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AG Barr Calls Black Lives Matter Protests in Portland ‘an Assault’ on U.S. Government in Testy Hearing

AG Barr Calls Black Lives Matter Protests in Portland ‘an Assault’ on U.S. Government in Testy HearingIn his first appearance ever before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr declined to say that political concerns weren’t animating the Trump administration’s use of federal troops to crack down on Black Lives Matter demonstrators.Asked by Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) if he’d discussed the politics of the crackdown with Trump or anyone in his inner circle, Barr didn’t specifically mention the Department of Justice operations but confirmed that the election “comes up” in his conversations with the president. “I’m a member of the Cabinet,” said Barr, “and there’s an election going on.”Pressed further by Nadler on the topic, Barr demurred: “I’m not going to get into my discussions with the president.” Bully Boy Bill Barr is America’s Ultimate Chaos AgentAs well, Barr indicated he views protesters in Portland, Oregon, not as demonstrators demanding Black liberation or defending themselves from an unwanted federal intrusion but as insurrectionists.“What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest,” Barr said in his highly anticipated testimony. “It is, by any objective measure, an assault on the government of the United States.”Later, in response to GOP questioning, Barr thundered “is that OK?” in outlining demonstrators’ alleged offenses against federal officers. “I reject the idea that the Department has flooded anywhere and attempted to suppress demonstrators… We are at the courthouse defending the courthouse, we’re not out there looking for trouble.” Barr’s rhetoric represented the latest escalation by the Trump administration in demonizing the protests, which are part of what has become the largest sustained movement in American history. A Monday statement from the U.S. Marshals, a component of the Justice Department, called elements within the protesters “violent extremists,” a term typically used by the U.S. government to describe domestic terrorists, though a Marshals spokesperson said the reference was unintentional. “In the wake of George Floyd’s death, violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims,” Barr contended. Democrats fumed through the hearing on what they saw as Barr’s hypocrisy on that count. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) asked Barr whether he was aware of the pro-Trump protests in Michigan targeting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which featured heavily armed demonstrators. Barr said no. “You are aware of certain kinds of protesters, but in Michigan when protesters carried guns and Confederate flags and called for the governor of Michigan to be shot and lynched, somehow you are not aware of that, somehow you didn’t know about it, so you didn’t send federal agents in to do to the president’s supporters what you did to the president’s protesters,” charged Jayapal. The testimony from Barr, which has been more than a year in the making, has been hotly anticipated by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill as an opportunity to litigate a number of his actions as Trump’s attorney general. Over the past year, Barr has overseen a reduction in the desired sentence and then the commutation of Trump ally Roger Stone’s conviction; the withdrawal of the criminal case against another Trump ally, Michael Flynn; the tear-gassing of Black Lives Matter protesters in D.C.’s Lafayette Park; an effort to oust the New York federal attorney handling sensitive investigations into Trumpworld; the transference of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort from prison to home confinement; and the deployment of armed, militarized federal agents against protesters in Portland over the objections of local and state elected officials. The growing portfolio of outrages that Barr has assembled has been overwhelming for House Democrats, some of whom have embraced the idea that the only remaining avenue for holding the attorney general—who has already been held in contempt of Congress—to account is to impeach him. But getting Barr on the House Judiciary witness stand, which was originally set for March and then later postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, is widely seen as the first step in whatever House Democrats decide to do next.In his opening statement, Nadler previewed the crux of Democrats’ case by arguing that Barr has been Trump’s fixer. “Your tenure,” Nadler told Barr, “is marked by a persistent war against the department’s professional core in an apparent effort to secure favors for the president.”Barr shot back that he was trying “to reestablish the rule of law.”Trump Administration Plots Crackdown by Feds in Cities NationwideThe attorney general’s handling of nationwide protests proved the focus of the hearing from the beginning. Federal agents, including the Marshals and others from the Department of Homeland Security, cited vandalism against the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland as a justification for their persistent presence. Barr, in his opening statement, called such vandalism the work of “hundreds of rioters.” Yet the federal response has generated the majority of the violence at the protests, which has included shooting protesters in the head with rubber bullets; breaking the hand of an unarmed Navy veteran; frequent pepper-spray dousings and tear-gassings; and street arrests without probable cause by minimally identified federal agents driving unmarked vans. Barr equivocated on whether federal agents can arrest protesters without probable cause, saying they could “not strictly” arrest someone because they were proximate to someone they believed was violent. But he demurred about whether such a thing represented an actual arrest, saying “that would require an intensive review” into each circumstance. It remains unknown exactly how many people in Portland have been arrested by federal agents during the July deployments. At one point, late in the hearing, Barr called pepper spray a “very important nonlethal tool” against “rioters” and added, “When people resist law enforcement, they’re not peaceful.”“There is no precedent for the Department of Justice actively seeking out conflict with American citizens, under such flimsy pretext, or for such petty purposes,” said Nadler. He said Barr “aided and abetted the worst failings of the president.”Elected officials, from Oregon’s governor to both its U.S. senators to the Portland mayor, have denounced the federal presence as a provocative escalation of violence. Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf have vowed to remain until the protests are quelled. ‘Shaking in Their Boots’: Trump Wanted a Portland-Style Offensive in ChicagoLast week, Barr justified a coming “surge” in federal law enforcement to Chicago, Albuquerque, and other cities—expected to last through the November election—by citing the Black Lives Matter protests as a source of public disrespect toward police. Black Lives Matter activists and their allies in Chicago are seeking an injunction against the use of Portland-style federal violence. After acknowledging “it is understandable” for Black Americans to distrust police, Barr said it was “an oversimplification” to view “some deep-seated racism generally infecting our police departments.” Defunding police is “grossly irresponsible,” he said, portraying crime as a “massively greater” threat to Black lives than police. Nadler countercharged: “At your direction, Department officials have downplayed the effects of systemic racism and abandoned the victims of police brutality; refused to hold abusive police departments accountable for their actions; and expressed open hostility to the Black Lives Matter movement.”But later in the hearing, Democrats also pressed Barr over his handling of criminal prosecutions stemming from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) repeatedly asked Barr why Stone appeared to get special exceptions for leniency based on his age and conduct. “Can you think of any other cases where the defendant threatened to kill a witness, threatened a judge… where the DOJ claimed those were mere technicalities?” asked Deutch. “Can you think of even one?” Barr raised his voice in response, asserting the judge agreed with his analysis, though the witness in question, Randy Credico, did say he felt threatened by Stone. Democrats also tried to nail down definitive answers from Barr on a number of other subjects, such as whether he believed increased voting-by-mail increased the risk of voter fraud as Trump has alleged. Barr said it did. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) also raised concerns Trump would move the date of the election or even reject the results, given Trump’s arguments about absentee voting and the possibility that final results won’t be known for some time after Election Day. Barr tersely responded, “if the results are clear, I would leave office.” GOP Senators Will Say This Much: Trump Photo Op Wasn’t a Good LookBarr also seemed to dismiss the convictions and guilty pleas reached by Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, saying that the Justice Department would not prosecute “some esoteric, made-up crime, but [rather] a meat-and-potatoes crime.”On Tuesday, Barr—who wrote in his prepared opening statement that he is not “the President’s factotum”—received a warm reception from Republicans, for whom the attorney general has become a hero. The top House Judiciary Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), said last month the attorney general was doing “the Lord’s work.” “Spying. That’s why they’re after you, Mr. Attorney General,” Jordan said on Tuesday, before proceeding to portray the Black Lives Matter protests as violent through an extensive video that showed no police-induced violence.   A day before Barr’s hearing, a D.C. National Guard officer present at the Lafayette Park protest on June 1 told a different House committee that “the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force.” Barr has denied accounts placing him in command responsibility for suppressing the protest. But the officer, West Point graduate and Iraq veteran Adam DeMarco, recounted Barr conferring with the Park Police shortly before they advanced to clear protesters from the square for Trump’s photo op. “From my observation, those demonstrators—our fellow American citizens—were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights,” DeMarco told the House natural-resources committee on Monday. “Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”Barr, questioned by Jayapal, dismissed his comments. “I don’t remember DeMarco as being involved in any decision-making,” he said, implying DeMarco was not credible since he “ran as a Democratic candidate in Maryland.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Buffalo Cops Who Shoved Elderly Man Charged With Second-Degree Assault

Buffalo Cops Who Shoved Elderly Man Charged With Second-Degree AssaultTwo Buffalo cops were arraigned on Saturday on one count each of assault in the second degree, after they allegedly shoved a 75-year-old demonstrator during anti-police brutality protests. Martin Gugino, a longtime peace activist in the upstate New York city, hit his head on the pavement and was left on the ground as blood pooled around his head on Thursday evening. He remained in hospital in a serious but stable condition on Saturday.Initially, city officials claimed Gugino had tripped and fell. However, a video surfaced showing riot police, who were clearing Niagara Square at the time, clearly pushing Gugino over and walking by his motionless body. The video had been viewed 78 million times by Saturday.When the two officers, Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, were suspended without pay on Friday, all 57 officers in the department’s Emergency Response Team quit the elite unit in protest. Hundreds of Buffalo police officers showed up to the courthouse to back the pair on Saturday, after the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association reportedly circulated text messages drumming up support. Police and other supporters reportedly cheered when one of the officers exited the courthouse.Some supporters wore “We Back The Blue” t-shirts and held up umbrellas to block news cameras attempting to show the pro-police protesters. Torgalski, 39, and McCabe, 32, both pleaded not guilty to a class D felony and were both released on recognizance after brief virtual appearances in Buffalo City Court.Shortly after, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in a press conference that the two officers “crossed the line” and “violated the law.” He cited a New York State law which says if a victim is 65 or older, and is assaulted by someone at least 10 years younger, a felony can be charged.Flynn added that the officers could have arrested Gugino if he was committing a crime. “You arrest him. You don’t take a baton and shove him, along with the officer next to him… You properly arrest him, if he was committing a crime.”The Terrifying History of Bad Cops in BuffaloHe denied any suggestions of unfairly targeting police, pointing out that his office had prosecuted 39 “protesters that became agitators” as well.The city’s black mayor, though, stood by the police officers, saying he had not asked for them to be fired, and it was very important that they “know they are getting due process.”Byron Brown also argued that the 75-year-old man was an “agitator” who had been asked to leave previously. “What we were informed of is that that individual was an agitator,” Brown said. “He was trying to spark up the crowd of people. Those people were there into the darkness. Our concern is when it gets dark, there is a potential for violence.”John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, said the officers were following orders to clear the square of all people, regardless of age. “They were simply doing their job. I don’t know how much contact was made. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backwards,” he told The Buffalo News on Friday.However, Erie County Executive Marc Poloncarz said Friday he was “exceptionally disappointed” by the mass resignation. “It indicates to me that they did not see anything wrong with the actions last night,” he said at a press conference.Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the video made him nauseous and he supported a criminal investigation by the Erie County District Attorney.“What we saw was horrendous, disgusting and, I believe, illegal,” Cuomo, a former attorney general, said Saturday.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Biden sexual assault claim divides Democrats as Republicans pounce

Biden sexual assault claim divides Democrats as Republicans pounceWhile high-profile Democrats voice support for the presumptive presidential nominee, some progressives call for a closer look at Tara Reade’s allegationsThe allegations of sexual misconduct by Tara Reade against the former vice-president Joe Biden have caused new fault lines within the Democratic party, especially between its left wing and the establishment.Reade is a former Biden Senate staffer who has accused the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee of sexually assaulting her while she worked in his office in the 1990s. Biden and his campaign have flatly denied the allegations and major news outlets have continued to investigate.Meanwhile, liberal grassroots activists have clashed with centrist Democrats and senior party figures over how to respond to the allegations. The arguments often point to how Democrats approached previous high-profile sexual assault allegations, such as the accusations by Christine Blasey Ford against Brett Kavanaugh during the now supreme court justice’s contentious confirmation hearings.Peter Daou, a Democratic strategist who has argued that the “Democratic establishment” has moved to undercut Reade’s allegations, said three basic factions had emerged.“You have Biden’s opponents on the Republican side and they’re going to seize on this,” Daou said, adding that there was also “the left – progressives and leftists” who want to see Reade’s allegations taken more seriously, and then the Democratic party establishment figures who are trying to undermine Reade. The latter group, Daou said, is “just absolutely wedded to Biden right now, will not let go, so they’ll defend him at all costs – even if that means completely destroying the MeToo movement”.Daou pointed out that other women have accused Biden of unwanted touching. In response to those accusations, Biden has said he would work to better respect other people’s personal spaces.Republicans have been eager to confront as many rank-and-file Democratic politicians as possible with the allegations. The National Republican Congressional Committee has been blasting out emails targeting specific Democratic House candidates over Reade’s claims.The subject line of a Friday email from the NRCC read: “Why does McBath not believe Tara Reade?” It asked why the Georgia congresswoman Lucy McBath was “yet to say whether she’ll stand by her endorsement of Biden amidst allegations of sexual assault, although she was quick to support Dr Ford during the Kavanaugh hearings”.Similar questions are being asked by progressives and some more moderate Democratic party leaders. David Sirota, a former speechwriter and senior strategist for Bernie Sanders, has argued that Democrats have been too eager to discount Reade’s allegations.A small group of insurgent Democratic congressional candidates have begun to raise concerns that Reade’s allegations are not being taken seriously enough. Rebecca Parson, a liberal Democrat challenging the Washington state congressman Derek Kilmer, said in an interview on Friday that Biden should step down over Reade’s allegations. Parson said she believes Reade and thinks the charges create too much of a vulnerability for Biden in the 2020 presidential election.“I want to defeat Donald Trump in November and yes, I’m a progressive and I’m in the left-wing of the party, but something that really unites the people in the centrist wing and the progressive wing is we all want to defeat Trump,” Parson said. “I don’t think we do that with somebody who has all these allegations against him, especially because Donald Trump has assault allegations against him and unfortunately with Donald Trump, Trump doesn’t care about being a hypocrite.”Parson added: “I think that Biden should withdraw and any one or more of the candidates who aren’t running should restart their campaign because the Democratic primary isn’t over yet.”Those arguments aren’t shared by many of the most high-profile figures in the Democratic party. The New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a leading advocate against sexual harassment and sexual assault, told reporters on Tuesday that she supported Biden amid the allegations.“So when we say believe women, it’s for this explicit intention of making sure there’s space for all women to come forward to speak their truth, to be heard. And in this allegation, that is what Tara Reade has done,” Gillibrand said, according to CNN. “She has come forward, she has spoken, and they have done an investigation in several outlets. Those investigations Vice-President Biden has called for himself. Vice-President Biden has vehemently denied these allegations and I support Vice-President Biden.”The former Georgia state house minority leader Democrat Stacey Abrams also said she believed Biden.“The New York Times did a deep investigation and they found that the accusation was not credible. I believe Joe Biden,” Abrams said in late April.Others, including the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, have also said they support Biden in response to Reade’s allegations.But Parson is not alone in arguing that at this point Biden should drop out of the race. A Politico/Morning Consult poll found that over a third of Democratic voters surveyed say the party should switch out Biden as their presumptive nominee because of the allegations.Other Democrats argued that Biden can both adequately address Reade’s allegations and still be a viable opponent against Trump. The Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, a progressive favorite, wrote a Medium post arguing that the allegations can be examined without undercutting Biden’s chances of beating Trump.“I reject the false choice that my party and our nominee can’t address the allegations at hand and defeat the occupant of the White House,” Pressley wrote.

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Don Lemon Grills Stacey Abrams on Joe Biden Sexual Assault Allegation

Don Lemon Grills Stacey Abrams on Joe Biden Sexual Assault AllegationStacey Abrams has made her ambition to be Joe Biden’s running mate abundantly clear over the last couple of weeks. And to that end, she offered the presumptive Democratic nominee her unwavering support when questioned by CNN’s Don Lemon about the sexual assault allegation against Biden on Tuesday night.  “As someone who wants to be his vice president, I think it’s important that we speak about something that’s in the news now,” Lemon said near the end of his conversation with the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, before laying out the details of Tara Reade’s claim. “CNN has now spoken on the record with her former neighbor who says Reade told her about the allegation within a few years of the alleged incident,” Lemon said. “Biden’s campaign says untrue, never happened. Is this a credible allegation?” “I believe that women deserve to be heard and I believe that they need to be listened to,” Abrams said carefully. “But I also believe that those allegations have to be investigated by credible sources.” She cited an in-depth New York Times investigation that found the accusation was “not credible,” though new information has emerged in the two weeks since it was published. “I believe Joe Biden,” Abrams said. “I believe that he is a person who has demonstrated that his love of family, his love of our community, has been made perfectly clear through his work as a congressional leader and as an American leader. I know Joe Biden and I think he's telling the truth and that this did not happen.” With her conclusion, Abrams appeared to be parroting official Biden campaign talking points, which read, in part, “Biden believes that all women have the right to be heard and to have their claims thoroughly reviewed. In this case, a thorough review by the New York Times has led to the truth: this incident did not happen.”Stephen Colbert Grills Bernie Sanders: Are You Endorsing Biden or Not?Lemon could have left things there, but instead he confronted Abrams with a tweet she posted in 2018 that condemned Senate Republicans for “rushing” Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation forward despite the “courageous and compelling testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.” “Are you applying a different standard now?” Lemon asked. “Not at all,” Abrams replied. “I believed then and I believe now that women deserve to be heard because too often they are not. And Tara Reade deserved to have her story listened to and investigated. What was happening with Christine Blasey Ford was there there was no investigation. There was a rush to move it forward so no investigation was conducted.” “So you said you’ve heard her, you’ve heard enough, you don’t believe her, you believe Joe Biden,” Lemon said.After once again returning to the Times investigation, Abrams said, “I believe the Biden I know. And I think he will make women proud, that he will make America proud.” Asked if Biden needs to “address this more directly and more publicly,” Abrams said, “I believe his campaign has been very clear. And I believe that is the approach that they intend to take and I support the approach. “We don’t want women to ever be afraid to come forward,” she concluded. “But we also have to recognize that allegations should be investigated and that those investigations need to be borne out.” Anderson Cooper Dumbfounded by Trump’s ‘Sarcasm’ Excuse: Does He Think We’re ‘Morons’Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Former Senate staffer accuses Joe Biden of sexual assault

Former Senate staffer accuses Joe Biden of sexual assaultA former aide to Joe Biden is accusing the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee of sexually assaulting her during the early 1990s when he was a senator. In two recent interviews with The Associated Press, Tara Reade alleged the assault occurred in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building in the spring of 1993. It’s not the first time Reade has made an accusation against the former vice president.

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