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Joe Biden is president, but Rand Paul still won’t admit the election wasn’t stolen 
Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the virtual Republican National Convention in August 2020. | Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee/Getty Images “Can’t you just say the words, ‘This election was not stolen?’” Four days after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, Sen. Rand Paul found himself unable to admit that the election that sent Biden to the White House was legitimate. In a Sunday morning appearance on ABC’s This Week, the Kentucky senator, who has repeatedly affirmed former President Donald Trump’s discredited claims of fraud in the Nov. 3 election, declined to say that that election was not stolen. “The debate over ‘whether or not there was fraud’ should occur,” Paul said. “We never had any presentation in court where we actually looked at the evidence. Most of the cases were thrown out for lack of standing, which is a procedural way of not actually hearing the question.” Pressed repeatedly by @GStephanopoulos, Sen. Rand Paul won’t say the 2020 election wasn’t stolen, calls for investigation of fraud, but doesn’t provide evidence.GS: “There are not two sides to this story. This has been looked at in every single state.” https://t.co/P6iz1jjwYE pic.twitter.com/GeWSYe0Bs0— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 24, 2021 In fact, while some of the Trump campaign’s several dozen lawsuits in battleground states were dismissed or voluntarily withdrawn, many were heard and found to have no merit, a fact that host George Stephanopoulos raised in response. “After investigations, counts and recounts, the Department of Justice, led by William Barr, said there’s no widespread evidence of fraud,” Stephanopoulos said, referring to the former Attorney General, who had been a staunch ally of Trump’s until he publicly stated that there was no evidence of widespread fraud. As Vox’s Ian Millhiser explained, “Trump’s post-election lawsuits failed for a variety of interlocking reasons,” but one of them was simply that “Trump and his allies just didn’t have very good legal arguments”: In some cases, they brought penny-ante claims that couldn’t have changed the result of the election even if they prevailed. In others, they made factual claims that relied entirely on speculation — or even relied on conspiracy theories incubated on social media. In some cases, Trump or his allies made legal arguments that were the exact opposite of the arguments they made in other cases. There are no good legal arguments that could have justified tossing out the election results, and the clownishness of Trump’s legal strategy only drew attention to the weakness of his claims. Stephanopoulos kept pressing Paul: “Can’t you just say the words, ‘This election was not stolen?’” The senator declined to do so, instead pointing to polling that shows that a majority of Republicans do not trust the election’s outcome. That mistrust is due to a host of factors, not least of which includes baseless assertions, repeated over and over, by lawmakers and other prominent conservatives that fraud took place. Trump himself led this effort, repeating these claims so often that, after a rally dedicated to this theme on Jan. 6, his supporters tried to violently stop the certification of the election results by storming the U.S. Capitol, in an attempted insurrection that ended with five deaths. Nevertheless, after dozens of court cases, tense “Stop the Steal” rallies, and violence at the seat of the US government, Paul has pledged to spend his remaining two years in office fighting against alleged voter fraud. He said as much on Twitter, following the TV appearance in which he refused to grant legitimacy to the same election process that has propelled him into power twice.
vox.com
Did the New York Times fire an editor over a tweet? The Lauren Wolfe controversy, explained
Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images An editor for the New York Times tweeted that she had “chills” watching Joe Biden’s plane land. On Tuesday, January 19, Lauren Wolfe, an editor working at the New York Times, tweeted that she had “chills” watching President-elect Joe Biden’s plane land outside Washington, DC. Some 36 hours and a concerted campaign against the tweet later, Wolfe was no longer working for the paper of record. Her friends and several other journalists allege that this is because of said tweet. Other members of the media have come to Wolfe’s defense, saying that this could open a door for journalists to be targeted with the threat of unemployment based on perceived or overblown offenses. The Times disputes the narrative around Wolfe’s employment, saying in a statement that the paper didn’t “end someone’s employment over a single tweet.” 1. Some news...Lauren Wolfe, who was an editor on contract for the NYT, has had her contract canceled after she tweeted what's on the left.Wolfe also tweeted what's on the right, but deleted when she learned Biden chose to take his own plane.Per two sources. pic.twitter.com/uaB0INZ1q8— Yashar Ali (@yashar) January 22, 2021 Whatever happened between the paper and Wolfe, the response to her social media post has become the latest flashpoint in an ongoing conversation about how media organizations apply ethical and objectivity standards, and how they should respond to attacks on reporters in a post-Trump era. That question was pertinent during the administration of former-President Donald Trump, of course. He regularly sowed mistrust in credible media sources, referring to the press as “the enemy of the people,” and directed vitriol from his supporters at journalists covering his rallies and other events. But even with him out of office, his loyal base remains intent on making known their dissatisfaction with perceived liberal bias in the media, and prominent news organizations are left having to respond to well-orchestrated targeting of the press. The fallout also points to the lack of labor protections facing many American workers, including those in so-called prestige fields like journalism, and has also led some to point out disparities between Wolfe’s alleged circumstances and how the Times has responded to other reporters in their employ who have been accused of wrongdoing. The controversy over Lauren Wolfe’s possibly tweet-related firing, explained Here’s what we know: Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor whose work has largely focused on women’s rights and sexual violence. She had worked with organizations and outlets like the Committee to Protect Journalists and Foreign Policy. In partnership with the nonprofit Women’s Media Center (WMC), she directed Women Under Siege, which documented and mapped instances of sexual violence during conflicts, including the Syrian civil war. A story of hers about war crimes in eastern Congo is credited with leading to the perpetrators’ arrests. More recently, she was editing the Live section of the Times, primarily working with breaking news, according to the journalist Yashar Ali. However, a Times spokesperson told Vox that Wolfe was not working there full-time, and did not have a contract. On Tuesday afternoon, the day before Biden’s inauguration, Wolfe tweeted out a photo of his airplane landing at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, DC. “I have chills,” she wrote. (She’s since deleted the tweet). She also called the administration of former President Donald Trump “childish” for not sending a plane to bring in the new administration. According to Ali, she deleted that post after learning that Biden had chosen to use his own plane. The journalist Glenn Greenwald, a prominent warrior against so-called “cancel culture,” responded by screenshotting and criticizing the sentiment. If you're in the national press and will be on TV at any point today and being to feel the need to weep joyously, just hold it in until you find a private place. Nobody is expecting any adversarial coverage over the next 4 years, but it's just a matter of personal dignity. pic.twitter.com/FNKcFRPF56— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 20, 2021 Critics began flooding the Twittersphere with criticism of Wolfe and allegations of wider-spread anti-conservative bias among journalists. Ali reported on Thursday, Jan. 21, that according to two unnamed sources, Wolfe had lost her work at the Times following a concerted campaign against both her and the Times. In a statement, Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha disputed that version of events. “There’s a lot of inaccurate information circulating on Twitter. For privacy reasons we don’t get into the details of personnel matters but we can say that we didn’t end someone’s employment over a single tweet. Out of respect for the individuals involved we don’t plan to comment further,” Rhoades Ha wrote. She added that Wolfe was not, as Ali had written, on contract, but declined to respond to a follow-up query about the exact nature of Wolfe’s employment at the Times. The online campaign against Wolfe also included severe harassment against Wolfe personally. On Twitter, Wolfe has shared examples of some of the online harassment she had received, much of which used obscene, misogynistic and homophobic language. Wolfe did not respond to Vox’s requests for comment. She has not publicly commented on her separation from the Times. Throughout the day on Sunday, she retweeted other journalists’ messages of support, some of which say she was fired over the tweet, before shuttering her account. The account was offline as of Sunday afternoon. In a lengthy tweet thread, Wolfe’s friend, Josh Shahryar, said that Wolfe has been stalked outside her home and received death threats. Shahryar also said that Wolfe’s sentiment had not been about Biden specifically, but rather about the successful transition of power just two weeks after a mob of Trump supporters had stormed the U.S Capitol in an attempt to halt the certification of the election. But on Twitter, Wolfe also defended the Times, saying that people should not cancel their subscriptions in response to the incident: Hi all. I truly appreciate everyone’s support but I need to ask you a favor: PLEASE don’t unsubscribe from @nytimes. I have loved this paper and its mission my whole life. Their journalism is some of the most important & best in the world, & they need to be read widely. Thank you— Lauren Wolfe (@Wolfe321) January 24, 2021 On Twitter, a #RehireLauren hashtag began trending, as other big names in journalism and elsewhere, including W. Kamau Bell, Alyssa Milano, and MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, came to Wolfe’s defense. Felicia Sonmez, a national political reporter at the Washington Post who’s had her own brush with her paper’s management over tweets, said that capitulating to online campaigns against reporters would “put ALL journalists at risk.” NYT should not have fired Lauren @Wolfe321, especially when other journos at the paper have done far worse recently and kept their jobs.Knee-jerk firings in response to online harassment campaigns only further embolden harassers — and put ALL journalists at risk. https://t.co/GB6O1VMMQo— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) January 24, 2021 And Jeremy Scahill, Greenwald’s former colleague at the Intercept, pointed out that other journalists have publicly expressed personal reactions to political moments without incident: I think it’s absurd and wrong that the NYT fired Lauren Wolfe. Also, does anyone remember how MSNBC’s Chris Matthews literally cried over an Obama speech, compared him to Jesus and said he “felt this thrill going up my leg” when Obama spoke? https://t.co/ZA6iZ6892t— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) January 24, 2021 It’s not clear what, exactly, happened between Wolfe and the Times, or why her employment ended. But it’s far from the first time a journalist (particularly a woman) has faced online harassment over a story or a tweet, and far from the last time a news outlet’s handling of it will be subject to scrutiny. Journalists deserve scrutiny — but scrutiny increasingly means online harassment This incident has shined a spotlight on a question facing media companies as they transition from a White House that was openly antagonistic towards the press to one with a more traditional relationship with journalists. News outlets are sensitive to accusations that they will not hold the Biden administration as accountable as they did the Trump administration. While Wolfe’s sentiment was relatively benign, some reporters covering Wednesday’s inauguration festivities did fawn over the incoming administration, heralding it as a supposed “return to normalcy.” But targeting a journalist for apparent bias by challenging their employment has become a depressingly successful mob tactic, at a time when reporters face routine threats, both online and in real life. The sociologist Katherine Cross, who studies online harassment, compared this strategy used to target Wolfe with harassment campaigns waged during the height of #GamerGate: Wolfe, who was fired from the NYT for a tweet where she said she had "chills" after Biden landed in DC ahead of the inauguration, is the latest victim of a playbook perfected by the likes of GamerGate and similar harassment campaigns. https://t.co/cVP3psguiG— Katherine Cross (@Quinnae_Moon) January 24, 2021 While we do not know the exact reasoning behind Wolfe’s loss of employment, this episode raises questions about the Times’ personnel decisions, and specifically whether it applies a uniform standard to all of its employees. Just weeks ago, the newspaper weathered a significant crisis after its award-winning podcast, Caliphate, was found to contain substantial inaccuracies. The newspaper retracted the core of that show, and returned a Peabody Award that the show had won. In spite of the fact that the main character of that show was discredited, the journalist behind the project, Rukmini Callimachi, remains at the newspaper, although she was reassigned. Her partner on the project, producer Andy Mills, was not publicly disciplined for his part in that scandal. But Mills has been subject to numerous allegations of mistreating women, a fact that his former employers at the WNYC program Radiolab have acknowledged, but the Times has not. Elsewhere in the Grey Lady newsroom, the reporter Glenn Thrush was suspended after Vox first reported allegations of predatory behavior towards young reporters. Although he no longer covers the White House, Thrush remains employed at the Times. Moreover, while the exact nature of Wolfe’s relationship to the Times is unclear, the termination of it underscores the shaky system of labor protections facing most American workers — even those in prominent or prestigious positions. Shahryar, Wolfe’s friend, said that this loss of income will immediately harm Wolfe and her longtime pet, a rescue dog. Wolfe has the benefit of famous friends and allies, and a story tied to a compelling and emotional public moment. While her friends have so far said they will not fundraise on her behalf, her Venmo account has been made public, and editors at other publications have publicly Tweeted at her with offers of work. That kind of crowdsourced safety net is not available to most American workers, who also do not have much of a social safety net outside of their employment. And in a country governed by at-will employment laws, and in the midst of a pandemic that has seen tens of millions of Americans out of work, Wolfe’s predicament is taking place across the country – just outside of the public eye.
vox.com
The Arizona GOP censures 3 prominent members for not sufficiently supporting Trump
Gov. Doug Ducey spoke at a Make America Great Again campaign rally for then-President Donald Trump in October. Several months later, his own party censured him over some of his positions that didn’t align with the president’s. As the state grows increasingly blue, the Arizona Republican Party is tacking to the right. On Saturday, the Arizona Republican Party decided to censure several of its members. Those members were not the state’s four US House lawmakers who voted to overturn Joe Biden’s victory — a victory a majority of their state voted for. Instead, the state party, led by hardline supporters of former President Donald Trump, censured three of its most prominent members — former Sen. Jeff Flake; Cindy McCain, the widow of former Senator John McCain; and Gov. Doug Ducey — effectively for not following that hard line. Flake, McCain and Ducey were subject to individual resolutions condemning their vocal critiques of Trump. Ducey was also condemned for closing businesses in an attempt to stave off the spread of coronavirus in the state, and for not supporting efforts to overthrow the state’s results in the Nov. 3 presidential race. The measures, taken during a seven hour-long party meeting, are largely symbolic, but demonstrate a rift between the more moderate faction of the state GOP and its members further to the right, with support for Trump serving as the key metric. Arizona was subject to some of the most contentious of the Trump campaign’s legal challenges to the outcome of the November election. Eight statewide lawsuits challenging now-President Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state were dropped or dismissed. And Republican U.S. lawmakers were in the process of contesting Arizona’s electoral college certification on Wednesday, Jan. 6, when a frenzied mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to violently overturn those same results. Biden was the first Democrat in more than 20 years to carry Arizona. The state’s two Senate seats flipped from Republican to Democrat in the last three years as well. Arizona Republicans have had a disappointing few years in national elections, and this divide over aligning with Trump indicates a broader divide within the national Republican party. Lawmakers are left with a choice of continuing to support Trump, with hopes of benefiting from his strong base, or trying to purge him and the vestiges of his leadership from their platform. McCain, Flake, and Ducey represent one wing of the Arizona GOP. Kelli Ward represents another. McCain and Flake have received criticism in the past from their party fellows for being lukewarm on Trump. While still in office, Flake frequently criticized Trump, even while he continued to support many elements of his agenda. Facing a significant primary challenge as a result of his criticisms, he declined to run for reelection in 2018. That seat was won by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. And McCain’s late husband and Trump had clashed in the senator’s later years. Trump famously criticized John McCain’s military service, mocking the time he had spent as a prisoner of war, and the senator cast a decisive vote against Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare. Cindy McCain has since thrown her weight behind opponents of Trump, and is a supporter of same-sex marriage. Flake and McCain also both endorsed Biden’s presidential campaign. On Twitter, McCain called her rebuke a “badge of honor.” It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well...and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP. I’ll wear this as a badge of honor.— Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) January 24, 2021 And Flake posted a photograph of himself, McCain and Ducey at Biden’s inauguration, calling them “good company.” Good company pic.twitter.com/1pdgVGE5Ps— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) January 24, 2021 Meanwhile, Ducey’s censuring stems from his efforts to restrict the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in his state, as well as his defense of the state’s electoral processes, even as he vocally endorsed Trump. There have been about 718,000 cases of Covid-19 in Arizona to date, and more than 12,000 Arizonans have died from the virus. Alongside the censures, Saturday’s meeting indicates that the Arizona G.O.P. is, as a body, establishing a far-right platform. In addition to censuring three prominent members with more moderate politics, the party also reelected Kelli Ward as state party chair. Ward is a hardline Trump loyalist who campaigned for Flake’s vacant US Senate position in 2018 alongside Mike Cernovich, a propagator of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Though she didn’t win the party’s nomination for that Senate seat, she won re-election as chair this weekend, the New York Times reported, after playing a “recorded phone call of Mr. Trump enthusiastically endorsing her.” The party also adopted several stances that situate them at the far reaches of anti-immigration policies, including ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and revoking birthright citizenship. They also adopted a resolution to affirm that there are “only two genders.” While these moves in the state party do not have the weight of a mandate, they may have resonance elsewhere, as the Republican party contends with Trump’s legacy. The view from a former McConnell adviser on the strength of the AZ flex > https://t.co/QNZaIzbdCc— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 24, 2021 By that same token, other party leaders attempting to stake out a more moderate path— and possibly their ground in the 2024 GOP presidential primary — may find alignment with the rebuked Arizona leaders. That may be the case for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican leading a largely blue state who clashed with Trump throughout 2020 over coronavirus resources. Hogan was one of just a few Republican leaders to call for Trump to concede the November election, and, after the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, Hogan called for Trump’s removal from office. On Twitter on Saturday, Hogan criticized Arizona’s Republican Party, managing to get in a dig about the state’s blue 2020. “It’s shameful that a state party would be more focused on condemning Republicans who win elections than actually winning them,” he wrote about the three chastised Arizonans. “We need their voices to rebuild a big tent, principled GOP.” Trump, meanwhile, is considering making the rift he’s revealed in the party even more deeper — he’s reportedly thinking of creating his own political party.
vox.com
Thousands of Russians were arrested in protests supporting Putin critic Alexei Navalny
Police work to apprehend protesters during a Moscow demonstration in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. | Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images Navalny was recently arrested upon his arrival in Russia from Germany. Massive protests took place across Russia on Saturday in support of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin. Navalny was arrested last Sunday after returning to Moscow from Germany, where he was treated for a poisoning allegedly linked to the Kremlin five months earlier. According to Reuters, about 40,000 people took part in the Moscow demonstrations, although police called that number incorrect, estimating the crowd at 4,000. Several thousands more participated in cities across the country, from Yakutsk in the northeast to St. Petersburg in the west, and about 3,000 demonstrators have been arrested in all. People are now spreading around the city center, being pushed off Pushkinskaya, the main site of the rally. pic.twitter.com/I3dgZ4f4wV— Ivan Nechepurenko (@INechepurenko) January 23, 2021 Protesters were met by a strong police presence — and government officials had urged citizens to stay home, arguing that the rallies did not have proper authorization. “Respected citizens, the current event is illegal,” police reportedly announced during the demonstration in Moscow. “We are doing everything to ensure your safety.” Few protesters heeded these warnings, and the number of those arrested in protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and about 70 other towns and cities swelled to at least 3,000, according to reports from the human rights monitoring group OVD-Info. That includes about 1,100 people in Moscow alone, as of 11:30 pm Moscow time on Saturday. Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, was among those arrested at this weekend’s protests. Heads of his party’s regional offices have also been detained in advance of the protests, as well as members of Navalny’s team, including his press secretary, Kira Yarmysh. Navalny’s arrest — and the detentions of his team — have galvanized a tremendous mass movement. The size of the Moscow protests is reminiscent of the summer of 2019, when at least 60,000 people demonstrated in that city to demand fair elections. (Navalny was arrested in advance of that movement, too.) While many of the protesters were Navalny’s supporters, others said they came out more because they want to see a sweeping end to Putin’s authoritarian rule. “I was never a big supporter of Navalny, and yet I understand perfectly well that this is a very serious situation,” Vitaliy Blazhevich — who, at 57, was one of the demonstration’s more senior participants — told the New York Times. “Unless we keep coming out [to protest], the problem in this country will never go away,” Natalya Krainova, a former teacher, told the Guardian. “And that problem is Putin.” Regardless of their motivation, in many places, protesters were met with swift and aggressive police force. Video out of Moscow, for example, shows police dressed in riot gear beating protesters with batons. Dozens of protesters in that city were arrested outside of the Matrosskaya Tishina detention center, where Navalny is being held. At least 1,090 have been arrested at protests around Russia against @navalny's jailing pic.twitter.com/sRp2BtOl3v— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) January 23, 2021 As night fell, police unleashed smoke grenades on downtown Moscow, and protesters responded with snowballs, according to reporter Alec Luhn. "Fascists!" Snowballs vs batons in Moscow pic.twitter.com/RNp4AOg3eM— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) January 23, 2021 The demonstrations were also striking for their enormous geographic diversity. On Twitter, the Atlantic reporter Anne Applebaum collected scenes of large protests — composed largely of young people, many waving Russian flags — in the cities of Irkutsk, Novosirbirsk, Vladivostok, Tomsk, and Yakutsk. Irkutsk has come out for Navalny. One of many such scenes across Russia today https://t.co/3OHzHJnDqf— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) January 23, 2021 Yakutsk is in the east of Siberia, while Vladivostok abuts the Sea of Japan. In a Siberian winter, these protesters were also braving brutally cold temperatures, with temperatures approaching -60°F in some places. As clashes continues in Moscow, more ludicrous footage of the small pro-Navalny protest in Yakutsk earlier, where it was -48 pic.twitter.com/Ne4TvYl51g— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) January 23, 2021 That the protests were so widespread, and that they involved Russians of all ages, is indicative of Navalny’s appeal and ability to mobilize supporters — especially young people — according to the Washington Post. In recent years, Putin has moved to crack down more aggressively on dissent, with new laws making it more difficult to organize protests. Russians who demonstrated Saturday face jail as well as other consequences. Artyom, a college student who protested, told the Guardian he and his classmates had been threatened with serious academic consequences, which he said many believed meant expulsion, if they participated. Putin seems likely to remain in power, despite the public opposition seen Saturday. A recent change to the Russian constitution would allow Putin to hold power for an additional 15 years. Navalny is the leader of Russia’s opposition movement In August, Navalny fell ill at a Siberian airport before boarding a flight to Moscow. His team, concerned he wasn’t receiving proper care in Russia, partnered with a humanitarian group that transported him to Germany for treatment. There, doctors traced the cause of his illness, which was found to be novichok, a deadly nerve agent that the Russian government has been known to use. As Vox’s Alex Ward has written, Navalny always pledged he would return to Russia, even as he continued his criticism of Putin from Germany — including directly accusing the Kremlin of trying to kill him in YouTube videos viewed over 40 million times. When Navalny arrived at the Berlin airport on January 17 for his return trip home, he said that he was not afraid, even though Russian officials had threatened to arrest him upon his return. Hundreds of supporters violated anti-protest laws to greet his plane at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. Instead, the plane was diverted to the Sheremetyevo airport, whereupon Navalny was arrested at passport control. The official charge he faces is failure to appear at a parole hearing, tied to a 2014 embezzlement case. Navalny has claimed those charges are politically motivated. Nevertheless, if the charges stick, he could face years in prison. His newest arrest follows years of attempts by the Kremlin to stifle his opposition, and to dissuade Navalny from coming home, including by placing him on its federal wanted list, and claiming he avoided inspectors while abroad, as Ward has written: This kind of thing isn’t new for Navalny. As mentioned, he’s been arrested before — and even poisoned before — so it’s possible he’ll eventually be released and go back to leading Russia’s anti-Putin movement. Sometimes the Kremlin just wants to remind Navalny who’s in charge, and slow down his work, in a manner that attempts to maintain the illusion of Russian democracy. But it’s also possible Putin has had it, especially as he seeks to stay in power for life. Removing his top political nemesis would surely make such a ploy easier, though it may invite condemnation from other nations, including the United States newly led by President-elect Joe Biden. Navalny has received support from US officials. Hours after Navalny’s detainment, incoming National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted a statement condemning the Putin critic’s detainment. “Mr. Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable,” he wrote. And Rebecca Ross, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Moscow, tweeted on Saturday that “The U.S. supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression. Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights.” We're watching reports of protests in 38 Russian cities, arrests of 350+ peaceful protesters and journalists. The U.S. supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression. Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights.— Rebecca Ross (@USEmbRuPress) January 23, 2021 It is unclear how effective a US response will be, however. Relations between Washington and Moscow — already cool — have deteriorated further since a hack of American federal agencies was linked to Russia in late 2020. Moreover, operations have shuttered at the last two remaining US consulates — one in Vladivostok and one in Yekaterinburg — leaving the US embassy in Moscow as the only US outpost in the entire country.
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vox.com
Legendary broadcaster Larry King has died at age 87
Larry King celebrates his 60th anniversary as a broadcast journalist in 2017. | Amanda Edwards/WireImage/Getty Images The veteran interviewer had been hospitalized with Covid-19 in late 2020. The broadcast journalist Larry King, known for his in-depth interviews and signature style, has died at age 87. His production company, Ora Media, announced King’s death in a statement posted to Twitter Saturday morning. King died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to the Twitter statement. A cause of death was not given. King had been admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 symptoms in December 2020. pic.twitter.com/x0Hl0X6vqU— Larry King (@kingsthings) January 23, 2021 King hosted Larry King Live on CNN for 25 years. More recently, he hosted Larry King Now and Politicking with Larry King on Hulu and RT America. These were produced by Ora TV, which he co-founded with the Mexican billionaire investor Carlos Slim. “For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster,” reads the statement. “Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs, and himself as merely an unbiased conduit between the guest and audience.” King became iconic for his preferred interview style: Long exchanges in which he asked straightforward questions in a raspy, Brooklyn accent. According to a CNN remembrance broadcast Saturday morning, King interviewed more than 50,000 people across 60 years, including US presidents, world leaders, celebrities, athletes, and more esoteric people like psychics, conspiracy theorists, and those convicted of crimes. And he was perhaps equally known for his bold sartorial choices — he was rarely seen without his signature suspenders, often paired with a bright shirt and colorful necktie. King was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger to Jewish immigrant parents in 1933 in Brooklyn, New York; he began his career in radio. After changing his name, King worked first in local markets in the Miami area, before joining a national radio broadcast with the now-defunct Mutual Broadcasting System in 1978. The Larry King Show aired there until 1994. In 1985, he joined CNN and launched Larry King Live, a show that made him a household name and regularly had viewership of over one million people per night. Guests on that show frequently made news. Oprah Winfrey called on then-Sen. Barack Obama to run for president on his program in 2006. And in 1992, the billionaire Ross Perot said in an interview with King that he would run for president if his supporters could land him on the ballot in all 50 states. Perot went on to run upstart populist campaigns in both 1992 and 1996. The final broadcast of Larry King Live took place on December 10, 2010. King launched Ora TV in 2012. Over the years, he was married eight times to seven women and had five children. Two of his children died in August of 2020. King was unmarried at the time of his death. He also had health issues, including quintuple heart bypass surgery following a heart attack in 1987. More recently, he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous lung tumor in 2017, and had a stroke in 2019 that left him occasionally using a wheelchair. Nevertheless, he pledged never to retire. On Twitter, fellow broadcasters and other supporters paid tribute to King as news of his death spread. Just heard the awful news about Larry King. He taught me so much. He was a true mensch. He probably even taught me that word. So long pal, thanks for all the laughs. Say hi to Rickles. #RIPLarryKing— Craig Ferguson (@CraigyFerg) January 23, 2021 Such a great headline about #LarryKing in NYT - it shows he had so much breadth..unlike some who can only interview one type of guest (eg politicians), Larry could interview ANYONE and he did and he interviewed EVERYBODY pic.twitter.com/bCCQO5fP6w— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) January 23, 2021 Larry King was a Brooklyn boy who become a newsman who interviewed the newsmakers. He conducted over 50,000 interviews that informed Americans in a clear and plain way. New York sends condolences to his family and many friends.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 23, 2021
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vox.com
Is it constitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a former president?
Former President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump pause while speaking to supporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for his last time as president on January 20, 2021. | Pete Marovich/Getty Images The Constitution is not at all clear about whether Trump remains vulnerable to impeachment. No one knows whether the Constitution permits the Senate to hold an impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump, now that Trump no longer holds office. To be sure, there is a bevy of legal scholarship discussing this question. And, as a recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service notes, “most scholars who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office.” But while the Constitution mentions impeachment six times, the text of the document provides little clarity on whether the Senate’s power to try an impeached official terminates when that official leaves office. The question of whether Trump can still be convicted by the Senate matters because the Constitution permits an impeached official to be permanently disqualified from holding office. So, if Trump can face an impeachment trial, the Senate could potentially forbid him from running for president again in 2024 — or in any subsequent election. And, while the weight of scholarship does suggest that Trump is still vulnerable to impeachment, several Republican senators have already latched onto the minority position — the view that former officials are immune from impeachment — as a reason to vote against conviction. As Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said of impeachment shortly before Trump left office, “my overall question is: Why are we doing this when the president is out of office tomorrow?” She added that she doesn’t “think” that it would be constitutional to try Trump after he leaves office. Trump’s fate, in other words, could hinge on the answers to two questions: whether Trump is still vulnerable to an impeachment proceeding, and whether enough senators claim that he is now immune from such proceedings to prevent his conviction. So is it constitutional to convict Trump or not? J. Michael Luttig, a conservative former federal judge, recently laid out the constitutional case against convicting former officials in the Washington Post. The purpose of the impeachment power, Judge Luttig claims, is “to remove from office a president or other ‘civil official’ before he could further harm the nation from the office he then occupies.” So once an official no longer occupies their office, the case against them becomes moot — a private citizen cannot “further harm the nation” using the powers of a federal officeholder. To support this argument, Luttig points to two constitutional provisions. One provides that the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and another provides that “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office.” Yet, while the first of these provisions does say that the president can be removed from office through impeachment, and the second limits the consequences of being convicted by the Senate, neither explicitly states that a former official can or cannot be convicted by the Senate. And, as noted above, Luttig’s view is the minority position among legal scholars. Luttig suggests that the only purpose of impeachment is to remove an official before that official can use their office to do further harm. But the text of the second constitutional provision that Luttig quotes suggests that impeachment may serve another purpose — preventing a former official from regaining power and doing future harm. As scholars Edwin Brown Firmage and R. Collin Mangrum wrote in a 1974 law review article, “the impeachment judgment may extend to both removal from office and disqualification from holding any further office.” But, if the official leaves their current office, that “accomplishes only the first objective.” A closely related problem is that, if former officials are immune to the impeachment power, someone might resign their office moments before the Senate votes to disqualify them. As law professor Brian C. Kalt wrote in a 2001 article, by strategically timing their resignation, an impeached official “can flout any attempt by Congress to disqualify.” And there’s also a strong historical argument supporting impeachment of former officials. The American impeachment power, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe writes in an op-ed responding to Luttig, “derives from the power of the British Parliament.” And the British Parliament had the power to impeach former officials. Indeed, while the framers were in Philadelphia drafting the Constitution, Parliament was actively engaged in impeachment proceedings against Warren Hastings, a former governor-general of India who left office two years before his impeachment. “The Hastings impeachment,” Tribe notes, “was repeatedly referenced during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.” So the weight of scholarly evidence points strongly in favor of allowing the Senate to proceed against Trump. That said, the one clear American precedent for an impeachment proceeding against a former official cuts in both directions. There is no clear American precedent governing whether a former official may be disqualified from office There is at least one historical example when Congress impeached, but did not convict, a former official. In 1876, the House approved, without objections, articles of impeachment against former Secretary of War William Belknap — Belknap was accused of taking a bribe. Significantly, Belknap had resigned his office while the House was still considering whether to impeach him. During Belknap’s Senate trial, senators decided to resolve the question of whether a former official is vulnerable to impeachment before they actually voted on whether to convict Belknap, and the Senate voted 37 to 29 that former Secretary Belknap was “amenable to trial by impeachment for acts done as Secretary of War, notwithstanding his resignation of said office before he was impeached.” It’s worth noting, however, that this 37-to-29 vote was below the two-thirds supermajority requirement necessary to actually convict Belknap, and when the Senate voted on conviction, a critical bloc of senators who believed his impeachment was unconstitutional hewed to that position. Though a majority of the Senate voted to convict the former secretary, no article of impeachment cleared the two-thirds threshold, and several senators who voted to acquit signaled that they did so because they believed that former officials were immune to impeachment. The Belknap precedent, in other words, provides fodder for both sides of the debate over whether Trump remains vulnerable to impeachment. Supporters of Trump’s impeachment can point to the fact that a majority of the Senate did vote to allow impeachment proceedings to move forward. Meanwhile, opponents of Trump’s impeachment can point to Belknap’s ultimate acquittal, and to the fact that a critical minority of senators believed Belknap’s impeachment to be unlawful. The Senate can probably do whatever it wants in Trump’s second impeachment trial In 1989, Congress impeached and convicted Judge Walter Nixon on two counts of giving false testimony to a grand jury (though Judge Nixon shares the same last name as another figure who plays a prominent role in the history of impeachment, this is merely a coincidence). Although the full Senate voted on whether to convict Nixon, the Senate appointed a committee of senators to “receive evidence and take testimony” in Nixon’s impeachment trial. Nixon sued, claiming that, by excluding some senators from some parts of his trial, the full Senate violated its constitutional obligation to “try all impeachments.” Rather than resolve the question of whether the Senate acted constitutionally when it tried and convicted Nixon, however, the Supreme Court held that the judiciary had no business weighing in on this question in the first place. The Constitution provides that the House has the “sole Power” to impeach an official, and that the Senate has the “sole Power to try all Impeachments.” As the Supreme Court explained in Nixon v. United States (1993), “the commonsense meaning of the word ‘sole’ is that the Senate alone shall have authority to determine whether an individual should be acquitted or convicted.” It is far from clear whether the present-day Supreme Court, which is both far more conservative and far less inclined to defer to the elected branches than the panel of justices who decided the Nixon case, would extend Nixon’s reasoning to Trump’s second impeachment (though it’s notable that Justice Clarence Thomas, the most conservative member of the current Court, and the only member of the current Court who heard the Nixon case, joined the majority opinion in Nixon). But the implications of Nixon for the second Trump impeachment are fairly obvious. If “the Senate alone shall have authority to determine whether an individual should be acquitted or convicted,” that strongly suggests that the Senate has the final word on whether a former elected official remains vulnerable to the impeachment power. If the Senate chooses to convict Trump and disqualify him from office, the courts should defer to that judgment under Nixon. Significantly, the Court’s opinion in Nixon does not mean that legal arguments about whether or not Trump is vulnerable to impeachment are irrelevant. It simply means that it is up to each senator to decide for themselves whether the Constitution permits Trump to be convicted and that the courts should not second-guess those decisions. And it also means that even if a large bloc of senators argue in bad faith — and for purely partisan reasons — that convicting Trump is unconstitutional, the courts are powerless to overrule that bad-faith conclusion.
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The 50-50 Senate is already running into trouble figuring out its rules 
Then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) stands with then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as they attend the Electoral College vote certification for President-elect Joe Biden, during a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. | Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images A Senate fight over the filibuster foreshadows Republican obstruction. The Senate is now split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans — and an early argument over its rules could indicate just how much the GOP intends to obstruct other legislative priorities. Because Democrats control the White House, they have the majority in an evenly divided Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris poised to serve as a tiebreaker. To officially determine how the Senate will function when it comes to things like committee memberships, lawmakers need to approve what’s known as an organizing resolution that lays out these rules. (Without it, Republicans still confusingly head the committees and the distribution of funding; even office space isn’t yet clear.) But the divided chamber can’t even agree on that. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are negotiating this resolution, though they’ve reached a bit of a sticking point. Schumer has said he’d like to model this measure off a power-sharing agreement made between Sens. Tom Daschle and Trent Lott in 2001, during the last 50-50 Senate. McConnell, meanwhile, wants to add a caveat: He’d like Democrats to commit to keeping the legislative filibuster around. Schumer, and many members of the Democratic caucus, has blanched at this idea since it would severely limit the options the party has in the face of potential Republican pushback to bills, and reduce their leverage. Even if Democrats don’t vote to get rid of the filibuster, for example, the threat that they could may make Republicans more open to compromise and negotiations on policies like Covid-19 relief. The filibuster itself is something that gives Republicans more sway over the organizing resolution since the measure can also be filibustered. This disagreement is already affecting some aspects of the Senate’s functionality: Republicans are still running the confirmation hearings for Biden’s nominees and, as a Time report suggested, are less inclined to expedite such proceedings. Plus, senators’ committee assignments have yet to be finalized even as the legislative body stares down a busy term. Republicans’ argument over the rules could signal the approach they’ll take in the minority — where they could use their numbers to block or significantly pare down upcoming bills. How a 50-50 Senate is expected to work Schumer, thus far, has said he hopes to approve an organizing resolution that’s very similar to the one that Daschle and Lott arrived at in 2001. “We have offered to abide by the same agreement the last time there was a 50-50 Senate. What’s fair is fair,” Schumer said in a floor speech. Because Democrats have the majority with Vice President Harris’s vote, they’ll hold the chair positions of every committee, but the resolution would split committee membership evenly, as well as office space and funding. Any measure that receives a tie vote in committee would also be able to receive some consideration for advancement on the floor. As majority leader, Schumer will still control the floor schedule for legislation, and when to proceed to votes. “As for controlling the agenda, the Democrats will ensure they have standard majority party power, because in essence, they do,” Josh Ryan, a Utah State University political scientist, told PolitiFact. Schumer has pointed to using the 2001 agreement as a model, because it set a precedent for how the two parties could operate in this unique circumstance. McConnell, however, also wants a commitment not to eliminate the legislative filibuster — which Democrats have balked at. “We need to have the kind of position of strength that will enable us to get stuff done,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told Politico. Democrats have pressed Schumer to stand firm on these rules negotiations, which underscore one of the party’s first shows of strength in the majority. They’ve pointed to the 2001 precedent, and said it should remain unchanged. As Slate’s Jim Newell noted, McConnell’s motivations for pressing this issue are also unclear — since the resolution is not ultimately enforceable if Schumer later decides he wants to blow up the filibuster anyway. The 2001 example is the most recent time that the Senate has had this type of split: It’s only happened two other times in history, in 1881 and 1954. Deadlocks could push Democrats to consider reconciliation If Republican outcry about the Senate organizing resolution is any indication, the 50-50 breakdown could mean more roadblocks on everything from contentious Cabinet nominees to other legislative priorities, so much so that Democrats look to procedural options that get around these impasses. Democrats’ first option is to negotiate with Republicans on key bills including Covid-19 relief as well as immigration reform, with the hopes of picking up 10 lawmakers who would help hit the 60-vote threshold needed to advance these policies. At the same time, they face the challenge of keeping every member of their caucus in line, including moderates who may be more likely to peel off. “You’ve got to keep your caucus together — Joe Manchin is the wildcard here, too. Kyrsten Sinema as well. The centrists are going to have a lot of power: Manchin, Sinema, Murkowski, Collins,” says Cook Political Report’s Jessica Taylor. Growing GOP opposition toward Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 recovery package indicates that Republicans may be gearing up to obstruct or limit his proposals, a scenario that could push Democrats to leverage a process known as budget reconciliation. As part of budget reconciliation, lawmakers are able to advance spending and tax-related measures with a simple majority of votes, enabling Democrats to potentially pass some aspects of Covid-19 relief like direct payments and paid sick leave, without Republican backing. The degree of Republican opposition they face will likely be a factor in determining whether they ultimately take this route. “I think it’s likely, if not almost a certainty, that reconciliation will be a tool,” former Sen. Tom Daschle told Vox. Depending on how severe Republicans’ blockade continues to be, eliminating the legislative filibuster might well be considered, too — though there’s currently disagreement within the Democratic caucus about whether to weigh that possibility. As Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) previously told Vox, “The dynamic to watch is whether Mitch McConnell does to a Biden presidency what he did to an Obama presidency.”
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