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U.S. attorney in Georgia abruptly resigns as Trump's actions spark demands for investigation: reports

January 4, 2021 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung Pak resigned abruptly on Monday, according to Talking Points Memo and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as the state finds itself at the center of fierce debates over the 2020 election.

It’s not uncommon for U.S. attorneys to resign near the end of an outgoing administration. But Pak, a Republican who was appointed to his position by President Donald Trump in 2017, has previously indicated “he would not leave until Inauguration Day,” Talking Points Memo reported. This apparently abrupt departure, then, is likely to draw scrutiny.

It’s especially noteworthy because Trump himself suddenly became the target of intense criticism when the Washington Post published a recording of his call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over the weekend. In the call, Trump insisted he won the state, relying on a series of debunked and fictitious claims about supposed fraud and misconduct in the election that he claimed tilted the result in Biden’s favor. Most egregiously, he told Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes, the number he believed he needed to flip the state and win its electoral votes. Trump even seemed to threaten Raffensperger when he suggested the secretary could face criminal penalties for his administration of the election.

Many observers, including top election law expert Rick Hasen, have suggested Trump could be prosecuted under federal and state law for this behavior. It is illegal to try to induce an election official to commit fraud.

There may be a mundane reason for Pak’s departure. But the proximity to Trump’s scandalous conduct suggests at least two possibilities. He may have left for reasons related to a possible investigation of the president for his behavior on the call and related actions, or he may have left because he was placed under similar pressure by the president or his proxies to find or invent allegations of wrongdoing in the Georgia election.

The more scandalous possibilities are also suggested by Trump’s recent behavior toward the Justice Department. Trump made it clear he was not happy with former Attorney General Bill Barr’s claims that federal investigators had found no evidence of fraud significant enough that it would have affected the result of the 2020 presidential election in any state. He has also reportedly been pushing for a special counsel to look into his allegations about the election. And since Barr himself abruptly left …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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GOP official tears into Trump team's attacks on Georgia race — says they 'intentionally misled' the public

January 4, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

With the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden only 16 days away, President Donald Trump is still making a last-ditch effort to overturn the election results in Georgia and other states that Biden won. But conservative Republican elections officials in Georgia, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his colleague Gabriel Sterling, are not budging and continue to stress that Biden won the Peach State fairly — and Sterling expressed his frustration with Trump during a press conference in Atlanta on Monday.

Trump and his legal allies, Sterling complained to reporters, have “intentionally misled the (Georgia) State Senate” as well as “voters and the people of the United States” about the election.

One of the totally debunked claims from pro-Trump attorneys, including Sidney Powell, is that Dominion Voting Systems’ equipment was used to swing the election in Biden’s favor — and Sterling slammed that claim as total nonsense during the press conference.

“No one is changing parts or pieces out of Dominion voting machines,” Sterling told reporters. “I don’t even know what that means. That’s not a real thing. That’s not happening.”

Media Matters’ Lis Power notes that while Sterling was debunking the Trump campaign’s false claims, Fox News’ Bill Hemmer cut away from the press conference and brought on Jason Miller, senior to the campaign, so that Miller could “lie more”:

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Foreign policy experts are alarmed Trump could attack Iran out of desperation

January 4, 2021 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

Foreign policy experts are sounding the alarm that U.S. President Donald Trump could launch an assault on Iran in the final weeks of his administration, potentially provoking a full-blown war just days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Fears of a military confrontation are mounting in the wake of the Pentagon’s announcement Sunday that the USS Nimitz would remain in the Middle East—a reversal of Friday’s decision to signal a de-escalation of hostility toward Tehran by redeploying the aircraft carrier out of the region prior to this past weekend’s one-year anniversary of the Trump-ordered assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

The intensification of tensions between the U.S. and Iran also coincides with Trump’s efforts to retain power despite losing his reelection bid in November 2020.

The right-wing coup attempt has grown increasingly desperate ahead of Wednesday’s expected certification of Biden’s victory by Congress, with many observers calling for Trump to be criminally prosecuted following the emergence of evidence that the president on Saturday tried to intimidate Georgia’s top election official into overturning the results.

“Trump may be planning his biggest—and likely most disastrous—stunt yet,” Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, wrote late last week. “Whatever his calculation may be, there is clearly a risk that the last three weeks of Trump’s presidency may be the most perilous.”

Parsi’s concerns are shared by Danny Postel, assistant director of the Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern University. “Trump is a very wounded and very cornered animal in an end-game scenario. He’s got a few weeks left, and we know that he is capable of extremely erratic behavior,” Postel told Al Jazeera in an interview this past weekend. “It may be the case that his most erratic, most reckless lashing out is yet to come.”

Parsi said Sunday night that a former U.S. military official told him that Trump starting a war with Iran is “probable.”

According to what the former official told Parsi, “It will relieve the pressure from the Georgia recording leaks.” Trump’s aggression also comes amid what Parsi called “a showdown in the Senate on Jan. 6 with demonstrations and potential for violence in Washington, D.C.”

In his attempted justification of the Pentagon’s …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Prison time for Trump is the way to stop GOP's descent into fascism

January 4, 2021 in Blogs

By John Stoehr

The Washington Post released the transcript Sunday of the president’s Saturday phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state. The document is a thicket of conspiracy theory, threats and lies. We’ll be talking about it for some time. For now, however, I think it’s important to focus on one big thing, which is this: Donald Trump broke the law.

I’m not an attorney. I’m not a judge. I’m not a professor of law. But any commonsense yet critical reading of this transcript, done in good faith, should come to the same conclusion. There’s one reason and one reason only for a president who lost Georgia to be hounding that state’s top election official. There’s one reason and one reason only for the president to insist he won the state only to have Brad Raffensperger, the official in question, politely but firmly correct him each and every time. There’s one reason and one reason only: to vandalize the supreme sovereignty of the American people.

Federal statute: It is punishable by fine or up to five years in prison for “a person” to “knowingly and willfully” deprive, defraud, or attempt to deprive or defraud “the residents of a state of a fair and impartially conducted election process.”

That’s the only conclusion. Raffensperger’s office recounted the vote three times, once by hand, each time with the same result. Joe Biden won by 11,779 votes. His office has explained itself to the state House of Representatives. It has explained itself to the state Senate. His office, together with the Georgia General Assembly, has certified the vote. Georgia’s electors, along with those of 49 other states, convened Dec. 14 to certify the national Electoral College vote. All but one of Trump’s lawsuits have been tossed. (One is pending in state court.) All that remains is for the US Congress to sign off.

Every “i” has been dotted. Every “t” has been crossed. Yet here’s the president of the United States calling a state official directly. (Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and three White House attorneys were also on the line.) Why did he call? Only an idiot would ask why. The right question is what federal statutes were violated? I’ll leave that to attorneys, judges and law professors, but even 52 U.S. Code § is subject to a commonsense reading. It is punishable by fine or up to five years in …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Experts fear a new South African strain of COVID might be resistant to the vaccines

January 4, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Some medical experts have been expressing confidence that the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and others will be effective against a new, highly contagious COVID-19 variant that has been slamming the United Kingdom. But U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has a dire warning about a COVID-19 variant that has been spreading in coastal areas of South Africa. That variant, according to Hancock, might be resistant to the vaccines.

Hancock told BBC Radio, “I’m incredibly worried about the South African variant. This is a very, very significant problem…. It’s even more of a problem than the U.K. new variant.”

John Bell, an immunologist at Oxford University in the U.K., is worried as well. Bell helped develop AstraZeneca and Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine, and according to Bell, there is a “big question” mark over whether or not that vaccine and others will protect against the South African variant.

CBS News’ Sarah Carter reports that Bell said it was “unlikely” that the South African variant would render the vaccines from AstraZeneca/Oxford and others ineffective, but he did say that there might need to be adjustments so that the vaccines will be as effective as possible against that variant.

Oxford Professor Shabir Madhi, who worked on the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, told CBS News that more than 13 different COVID-19 variants have been identified in South Africa since the pandemic began — and the new one, 501.V2, is by far the most disturbing mutation he has seen.

Madhi warned, “It’s not a given that the vaccine will not work on this variant, but it is a consideration that the vaccine might not have the full efficacy.”

Human trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine as well as a Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been conducted in South Africa, and Madhi is glad that some of them were conducted after the 501.V2 variant was discovered.

“Those on our trial received the second dose during the time of this new variant, which is extremely fortunate,” Madhi explained.

Glenda Gray, who serves as president of the South African Medical Research Council and headed the Johnson & Johnson trial’s team, told CBS News, “It is fortunate that this timing will allow us to see whether there is any change with this new variant…. This new variant should not delay vaccine access, but it also means we need to keep our eye on breakthrough infections.”

South Africa, Carter notes, has had the highest …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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7 Major Events That Happened During Lame Duck Sessions

January 4, 2021 in History

By Dave Roos

Some lame-duck presidents and lawmakers managed to pack in major, sometimes stinging initiatives during their final weeks in office.

Americans borrowed the term “lame duck” from the British, who first applied the insult to bankrupt businessmen in the 18th century and then to 19th-century politicians whose time in office was quickly running out. Before the 20th Amendment was ratified in 1933, lame-duck presidents and congressmen served for long stretches after the election. New presidents weren’t inaugurated until March 4, a full four months after the election, and a new Congress often wouldn’t meet until 13 months after the election.

After the 20th Amendment, the lame duck period was greatly shortened, but that didn’t stop lame-duck politicians from packing their remaining weeks in office with last-minute pardons and acts of political sabotage.

James Buchanan Did Nothing to Stop Secession

James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States, c. 1860.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in November of 1860, slave-owning states led by South Carolina made clear their intentions to secede from the Union rather than make concessions with the incoming Republican administration. President James Buchanan, a lame duck with a Cabinet full of Southerners, chose to blame Lincoln and Northern abolitionists for the division over slavery rather than take a hard line against Southern secession.

In his December 1860 State of the Union Address, Buchanan said that “the antecedents of the President-elect have been sufficient to justify the fears of the South that he will attempt to invade their constitutional rights,” although Buchanan didn’t believe Lincoln would act so hastily. The greater blame for the secession crisis was, as Buchanan saw it, “the long-continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern states.”

After South Carolina and six other states formally seceded in December 1860 and January 1861, Buchanan was in a tough spot. He knew that secession was illegal, but he also believed that the Constitution barred him from sending in federal soldiers to quash the rebellion. When South Carolinian troops surrounded Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, Buchanan sent an unarmed vessel, the Star of the West, to provide reinforcements for the U.S. Army. But when the Star of the West was fired upon and blocked from entering the harbor, Buchanan folded.

“I don’t think that history is fair to Buchanan,” says Daniel Franklin, …read more

Source: HISTORY

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13 Everyday Objects of Colonial America

January 4, 2021 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Early American colonists may not have had electricity, plumbing or cars, but they found ways to make daily life easier with these objects.

It should come as no surprise that people living in the original …read more

Source: HISTORY