Workers beg Joe Manchin to save West Virginia pharma plant as his daughter walks away with $31 million

More than 1,400 workers in West Virginia are set to lose their jobs this week when the Viatris pharmaceuticals plant in Morgantown shuts down and moves operations overseas to India and Australia. Workers say they've had no response to their urgent requests for help from their Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, who is often called the most powerful man in Washington. Viatris was formed through a merger between two pharmaceutical companies, Mylan and Upjohn. Mylan's chief executive, Manchin's daughter Heather Bresch, got a $31 million payout as a result of the corporate consolidation before the new company set about cutting costs, including the closure of the Morgantown plant. Joseph Gouzd, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 8-957 and a worker at the plant, says Viatris has given little reason for the closure except to say the company is looking to "maximize the best interests of the shareholders." We also speak with investigative journalist Katherine Eban, who says moving pharmaceutical production overseas contradicts the recommendations of numerous reports that have found major safety lapses in drug manufacturing abroad, as well as concern from lawmakers about keeping a key industry within the United States. "This is pure insanity," Eban says. "It seems like it is both pharmaceutical and national security suicide to close this plant."


Workers Beg Joe Manchin to Save West Virginia Pharma Plant as His Daughter Walks Away with $31M www.youtube.com

‘Crazy’ Trump struggles to put two thoughts together – but the GOP is powerless to stop him: Michael Wolff

As a special congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection prepares to hold its first hearings later this month, we speak with author Michael Wolff, whose new book, "Landslide," provides fresh details about former President Donald Trump's efforts to undermine the 2020 election, how he spurred his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol and why he still holds the reins in the party. "There's no question Donald Trump runs the Republican Party," Wolff says. "We have two realities here: the reality of Donald Trump in charge, and the other reality which is that everybody knows that there's something wrong with Donald Trump."


“Landslide”: Michael Wolff on Trump’s Final Days in Office & Why He Still Rules the Republican Party www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Donald Trump met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Thursday as McCarthy has yet to appoint Republicans to the congressional committee investigating the deadly January 6th riot by Trump supporters. For months Republicans have downplayed the insurrection, which was timed to disrupt the counting of electoral votes. McCarthy's meeting with Trump came after the select committee investigating the Capitol riot said it would hold its first hearing about the attack on July 27th. After the meeting, McCarthy returned to Washington, D.C., from the Bedminster Trump hotel to attend a dinner at the White House with President Biden and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

CNN reports McCarthy will likely appoint supporters and defenders of Trump to the January 6 committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can veto any of his picks.

This comes as a series of new books offering new details about what happened January 6th, when then-President Trump spoke to thousands of his supporters at a so-called Save America rally outside the White House and urged them to march on the Capitol building.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to walk down to the Capitol! And we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about what happened January 6th, what led up to it, and particularly those last weeks of the Trump administration, we're joined by Michael Wolff, author of the new book Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump White House, which completes his best-selling trilogy on the presidency of Donald Trump, following Fire and Fury and Siege.

Michael, welcome back to Democracy Now! Why don't we start off right there, when President Trump — I don't know how many — tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands — of lies this was — but said that he will join the others in walking to the Capitol? Did he ever have a plan to do that?

MICHAEL WOLFF: Well, you know, it was at that moment — to just set the background here, this was a speech that he was largely reading off the teleprompter, which is unusual for Trump. Certainly, when he's in the moment, enthusiastic, he's departing from his speech. So he wasn't really thinking about this. His mind was wholly on Mike Pence and what — and he believed that Mike Pence had the power and the willingness to throw out the electoral votes and install him as the president. That was on his mind. So he was sort of reading through this speech.

But at one point he did depart from the speech and said, "We will walk to the Capitol." And that was the moment at which all of his aides kind of looked up and said, "What did he say? We're going to walk to the Capitol?" And all of them had the same response: "What is he talking about? Donald Trump doesn't walk anywhere." So, that's what they all thought at that point.

And then, when he came down after the speech, they said, "You know we can't do that. You know, there's no security for that." And Trump responded, "What are you talking about?" And they said, "You said you're going to walk." And he said, "Oh, oh, I didn't mean that literally." So, again, we're in the world of Donald Trump, which is mostly a world of what's coming out of his mouth and of — and I would say that for a good part of the time, he's not even aware of what's coming out of his mouth.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I mean, this is particularly significant right now for some who are thinking, "Why do we have to talk about Donald Trump? He's not the president anymore, even if he thinks he is." But the fact is, he, by far, is the leading contender, if he chooses to run for president again. By far. And, of course, just yesterday, the House minority leader went to the Bedminster golf course to meet with President Trump. And he, Kevin McCarthy, has yet to choose the five Republican members of the committee — they quashed the commission that would investigate the insurrection. Also, just interesting to note that you have the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Beatty, being arrested yesterday with nine others. They were arrested in less time than it took Capitol Police, who were, to say the least, taken off guard, to arrest that number that day in the time of extremely violent riot, insurrection.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think that there's no question Donald Trump runs the Republican Party. He is — it's entirely top down. Nearly everybody, or at least certainly everybody who is contemplating a future in the Republican Party, has to pay — has to constantly kiss the Trump ring, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, the significance of this right now with him being in Mar-a-Lago, where you did a last interview with him — in Bedminster, running the show from behind the scenes? The significance of what that means for politics in this country? For example, even this investigation. And when you spoke to him in Mar-a-Lago, what did he say about the insurrection? What did he say about the number of the police, that he supposedly so reveres, being devastated, traumatized, beaten? One died.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Yeah, he didn't say anything about the January 6. That's clearly a subject that he is steering clear of.

But, you know, I want to make another point, and I think it's an interesting point, that even though Donald Trump has a kind of lockstep control over the Republican Party, one of the things that's also always going on is every — while every Republican acknowledges that, every Republican is also trying to walk that back or mitigate that or slow walk whatever the president wants. So we have two realities here: the reality of Donald Trump in charge, and the other reality which is that everybody knows that there's something wrong with Donald Trump. Donald Trump is crazy. Donald Trump, you know, I mean, essentially, can't put two sequential thoughts together.

You know, so Kevin McCarthy is going down there, and he's perfectly well aware this is an aberrant situation. And, in fact, Trump himself is always kind of saying bad things about McCarthy out of the side of his mouth. So, you know, it's this incredibly unusual situation, of which — I mean, it's essentially an emperor's new clothes situation. Everybody recognizes the completely unusual nature of what's going on here, but nobody can do anything about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Wolff, you detail election night and the significance of the relationship between Fox and President Trump. Can you talk about what happened that night when Fox, before the other networks, called Arizona for Biden?

MICHAEL WOLFF: Sure. And that's another example of this. I mean, OK, so we have Fox, the Fox News network, in abject fealty to Donald Trump. You know, I mean, that's their entire business and programming strategy: bow down to Donald Trump. At the same time, the Murdoch family, who owns Fox — could change Fox at a second's notice if they wanted to — detests Rupert Murdoch, cannot stand him. And that night, in their own sort of guerrilla action against Murdoch, when the call — when the call came from the election desk, which was that, you know, "We can call Arizona now. We're confident about that. However, you know, we can also wait on this" — so, this decision went to Rupert Murdoch. And Rupert Murdoch said — I noticed on your instructions that you advise against using obscenities here, so I'll let you phrase this if you want to. But anyway, Murdoch delivered an obscenity directed at Donald Trump and said, "Yes, make the call now." And it was a devastating call for Trump at that moment on election night.

AMY GOODMAN: He said, "Make the F—ing call."

MICHAEL WOLFF: That's what he said. No, no, he didn't say that. He said, "F— him." In other words, directed to Trump himself.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about Fox letting the White House know that they're going to make this call?

MICHAEL WOLFF: Yeah, and, I mean, that got some attention. And so, minutes before they made the call, Bill Hemmer, one of the Fox on-air people, called Jason Miller, who was one of the key campaign aides, and said, "Hey, this is what's going down. We're going to make this call. We can't do anything about it." And so, when this came out that I had reported this, then Fox immediately said, "That's totally untrue, completely untrue." You know, a lot of other publications immediately went to say, "OK, Michael Wolff is wrong." And then Jason Miller said, "Oh, yeah, that was true. Everybody, many people around, many people heard that."

AMY GOODMAN: Jason Miller, a surrogate for Donald Trump, who also —

MICHAEL WOLFF: Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: — who appeared on Fox.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Yes, and who got the call. I mean, so the call went from Bill Hemmer to Jason Miller, who said then, "Yes, I got the call."

AMY GOODMAN: And so, you're a close observer of the right networks, of the right-wing networks, like Fox, OANN, Newsmax, maybe not as close as Trump himself, who you say spent hours every day — I mean, just hours — watching these networks.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Well, I am — just, I am pretty close. In addition to writing books about Trump, I'm Rupert Murdoch's biographer. So, yes, I'm pretty familiar.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what about the role of Fox now, and particularly the role of Sean Hannity?

MICHAEL WOLFF: Well, you know, Hannity is in — you know, let's — I'm trying to find the word. What would be the word? Cahoots, I suppose, with Donald Trump. As a matter of fact, there's one point in Landslide where I — during the campaign, and which I outline, in which Sean Hannity calls the president and says, "You know, your campaign is terrible. You know, you really need some help here." And he says, "And I've written an ad for you." And then the president calls up the campaign and says, "Sean says the campaign is terrible." You know, this goes on. And then the campaign, in trying to keep Hannity from calling the president and then having the president call the campaign, the campaign then produces the ad. They literally make Hannity's ad. And then they only run the ad on Hannity's show. So, in some weird thing going on on here, Hannity gets the campaign to essentially give the Fox network a couple of million dollars to run this ad, only on his show.

AMY GOODMAN: Which, of course, is always helpful, because there are all these boycotts against advertisers on his show.

MICHAEL WOLFF: So, again, you know, yes. I mean, this is a consuming relationship. You know, Hannity works for Donald Trump, or Donald Trump works for Sean Hannity. You can barely separate this. But I would say that Hannity is certainly, and has been for four years, one of Trump's closest outside advisers.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, I want to ask you about the man who did not desert President Trump, and he is Rudy Giuliani. He now has had his law license suspended by the state of New York, by Washington, D.C. Talk about his pivotal role as you talk —

MICHAEL WOLFF: And also, for his trouble, Trump no longer speaks to him. As a matter of fact, Rudy Giuliani cannot get a call through to the former president at this point. So, you know, it's one of the — you know, a constant Trump theme. You know, whoever — the closer you get to Donald Trump, the more you'll get burned by Donald Trump. But — which is not at all to excuse Rudy Giuliani, who has been a persistent part of the Trump toxicity and the Trump insanity, really. And, I mean, one of the things which I constantly point out in the book, because it certainly is — could not be more germane, is that Rudy is drunk all the time.

So, you know, stepping back from this, we see the Trump administration as, in part, terrifying and as, in part, engaged in all of this destructive behavior, but on another level, it's also absurd. It's the gang that couldn't shoot straight. I mean, none of these people can do anything. I mean, they're either drunk or they're incompetent. And as we told the story, as this story unfolded about Donald Trump's effort to undermine the election, what was seldom said, certainly by the established media, is that he had no ability to do this. He had no — he couldn't work the levers of government. Everybody had deserted him. This was just weeks and weeks and weeks of utter ridiculousness. It was — as I said a couple of times, it isn't really the big lie; it's the big lunacy. And Donald Trump is the lunatic-in-chief.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us, Michael Wolff, author of the new book, Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump White House, which completes his best-selling trilogy on the Trump presidency.

Next up, we look at the catastrophic impact of the climate crisis around the world with leading climate scientist Michael Mann. Stay with us.

Expert: Donald Trump isn't named in tax fraud indictment -- but 'he is all over the document in terms of actions he had to take'

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has charged former President Donald Trump's family business with operating a 15-year tax fraud scheme, accusing the Trump Organization of helping executives evade taxes by giving them compensation off the books. Allen Weisselberg, the company's chief financial officer, who has worked with Trump for decades, was also charged with grand larceny for avoiding taxes on $1.7 million in perks that he did not report as income. Weisselberg surrendered Thursday and pleaded not guilty, and he could face up to a decade in prison if convicted. Legal experts suggest prosecutors targeted Weisselberg with the hope he will flip and help investigators in other ongoing probes into the former president's company. "Donald Trump, while not named in the indictment, is all over the document in terms of actions he had to take," says David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who has followed Donald Trump and his finances for more than 30 years. "Donald Trump and the people around him believe that they shouldn't be subject to the law."


Trump Organization and Top Company Exec Charged with Tax Fraud. Is Donald Trump Next? www.youtube.com

NSA whistleblower Reality Winner released from prison as family pushes Biden to pardon her

Former National Security Agency contractor Reality Leigh Winner was released from prison Monday to serve the rest of her sentence in a halfway house. We get an update from the lawyer handling her commutation and pardon process. Winner was arrested in 2017 under the Espionage Act for leaking classified government information about Russian interference in the 2016 election to reporters at The Intercept. Prosecutors told The New York Times she got the longest sentence ever given by a federal court for unauthorized disclosure of government information to the press. Winner's family and legal team say she should receive a pardon and are calling for her sentence to be commuted. "Reality released a document that gave us information that we needed to know at a time that we absolutely needed to know it," says Alison Grinter Allen, Winner's attorney.


NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Released from Prison as Family Pushes Biden to Pardon Her www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner was released from prison Monday. She was arrested in 2017, sentenced to five years in prison under the Espionage Act for leaking classified government information. She worked at Fort Gordon in Georgia as a contractor with Pluribus International, when federal law enforcement agents raided her house after determining she had given reporters at The Intercept a secret document about Russian interference in the 2016 election

Prosecutors told The New York Times she got the longest sentence ever given by a federal court for unauthorized disclosure of government information to the press. Reality Winner was released from the Federal Medical Center Carswell, a prison in Fort Worth, Texas, and will serve the rest of her sentence over the next six months in a halfway house.

Reality's family and legal team say she should receive a pardon and are calling for her sentence to be commuted. Last week, Reality Winner's mother, Billie Winner-Davis, addressed Biden on The Mehdi Hasan Show.

BILLIE WINNER-DAVIS: This really — this is in his hands right now. My daughter has a petition for clemency with the United States pardon attorney. And all it's going to take is for his signature to commute her sentence to bring her home to us. And I believe that she deserves this. You know, the Trump administration persecuted Reality so strongly because of the information that she released. And the continued silence from this administration is a continued persecution.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Dallas to speak with Alison Grinter Allen, the lawyer handling Reality Winner's commutation and pardon process.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about Reality being released, except not to freedom, but to a halfway house? Was her sentence in any way shortened by the White House or the Justice Department, or this was simply her serving out her term as she continues to do in the halfway house?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Thank you, Amy, for having me.

No, this is the normal release process. The last six months of a sentence are usually spent in the reentry process, which includes halfway houses. There's an infrastructure all over the country of halfway houses that help people readjust into normal life after incarceration.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And have you been able to speak to Winner after she was released? And do you have a sense that there's still a possibility for a pardon for her?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Well, I have spoken with her. I was fortunate to be there when she was released. She's in good health and excellent spirits.

But the pardon process continues. The fight goes on, regardless of whether she is in prison or not. She is a felon. She will have that on her record for life. And a pardon can still do quite a bit to improve her circumstances.

But we believe that it's more important, probably, for the country. Reality released a document that gave us information that we needed to know at a time that we absolutely needed to know it. And she was in prison not because the information was a danger or put anyone in danger; she was in prison to salve the insecurities of one man, who was concerned about the validity of his election win. And as we saw from the last four years, absolutely nothing could put those insecurities at rest.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk a little bit about exactly what happened? She was arrested by FBI agents in her home in Augusta, Georgia, back in June of 2017, just a couple of days after The Intercept published an exposé. Could you talk about that?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Yes. Armed FBI agents came to her house and interrogated her in her own home, largely in order to avoid the idea that it was a custodial interrogation. They did not provide her with her Miranda rights or an attorney, and they — eventually, she admitted that she was the one who had leaked the document, and she never saw the light of day again. She was incarcerated, denied pretrial release and basically forced into a plea agreement for the longest sentence ever given for a release of classified information to the media.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about a Justice Department official who's leaving. This according to AP: The Justice Department is tightening its rules around obtaining records from members of Congress, Attorney General Merrick Garland said, amidst revelations the department, under Trump, had secretly seized records from Democrats and members of the media. Garland's statement came as a Justice Department official said the top national security official, John — I think it's — Demers, planned to leave by the end of next week. He was sworn in a few weeks after the subpoena of the Democrats' records, one of the few Trump appointees who's remained in the Biden administration. What's his involvement with Reality's case?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Well, his involvement is pretty crucial in Reality's case. But it's certainly not him. It's fairly clear that the national security arm of the DOJ was very willing to be political. National security at DOJ was running her entire prosecution. Everything was coming from Washington. And it was very clear from the beginning that this was going to be basically something that could be made an example of, that Reality could be made an example of and shown around to ice any kind of release of confidential information, especially information that embarrassed the president.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of this issue of embarrassing the president, wasn't The Intercept article that supposedly Reality provided documents for — there was an NSA report from May of 2017 that showed that the agency was convinced that the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or the GRU, was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Exactly. We're not really sure when this information became top-secret, because, substantially, the conclusions of the intelligence had been made public under the Obama administration. So, it's not even clear when this information was made to be top-secret that Reality released.

AMY GOODMAN: Any other message for the Biden administration, Alison?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: This is a wrong that can be set right. And for the health of the country, I think it needs to be. We're living in such a divided society, and we are not going to be able to start healing until we forgive our truth tellers. And a pardon for Reality is an excellent first step for the country to start healing and putting this right.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Alison Grinter Allen, I want to thank you so much for being with us, attorney for Reality Winner, who's just been released to a halfway house, will serve out her term 'til November there unless pardoned or sentence commuted.

I want to end with the legendary whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, the former defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, 50 years ago this week. We spent the hour with Dan Ellsberg Monday on Democracy Now! and afterwards continued to talk to him and asked him about the former U.S. intelligence analyst Daniel Hale, who was unexpectedly arrested and jailed ahead of his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 13th. In March, he pleaded guilty to one count of violating the World War I-era Espionage Act for leaking classified documents about the secretive U.S. drone and targeted assassination programs. This is Ellsberg speaking about Daniel Hale.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: I think what he did was very admirable. And it was not only simply passing on some documents or some information, but really carrying on, as he should, a campaign against the murderous aspect of this campaign. He acted very admirably, in a way that very, very few officials have ever done in showing the moral courage to separate themselves from criminal activities and wrongful activities of their own administration, and resist them, as well as exposing them. So, I would say he's a particularly admirable person, especially one that should not be put in prison for this.

AMY GOODMAN: To see the full hour with Dan Ellsberg, as well as our post-show interview, you can go to democracynow.org.

Next up, we turn to the historian Stephen Wertheim. As the NATO summit wraps up, he writes an op-ed piece in The New York Times headlined "Sorry, Liberals. But You Really Shouldn't Love NATO." Stay with us.

Disaster capitalism: Puerto Rico plunged into darkness after privatization of electric utility

More than 1 million people in Puerto Rico were left in the dark this month after power transmission and distribution for the island was taken over by a private company under a 15-year contract. Much of Puerto Rico lost power after a fire at an electrical substation caused a massive blackout just days after the private U.S. and Canadian company LUMA Energy formally took over management of the island's electric grid from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Many people are still without power or facing ongoing blackouts. "This is a classic example of disaster capitalism," says Arturo Massol-Deyá, executive director of Casa Pueblo, a community-based natural resources conservation and sustainable development group.


Disaster Capitalism: Puerto Rico Plunged into Darkness After Privatization of Electric Utility www.youtube.com

Disturbing video shows officer tasering teenage refugee from Honduras at children’s shelter in Texas

The Biden administration has vowed to take a compassionate approach to migrants and asylum seekers who are fleeing violence, poverty and persecution, but a damning new investigation reveals the mistreatment of children upon their arrival to the border. The report found more than 80 children in government-funded shelters were turned over to local law enforcement when they engaged in behavior common for kids, especially those who have been through trauma. Many were arrested for fighting, breaking property or mental health crises, and police body-camera footage obtained by Reveal shows at least one child was tasered without warning by a sheriff's deputy in San Antonio, Texas. "The idea that a child, particularly a refugee child, someone who is fleeing violence and is a minor and has special rights under international law and U.S. law, would then be subjected to arrest for something like fighting … that seems highly unusual," says Aura Bogado, senior investigative reporter at Reveal.


Shocking Video Shows Officer Tasering Teenage Refugee from Honduras at Children’s Shelter in Texas www.youtube.com

Legal expert: America’s secret spy court should be forced to make rulings public

We speak to Jameel Jaffer about a petition asking the Supreme Court to review whether the public has a right to access the decisions of the special federal court that rules on the legality of government surveillance, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA Court. The American Civil Liberties Union submitted the request with support from the Knight First Amendment Institute, whose director, Jameel Jaffer, notes the court routinely issues rulings that have far-reaching implications for Americans' privacy and freedom of speech rights. He says the argument free speech advocates are making is that the First Amendment guarantees the public a right of access to the FISA Court rulings like other courts that also deal with national security issues.



This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Jameel Jaffer, I wanted to ask you about the piece you recently co-authored in The New York Times headlined "What Is America's Spy Court Hiding from the Public?" And it cites a petition the Knight First Amendment Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, submitted to the Supreme Court to review whether the public has a right to access the decisions of the special federal court that rules on the legality of government surveillance, known as Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or the FISA Court. Lay out your argument.

JAMEEL JAFFER: Yeah. So, this is a court that has been around since 1978. I think it's probably fair to say that most Americans have never heard of it, but it's an extremely influential court. In its original form, it actually had a relatively narrow mandate. It issued wiretap applications in foreign intelligence investigations. There weren't that many foreign intelligence investigations, and there weren't that many wiretaps, just a couple hundred every year in the first years of that court's existence.

But that court has been around now for 40 years, and, over time, Congress has gradually expanded the court's role. Especially after 9/11, when Congress, through the PATRIOT Act and other laws, expanded the government's surveillance authority, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's role grew pretty dramatically. And now that court routinely issues rulings that have far-reaching implications for Americans' individual rights, for privacy rights, as well as the freedoms of speech and association.

Just to give one example, the court authorized the government to order telecoms to turn over all call records relating to virtually every phone call made or received in the United States for many years after 9/11. And that came to light when Snowden disclosed what he disclosed in 2013. But the surveillance had gone on for many, many years, implicating almost everybody's privacy and free speech and associative freedom rights, and yet it was withheld from public view. Nobody knew about it.

And the argument that we've made, it's a petition that — the ACLU is the petitioner, but we at the Knight Institute are among the lawyers representing the ACLU. The argument we're making is that the First Amendment guarantees the public a right of access to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's rulings, especially the rulings that have real implications for individual rights. And every other court in the United States, every other Article III court, recognizes a right of access — in other words, recognizes that the First Amendment protects the public's ability to read the court's rulings. But this court, the FISA Court, doesn't. And the FISA Court has basically reached that conclusion on the grounds that it's a national security court. But many, many other courts in the United States deal with national security issues all the time, and yet they routinely publish their rulings. So the argument we're making here is that the FISA Court should be required to publish its rulings, as well. And that's the argument we've now presented to the Supreme Court.

‘A massive crisis’: Majority of mass shootings have links to domestic violence

With the U.S. marking at least 242 mass shootings so far in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive, we speak with policy expert Julia Weber about the link between gun violence and domestic violence. "We know that this is a massive crisis that we need to address much more effectively," says Weber, the implementation director at the Giffords Law Center. A 2020 Bloomberg analysis looking at nearly 750 mass shootings over a six-year span found about 60% of the shootings were either domestic violence attacks or committed by men with histories of domestic violence.


“A Massive Crisis”: Majority of U.S. Mass Shootings Have Links to Domestic Violence www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

The Gun Violence Archive is reporting there have been at least 242 mass shootings so far this year. That's more than a mass shooting a day.

We turn now to look at the link between domestic violence and mass shootings. Last year, Bloomberg published an analysis of nearly 750 mass shootings over the previous six years. It found that about 60% of the shootings were either domestic violence attacks or committed by men with histories of domestic violence.

One of the deadliest mass shootings so far this year took place in San Jose, California, last week, when a 57-year-old public transportation employee killed nine of his co-workers at a light rail yard. Like many other mass killers, the gunman, Samuel Cassidy, had a history of domestic violence. One ex-girlfriend filed a restraining order against him in 2009, accusing him of rape and sexual assault.

We're joined now by Julia Weber. She is the implementation director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. She's also an expert on domestic violence policy, joining us from San Francisco.

Julia Weber, thank you so much. Why don't you lay out these connections that are often overlooked.

JULIA WEBER: Well, thank you, Amy. And, of course, thank you for covering this issue. And my thoughts, of course, are with those who are most directly affected by what happened in San Jose last week and, unfortunately, the many people who are dealing with gun violence on a regular basis, as well as domestic violence. And I'm sure we have folks tuning in who have experienced domestic violence, who may be living with domestic violence currently. And, you know, this is a massive public health problem, as is gun violence.

And, of course, the nexus between firearms violence and domestic violence is a particularly lethal one, as you've noted. It impacts not only the people most directly affected — intimate partners, children, family members — but all of us, because of the connection to mass shootings. So, domestic violence has been going on long before the firearms violence crisis, but the combination is much more likely to result in severe injury and death. We have over a million women alive today in the United States who have been shot or shot at by male partners. We have 600 women a year, at least, who are killed by their intimate partners as a result of firearms violence. That's one about every 14 hours or so. So, you know, we know that this is a massive crisis that we need to address much more effectively.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Julia Weber, in terms of the — what has been the trend in terms of women being shot to death by their partners? And also, has the pandemic, in one way or another, made things better or worse?

JULIA WEBER: Well, you know, one of the challenges in this space is that it's very hard to get good documentation. So, on the one hand, we can see, during the pandemic, for example, that there are communities that have seen an uptick in calls to local hotlines and calls for assistance. We know the National Domestic Violence Hotline has reported an increased use of their chat feature, which is a feature that can allow folks to contact the hotline for safety planning and referral resources without having to pick up the phone, which, of course, became that much more complicated when people were required to stay home, sometimes in an unsafe home with someone who had been abusive. But we have a sense that there has been an increase.

At the same time, we see that some places have not reported an increase, which could in fact be the result of ongoing subordination, suppression, marginalization, inability to contact hotlines and others for assistance when we were locked down and unable to leave the house, when children weren't in school and teachers weren't in the same position to report child abuse, which is a form of domestic or family violence, as well.

So, you'll see varying numbers, but, in general, we have seen increases around domestic violence and use of firearms in domestic violence cases. The national hotline has reported that more callers are reporting that firearms have played a role in the domestic violence they're experiencing, whether it's threats, injury or concerns about potentially lethal outcomes.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Julia, if domestic violence were taken seriously, especially women being killed, abused, getting restraining orders, this link to the mass killings after, if this was known — what has to be done when it comes to these men getting guns, that would prevent so many of these mass shootings?

JULIA WEBER: Well, you know, we need to have good policy in place, we need to improve existing policy, and then we need to implement policy. So, that's one of the roles I play in my work around implementation, is that, you know, first we have to advocate for and put in place good policy, which includes automatic firearm prohibitions from the get-go — that is, when an emergency civil restraining order might be issued, an ex parte or temporary order, as well as an order after hearing. In California, that's the case, but it's not the case in every state. It's not the case under our federal law, as well.

Then we have to ensure that those policies are handed out fairly, consistently, there aren't workarounds to get around firearm prohibitions. We see too many workarounds in these civil restraining order cases.

And then we have to ensure that they're actually followed through on. And that means getting the firearms from someone who currently owns firearms and becomes prohibited. It means ensuring that we have universal background checks, so that if someone who is prohibited attempts to purchase firearms or ammunition, that that would show up, and they would in fact be denied.

So, you know, there are several different aspects of what we need to do a better job around policy. And then, of course, we need to do a —

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

JULIA WEBER: All right. We also need to do a much better job addressing misogyny and domestic violence from the start — that is, recognizing that there's real harm that occurs as a result of gender bias.

AMY GOODMAN: Julia Weber, we want to thank you so much for being with us — this clearly needs a much larger discussion — implementation director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Giffords Law Center named for Gabby Giffords. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

When a white mob destroyed 'Black Wall Street'

Memorial Day marks the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, one of the deadliest episodes of racial violence in U.S. history, when the thriving African American neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma — known as "Black Wall Street" — was burned to the ground by a white mob. An estimated 300 African Americans were killed and over 1,000 injured. Whites in Tulsa actively suppressed the truth, and African Americans were intimidated into silence. But efforts to restore the horrific event to its rightful place in U.S. history are having an impact. Survivors testified last week before Congress, calling for reparations. President Biden is set to visit Tulsa on Tuesday. We speak with documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, whose new film premiering this weekend explores how Black residents sought out freedom in Oklahoma and built a thriving community in Greenwood, and how it was all destroyed over two days of horrific violence. Nelson notes many African Americans migrated westward after the Civil War "to start a new life" with dignity. "Greenwood was one of over 100 African American communities in the West," he says. "Greenwood was the biggest and the baddest of those communities.



This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: "Mother Africa" by jazz saxophonist Hal Singer and Jef Gilson. Singer was one of the last remaining survivors of the Tulsa race massacre. He died in August at the age of 100. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

This Monday, Memorial Day, marks the hundredth anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, one of the single greatest acts of racist terror in U.S. history. In 1921, the thriving African American neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was known as "Black Wall Street" for its concentration of successful Black-owned businesses, before it was burned to the ground by a white mob.

The violence grew from a confrontation at the Tulsa courthouse where whites had gathered to abduct and lynch a jailed Black man who had been wrongfully accused of assaulting a white woman. Black residents of Greenwood arrived to stop the lynching. Gunshots erupted, after which the white mob set upon Greenwood for 18 hours of mass murder, arson and looting that would become known as the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.

An estimated 300 African Americans were killed, over a thousand injured. Ten thousand were left homeless as the racist mob, some of them deputized and armed by Tulsa law enforcement, along with members of the Ku Klux Klan, terrorized the Black population. Airplanes were used to drop dynamite and crude incendiary bombs on Greenwood, ultimately burning over 35 city blocks. Over 1,200 homes were destroyed, along with countless businesses. The actual number of dead will never be known, as bodies were tossed into mass graves or thrown in the river.

Last week, a House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing to address the ongoing impacts of the Tulsa massacre. Three African American survivors testified in favor of reparations: Viola Fletcher; her younger brother, Hughes Van Ellis, who's 100 years old; and 105-year-old Lessie Benningfield Randle. This is part of their testimony, beginning with Viola Fletcher.

VIOLA FLETCHER: I'm a survivor of the Tulsa race massacre. Two weeks ago, I celebrated my 107th birthday. Today I am visiting Washington, D.C., for the first time in my life. I'm here seeking justice, and I'm asking my country to acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921. …
The night of the massacre, I was awakened by my family. My parents and five siblings were there. I was told we had to leave, and that was it. I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not. And other survivors do not. And our descendants do not.
HUGHES VAN ELLIS: We live with it every day, and the thought of what Greenwood was and what it could have been. We aren't just black-and-white pictures on a screen. We are flesh and blood. I was there when it happened. I'm still here.
LESSIE BENNINGFIELD RANDLE: It seems like justice in America is always so slow or not possible for Black people.

AMY GOODMAN: Three African American survivors of the Tulsa race massacre, making history as they testified before Congress just ahead of the centennial of the race massacre this Monday. The Department of Homeland Security has said events commemorating the massacre could be a target for white supremacists. President Joe Biden still plans to travel to Tulsa on Tuesday.

This Sunday, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson premieres on the History Channel. This is the trailer for Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre.

JAMES S. HIRSCH: The destruction was so complete. The suffering was so biblical. The betrayal was so profound.
UNIDENTIFIED: Black communities deserve the opportunity to confront the past.
UNIDENTIFIED: Our city has been stuck since then. We've never recovered.
DAMARIO SOLOMON-SIMMONS: Tulsa was the best place in the nation for African Americans.
MICHELE MITCHELL: We have everything, from hotels, theaters.
SCOTT ELLSWORTH: Doctors, lawyers.
MICHELE MITCHELL: People referred to it as "Black Wall Street."
UNIDENTIFIED: Showing Black people that a new world was possible.
HANNIBAL JOHNSON: The Tribune published a story titled "Nabbed Negro for Attacking Girl in an Elevator." It was a false narrative to keep Black people in their place, to reinforce white supremacy.
SCOTT ELLSWORTH: All across Tulsa, angry whites are now organizing.
JAMES S. HIRSCH: They get their guns. They get their torches.
SCOTT ELLSWORTH: At that point, they start moving towards Greenwood.
JAMES S. HIRSCH: All hell broke loose.
ELDORIS McCONDICHIE: The white folks are killing the colored folks.
UNIDENTIFIED: Firing into homes.
UNIDENTIFIED: Bombs dropping from the air.
UNIDENTIFIED: It was just an all-out massacre.
REV. ROBERT TURNER: Not one of those men who participated in the race massacre were ever brought to justice.
SCOTT ELLSWORTH: The Tulsa Tribune refused to write anything about the massacre for more than 50 years. Victims were being buried in unmarked graves across the city. The reason we understand the history of the massacre is that certain survivors decided to talk about it.
GEORGE MONROE: My mother saw four men coming toward our house, and all of them had torches.
BRENDA ALFORD: We will be looking for the remains of those who were lost so tragically.
UNIDENTIFIED: This is so beautiful, and sad at the same time.
UNIDENTIFIED: We need to do something about what happened in Tulsa.
DAMARIO SOLOMON-SIMMONS: There cannot be any justice 'til there is proper respect, restitution and repair.

AMY GOODMAN: The trailer for Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre. The executive producer of the film, NBA star Russell Westbrook, who played for the Oklahoma City Thunder for over a decade.

We're joined now by one of the documentary's directors, Stanley Nelson. His previous films include Freedom Summer, Freedom Riders, The Murder of Emmett Till.

Stanley, welcome back to Democracy Now! It's an honor to have you with us again. Lay this out. I mean, this is a story that, as we can see throughout this film, and of course from our own education, was so suppressed for so many decades. Go back in time. Talk to us about Black Wall Street and why so many African Americans came to Oklahoma.

STANLEY NELSON: Yeah, I think one of the things that's so fascinating about the story is that African Americans, in the decades after the Civil War, migrated west. You know, we think of that famous saying, "Go west, young man." Well, African Americans went west. You know, when we think about Americans in covered wagons, we don't think about — usually think about African Americans, but African Americans went west, in covered wagons, on horseback, on foot, to try to start a new life and try to start a life where they could live with dignity and peace.

And they did that. And they did that in Greenwood. And Greenwood was one of over a hundred African American communities in the West, some small, some a little larger, but Greenwood was the biggest and the baddest of those communities. It was a very, very successful community that had businesses, you know, a skating rink, movie theaters, grocery stores, lawyers, doctors, everything. It was really a self-contained community. And that may have been one of the problems with their white neighbors.

AMY GOODMAN: Yeah, I was so struck by the history, where you talked about African Americans coming north from the oppression of the Deep South, and actually a number of them — and they called it Indian Country, going to Oklahoma — a number concerned about Oklahoma becoming a state, that it would reinforce the racist laws of the rest of the United States.

STANLEY NELSON: Yeah, one of the things that's so fascinating is that Oklahoma was a territory, and so it was kind of free. You know, it was the home of the Land Rush, and Black people took part in that. And there was a move to make Oklahoma kind of a home, a Black state for African Americans. But once Oklahoma became a state, then the racist Jim Crow laws took effect, and Black people, that had kind of been free in Oklahoma, were then persecuted.

AMY GOODMAN: This is another clip from your documentary, Tulsa Burning, that features several historians and descendants describing Greenwood's history as the Black Wall Street.

HANNIBAL JOHNSON: Greenwood was a community of necessity. It was a segregated enclave. Black folks couldn't ply their trades or purchase goods and services in the larger white economy, so they created their own economy. That economy became successful because Black folks did business with one another and kept dollars largely in the Black community.
MICHELE MITCHELL: What happens in Greenwood is that segregation, which is not necessarily desired, segregation actually enables Black businesses to thrive, Black professionals to thrive.
UNIDENTIFIED: It was a district where, in fact, money, dollars, could turn over five or six times.
KARLOS HILL: In Greenwood, you could — as a Black person, you could advance. And you had a number of individuals in the community that were prospering.
WILHELMINA GUESS HOWELL: "My uncle, he was a physician. His name was Andrew Jackson, lived up on Detroit Street in the 500 block, sort of a hill right up that street. Detroit in those days had the nicest houses. The Negroes did. The principal of the school lived up there. We had dentists up there. We had wonderful doctors. And my uncle, I told you, his name was Dr. Jackson."
JOHN W. ROGERS JR.: My great-grandfather's name was J.B. Stradford. He grew up in Kentucky. His parents were slaves. And he was able to get a law degree, go to Oberlin College and really start his entrepreneurial career in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Stradford Hotel was one of the largest Black-owned hotels in the United States. It was a beautiful building. And leaders from throughout the country, when they came through the Midwest, would often stay at the Stradford Hotel.
MICHELE MITCHELL: You have Black entertainers that are playing there, jazz being a really important scene. We think about jazz in Kansas, in Kansas City. It's also important in Greenwood.
KARLOS HILL: Because of the success of Greenwood, Booker T. Washington coined the phrase, Greenwood as the "Black Wall Street" or the "Negro Wall Street" of America.

AMY GOODMAN: A clip from Tulsa Burning, that's going to air on History Channel on Sunday. Stanley Nelson, talk about why you chose to take on this subject, to add to your remarkable opus of work.

STANLEY NELSON: Yeah, I mean, I think it's more reasons than one. One, it's an incredible American story that needs to be known — you know, the building of Black Wall Street, the building of Greenwood, and also the devastation and destruction. But also, it was really challenging, because we're telling two stories at once. So we're also telling the story of 2020, 2021, as Greenwood searches for the remains of African Americans who were buried in mass graves, unmarked. And we didn't know what we would find or what they would find. And so, we're telling the story of 1921, of Greenwood, and also 2021 in Greenwood.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, 2020, because when Trump went on the 99th anniversary of Tulsa, so much was raised. I want to go to another clip from your documentary, Tulsa Burning, of Reverend Robert Turner of the Vernon AME Church on Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, the only surviving structure from before the massacre.

REV. ROBERT TURNER: When I came to pastor Vernon Church in Tulsa, I knew nothing about the history of this church. One of my trustees gave me a tour. And when I saw the cornerstone outside — and the cornerstone is still there — it reads, "Basement erected 1919." I said, "Is that the same one we have?" He said, "Yes, that's the same basement that you just walked through." "So, it survived the 1921 race massacre." He was like, "Yes." I was like, "Do you know what this is?" He was like, "What?" I said, "We have something left. Right? All is not lost."

AMY GOODMAN: And nearly 100 years after the Tulsa race massacre, a team of scholars is working to uncover the unmarked graves, that Stanley Nelson just referred to, of victims, with hopes of identifying some of their bodies. In this clip of Tulsa Burning, we hear from Brenda Nails Alford, a descendant of James and Henry Nails, who owned businesses in Black Wall Street.

BRENDA NAILS ALFORD: I always knew that my grandmother had to hide in a church for some reason, but I never knew what that meant. Family members would come to town. My great-uncles would come to town. And maybe we'd be driving around, and we would pass Oaklawn Cemetery. Someone in the car would always say, "You know they're still over there," the victims of the race massacre. And everybody in the car would agree. And I always had a little thing about that cemetery, growing up as a kid, because I was like, "What's over there?" And I would find out so many, many years later that the family member and community members were there.
REV. ROBERT TURNER: But in 1921, the people who were killed, people who lost lives, loved ones, they never had the benefit of having a funeral. That touches me at the core — and it should, any conscious human being — the fact that we just dumped bodies of human beings, of patriots, of veterans, of teachers, of husbands, of wives, children in mass graves. Nobody ever had a chance to say goodbye.

AMY GOODMAN: That last voice, Reverend Robert Turner of Tulsa's Vernon AME Church. Stanley Nelson, what most surprised you as you did this research?

STANLEY NELSON: I think one of the things that was so surprising is that there's film footage of the building of Tulsa. You know, the people were so prosperous and so proud of what they were building that in 1920, early in 1921, they made movies and took pictures of their homes and their businesses. And that's really rare. And there's also still pictures and movies of the destruction, so that we see it. And so, you know, as a filmmaker, it was a gift, because it's really a window into what happened. And that really surprised me, because you don't often find film footage of just African American communities, you know, being themselves, from the early '20s.

AMY GOODMAN: This is another clip from Tulsa Burning. It features Brenda Nails Alford, descendant of James and Henry Nails.

KARLOS HILL: This is not just a story of victimization. It's also a story of resistance. It's also a story of courage and resilience. And that can't be forgotten.
BRENDA NAILS ALFORD: My grandfather, he was a very proud, college-educated shoemaker, who did everything he was, quote-unquote, "supposed to do." He got his education. He worked hard. He started the businesses. And still that wasn't enough. And so, in this day and time, my question is: When is it enough? When are we enough as a people? They did everything that they could do. They wanted to be successful. These were proud, upstanding members of our community, who simply wanted a piece of the American dream — and truly received a nightmare.
HANNIBAL JOHNSON: At the end of this experience, no white person was convicted of an offense related to killing people or destroying the property in the Greenwood District. None. And that is not surprising. And really, you know, when you think about the context, it's not surprising at all.

AMY GOODMAN: That last voice, historian Hannibal Johnson. And finally, this clip from Tulsa Burning about the aftermath of the deadly attack.

SCOTT ELLSWORTH: They're being led away at gunpoint to these so-called internment centers around town, the fairgrounds, the municipal auditorium, the baseball park.
HANNIBAL JOHNSON: To get out of these centers, people generally had to have a green identification card, countersigned by a white person that was willing to vouch for them.
SCOTT ELLSWORTH: So, here you are. You've been illegally arrested by white civilians. You have no idea what's happened to your loved ones if you've been separated from them. If that was your uncle, your brother, your son, your father, you're going to never know what happened to them.
KARLOS HILL: We have to acknowledge that the destruction to the community was intentional. It was conscious. It was systematic.
HANNIBAL JOHNSON: When the dust settled, somewhere between 100 and 300 people were killed. At least 1,250 homes in the Black community were destroyed.
MICHELE MITCHELL: Thirty-five square blocks, 36 square blocks, 40 square blocks, just obliterated.
SCOTT ELLSWORTH: You could see the iron, you know, metal bed stands where there used to be homes.
KARLOS HILL: Two million dollars in Black wealth went up in flames. Right? That was never recouped.
SCOTT ELLSWORTH: And for people who didn't know what happened to their loved ones, identified as well as unidentified, African American massacre victims were being buried in unmarked graves across the city.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet another clip from Tulsa Burning. Stanley Nelson, as we wrap up, the issue of reparations, 100 years later?

STANLEY NELSON: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things the film does, and does so well, is it makes you think about reparations. You know, it's such a fraught word. But I think that you understand what people mean and why people ask for reparations, once you see the film and know the story of Tulsa, which is a real representation of the problems that Black communities suffered through.

AMY GOODMAN: And you certainly help us do this in this remarkable documentary. Stanley Nelson, the award-winning director of the new documentary Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern on the History Channel.

And that does it for our show. Our condolences to our dear colleague Miriam Barnard. I'm Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us. Stay safe.

Medical examiner accused of covering up cop killing in Maryland becomes witness for Derek Chauvin

In the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a key witness for the defense was the former Maryland chief medical examiner, Dr. David Fowler, who contradicted most other expert witnesses in the trial and suggested heart trouble and other issues, not the police restraint, caused George Floyd's death. The decision by Chauvin's legal team to rely on Fowler's testimony shocked many in Maryland, where he is being sued by the family of 19-year-old Anton Black, an African American teenager from Maryland who died in 2018 after he was electrocuted with a Taser, pinned in a prone position and crushed under the weight of three white police officers and a white civilian as he struggled to breathe and lost consciousness. After an autopsy, Dr. Fowler ruled Black's death an accident, and no one was charged with a crime. The wrongful death lawsuit says Dr. Fowler delayed release of an autopsy report for months and covered up police responsibility for Black's death. Sonia Kumar, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland, says there is "a pattern of conduct in Maryland involving police violence against Black people that then are characterized as anything other than homicides." We also speak with Richard Potter, the founder of the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black and president of the Talbot County branch of the NAACP, who says officials in Anton Black's case spent months dragging their feet after the teenager's death. "Nobody was giving the family any information in terms of a cause of death," he says.


All-American insurrection: Expert explains how right-wing extremists' targets have shifted

A scathing new report by the Capitol Police's internal watchdog reveals officials knew Congress was the target of the deadly January 6 insurrection, yet officers were instructed to refrain from deploying more aggressive measures that could have helped "push back the rioters." Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports domestic terrorism incidents surged to a record high in 2020, fueled by white supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right. The Post found that, since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks, leading to 91 deaths. Reporter A.C. Thompson, who explores the threat of far-right extremism in the new PBS "Frontline" documentary "American Insurrection," says there was a "massive pool of radicalized individuals" ahead of the January 6 attack who were being pushed toward violence by "an abundance of lies by the former president, by this entire conspiratorial right-wing media and social media ecosystem." We also speak with director Rick Rowley, who says many white supremacist groups began to splinter during the intense backlash to the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, but Trump gave the groups new life ahead of the January 6 insurrection. "Many elements inside the white supremacist movement found in him a path into the mainstream," says Rowley. "They took off their swastikas, and they wrapped themselves in the flag."



This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

A new report by the Capitol Police's watchdog reveals officials knew Congress was the target of the deadly January 6th insurrection, yet officers were instructed to refrain from deploying a more aggressive response that could have helped, quote, "push back the rioters." Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton found the agency failed to properly prepare for and respond to the pro-Trump mob despite warnings. The report cites a Capitol Police intelligence assessment issued several days before the attack that warned, quote, "Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike." The assessment also warned "Congress itself is the target on the 6th." Well, Bolton is set to testify Thursday before the House Administration Committee.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports domestic terrorism incidents surged to a record high in 2020, fueled by white supremacist, anti-Muslim, anti-government extremists on the far right. The Post found, since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks, leading to 91 deaths.

For more, we turn to a new film called American Insurrection, that explores how far-right groups were emboldened and encouraged by former President Trump, and what the fears and concerns are, going forward. The documentary by Frontline premiered Tuesday on PBS in collaboration with ProPublica and the University of California, Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program. In a minute, we'll be joined by the film's director, Rick Rowley, and correspondent A.C. Thompson. This is the trailer.

MIKE DUNN: I think about a revolution against the government. We're past the point of peace.
WHITE SUPREMACISTS: You will not replace us!
NARRATOR: From Charlottesville to the assault on the Capitol —
TRUMP SUPPORTERS: Fight for Trump!
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN: One of the darkest days in the history of our nation.
REP. ANDRÉ CARSON: We're seeing this country fall apart before our eyes.
NARRATOR: How the former president galvanized an army.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: Who's our president?
TRUMP SUPPORTERS: Trump's our president!
BRIEN JAMES: We've got a guy who's a nationalist in the most powerful seat in the world. We can actually win. We can actually get our views represented.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.
ROBIN GILL: So, Trump encouraging calls to lock Whitmer up…
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Lock 'em all up.
MARY McCORD: The far-right militias have felt much more license to publicly engage.
REPORTER: Terror plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
A.C. THOMPSON: And so, you think the guys were planning to arrest her?
MILITIA MEMBER: It was going to be a citizen's arrest.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER: Two militia groups were preparing to kidnap and possibly kill me.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you do not fight like hell, you're not going have a country anymore.
REPORTER: Violent mob, stoked by the words of President Trump, stormed the building.
REP. ANDRÉ CARSON: They were hostile. They were venomous that their country somehow was being taken away from them.
NARRATOR: In the aftermath of the 2020 election, how these groups have become part of the American political landscape.
A.C. THOMPSON: What was the role of the boog bois on that day?
MIKE DUNN: There was some boogaloo bois in the crowd associated with us. They weren't there for Trump. They were there just to mess with the federal government one more time.
NARRATOR: Over the last several years, Frontline and ProPublica have been reporting on the rise of hate groups —
A.C. THOMPSON: Talk to you about what you were doing in Charlottesville last year.
NARRATOR: — and their violence.
A.C. THOMPSON: What do you think was going on in this house?
UNIDENTIFIED: They were making bombs.
NARRATOR: Now correspondent A.C. Thompson investigates the surge of far-right political violence.
A.C. THOMPSON: What do soldiers and marines bring to the boogaloo?
MIKE DUNN: They bring training expertise in certain areas.
REP. KEITH ELLISON: They have decided this is a strategic initiative for them. There is a real, legitimate fear. We've got to be vigilant about it.
UNIDENTIFIED: I'm afraid that more innocent civilians will be targeted and actually victimized by these violent offenders. Everything that we had predicted has come to fruition. And it's actually even worse.
NARRATOR: The first in a series of films on the rise of extremism around the world.
MIKE DUNN: We definitely are the modern militia.

AMY GOODMAN: That's the trailer for American Insurrection, the new Frontline documentary, now streaming on PBS.org.

For more, we're joined by A.C. Thompson, PBS Frontline correspondent and staff reporter with ProPublica, who's covered the rise of right-wing extremist and white supremacist groups for years, and director Rick Rowley, the Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning filmmaker, independent journalist with Midnight Productions.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! A.C., you begin this documentary on January 7th, the day after the deadly insurrection in Washington, and then you make your way back to the University of Virginia. Talk about what we're facing now and the buildup.

A.C. THOMPSON: You know, the concern that I have at this point is that we may see an act of mass casualty terrorism sometime in the relatively near future, because we have a massive pool of radicalized individuals who have been fed an abundance of lies by the former president, by this entire conspiratorial right-wing media and social media ecosystem. And that is the concern I have.

For us, the film traces sort of what happens from Charlottesville with the white power movement, which was emboldened and catalyzed by former President Trump, up to now, where we see the sort of white supremacists fading and these groups we saw on January 6th coming out, the street fighters, like the Proud Boys, the militias, the boogaloo bois. And that's sort of the arc that we're tracing here. We expect trouble from those groups in the future.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, A.C., in the film, you explore several of these groups. In the Proud Boys, for instance, the Cuban American, Enrique Tarrio, who is the — one of the leaders of the group — several of these folks are not — they're white supremacists, but they're not white themselves. And those of us who know the Latin American history know there's always been an extreme-right-wing trend among people of Latin American descent. Could you talk about Tarrio and the Proud Boys and what you found?

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah, that's a great question. Honestly, a few years ago, our colleague Karim Hajj and I were filming in Portland and filming these Proud Boys rallies. And we thought, you know, "How do we even make sense of these guys?" Like, you know, because they're ethnically mixed. They're sort of white supremacist-adjacent, like they're hanging out with white supremacists, but that's not how they categorize themselves. And I think the term that we came up with was sort of multicultural fascism, multiethnic fascism.

You know, in the film, we meet a member of the Proud Boys, and he's wearing a shirt that says "Pinochet did nothing wrong," referring to the fascist Chilean dictator. And that's a thing that we saw over and over again with the Proud Boys, is shirts that said "right-wing death squads," shirts that talked about throwing socialists and leftists out of helicopters, as happened in Chile and Latin America during the dirty wars. So, that's the sort of thing that I think these movements, the ultranationalist movements, really represent, is a multiethnic fascism.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip from your documentary, American Insurrection. You report on Steven Carrillo, the active-duty Air Force sergeant accused of shooting dead a federal security officer in Oakland during last year's protests over the police killing of George Floyd. Remember, it was originally blamed on antifa. But then it turns out to be that Carrillo killed not only him, but a deputy sergeant in the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. He belonged to the anti-government boogaloo bois movement and was interviewed by investigative journalist Gisela Pérez de Acha from jail.

A.C. THOMPSON: Before he was captured, Carrillo wrote messages in his own blood, including a single word that would be the key to all the chaos: "Boog."
STEVEN CARRILLO: What the boogaloo is, is a revolution, a revolutionary thought.
A.C. THOMPSON: Carrillo told Pérez de Acha that he was part of a movement called the boogaloo bois.
STEVEN CARRILLO: The boogaloo movement, it's about people that love freedom, liberty, and they're unhappy with the level of control that the government takes over our lives. Being free to do what you want as long as you don't hurt anyone else.
GISELA PÉREZ DE ACHA: Aren't you accused of hurting someone?
STEVEN CARRILLO: Oh, that's — you know, that's what I'm accused of, but — yeah, so, back to the example, that's what I wanted to get to, you know, is the freedom of choice, the freedom of expression.
A.C. THOMPSON: Carrillo has pleaded not guilty, and he wouldn't answer questions about the shootings.
Did you find it hard to get him to actually —
GISELA PÉREZ DE ACHA: It was so hard. It was so hard. He would just deny and skirt every question.
How did you come to this? How did you — because you said you didn't read a lot before.
STEVEN CARRILLO: Basically, through friends, friends, you know, the Air Force. Once I joined the Air Force, you know, I traveled around the world. I met people from all over the world. And just talking to people changed my whole views.
A.C. THOMPSON: So, do you think that he's saying that he found these radical ideas in the military?
GISELA PÉREZ DE ACHA: Yeah, I think — mainly from my conversations with him, I think he was definitely radicalized at the Air Force.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we were hearing the voice of Carrillo there from jail, thanks to the investigative journalist Gisela Pérez de Acha. And you're talking to her, A.C. Thompson. Now, central to this is the military's prominent role in the white supremacist movement. I mean, you even interview a Pentagon spokesperson who says this is what they're looking at now, the disproportionate representation of police and military in the white supremacist movement. Tell us more through the story of Carrillo.

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah. So, Steven Carrillo is a 32-, now-33-year-old Air Force staff sergeant. He was assigned to a sort of elite security unit called the Phoenix Ravens within the U.S. Air Force. He had been in the service for many years.

And the truth about Steven Carrillo, who is facing the federal death penalty for allegedly killing a federal security officer, facing state charges for murder for allegedly killing a deputy down in Santa Cruz County, California, is that he's representative of a much, much broader nexus between the military and extremist movements, most prominently anti-government militias and the white supremacist movement. Now, Steven is Mexican American. He wouldn't identify as white supremacist in any way. But he does identify with these sort of extremist, extreme libertarian ideas and this really anti-government sentiment that we've seen swirling around many people in the armed forces in recent years.

We did reporting that found — that basically found some 20 members of the boogaloo movement with military ties, many of them active-duty. Thirteen of them had been jailed on serious, serious criminal charges in the last year. Our colleagues at Berkeley found another 15 active-duty airmen, many of them connected to Carrillo online, who are promoting boogaloo anti-government content, while collecting a government paycheck.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Rick Rowley, I'd like to bring you into the conversation, as well. Could you talk about this — first of all, the timeline of the film, starting from Charlottesville through a variety of other events, that most people don't — most Americans don't associate as part of any kind of continuum, but also the role of social media, as you got into this story, in the growth of these groups?

RICK ROWLEY: Yeah. Thanks, Juan.

I mean, I think, really, the important — a major, important takeaway for everyone is that, you know, we look too often at these movements as a monolith, as an unchanging kind of thing. But actually, the far-right ecosystem is diverse, and it evolves, and it takes advantage of political crises as they appear. And if you don't understand how it's growing and changing, then it becomes impossible to understand the kind of threat they pose.

So, yeah, we begin in Charlottesville with Unite the Right, the explosion of the largest white supremacist — openly white supremacist demonstration in our lifetimes. And there was a backlash after that, that was actually quite effective in splintering and breaking up the overt, explicitly white supremacist organizations that were there. The main groups behind that, you know, they dissolved, or they changed their names, or they just kind of disappeared.

But what happened was, something else happened there, and that was that Trump, with his response to Charlottesville, he made explicit something that had been imminent inside his campaign for a long time. And many elements inside the white supremacist movement found in him a path into the mainstream. And so, they took off their swastikas, and they wrapped themselves in the flag, and they joined groups like the Proud Boys.

At the time, the Proud Boys seemed to me to be kind of a joke — right? — not a very serious player in this space. But they became a vehicle through which neo-Nazis and white supremacists could enter into a mainstream kind of organization. You know, one of the great interviews that A.C. does is with this guy Brien James, who is — his career is like a bingo card of far-right violence, like the Klan, militias, where he met Tim McVeigh. He's founder of a neo-Nazi skinhead gang whose members have been committed — who have been convicted of multiple murders. Now he's a Proud Boy. And he says to us on camera that he sees that now they can win with someone like Trump in power, in office, and then also just offering them this vehicle into the mainstream.

And so, you know, what you mentioned earlier, Juan, about Enrique Tarrio and the Black and Latino members of the Proud Boys, this is a very self-conscious move by the movement to put forward an image of themselves that is difficult for people who haven't watched them evolve to classify. So, people look at them, and it's hard to call them white supremacist, because they can't — you know, it's hard for them to square that image because they haven't seen them evolve. I mean, the slogan, "Pinochet did nothing wrong" — "Hitler did nothing wrong" was a slogan, you know, started, I think, on Stormfront a couple decades ago and sort of popularized. They just take the "Hitler" out, put the "Pinochet" in, and suddenly they're a multiethnic, multicultural fascist movement that finds a way to become more acceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to another clip of American Insurrection. This is about the boogaloo bois.

A.C. THOMPSON: I need to see the movement for myself. I go to Virginia, where a boogaloo cell is marching against a local gun ordinance. Fifty protesters show up. They have body armor, assault rifles and outlawed high-capacity magazines. They carry igloo flags and wear Hawaiian shirts and ironic patches. The group is led by Mike Dunn.
So, how are you feeling about today?
MIKE DUNN: Liberty shall not be infringed.
A.C. THOMPSON: Has this been a success, in your mind?
MIKE DUNN: Liberty shall not be infringed.
A.C. THOMPSON: Dunn postures like a seasoned squad leader. But this doesn't look like a group that's going to lead a violent insurrection. I can see the threat they pose, though. Boogaloo bois have demonstrated the potential to carry out acts of violence. Some in law enforcement and the intelligence community also saw this threat. I've been told that their concerns were rejected by the White House.
ELIZABETH NEUMANN: Among the counterterrorism community, we took it very seriously. But you really do need that presidential-level leadership saying, "This is a threat. We are going to use all of our tools to go after this threat." That never happened under Trump.
A.C. THOMPSON: Elizabeth Neumann was one of the top counterterrorism officials in the Trump administration. She says she tried to warn the White House about the rising threat of far-right extremists, but the president and his allies claimed the real threat was from Black Lives Matter and antifa.
ELIZABETH NEUMANN: Does antifa exist? It's not an organization; it's a movement. You have groups of people that associate with them. Do they show up at protests? Sure. Is it a massive conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and kill a lot of people? No. You know where that is? It's on the right. It's in the white supremacist movement. It's in the anti-government militia movement. It's in the boogaloo bois movement.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is key. That was Elizabeth Neumann, who was a Trump administration official, who quit then because the White House kept stressing the threat was Black Lives Matter and antifa, when all of the facts indicate the overwhelming level of violence, the number one domestic terror threat in this country are the white supremacists, are the anti-government groups, this right wing that coalesced on January 6th. You have Mike Dunn in there. A.C., you say he's gone underground now? What do you see as the next insurrection or threat? And what about how the Biden administration is dealing with this?

A.C. THOMPSON: You know, I think the fear that I have, and I've gotten this from our interviews with people like Mike Dunn, is both federal agencies and federal law enforcement being targeted. They are a particular target for people in these militia and militant anti-government groups. As well, I think there's a real concern with state-level and county-level officials being targeted, particularly in states that maybe have more serious COVID restrictions — I think that's the thing we saw in Michigan with the kidnapping plot there against the governor — particularly in states where they may be moving to enact some forms of slightly more aggressive gun control laws. Those are the concerns I think that we should all have. And that's what's been articulated to us, is like, "Look, it's not just that we're targeting the federal government; we're targeting everybody."

AMY GOODMAN: A.C. Thompson, we want to thank you for being with us, PBS Frontline correspondent, ProPublica reporter, and Rick Rowley, Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning filmmaker, just released American Insurrection, a new Frontline documentary, now streaming at PBS.org.

Pandemic profiteers: How US billionaires like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos saw wealth grow by $1.3 trillion

A new report reveals that as a record number of people in the United States lost their jobs and struggled to put food on the table during the past year of the pandemic, the combined wealth of the 657 billionaires in the country grew more than $1.3 trillion, nearly 45%, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who saw his personal wealth increase by $65 billion — more than $7 million every hour. "They are often leading companies who have benefited from the pandemic conditions by having, essentially, their competition shut down," says Chuck Collins, author of the report on pandemic profiteers by the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness. "These folks have reaped enormous windfalls in this pandemic." The massive gains come as pressure grows on lawmakers to impose new taxes on the top 1%, with both Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders proposing new measures to address growing economic inequality.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it's been a year of pain for so many, and massive gains for a select few billionaires. We begin today's show looking at a new report that names the biggest pandemic profiteers over the past year. As unemployment surged at the start of the lockdowns, the Institute for Policy Studies began working with Americans for Tax Fairness to track the wealth growth of U.S. billionaires. They've just published their findings that show the combined wealth of the 657 billionaires in the country grew more than $1.3 trillion, nearly 45%, since the pandemic began.

This comes as a record number of people in the United States lost their jobs and struggled to put food on the table. Food banks reported massive lines, and mutual aid groups popped up across the United States to help those in need. This is Harlem resident Ruth Crawford, speaking from a food bank last Thanksgiving.

RUTH CRAWFORD: You have to try to relax and think of the better things, because it wasn't always like this. But this is getting to people, and it's just sad. I mean, you work all the time, and then you can't go to work, or you can't work from home. So it's not easy.

AMY GOODMAN: Billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg all saw their bank accounts swell amidst the global crisis. This month, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and others proposed an "ultra-millionaire" tax to tax fortunes above $50 million. Senator Sanders hosted a hearing on the inequality crisis last week.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We'll be asking about how it happens that the top one-tenth of 1% now owns more wealth than the bottom 90% — one-tenth of 1%, more wealth than the bottom 90% — and two individuals, Bezos and Musk, now own more wealth than the bottom 40%. And meanwhile, we're looking at more hunger in America than at any time in decades.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Sanders is holding another hearing today.

For more, we're joined by Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies' Program on Inequality and author of their new report, "A Year of Billionaire Pandemic Gains." Chuck Collins is also the author of The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions.

Chuck, welcome back to Democracy Now! Who are the pandemic profiteers, and how they do it?

CHUCK COLLINS: Well, good morning, Amy.

And you mentioned a couple, who — like Jeff Bezos, like Elon Musk. But what we found was that there was a whole group of people, almost 50 billionaires, whose wealth has gone up over 100%. And they are often leading companies who have benefited from the pandemic conditions by having, essentially, their competition shut down. So, they're the online retailers, the online telemedicine. And then, think about it: Any of the companies that we're sort of depending on while a bricks-and-mortar economy has been shut down, those are the ones that have seen their wealth surge dramatically. And as you said, you know, we're talking about 657 billionaires whose combined wealth is $1.3 trillion increase in the last year, but they have $4.2 trillion total, which is double, almost double, the amount of the wealth of the bottom half of U.S. households. So these folks have reaped enormous windfalls in this pandemic.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Chuck, could you also respond to the ultra-millionaire tax proposals that Sanders was just talking about, what we played? And also, in 2018, you wrote that the effective rate of tax on the billionaire class was lower than for most middle-income taxpayers. Explain what the effective rate of tax is. And again, your response to the proposal for an ultra-millionaire tax?

CHUCK COLLINS: Well, it really is a good time to be talking about taxing the very wealthy. The effective rate is really what's the percentage of your income and wealth that you pay in taxes. And the billionaire class is down to about 23%, which is like a 70-year low. That's the level at which many schoolteachers pay their tax rates. So, a wealth tax, along the lines the ultra-millionaire tax that's been proposed; Senator Sanders is going to introduce his reformed estate tax bill today, the For the 99.5% bill, today — those are the kinds of legislation that will raise significant money from that billionaire class. We estimated — Americans for Tax Fairness and Institute for Policy Studies estimated that the wealth tax, half the revenue would come from billionaires. Over 10 years, almost $1.5 trillion of revenue would come just from billionaires. So, it would go a long way toward making the tax system more fair and restoring the lost progressivity that we had in past decades.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Chuck, it's clear that, of course, the U.S. was not the only country that saw billionaires increasing their wealth exponentially during the pandemic. There is another report that tracks global wealth, called the Hurun Global Rich List. And it found that in addition to billionaires, of course, increasing their wealth, the world also added 607 new billionaires, and that's three billionaires every two days. So, could you talk about how this happened globally and where this wealth is most concentrated — the U.S., China and India?

CHUCK COLLINS: Yeah, it's a good question. And we're going to release an analysis of the one-year mark on global wealth, but let me give you a preview. The global billionaire class — there's about 2,360 billionaires globally — their wealth increased $4 trillion. So, that group has $12 trillion. And if we were to levy a kind of Warren-style wealth tax on the global billionaires, just in one year that would raise about $350 billion. It would cost about $140 billion to vaccinate the world, according to Oxfam. So, you know, that's the juxtaposition that we're looking at in the pandemic.

But the common thing that these billionaires have, the ones that are really extracting enormous windfalls, is their Main Street business commerce competition has been shut down. I mean, it's clear — you know, take an example like Amazon. The Main Street bookstore and retailer is shuttered. They are consolidating — these bigger, billionaire-owned companies are consolidating their ownership in certain sectors. And it's both the things that we need, it's also diversions — you know, Snapchat, sort of gaming, online gaming. All those things have also — there's a huge amount of wealth that's been extracted from these companies that own some of the online gaming firms. And the United States billionaires only account — count for less than a third of this global wealth. There's a tremendous amount of new wealth in China, in Hong Kong. But what they all have in common is they benefit from the adversity and the artificial conditions that the pandemic has created in the marketplace.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Jeff Bezos. Earlier this week, we spoke to Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, talking about how Amazon treated workers during the pandemic. They're attempting to unionize the first Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

STUART APPELBAUM: Amazon cut people's wages in the middle of the pandemic. At the end of May, they eliminated the $2 hazard pay they had been giving, even though the pandemic continued to rage, even though the hazards were just as bad, if not worse, as they had been before. And why did they do it? They didn't do it because they needed to. You talked about how much money Bezos has made during this period. They did it because they thought they could get away with it. Oxfam put out a report that said if Jeff Bezos had given every one of his employees a bonus of $105,000, Bezos still would have been wealthier at the end of the pandemic than he was at the beginning.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk about that, Chuck. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw his personal wealth increase by $65 billion — more than $7 million every hour. Tomorrow we're going to be talking with Danny Glover, who is going down, along with Bernie Sanders and others, for the final push days of the Amazon unionization drive effort in Bessemer. The significance of them fighting, spending millions fighting this unionization? And yet you look at the massive pandemic profiteering that he has engaged in.

CHUCK COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, it's clear that Bezos, you know, and Amazon hired 450,000 new workers during the pandemic globally, 800,000 workers now in the U.S. Many of them were sent into the viral line of fire with inadequate protection. I've talked to lots of Amazon workers in warehouses in the North, where even they are unionized in some cases, but they are still being forced to work in unsafe conditions.

Amazon could have done so much more. They could have kept hazard pay in place. They could allow workers to organize. They could share the wealth with their employees. But instead, they've hoarded the wealth at the top. And, you know, the average Amazon worker has seen their pay go up less than a dollar over the year, but compared to Bezos's, as you point out, thousands of dollars an hour that he's reaping from the situation.

So, it's really great that people like Danny Glover and others are standing and organizing, standing with the workers in Alabama in their struggle, because this is a pivotal moment to push back on these sort of oligarchic owners. Same with Musk — Musk, again, sending his workers back into factories without adequate protection, while these billionaires sit in their own protective bubbles.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much, Chuck Collins, and we're going to link to your report. Chuck Collins is director of the Institute for Policy Studies' Program on Inequality. That new report, "A Year of Billionaire Pandemic Gains." He's the author of The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions.

Next up, the House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on extremism in the Armed Forces. One in five of those arrested in connection with the deadly January 6th Capitol insurrection have served or are now serving in the military. Stay with us.

Trump and the pandemic may have permanently destroyed the GOP's trickle-down mythology

President Biden has signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which Democrats are hailing as the largest anti-poverty bill in a generation. It includes stimulus checks to most adults, expanded unemployment benefits and an overhaul of the child tax credit. One study projects the law will lift almost 14 million Americans out of poverty, including 5.7 million children. "This is transformational," says economist Joseph Stiglitz. "It says, 'We are actually going to live up — try to live up — to our aspirations.'"


The End of Trickle-Down Economics? Joe Stiglitz on the “Transformational" $1.9T American Rescue Plan www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package Thursday. Democrats are hailing the deal as the largest anti-poverty bill in a generation. One study projects the law will lift almost 14 million Americans out of poverty, including 5.7 million children. On Thursday night, President Biden gave his first primetime address, marking one year since much of the country shut down due to the pandemic.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I signed into law the American Rescue Plan, an historic piece of legislation that delivers immediate relief to millions of people, includes $1,400 in direct rescue checks, payments. That means a typical family of four earning about $110,000 will get checks for $5,600, deposited if they have direct deposit or in a check, a Treasury check. It extends unemployment benefits. It helps small businesses. It lowers healthcare premiums for many. It provides food and nutrition, keeps families in their homes. And it will cut child poverty in this country in half.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden also announced he would direct state, local and tribal governments to make all adults be eligible for a COVID vaccine by May 1st. He also set a goal of July 4th for the country to, quote, "mark independence" from the virus.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I will do everything in my power. I will not relent until we beat this virus. But I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that's not hyperbole. I need you. I need you to get vaccinated when it's your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated, as well, because here's the point: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there's a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbeque and celebrate Independence Day.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden also used his primetime address to condemn the surge in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Too often, we've turned against one another. A mask, the easiest thing to do to save lives, sometimes it divides us — states pitted against one other instead of working with each other, vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated. At this very moment, so many of them — our fellow Americans — they're on the frontlines of this pandemic, trying to save lives. And still — still — they're forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America. It's wrong. It's un-American. And it must stop.

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined now by Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Columbia University professor and chief economist for the Roosevelt Institute. He served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton and as chief economist at the World Bank. His latest book is People, Power and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent.

Thanks so much for joining us, Joe Stiglitz. Can you start off by talking about the transformational aspects of this American Rescue Plan?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: First, let me say it was enormously important that the economy be rescued, and that's why that $1.9 trillion package was so important. But within it, it was designed to begin a transformation. And what you talked about earlier, the number of people who are being lifted out of poverty, is absolutely essential.

You know, the first act passed under the previous presidency, one of the few acts in the process of what is called reconciliation, was a tax bill in December 2017. And nothing — the difference couldn't be clearer. That was a tax bill that helped the billionaires and the corporations. The money went to the top. This is a transformation with the money going to the people who really need it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk more about the significance of this. I mean, the reason it was able to be passed, with not one Republican joining in the House or the Senate, even though, astoundingly, they are starting to take credit for it — the Mississippi Senator Wicker, who tweeted out immediately how much money it was going to bring to restaurants and to keeping people on the payroll, which was one of the arguments for it, of course; he just didn't mention he did not vote for it. But take us back to FDR, what this means — it's only for a year — and if you think it could be carried out from there.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, I think it can be carried out, but to be permanent, it's going to need a change in Congress in 2022. It's very clear that the Republicans, at least for now, have come under the influence of extreme polarization and have become the party of Trump. And so, it's all about polarization, not a single one supporting what is necessary just for the economy to recover. You know, so, even if you thought, "We don't want to help the poor," you need to have the economy recover. And everybody will benefit from it. So, while it moves a lot of people out of poverty, it was an essential bill for the economy to get back going again.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the child tax credit, on its surface, might look like just another tweak to the tax code, but it defines a profound shift in how we view society, confronting poverty much like the New Deal's creation of Social Security and what that did for the elderly. Could this continue?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I believe it can. I mean, when you think about it, children don't choose their parents. And if there is any concern about the future of the country, you want to make sure that the children, no matter who their parents are, can live up to their potential.

One of the things that I pointed out in my research is that the American dream is really a myth. The life prospects of a young American are more dependent on the income and education of its parents that in almost any other advanced country. It's absolutely the opposite of the way we think about ourselves. And so, this is transformational. It says, "We are actually going to live up — try to live up — to our aspirations."

AMY GOODMAN: You have also the $5 billion for farmers of color, for Black farmers, in debt relief. The Republicans are trying to make this the kind of poster child example of — well, they're talking about reparations. But how key is this, Professor Stiglitz?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, this addresses a kind of legacy of discrimination that we've had. You know, when you've had a legacy of discrimination, you have to undo it. It's not a question of reparations, although I think there's a strong argument that can be made for reparations. But just for our society to go forward with a modicum of equality is going to necessitate dealing with some of the consequences of the discrimination of the past.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this the end of trickle-down economics?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I hope so. You know, I hope we've learned that — you know, as I mentioned earlier, the 2017 bill of Trump was, hopefully, the last gasp of trickle-down economics. The theory was, giving all that money to the corporations and the billionaires would lead to sustained economic growth from which everyone would benefit. What we saw in that bill was that the money overwhelmingly went to share buybacks, dividends, very little that trickled down to ordinary workers. That was a real demonstration that trickle-down economics didn't work. And this is the antithesis of what Trump did. It's building up the economy from the middle and the bottom.

'Huge victory': Black farmers hail $5 billion in new COVID relief law to redress generations of racism

A major provision in President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill aims to address decades of discrimination against Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American farmers who have historically been excluded from government agricultural programs. The American Rescue Plan sets aside $10.4 billion for agriculture support, with about half of that amount set aside for farmers of color, and allocates extra federal funds to farmers who were "subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group." The U.S. Department of Agriculture has faced accusations of racism for decades, but little has been done to address the problem of discrimination in farm loans. John Boyd, a fourth-generation Black farmer and president of the National Black Farmers Association, says the new funds begin to address issues he has been fighting for 30 years. "This is a huge victory for Black farmers and farmers of color," says Boyd.


“Huge Victory": Black Farmers Hail $5B in New COVID Relief Law to Redress Generations of Racism www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

We begin today's show looking at a major provision in President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that aims to address decades of discrimination against Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American farmers, who have historically been excluded from government agricultural programs. The American Rescue Plan sets aside $10.4 billion for agriculture support and allocates about half the funds to farmers of color who were, quote, "subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group," unquote.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights confirmed, as long ago as 1965, the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against Black farmers, but little was done to address the problem, and the number of Black-run farms dropped 96% in the last century. By 1999, 98% of all agricultural land was owned by white people. In 2010, Congress approved a $1.2 billion settlement for thousands of Black farmers denied USDA loans because of their race. But a 2019 study by the Government Accountability Office, based on the USDA's own data, shows farmers and ranchers of color continue to receive disproportionately smaller farm loans.

The provision in the new COVID relief package is drawn from legislation introduced by newly elected Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who is Georgia's first Black senator and also the first Georgia Democrat to serve on the Agriculture Committee in three decades. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack welcomed the measure.

AGRICULTURE SECRETARY TOM VILSACK: The history of USDA, unfortunately, involved a level of discrimination against a number of minority producers — Black farmers, Native American farmers, Hispanic farmers. And there is an effort, I think, with this package to try to deal not with the specific acts of discrimination, but the cumulative effect over a period of time. When people are discriminated against, they basically get behind, and it's really hard for them ever to catch up. And the result, of course, is that we've seen a significant decline in the number of minority producers around the country. So, this is providing some debt relief for those minority producers, those socially disadvantaged producers, to impact and affect the cumulative effect of — to offset the cumulative effect of discrimination over a period of time.

AMY GOODMAN: But the effort to address the USDA's history of racism has come under fire from some Republicans, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who lashed out against the measure during a Fox News interview.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Let me give you an example of something that really bothers me. In this bill, if you're a farmer, your loan will be forgiven, up to 120% of your loan — not 100%, but 120% of your loan — if you're socially disadvantaged, if you're African American, some other minority. But if you're a white person, if you're a white woman, no forgiveness as for reparations. What has that got to do with COVID? So, if you're in the farming business right now, this bill forgives 120% of your loan based on your race. These people in the Congress today, the House and the Senate, on the Democratic side are out-of-control liberals.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Graham's comments prompted a stern response from House Majority Whip James Clyburn, who's also from South Carolina. He was speaking on CNN.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN: Mr. Graham is from South Carolina. He knows South Carolina's history. He knows what the state of South Carolina and this country has done to Black farmers in South Carolina. They didn't do it to white farmers. We are trying to rescue the lives and livelihoods of people. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on the fight to end discrimination at the USDA and restore land to Black farmers, we go to Boydton, Virginia, to speak with John Boyd, fourth-generation Black farmer, founder and president of the nonprofit National Black Farmers Association.

John, welcome back to Democracy Now! It's great to have you with us. Can you start off by talking about this $5 billion and what it means? Give us the history.

JOHN BOYD: The $5 billion is historic in nature, Amy — and thank you for having me again — in what it's going to do to help Black farmers and farmers of color in this country. You know, as you know, we've been suffering. And the $5 billion calls for debt relief. So, that would give many Black farmers a jumpstart, if they can get rid of the debt at the United States Department of Agriculture. And there is $1 billion that's set aside for technical assistance and outreach and to really dig down into the core of the discrimination at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Both of these measures, I've been fighting for for over 30 years, so I don't anybody who's watching this show to think that this is some new measure or new idea or concept that happened overnight. I've been trying to fix this, this measure, for over 30 years at the United States Department of Agriculture. And, Amy, I probably spoke to you about it 10 years ago. So, we've been trying a long time. And this is a huge victory for Black farmers and farmers of color, Native Americans and Hispanics, and other socially disadvantaged farmers.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how, over the last century, Black farmers lost 90% of their land?

JOHN BOYD: Yes. And at the turn of the century, we were tilling about 20 million acres of land, primarily in the Southeastern Corridor of the United States, and we were close to 1 million Black farm families strong. And for those who don't understand the history, every Black person in this country, we're one or two generations away from somebody's farm. And we survived slavery. We survived sharecropping. We survived Jim Crow. And here we are in the year 2021, and I'm talking to you about discrimination at United States Department of Agriculture. We lost this land by discrimination, from receiving discrimination at USDA.

And I was one of those recipients, where the government clearly discriminated against me. I have a 14-page letter from them admitting to the guilt in those egregious acts that I faced by this this county official. The person responsible for making farm loans spat on me and used racial epithets, referred to me and other senior statesmen in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, as "boy." He came to my farm, wanting me to sign a check over to him personally, with a loaded handgun. And I can tell you, Amy, he didn't treat white farmers that way in Mecklenburg County. He would only see Black farmers on Wednesday. All of us would be lined up in the hallway with the same date and time on it. And he was referring to these elderly Black farmers — many were deacons and preachers and leaders in the community — as "boy" and talking downward towards them. So, this is deep-rooted discrimination that's been going on in very pervasive ways for a very, very long time.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to Senator Lindsey Graham?

JOHN BOYD: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the history of Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, when it comes to this issue.

JOHN BOYD: Yes. Well, first of all, I've lobbied Senator Graham when he was in the House and in the Senate, and I've had meetings with him, in buttonhole meetings, trying to get him to support the Claims Remedy Act of 2010. He has over 6,000 Black farmers in his state. He knows the discrimination that I'm describing. And I've spoken to him personally about this discrimination. Amy, he never once used his megaphone to talk about or investigate the acts of discrimination that Black farmers like myself faced.

So, I'm calling for, today, on your show — I want him to apologize to the Black community, to Black farmers, and apologize to this country for his wrong stance on this. Forty-nine members voted on 10 different amendments to strip or lessen the language that was in the COVID spending bill for Black farmers. Forty-nine senators, Republican senators, voted to take that out. And Senator Lindsey Graham was one of them. He has never tried to help. He is divisive. He is wrong for this country. And that message, that concept, the message of hate, hatred and division, that he continues to preach on Fox News, isn't the American way. That's not the way to bring America back.

Here we are, for 30 years, trying to get this done. He should have took some time to say, "What can we do to help this measure, to make farming better for Blacks and other farmers in this country?" And he never once spoke about all of the money going to white farmers. Just, for example, under the Trump administration, $29 million — $29 billion, with a B, went to white farmers. What is his definition of that? All of the subsidies and programs and loans and all these incentives at USDA, for all of these decades, have went to white farmers. What is his definition of that?

So, that's what we've been talking about, clearly, for a long time: a system that has discriminated and mistreated and took and stole land from Black farmers for decades. And it went unchecked in this country. If he wanted to check something, he should have been checking about discrimination at USDA. He should have been checking about sharecropping in his historic state, South Carolina. These are things that Senator Lindsey Graham should have been doing.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of it being Reverend Warnock, now Senator Warnock, from Georgia, the new Democratic senator, being the one who pushed this forward and sitting on the Agriculture Committee?

JOHN BOYD: Yes. This is a historic nature, and my hat goes off to Reverend Warnock, Senator Cory Booker. For the first time in history, Amy — this is a new day in America — we have two Blacks on the Senate Ag Committee. We have the chairman in the House, Chairman Scott, also from Georgia, a chairman of the [House] Agriculture Committee.

We have now a president, President Biden, and a vice president, who wants to help rectify some of the problems that we've faced. And I spoke to the president about this last February. And he committed to me that he would help me fix the issues at the United States Department of Agriculture. So I would like to recognize President Biden for signing that bill and making sure that we stayed in there. So, my hat is off right now to this administration for doing the right thing and having the guts to stand up to people like Lindsey Graham and the other 49 senators, who simply don't want to help people, Black farmers and poor people in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Tom Vilsack, the new, once again, head, but also past head, of the USDA. The NAACP has noted Vilsack had lied to conceal decades of discrimination against Black farmers. The NAACP president, Derrick Johnson, responded to Biden's nomination of Vilsack to head the USDA, calling it "extremely problematic for the African American community." He cited the 2010 controversy when Vilsack served as agriculture secretary during the Obama administration and fired Shirley Sherrod from her USDA position overseeing rural development, amidst a misunderstanding over racial comments. Vilsack would later apologize. Johnson told The Washington Post, quote, "We think that an individual who unjustifiably fired Shirley Sherrod — who is a civil rights icon, a legend, who worked with John Lewis — should not be considered. … We should not go backward, we should go forward." Well, in fact, Vilsack is once again the head of the USDA. John Boyd, have you spoken to him? And what are you demanding?

JOHN BOYD: Well, two things. Yes, I have spoken to him. And one of the things that President Biden also committed to me during our one-on-one visit in South Carolina, that there would be change in leadership at USDA. So, when they announced that Secretary Vilsack was coming back to USDA, he was not my pick. And he wasn't the pick for Black farmers. He was the pick that President Biden wanted to come back. I wanted new blood and new leadership, someone who will take a much more aggressive campaign against this discrimination at the United States Department of Agriculture.

And, Amy, when I lobbied all of those years for the Claims Remedy Act of 2010, that put in place $1.25 billion for Black farmers, Secretary Vilsack was, in my opinion, too slow to act. I didn't get the help on Capitol Hill, neither in the House or the Senate. And Valerie Jarrett, from the White House, the last five or six months, got on board and began to campaign to help me pass that measure in the House and Senate. So, I didn't think he was the right person.

But I spoke to him here a couple days ago, and he congratulated me on the measure in the bill. But I also urged him to put in swift action to make sure that these payments and the debt relief and all of these measures, the outreach and technical assistance, reach Black farmers and farmers of color expeditiously, not to sit on it and try to figure out a plan of action. If we can get $1,400 in the mailbox and direct deposit into Americans, then we can disperse and relieve debts for Black and farmers of color expeditiously. And I urged him to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, you mentioned the Trump administration and Black farmers, farmers of color. How does it fit in to past presidents? How would you assess the Trump administration?

JOHN BOYD: Worst administration in history for Black farmers, since my 38 years of doing this kind of work, Amy. My visit — and I've had the opportunity to sit down with every agriculture secretary, both Republican and Democrat, in the cage at USDA. And Secretary — former Secretary Sonny Perdue, in my visit with him, was the worst conversation I ever had. He said, "Mr. Boyd, it's your farmers, i.e. Black farmers, are going to have to get large or get out of business."

And when I urged him to have more Blacks on the county committees and all of the USDA commissions, he said he didn't need people that were lazy and didn't want to work. How egregious and — for former Secretary Sonny Perdue to say that. I told him that I didn't know any Black farmers, that are still farming, that have been treated worse than dirt by USDA, that are lazy and don't want to work. Now, Amy, I work seven days a week, including holidays and Christmas, and I've been working all of my life. And that's the way many Black farmers have. The issue here is, is we haven't had access to credit the way that the white farmers have.

And for that type of position from the Trump administration, set us back a little further. And not only just in Black farming, but in race relations in this country, the Trump administration set Black people and divided this country. And former Secretary Sonny Perdue was at the core of that, taking land away from Black farmers. He didn't even have an assistant secretary for civil rights, a position that I lobbied for and campaigned for, for many years, to get into the farm bill. They didn't even fill that position. So what does that tell you about the Trump administration's commitment on civil rights and resolving complaints from Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers? Sonny Perdue gets an F from me. And I hope he heads to retirement in politics, because he really done a bad number on Blacks and other farmers of color in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: John Boyd, I want to thank you so much for being with us, fourth-generation Black farmer, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association.

When we come back, we go to Steve Donziger, the environmental lawyer who sued Chevron for ecological devastation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. After Chevron was ordered to pay billions of dollars, Chevron went after him personally. Donziger has spent nearly 600 days under house arrest. We'll speak to him at his house. Stay with us.

The burglary that exposed COINTELPRO: Activists mark 50th anniversary of a daring FBI break-in

Fifty years ago, on March 8, 1971, a group of eight activists staged one of the most stunning acts of defiance of the Vietnam War era when they broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every document they found. The activists, calling themselves the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, began leaking shocking details about FBI abuses to the media. The documents exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI's secret Counterintelligence Program, a global, clandestine, unconstitutional practice of surveillance, infiltration and disruption of groups engaged in protest, dissent and social change. Targets included Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Young Lords, antiwar groups, Black booksellers and other organizations. The leaked documents triggered congressional investigations, increased oversight and the eventual passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The FBI never knew who was involved in the break-in until 2014, when several of the burglars made their identity public to coincide with the publication of a book about the break-in. To mark the 50th anniversary, we speak with Bonnie Raines, one of the activists involved in the heist, as well as Paul Coates, the founder and director of Black Classic Press and BCP Digital Printing, who was a target of FBI surveillance as part of COINTELPRO. "We already knew that we were being infiltrated. We knew that provocateurs were all throughout. We knew that the FBI had us under constant surveillance," says Coates. "But I don't think anyone at the time really knew the full extent of the program."




This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Fifty years ago this week, a group of activists staged one of the most stunning acts of defiance of the Vietnam War era. On March 8th, 1971, eight activists, including a cab driver, a daycare director, two professors, broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every document they found. They wanted to document how FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was spying on citizens and actively suppressing dissent. The break-in occurred as much of the nation was fixated on a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, which was billed as the "Fight of the Century." The identity of the burglars would remain a mystery for over 40 years.

Soon after stealing the documents, the activists, calling themselves the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, began leaking shocking details about FBI abuses to the media. The documents exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI's secret Counterintelligence Program, a global, clandestine, unconstitutional practice of surveillance, infiltration and disruption of groups engaged in protest, dissent and social change. Targets included the Reverend Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Young Lords, antiwar groups, Black booksellers and other groups. The leaked documents triggered congressional investigations, increased oversight and the eventual passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The FBI never knew who was involved in the break-in until 2014, when several of the burglars made their identity public to coincide with the publication of The Burglary, a book by former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger, who had reported on the leaked documents back in '71. In 2014, Betty Medsger appeared on Democracy Now!

BETTY MEDSGER: One of the things that I remember most from those files was the truly blanket surveillance of African American people that was described. It was in Philadelphia, but it also prescribed national programs. And it was quite stunning. First, it described the surveillance. It took place in every place where people would gather — churches, classrooms, stores down the street, just everything. But it also specifically prescribed that every FBI agent was supposed to have an informer, just for the purpose of coming back every two weeks and talking to them about what they had observed about Black Americans. And in Washington, D.C., at the time, that was six informers for every FBI agent informing on Black Americans. The surveillance was so enormous that it led various people, rather sedate people in editorial offices and in Congress, to compare it to the Stasi, the dreaded secret police of East Germany.

AMY GOODMAN: Three of the burglars also appeared on Democracy Now! back in 2014 in one of their first joint interviews. Keith Forsyth served as designated lock-picker during the break-in. He hoped the break-in would speed the end of the Vietnam War.

KEITH FORSYTH: The war was escalating and not deescalating. And I think what really pushed me over the edge was, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia, there were four students killed at Kent State and two more killed at Jackson State. And — I'm sorry, I'd think I'd have this down after all these years. And that really pushed me over the edge, that it was time to do more than just — than just protest and just march with a sign.

AMY GOODMAN: John Raines was another one of the burglars. At the time of the break-in, he was a professor of religion at Temple University.

JOHN RAINES: The problem was, J. Edgar Hoover was untouchable. He was a national icon. I mean, he had presidents who were afraid of him. The people that we elected to oversee J. Edgar Hoover's FBI were either enamored of him or terrified of him. Nobody was holding him accountable. And that meant that somebody had to get objective evidence of what his FBI was doing. And that led us to the idea that Bill Davidon suggested to us: Let's break into an FBI office, get their files and get what they're doing in their own handwriting.

AMY GOODMAN: That was John Raines speaking on Democracy Now! in 2014. He died in 2017. Raines' wife Bonnie Raines also helped break into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, 50 years ago. At the time of the break-in, John and Bonnie had three young children. She's joining us now from her home in Philadelphia. We are also joined by Paul Coates, the founder and director of Black Classic Press and BCP Digital Printing. He's a former member and defense captain of the Black Panther Party in Baltimore. As a Black bookseller, he was targeted by the FBI as part of its COINTELPRO, its Counterintelligence Program. And, yes, he is also the father of the acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Bonnie, you were the one who cased the joint — is that right? — who went to these Media FBI offices — that's Media, Pennsylvania — beforehand to get a sense of the blueprints of the two rooms, whatever it was.

BONNIE RAINES: That's right. I mean, we had cased the exterior environment, so we knew what the police patrols were. But we had to get inside the offices to see whether there were alarm systems and to see what the layout of the offices were, where the doors were that we hoped we could get through. And so, I had to call and say that I was a Swarthmore College student doing research on opportunities for women in the FBI, and I wondered if I could have an interview with the head of the office. And they very graciously gave me an appointment. And I showed up trying to look not at all like my usual identity. I disguised my appearance as much as I possibly could. But they were very gracious and gave me a half an hour or so. And that gave me the opportunity to get the layout of the office, to see that there were no alarms, to see that the file cabinets were not even locked, and to check out a second door that we might need to use to get through on the night of the burglary.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bonnie, you told Will Bunch at The Philadelphia Inquirer in a recent interview that "Fifty years ago, we were criminals, and now we're heroes." Could you talk about how — your decision to get involved in this? At the time, you were 29 years old, a mother of three.

BONNIE RAINES: Well, my husband and I, we had been involved in the draft resistance movement, the so-called Catholic left, previously, going into draft boards in the middle of the night and removing draft files to destroy the files and try to disrupt the draft system. So, we like to say that we got our burglary skills from nuns and priests.

But when all of the protests against the War in Vietnam were not making any difference and we realized that the government was lying to citizens about the war, we thought that we needed to take another — a different kind of step in civil disobedience and get proof to show what FBI agents were doing in the Philadelphia area, things that were unconstitutional, immoral and illegal. And the only way to do that was to get our hands on documents, so that it seemed like a rational thing to do to get the truth out to the American public.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I'd like to bring Paul Coates into the conversation and ask you, Paul: From your perspective, your involvement in the Black Panther Party at the time, what the group looked like and what the impact of this break-in, these revelations about COINTELPRO, had on you and your organization?

PAUL COATES: You know, the large impact, I think, at the time, was — we already knew that we were being infiltrated. We knew that provocateurs were all throughout. We knew that the FBI had us under constant surveillance. But I don't think anyone at the time really knew the full extent of the program, of COINTELPRO. We saw the surveillance, we saw the interference and the setups that were being done as acts that the government, as a broad government, was doing. But the break-in actually, I like to think of it as, put flesh to the bones of what became known as COINTELPRO. And they did it in a way that, like — I guess like they intended to do, they did it with the FBI's own documents. They named people. They named places. And that documentation not only served us then, but the documentation serves us — it continues to serve us today. And I think that's the major, major impact. It made visible what we knew was there but could not really see.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, in fact, this was the first time — wasn't it? — that COINTELPRO was being made known, Bonnie, these documents that you were putting out everywhere. And then, Paul, this whole story of not only the FBI's war on the Black Power movement, but specifically — and this directly related to you — Black-owned bookstores, why they saw Black-owned bookstores, like yours, as such a target?

PAUL COATES: Yeah, this is true, Amy. I think a lot of that comes out of certainly the FBI history in following socialist groups and knowing that the bookstores were critical information centers, as they were in our community. And the store we established certainly was, because that was its intent. It was intended to be an information center, particularly for people — not just Panthers, but people who were incarcerated in jail, coming out of jail and becoming contributing members of the community. We felt we could do that with information.

And certainly, we came under a lot of — a lot of pressure from the FBI, a lot of pressure from the state and the city at the time, who saw this, perceived this as a threat. The very thought that information, the very thought that knowledge, could equip people to be better in their community and contributors in their community was a threat to them.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Juan, at the beginning of this story, we talked about the people who were targeted — Black Panthers, antiwar movement, peace activists and the Young Lords. You're one of the co-founders of the Young Lords. Can you talk about what you understood at the time?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I think what Paul is saying about, we understood that there were agents within our organizations, but we never understood how systematic and how widespread it was. And I recall, particularly — this is about a year before the break-in of the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania — I was traveling with another Young Lord member, we thought secretly, to Puerto Rico to look at the possibility of opening up new branches. And we're on the plane heading to San Juan. We suddenly see a young African American attorney who we knew from Legal Aid in East Harlem. And he came over, sat by us, started joking. And we said to him, "So, Bobby, what are you doing? You're in Legal Aid. Why are you going down to Puerto Rico?" And he said, "Well, I don't work for Legal Aid anymore. I work for the U.S. Justice Department. And I've been assigned to the two of you. And I want you to know" — he looked at us directly in the eyes, and he said, "I want you to know that every second that you are in Puerto Rico, you are going to be tailed by the agents of the CIC." That's the Puerto Rico equivalent of the Red Squad in Puerto Rico. "And wherever you go in Puerto Rico, we're going to be there." And, sure enough, they were always not only following us, but interviewing anybody who we talked to or we met with, because they saw the need to appear to be everywhere.

And I want to ask Paul, because people don't realize the psychological impact it had on these organizations to know that there were agents within them but not know who they were. And often people were targeted who were innocent people but were mistaken for agents, and the real agents were still providing information on a regular basis and creating dissension within the groups.

PAUL COATES: Yeah, Juan, you're so right. You're so on. It was like a double whammy, because, on the one hand, you would have agents who would make themselves known, and then you knew there were plenty of other agents who were unknown, but you would — let's say if you're doing something today, information on that would be broadcast in multiple ways the next day, and so you know someone from the inside did it.

And, Juan, you probably have this experience, as well. Certainly, COINTELPRO had its impact when the events were taking place. But now we're talking about 50 years later, five decades later, Juan, and we're still trying to figure out who were agents at the time. You have to — it's that going on, but also the rumors that were started, the identification of people who weren't — like you were saying, who weren't agents, but they were labeled as agents. And even today, among comrades in the Panther Party, you'll have a conversation with someone, a name will come up, and you say, "Well, you know he was a snitch, don't you? Or he was an agent, don't you?" And that may not be the case at all. We're still living through and picking through the rumors that literally split our movement at the time. We're still living through those rumors now, and they still split us.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to also bring in Bonnie Raines to talk about the latest member of the Media 8, the burglars, including you, who has just come forward in a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, "50 years after an FBI office burglary, a San Rafael man reveals his role."

And it says, "Before the Pentagon Papers, before WikiLeaks, before Edward Snowden's NSA files, a group of eight Vietnam War protesters teamed up to steal FBI records from a Pennsylvania office." And it goes on to say, "Ralph Daniel squeezed himself through the door and looked around the dark room. They had cased this small FBI office in the Philadelphia suburb of Media for months. Now he was inside. Rows of file cabinets beckoned. This was the moment the group of eight had planned. They had long suspected FBI malfeasance and were convinced these records would prove it." Daniel was 26 at the time, "rolled out the first metal cabinet drawer, scooped up the files and threw them into a suitcase. His gloved hands shook. The burglars had to hurry. They had chosen March 8, 1971, because Muhammad Ali's title fight against Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden would keep most of the country and world — and most importantly, FBI agents and police — glued to closed-circuit screens and radios for a few hours. One of the intruders could hear the broadcast in nearby apartments."

So, they thought that the sound of the fight would cover your actions, is that right, Bonnie? And were you surprised to see that Ralph Daniel has come forward?

BONNIE RAINES: Well, I'm delighted that Ralph has. He played a key role in the burglary. And he was reluctant to come forward earlier because he was afraid that it would affect his professional life. But he's always been in communication with us, since 2014. And it's great to have him be able to tell his story now, which is significant.

We scooped up every single document, I think about a thousand documents. We didn't leave anything behind. And going back to what we were talking about a few minutes ago in the broadcast, one of the memos that we discovered, a document said that agents should increase the paranoia among the left to have them believe that there's an FBI agent behind every mailbox. So they wanted to give this impression that everyone everywhere was under surveillance and no one could believe that their constitutional rights would be protected.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bonnie, we only have about 30 seconds, but could you — the lessons for today, for the Black Lives Matter movement and other activists, of this COINTELPRO era?

BONNIE RAINES: Well, we've just come through a Trump era, and I think we saw the effects of a lack of transparency and accountability. And now we really have to insist that the powers that be are transparent and accountable. And it's up to the average citizen to pay attention, be informed and be vigilant, and then call the powers that be to account for their decisions.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to have to leave it there. And I thank you so much for being with us, Bonnie Raines, one of the 1971 break-in burglars at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and Paul Coates, founder and director of Black Classic Press. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.




Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.