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GOP stonewalling aside, Jan. 6 insurrection investigations continue to raise fresh evidence

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To date, as Ryan J. Reilly notes, there have been over 465 arrests of insurrectionists from nearly all 50 states. Over 130 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding police officers; more than 40 are accused of doing so with a dangerous weapon. Nearly 200 defendants have been charged with obstructing an official proceeding of Congress, a felony.

The report issued Tuesday by the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees found, among other things, that authorities has been in possession of a number of alarming clues from intelligence sources that they failed to act upon. Capitol Police had, for instance, seen information from the rabidly pro-Trump website thedonald.com that included such comments about the Capitol’s tunnel system as: “There are tunnels connected to the Capitol Building! Legislators use them to avoid press, among other things! Take note.”

The report also noted that a Capitol Police official had shared a tip the night before the riot of a “significant uptick” in new visitors to the website WashingtonTunnels.com. It was shared with the FBI National Threat Operations Center.

Other comments at thedonald.com made clear that rally attendees intended to come armed and primed for violence. Some encouraged demonstrators to bring weapons in order to subdue members of Congress and police with the intention of reversing the presidential election’s results. A sampling:

  • “Exactly, forget the tunnels. Get into Capitol Building, stand outside congress. Be in the room next to them. They wont have time [to] run if they play dumb.”
  • “Deploy Capitol Police to restrict movement. Anyone going armed needs to be mentally prepared to draw down on LEOs. Let them shoot first, but make sure they know what happens if they do.”
  • “If they don’t show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors.”
  • “Bring guns. It’s now or never.”
  • “If a million patriots who up bristling with AR’s, just how brave do you think they’ll be when it comes to enforcing their unconstitutional laws? Don’t cuck out. This is do or die. Bring your guns.”

The report also noted that acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman at times contradicted herself as she described the agency’s preparations for the day of the attack.

Pittman came under fire from the Capitol Police union, which issued a statement: “The time has come for those in senior leadership who failed us, to stand aside. It is not enough to scapegoat others. Those most responsible, including Acting Chief Pittman … need to step aside for the good of the department.”

The ranks of Capitol Police have remained in turmoil since the insurrection, especially as officers have wrestled with the reality that Republicans in Congress have been fighting against accountability for the people responsible, as WKBW reports:

“I served my country,” [Capitol Police officer Aquino] Gonell said. “I went overseas to protect our homeland from foreign threats, but yet here I am battling them in our Capitol.”

Gonell led members of the department’s civil disturbance unit. For hours, they battled the rioters attacking the Capitol.

“I got hurt. I would do it again if I have to, it’s my job,” Gonell said.

Gonell suffered a cut to his hand on Jan. 6. He also suffered a severe foot injury that later required surgery.

“They kept saying, ‘Trump sent me. We won’t listen to you. We are here to take over the Capitol, we’re here to hang Mike Pence,'” Gonell said. “They thought we were there for them and we weren’t, so they turned against us. It was very scary because I thought I was going to lose my life right there.”

The failure of a bill to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the causes of the riot left him devastated and gave him a reason to speak out.

“It hurts me that the country that I love, that I came in, that I have sacrificed so much for, doesn’t care about us. They don’t,” Gonell said.

The legal proceedings involving the indictees already arrested and charged have continued apace, dominated in their early stages by the accused insurrectionists’ pleas for pretrial release to supervised home confinement. Only a handful of judges have acceded to these requests, with most asserting that the threat they represent has not fully receded.

“The steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away; six months later, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention the near-daily fulminations of the former President,” wrote U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson recently in a ruling in which a Colorado indictee was refused bond.

Trump’s continuing insistence that the election was stolen played a key role in the judges’ thinking: In a similar ruling involving a Trump supporter from Michigan with a felony record, Jackson pointed out a text in which the man said he was in Washington on Jan. 6 because “Trump’s the only big shot I trust right now.”

The man’s “promise to take action in the future cannot be dismissed as an unlikely occurrence given that his singular source of information … continues to propagate the lie that inspired the attack on a near daily basis,” Jackson wrote.

Likewise, Judge Amit Mehta ruled in favor of detaining a man accused of throwing a hatchet and a desk during the riot under the same logic: “Unfortunately, the political dynamics that gave way to January 6th have not faded,” he wrote.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan similarly found that the threat of violence from a man charged with beating a police officer with a crutch and dragging him into a crowd remains intact: “The Court is not convinced that dissatisfaction and concern about the legitimacy of the election results has dissipated for all Americans,” Sullivan wrote April 20. “Former President Donald J. Trump continues to make forceful public comments about the ‘stolen election,’ chastising individuals who did not reject the supposedly illegitimate results that put the current administration in place.”

Sullivan took note of Trump’s Easter Sunday statement wishing a happy holiday to “the Radical Left CRAZIES who rigged our Presidential Election,” and noted a Trump speech to his donors criticizing other Republicans for not keeping him in the presidency.

In denying bond to physicist Jeffrey Sabol—who allegedly dragged an officer down the steps and used a baton to hold him down—Sullivan noted the same remarks. Sabol’s attorney had argued in court that his client now believes that he was “lied to” about the election. Sullivan responded that, given Trump’s recent comments, “There is ample reason to believe that fight is not finished for Mr. Sabol and others like him, making the threat of further violence present, concrete, and continuing.”

Not all judges have agreed. The Washington Post notes that at least half a dozen defendants have been released in recent weeks “in part by arguing that the insurrection was a singular event that could not be re-created. That argument was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which found that the dangerousness of any individual defendant had to be considered in light of the fact that ‘the specific circumstances of January 6’ created ‘a unique opportunity to obstruct democracy.’”

Judge John D. Bates on April 12 agreed to release a former State Department employee who joined the mob pushing back against police in a tunnel under the Capitol, saying that “the specific concerns in the wake of the January 6 events over future protests and violent attacks on the government . . . have dissipated to some degree.” He noted that despite concerns, there was no attempt to attack President Biden on his Inauguration Day or to seize the government on March 4, the day some conspiratorial supporters believed Trump would retake office.

“The threat to public safety must be continuing and prospective,” Bates wrote.

There were several noteworthy developments in the ongoing investigation, including several fresh arrests:

  • Kevin Creek, a Georgia roofing company owner who was captured on camera kicking and striking police officers, was arrested Thursday and charged disorderly conduct and assaulting and impeding officers, among other crimes. While it does not appear that Creek entered the Capitol itself, but was on the grounds Jan. 6 and was deterred by tear gas, and confessed to having been armed “with mace and a boot knife” at the time. Outside the building, Creek was captured in body camera footage striking one federal officer and kicking another. Creek admitted “the videos looked like him,” but said he “did not remember assaulting any officer.”
  • Christian Kulas, a 24-year-old from the wealthy suburbs of Chicago, was arrested early Tuesday for taking part in the Capitol siege. He was charged with unlawful entry and disorderly conduct, misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in prison. Investigators had received multiple tips about Kulas based on social media posts appearing to show him wearing an expensive Burberry designer jacket and following crowds into the Capitol. In one Instagram video, Kulas had turned the camera toward himself, smiling wearing a “Keep America Great” hat and a dark designer jacket. At another point, a voice could be heard saying “storming the Capitol.”
  • Rob Gieswein, a Colorado militiaman accused of assaulting an officer, interfering with a federal proceeding, and destroying property, filed a motion for release from jail that tried to argue that the 24-year-old was really a harmless fellow, and that his participation in a militia called the Woodland Wild Dogs that organized paramilitary training sessions was simply a kind of live-action role-playing game:

[T]his “militia” amounted to a group of friends who like to shoot guns, pretend to be in battles, and go camping to practice survival skills. Indeed, one of Mr. Gieswein’s closest friends, and the one who ordered “Woodland Wild Dog” patches for his friends, described it to the FBI as “more of a group of friends than anything else. There is no initiation, there are no membership rolls, and there are no dues. They are just a group of friends who like guns and Star Wars.”

Gieswein’s attorney also made the novel argument that “although Mr. Gieswein may have been holding a baseball bat, the defense has yet to see evidence of him ‘brandishing’ it in front of officers, let alone using it in a way so as to cause anyone great bodily injury or even an apprehension of imminent bodily injury.”


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Biden sets record for judges and more diversity on federal bench, thanks to filibuster reform

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“We’re so pleased with both the pace and high quality of the Biden nominees, particularly that so many come from all corners of the legal profession,” Nan Aaron, outgoing president of the Alliance for Justice, told the Associated Press. “It’s a wonderful departure from previous Democratic administrations.” It really is, reflecting a prioritization of the judiciary that previously only Republicans seemed to hold.

That means that rock stars like Ketanji Brown Jackson, a potential Supreme Court nominee, are advancing. She was the first of Biden’s picks to be seated, and is the first Black woman confirmed for an appeals court seat in a decade. Other recent appointees are Tiffany Cunningham, the first Black judge in U.S. history for the Federal Circuit (the court that hears appeals from every jurisdiction primarily on patents), and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, only the second Black woman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Myrna Pérez spent 15 years as a voting rights advocate at the Brennan Center for Justice. Her confirmation hearing was in mid-July. Her fierce advocacy for voting rights makes her the most controversial among appeals court nominees—she would become the only Latina on the Second Circuit, filling a role previously held by now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “The right to vote keeps us free. It protects us from tyranny. It is preservative of all other rights,” she said at the hearing. “And as an advocate, I have been duty bound to ensure that the promises this Constitution makes about being able to participate in your own self governance are actualized.”

Certainly with a deep belief in our democratic system like that, she’s not going to get Republican votes. But she doesn’t need to because there isn’t a filibuster for judicial nominees any more, thanks to Harry Reid and his decision in 2013 to change the filibuster rule. That’s the one thing that got Obama those nominees he did get seated—it broke McConnell’s blockade on lower court judges—and meant that many fewer vacancies for the former guy to fill.

Which means fantastic people like these are getting onto the courts to help dilute the effect of the Trump/McConnell judges. That’s a fantastic thing, once again demonstrating that getting rid of the filibuster can make good things happen.

We need more of them on the courts, all the way up to the very top: the Supreme Court. Because McConnell has packed the courts with an unprecedented number of unqualified and extremist jurists, many of whom are young and will be there for decades. Extremists who are far out of the political and cultural mainstream of America. They have to be countered. Fighting for justice demands it. These fantastic new judges need backup.

Neither filibuster reform nor expanding the courts needs to be scary for Democrats right now. Both could very well be necessary if democracy as we know it survives.


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Biden admin is allowing Stephen Miller to continue dictating immigration policy

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Legislators, advocates, and medical experts alike have been calling on the Biden administration since Day One to end the anti-asylum Title 42 policy, which was revealed by the Associated Press last October to have been implemented under political pressure from the previous administration. CDC experts at first refused to endorse it, saying there was no public health reason to do so. “That was a Stephen Miller special. He was all over that,” a former Pence aide said in that report. “There was a lot of pressure on DHS and CDC to push this forward.” 

These political officials were salivating over it for a reason. It’s proven more effective than any physical wall, advocates have said, quickly deporting hundreds of thousands of people. 

But months into the new administration, officials refused to end the policy, instead agreeing during negotiations with the ACLU to ease restrictions and process a small number of vulnerable asylum-seekers at at time. But advocates also continued pressure on the administration to end it outright, noting the harm it has inflicted on Black migrants in particular. Under the policy, more Haitians have been deported in the first months of the Biden administration than the previous administration carried out in a whole year.

“We must be decisive and unapologetic in our efforts to dismantle racist and discriminatory policies. Title 42 is no exception,” Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley said. In a clear indication of that, the previous president’s unlawfully appointed acting Department of Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, cheered the Biden administration’s decision to keep Title 42 in place.

The New York Times reports that the Biden administration had considered phasing out the policy by the end of summer. Roughly one month later, that plan was scrapped, supposedly out of concerns over the delta variant. “Delaying those plans, possibly through the end of the year, is sure to be welcomed by Republicans who have proposed legislation to maintain the rule for as long as necessary,” the report continued. 

Groups including the ACLU, Texas Civil Rights Project, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Oxfam, ACLU of Texas, and ACLU of the District of Columbia say the policy violates “longstanding immigration statutes requiring that asylum seekers receive a full and fair proceeding to determine their right to protection in the United States.” While unaccompanied children and some families are being allowed to enter the U.S., many are still being quickly expelled back to danger. Now groups are returning to court to attempt to restore the asylum system.

“We took the government to court over Title 42 because the lives of children, entire families, and extremely vulnerable people are on the line,” said Texas Civil Rights Project senior attorney Karla Marisol Vargas. “It’s beyond cruel to use an obscure public health rule to turn away families seeking safety without due process and functionally shut down our asylum system—it’s illegal. People have a legal right to seek safety in America and our government has the resources to safely process them into the country to have their cases heard. Initial promises on the part of the Biden administration to phase out Title 42 for only family units will not do enough. It is time to double down on the push to end Title 42 and force the government to follow the law.”

“It’s racist, it’s illegal, and it has no valid basis in public health, as medical experts have attested for over a year now,” said Center for Gender & Refugee Studies managing attorney Neela Chakravartula. “That the administration has chosen to continue this Trump-era policy, which violates our domestic and international legal obligations to refugees, is a moral failure and an abdication of leadership.”


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Five Miami Beach officers charged after police swarm, attack suspect and bystander who recorded it

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“Police officers face a variety of dangers on the job each and every day,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said at a press conference. “However, as I’ve previously said, excessive force can never, ever, ever, be an acceptable foundation for the policing of any community.”

The incident, which occurred on July 26, was not only captured by a bystander’s camera but on hotel surveillance footage and the police officers’ body cameras. During a press conference, Rundle played edited, pre-captioned, and highlighted portions of the incident, which totaled four minutes of content.

(Warning: The Twitter thread below contains violent video, photos, and language that may not be suitable for all readers.)

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The video begins with an officer stopping 24-year-old Dalonta Crudup at gunpoint following a brief chase into a hotel. Crudup is seen putting both hands in the air and lying facedown on the floor before he is swarmed by more than a dozen officers. According to the state attorney, a total of 21 officers converged at the hotel before excessive force was used on Crudup, the Miami Herald reported.

According to police officials, the whole incident began when Crudup allegedly illegally parked his scooter. When confronted about it, he allegedly struck an officer with the scooter and then fled in the direction of the hotel. The struck officer was allegedly left with leg injuries that required hospitalization and crutches.

After being ordered to leave an elevator at gunpoint in the hotel, Rundle said Perez kicked Crudup in the head three times and Perez kicked him four times. The video depicts this violence, with the officers appearing to even lift Crudup from the ground before slamming his head on the floor.

“You see officer Kevin Perez kicking Mr. Crudup. You see him being kicked in the head. You see Kevin Perez kick him 4 times. Then you see officer Jose Perez, who is no relation to Kevin Perez, kick him three times,” Rundle said. Rundle noted that from the footage and audio evidence, Crudup seems to have already been handcuffed during this violence.

Excessive force was not only used on Crudup but also on the innocent bystander who attempted to use his cellphone to record the arrest. According to the state attorney, the bystander was identified as 28-year-old Khalif Vaughn.

“You see officer Robert Sabater run and tackle him,” she said. “You see a bunch of punches to his rib area and kidneys. Then you see Officer David Rivas punch Mr. Vaughn in his rib cage area. And you see Officer Steven Serrano repeatedly strike him,” she explained.

Police had accused Vaughn of impeding their investigation and not maintaining a 20-foot distance. He was charged with resisting an arrest with violence and impeding a police investigation, while Crudup was charged with things that include aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer.

In response to the incident, Miami Beach Police Chief Robert Clements said: “I’m disappointed that this is out there, and it depicts our department in the manner that it does when I know we are much better than that.”

He added: “This in no measure reflects the men and women in the Miami Beach Police Department. Moving forward, I can tell you that my staff and I promise you, as individuals and as an agency, we will learn from this, and we will grow from this, and we will do better. This is not what you see from officers.”

After seeing the footage, Clements immediately suspended the officers. He also asked that charges against both victims be dropped. Investigations into the incident began when Clements contacted Rundle’s office and Internal Affairs.

In a Twitter post on Monday, Rundle thanked Clements for “swiftly recognizing the wrongs committed & bringing the matter to my attention.” According to CNN, the state attorney confirmed charges against Vaughn have been dropped, but the case against Crudup for allegedly hitting an officer with his scooter is under investigation.

“When we saw that kick to the head. And then we, and then we replayed it and we see all the other kicks that preceded it, it was just unfathomable, it was unspeakable, it is just inexcusable.” Rundle said. “I’m not alone in that feeling. I watched the chief watch that video and his head just went right down on the desk. So we’re all really horrified by it.”

All five officers have been relieved of duty pending an investigation into the case, according to Clements.

In a statement, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber thanked prosecutors and police for moving so quickly on the case, which is an uncommon occurrence, the Miami Herald reported.

“The video is not who we are, which is why our department took decisive actions within hours of the incident.”

In an interview with Local 10 News, Crudup said he believed the officers were after him for riding a scooter with headphones on. He denied hitting the officer who police say is now injured. Crudup said that he ran from the scene because he was scared of being chased by the officers.

“They trying to put a Black man in jail for no reason,” he said. “I ain’t do nothing wrong.” 


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