Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of unleashing a global propaganda campaign to persuade global powers not to recognise an election that gave the presidency to a pro-Western tycoon. Washington for its part admitted to a "fundamental disagreement" with…
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A West Virginia Proud Boys leader who has been criminally charged with breaching the US Capitol and engaging in disorderly conduct has requested an additional 30 days to continue discussions with the government, potentially opening the door for a plea deal.
Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey granted the joint motion sought by Proud Boys member Jeffery Finley and the US government on Monday, writing that a continuance through May 14 would "provide the parties with additional time to engage in the discovery process and case discussions."
"The purpose of continuance is to have further discussions to see if there is any possibility of plea arrangement," said Walter Holton, a former US attorney who served under President Clinton. "There's no arrow pointing up or down. Clearly, they're requesting an additional month for further discussion before he enters a guilty or not guilty plea. The only thing to talk about is if he takes guilty or not guilty."
Among more than 20 Proud Boys members charged in the Capitol insurrection, Finley has largely avoided scrutiny to date. The statement of facts accompanying the government's complaint against Finley does not mention his involvement in the violent nationalist street gang, although photos in the document clearly show him in a large group of Proud Boys advancing on the Capitol. And in one photo included in Finley's charging document, he can be seen standing outside the Capitol alongside Philadelphia chapter president Zachary Rehl, who has been identified by the government as "one of the leaders and organizers" of a group of Proud Boys that attacked the Capitol, seeking to obstruct Congress' certification of the presidential election.
Jeffery Finley (right) and Zach Rehl at the US Capitol (courtesy US government)
Finley's lawyer, Aaron D. Moss, declined to comment on whether his client is considering a plea deal.
Jason McCullough, the lead attorney for the government, also declined to comment. In addition to prosecuting Finley, McCullough is also part of the team of government lawyers responsible for trying Rehl, Charles Donohoe, Joseph Biggs and Ethan Nordean, four Proud Boys leaders who have been indicted for conspiracy to disrupt the certification of the electoral vote. The government alleges that prior to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, the Proud Boys set up an encrypted messaging channel and equipped members with Baofeng radios for communication. Rehl, according to the government, brought the radios from Philadelphia. Video published by Eddie Block, a Proud Boys-friendly streamer, shows Rehl, Nordean and Biggs leading the group that included Finley to the Capitol.
Finley discussed his leadership role in the Proud Boys as a guest on Jan. 19 on a show hosted by a progressive podcaster name Vaush. Introduced on the show as "Suspect Sushi," Finley presented himself as someone familiar with the inner workings of the organization, albeit while making the false statement that no Proud Boys entered the Capitol building.
"I don't know any Proud Boys who were even remotely close to being inside the Capitol personally," Finley told Vaush. "When you're in leadership, you know leadership, and I know that none of the leadership — no known leaders of the Proud Boys, which are usually the face of the Proud Boys — none of them were remotely close to being inside."
When the host challenged the assertion by noting that Biggs — who organized a 2019 Proud Boys rally in Portland, Ore. — was inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, Finley tried to minimize Biggs' role in the organization by saying he was merely a friend of Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio.
"I don't even know if he's part of a chapter," Finley said during the Jan. 19 podcast, which took place one day before Biggs' arrest. "And one of the things about being a Proud Boy is even if you take the oath, you actually have to be part of a chapter to be a Proud Boy."
Dylan Burns, a Maryland political consultant and Twitch streamer who arranged for Finley to appear on Vaush's show, provided a photo of Finley and Tarrio to Raw Story. Burns said Finley sent him the photo on Oct. 7, 2020 after bragging that he met the Proud Boys chairman at the time he set up the West Virginia chapter. Burns said he got to know Finley as a progressive talk-show host who regularly invites on conservatives to exchange views.
Although Burns knew him as "Suspect Sushi," the person posing in the photo with Tarrio is clearly the same person depicted in court documents that were unveiled on March 29, following Finley's arrest. A separate video taken by Eddie Block also shows Finley in a large group of Proud Boys outside Harry's Bar during a Dec. 12 gathering that ended in a stabbing.
During the Jan. 19 podcast, Finley told Vaush that he decided to join the Proud Boys because he was curious about whether the organization was as extreme as people said it was.
"The original reason to join the Proud Boys was actually more of like to kind of infiltrate," he said. "Yeah, believe it or not. When you're a conservative and you hear about a conservative group that's universally hated, you kind of want to investigate. 'Oh, they're white nationalists and they're Nazis,' and shit like that. So, I said, 'Fuck it, I'll apply, and I'll join.'"
Finley, who is Black, described his childhood growing up in Washington DC during the hour and 40 minutes exchange with Vaush. He dismissed systemic racism as a driver of negative outcomes for Black people.
"I believe that modern Black American culture is toxic and pervasive, and it actually encourages people to be like rappers, ballplayers, basically anything that's considered outside of the normal, like being a square, and working like a regular job," he said.
"Right now, I live in rural West Virginia, so all I have is white neighbors, and we're chillin,'" Finley added.
The criminal complaint alleging that Finley breached the Capitol and engaged in disorderly conduct identifies him as a resident of Martinsburg, a small city in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle region. The complaint notes that Finley, who was wearing a blue suit and red hat, had an earpiece in his ear when he advanced on the Capitol.
Jeffery Finley (courtesy US government)
"It could just be his phone," said Holton, the former US attorney. "Whether it has any significance, it's hard to tell. He's in the back of the crowd at the Capitol. He may be hearing or transmitting things. That may be important."
The motion jointly filed by the government and Finley indicates that counsel for the two "have been in contact by email and telephone" since March 29 — the same day the case was unsealed.
Of the 22 defendants identified as Proud Boys that have been charged to date in the Capitol assault, 17 have pleaded not guilty. Biggs and Nordean, who were arrested respectively on Jan. 20 and Feb. 3, have each pleaded not guilty. Rehl and Donohoe, who were indicted for conspiracy alongside Biggs and Nordean on March 3, have yet to enter pleas. The Proud Boys defendants that have not pleaded were all arrested in March.
Holton said he's not surprised that no Proud Boys defendants have entered guilty pleas to date.
"It's still relatively early," he said. "An organization like the Proud Boys, if they are cooperating, they're not going to do early guilty pleas if there's a cooperating witness. That sure sends a signal that someone's rolling on the others."
Attorneys for longtime magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who has accused former President Donald Trump of raping her more than 20 years ago, argued on Friday that it was "wrong and dangerous" for the Justice Department to defend him against her defamation lawsuit.
Carroll filed the lawsuit in 2019 after Trump denied her claim that he raped her in a department store fitting room in the mid-1990s. The Justice Department intervened last year to defend the then-president, arguing that Trump, who accused Carroll of "totally lying," made the comment in his official capacity as the nation's chief executive. A federal district judge last year rejected the DOJ's attempt to intervene but the department appealed the ruling before Trump left office, potentially leaving taxpayers on the hook for his defense.
Carroll's lawyers said in a court filing on Friday that the DOJ is trying to convince the court to "adopt a new rule that would create categorical immunity for any federal official who defames anyone while speaking to the press or responding to perceived critics."
"This rule is both wrong and dangerous," the filing said, adding that it "reflects a disturbing belief that federal officials should have free rein to destroy the reputations and livelihoods of any perceived critic — no matter how unrelated to the business of governance."
Carroll's attorneys asked the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals court to rule that "Trump did not act within the scope of his employment as President of the United States when he repeatedly, willfully defamed a private citizen to punish and retaliate against her after she revealed that he had sexually assaulted her decades before he took office."
The DOJ in its appeal argued that Trump discussed a matter of public concern in denying the allegation, which lawyers said was "an issue potentially relevant to his ability to perform the duties of his office effectively."
"The President … acts within the scope of his office when he responds to public critics," the DOJ said in a court filing.
Carroll first alleged that Trump raped her during an encounter at a Bergdorf Goodman in her 2019 book "What Do We Need Men For?" Trump responded by accusing Carroll, best known as a columnist for Elle Magazine, of lying and told reporters, "She's not my type."
"Trump has tried and failed repeatedly to get my lawsuit booted," Carroll said in a statement on Friday. "Last fall, he had his Justice Department intervene and try to get it dismissed in federal court. He lost. Then, just a week before President Biden's inauguration, Trump's private lawyers and the DOJ joined forces to argue on appeal that when Trump called me a liar who was too ugly to rape, he was somehow being presidential. This is offensive to me."
Carroll added that she is "confident that the Second Circuit will make it clear that no president, including Donald Trump, can get away scot free with maliciously defaming a woman he sexually assaulted."
In October, Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that the Federal Tort Claims Act, which protects federal employees from personal liability in lawsuits, "does not include presidents." Kaplan said that if the DOJ got its way, Carroll "would be left with no remedy, even if the president's statements were false and defamatory."
"The undisputed facts demonstrate that President Trump was not acting in furtherance of any duties owed to any arguable employer when he made the statements at issue. His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office, and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States," Kaplan wrote. "To conclude otherwise would require the Court to adopt a view that virtually everything the president does is within the public interest by virtue of his office."
Carroll's attorney Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, predicted that the 2nd Circuit would uphold the October ruling.
"As the district court properly recognized, while the facts in this case are unique, the legal principles are not," she said in a statement. "In this country, no one, not even the president, is above the law."
Carroll's lawyers are also seeking a DNA sample from Trump to compare to the dress Carroll says she wore during the alleged assault.
"After Trump sexually assaulted me, I took the black dress I had been wearing and hung it in my closet," she said last year.
A ruling upholding the previous decision to reject the DOJ intervention would likely clear the way for Trump to be deposed in the case.
Trump is facing a similar lawsuit from Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who in 2016 accused Trump of groping and kissing her without consent in 2007 and 2008. Zervos filed a defamation lawsuit in 2017 after Trump accused her of lying.
Last month, the New York State Court of Appeals granted Zervos' motion to dismiss an appeal from Trump's lawyers seeking to halt the suit on the argument that sitting presidents are protected from legal action, at least partly because Trump had left office. That ruling means that Trump can be compelled to testify under oath in the case.
"Now as a private citizen, the defendant has no further excuse to delay justice from Ms. Zervos and we are eager to get back to the trial court and prove her claims," Zervos' attorney Beth Wilkinson told The New York Times.
Trump is expected to face questions about other allegations against him if he is deposed. More than two dozen women have accused Trump of sexual assault or misconduct. Trump has denied several individual allegations while repeatedly issuing blanket denials of all the claims against him.
"There are many other similar allegations made against former President Trump and his responses to them would appropriately be the subject of questioning," Kevin Mintzer, an attorney who has represented numerous women in sexual misconduct cases, told the Times. "I would expect he's going to have to answer those questions."
Did Mitch McConnell cancel the market? Answer: No. He was never a real fan.
For the past few decades, the GOP's interests aligned harmoniously with those of corporations. Businesses amassed wealth while staying out of social issues. The GOP, in turn, rewarded businesses with tax cuts. The status quo was fine.
This state of affairs allowed the Republican Party to reward itself with the mantle of the "pro-market" party. However, as society has become more socially liberal, businesses are adapting to their customers' evolving preferences. A longstanding symbiosis has been upset and the Republicans have begun panicking.
The Senate minority leader issued an ominous warning to corporations who stood in opposition to voter suppression laws in Georgia, stating, "My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics," adding these corporations would "invite serious consequences if they became a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country."
Many noted that McConnell's stance was blatantly hypocritical. How can a conservative party that has argued that corporations deserve the rights of speech now be telling these same entities to shut up? And, certainly, one wouldn't expect the party of markets to be troubled by corporations responding to customer preferences. So what happened to the Good Old GOP, champions of markets and freedom?
The answer is simple. The Republicans never defended markets on principle. It was always an alliance of opportunity. The rhetoric of markets was a useful instrument—an anti-government cudgel—wrapped in the language of freedom. The GOP's claim, since Reagan, was that the markets promote freedom and the government does not. Thus: lower taxes and shrink the government. Start with eroding protections for civil rights.
The branding was effective. The GOP is widely perceived as the pro-market and pro-liberty party by conservatives and liberals alike. But, if you start to poke beyond this veneer, a different picture emerges. Its love of markets, it seems, is as sincere as its periodic despair over the deficit, which reliably animates opposition to Democratic policies, but recedes as soon as the resident of the White House is a Republican.
To understand the GOP's relationship with the market, we need only to consider its entire platform since Reagan. Republicans have consistently advanced policies that facilitate what economists call market failure. Such failures occur when conditions, such as monopolies, information asymmetries, and externalities, prevent the market mechanism from operating properly. By this measure, the GOP does not fare well.
Consider, first, how the GOP's deregulatory policies proliferate negative externalities. The predictable result? Depletion of resources, increased pollution, and poisoned communities. In these cases, the Republican Party seems conveniently unconcerned about personal responsibility. They're happy to have businesses impose costs on the rest of us, and eager to ensure that responsible parties escape accountability.
The second issue stems from the GOP's cavalier attitude toward monopolies. While some Republicans opine about anti-trust when it suits their interests, the party as a whole continues to encourage monopolies. For example, few Republicans have expressed any qualms about Sinclair—a rightwing group—buying up local media stations, thus creating an information monopoly. While the GOP may wax poetic about the marvel of markets, their favored policies hamper their proper function.
That the GOP's commitment to markets is disingenuous—tenuous and unprincipled—is elsewhere apparent. For example, markets could better improve people's welfare if wealth and income wasn't so concentrated. Yet the GOP's fiscal policies reliably produce income inequality, as if by design. This correlates with lower market participation. Rather than using markets to improve lives, the GOP prioritizes the returns of a tiny minority. Or, to take another example, consider the GOP's resistance to increasing the labor force, such as investing in childcare. They favor policies that keep individuals in perpetual debt, unable to engage in a variety of markets, such as housing. They also oppose legislation that alleviates job lock, such as the ACA.
We should not believe this party ever cared about markets. They loved the rhetoric of markets. It was useful. It allowed them to adopt a faux neutrality in their opposition to civil rights. Their hostility towards government could be dressed up as principled support for freedom. Yet they have stood by while markets crumbled, content to encourage the accumulation of wealth, as others drowned in bankruptcy and poverty.
Despite all of this, the GOP is regarded as pro-market. Their rhetoric worked. Why? Because American consumers were largely content with the social status quo. There was little reason for corporations to take a stand on social issues. Thus the happy symbiosis between Big Business and the party of corporate tax cuts was preserved.
But now the times are changing. The GOP hasn't undergone a reformation, nor have CEOs developed a collective sense of social conscience. The real shift is occurring within American society. The market reflects this. It has become relatively unpopular to be a bigot. Majorities of Americans now support same-sex marriage and pluralities support the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course, let's not overstate the point. The country still has a problem with bigotry (we elected Trump, after all) and much of the anti-bigot movement might be performative or aesthetic. But, overall, people who identify as non-bigots are in the majority, especially among the younger generations.
Big businesses recognize this shift and its implications. They see how the path to profit has changed. They don't necessarily oppose the Georgia voter suppression laws because of deeply held moral principles. They just see the writing on the wall. Customers prefer companies that oppose bigotry and stand up for civil rights. Businesses, to survive, are doing what the GOP has always said they should: listening to the market. But the message of the market has changed. The GOP can't accept it.
As corporations have come out against Georgia's voter-suppression laws, Republican voters have launched their own boycotts. If the pro-market party truly cared about the freedom of the market, they would say, as they always have, "let the market decide." But now, given they're unhappy with the market's decision, they can't say that. The market is becoming less useful. The marriage of convenience is over.
So what is the GOP left with? Not much. Since they won't adapt to changing preferences—of consumers or voters—they'll resort to something else. There is already some indication of what's to come. They might deploy more of the empty populist rhetoric that served the previous administration. Or they might try to find some middle ground. They might argue, as The Wall Street Journal did in an editorial last week, that "markets" are still sacred; but the heads of business are nefarious. Perhaps they'll ultimately settle on a strategy. But at the moment, the party is panicked.
The GOP's future is uncertain. What's clear, however, is that the party will continue to do whatever it takes to pursue their actual goals: bigotry, wealth and power.
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