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    Test CaptionMoJo Illustration/Rob Swanda/Twitter

    Two Senate committees have released their long-awaited, bipartisan report investigating the January 6 attack on Congress by Trump supporters over the certification of the 2020 presidential election. The report, as expected, includes a list of recommendations for boosting security and intelligence-sharing practices after the insurrection at the Capitol more than five months ago. It also reveals that federal agencies had intelligence about plans to attack the Capitol and their “potential for violence” well in advance of January 6.

    “According to information provided to the Committees, officers received little-to-no communication from senior officers during the attack,” the review read, adding that, “For hours the screams on the radio were horrific, the sights were unimaginable, and there was a complete loss of control…For hours NO Chief or above took command and control.”

    It’s important to note that the investigations by the Senate Rules committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee are different, and much more limited in scope, than the proposed independent bipartisan 1/6 commission that Mitch McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans filibustered last month.

    While we comb through the key takeaways from today’s report, you can take a look at the full findings below:

    Two Senate committees have released their long-awaited, bipartisan report investigating the January 6 attack on Congress by Trump supporters over the certification of the 2020 presidential election. The report, as expected, includes a list of recommendations for boosting security and intelligence-sharing practices after the insurrection at the Capitol more than five months ago. It also reveals that federal agencies had intelligence about plans to attack the Capitol and their “potential for violence” well in advance of January 6.

    “According to information provided to the Committees, officers received little-to-no communication from senior officers during the attack,” the review read, adding that, “For hours the screams on the radio were horrific, the sights were unimaginable, and there was a complete loss of control…For hours NO Chief or above took command and control.”

    It’s important to note that the investigations by the Senate Rules committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee are different, and much more limited in scope, than the proposed independent bipartisan 1/6 commission that Mitch McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans filibustered last month.

    While we comb through the key takeaways from today’s report, you can take a look at the full findings below:

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  • Lunchtime Photo

    This is a small lake in Sumapaz National Park in Colombia. I don’t know if it’s a permanent lake, or just one that appears during the rainy season and then dries out. But it was very pretty when I was there.

    August 8, 2019 — Sumapaz National Park, Colombia
  • The Most Important Lesson From the “Bible” of Impeachment Remains Unheeded

    Bettmann/Getty

    Shortly after the maybe-coup there was a pause on the Hill, a question of whether lawmakers should really try to impeach President Donald Trump—even though his bellicose rally led to the ransacking of the Capitol, with police officers injured and killed.

    This mystified me. Why wait? Why try for the 25th Amendment first? Why ask whether impeachment is politically viable? People died. What is there, really, to think about? In the end, Congress moved forward, with speed. But that slight hitch, that subtle pause, has remained on my mind. It brought me back to a book I read during the Democrats’ first attempt to get rid of Trump: Charles L. Black’s Impeachment: A Handbook.

    Black’s book is, for those who study impeachment, a sacred text on the booting of a president. Written in Nixonian times, reissued for Clinton’s impeachment, and again in 2018, the Handbook was called by Lawfare the “authoritative guide” and “most important book ever written on presidential impeachment.” The New York Times used the Handbook in its “word by word” explainer on impeachment last winter. Phillip Bobbitt, who wrote the foreword for the 2018 edition, ordained it a “kind of bible.”

    But the lessons drawn from the book are often winnowed down to its very first argument: Proceed with caution. Impeachment is a tool to be used sparingly. The Handbook is chiefly a book about trepidation, the “dreadfulness” of removing a president, and the proper process for doing so—it should be above the political fray.

    Last winter, when Trump was impeached over the Ukraine scandal, the Handbook was among the texts cited in the handwringing over the scope of the affair. Should the impeachment be a narrow process, limited to questions of foreign influence peddling? Or a broad reckoning that would include all of Trump’s misdeeds? At the time, Mother Jones senior reporter Tim Murphy compared Trump to President Andrew Johnson, noting that “no narrow indict­ment could capture the true nature of his offenses.” 

    The Handbook offered its own advice: Keep it narrow, and act lawyerly. Black relied on the “conscience” of senators, who he believed would rise above their base political leanings to serve the Republic’s pressing need for a fair trial. From the author’s perch, impeachment is not a political venture but a fundamental matter of law. Black disliked even the idea of public commentary on impeachment, mewling that “a snow of telegrams ought to play no part” in the proceedings. He assumed the nobility of Senators would usurp their political instincts, leading them to vote fairly. He addresses the sagacious elected official who “ought to realize the danger and try as far as possible to divest himself of all prejudice.”

    That’s not exactly how things panned out. The Senate acquitted Trump last February, following a legalistic impeachment that focused solely on Ukraine—as if any Republican Trump devotee would “divest himself of all prejudice.” New Republic staff writer Alex Pareene raised this issue at the time. In a piece mentioning Black’s book, he asserted that the author’s idealism was now the stuff of fantasy. The book “is lucid and fair-minded,” Pareene wrote. “It also describes a world that no longer exists—one that seemed ironclad and permanent at the time, but turned out, under the pressures of a disingenuous right-wing legal ideology, to have been fleeting.” To feel the ephemeral nature of such ideals, look no further than when Black cited a president’s use of the tax code—instead of, say, foreign relations aid—to harm a political opponent, as a clearly impeachable offense: “Is it not obviously wrong, to any man of ordinary honor?”

    For Trump’s second impeachment, everything was so clear, so “obviously wrong,” that it was practically stupefying. Inciting a riot is an impeachable offense, and Trump was duly impeached. “It’s just what Hamilton asked for,” Bobbitt, the scholar who helped reissue Black’s book, told the Huffington Post. The latest, 76-page impeachment document also gets closer than the previous one to capturing Trump’s gradual teardown of democracy as a high crime and misdemeanor in the aggregate. And yet Black’s world no longer exists even in this most obvious of cases. Yes, Sen. Mitch McConnell (privately, cowardly) endorsed impeachment, joining Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House. But even now this “conscience” doesn’t really exist. Nearly 150 Republicans voted to decertify Joe Biden’s win even after the Capitol insurrection. And 197 voted no on the second impeachment resolution Wednesday. The case will proceed next to the Senate, where only perhaps three Republicans appear to favor conviction, and just one, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, has spoken bluntly about it.  

    So of what use of Black’s “bible” today? Sure, it is an interesting legal document. But, beyond that, I would argue that it offers a second path for Congress now and in the future. There is an important lesson tucked inside—one that was routinely ignored amid all the debate around Trump’s first impeachment. And this was perhaps Black’s most important lesson.

    Simply put: Congress needn’t wait for impeachment to rein in a rogue president. In fact, it’s embarrassing that things ever got to this point.

    The best course is to use other tools at the lawmakers’ disposal. “Congress is by no means in the position of having to sit idly by, counting up grievances, until time comes to call a council of elders and sharpen the impeachment spear,” Black wrote. Indeed, it “can exercise just about any control it wants on the operations of government including…the actions of the president.”

    Congress is “top dog,” Black wrote. The “single thought” underlying his book is that impeachment should be “handled lawfully.” But his grander point is that the law allows Congress to act, dutifully, beyond impeachment. When a president does something beyond the pale, punish him! Punish him long before he incites a group of violent white nationalists; punish him merely for complimenting white nationalists. Make things impeachable that fall far short of a coup. And stop horrible people from ever joining the administration.

    The impeachment process is sacred. But changing the laws to stop a runaway president is actually Congress’ job. And over the past four years, they failed miserably.

    Forget the last-second flip-flops of Mitch McConnell and the rest of last week’s Republican enablers. They had a chance—so many chances—to follow Black’s lessons in full. Instead, they cherrypicked. They waited until the bitter end and hid behind legal nonsense. Accepting Black’s lessons in full requires more than a narrow, slam-dunk impeachment. It means raising our standards to ensure that far lesser things—those “misdemeanors”—are punishable, and not made, as they have been under Trump, de rigeur. 

  • National Guard Members Flood the Capitol as Congress Votes to Impeach

    Gripas Yuri/ZUMA

    As the House convened to vote to impeach President Trump for a second time, surreal photos emerged on Wednesday revealing a Capitol flooded with National Guard troops on high alert after pro-Trump rioters unleashed violence on the Capitol last week. Striking images showed many sleeping on the floor ahead of the vote with their weapons close by—a chilling reminder of the recent violence that shook the nation to its core. 

    Later, with Wednesday’s proceedings underway, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood outside the Capitol building facing rows of National Guard members and thanked them for their service.

    Today’s historic vote comes amid questions about safety at the Capitol, the failure of Capitol police to intervene in the riot, and the security of the upcoming inauguration. Democrats have also raised concerns about their own safety as some Republicans insist on bringing firearms to the building, while other Republicans have expressed concern for their safety if they vote to impeach.

    Pelosi was also seen giving National Guard members challenge pins, a symbol of both commitment and camaraderie.

  • Fish and Wildlife Officials Want a Word With the Trump Fan Who Defaced This Gentle Manatee

    Manatee with 'Trump' etched onto its back spotted in the US. Twitter/@savethemanatee

    This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

    The US Fish and Wildlife Service has shed some light on viral photos and video of a Florida manatee with the name “Trump” on its back.

    On Tuesday, the local newspaper Citrus County Chronicle reported that a West Indian manatee discovered Sunday in the Homosassa River “had the word ‘Trump’ scraped into its back.”

    That same day, posts featuring photos and a video of a sea cow with President Donald Trump’s name “scraped” or “carved” into its back circulated on Twitter.

    A spokesperson for the Fish and Wildlife Service told HuffPost via email that the federal agency is “investigating this matter” but added that the manatee “does not appear to be seriously injured.”
     
    The letters seem to have been formed by someone scraping away sections of the algae on the manatee’s back, the FWS spokesperson explained.

    It’s unclear if the manatee was physically hurt at all, marine biologist Ruth Carmichael from Dauphin Island Sea Lab told Vice News.

    “It’s a little hard to see the extent of damage from the video,” she said. “It is harassment, regardless. If the scrape penetrates the skin, then it likely caused some pain and stress. The animals have nerves and sensory hairs in the skin. Additionally, open wounds could become infected.”

    But even if no physical damage was done to the animal, the act is still likely a crime. “Harassing or harming a West Indian manatee in any way (including touching or writing on it) is a violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” the FWS spokesperson said. The agency could not provide any photos or video of the harassed manatee.

    “West Indian manatees are essential members of the ecosystems in which they inhabit and are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” Aurelia Skipwith, director of the FWS, said in a statement sent to HuffPost.

    According to the FWS website, there are more than 6,300 manatees in Florida ― a significant increase from the estimated 1,267 in 1991.

    Yet it seems that 2020 wasn’t a great year for Florida manatees, the Miami Herald noted earlier this week. The newspaper reported that 10 manatees were crushed or drowned by floodgates and locks, per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s preliminary mortality report. That is twice the number of manatees killed by flood control structures the previous year. And Florida boaters remained a huge threat to the survival of manatees, killing more than 130 in 2019 and at least 90 in 2020, according to the mortality report.

    Skipwith added in her statement that the federal agency is working closely with the state’s conservation commission.

    The FWS director urged anyone with information regarding this case to call the wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 or email FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV.

    The story has been updated with more information on the nature of harm to the manatee.

     
  • Jim Jordan Claims He Never Said the Election Was Stolen. That’s Not What the Video Shows.

    Rod Lamkey/CNP/Zuma

    There were five words Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) refused to say at a House Rules Committee meeting Tuesday: “The election was not stolen.”

    During a heated exchange with committee chair Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Jordan repeatedly dodged McGovern’s demands that he admit the election was not stolen. At the same time, Jordan attempted to shirk responsibility for promoting dangerous conspiracy theories, claiming that he never asserted that Joe Biden stole the election and was simply questioning the constitutionality of certain states’ election processes.

    “I never once said that this thing was stolen,” he said Tuesday. “I said there were major problems, and when you’ve got a third of the electorate who think it was stolen, that’s not a healthy situation for our nation.”

    It’s hard to square Jordan’s insistence that he “never once said that this thing was stolen” with his statements on the House floor last week shortly before pro-Trump rioters forced the body into a six-hour lockdown.

    “Americans instinctively know there was something wrong with this election,” he said on January 6. “During the campaign, Vice President Biden would do an event and he’d get 50 people at the event. President Trump at just one rally gets 50,000 people.”

    “President Trump increased his vote with African Americans; increased his vote with Hispanic Americans; won 19 of 20 bellwether counties; won Ohio by 8, Iowa by 8, and Florida by 3. He got 11 million more votes than he did in 2016, and House Republicans won 27 of 27 tossup races,” he continued. “But somehow the guy who never left his house wins the election?”

    Jordan may not have explicitly uttered the words, “The election was stolen”—just as Trump never explicitly implored his supporters to storm the Capitol. But, as we saw last week, a heavy implication will do the trick.

  • Abortion Law Expert Mary Ziegler Joins Mother Jones’ Becca Andrews in a Livestream

    Long before the Capitol attack brought into wider view the far right’s assault on fundamental freedom and democracy, another siege on statehouses had been gathering—an attack on reproductive rights. Legislatures across the country have eroded abortion access with chilling consequences, particularly in the South, where Mother Jones’ Becca Andrews has been reporting extensively on the immediate impact and broader historical implications.

    On Thursday, Andrews joins legal scholar Mary Ziegler in a livestream about Ziegler’s new book, Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v. Wade to the Present. The free conversation, in partnership with the Booksmith, starts at 6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET. RSVP here. Andrews’ own book, No Choice, on dwindling access to abortion, is forthcoming from Hachette’s Public Affairs imprint. And catch Andrews’ on-the-ground coverage of the historic win by Sen.-elect Raphael Warnock, whose campaign in Georgia she closely followed and expertly framed in a series of interviews and dispatches. The Capitol attack dominated the headlines and eclipsed the senator-elect’s victory lap, but Andrews’ reporting is in the books, and Warnock’s movement continues.

  • A Student Scientist Wanted to Explain Vaccines to His Mom. Then He Went Viral.

    Better science communication can help combat the coronavirus pandemic. But as Mother Jones has reported since the beginning of the outbreak, scientists are frustrated by the lack of coordination and coherence in the Trump Administration’s public health messaging. “The government is missing a huge opportunity in not using social media as a means to get people aligned on COVID messaging,” a microbiologist Jessica Malaty Rivera told us in November. “Science communication just can’t be an afterthought,” said Yale epidemiologist and science messaging expert Saad Omer.

    The Trump administration could learn a thing or two from Rob Swanda, a 26-year-old PhD student at Cornell, whose social media talents have earned him overnight science communication stardom.

    When Swanda first created his viral video explaining the mRNA technology used in two coronavirus vaccines, he had a smaller audience in mind: his parents. “My mom is a hairstylist,” he told me on a recent Zoom call. Her clients were asking how the vaccine worked.  He knew he could help them understand things clearly. “So you can imagine my shock that it has been seen by over 3 million people,” he said. 

    The video is an energetic and simple explainer of how mRNA, a new genetic technology, is being used in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Using a whiteboard, Swanda explains complex science in a way that has connected with over 4 million people so far. 

    Explaining jargon like “mRNA,” “spike protein,” and “lipid nanoparticle”, Swanda breaks down fears about the vaccine. “Being cautious of how the thing how the mRNA vaccine works is very reasonable, it’s a new innovation,” he says. “But if we just only relied on the old technology, like the attenuated or weakened version of the virus, we’re still waiting on those clinical trials to end, so how many more months are we going to be waiting?” While mRNA isn’t new in the newest sense (mRNA vaccines have been development for the last decade or so), it’s never been utilized on such a massive scale. And because the mRNA process eliminates the need for labs to grow a protein and then inject it—the mRNA teaches your body to make the protein itself—it cuts out a time-consuming production step in traditional vaccine manufacturing.

    So far, feedback has been good. “I was pleasantly surprised that like 99.9 percent of everything has been super positive,” he says. But there’s still that .01 percent. Some commenters accused him of “listening to music” in his AirPods, or claimed that he “was being paid by these companies.” (A few even insinuated that Rob was a pawn of Bill Gates.)

    But that hasn’t dissuaded Swanda from the task at hand. Between the pandemic and an encroaching climate crisis, science is increasingly part of our everyday lives, and Swanda believes that he and his peers can use viral social media communication to help. “The connectedness of this new generation coming into science is going to be super critical for pushing out new research that’s going to span multiple disciplines,” he says. “We can use that.”

    Check out more of Swanda’s science explainers on YouTube.

  • How Lawmakers Failed Jacob Blake

    Jacob Blake Sr., father of Jacob Blake, holds a candle at a rally Monday in Kenosha.Morry Gash/AP

    Jacob Blake, paralyzed and still suffering from injuries, got a phone call on Tuesday afternoon from Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley with some news: There would be no charges filed against the police officer who shot Blake seven times in August, sparking massive protests in the city.

    “Based on the facts and the law, I have decided not to issue criminal charges against Officer Sheskey, Officer Meronek, or Officer Arenas. This decision was by no means easy,” Graveley wrote in a report published later that day. In a press conference, he described the shooting as a “tragedy.”

    The video of the shooting has been viewed by millions of people, and is difficult to watch: Blake, who is Black, walks toward the driver’s side of a parked car in a residential Kenosha neighborhood, with his children in the back seat. A white officer, Rusten Sheskey, follows behind him with a gun drawn. As Blake approaches the door, Sheskey grabs him by the shirt and then fires his weapon.

    It can be hard to imagine how Sheskey’s actions wouldn’t warrant criminal charges, even considering the blatant racism of our criminal justice system. But District Attorney Graveley, in a roughly two-hour press conference, argued that pressing charges would be unethical because, given the state’s law about when officers can use force, there was no way he could win at court.

    Even after atrocious policing, even after a man is paralyzed, use-of-force laws around the country often make it very, very difficult to punish cops. In Wisconsin and most states, police can legally fire their weapons against someone if they have “reasonable” fear the person will otherwise gravely harm them or someone in the vicinity. And here’s the kicker: The law usually says police officers get to define what’s reasonable.

    At the press conference, Graveley explained why police could successfully argue that Sheskey’s decision to shoot was reasonable under the circumstances, using evidence not visible in the viral video most of the country watched. 

    According to Graveley, the police had reason to be nervous off the bat: Three officers were called to the scene by Laquisha Booker, the mother of Blake’s children, who told a 911 dispatcher that Blake had grabbed the keys to her rental car and was trying to take their kids away from her, according to a recording of the call played at the press conference. The officers knew that Blake had a felony warrant for alleged domestic abuse and sexual assault. When they arrived at the scene and tried to arrest him, a physical confrontation ensued—Blake says the officers punched him and dragged him to the ground, and the officers say he resisted their orders. At one point during the struggle, Blake was on top of Sheskey on the ground, according to a second video. Officers tried to stun him with a taser, but he tore the prongs out.

    Blake admitted to investigators later that he was holding a knife in his hand after he stood up and began walking to the car. Sheskey says he followed Blake and then grabbed his tank top because he feared Blake would take the car with the children inside. (Booker had yelled that the children were hers.) According to a statement Sheskey gave later, he worried that if Blake drove away, it could result in a high-speed chase that could harm the kids, or they might be taken hostage. An independent police expert, former Madison Police Chief Noble Ray, concluded it was reasonable for Sheskey to grab Blake, according to the district attorney.

    In the video footage, it looks like Sheskey then shot Blake seven times in the back. But according to the district attorney, two police officers and citizen witnesses told investigators that before the shooting began, Blake started turning toward Sheskey and made a motion with his knife hand; this allegation couldn’t be confirmed in the video because the camera view was obstructed by the car door and another officer. A medical examiner later concluded that Blake was shot four times in the back but also three times on his left side, adding some corroboration to the allegation that he turned.

    Ray, the independent police expert, concluded it was reasonable for Sheskey to fear that Blake was trying to stab him at that time. Blake denies this allegation and says he was simply trying to put the knife back into the car. “They didn’t have to shoot me like that,” he said in a statement later, published in the district attorney’s report. “I was just trying to leave and he had options to shoot my tires and even punch me, tase me again, hit me with the night stick.”

    If you asked many people on the street, they’d probably say it’s unreasonable for a cop to follow behind a man who is walking away, grab him by the shirt, and proceed to fire multiple shots into him at close range while his children watch from the back seat. But our laws are set up so that it doesn’t really matter what most people think: It matters what a police officer decides is a reasonable fear. And in a racist society where Black people are too often viewed as threats, police will almost always be able to come up with some justification for why they were afraid and believed they had to shoot.

    Prosecuting cases like this will require states to change their use-of-force laws, so that officers don’t have so much power to define what’s reasonable. Until that happens, law enforcement will regularly get away with shooting people, including those sleeping in a car or at home on a couch, when it might have been possible to deescalate the situation instead. Officers continue to get away with violence because it’s not very hard to come up with a reason why they thought someone would harm them, especially when the law doesn’t require them to prove that they were correct or that the person was actually a threat. “Without any new rules from the legislature, we’re going to have this problem again and again,” says Farhang Heydari executive director of the Policing Project at the NYU School of Law. “We saw it in Breonna Taylor’s case, Eric Garner’s case, with Tamir Rice. It will happen over and over again until legislators step up and enact clear rules around force.”

    It’s possible to change these use-of-force laws, which often differ from state to state and even city to city. California recently amended its statute so that an officer can only legally shoot if it’s “necessary,” rather than “reasonable,” to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury. But even there, it’s hard to predict whether the statute will bring justice after future police shootings, because California lawmakers didn’t define what “necessary” means in the law, again potentially leaving some room for discretion among police officers.

    More than half of states considered legislation last year dealing at least in some way with police use of force, and at least several focused on deadly force. But many of the bills didn’t go as far as some criminal justice reform activists would hope. Delaware’s attorney general has pushed to reform her state’s law, but her proposed changes wouldn’t even go as far as California’s did: Delaware’s statute currently allows deadly force if an officer believes he or she is in danger. The attorney general wants to reform the law merely to specify that it must be a “reasonable” belief—which brings us back to the problem in Wisconsin and many other states.

    The Policing Project’s Heydari recommends that new laws require officers to take deescalative steps, and to only use force as a last resort, limiting the types of response depending on the situation. Fair and Just Prosecution, an advocacy group that works with district attorneys, recommends a ban on deadly force against suspects who are fleeing.

    Under the Biden administration, the federal government could step in to encourage these changes. The Justice Department, which may soon be led by US Circuit Judge Merrick Garland, Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general, could set a national guidance on when it’s acceptable for officers to use lethal force. The agency or Congress could also require states to follow this guidance in order to receive federal funding for training or other programs. Biden’s pick to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Kristen Clarke of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, formerly prosecuted police brutality at the department. She supports efforts to scale back law enforcement and invest more in social services, and has encouraged the federal government to stop funding agencies with a long history of violence and racism. 

    In terms of Blake’s case, federal prosecutors at the Justice Department and a US attorney’s office are now conducting a civil rights investigation and could later decide to bring federal charges. The Justice Department could also launch an investigation into the Kenosha Police Department and push for a consent decree that would require reforms.

    “Now our battle must go in front of the Congress, it must go in front of the Senate,” Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., told reporters Tuesday after the district attorney’s decision not to file charges locally. One of Blake’s attorneys, Benjamin Crump, said they would press forward with a civil rights lawsuit. “It is now our duty to broaden the fight for justice on behalf of Jacob and the countless other Black men and women who are victims of racial injustice and police brutality in this country,” he said in a statement.

    “We’re going to talk with the Speaker of the House, Speaker of the Senate,” Blake Sr. added. “We’re going to change some laws. Some laws have to be reckoned.”