paint Hutchinson’s sworn testimony as unreliable. So far, though, none of the people who have disputed Hutchinson’s story have done so under oath.
Now members of the Jan. 6 committee, Hutchinson’s lawyer and several of Hutchinson’s former Trump administration colleagues are challenging her critics to follow the 25-year-old’s lead and testify before Congress under penalty of perjury.
“The lies and fabricated stories being told to the partisan Highly Unselect Committee, not only by the phony social climber who got caught yesterday, but by many others, are a disgrace to our, in serious decline, Nation,” Trump wrote Wednesday morning on his social media platform, Truth Social.
“No cross examination, no real Republicans, no lawyers, NO NOTHING. Fake stories and an all Fake Narrative being produced, with ZERO pushback allowed. Unselects should be forced to disband. WITCH HUNT!”
An anonymous Secret Service official told CNN that Ornato denies telling Hutchinson that Trump grabbed the steering wheel or an agent.
“The agents are prepared to say under oath that the incident itself did not occur,” the official told the network. CNN’s anonymous source did not dispute that Trump was furious that he was not being driven to the Capitol.
Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Secret Service, would not confirm the CNN report to The Times, saying only that the federal law enforcement agency “has been cooperating fully with the select committee since its inception in spring of 2021 and we will continue to do so including by responding formally and on the record to the committee regarding new allegations that surfaced in [Tuesday’s] testimony.”
Trump’s backers have also spread inaccurate claims about the plausibility of the steering wheel story. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) retweeted a graphic of the “Beast,” the presidential limousine, which appeared to illustrate how passengers are separated from the driver.
“Cassidy Hutchinson lied and the @January6thCmte held a special hearing [Tuesday] to broadcast her lies,” Greene wrote. “In ’23, every single one of them need to be held accountable for what they are putting Pres Trump, his admin, & Republicans through on the people’s dime. Enough of this.”
Trump was actually transported in an SUV, not the Beast, on the morning of Jan. 6, a video played by the committee shows.
Jody Hunt, a former assistant attorney general under Trump who’s now working as Hutchinson’s legal counsel, called on others with knowledge of her testimony to come forward and testify under oath. “Ms. Hutchinson testified, under oath, and recounted what she was told,” Hunt tweeted. “Those with knowledge of the episode also should testify under oath.”
Other Trump White House officials who leaped to Hutchinson’s defense also challenged her critics to come testify under oath. Alyssa Farah Griffin, former Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary and White House strategic communications director, described Hutchinson as a “friend.”
“To anyone who would try to impugn her character, I’d be glad to put you in touch w/ @January6thCmte to appear UNDER OATH,” she said, highlighting the fact that skeptics of Hutchinson’s testimony have been able to dispute it publicly without penalty of perjury.
“Anyone downplaying Cassidy Hutchinson’s role or her access in the West Wing either doesn’t understand how the Trump WH worked or is attempting to discredit her because they’re scared of how damning this testimony is,” added Sarah Matthews, a former deputy press secretary.
“For those complaining of ‘hearsay,’ I imagine the Jan. 6 committee would welcome any of those involved to deny these allegations under oath.”
Former acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Meadows, Ornato and Robert Engel, the head of Trump’s Secret Service detail and the agent Trump reportedly lunged toward, should be prepared to testify as well.
“This is explosive stuff,” Mulvaney tweeted. “If Cassidy is making this up, they will need to say that. If she isn’t they will have to corroborate. I know her. I don’t think she is lying.”
Committee members also stood by Hutchinson.
“I found Cassidy Hutchinson to be a thoroughly credible witness, telling us what she saw, what she heard,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) told MSNBC. “She was very careful to differentiate when she was a participant in the conversation or actions were related to her by others.”
“Cassidy Hutchinson is one of the most brave and honorable people I know,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) wrote in one tweet. He added in another: “Watching the desperation of Trump world to discredit the brave Cassidy Hutchinson reminds me of…. Everything trump does when he is busted and cornered.”
Kinzinger says Hutchinson has ‘more courage than most in GOP’
Mychael Schnell – June 30, 2022
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Thursday said former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who testified before the House Jan. 6 select committee this week, has “more courage than most” in the Republican Party.
Hutchinson, who previously worked as a special assistant to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, appeared before the Jan. 6 panel on Tuesday, where she answered questions under oath about what went on in the White House before, during and after the Capitol riot.
Hutchinson’s public testimony was a surprise — the committee announced the hearing 24 hours before it was slated to begin, after panel members said presentations would be put on pause until July. Before her public testimony on Tuesday, Hutchinson spoke to select committee investigators behind closed doors four times.
Kinzinger, one of the two Republican lawmakers serving on the committee, called Hutchinson, now 26, a “hero” and “a real patriot.”
“I want to again say, Cassidy Hutchinson is a hero and a real patriot (not a faux ‘patriot’ that hates America so much they would attempt a coup.),” Kinzinger wrote on Twitter Thursday.
“Of course they will try to bully and intimidate her. But she isn’t intimidated. More courage than most in GOP,” he added.
During an appearance on CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Wednesday night, Kinzinger, a frequent critic of his GOP colleagues and the Republican Party, said Hutchinson was “showing far more courage than her boss, and showing far more courage than 99.8 percent of Republican members of Congress, or 100.”
Among the shocking revelations Hutchinson delivered during her public hearing was that Trump allegedly knew the crowd at his Ellipse speech was armed, but did not care because they were “not here to hurt me,” the ex-aide recalled the then-president saying. Trump, knowing the crowd had weapons, still directed his supporters to march to the Capitol, she said.
The ex-aide said Robert Engel, the head of Trump’s security detail, grabbed the president’s arm and instructed him to take his hand off the steering wheel.
“Trump then used his free hand to lunge at Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson told the committee.
Hutchinson said she learned of the incident from Tony Ornato, then deputy White House chief of staff. She also said Engel was in the room when Ornato was telling the story, and noted that the head of security did not refute any details.
Additionally, multiple outlets are now reporting that Ornato first heard of the alleged incident during the hearing, and that Engel and the driver of the vehicle are prepared to testify that Trump did not physically attack or assault them, or lunge at the steering wheel.
But Hutchinson is standing by her testimony, and lawmakers on the select committee are emphasizing her credibility.
A number of Republican figures have testified before the Jan. 6 select committee in both public and private settings, including Hutchinson, Arizona state House Speaker Rusty Bowers, former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and members of the Trump family.
Others, however, have stonewalled the committee. Former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro and former Trump White House strategist Stephen Bannon have both been indicted for contempt of Congress after they defied subpoenas from the panel.
The committee made its latest bid for cooperation on Wednesday, when it subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. He previously met with committee investigators in April, but did not participate in a formal recorded deposition.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Cheney said they were interested in hearing from Cipollone after their investigation “revealed evidence that Mr. Cipollone repeatedly raised legal and other concerns about President Trump’s activities on Jan. 6 and in the days that preceded.”
“While the Select Committee appreciates Mr. Cipollone’s earlier informal engagement with our investigation, the committee needs to hear from him on the record, as other former White House counsels have done in other congressional investigations,” they added.