Despite some extremist groups’ misguided legal efforts, it remains extraordinarily difficult to legally purchase firearms in New York City. They can still be had on the black market coming in from the persistent Iron Pipeline, but Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams have begun cracking down on that smuggling pathway, and buying an illegal gun can be both expensive and dangerous. So what’s an enterprising domestic abuser, drug dealer, or would-be shooter to do? The easy option is to purchase what’s called a ghost gun, essentially a disassembled weapon that does not technically count as a fir...
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Liz Cheney, the vice chairwoman of the J6 commitment, knows that powerful eyewitness testimony and damning facts won’t necessarily change the minds of Republican voters who believe in Donald Trump.
That’s why, you may have noticed, she has been subtly but firmly appealing to their sense of honor and loyalty, such as it is, and repeatedly reminding them that the witnesses who have testified against the former president are lifelong conservative Republicans.
Here’s what she said in closing remarks after the fifth hearing:
Let me also make a broader statement to millions of Americans who put their trust in Donald Trump.
In these hearings so far, you have heard from more than a dozen Republicans who have told you about what actually happened in the weeks before January 6.
You will hear from more in the hearings to come.
Several of them served Donald Trump and his administration. Others in his campaign. Others have been conservative Republicans for their entire careers.
It can be difficult to accept that President Trump abused your trust that He deceived you. Many will invent excuses to ignore that fact. That’s a fact. I wish it weren’t true, but it is.
Bennie Thompson, the panel’s chairman, has also appealed to their sense of honor and loyalty (though as a Black Congressman, his opinion doesn’t hold much, or any, water for Trump devotees). In the first hearing, on June 9, he explained the origins of the oath of office taken by all elected officials and most of the Executive Branch:
Afterward, in 1862, when American citizens had taken up arms against this country, Congress adopted a new oath to help make sure no person who had supported the rebellion could hold a position of public trust. Therefore, Congresspersons and federal government employees were required for the first time to swear an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies — foreign and domestic.
Over six hearings so far, Thompson, Cheney and other J6 members have made the oath in a refrain. One effect of that recurring theme is the establishing, or reestablishing, of the so-called guardrails of democracy within which partisans can argue and fight and sue and whatever, but not so much that they violate their solemn promise.
The inference of this recurring theme of loyalty to the Constitution and not a man, seems clear: Once you bust through that guardrail – once you violate a vow to defend and protect the Constitution – you cease being a member of our political community in good standing.
You are now a domestic enemy.
The J6 committee’s appeals crescendoed Tuesday after testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson. The former White House aide, who is again a conservative Republican, revealed that Trump came this close to leading an army of paramilitaries to storm the Capitol. The only thing standing in the way was a valiant security chief, Robert Engel, whom Trump tried to strangle after being told he wasn’t joining the mob.
When asked how she felt after discovering that the former president believed Mike Pence “deserves” to be hanged, Hutchinson said: “As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”
By appealing to their sense of honor and loyalty, Cheney is creating an off-ramp, as it were, for Republican voters who have gone all the way with the criminal former president. That, I think, is shrewd.
But should the same be offered to elected Republicans?
Eight Republican senators, including two presidential hopefuls, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, voted to challenge the electoral count. With them were 147 House Republicans, including six representatives who were in on the conspiracy. With them was Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina and Trump confidante, who called the top election official in Georgia to ask if he could toss out ballots. And they voted after the insurrection. (Graham voted to accept the count.)
These Republicans together decided to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory even though everyone around Donald Trump – in the states, in the Department of Justice, in the office of the vice president – knew that Joe Biden won the election fair and square.
With doubt about the president-elect’s legitimacy coming from the very top of the party, not just Donald Trump, state-level Republicans moved swiftly to write new legislation that would permit, if political conditions are right, actual theft of the next presidential election by overruling the will of the majority of the people in their states.
Are we supposed to be these Republicans were duped?
Were all but 10 Republicans in the Congress fooled into voting to acquit Donald Trump, during his second impeachment trial, of the charge of inciting a riot and obstructing an official proceeding?
Are we supposed to believe they were protecting him from biased and corrupt impeachment managers when the White House counsel said he feared being charged with every crime imaginable, including obstruction and fraud, if Trump made good on his plan to lead paramilitaries into battle against members of his own party?
Are we supposed to believe that this group of Republicans, which includes graduates of Harvard, Yale and Oxford, did not believe former Attorney General Bill Barr when he said, to an Associated Press reporter, that there was zero evidence of no voter fraud?
Are we supposed to believe that the Republican leaders, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell, did not know that Trump’s own Cabinet considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a president who had, to anyone with eyes to see, committed treason?
I don’t think so.
Cheney and the J6 committee are right to offer ordinary Republican voters the opportunity to escape their collective delusion. Her Republican colleagues, however, deserve the same courtesy.
They chose to protect an enemy of the Constitution.
They chose to institutionalize the Big Lie.
In the process, they became enemies themselves.
Texas residents gathered under a scorching sun Wednesday to mourn the 53 migrants who died this week after they were abandoned in a trailer in soaring temperatures, leaving tokens of flowers, candles and bottles of water.
The mourners, several of whom said they or their loved ones had also migrated to the United States illegally, gathered at the site in San Antonio where the truck was found on Monday to erect large wooden crosses and pay their respects.
Immigration authorities have said 53 people died, many of dehydration and heatstroke after they were shut inside the trailer with no water during a day when ambient temperatures rose to 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius).
Eleven others are still being treated in local hospitals, authorities said.
"All of this breaks my heart because I have family who have been through the same thing," said Veronica Vazquez, 37.
"All my cousins, my uncles, came to the United States illegally, some over the river and others through the desert," she said.
Roberto Alvarez, who lives in the area, brought roses and candles.
The 48-year-old himself came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant.
"You put yourself a little bit in their place... because you also lived through it," he said.
According to Francisco Garduno, head of Mexico's National Migration Institute, the dead included 27 Mexicans, 14 Hondurans, seven Guatemalans, and two Salvadorans.
The nationalities of the other three were not yet revealed.
Four men have been arrested and charged over the incident so far, according to a statement from the district attorney's office of western Texas.
The office said a 45-year-old named Homero Zamorano had been arrested at the scene, where he was spotted "hiding in the brush after attempting to abscond."
He was also spotted on surveillance footage driving the truck at an immigration checkpoint, the statement said, adding that he has been charged with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death, and faces life in prison or execution if convicted.
Garduno said the suspected driver had initially pretended to be one of the survivors.
High on meth?
The local daily San Antonio Express-News reported the man was "very high on meth," citing a law enforcement officer.
Federal law enforcement agents arrested two other men Tuesday at the address linked to the tractor-trailer's registration, court documents showed.
Juan Francisco D'Luna-Bilbao and Juan Claudio D'Luna-Mendez, both Mexican nationals who overstayed US tourist visas, were charged with illegal possession of multiple firearms, the documents alleged. They face up to ten years in prison.
The fourth man, Christian Martinez, was arrested in eastern Texas on Tuesday, the district attorney's statement said.
He was charged with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death, and also faces life in prison or potentially the death penalty, it said.
Officials from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, who met at Mexico's embassy in Washington, issued a joint statement in which they pledged to help the victims and their families.
They said that they would form a rapid action group to target and dismantle human trafficking networks.
San Antonio police were first alerted to the trailer on Monday, after a worker near an isolated road in San Antonio heard a cry for help and went to investigate.
Abortion is now banned in Lori Lamprich's home state of Missouri, but that hasn't stopped her taking women to their appointments -- she drives them across the Mississippi River to Illinois, where it remains legal.
"I'm here to fight the power and do what I can and resist these laws that I think are completely inhumane and unfair," the 39-year-old tells AFP at her house in St. Louis, a city of 300,000 people.
As a resident of the "Gateway to the West," Lamprich finds herself well-positioned to help the thousands of Missourians who seek abortions every year, many of whom travel hundreds of miles for the procedure.
On her side of the river, in St. Louis proper, abortion is now illegal -- with no exceptions for incest or rape -- after Missouri became the first state to act following the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling which enshrined the right to abortion in the US, on Friday.
But reproductive rights are protected in the city's greater metro areas across the water in Democratic-run Illinois, which is bracing itself for an influx of women from neighboring conservative Midwestern states that are restricting abortions.
Lamprich has been driving women to clinics for two years as a volunteer with the Midwest Access Coalition (MAC), which was founded in 2014 to help people in a region where abortion policies have long been among the most restrictive in the country.
MAC provides travel and accommodation to mostly lower income women seeking the costly procedure.
Lamprich got involved with the organization after having an abortion 15 years ago, and says it "breaks" her heart that women no longer have access to the same care she received.
"It absolutely strengthens my resolve," Lamprich says of the justices' ruling.
Until Friday, she could have taken patients to Missouri's last remaining abortion clinic: Planned Parenthood in St Louis. But doctors there performed their final procedure shortly after the court's ruling came down, as dueling demonstrations took place outside.
Now, the two nearest clinics are in Illinois: Hope Clinic for Women ten miles (16 kilometers) away in Granite City and Planned Parenthood 15 miles away in Fairview Heights, which was opened in 2019 in anticipation of the ban.
At Hope Clinic, volunteers escort patients inside, shielding them with umbrellas from anti-abortion protesters who hold signs showing a bloody fetus.
"It's not really a big victory," a Catholic priest who declined to give his name, said of the Supreme Court ruling.
"Abortion is still available, just drive around here or there," he told AFP.
Inside, phones ring off the hook. One caller says she would be traveling five hours for her appointment.
The clinic has performed abortions on women from 19 different states this year. It sees between 4,500 and 5,000 women annually but co-owner Julie Burkhart expects the number could quickly double or triple.
"We are anticipating quite a dramatic increase in our patient load," she said, adding that the clinic is hiring more staff and increasing patient days.
Illinois governor J.B Pritzker has pledged his state will remain a "safe haven" for reproductive rights in the Midwest. All bordering states -- including Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Wisconsin – have restricted abortion or are expected to.
More than 46,000 abortions were performed in Illinois in 2020, according to official data, a fifth of them on women from out-of-state, including 6,500 from Missouri.
Planned Parenthood estimates an additional 20,000 to 30,000 people could travel to Illinois every year.
"It's an incredible weight to place on one state," says Sandy Pensoneau-Conway, an advocate for Choices, a Memphis-based clinic that is opening a new site 200 miles (320 kilometers) north in Carbondale, in southern Illinois, to help meet demand.
An abortion typically costs between $500 and $2,500. With women having to travel further, the non-profit MAC may have to seek additional funds to cover increased transport and hotel costs.
Lamprich gives rides to one or two women a month on average but expects to soon be needed every weekend and is willing to make the ten-hour round trip to Chicago if the clinics near St. Louis get overwhelmed.
Experts warn that states might try to prosecute people who help women cross state lines for an abortion. If they do, Lamprich won't be deterred.
"This is too important to me," she concludes.
© 2022 AFP