GOP leaders push back on riot panel
Republican leaders blast Pelosi’s draft on panel’s makeup
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.”