Steve Bannon’s legal team has reasserted that the former Trump adviser will not cooperate with the House committee investigating the Capitol Riot.
This response, reported exclusively by ABC, comes after the select committee investigating the 6 January attack said it is willing to pursue charges against witnesses who do not comply with subpoenas.
In a letter obtained by ABC, Bannon’s team has asserted that he will not abide by the committee’s request for testimony and documents, citing the former president’s executive privilege – a broad, loosely defined shield for presidents’ confidential communications.
The Florida department of health has levied a $3.5m fine against a county government for requiring its employees to provide proof of a Covid-19 vaccination.
Amanda Holpuch reports:
The state is also investigating other government entities, schools and businesses, including a Harry Styles concert, for violating its ban on asking people to provide proof of vaccination. The ban went into effect last month and Texas put a similar ban in place on Monday.
Florida fined Leon county $5,000 for each of the 714 employees it asked to provide proof of vaccination by 1 October. The health department said 700 employees met this requirement and the 14 employees who did not were terminated several days later.
Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, said the state health department would continue to enforce the ban. “We’re going to stand up for Floridians’ jobs, stand up for Floridians’ livelihoods, and stand up for freedom,” DeSantis said in a statement.
The Florida and Texas bans challenge Joe Biden’s planned rule for companies with more than 100 workers to require proof of vaccination or weekly testing. Biden announced the rule in September but its details are still being worked out.
White house rejects Trump’s latest claim of executive privilege
Donald Trump’s most recent attempt to assert executive privilege in the congressional investigation into the Capitol Riots has failed. Joe Biden has instructed the National Archives to hand over documents requested by the house committee to investigate the 6 January insurrection.
In a newly publicized letter to national archivist David Ferriero, counsel to the president Dana Remus wrote “the president maintains his conclusion that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents provided to the White House on September 8, 2021”.
As many political analysts and legal scholars have pointed out, undercutting a tool that shields presidents could prove risky for Biden. Still, the letter states Ferreiro has 30 days to comply with the request for documentation, barring any legal challenge from Trump. The documents could play a critical role in the ongoing investigation into how a mob was able to enter the Capitol during Biden’s election certification. More than 650 people have already been criminally charged for their part in the insurrection.
Vaccine hesitant New Yorkers consider leaving the city as mandates take effect
Bahar Ostadan reports:
Deysia Padilla’s family thought she was at work. Instead, she spent last Thursday afternoon unloading a mound of orange and pink baby socks in a sunny South Bronx laundromat – one-by one, in all their three-inch glory. She had 48 hours to consider an impossible choice: either get vaccinated or lose her job.
Padilla is one of thousands of unvaccinated New Yorkers affected by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ultimatum last week. Not only do city employees face the reality of losing their jobs, but without a shot, they’ll even forgo unemployment payments. Some unvaccinated Bronx natives would rather pursue a life outside New York City than be forced to take the vaccine.
“I feel like my dream is being shattered by the government,” said Padilla. “I’m being taken out of my home.” The 25-year-old mother had plans to become an art teacher one day. Now, she’s considering moving to Florida with her husband and three-month-old baby.
A pandemic-induced population shift to Florida – sometimes called the city’s sixth borough – is already under way. As of March, more than 33,500 New Yorkers permanently relocated to Florida – up 32% from the same period in the previous year. Experts say people flocked south for looser Covid restrictions, affordable housing, and access to in-person schools.
Most unvaccinated Bronx residents don’t fit neatly into the anti-mask, anti-vaccine framework that has spread nationally, according to Andrew Rasmussen, associate professor of psychology at Fordham University. The Bronx is still nursing its wounds after being hit tragically hard by the deadly virus – with the highest rates of hospitalizations, deaths and unemployment in New York City.
In the Bronx, where median per capita income in 2019 was $21,778 – over three and a half times lower than in Manhattan – 70% of the population works in face-to-face or essential jobs. Even now, people wear masks – sometimes two – while walking outdoors. Many are still nervous to shake hands with people outside their family. Building custodians diligently stroll the sidewalks, spraying Clorox.
“People are wearing double-masks, being really careful, but the vaccination rates in the neighborhood are still very low,” said Rasmussen. “That suggests that there’s something else going on there.”
Still, it is not unusual to hear Bronx residents voice more concern about the vaccine than the virus it is administered to prevent.
“I worry about the virus, but more importantly, I worry about the vaccine,” said Kelven Esbenel, 24. Six weeks ago, he started work at an Amazon fulfilment center in Staten Island, only to learn that the company may start requiring vaccinations under Biden’s new mandates. Now, he said he ponders a life in Connecticut, leaving his vaccinated family members behind.
“We can’t expect that medical systems who have earned the mistrust of many marginalized groups will now be trusted because of Covid. It doesn’t work that way,” said Tiffany Green, a population health scientist and economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
House Capitol attack panel issues subpoena to Trump official Jeffrey Clark
The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack on Wednesday issued a subpoena to top Trump justice department official Jeffrey Clark, escalating its inquiry into the former president’s efforts to reinstall himself in office and the 6 January insurrection.
The new subpoena underscores the select committee’s far-reaching mandate in scrutinizing the origins of the Capitol attack, as it pursues an investigation into Donald Trump’s role in pressuring the justice department to do his bidding in the final weeks of his presidency.
In targeting Clark, House select committee investigators followed up on a Senate judiciary committee report that last week detailed his efforts to abuse the justice department to support Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
The House select committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, said in a statement that he authorized a subpoena for testimony from Clark to understand how the Trump White House sought to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory during the joint session of Congress.
Today so far
It’s been a lively day in Washington. Here’s a summary of where things stand before I hand over the blog to my colleague, Maanvi.
- The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol said it’s prepared to pursue charges against witnesses who fail to comply with subpoenas, including Steve Bannon.
- The administration rolled out a slew of actions aimed at addressing the supply chain bottleneck threatening to wreak havoc on the holiday season. Biden touted commitments by major retailers like Walmart and carriers like FedEx and UPS to ramp up their hours, while the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles will move to round-the-clock operations to ease the cargo backlog. Biden hailed the move as a “game changers” but warned that other private companies must also “step up”.
- More than 7 million Americans will have received a coronavirus vaccine booster shot, while 66 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, according to new figures released by the White House coronavirus task force.
- Social Security benefits are set to rise nearly 6% starting next year, the largest cost-of-living adjustment for seniors in decades.
- Democratic negotiators are still struggling over proceed over the president’s sweeping social policy bill, with two centrist holdouts at odds on key initiatives around climate and prescription drug pricing.
- Overnight, the administration announced that the US will also open land borders to Canada and Mexico to vaccinated travelers next month.
Republican running for Congress praised Proud Boys, video shows
Walt Blackman, an Arizona Republican running for Congress, praised the Proud Boys in a September speech. He said that having members of the far-right extremist group was “one of the proudest moments of his life,” according to a new report from CNN’s KFile.
He is seeing to unseat Democrat Tom O’Halleran in Arizona’s first congressional district, who is a top Republican target in 2022.
“I believe those are the Proud Boys back there,” Blackman said at a rally in Phoenix in late September, in footage unearthed by CNN. “Let me tell you something about the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys came to one of my events and that was one of the proudest moments of my life. Not because of what the media portrayed them to be, but the patriots they showed young people: the example on how to be an American.”
According to CNN’s analysis of court documents, dozens of people with ties to the Proud Boys have been charged in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it was launching a civil rights probe of juvenile detention facilities in Texas, examining whether there was a pattern of excessive use of force as well as sexual abuse.
The Department announced the probe after a review of publicly available news reports and other information from advocates. Kristen Clarke, the head of the department’s civil rights division, noted there have been reports of sexual abuse at several facilities as well as reports of staff members paying detainees drugs and cash to attack others.
“State officials have a constitutional obligation to ensure reasonable safety for children in these institutions,” Clarke said. “The Department of Justice stands ready to protect the rights of children who end up in juvenile facilities and our investigation will ensure that the treatment of these children comports with constitutional standards.”
Advocates filed a formal complaint with the Justice Department last year, saying that children in the care of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department suffered widespread sexual abuse and other constitutional violations, according to the Texas Tribune. In 2018, federal data showed roughly 10% of youths in juvenile justice facilities reported being sexually abused, significantly higher than the 7.1% who reported it nationwide.
One of the places under review will be the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex. In 2018, KTXS reported that 34 employees had been fired from the facility over the previous 5 years.
The father of a journalist murdered on live television six years ago on Tuesday launched a complaint asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to act against Facebook for failing to remove footage of her death.
Andy Parker argues that the company is engaging in “deceptive practices” and violating its terms of service by hosting “material that glorifies violence” on its platforms Facebook and Instagram.
Parker’s daughter, TV news reporter Alison Parker, and cameraman Adam Ward were killed by a former co-worker while reporting for a TV network in Roanoke, Virginia in August 2015.
Parker, 68, who lives in Collinsville, Virginia, filed a similar complaint last year against Google and YouTube but received no response. He was inspired to act now against Facebook by whistleblower Frances Haugen’s congressional testimony last week.
“I’ve maintained for years that Facebook and Google profit from the video of my daughter Alison’s murder in 2015 and violate what they advertise to the public, that they don’t allow violent content on their platforms,” Parker told reporters in Washington. “Now, both these companies have denied it over and over again, but we know better.
“And it’s one thing for me to say it and keep saying it but when someone with insider firsthand knowledge like Frances Haugen confirms, as she did last week in her Senate testimony, that this is what they do, it validates what I’ve maintained for all these years. Posting violent content and murder on social media is not free speech. It’s savagery.”
The complaint was filed on Tuesday by Parker and attorneys with the Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic. Acknowledging that the FTC could fine Facebook but has limited powers, he called for the abolition of Section 230, which gives platforms immunity from liability for content posted by users.
“The point is, it’s time to act,” added Parker, who has never watched the video of his daughter’s death. “I hope my FTC complaint gets traction but ultimately Congress is going to have to fix social media before it ruins our country and the world.”
Schiff: January 6 panel prepared to ‘move very quickly’ to enforce subpoena requests
California congressman Adam Schiff said lawmakers serving on the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol are prepared to pursue criminal charges against witnesses who refuse to comply with their subpoenas, including Steve Bannon.
In an interview with MSNBC, Schiff said the committee was “deadly serious about getting to the bottom of everything that happened up to January 6 and thereafter.”
“If witnesses don’t appear when they’re supposed to, if they don’t produce the documents, we intend to move very quickly to have a vote in the House to hold them in criminal contempt, refer it to the Justice Department for prosecution,” he said.
Schiff added that Bannon would be on “very perilous grounds” if he refused to comply with the subpoena at Trump’s request.
As the panel ramps up this phase of the inquiry, more subpoenas are expected, according to new reporting in the Washington Post.
The Post reports that the panel is planning to subpoena as early as today Jeffrey Clark, a Trump Justice Department official who sought to deploy department resources to support former president Donald Trump’s false claims of massive voting fraud in the 2020 election.
In addition to Bannon, the panel has issued subpoenas for Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff, Dan Scavino, the former deputy chief of staff, Kash Patel, who was serving as chief of staff to the acting defense secretary on the day of the attack on the Capitol.
Biden said the administration’s efforts to address global transportation supply chain bottleneck could be a “game changer” that will help move products like bicycles and sneakers from ships to ports to shelves faster and more reliably.
He began his remarks on Wednesday by noting that many Americans may be struggling to buy everyday household items like toasters bedroom furniture.
“Today’s announcement has the potential to be a game-changer. I say potential because all of these goods won’t move by themselves,” he said. “For the positive impact to be felt all across the country and by all of you at home we need major retailers who ordered the goods and the freight-moves who take the goods from the ships to factories and stores to step up as well.”
He praised Walmart for committing to a 50% increase in off-peak hours while FedEx and UPS committed to “significantly increase the amount of goods they are moving at night.” He said Target, Home Depot, Samsung and other companies are also ramping up their efforts.
“This is an across-the-board commitment to going 24/7,” Biden said. ‘This is a big first step in speeding up the movement of materials and goods through out supply chain. but now we need the rest of the private sector chain to step up as well. This is not called a supply chain for nothing.”
He concluded his remarks as he often does, by tying these efforts to a greater struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. “We’re in the competition for the 21st Century,” Biden said, arguing that the US was still a global economic leader but that the rest of the world was “closing in.”
“We risk losing our edge if we don’t step up,” he reiterated, saying the US needed to improve its capacity to manufacture more goods in the US and move those products more efficiently around the world.
“We need to think big and bold,” he said, urging the passage of two bills that comprise the centerpiece of his Build Back Better agenda.
“We’re proposing to make the biggest investment to ports in our history,” he said of the legislation. “We’ve seen the cost of inaction in the pandemic – the delays and the congestion that affect every American. But it’s fully within our capacity to act to make sure it never happens again. It’s going to take a little time – and that we unlock the full might and dynamism of our economy and our people. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Progressives have recently started to suggest that the 31 October deadline for passing both pieces of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda – the hard infrastructure bill and the much larger social policy bill – is more of a target than a fixed date.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday and again on CNN on Wednesday, Jayapal said Democrats are not tied to that date if negotiations are still ongoing. She continued to push senators Sinema and Manchin to detail their demands so that the talks could move forward.
Psaki declined to comment on ongoing negotiations with senator Sinema, saying only that the White House has had “consistent contact” with the Arizona Democrat.
The president is “deeply committed to lowering the cost of prescription drug prices, Psaki said, but wouldn’t expand on what Sinema has relayed to Biden and White House officials about her position on the issue.
The president “absolutely” wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, believes it is “long overdue” and is “still committed” to ensuring the pay hike happens.
The briefing ended after roughly a half an hour. We will hear more from Biden on the actions the administration is taking to relieve supply change bottlenecks shortly.
Asked about the timeline for Biden’s reconciliation package, Psaki said that the president and his team are directly involved in discussions to move along the negotiations and “find a way to unify around a package that can deliver.”
“Time is not unlimited,” Psaki said. But as we noted earlier, two Democratic senators have yet to reach an agreement with their party.
Given all the action to ease supply change backlogs, can the administration guarantee that holiday packages will arrive on time?
“We are not the postal service, or UPS or FedEx, we cannot guarantee,” Psaki said. “What we can do is use every level at the federal government’s disposal to reduce delays, to ensure that we are addressing bottlenecks in the system, including ports and the need for them to be open longer hours… and we can continue to press not only workers and unions but also companies to take as many steps as they can to reduce these delays.”
Walmart is among several major companies that have committed to stepping up their round-the-clock operations. It’s also the target of many Democrats, who have excused the company of under-paying employees. Asked if the White House sought to pressure Walmart to raise its wages, Pskai said the president has been “quite vocal” about an increase to the minimum wage.
“We are not taking our foot off the gas pedal for an increase to the minimum wage,” she said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki opened today’s briefing by recapping the administration’s efforts to ease supply-chain bottlenecks during the holiday season.
“It was inevitable … that there would be economic challenges coming out of the pandemic,” Psaki said.
She also announced that Biden signed into law HR 2278, an act “to designate the September 11th National Memorial Trail Route, and for other purposes.” Psaki called the bill a testament to the “resiliency and character” of the United States in the aftermath of the attacks.
As Democrats race to scale back their social policy bill – which, as initially proposed, would have spent $3.5tn over 10 years – new polling finds that 75% of Democratic voters would prefer their party leaders do the opposite.
According to a new CNN poll, three in four Democrats say the would prefer a bill that goes further to expand the social safety net and combat climate change over one that costs less and enacts fewer of those policies.
Support for the go-big approach was highest among Democrats who described themselves as “liberal” but two-thirds of “moderate” and “conservative” Democrats also shared that view, the poll found.
The all-important political independents – viewed as swing voters – are more evenly divided over how Democrats should proceed, according to CNN, “with 36% saying lawmakers should pass a more comprehensive bill, 32% that they should pass a smaller bill, and another 32% that they should pass nothing at all.
The survey also found that 50% of Americans approve of Biden’s performance, while 49% disapprove.
In the new poll, 50% approve while 49% disapprove, which has led to pushback among some analysts that coverage of Biden’s plummeting poll numbers is overblown.