In an interview with the Daily Beast, a Florida Democratic lawmaker explained that her concerns over the invasion of the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists have led her to author a bill that will bar QAnon followers from receiving security clearances.
Following reports that multiple rioters have military or law enforcement backgrounds, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) -- who previously served in the Pentagon -- stepped up out of fears that followers of the movement based on outrageous conspiracy theories could work within the government to undermine it.
In an interview with the Beast, she stated, "What we discovered was that there was a shocking number of people involved in that insurrection who seemingly live normal lives, working in government and law enforcement and the military. It's really dangerous for individuals who hold these types of views to receive a security clearance and access to classified information… if any Americans participated in the Capitol attack, or if they subscribe to these dangerous anti-government views of QAnon, then they have no business being entrusted with our nation's secrets."
According to the report, Murphy -- who has previously worked across the aisle with Republicans -- is hoping they will support the bill.
"The legislation, titled the Security Clearance Improvement Act of 2021, requires applicants looking to obtain or renew their federal security clearances to disclose if they participated in the Jan. 6 rally in Washington—or another 'Stop the Steal' event—or if they 'knowingly engaged in activities conducted by an organization or movement that spreads conspiracy theories and false information about the U.S. government,'" the reports states, adding that the question would be added to the current questionnaire known as Standard Form 86.
According to the report, Murphy is well-aware that her legislation could impact newly-elected Republican Rep. Marjorie Talor Greene of Georgia who has been quite vocal about spouting several QAnon conspiracy theories.
"It is not lost on her that she is proposing this legislation when at least one colleague, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), was elected while having professed support for QAnon. Other Republicans have reportedly been linked to the organizers of the Jan. 6 rally," the report states.
"It's a privilege that's afforded to us through our position," she explained "But I think this privilege should have its limits. And I certainly hope that this starts a conversation about holding accountable those members of Congress who share these extreme views and potentially, barring them from accessing classified information, especially if they have previously participated in efforts to overthrow the government, or have been motivated by their belief in these conspiracies to harm the United States or any of our elected officials."
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On Thursday, the Brownsville Herald reported that two students from the Donna Independent School District in South Texas have been charged with second-degree felonies over an alleged "credible threat."
"Four students were arrested Wednesday and two of them faced criminal charges on Thursday," reported Francisco E. Jiminez. "Nathaniel Seth Montelongo and Barbarito Pantoja, both 17 years old, were charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony. The other two students are minors and will face a judge Friday."
"All of them were arrested after police received an anonymous tip that the group was planning to carry out a threat at a school," continued the report. "Donna officials refused to say which campus was being targeted."
A separate report earlier this morning indicated that authorities uncovered an AK-47 rifle and a "hit list" as part of the alleged threat. However, per the Herald, "investigators refused to give any details about weapons, including if any were seized, and said there was no hit list."
This comes after the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 elementary schoolers and two teachers dead. Police have come under heavy criticism in that case amid allegations they stood outside for up to an hour while the shooting was going on and prevented parents from trying to rescue their children.
It also comes as law enforcement react to more threats around the state, including a high school student in Richardson arrested after trying to bring an AK-47 and AR-style rifle onto school premises.
Tale of two senators: Cruz doubles down against gun regulation while Cornyn leads GOP in negotiations
“That doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime,” he said.
He’s since done a string of other interviews that have inflamed the left and encouraged the right, chastising Democrats and the media.
Meanwhile, Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn, has taken a different route. He’s quietly, but openly, leading the party to work with some Democrats to pass bipartisan gun legislation — a role familiar to him as he has a track record of moving small pieces of gun policy into law in the wake of mass murders.
“I met with Sen. Cornyn this morning,” U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN. “As you know, he went home yesterday to see the family members and begin the fact-finding of this awful massacre, and I have encouraged him to talk with Sen. [Chris] Murphy and Sen. [Kyrsten] Sinema and others who are interested in trying to get an outcome that is directly related to the problem.”
“I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution,” he added.
Sinema, from Arizona, is a Democrat with whom Republicans say they can trust in the deal-making process. Murphy, from Connecticut, is the de facto Democratic leader on gun policy.
Both Cornyn and Cruz are top Senate recipients of gun industry political donations, per OpenSecrets.org.
And both senators were scheduled to attend the National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston on Friday. Cornyn’s team told reporters he could no longer attend because of “an unexpected change in his schedule.” Cruz’s team did not respond to requests for comment about whether he would attend.
To be sure, Cornyn has touted an A+ rating with the NRA and has repeatedly voted with Cruz and other Republicans to stymie gun restriction legislation proposed by Democrats.
But in the decade since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the two Texans have diverged in how they respond politically to shooting tragedies.
In the hours after the shooting, Cruz quickly started talking about the need for more resources to secure schools. It’s a cause he has chased almost since he first came to the Senate and one he revisited repeatedly in interviews in recent days.
Cruz argued on Fox News that if the funding he had proposed multiple times over the years in the School Security Enhancement Act had passed, the school would have had an armed officer monitoring the door.
“If those federal grants had gone to this school when that psychopath arrived, the armed police officers could have taken him out,” Cruz said Wednesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, Cruz went to Uvalde Elementary School and gave an interview with reporters, lamenting that the school’s back door was unlocked.
“The killer entered here the same way the killer entered in Santa Fe, through the back door, an unlocked back door,” he said, noting that after the shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018, he spoke with members of the community about the need to ensure entry points were minimized.
He later engaged with a reporter from British-based Sky News and blamed Democrats and the media for politicizing the shooting when asked about gun policy. Cruz began to walk away after the reporter asked him why the United States has such an outsized number of mass shootings compared with the rest of the world.
“You know, I’m sorry you think American exceptionalism is awful,” Cruz said. “You’ve got your political agenda. God love you.”
Cornyn, a former judge and state attorney general, is a close ally of McConnell. Until he was term-limited out of the post in 2019, he served as the Republican Senate whip, meaning he long had his finger on the pulse of his conference members.
While not a favorite of Senate Democrats, he does have relationships with members on the other side, including Sinema and Murphy.
Sinema is a more junior senator, but she has enraged Democrats for her insistence on keeping the filibuster in place.
Murphy won his first Senate race in November 2012. About a month after he won that race, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred in the House district he represented. That day defined his career to the extent he sometimes wears a Newtown jersey when playing in the Congressional Baseball Game.
The two men met today to initiate conversations, and they have a productive history.
He and Cornyn worked together on the Fix NICS Act, which Cornyn helped author in the wake of the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting near San Antonio. The legislation, referring to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, was intended improve the system in order to prevent felons and domestic abusers from purchasing firearms. The bill passed as a small section in a massive 2018 spending bill.
Prior to that bill, Cornyn shepherded into law the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, a piece of legislation that funded the screening and treatment of offenders with mental illness. Cruz backed that measure when it was added to a larger bill addressing innovation in medicine.
And after a 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip, Cornyn was a leading advocate in banning “bump stocks,” which allow semiautomatic guns to fire faster. President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice banned the devices in 2018.
Cruz has not joined in with Cornyn’s approach. When Cornyn introduced his signature gun bill, the Fix NICs Act, he was able to wrangle 77 senators, including many Republicans, to sign on as co-sponsors. Cruz was not one of them.
The center of these negotiations is the U.S. Senate.
The House already passed background check legislation this term, and according to a New York Times survey of senators, there is no path to get a House-passed bill through a Senate filibuster.
So far there is no sense of what a bill would address. Republicans like McConnell say they will only support a bill that is directly related to the Uvalde shooting, and that investigation is ongoing and murky.
To pass anything, Senate Democrats will have to consider how far they are willing to pare down their gun policy ambitions, which usually involve banning assault rifles and expanding background checks. At the same time, at least 10 Republicans will have to decide how far they are willing to go in angering the base.
Cornyn has had success in the past at passing small gun measures that mostly avoid a significant far-right backlash.
But the last time the Democrat-controlled Senate went big on gun policy with legislation to require universal background checks in the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting, the entire legislative push expired at the hands of a mostly Republican bloc that included Cruz and Cornyn.
It fell apart in such a painful way for Democrats that many on the Hill began to accept it was impossible to change gun policy without winning the 60 seats needed to override a filibuster.
As for Cornyn, he telegraphed on the Senate floor Thursday that he intended to let the Uvalde investigation play out before making any significant moves.
“At this point, law enforcement is still investigating and piecing together the full story,” Cornyn said, indicating the specificity in his approach. “In the coming days I expect we will have better information about the shooter and his background and the circumstances that led to this senseless, brutal act.”
“Once it does, I’m eager to see whether there were any gaps that might have done something to make this attack less likely, that might have even prevented this attack from taking place.”
Disclosure: The New York Times has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/05/26/ted-cruz-john-cornyn-gun-legislation-texas/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
The father of the alleged 18-year-old who allegedly murdered 19 students and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas apologized on Thursday.
"I just want the people to know I’m sorry man, [for] what my son did," Salvador Ramos told The Daily Beast.
“I never expected my son to do something like that,” said. “He should’ve just killed me, you know, instead of doing something like that to someone.”
The Beast interviewed Ramos at his girlfriend's house in Hondo, Texas.
“He dropped out because he said they were bullying him at school because of his clothes,” he said. “He was a quiet person, stuck to himself. He didn't bother nobody. People were always bothering him.”
Read the full report.