A former Florida governor who is seeking re-election said Saturday he was in favor of lifting a US embargo on Cuba. Washington has had an economic embargo clamped on the communist-run Caribbean country since 1962, and the two have never moved off a…
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January 23, 2021
On Friday night, writing for The Washington Post, conservative attorney George Conway laid out the way forward to investigate former President Donald Trump for his criminal conduct in office now that he is a private citizen — and prosecute him where appropriate.
"Trump departed the White House a possible — many would say probable, provable — criminal, one who has left a sordid trail of potential and actual misconduct that remains to be fully investigated," wrote Conway. "A desperate fear of criminal indictment may even explain Trump's willingness to break any number of laws to stay in office despite losing his reelection bid, democracy and the Constitution be damned."
<p>While President Joe Biden is correct to pledge to stay out of prosecutorial decisions surrounding Trump, wrote Conway, the Justice Department should not — and everything from the <a href="https://www.rawstory.com/2018/05/called-fighting-back-trump-previews-defense-obstruction-justice-charges/" target="_blank">Russia obstruction of justice</a>, to the <a href="https://www.rawstory.com/2019/09/ukrainian-official-confirms-bombshell-reports-clearly-trump-is-looking-for-kompromat-on-biden/" target="_blank">Ukraine bribery scheme</a>, to his <a href="https://www.rawstory.com/pennsylvania-voter-fraud-case/" target="_blank">attacks on the election</a> and <a href="https://www.rawstory.com/trump-prosecution/" target="_blank">incitement of the Capitol riot</a>, should be on the table to prosecute.</p><p>One important avenue, wrote Conway, is to follow the lead of New York prosecutors.</p><p>"[Manhattan DA Cyrus] Vance is running a state investigation, but if Trump has committed bank or insurance fraud, that would be chargeable as federal offenses as well, including mail or wire fraud," wrote Conway. "So, too, with state tax offenses, given how Trump's federal and state returns would no doubt track one another. Trump apparently had good reason to be concerned about who would fill [Preet] Bharara's old job."</p><p>Also important, Conway argued, is for future Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint a special counsel — or, ideally, more than one of them.</p><p>"With Trump, there's so much to investigate criminally that one special counsel can't do it all," wrote Conway. "Could you imagine one prosecutor in charge of addressing Trump's finances and taxes, his hush-money payments, obstruction of the Mueller investigation, the Ukraine scandal, and post-election misconduct, for starters? It would be an impossible task for one team. One special counsel's office couldn't do it all, not in any reasonable amount of time, and it's important for prosecutors to finish their work as quickly as possible. Three or four special counsels are needed. Under the regulations, each would be accountable to the attorney general."</p><p>You can read more <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/22/trump-charges-george-conway/?arc404=true" target="_blank">here</a>.</p>
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January 23, 2021
Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas has accrued a resume tailor-made for a Republican politician: He leapt from a small-town Arkansas cattle farm to Harvard University and then Harvard Law School; he left a leading New York firm to join the military after George W. Bush's re-election; he was discharged after nearly eight years and two war-zone deployments as an Army captain and decorated hero — including two commendation medals, a Bronze Star and a Ranger tab.
This article first appeared in Salon.
<p>But when Cotton launched his first congressional campaign in 2012, he felt compelled to repeatedly falsify that honorable military record, even as he still served in the Army Reserve.</p><p>In his first run for Congress, Cotton leaned heavily on his military service, claiming to have been "a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan," and, in a campaign ad, to have "volunteered to be an Army Ranger." In reality, Cotton was never part of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the elite unit that plans and conducts joint special military operations as part of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.</p><p>Rather, Cotton attended the Ranger School, a two-month-long, small-unit tactical infantry course that literally anyone in the military is eligible attend. Soldiers who complete the course earn the right to wear the Ranger tab — a small arch that reads "Ranger" — but in the eyes of the military, that does not make them an actual Army Ranger.</p><p>Yet Cotton told the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record in February 2012: "My experience as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan and my experience in business will put me in very good condition." The year before, he told Roby Brock of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRvi3u0apY0" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Talk Politics</a> in a video interview that he "became an infantry officer and an Army Ranger." A Cotton campaign ad placed in the Madison County Record in May 2012 identifies Cotton as a "Battle-Tested Leader" who "Volunteered to be an Army Ranger."</p><p><img alt="" src="https://mediaproxy.salon.com/width/600/https://media.salon.com/2021/01/screen_shot_2021-01-22_at_5_02_53_pm.png"/></p><p>Reached for comment, Cotton spokesperson Caroline Tabler told Salon in an email, "Senator Cotton graduated from Ranger school and is more of a Ranger than a Salon reporter like you will ever be." (It is not immediately clear whether Tabler herself is a Ranger, or whether she graduated from Ranger school. Further, Tabler, a spokesperson <a href="https://twitter.com/CarolineTabler" target="_blank">for Cotton's Senate office</a>, copied the office's chief of staff, <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/doug-coutts-701075166/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Doug Coutts</a>, on the email, but to a Cotton campaign address; senate offices may not coordinate with campaigns. Tabler asked to arrange an off-the-record call in that email; Salon declined, citing the unfavorable terms.)</p><p>It isn't a minor or insignificant distinction. Last summer, Washington Post fact-checker <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/07/22/gop-senate-hopeful-says-hes-an-army-ranger-army-says-hes-ranger-qualified/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Glenn Kessler</a> addressed it during New Hampshire's Republican Senate primary, which featured two Ranger School alums: Colorado lawyer Bryant "Corky" Messner, and retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc. Messner claimed repeatedly that he was a Ranger; Bolduc did not make such claims, and called out his opponent over it.</p><p>"Unless you served in a Ranger battalion, I think you're overstretching your claim," Bolduc told Messner last <a href="https://www.unionleader.com/news/politics/national/bolduc-messner-trade-barbs-on-military-service/article_75273e0f-7b5e-567c-bf7d-6b7dd504420f.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">spring</a>. "I'm Ranger-qualified, and I always stipulate that. I never served in a Ranger battalion."</p><p>The Ranger Regiment is considered the Army's top action unit, and over the course of the so-called War on Terror, Rangers have killed or captured more high-value targets than any other unit. The regiment comprises four battalions, and members wear distinctive tan berets as well as a red, white and black <a href="https://havokjournal.com/culture/military/the-scroll-of-truth-having-a-tab-doesnt-make-you-a-ranger/#:~:text=The%2075th%20Ranger%20Regiment%20is,an%20assignment%20to%20the%20Regiment." rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Ranger "Scroll,"</a> a cloth badge distinct from the black-and-gold tab that Cotton earned at Ranger School. Attending the school, in fact, is not a prerequisite to serve in the Ranger Regiment.</p><p>"It should be noted that Ranger School and the 75th Ranger Regiment are completely different entities under completely different commands with completely different missions, and one is not needed for the other," writes one <a href="https://www.wearethemighty.com/articles/this-is-everything-you-need-to-know-about-army-rangers/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Ranger veteran</a> for the Havok Journal.</p><p>When Kessler asked the Army to evaluate Messner's claim, a Special Operations Command spokesperson made a distinction: Ranger qualified vs. an Army Ranger.</p> <blockquote> The U.S. Army Ranger Course is the Army's premier leadership school, and falls under Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Eustis, Virginia, and is open to all members of the military, regardless of whether they have served in the 75th Ranger Regiment or completed the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. A graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger Course is Ranger qualified.<br/>The 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit with the mission to plan and conduct joint special military operations in support of national policies and objectives. The Regiment's higher headquarters is the U.S. Army Special Operations Command located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Regiment is the Army's largest, joint special operations force. All members of the 75th Ranger Regiment have passed the Ranger Assessment Selection Program 1, 2, or both. Anyone who is serving or has served within the 75th Ranger Regiment is a U.S. Army Ranger.<br/> </blockquote> <p>Messner told the Post that his claim had never been closely examined until he ran for Senate, and provided five statements from retired officers saying that anyone who graduated from the school had the right to call themselves a Ranger. Kessler went to the retired colonel who headed the Ranger School between 2014 and 2016, who said the difference was indeed a matter of debate, but concluded: "Should [Messner] say he was 'Ranger-qualified' in his ads? Probably. Maybe."</p><p>Kessler described Messner's phrasing — "Corky became an Army Ranger, serving abroad guarding the Berlin Wall during the Cold War" — as "especially problematic." Some of Cotton's claims appear to go even further, especially when describing his "experience as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan."</p><p>Kessler gave Messner two "Pinocchios," the Post's measure of falsehood. Cotton, who in a <a href="https://www.salon.com/2020/07/27/republican-sen-tom-cotton-attempts-to-defend-his-remarks-calling-slavery-a-necessary-evil/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">fiercely criticized</a> New York Times op-ed last summer advocated for calling in the military to put down Black Lives Matter protests, deserves at least as much.</p>
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January 23, 2021
Even New York Times columnist David Brooks—widely reviled over many years for his "wrongheaded and naive" brand of right-wing commentary—agreed Friday with the many progressive voices arguing that Democrats will ultimately be justified in abolishing the legislative filibuster in the U.S. Senate if Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continues his obstructionist ways.
In his latest column—titled the "The Case for Biden Optimism"—Brooks contends that if current efforts to forge a bipartisan power-sharing agreement fail, efforts to pass a comprehensive Covid-19 economic relief package put forth by President Joe Biden are stymied, and "Republicans go into full obstruction mode" then the Democrats, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, "should absolutely kill the filibuster."
<p> While progressives have been <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/01/17/jim-crow-relic-must-be-abolished-demand-end-filibuster-grows" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">making this argument intensely</a> for weeks, if not months, many were caught off guard by Brooks' endorsement. </p><p> "Can't believe David Brooks and I finally agree on a thing," <a href="https://twitter.com/WaywardWinifred/status/1352650715848732676" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">said</a> Winnie Wong, former top aide to the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign, in response to the column. </p><div class="twitter-tweet twitter-tweet-rendered" style="display: flex; max-width: 550px; width: 100%; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px;"> <iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" class="" data-tweet-id="1352627782908567554" frameborder="0" id="twitter-widget-0" scrolling="no" src="https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1352627782908567554&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.rawstory.com%2Fr%2Fentryeditor%2F2650071971%23publish&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px" style="position: static; visibility: visible; width: 550px; height: 422px; display: block; flex-grow: 1;" title="Twitter Tweet"> </iframe> </div><p> "Kill the filibuster. Today. Now," <a href="https://twitter.com/RBReich/status/1352657553826607109" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">said</a> former secretary of labor Robert Reich in a tweet directed at Schumer. "Hell, even David Brooks agrees." </p><p> As columnist Ryan Cooper <a href="https://theweek.com/articles/962414/mcconnell-already-moving-strangle-biden-presidency" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">wrote</a> for <em>The Week</em> on Thursday: "[McConnell] is demanding Democrats preserve his ability to block anything they propose with the Senate filibuster, so he can ruin the country and blame it on them, and he is gambling that moderate Democratic senators will be too scared to call his bluff. Democrats should tell McConnell to go pound sand, and nuke the filibuster right now." </p><p> Cooper explained: </p><blockquote> Recall that the filibuster allows just 41 senators to block most legislation. Activists have begged Democrats to get rid of the filibuster after witnessing McConnell use it to shamelessly obstruct Democratic priorities and then immediately remove it as an obstacle to his own chief priority, confirming right-wing Supreme Court Justices. Yet so far a crucial segment of moderate Democratic senators have resisted, for reasons of "tradition," or worries it will force them to take difficult votes, or simple timidity. Now McConnell has broken yet another Senate norm by <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/21/democrats-mcconnell-filibuster-460967" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">threatening to filibuster</a> the Organizing Resolution unless Democrats agree to keep the legislative filibuster for the next two years. To the best of my knowledge, filibustering the initial organizational rule package in a new Congress has never happened before. (Incidentally, since the Senate will continue to operate under its current rules, that leaves Republicans in charge of the committees so long as it is not passed.)<br/> If Democrats agree, given McConnell's history, he is virtually guaranteed to not allow any normal legislation through, and to drag out the confirmation of any appointee as long as possible. The only way to pass any law will be through the cumbersome and limited reconciliation process. Just as he did under President [Barack] Obama, McConnell wants to throw sand in the gears of government, prevent Biden from accomplishing anything, blame Democrats for the resulting dysfunction, and take back full control of the Senate in two years.</blockquote><p> In response to McConnell's request to keep the filibuster in place, Schumer on the Senate floor Friday morning said the proposal "is unacceptable, and it won't be accepted. And the Republican leader knew that when he first proposed it." </p><p> In a statement on Thursday, Mairead Lynn, a spokesperson for the watchdog group Accountable.US, also suggested that Schumer should not tolerate McConnell's obstruction for one minute longer and called out the Republican leader's objections to the organizing agreement in the Senate thus far as clearly made in bad faith. </p><p> "If McConnell wanted to work with Democrats in good faith," said Lynn, "he would have spent the last two months moving President Biden's Cabinet nominees through the confirmation process—a precedent afforded to every previous president." </p><p> McConnell's "unprecedented" and "outsized" demands that would neutralize Democratic control over the Senate, added Lynn, "are nothing more than a last-ditch effort to further obstruct the Biden administration from implementing the will of the people. Enough is enough: McConnell needs to drop his unreasonable demands and let the Senate get to work." </p><p> On Thursday, Ezra Klein, Brooks' liberal colleague at the <em>Times</em>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/21/opinion/biden-inauguration-democrats.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">argued</a> that none of the far-reaching bills that Democrats have vowed to pass will be possible in "a Senate in which the filibuster forces 60-vote supermajorities on routine legislation." </p><p> Democrats, wrote Klein, "have plenty of ideas that could improve people's lives and strengthen democracy. But they have, repeatedly, proved themselves more committed to preserving the status quo of the political system than fulfilling their promises to voters. They have preferred the false peace of decorum to the true progress of democracy. If they choose that path again, they will lose their majority in 2022, and they will deserve it." </p><p> According to Klein, Biden's "agenda will live or die in the Senate"—and if proper action is not taken, he continued, "odds are it will die, killed by the filibuster." </p><p> This is exactly why progressive critics have urged Democrats to immediately end the charade orchestrated by McConnell. </p><p> In a series of tweets Thursday, Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive advocacy group Indivisible, <a href="https://twitter.com/ezralevin/status/1352328111162093568" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">said</a> his read on the situation was this: "McConnell wants to block popular bills this Congress—stuff like D.C. statehood and H.R. 1. He doesn't want to have the filibuster fight with that backdrop, so instead he's picking the fight on a boring-sounding procedure thing hoping it's more favorable ground for him." </p><p> "To be clear," he added: "Senate Dems have no reason or need to give into McConnell's BS. It would be a colossal mistake of historic proportions for them to give in. And I don't think they will here." </p><script async="" charset="utf-8" src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script><div class="twitter-tweet twitter-tweet-rendered" style="display: flex; max-width: 550px; width: 100%; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px;"><iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" class="" data-tweet-id="1352344411590561797" frameborder="0" id="twitter-widget-1" scrolling="no" src="https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1352344411590561797&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.rawstory.com%2Fr%2Fentryeditor%2F2650071971%23publish&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px" style="position: static; visibility: visible; width: 550px; height: 456px; display: block; flex-grow: 1;" title="Twitter Tweet"></iframe></div><p>And as Levin put it on Friday in a <a href="https://twitter.com/ezralevin/status/1352655220266905606" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">tweet</a> linking to Brooks' column: "Killing the Jim Crow filibuster is the institutionalist, pro-democracy position."</p> <script async="" charset="utf-8" src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script>
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