Orlando Sentinel

GOP leaders push back on riot panel

Republican leaders blast Pelosi’s draft on panel’s makeup

- By Mary Clare Jalonick and Lisa Mascaro

They argue that Speaker Pelosi’s proposed commission should have an even party split.

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders in the House and Senate say a proposed plan for an independen­t commission to study the Capitol insurrecti­on is overly tilted toward Democrats, arguing that the panel should have an even party split like the one formed to study the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that a legitimate commission would be made up of an equal number of Republican­s and Democrats. A draft proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would create an 11-member commission with four Republican­s and seven Democrats, three of whom would be chosen by President Joe Biden, according to one of multiple aides who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the details under negotiatio­n.

Pelosi has not commented on the draft or said why there should be more Democratic members. Last week, she said the commission must be “strongly bipartisan” and have the power to subpoena witnesses. But on Wednesday, House Democratic Conference Chair Hakeem Jeffries said McCarthy hasn’t operated in good faith and “set a bad tone” when he supported former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s election victory.

The partisan bickering before the commission gets off the ground is raising questions about whether lawmakers can coalesce around a thorough review of the Jan. 6 riot that interrupte­d the presidenti­al electoral count and led to five deaths. Both parties support creating an independen­t investigat­ion, but much of the consensus ends there, with Democrats demanding accountabi­lity for lawmakers who amplified Trump’s falsehoods about the election.

The vast majority of Republican­s stood by Trump as Democrats impeached him for telling his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat as Congress counted votes. And it is an open question whether the commission will be authorized to investigat­e Trump’s actions.

Republican­s have suggested an evenly divided 10-member panel and have also objected to some of the rationale for forming the commission. A second aide said that Pelosi’s proposal would give broad latitude to the commission to investigat­e what led to the effort to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power and that it quotes FBI and intelligen­ce assessment­s that show some of the violence was motivated by racism and false narratives about the election.

McConnell said on the Senate floor that the language is “artificial cherry picking” and that the commission should either look narrowly at the specific security failures in the Capitol or “potentiall­y do something broader to analyze the full scope of political violence here in our country.”

He said an inquiry “with a hardwired partisan slant would never be legitimate in the eyes of the American people.”

McCarthy pointed to the Sept. 11 commission as the model. “It’s only Speaker Pelosi who’s trying to make this thing partisan,” he said.

That commission in 2004 made 41 recommenda­tions to prevent another terrorist attack, covering tighter domestic security, the reform of intelligen­ce gathering and new foreign policy directions. Several of them were later passed by Congress and signed by then-President George W. Bush.

The two chairs of that panel, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean and former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, wrote a letter to congressio­nal leaders and Biden after the Jan. 6 attack recommendi­ng they set up a similar commission to investigat­e and “establish a single narrative and set of facts to identify how the Capitol was left vulnerable, as well as corrective actions to make the institutio­n safe again.”

In their letter, Hamilton, a Democrat, and Kean, a Republican, said that a “strong, resilient, and responsive Congress is essential for our system of government to work,” and that the commission was essential so that the American people learn the truth of what happened.

But politics have changed in the intervenin­g 17 years, and Democrats and Republican­s rarely agree on anything — including, in some cases, basic facts. Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress, and many of their constituen­ts, still question whether Biden really won the election, even though Trump’s false allegation­s of widespread fraud have been rejected by election officials in both parties, his own attorney general and courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jeffries charged Wednesday that McCarthy had given “aid and comfort” to the insurrecti­onists by voting for GOP challenges to the election the evening of Jan. 6, when Congress reconvened after the riot to finish counting the electoral votes and certify Biden’s win. The rioters had been calling for Congress to “stop the steal” and even called for the death of then-Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the count and ultimately announced the results of his own defeat.

Democrats now control both chambers, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said he also supports a commission.

HOUSTON — With its long-term facilities for immigrant children nearly full, the Biden administra­tion is working to expedite the release of children to their relatives in the U.S.

U.S. Health and Human Services on Wednesday authorized operators of long-term facilities to pay for some of the children’s flights and transporta­tion to the homes of their sponsors. Under the agency’s current guidelines, sponsors can be charged for those flights and required to pay before the government will release children, even if the sponsors have been vetted by the government.

Those costs can sometimes exceed $1,000 per child.

An internal memo sent Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press authorizes facility operators to use government funding for transport fees “in the event that a sponsor is not able to pay fees associated with commercial airfare, and a child’s physical release would be otherwise delayed.” HHS declined to say how many flights would be funded.

HHS has drasticall­y cut its capacity due to the coronaviru­s pandemic. Nearly all of the department’s 7,100 beds for immigrant children are full. Meanwhile, Border Patrol agents are apprehendi­ng an average of more than 200 children crossing the border without a parent per day. Most Border Patrol facilities aren’t equipped for long-term detention, with children forced to sleep on mats in cells where the lights stay on around the clock.

To take children from the Border Patrol, HHS reopened a surge facility at Carrizo Springs, Texas, that can hold up to 700 teenagers, and may soon reopen another site at Homestead, Florida. While they have beds, classrooms and dining areas, surge facilities cost an estimated $775 per child per day and are not subject to the same licensing requiremen­ts as regular facilities. Hearing for CIA pick: President Joe Biden’s nominee to run the CIA told lawmakers Wednesday that he would keep politics out of the job and deliver “unvarnishe­d” intelligen­ce to politician­s and policymake­rs even if they don’t want to hear it.

“I’ve learned that politics must stop where intelligen­ce works begin,” William Burns told members of the Senate Intelligen­ce Committee. “That is exactly what President Biden expects of CIA.” Burns said the first thing Biden told him when he asked him to take the post is that he “wants the agency to give it to him straight, and I pledged to do just that and to defend those who do the same.”

The comments from Burns appeared aimed at drawing a contrast with the prior administra­tion, when President Donald Trump faced repeated accusation­s of politicizi­ng intelligen­ce while also publicly disputing the assessment­s of his own intelligen­ce agencies, most notably about Russian election interferen­ce.

Burns, a former ambassador to Russia and Jordan who served at the State Department for more than 30 years under both Democratic and Republican presidents, is well-known in diplomatic circles and appears headed for a smooth confirmati­on.

Iowa election changes: Iowa Republican­s were moving swiftly Wednesday to sharply limit early voting in the state, months after a

general election overseen by a Republican secretary of state resulted in record turnout and overwhelmi­ng victories by GOP candidates.

Supporters of the legislatio­n cited fraud concerns as the reason early voting must be reined in. However, like in many other Republican-led states where similar steps are being considered, there historical­ly haven’t been widespread concerns about irregulari­ties in the election system.

As the state House moved ahead with a plan the Senate approved Tuesday, Democrats who are outnumbere­d in both chambers were left aghast but in no position to stop the changes.

Syrian torture case: A former member of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s secret police was convicted Wednesday by a German court of facilitati­ng the torture of prisoners in a landmark ruling that human rights activists hope will set a precedent for other cases

in the decadelong conflict.

Eyad Al-Gharib was convicted of accessory to crimes against humanity and sentenced by the Koblenz state court to 4 ½ years in prison.

It was the first time that a court outside Syria ruled in a case alleging Syrian government officials committed crimes against humanity. German prosecutor­s invoked the principle of universal jurisdicti­on for serious crimes to bring the case that involved victims and defendants who were in Germany.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the trial was a step against impunity in the conflict. His country has given refuge to hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing violence and hardship in their homeland, and backed internatio­nal efforts to collect prosecutab­le evidence of crimes in Syria.

Al-Gharib was accused of being part of a unit that arrested people following anti-government protests

in the Syrian city of Douma and took them to a detention center known as Al Khatib, or Branch 251, where they were tortured.

China’s Mars craft: China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipati­on of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months.

The China National Space Administra­tion said the spacecraft executed a maneuver to adjust its orbit early Wednesday and will remain in the new orbit for about the next three months before attempting to land. During that time, it will be mapping the surface of Mars and using its cameras and other sensors to collect further data, particular­ly about its prospectiv­e landing site.

That follows the landing of the U.S. Perseveran­ce rover last Thursday near an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater to search for signs of ancient microscopi­c life.

Okla. gruesome slayings: An Oklahoma man who had been released early from prison in January as part of a mass commutatio­n effort is now accused of three killings, including the death of a neighbor whose heart he cut out, authoritie­s said.

A judge denied bail Tuesday for Lawrence Paul Anderson, who faces three counts of first-degree murder, one count of assault and one count of maiming for the attack this month in Chickasha, about 35 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigat­ion, Anderson is accused of killing Andrea Lynn Blankenshi­p, 41, and cutting out her heart.

Authoritie­s say Anderson brought the heart to his aunt and uncle’s house, cooked it with potatoes and tried to serve it to them before killing Leon Pye, 67, wounding the aunt and killing Kaeos Yates, the pair’s 4-year-old granddaugh­ter.

NEW YORK — The foundation widely seen as a steward of the Black Lives Matter movement says it took in just over $90 million last year, according to a financial snapshot shared exclusivel­y with Associated Press.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is now building infrastruc­ture to catch up to the speed of its funding and plans to use its endowment to become known for more than protests after Black Americans die at the hands of police or vigilantes.

“We want to uplift Black joy and liberation, not just Black death. We want to see Black communitie­s thriving, not just surviving,” reads an impact report the foundation shared with the AP before releasing it.

This marks the first time in the movement’s nearly eightyear history that BLM leaders have revealed a detailed look at their finances. The foundation’s coffers and influence grew immensely following the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black man whose last breaths under the knee of a white Minneapoli­s police officer sparked protests across the U.S. and around the world.

That growth also caused longstandi­ng tensions to boil over between some of the movement’s grassroots organizers and national leaders — the former went public last fall with grievances about financial transparen­cy, decision-making and accountabi­lity.

The foundation said it committed $21.7 million in grant funding to official and unofficial BLM chapters, as well as 30 Black-led local organizati­ons. It ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on the grant funds and other charitable giving.

In its report, the BLM foundation said individual donations via its main fundraisin­g platform averaged $30.76. More than 10% of the donations were recurring. The report does not state who gave the money in 2020, and leaders declined to name prominent donors.

Last year, the foundation’s expenses were $8.4 million — that includes staffing, operating and administra­tive costs, along with activities such as civic engagement, rapid response and crisis interventi­on.

One of its focuses for 2021 will be economic justice, particular­ly as it relates to the ongoing socioecono­mic impact of COVID-19 on Black communitie­s.

The racial justice movement had a broad impact on philanthro­pic giving last year. According to an upcoming report by Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthro­py, 35% of the $20.2 billion in U.S. funding dollars from corporatio­ns, foundation­s, public charities and high-net-worth individual­s to address COVID-19 was explicitly designated for communitie­s of color.

After the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborho­od watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, BLM’s founders pledged to build a decentrali­zed movement governed by consensus of a members’ collective. In 2015, a network of chapters was formed, as support and donations poured in.

But critics say the BLM Global Network Foundation has moved away from being a Black radical organizing hub and become a mainstream philanthro­pic and political organizati­on run without democratic input from its earliest grassroots supporters.

BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors told the AP that the foundation is focused on a “need to reinvest into Black communitie­s.”

“One of our biggest goals this year is taking the dollars we were able to raise in 2020 and building out the institutio­n we’ve been trying to build for the last seven and a half years,” she said.

Cullors, who was already active in her native Los Angeles, where she created her own social justice organizati­on, Power and Dignity Now, became the global foundation’s full-time executive director last year.

Fellow co-founders Alicia Garza, who is the principal at Black Futures Lab, and Opal Tometi, who created a Black new media and advocacy hub called Diaspora Rising, are not involved with the foundation. Garza and Tometi do continue to make appearance­s as movement co-founders.

In 2020, the foundation spun off its network of chapters as a sister collective called BLM Grassroots. The chapters, along with other Black-led local organizati­ons, became eligible in July for financial resources through a $12 million grant fund. Although there are many groups that use “Black Lives Matter” or “BLM” in their names, less than a dozen are considered affiliates of the chapter network.

According to foundation records shared with the AP, several chapters, including in the cities of Washington, Philadelph­ia and Chicago, were notified last year of their eligibilit­y to receive $500,000 each in funding under a multiyear agreement. Only one BLM group in Denver has signed the agreement and received its funds in September.

A group of 10 chapters, called the #BLM10, rejected the foundation’s funding offer last year and complained publicly about the lack of donor transparen­cy. Foundation leaders say only a few of the 10 chapters are recognized as network affiliates.

In a letter released Nov. 30, the #BLM10 claimed most chapters have received little to no financial resources from the BLM movement since its launch in 2013. That has had adverse consequenc­es for the scope of their organizing work, local chapter leaders told the AP.

The chapters are asking for an equal say in “this thing that our names are attached to, that they are doing in our names,” said Black Lives Matter DC organizer April Goggans, part of the #BLM10 along with groups in Indianapol­is, Oklahoma City, San Diego, Hudson Valley, New York, and elsewhere. “We are BLM. We built this, each one of us.”

 ?? STEFANI REYNOLDS/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? A contract worker with the Architect of the Capitol office makes repairs Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. A proTrump mob damaged the building during the Jan. 6 siege.
STEFANI REYNOLDS/THE NEW YORK TIMES A contract worker with the Architect of the Capitol office makes repairs Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. A proTrump mob damaged the building during the Jan. 6 siege.
 ?? KEMAL SOFTIC/AP ?? A river jam of trash: Garbage floats Wednesday in the Drina River near Visegrad in eastern Bosnia. Environmen­tal activists in Bosnia warn that tons of garbage floating down the Balkan country’s rivers are endangerin­g the ecosystem and people’s health. The Drina has been covered for weeks with trash that has piled up faster than authoritie­s can clear it out.
KEMAL SOFTIC/AP A river jam of trash: Garbage floats Wednesday in the Drina River near Visegrad in eastern Bosnia. Environmen­tal activists in Bosnia warn that tons of garbage floating down the Balkan country’s rivers are endangerin­g the ecosystem and people’s health. The Drina has been covered for weeks with trash that has piled up faster than authoritie­s can clear it out.
 ?? WARREN/AP TED S. ?? Protesters representi­ng Black Lives Matter and Protect the Results march last year in Seattle. A financial snapshot shared with The Associated Press shows the BLM Global Network Foundation took in just over $90 million in 2020.
WARREN/AP TED S. Protesters representi­ng Black Lives Matter and Protect the Results march last year in Seattle. A financial snapshot shared with The Associated Press shows the BLM Global Network Foundation took in just over $90 million in 2020.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA