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Impeachment Day 3: Republicans Continue Their Attack on Reason and Reality

Mother Jones Magazine -

“Are you aware that Democrats were accused in 1968 of voting irregularities? Do you know that Democratic officials were involved in private opposition research efforts targeting the president? Do you know that Bob Woodward was part of a secret society at Yale University?”

Those are the sort of questions that today’s House Republicans would have asked had they been on the Watergate committee in 1973. That is, they would have displayed no interest in the actual break-in that was part of a wider GOP dirty tricks operation or in the cover-up that was ordered by Richard Nixon. They would have refused to acknowledge that anything improper or illegal occurred and would have demanded that the committee probe the actions of the Democrats that worried Nixon’s reelection campaign and caused it to take unorthodox steps to seek out information about possible Democratic wrongdoing. 

On Tuesday, the third day of the House impeachment hearings, the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were confronted by witnesses, particularly Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official, who presented unambiguous evidence that President Donald Trump used his office to pressure Ukrainian officials to launch investigations to produce dirt on Joe Biden and prove a debunked conspiracy theory that absolved the Russians of hacking the 2016 US election. Vindman and Jennifer Williams, a State Department official assigned to Vice President Mike Pence’s office, each told the committee that Trump, during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, pressed the Ukrainian to initiate these two inquiries and that Burisma—the Ukrainian energy company that Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, worked for—was referenced by name. (The reconstructed transcript of the call released by the White House, for some not-yet-explained reason, did not mention “Burisma.”) Vindman also testified about a July 10 White House meeting with Ukrainian officials in which Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who was working with the private channel overseen by Rudy Giuliani, piped up and said that before Zelensky could get a much-desired meeting with Trump, the Ukrainians had to “deliver specific investigations.” Other witnesses have told the committee that the release of nearly $400 million in security assistance that Trump put a hold on was also tied to Ukraine pursuing investigations of the Bidens and the conspiracy theory that holds that Ukraine, not Russia, intervened in the US election. 

The Republicans have concocted a dark world in which Trump is an innocent victim. He was the target of foreign intervention in 2016, not the beneficiary; there was nothing to the Russia investigation. And the Ukraine scandal is merely another front in the unrelenting war the Democrats have been waging against Trump.

So it’s as clear as the sky is blue: Trump was muscling the Ukrainians to help him influence the 2020 election and to clear Moscow. The quasi-transcript of the July 25 call even shows Trump saying that if Zelensky wants more Javelin anti-tank weapons, he will have to do Trump the “favor” of kicking off these investigations. (And as Vindman said, considering the power disparity between the two men, this was not a polite request that could be turned down—it was a “demand.”) Yet when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the pro-Trump bulldog recently placed on the intelligence committee by the GOP leadership, had his chance to ask questions of Vindman and Williams, he seized his moment in the sun to declare the sky is green. Or purple. Or whatever. There is no evidence of “linkage,” he thundered. “The transcript shows no linkage…to an investigation.” 

But that’s exactly what the transcript shows. You want Javelins? Then we have this favor for you to do—investigations. This is brazen linkage. And there’s now a mountain of testimony linking a White House meeting and the release of the security assistance to Ukraine opening the political investigations Trump craved. But…still…nevertheless, the Republicans on the committee won’t accept this basic reality.

Instead, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the committee, Jordan, and their party-mates have forged an alternative reality in which this controversy is no more than a “hoax” concocted by Democrats and the media and that the focus should be not on Trump’s action but on the whistleblower who initiated the Trump-Ukraine scandal and on the involvement of Hunter Biden in Burisma and the fact-free allegation that his dad took action to thwart an investigation of the firm.

In his opening statement, Nunes depicted a wide-ranging conspiracy of Democrats and mainstream media outlets that first cooked up “the Russia hoax” and then, when that scandal did not lead to Trump’s ouster, devised a whole new bogus Ukraine scandal. In this world, Russia’s attack on the 2016 election (which was mounted partly to help Trump win) does not exist. Rather, Ukraine was somehow the true meddler. (Republicans have repeatedly cited the public anti-Trump statements of a few Ukrainian officials who in 2016 were worried about Trump—and justifiably so, after Trump had said that perhaps Russia should be allowed to keep Crimea, the chunk of Ukraine that Vladimir Putin seized in 2014.) The Republicans were hardly slowed by Vindman’s reality-based statement that the Ukraine-meddled accusation “is a Russian narrative that President Putin has promoted.”

Nunes even exclaimed that the Democratic media conspiracy against Trump included “a concerted campaign” of journalistic organizations “smearing” John Solomon, the writer for The Hill who published a series of stories that disseminated unfounded allegations about the Bidens and former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. In a bizarre twist, Nunes pointed to the fact that The Hill is now reviewing Solomon’s articles as proof of this sub-conspiracy and an indication this despicable cabal would go to any lengths to prosecute its evil plan. 

Nunes declared that what most needed exposing was the whistleblower’s contacts with the media and the Democrats on the committee. He did not explain the relevance of this. But Nunes was suggesting that the whole Ukraine business was manufactured by the Ds and the press—and the whistleblower is the key to uncovering this diabolical plot. The whistleblower’s lawyers have denied on the record that their client has been talking to the media or coordinating with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the intelligence committee, or other Democrats.

Nunes also promoted the never-will-die innuendo that Joe Biden pushed for the dismissal of a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor to protect his son and Burisma. And there were other insinuations hurled by the Republicans. At one point, they dwelled on an anecdote—a Ukrainian official once asked Vindman if he wanted to serve as defense minister for Ukraine, and Vindman dismissed the offer as a joke—to hint that Vindman, who was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union, possessed dual loyalties.

The Rs have concocted a dark world in which Trump is an innocent victim. In their view, he was the target of foreign intervention in 2016, not the beneficiary; there was nothing to the Russia investigation. (Don’t mention the convictions of his campaign manager, his national security adviser, his longtime political adviser, and others.) And the Ukraine scandal—based on a suspect whistleblower (disregard all the testimony from known officials)—is merely another front in the unrelenting war the Democrats have been waging against Trump because, as Jordan yelled on Tuesday, “the Democrats have never accepted the will of the American people.”

Toward the end of Vindman’s and Williams’ time before the panel, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked Vindman to read aloud the last paragraph of the prepared testimony he delivered at the start of the hearing: “Dad, [that] I’m sitting here today in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.” Maloney asked why he reported Trump’s phone call to lawyers at the National Security Council. “Because that was my duty,” Vindman replied.

With his testimony, Maloney told Vindman, “You were putting yourself up against the president of the United States.” (Trump and his henchmen have viciously attacked Vindman.) Maloney asked the colonel, “Why did you have confidence you can do that?” Vindman, a recipient of the Purple Heart, answered, “Because, Congressman, this is America. This is the country I have served and defended…And here right matters.” The audience responded with loud applause. The Republicans on the panel looked glum. Moments later, when Nunes had the chance to make a concluding statement, he snorted, “Act One of today’s circus is over.”

These hearings are aimed at examining the specific case for impeachment based on a single and narrow episode of presidential malfeasance. But there are competing visions at play in the proceedings. On day three, Vindman’s view that duty compels the exposure of wrongdoing clashed with Nunes and company’s perspective that spin, conspiracy mongering, and politics can trump all. This has been—and will continue to be—a defining fight of the Trump era.

Republicans Want to Spend Big Bucks on Trump’s Wall. Election Security Is Another Thing.

Mother Jones Magazine -

As the Democratic controlled House and the Republican held Senate move forward with contentious negotiations over the next federal budget, a group of Democratic Senators have called on their Republican colleagues in both bodies to approve additional election security funding.

According to a Democratic House aide familiar with the negotiations, funding President Donald Trump’s border wall has emerged as a key rival to providing funds to protect voting. 

“The appropriations process has been hung up over dividing funding among subcommittees, with House Democrats pushing for adequate funding for domestic priorities instead of President Trump’s wasteful border wall,” the aide told Mother Jones, who explained that final amount of election security funding would be negotiated after overall allocations were set.

The two sides are working to bridge the gap between the $600 million approved by House Democrats in June and the $250 million proposed by the Republican-led Senate in September. Even the $600 million figure would be well short of what’s needed: A full upgrade of the country’s vulnerable and outdated election systems could cost as much as $2.2 billion over five years, according to an analysis from the Brennan Center, which costed out investments in local cybersecurity, upgraded voter registration systems, securer voting machines, and post-election audits. Democrats have been frustrated with Sen. Mitch McConnell’s hold on most election security legislation in the wake of the 2016 election, accusing the senate majority leader of failing to take up the matter, in part, because President Donald Trump sees it as an admission that his 2016 election was tainted.

In a letter sent Monday to the leadership of the two congressional appropriations committees, 38 Democratic senators, and Sen. Angus King, an independent senator from Maine, implored the two committees to approve additional funding.

“Today, more than at any other time in our nation’s history, election officials face unique challenges that require federal support,” the senators wrote, citing FBI Director Chris Wray’s July 2019 warning about Russia’s ongoing intent to interfere in US elections and a summer 2019 letter from 22 state attorneys general to Congress urging increased election security funding.

The letter also called for increased funding for the Election Assistance Commission, the federal body tasked with coordinating voluntary election security standards and administering election security grants. The agency’s budget has fallen from $18 million in 2010 to $8 million in 2019, and now operates with only half its 2010 staff level. House Democrats seek to fund the agency at $16.2 million, while Senate Republicans have offered $12 million.

“The 2020 elections are less than a year away and Mitch McConnell continues to block every meaningful proposal to secure American elections against foreign hacking. Time is quickly running out to make a difference before next November,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told Mother Jones on Tuesday. “Mitch McConnell needs to drop his one-man blockade and let the Senate pass real reforms to protect Americans’ votes.”

Lunchtime Photo

Mother Jones Magazine -

This is a small cluster of star chickweeds growing by the side of the road along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

May 6, 2019 — Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Alexander Vindman Says Trump’s Call With Zelensky Was His “Worst Fear”

Mother Jones Magazine -

“My worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out.” That’s how Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman described what was going through his head while he was listening to President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that’s at the heart of the House’s impeachment inquiry.

The moment came while Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.) was questioning Vindman, who is the Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. “Frankly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Vindman said. “Now this was likely to have significant implications for US national security.” Maloney asked him why he immediately reported the phone call and Vindman replied, “because that was my duty.”

"Frankly, I couldn't believe what I was hearing," Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told lawmakers when asked what went through his head when listening to President Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president. https://t.co/hCQkQ65AGD pic.twitter.com/QiUSMAH7q4

— NPR (@NPR) November 19, 2019

Throughout Vindman’s testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, the Republican line has been to question Vindman’s loyalty to Trump, which has caused worries about his safety. Meanwhile, the White House’s twitter account has been pushing the familiar GOP narrative that Vindman is another “Never Trumper” who is not to be trusted: 

"I have never met the President."

"I don’t know what the President was thinking."

“I've never had any contact with the President of the United States.” pic.twitter.com/LvnAPOIKCw

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 19, 2019

Tim Morrison, Alexander Vindman's former boss, testified in his deposition that he had concerns about Vindman's judgment. pic.twitter.com/xwHOt4bsHS

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 19, 2019

But despite efforts to question Vindman’s judgement and loyalty—Trump even questioned why he was wearing his military uniform, echoing a talking point from right-wing outlets that Vindman was wearing it as a stunt—Maloney praised his dedication to his duty and reminded him of what he said to his dad in his opening statement:  “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”

Little Kids, Locked Away

TruthDig.com News -

This investigation is a collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune.

ProPublica Illinois is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to get weekly updates about our work.

THE SPACES have gentle names: The reflection room. The cool-down room. The calming room. The quiet room.

But shut inside them, in public schools across the state, children as young as 5 wail for their parents, scream in anger and beg to be let out.

The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens.

In Illinois, it’s legal for school employees to seclude students in a separate space — to put them in “isolated timeout” — if the students pose a safety threat to themselves or others. Yet every school day, workers isolate children for reasons that violate the law, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois has found.

Children were sent to isolation after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos. School employees use isolated timeout for convenience, out of frustration or as punishment, sometimes referring to it as “serving time.”

For this investigation, ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune obtained and analyzed thousands of detailed records that state law requires schools to create whenever they use seclusion. The resulting database documents more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-18 school year and through early December 2018.

Of those, about 12,000 included enough detail to determine what prompted the timeout. In more than a third of these incidents, school workers documented no safety reason for the seclusion.

State education officials are unaware of these repeated violations because they do not monitor schools’ use of the practice. Parents, meanwhile, often are told little about what happens to their children.

The Tribune/ProPublica Illinois investigation, which also included more than 120 interviews with parents, children and school officials, provides the first in-depth examination of this practice in Illinois.

Because school employees observing the students often keep a moment-by-moment log, the records examined by reporters offer a rare view of what happens to children inside these rooms — often in their own words.

Without doubt, many of the children being secluded are challenging. Records show school employees struggling to deal with disruptive, even violent behavior, such as hitting, kicking and biting. Workers say that they have to use seclusion to keep everyone in the classroom safe and that the practice can help children learn how to calm themselves.

But disability advocates, special-education experts and administrators in school systems that have banned seclusion argue that the practice has no therapeutic or educational value, that it can traumatize children — and that there are better alternatives.

No federal law regulates the use of seclusion, and Congress has debated off and on for years whether that should change. Last fall, a bill was introduced that would prohibit seclusion in public schools that receive federal funding. A U.S. House committee held a hearing on the issue in January, but there’s been no movement since.

Nineteen states prohibit secluding children in locked rooms; four of them ban any type of seclusion. But Illinois continues to rely on the practice. The last time the U.S. Department of Education calculated state-level seclusion totals, in 2013-14, Illinois ranked No. 1.

Although state law requires schools to file a detailed report each time they use seclusion, no one is required to read these accounts.

Several school district officials said they had not reviewed seclusion reports from their schools until reporters requested them. The Illinois State Board of Education does not collect any data on schools’ use of isolated timeout and has not updated guidelines since issuing them 20 years ago.

“Having a law that allows schools to do something that is so traumatic and dangerous to students without having some sort of meaningful oversight and monitoring is really, really troubling,” said Zena Naiditch, founder and leader of Equip for Equality, a disabilities watchdog group that helped write Illinois’ rules in 1999.

Informed of the investigation’s findings, the Illinois State Board of Education said it would issue guidance clarifying that seclusion should be used only in emergencies. Officials acknowledged they don’t monitor the use of isolated timeout and said they would need legislative action to do so.

This investigation, based on records from more than 100 districts, found seclusion was used in schools across every part of the state and by a range of employees, from teachers and aides to social workers and security personnel.

Some districts declined to provide records or gave incomplete information. Others wouldn’t answer even basic questions, saying the law did not require them to. Of more than 20 districts reporters asked to visit, only three said yes.

“Is this something that we’re ashamed of? It’s not our finest,” said Christan Schrader, director of the Black Hawk Area Special Education District in East Moline, which documented about 850 seclusions in the time period examined.

Schrader said she thinks her staff generally uses seclusion appropriately but acknowledged room for improvement. She met with reporters at the district’s administration building but wouldn’t let them see the seclusion rooms in the school across the parking lot.

“Nobody wants to talk about those things because it doesn’t reflect well,” she said.

“I’m Crying Alone”

ABOUT 20 MINUTES after he was put in one of his school’s Quiet Rooms — a 5-foot-square space made of plywood and cinder block — 9-year-old Jace Gill wet his pants.

An aide, watching from the doorway, wrote that down in a log, noting it was 10:53 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2018.

School aides had already taken away Jace’s shoes and both of his shirts. Jace then stripped off his wet pants, wiped them in the urine on the floor and sat down in the corner.

“I’m naked!” Jace yelled at 10:56 a.m.

Staff did not respond, the log shows, except to close the door “for privacy.”

By 11 a.m., Jace had also defecated and was smearing feces on the wall. No adults intervened, according to the log. They watched and took notes.

“Dancing in feces. Doing the twist,” staff wrote at 11:14 a.m., noting that the boy then started pacing back and forth.

“I need more clothes,” he called out.

“We know,” an aide answered.

Jace banged on the walls and tried to pry open the door. He sat against the wall, crying for his mom.

11:42 a.m.: “Let me out of here. I’m crying alone.”

The incident began that morning when Jace ripped up a math worksheet and went into the hallway, trying to leave school.

Jace was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 and began having epileptic seizures at 5. In first grade, officials at his local school referred him to the Kansas Treatment and Learning Center, a public school in east-central Illinois for children with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Jace’s mother, Kylee Beaven, had heard about the Quiet Rooms at Kansas and had strong reservations about the concept, even before she took a school tour and stepped inside one. She recalls being told he would never be shut inside alone.

“I remember standing there and thinking, like, if I was a kid, how would I feel if I was in this room by myself?” she said.

In the years Jace spent at the Kansas TLC, he was placed in the Quiet Rooms again and again — at least 28 times in the 2017-18 school year.

Once, he was shut in after he pushed a book off his desk, said “I hate reading,” raised his fist and tried to leave the classroom. Another day, he refused to get out of his grandmother’s car at school drop-off, so a staff member took him straight to a Quiet Room.

After he went into a Quiet Room on Feb. 1, a staff member took notes every one or two minutes. The handwritten incident report stretches nine pages on lined paper.

The log of Jace Gill’s isolated timeout on Feb. 1, 2018, documented hours spent in his school’s Quiet Rooms, with entries every one or two minutes. (Eastern Illinois Area Special Education)

Jace spent more than 80 minutes in the room before someone stepped inside to hand him a change of clothes, wipes to clean his feet and some lunch. A mental-health crisis worker arrived to talk to him, but he wouldn’t answer her questions.

He was not released until his grandmother — his “Gammy” — came to pick him up at 2:07 p.m.

Jace’s mother remembers this incident, in part because she was surprised to learn that he had defecated in the room. Hadn’t she been told he wouldn’t be alone? When reporters showed her the lengthy report, she read and reread it for at least 20 minutes, tears falling onto the pages.

“I didn’t know it was like this. I didn’t know they wrote this all down,” Beaven said. “None of it should have happened.”

In the nearly 50,000 pages of reports reporters reviewed about Illinois students in seclusion, school workers often keep watch over children who are clearly in distress. They dutifully document kids urinating and spitting in fear or anger and then being ordered to wipe the walls clean and mop the floors.

Kansas TLC is operated by the Eastern Illinois Area Special Education district, which serves students from eight counties and is based in Charleston. Illinois has about 70 regional special-education districts that teach students who can’t be accommodated in their home districts.

Eastern Illinois officials ultimately released roughly 10,000 pages of records chronicling nearly 1,100 isolated timeouts. Analysis of those records shows more than half of seclusions there were prompted by something other than a safety issue.

When students at any of the three schools have been disrespectful or disruptive, they are required to take a “head down” — to lower their heads and remain silent for a set number of minutes. If they refuse, they often are sent to a Quiet Room — sometimes for hours — until they comply.

Zayvion Johnson, 15, remembers how it felt. He used to go to the Kansas school, too, and spent time in the same rooms as Jace.

“They told us it was there to help us, but it just made everybody mad,” said Zayvion, now a sophomore at Charleston High School who plays running back and middle linebacker on the football team. “The Quiet Room, it irritates people. … You’re isolated from everybody else. You can’t talk to anybody else.”

The Eastern Illinois district’s executive director, Tony Reeley, said he had not grasped how often seclusion was being used in his schools until he read some of the documents requested by reporters.

“Looking at a stack of 8,000 pages at one time really did kind of hit home,” Reeley said when he met with reporters in the spring. He has not responded to recent requests for comment, including about specific incidents.

Reeley and assistant director Jeremy Doughty said they were surprised and concerned about how frequently staff used seclusion rooms after students were disobedient but not physically aggressive.

“When we read it, it reads punitive,” Doughty said.

Even though school districts are required to report their use of seclusion and restraint to the U.S. Department of Education, it can be difficult for parents to see the full picture.

“We have to do something to address this,” said Reeley.

In October 2018, Jace died at home in rural Paris of a seizure in his sleep. He had not returned to Kansas TLC that fall; his family had decided to home-school him, in part to keep him out of the Quiet Rooms.

In the family’s living room, Jace’s mom shared photos of him at a Wiggles concert, in a Spider-Man costume, sitting on Santa’s lap. A favorite image features the family wearing “Team Jace” T-shirts at an autism walk; Jace’s shirt reads “I’m Jace.”

“He loved his dad and loved me and he loved his Gammy,” his mother said. “He had issues, but they weren’t his fault. He couldn’t control it.”

A Boy in a Plywood Box

THE PLYWOOD BOX in the middle of Ted Meckley’s special-education classroom was 3 feet wide, 3 feet deep and 7 feet tall. The schools around Pontiac had been using boxes to seclude students for years, and Ted, a nonverbal 16-year-old with developmental disabilities, was routinely shut inside.

In 1989, Ted’s mother, Judith, started speaking out. Newspapers published stories, people got upset, and the boxes were removed.

Judith Meckley joined a state task force to examine the use of seclusion. After a brief ban on the practice, the state Board of Education issued guidance and then, a few years later, rules that carried the weight of state law.

The Illinois rules accepted the need for seclusion, a practice already used in psychiatric hospitals and other institutional settings.

After Congress enacted a 1975 law guaranteeing a free public education to children with disabilities, the colleges and universities that trained teachers sought guidance from behavioral psychologists on how to manage these potentially challenging students.

At the time, some researchers favored using cattle prods and electric shock to discourage unwanted behavior. Another method was to move the misbehaving patient into an environment with fewer stimuli — someplace calmer.

“It gave a psychological justification for seclusion,” said Scot Danforth, a professor at Chapman University in California who studies the education of children with disabilities and believes seclusion is ineffective.

A 1989 story in The Pantagraph, based in Bloomington, included a drawing of a wooden timeout box used in the Pontiac public schools. (Pantagraph, pantagraph.com)

Illinois’ rules, now 20 years old, require that school employees constantly monitor the child and that they be able to see inside the room. Locks on the doors must be active, meaning they have to be continuously held in place. That’s so a child can’t be trapped during a fire or other emergency.

But the rules also cemented the use of seclusion in Illinois’ public schools.

“Essentially the regulations legitimized practices that place students at risk of serious harm and trauma,” said Naiditch, of Equip for Equality.

The Illinois law also lists reasons children can be physically restrained, a practice sometimes used in conjunction with seclusion. But the law is less precise about seclusion than about restraint, leaving room for misinterpretation by school officials.

“It makes it even more dangerous because schools are widely using it as punishment,” Naiditch said after reading some of the incident reports obtained by ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune.

School administrators who use seclusion say they need it to deal with students whose behavior is challenging, disruptive and, at times, dangerous.

“If (students are) committed to hurting someone, that room is a way to keep them safe,” said Alicia Corrigan, director of student services for Community Consolidated School District 15, which operates a therapeutic day program in Rolling Meadows for 40 students with disabilities.

Students there were secluded about 330 times in the time period reporters examined.

But “that’s the smallest part of our day,” Corrigan said. “That is not what we do all day.”

The Belleville Area Special Services Cooperative, near St. Louis, has two timeout rooms. Scratch marks are visible in the blue padding inside and on the windows in the heavy, locking doors.

“Does it actually teach them anything or develop a skill? Absolutely not,” said Jeff Daugherty, who heads the cooperative. He allowed journalists to tour the Pathways school and see timeout rooms. “It’s never pleasant. I do believe it’s a necessary tool for our line of work with our students.”

The U.S. Department of Education warned in 2012 that secluding students can be dangerous and said that there is no evidence it’s effective in reducing problematic behaviors.

A few school districts in Illinois prohibit seclusion, including Chicago Public Schools, which banned it 11 years ago. But these districts often send students with disabilities to schools that do use it, such as those operated by most of Illinois’ special-education districts.

Danforth said seclusion goes unexamined because it largely affects students with disabilities.

To put children in timeout rooms, “you really have to believe that you’re dealing with people who are deeply defective. And that’s what the staff members tell each other. … You can do it because of who you’re doing it to.”

Ted Meckley, whose experiences in Pontiac’s timeout box as a teenager helped change the practice of seclusion, is now 45 and living in a group home. When a reporter told his mother that seclusion still is widely used, she gasped.

“No!” Meckley said. “My goodness. That is the most discouraging thing. I spent six years of my life fighting on this very issue. It’s so discouraging to think that, 25 years later, here we are. No progress.”

In fact, reporters identified several schools that have added more seclusion rooms in the past year or so. North Shore School District 112 converted two coat closets to isolation rooms. The McLean district in Normal opened two rooms in an elementary school.

And at Dirksen Elementary School in Schaumburg, two new 6-by-6 rooms are in use. They’re called “resolution rooms.”

The Revolving Door

BY 8:35 A.M. on Dec. 19, 2017, all five of the timeout “booths” at Bridges Learning Center near Centralia were already full. School had been in session for five minutes.

Each booth is about 6 by 8 feet, with a steel door. That day, one held a boy who had hung on a basketball rim and swore at staff when they told him to stop. In another, a boy who had used “raised voice tones.”

Two boys were being held because they hadn’t finished classwork. Inside the fifth room was a boy who had tried to “provoke” other students when he got off a bus. Staff told him he’d be back again “to serve 15 minutes every morning due to his irrational behavior.”

None of those reasons for seclusion is permitted under Illinois law.

Yet, over the course of that one day, the rooms stayed busy, with two turning over like tables in a restaurant, emptying and refilling four times. The other three were occupied for longer periods, as long as five hours for the boy who hung off the basketball rim. In all, Bridges staff isolated students 20 times.

Seclusion is supposed to be rare, a last resort. But at Bridges, part of the Kaskaskia Special Education District in southern Illinois, and at many other schools, it is often the default response.

Bridges used seclusion 1,288 times in the 15 months of school that reporters examined. The school has about 65 students.

According to the Tribune/ProPublica Illinois analysis of Bridges records, 72% of the seclusions were not prompted by a safety issue, as the law requires.

“There were kids there every day,” said Brandon Skibinski, who worked as a paraprofessional at Bridges for part of the 2018-19 school year. “I didn’t think that was the best practice. I don’t know what the best practices are, though.”

Cassie Clark, who heads the Kaskaskia Special Education District, did not respond to requests for comment about the district’s practices.

STUCK IN SECLUSION In Illinois, seclusion is meant to be used for safety purposes, not to punish students. Isolated timeouts also must end no more than 30 minutes after a student’s unsafe behavior stops. But records show some schools did not release children until they apologized or performed a task; others referred to childen “serving time.” A girl at Bridges Learning Center near Centralia was secluded for not following directions and for cursing at staff. Workers noted that she would be let out only after she followed instructions to stay quiet. (Kaskaskia Special Education District) Employees with the Tri-County Special Education district set criteria for a student to leave seclusion: pick up paper she had ripped and stand in the middle of the room. She refused and was kept in the room until her bus arrived. The next day, she was made to stay in the room again for more than two hours until she met the criteria. (Tri-County Special Education) At Central School in Springfield, employees logged the “time served” by a boy who was secluded because he had left his workspace and was “knocking over property.” The log states that the boy said “open the door” 108 times. (Sangamon Area Special Education District)

In nearly 6,000 of the incidents reporters analyzed from schools across the state, students were secluded only because they were disruptive, disrespectful, not following directions, not participating in class or a combination of those reasons.

“That is clearly not good practice,” said Kevin Rubenstein, president of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education, which represents 1,200 public and private special-education administrators in the state. “To the extent there is bad practice going on across the state, we need to fix that.”

The Kaskaskia district’s revolving-door use of the timeout booths stands out, but some other districts seclude children nearly as frequently.

The Special Education District of Lake County used isolated timeout about 1,200 times over the 15-month period reporters examined. Northern Suburban Special Education District in Highland Park put children in seclusion more than 900 times.

Some traditional school districts also relied on seclusion. For example, Valley View School District 365U in Romeoville and Schaumburg District 54 each secluded students more than 160 times in the time period examined. Wilmette District 39 put students in isolated timeout 361 times in 2017-18 alone.

Illinois’ seclusion rules are more permissive than federal guidelines, which say seclusion should be used only in cases of “imminent danger of serious physical harm.” In Illinois, children can be secluded for physical safety concerns regardless of the threat level.

The state law also doesn’t encourage staff to try other interventions first. And while federal officials suggest that seclusion should end as soon as the problematic behavior stops, Illinois law allows a child to be secluded for up to 30 minutes more.

Even with these looser rules, the ProPublica Illinois/Tribune investigation found that Illinois schools regularly flout and misinterpret state law.

Some schools use seclusion — or the threat of it — as punishment. At the Braun Educational Center in south suburban Oak Forest, a classroom door features a sign saying: “If you walk to the door or open it you WILL earn” a visit to the “isolation and reflection” space. The school’s director said the sign is not a threat but a visual reminder that leaving is a violation of school rules.

Others won’t release children from seclusion until they apologize or sit against a wall or put their heads down. The Tri-County Special Education district in Carbondale routinely made children write sentences as a condition of release, records show. Students there often were kept in isolation long after the safety threat was over, sometimes even starting their next school day in a timeout room. Tri-County Director Jan Pearcy told reporters those practices ended this year.

Administrators in some districts have decided that putting a child in a room is not an isolated timeout if there is no door or the door is left open — even though the student is being blocked from leaving. State law does not say an isolated timeout requires a closed door.

“We only consider something isolated timeout if a student is in the room with the door shut and magnet (lock) held,” said Kristin Dunker, who heads the Vermilion Association for Special Education in Danville. “I understand this isn’t going to look good for us.”

At Bridges, records show how staff violated the state’s rules. Schools aren’t supposed to put students in seclusion for talking back or swearing, but Bridges did repeatedly. Workers also shut many students in booths for hours after the child’s challenging behavior ended.

One boy argued with Bridges workers as they tried to force him into isolation in March 2018 for being uncooperative. “I don’t want to go in a booth,” he said. “You’ll lock me in there all day.”

He was kept in the booth for nearly five hours.

Laura Myers saw Bridges’ timeout booths during school meetings and told administrators they should never be used on her 6-year-old son, Gabriel. A tiny, giggly boy with bright red hair, Gabriel has autism and is nonverbal, though he can sign a few words, including “blue,” “green” and “truck.”

“There’s a metal bench, the lock and key, the whole nine,” Myers said. “The sad part is there are parents there who don’t know it’s wrong and don’t know how their children are being treated.”

She was assured Gabriel would not be secluded. But she started to worry when he came home signing “timeout.” Now, she’s fighting for a different school placement.

Harm to Children

DARLA KNIPE COULD hear it when she walked toward the timeout room in her son’s school: a thudding sound, over and over.

She turned to a school aide and asked: “‘What is that noise?’”

It was her 7-year-old son, Isaiah. The first grader was banging his head against the concrete and plywood walls of the timeout room at Middlefork School in Danville. Knipe was shocked. He didn’t do that at home, she said.

Documents from Isaiah’s school, part of the Vermilion Association for Special Education, show that he was put in the timeout room regularly beginning in kindergarten. He started banging his head in first grade and continued through third, doing it nearly every time he was secluded.

“Isaiah states he has headache and ringing in his ears,” according to a report from Dec. 8, 2017. “Nurse filling out concussion form.”

Then, a month later: “Nurse is concerned he has been head banging several times, even slower to answer than usual, he was dizzy when he stood up, almost fell over.”

Sitting in his home last spring, Isaiah, now 10, looked down when asked why he hits his head.

“I tell the teachers why,” he said. “The timeout room … I don’t like it.”

A document from Middlefork School in Danville describes Isaiah Knipe banging his head repeatedly in a timeout room. Employees asked him to use a pillow “if he wishes to bang his head.” (Vermilion Area Special Education)

Records and interviews show how seclusion can harm children. Students ripped their fingernails or bruised their knuckles hitting the door. Their hands swelled and bled from beating the walls. In some cases, children were hurt so badly that ambulances were called.

Several parents said their children became afraid of school. Some said their children didn’t want to sleep alone. Other families said the rooms were so distressing that their children would not talk about them.

Angie Martin said her 9-year-old son now sees himself as such a bad child that he believes he belongs in seclusion. In less than three weeks at the start of this school year, he spent 731 minutes — more than 12 hours — in isolated timeout, records show.

“My concern is the damage that has been done, socially, emotionally and physically,” said Martin, whose son went to school in the Lincoln-Way Area Special Education district program in Chicago’s southwest suburbs. He now attends a private school.

The Tribune/ProPublica Illinois analysis found that the median duration of a seclusion was 22 minutes; in at least 1,300 cases the student spent more than an hour in isolated timeout.

One incident lasted 10 hours, with the student kept inside from breakfast into the evening.

Ross Greene, a clinical child psychologist and author of the book “The Explosive Child,” said repeated seclusion fuels a harmful cycle. Children who are frustrated and falling behind academically are taken out of the classroom, which makes them more frustrated and puts them even further behind.

“You end up with an alienated, disenfranchised kid who is being over-punished and lacks faith in adults,” Greene said.

Amber Patz, whose 11-year-old son Dalton was repeatedly secluded at The Center, an elementary school in East Moline for children with disabilities, said spending so much time in isolation put him behind academically and did not help him regulate his behavior.

“Putting you in this little room while you get red-faced does not work for him,” she said. “You have to think outside the box, but instead we are literally putting them in a box.”

In this picture, Dalton draws how he feels in a classroom at The Center in East Moline, left, and then in one of the school’s “reflection rooms.”

Parents often do not know the details of what happens in seclusion. Though state law requires schools to notify families in writing within 24 hours each day a child is secluded, that doesn’t always happen.

While some notices describe the incident, others are form letters with just a checked box to indicate that a child was secluded. The law requires only that parents be notified of the date of the incident, whether restraint or seclusion was used, and the name and phone number of someone to call for more information.

Some parents said they got such abbreviated notices they didn’t know what seclusion meant or how long their child had been in a room. Others said staff used euphemistic language to describe seclusion, making it hard to understand what really happened.

Crystal Lake school employees have suggested to Kayla Siegmeier that her son, Carson, who has autism, might benefit from time in a “Blue Room,” she said.

“It turns out the Blue Room is a locked, padded room,” she said.

She read Illinois’ isolated timeout law and got a doctor’s note last year that prevented the school from secluding Carson, now a second grader. “Hard stop,” she said she told the school.

Crystal Lake school officials acknowledged they could be more transparent with parents and said they use the rooms only in emergencies.

In Danville, Darla Knipe knew that her son Isaiah was frequently in seclusion, but she didn’t know the school kept detailed incident reports each time it happened until reporters showed them to her.

“I never got anything like this,” Knipe said.

When she requested the reports from the district, she said, officials told her she could have asked for them any time. “Why would I ask for an incident report I didn’t know about to begin with?” she said.

The district gave her 212 reports, and she didn’t tackle the huge pile of paper right away. Then one night she woke up at 2 a.m. and stayed up for hours reading them. She learned what set Isaiah off and how he reacted.

“If we had talked after three, five, six of these, was there something I should have been doing?” she wondered.

She said she would have shared the reports with doctors who were working to diagnose the cause of his behavioral challenges. “I think about how different that boy could have been.”

Dunker, the district director, said that although parents don’t get minute-by-minute reports, they are notified by phone and then in writing after a seclusion. “I feel like that is just fine in terms of what a parent needs,” she said.

A Better Way

THERE ARE SCHOOL districts in Illinois — and all across the country — where seclusion isn’t the response to defiant or even aggressive behavior. In fact, it’s never an option.

Jim Nelson, who took over the North DuPage Special Education Cooperative in July 2016, said he put in a maintenance request on his first day to take the door off the seclusion room at Lincoln Academy, a therapeutic day school for students with emotional and behavioral difficulties.

The year before, the school in suburban Roselle, which has an enrollment of about 30, had placed students in the room 181 times, federal data shows. The space now has a lava lamp, fuzzy pillows, a beanbag and puzzles, and students go there on their own when they need a break, Nelson said.

He said he thinks all schools could get rid of seclusion and still be able to educate students. Since ending the practice, the North DuPage district has not seen an increase in the number of students transferred to more restrictive schools, he said.

“We have outbursts every day,” Nelson said, but “you are now trying to figure out what is the root of this outburst: Is it a home issue, a bus issue, a peer issue, a relationship issue, environment or fluorescent lights? We have to problem solve.”

THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD Very few Illinois public schools allowed reporters or photographers to view the spaces they use for isolated timeout. So reporters who met with the families of secluded students invited children to draw their impressions of the rooms. Kansas Treatment and Learning Center. Middlefork School in Danville. Middlefork School, by Isaiah Knipe. Interior of quiet room, Kansas TLC.

Administrators at schools that have closed their rooms say the cultural shift takes a lot of effort and training.

Eliminating seclusion generally requires two steps: first, embracing the philosophy that isolating children is unacceptable; second, teaching staff members how to identify and address the causes of challenging behavior before it reaches a crisis point.

Zac Barry, who teaches a system based at Cornell University called Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, said staff often get into a power struggle when students don’t obey, even over trivial matters.

“Don’t argue with them,” Barry said at a recent training session in Peoria for people who work with children. “If they don’t want to sit down, don’t try to make them sit down!”

Among other strategies, TCI teaches that it’s more effective to back away from an upset student, giving him space, than to move in closer. Teachers are trained how to stand in a nonthreatening way.

In Naperville School District 203, the rooms formerly used for isolated timeout are now sensory areas stocked with weighted stuffed animals and sound-blocking headphones.

Christine Igoe, who oversees special education in the 16,000-student district, said eliminating seclusion helps teachers and other staffers build relationships with students. Without seclusion as an option, she said, students and staff are less likely to be on high alert and anxious that situations will escalate.

“When you change your lens from ‘the student is making a choice’ to ‘the student is lacking a skill,’ everything changes,” Igoe said.

HOW DO YOU FEEL? The Kansas Treatment and Learning Center is among the schools that require secluded students to participate in a debriefing with staff members. Sometimes students cannot leave until they complete a “think sheet” describing how they feel and how they will behave better next time. A 7-year-old girl who was secluded after she “threw a fit” indicated she was feeling sad, angry and frightened. (Eastern Illinois Area Special Education) A student spent about 40 minutes in seclusion after she refused to sit at a desk. She wrote sentences promising to obey next time. (Eastern Illinois Area Special Education)

Kim Sanders, executive vice president of the Grafton behavioral health network in Virginia, which includes private therapeutic day schools, said schools there overhauled their approach after employees were injured in confrontations with students so frequently that the district lost its workers’ compensation insurance.

“Our outcomes were not great,” she said. “It was horrible for our staff morale.”

Since then, Grafton has developed a behavior model called Ukeru that it now sells to other schools. It’s based on the idea that staff should attempt to comfort, not control, children. When a child becomes violent, the system suggests staff use cushioned shields to protect themselves.

“If seclusion or restraint worked,” Sanders said, “wouldn’t you have to do it once or twice and you’d never have to do it again? It’s not working.”

Little Kids, Locked Away

ILLINOIS SCHOOLS SECLUDED an 8-year-old boy who got upset when he couldn’t ride the green bike during recess, a first grade boy who didn’t want to stop playing tag and a third grader who didn’t get the prize he wanted.

Even preschool children spent time in isolated timeout, records show.

The majority of incident reports reviewed for this investigation did not specify the grade of the child. But ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune identified more than 1,700 incidents when the student being secluded was in fifth grade or younger. Hundreds of seclusions involved kids in preschool, kindergarten or first grade.

One 7-year-old boy named Eli spent 1,652 minutes — 27½ hours — in the “reflection rooms” as a first grader at a school called The Center in East Moline, school records show.

Still learning to say some of his letters, Eli calls the spaces the “flection” rooms. When his mom, Elisha, gently corrects him, he snuggles into her side. “It’s hard to really say,” he explained.

Eli was referred to The Center, which offers a program for children with behavioral and emotional disabilities, when he was in kindergarten. Records show he sometimes had trouble coping with the frustrations of elementary school — not unlike many other Illinois children who were secluded after outbursts common for their age.

When staff told him he couldn’t play with toys, he started to tip desks and chairs. Because he didn’t want to come inside from recess, he began “flopping,” refused to walk and was “being unsafe.” He “could not continue to play nice” with blocks and started to hit and tried to run out of class. Sometimes, he would kick staff or throw objects around the room.

According to records from the school district and his family, Eli was secluded more than a dozen times in kindergarten, beginning when he was 5. In first grade, it happened 49 times. His longest timeout was 115 minutes.

“There is no reason my child should be in a timeout room for two hours,” said his mother, who asked that the family’s last name not be published.

Elisha pulled her son out of The Center at the end of last school year after noticing bruises on his arm and a fingernail indentation that broke the skin. Records show Eli was physically restrained by three staff members and put in isolated timeout that day. He now attends a private school.

Eli was given ice after he injured his finger while trying to leave a seclusion room at The Center, an elementary school in East Moline. (Provided by family)

Schrader, director of the Black Hawk Area Special Education District, which operates The Center in northwestern Illinois, said staff at the school use the seclusion room “on a case-by-case basis, incident by incident” to help students learn strategies to calm themselves. She declined to comment on Eli’s case or that of any specific child.

“We use it more as a way to help the student learn to deescalate themselves and constant supervision to maintain their safety,” she said.

When a reporter asked Eli whether the calm down rooms helped him calm down, he shook his head no.

How did he feel when in the room?

“Mad,” he said quietly.

Movie Day

THE SECLUSION ROOMS inside Braun Educational Center in Oak Forest look like so many others across Illinois: blue padding along the walls, a small window where staff can look in. The red button outside that locks the door. A mirror in the upper corner to give a fuller view.

In one room, three long tear marks were visible in the padding of the door — left there, the principal said, by a student with autism.

About 150 elementary through high school students with disabilities attend programs at Braun, which is operated by the Southwest Cook County Cooperative Association for Special Education. Gineen O’Neil, the co-op’s executive director, described many as troubled and challenging; some are homeless, abuse drugs, get pregnant or struggle with mental illness, she said. Some, she said, “run the streets” at night.

“People have to realize they get educated somewhere, and this is where it is,” O’Neil said.

Over 1½ school years, staffers isolated students nearly 500 times. O’Neil said students are not secluded as punishment.

But the Tribune/ProPublica Illinois analysis found that in 46% of seclusions at Braun, staff documented no safety reason that preceded the isolation. O’Neil said some of these incidents could have involved a safety issue despite the lack of documentation, but she also described the findings as “disturbing” and ordered a review of practices.

“You are making 1,000 judgment calls a day, you know what I mean?” O’Neil said. “You don’t always call them right.”

On a recent Friday afternoon, it was quiet in the halls. Most of the children had gathered to watch a movie and eat popcorn. They had earned the reward for good behavior.

But one boy didn’t qualify — and he was mad. The principal, Kristine Jones, said that after the rest of his class left for the movie, he shouted: “This place sucks. I’m leaving.”

He didn’t actually leave. But the boy was a “runner” when upset, Jones said, and they wanted to “pre-correct” his behavior.

So they took him to an isolation room.

The post Little Kids, Locked Away appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

White House Slams ‘Illegitimate’ Hearing

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WASHINGTON — The Latest on the public impeachment hearings into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is slamming the first round of interviews in Tuesday’s impeachment hearings.

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The public heard Tuesday from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who serves on the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer detailed to Vice President Mike Pence’s office.

Grisham is insisting the public “learned nothing new in today’s illegitimate ‘impeachment’ proceedings,” and is characterizing the witnesses’ testimony as little more than “personal opinions and conjecture.”

She’s also charging the proceedings “further” expose that Democrats are “blinded by their hatred for Donald Trump and rabid desire to overturn the outcome of a free and fair election.”

Trump has also been weighing in with a constant stream of retweets criticizing the process and attacking Vindman, who still works for the White House.


2 p.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine for political investigations was “a failed effort to bribe Ukraine.”

Trump urged the investigations as the U.S. withheld military aid from the country. Closing a Tuesday morning impeachment hearing, Schiff criticized Republicans for arguing that because the aid was eventually released, “this makes it OK.”

Schiff said, “it’s no less odious because it was discovered.”

Democrats are investigating Trump’s dealings with Ukraine in their impeachment probe. Republicans say they don’t have enough evidence to prove high crimes and misdemeanors.

California Rep. Devin Nunes said in his closing statement that Democrats “poison people with nonsense.” Nunes is the top Republican on the intelligence panel.

The committee is scheduled for another hearing Tuesday afternoon.


1:50 p.m.

A White House aide says he knew he was “assuming a lot of risk” by reporting his concerns about a July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s new president.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was asked during Tuesday’s impeachment hearing whether he understood he was taking on the “most important person” when he did it.

Vindman earlier in his opening statement told his father, an immigrant from Ukraine, not to worry about his coming forward, that he would be fine because in the U.S. it was OK to speak out.

Vindman and others said it was improper for Trump to ask Ukraine’s president to investigate the family of Democrat Joe Biden and a debunked theory that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 elections.

He said he felt comfortable speaking out, because: “Here, right matters.”

The statement was met with brief applause.


1:20 p.m.

Ukraine’s president says his country is tired of hearing about a probe into the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

In a phone call on July 25 that triggered the congressional impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden’s son and his involvement with Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company.

Responding to a question from a reporter Tuesday, Zelenskiy said that everybody in the country is tired of hearing about Burisma.

He said Ukraine is an independent country with its own “problems and questions.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said the last thing the country needs is to be dragged into the U.S. political drama.


12:45 p.m.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is telling Congress that the “favor” that President Donald Trump requested from the president of Ukraine on a July call was more than just a request.

Vindman testified in the House impeachment hearing Tuesday that in his military culture, a request is considered an order when a superior asks you to do something.

Republicans challenged that thinking, implying that Trump was not demanding that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy do the investigations on the phone call. Trump asked for the investigations as the U.S. withheld military aid for the country.

Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah said “the two people who were speaking to each other didn’t interpret this as a demand.”

Vindman said the context of the call “made it clear that this was not simply a request.”


12:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump slammed the ongoing impeachment hearings as a “disgrace” and “kangaroo court,” while acknowledging he watched part of the third day of public hearings.

Trump made the comments at the start of a Cabinet meeting and as the House impeachment panel listened to testimony from National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump said he caught some of Tuesday’s testimony from Vindman, a Ukraine specialist, who says Trump inappropriately pressured Ukraine’s president to open an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s dealings in Ukraine

The president dismissed Vindman’s testimony, and praised Republican lawmakers for “killing it.”

Trump said, “I don’t know Vindman,” “I never heard of him.”


12:15 p.m.

A Republican at the House impeachment hearing is using a foot-tall stack of transcripts to push back against Democrats saying President Donald Trump tried bribing Ukrainian officials.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has said it was “bribery” when Trump withheld U.S. military aid in hopes Ukraine would agree to investigate his Democratic opponents.

At Tuesday’s impeachment hearing, Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe displayed what he said was 3,500 pages of transcripts from impeachment inquiry interviews with federal officials.

He said the word “bribery” only appeared once. It was in a question one attorney asked about unfounded bribery allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden.

Tuesday’s two witnesses — White House national security advisers Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams — both told Ratcliffe they’ve not used “bribery” to describe Trump’s actions.

The Constitution cites “bribery” as an impeachable offense.


12:10 p.m.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman has rejected attacks on his judgment and credibility during the impeachment hearings by reading from a glowing performance review he received.

The review came from Fiona Hill, who was his boss on the National Security Council until this summer. She described Vindman as “brilliant” and “unflappable” and a stellar military officer with excellent judgment.

Vindman pulled out a copy of the review and read from it during questioning Tuesday from Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who asked the Army officer why some colleagues have raised questions about his judgment.


12:05 p.m.

An aide to Vice President Mike Pence is responding to the president’s tweet going after her before her public testimony Tuesday in the House impeachment inquiry.

Jennifer Williams, a career State Department official detailed to Pence’s office, says Trump’s tweet accusing her of being a “Never Trumper” caught her by surprise.

She’s told the committee she “was not expecting to be called out by name.”

Trump had tweeted Williams should meet with “the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Williams said she was confused by the attack and “would not” consider herself a “Never Trumper.”

Alexander Vindman, an Army officer at the National Security Council, was asked the same question Tuesday.

He responded: “I’d call myself never partisan.”


12 p.m.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman says there is no ambiguity that President Donald Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to commit to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden on a July phone call.

Vindman testified in a House impeachment hearing that there was no ambiguity about Trump’s use of the word “Biden” in the phone call, which is at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment probe. Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, who was linked to a gas company in Ukraine.

In contrast, the hearing’s other witness said Vice President Mike Pence did not request the investigations in his own conversations with Zelenskiy.

Jennifer Williams, a State Department employee detailed to Pence’s office, said he never brought up the investigations.


11:45 a.m.

Ukraine’s foreign minister says his country doesn’t want to be involved in the U.S. political drama.

Commenting on the ongoing impeachment hearings, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said Tuesday that Ukraine wants to retain the support of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, which it “had always been proud of.”

Prystaiko said the last thing the country needs, while dealing with the war with Russia-backed separatists in the east, is to be involved in “problems at the other end of the world.”

A July 25 phone call in which President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden triggered the congressional impeachment inquiry.


11:25 a.m.

A U.S. official says the Army and local law enforcement are providing security for the Army officer who is testifying Tuesday during the House impeachment hearing.

The official says that the Army did a security assessment in order to make sure that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his family are secure, so the officer didn’t have to worry about that as the proceedings go on.

Vindeman is testifying about his service as a National Security Council aide and his concerns surrounding President Donald Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign.

The official said the Army is prepared to take additional steps if needed, which could include moving Vindman and his family to a more secure location on a base.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal security issues.

— Lolita C. Baldor


11:20 a.m.

A key witness in the impeachment inquiry has told lawmakers that he was offered the post of Ukraine’s defense minister three times but rejected the suggestion.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s director for Ukraine, said he was made the offer while attending the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as part of the official U.S. delegation.

Vindman says “I immediately dismissed these offers.” He says two American officials witnessed the exchange with a top adviser to Zelenskiy, and that he notified his chain of command and counterintelligence officials about the offer upon returning to the U.S.

Vindman is testifying before the House Intelligence Committee about his concerns about President Donald Trump’s decision to press Ukrainian officials to launch an investigation of his political opponents.


11 a.m.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is declining to tell lawmakers who in the intelligence community he may have spoken to after he listened in to a July call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

In response to questions from California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Vindman testified he would not answer on the advice of his lawyer and the recommendation by the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.

Schiff said Nunes’ questioning was an attempt to out a whistleblower who first revealed the essence of the call and whose formal complaint triggered the impeachment probe. The whistleblower based the complaint on conversations with people who were familiar with the call.

Schiff said “these proceedings will not be used to out the whistleblower.”


10:50 a.m.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman says he heard envoy Gordon Sondland describe “specific investigations” as a requirement for Ukraine’s president to get a coveted White House visit.

Testifying at Tuesday’s impeachment hearing, Vindman said the conversation took place at the White House on July 10.

He says Sondland referred to “specific investigations that Ukrainians would have to deliver in order to get these meetings.” Those desired investigations were into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and also into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

Vindman says he told Sondland that the request for investigations was inappropriate and had nothing to do with national security policy.


10:45 a.m.

Lt. Col Alexander Vindman says he doesn’t “take it as anything nefarious” that a transcript of President Donald Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was put on a highly secure server.

Testifying at Tuesday’s impeachment hearing, Vindman said there was a discussion among lawyers in the White House about the best way to manage the transcript because it was “viewed as a sensitive transcript.”

On the July 25 call, Trump asked Zelenskiy to do him a favor and investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son. At the time, the U.S. was holding up military aid to Ukraine.

Vindman said the rough transcript of the call was segregated to a small group to prevent leaks.


10:20 a.m.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official, says his military experience shapes how he views a phone call between President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart.

Vindman said at Tuesday’s impeachment hearing that he believed Trump was demanding that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy undertake an investigation into Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden even if Trump didn’t phrase it as a demand.

Vindman says that in the military, when someone senior “asks you to do something, even if it’s polite and pleasant, it’s not to be taken as a request. It’s to be taken as an order.”

Vindman wore his military dress blue uniform with medals to the hearing.


10:15 a.m.

An aide to Vice President Mike Pence has told the House Intelligence Committee she will submit a classified memo about a September call between Pence and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as part of the impeachment investigation.

Asked by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff if she took notes of the call and if there was anything she wanted to share that is relevant to the impeachment probe, Jennifer Williams testified that she would follow the advice of her lawyer who advised her not to answer. The lawyer said the vice president’s office said the call was classified.

Williams told the committee behind closed doors this month that the call was “very positive” and the two men did not discuss Trump’s push for investigations of Democrats.


10:10 a.m.

The White House is responding to Tuesday’s House impeachment proceedings in real time, stepping up pushback after facing criticism that it wasn’t doing enough to defend the president.

The White House sent out five “rapid response” emails to reporters before the witnesses were even sworn in for questioning. And the notes continued throughout the proceedings to defend President Donald Trump and try to undermine the credibility of the witnesses appearing.

Administration officials were also participating Tuesday in an event for regional reporters.

Press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted that, “While the dems cry impeachment we are speaking to the country w regional media interviews focused on @POTUS balanced trade agenda.”

Trump has been silent on Twitter so far, but has a Cabinet meeting scheduled later Tuesday morning.


10:05 a.m.

A White House aide says that he doesn’t think the omission of the word “Burisma” from the transcript of a July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s new president was significant.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman says he thinks the people who do transcripts may not have caught the word. He said they put in “company” instead. Burisma is a Ukrainian gas company affiliated with the son of Joe Biden.

Vindman is testifying publicly Tuesday before a House committee in the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

He said that he tried to edit the transcript of the call to note the word “Burisma” but it didn’t make it into the rough transcript released publicly. He doesn’t know why.

Vindman said he thought President Volodymyr Zelenskiy may have been prepped for the call because he didn’t think the new leader would know about it otherwise.


10 a.m.

A White House aide says that he told Ukrainian officials to stay out of U.S. politics.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is testifying publicly Tuesday before a House committee in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Vindman was on a July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s new president where Trump pressed for investigations into the 2016 presidential election and the son of his Democratic rival.

Vindman said he knew “without hesitation” that he had to report the call to the White House counsel.

He told the committee that another official, U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, later said the Ukrainians needed to provide “a deliverable” which was “specific investigations.”

Vindman later told Ukrainian officials they should steer clear of the requests.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing.


9:55 a.m.

The Democratic committee chairman leading the House impeachment hearing is highlighting verbal attacks that President Donald Trump and his defenders have made against two government officials who are testifying.

As Tuesday’s hearing began, California Rep. Adam Schiff mentioned Trump’s tweet in which he accused Vice President Mike Pence adviser Jennifer Williams of being a never-Trumper.

Schiff also criticized “scurrilous attacks” against Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who he noted “shed blood for America.” He said he hoped members of the House Intelligence Committee would not attack him.

The top Republican on the committee is California Rep. Devin Nunes.

He accused Democrats of hiding the whistleblower whose report triggered the impeachment investigation in their “own witness protection program.” And he says witness testimony so far has been based on second- and third-hand accounts of conversations.


9:45 a.m.

A White House aide says that he recognizes that what he is doing — testifying before Congress — would not be tolerated in many other countries.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman says in Russia, for example, his “act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel” would have cost him his life.

Vindman, dressed in uniform, testified that he felt Trump’s request on a July 25 call to a new Ukrainian leader to investigate a political rival was “improper.”

The U.S. Army official is an immigrant from Ukraine. He said that he is grateful his father came to the United States some 40 years ago, a place “where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.”

He then addressed his father, saying “Dad, my sitting here today … is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union.”


9:38 a.m.

A White House aide tells lawmakers that what he heard on a July phone call between President Donald Trump and the new Ukrainian president was “improper.”

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is testifying Tuesday in a public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate his Democratic political rivals as he withheld aid to the East European nation.

Vindman is a U.S. Army officer detailed to the National Security Council. He listened in on the July 25 call at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Trump asked the new Ukrainian president to look into whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and wanted the country to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Vindman said it was “improper” for Trump to demand a foreign government investigative a U.S. citizen and political opponent.

Vindman is one of several witnesses coming before the committee this week. He and the other witnesses have already testified behind closed doors.

Trump has denied doing anything wrong.


9:30 a.m.

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee is blaming the media for the impeachment drive against President Donald Trump.

Devin Nunes spent his opening statement at the third day of impeachment hearings excoriating journalists, saying “the media of course are free to act as Democratic puppets … at the direction of their puppet masters.”

Absent from Nunes opening remarks Tuesday was any significant defense of Trump as he faces the starkest test of his presidency. The Democratic-led House is investigating his pressure campaign against Ukraine to open a probe into Joe Biden and his son.

At the center of the impeachment drive is Trump’s July 25th call to Ukraine’s president, when he mentioned Biden and a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.


9:15 a.m.

The twin brother of a U.S. Army officer and White House aide is in the House intelligence hearing to support his appearance at the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is testifying Tuesday publicly on what he heard on a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s new leader.

Vindman told his twin brother Yevgeny about the call and his concerns about it. His brother sat behind him Tuesday in the hearing room. Yevgeny Vindman is also a U.S. Army official who is an attorney in the White House.

The House intelligence panel is holding public hearings into Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate his Democratic political rivals while also withholding aid to the Eastern European nation.


9:05 a.m.

An adviser to Vice President Mike Pence says she found a July phone call between President Donald Trump and the Ukraine leader “unusual” since it “involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”

Jennifer Williams was at the witness table Tuesday as the House intelligence public hearing got underway. The House impeachment inquiry is looking into the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine.

She listened to the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. She says that after the call, she provided an update in the vice president’s daily briefing book indicating that the conversation had taken place.

Williams says she did not discuss the call with Pence or any of her colleagues in the office of the vice president or the National Security Council.

The House intelligence panel is holding public hearings into Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate his Democratic political rivals while also withholding aid to the Eastern European nation.


9:05 a.m.

An adviser to Vice President Mike Pence says she was told that White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had directed that a hold on military aid to Ukraine should remain in place.

Jennifer Williams is testifying Tuesday in the House impeachment inquiry into the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine.

Williams says she attended meetings earlier this year in which the hold on Ukraine security assistance was discussed.

She says representatives of the State and Defense departments advocated that the hold on the aid should be lifted, and that budget officials said that Mulvaney had directed that it remain in place.

Williams says she learned on Sept. 11 that the hold had been lifted. She says she’s never learned what prompted that decision.

The House intelligence panel is conducting public hearings into President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, while also withholding security aid to the Eastern European nation.

The post White House Slams ‘Illegitimate’ Hearing appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Bill Barr Is Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud

Mother Jones Magazine -

It is said that Bill Barr, once a mild-mannered conservative in the George HW Bush administration, spent the following 20 years of his life marinating in the world of Fox News, Drudge, the Starr Report, ultra-conservative Catholicism, and tea party philosophy. Here is the new, fully reeducated Bill Barr:

In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion. Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications. They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.

Conservatives, on the other hand, do not seek an earthly paradise. We are interested in preserving over the long run the proper balance of freedom and order necessary for healthy development of natural civil society and individual human flourishing. This means that we naturally test the propriety and wisdom of action under a “rule of law” standard. The essence of this standard is to ask what the overall impact on society over the long run if the action we are taking, or principle we are applying, in a given circumstance was universalized – that is, would it be good for society over the long haul if this was done in all like circumstances?

For these reasons, conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means. And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy far, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.

This certainly explains why Barr is willing to do and say anything in defense of Donald Trump. Not only does he believe in a strong executive in the first place, but he literally thinks he’s conducting a holy war against the Democratic Party and the moral decay of America. This is the kind of apocalyptic language you find in chain email letters from people who think Breitbart is too mushy to win the war against godless liberalism.

Anyway, isn’t this “perfectibility of man” stuff way outdated? Has any progressive since, say, FDR even come close to espousing this old chestnut? I suppose there are bound to be one or two, but this is basically lunatic talk.

Speaking for myself, I believe that we humans are aggressively non-nonperfectible, which is precisely why I’m a liberal. Given our fallen state, the goal of politics should be to rein in our worst excesses and do the best we can to provide dignity and decent basic care to everyone. Generally speaking, we combine empathy for others with exciting things like cost-benefit analysis and RCT trials to figure out what legislative proposals seem most likely to take us a step forward to a fairer and more just society. If this counts as “willing to use any means necessary”—well, we liberals sure have stunted imaginations.

Outside of the most wackaloon corners of Congress, I have never heard a high-ranking government official say anything even near to Barr’s virtual declaration of war. Some others might believe it, perhaps, but they don’t say it out loud. Barr did.

Police Surround Last Holdouts at Hong Kong Campus Protest

TruthDig.com News -

HONG KONG — A small band of anti-government protesters, their numbers diminished by surrenders and failed escape attempts, remained holed up at a Hong Kong university early Wednesday as they braced for the endgame in a police siege of the campus.

Police were waiting them out after 10 days of some of the most intense protests the city has seen in more than five months of often-violent unrest gripping the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Since the siege began Sunday, more than 1,000 people were arrested and hundreds of injured treated at hospitals, authorities said.

The government has stood firm, rejecting most of the protesters’ demands. The demonstrators shut down major roads and trains during rush hour every day last week as they turned several university campuses into fortresses and blocked a major road tunnel, which remained closed Tuesday.

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Even as the latest violence wound down, a fundamental divide suggests the protests in the former British colony are far from over.

In Beijing, the National People’s Congress criticized Hong Kong’s high court for striking down a ban on wearing face masks at the protests, in a decree that has potentially ominous implications for the city’s vaunted rule of law and independent judiciary. China’s Communist leaders have taken a tough line on the protests and said that restoring order is the highest priority.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was barred from going on a European speaking tour, after a court refused to change his bail conditions to let him travel outside Hong Kong.

Protesters have left all the universities except Hong Kong Polytechnic, where hundreds had barricaded themselves and fought back police barrages of tear gas and water cannons with gasoline bombs, some launched from rooftops by catapult, and bows and arrows.

Those who remained at Polytechnic were the last holdouts. Surrounded by police, they faced arrest. Several groups have tried to escape, including one that slid down hoses from a footbridge to waiting motorcycles, but police said they intercepted 37, including the drivers, who were arrested for “assisting offenders.”

They milled about in small groups and had boxes of homemade gasoline bombs, but the mood was grim in the trash-strewn plazas, in contrast to the excitement as they prepared to take on police just a few days earlier.

One protester said he had no plan and was waiting for help. Another said he wanted to leave safely but without being charged. They would not give their full names, saying they feared arrest.

“We will use whatever means to continue to persuade and arrange for these remaining protesters to leave the campus as soon as possible so that this whole operation could end in a peaceful manner,” Lam said after a weekly meeting with advisers.

By late Tuesday night, about 800 people had left the campus to surrender, including 300 minors, according to a government tally. Authorities had agreed not to immediately arrest anyone under 18 but warned they could face charges later. City leader Carrie Lam had said Tuesday morning that 100 people were left but it was wasn’t clear how many now remained.

Hong Kong’s Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha entered the campus to try to dial back tensions after hearing that some protesters were ready to die.

At the same time, at least a dozen protesters walked out of the campus escorted by volunteers to an ambulance station to surrender. But it appeared to be a ruse, with many of them making a run for it in a last-ditch escape attempt. They were swiftly tackled by police.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged authorities to de-escalate the standoff. Spokesman Rupert Colville expressed concern about increasing violence by young people “who are clearly very angry, with deep-seated grievances.”

City leaders say the violence must stop before meaningful dialogue can begin. The protesters say they need to keep escalating the violence to get the government to accept their demands.

The protests started in June over a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Activists saw the legislation as part of a continuing erosion of rights and freedoms that Hong Kong was promised it could keep when Britain returned its former colony to China in 1997.

Lam withdrew the bill months later, but protesters now want an independent investigation into police suppression of the demonstrations and fully democratic elections, among other demands.

Throughout the day, relatives and teachers arrived sporadically to pick up the remaining protesters under 18, hugging them before walking back to a police checkpoint where officers recorded names and other information before letting them go.

An ambulance team was allowed in to treat the injured, wrapping them in emergency blankets. Some left with the team, but others stayed, saying they didn’t want to be arrested.

Other parents held a news conference and said their children dared not surrender because the government has labeled them as rioters even though some had just gotten trapped by the police siege. They wore masks and refused to give their names, a sign of the fear that has developed in what has become a highly polarized city.

China hinted it might overrule the Hong Kong high court ruling that struck down the face mask ban that was aimed at preventing protesters from hiding their identities and evading arrest.

A statement from the National People’s Congress’ Legislative Affairs Commission said the decision doesn’t conform with Hong Kong’s constitution, known as the Basic Law, or decisions by the Congress.

“We are currently studying opinions and suggestions raised by some NPC deputies,” the statement said. The announcement threatens to undercut Hong Kong’s rule of law and independent courts — major selling points for its role as an Asian financial center.

Monday’s ruling said the ban infringed on fundamental rights more than is reasonably necessary. The ban has been widely disregarded.

The Japanese government said one of its citizens was arrested near the Polytechnic campus. Japanese media identified him as Hikaru Ida, a student at Tokyo University of Agriculture. Officials did not say why he was arrested.

About 1,100 people were arrested in the past day for offenses including rioting and possession of offensive weapons, police said at a briefing. They found more than 3,900 gasoline bombs at another university campus that was the site of a violent standoff last week. At least 354 people were treated Tuesday for protest-related injuries, according to hospital authority figures.

Hong Kong also got a new police chief, Chris Tang, who said his priorities would include rebutting accusations against police that he called “fake news” and reassuring the public about the force’s mission.

“We have to maintain the law and order in Hong Kong and there is a massive scale of breaking of law in Hong Kong and there is a certain sector of the community that also condones those illegal activities,” he told journalists.

Tang, who visited officers at the Polytechnic siege after dark, replaces a retiring chief and was approved by Beijing after being nominated by Lam’s government.

Lam, asked whether she would seek help from Chinese troops based in Hong Kong, said her government was confident it can cope with the situation.


Associated Press journalists Alice Fung and Dake Kang contributed.

The post Police Surround Last Holdouts at Hong Kong Campus Protest appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Trump “Clearly Engaged in Extortion and Bribery”

Mother Jones Magazine -

Yahoo News:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who began calling for President Trump to be impeached earlier this year, believes we have now reached “the point of no return” where it is inarguably clear that he has committed criminal acts. Ocasio-Cortez discussed the issue with Yahoo News on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as the third day of public hearings were being conducted in the Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry.

“We’re kind of knee deep here in impeachment inquiry … and so at this point I think we’re beyond the question as to whether Trump has committed a crime or whether he’s violated the Constitution,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “He’s clearly engaged in extortion and bribery.”

“It’s not just Trump, but who else is … going to be implicated in this,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding, “I think, when it comes to what we’ve discovered, we’re at the point of no return and it’s just a question of how many crimes have been potentially committed and who else has committed them.”

Read the rest.

NLG Statement on Coup in Bolivia

National Lawyer's Guild -

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The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) strongly condemns the military coup that took place in Bolivia on November 10, followed by the self-declared presidency of extreme right-wing Bolivian senator Jeanine Áñez, in violation of the Constitution of Bolivia.

There is strong evidence that U.S. elected officials and agencies worked to foment this coup in the Plurinational State of Bolivia against elected President Evo Morales, at the expense of indigenous people, campesinos and social movements of the poor and working class and in violation of the OAS Charter, the UN Charter and international law and resolutions.

The role of the Organization of American States (OAS) is particularly troubling, especially as the OAS leadership is serving as a proxy for U.S. political maneuvers throughout the region, despite the position of many American states in opposition to this intervention.

We also express our strongest solidarity with the people of Bolivia who continue to march, organize and resist despite facing harsh violence and military repression. We emphasize the importance of ending U.S. intervention in Bolivia and throughout Latin America and urge the restoration of legitimate civil government and democracy in Bolivia.

The Coup Violates the Constitution of Bolivia

President Morales’ eligibility to run for re-election was established by the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal, which in 2017 abolished term limits as violating the American Convention on Human Rights. This decision overturned the results of a 2016 referendum which would have prohibited Morales from running.

The Constitutional Tribunal was established by the 2009 Bolivian Constitution. It is the final authority in Bolivia adjudicating the constitutionality of laws, government power, and treaties.  There is no argument that the Tribunal’s decision was outside its subject matter jurisdiction or otherwise ultra vires. Thus, its decision establishing President Morales’ eligibility for re-election was final and binding.  The coup’s perpetrators are unhappy with the result of the court’s decision. But the coup plotters rejected the course provided by the Constitution of Bolivia to address their unhappiness, which would be to elect a new President using the democratic process established by the Constitution, who could appoint members of the Tribunal more to their liking.

There is no dispute that the coup perpetrators’ candidate, the neoliberal Carlos Mesa, lost the first round to Morales. The only question was the margin of Morales’ victory.  Instead of joining President Morales’ call for new elections, the plotters gained the upper hand in the military and forced Morales out with violence and threats of force. As the second Vice-President of the Senate, Añez, the self-proclaimed President installed by the coup plotters, was not in the Constitutional line of succession.  All the Constitutional successors resigned along with Morales. Restoration of Constitutional authority requires restoration of Morales to the Presidency. Then, the election could be rerun in accordance with the Constitution and domestic and international law, as already proposed by Morales before the coup, with Morales as a candidate and with more credible and reputable international election observers than the Organization of American States (OAS).

No Credible Findings of Election Fraud:  Fraud a Pretext for the Coup

The lead-up to the coup included allegations of electoral fraud against President Morales. Primarily, these allegations centered on the claim that Morales was unable to legitimately achieve a 10% margin above the second-place candidate, Carlos Mesa, thus avoiding a December runoff. Most commonly, an alleged delay in the reporting of results was used to back up these allegations. Of course, by the time the coup was executed in Bolivia, Morales had already agreed to call new elections, despite the lack of any proof or documentation backing up these allegations.

Despite the lack of evidence of election fraud, the OAS issued a statement one day after the October 20 elections warning of an “inexplicable” change in the trend of the vote count. This statement came despite the fact that rural areas in Bolivia have consistently shown slower-reporting results as well as higher support for Morales and the MAS. The OAS issued a “preliminary” report questioning the outcome of the elections on November 10, shortly before the coup was carried out.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) presented a comprehensive statistical analysis that found not only no evidence of fraud or irregularities but also indicated that the voting and results pattern reflected highly similar patterns from past years, especially in terms of the delay in reporting of rural votes. Further research by CELAG (Centro Estratigico Latinonamericano de Geopolítica) also backed up this analysis and pointed to the insufficient evidence to back up the assertions in the OAS statement.

OAS Violates its own Charter and Serves as An Arm of US Foreign Policy 

The role of the OAS leadership in Bolivia echoes its actions in Venezuela, Nicaragua and elsewhere in the region. In Venezuela, the officialdom of the OAS has been an increasingly vociferous proponent of regime change, and its pronouncements have come closely in line with the mandates of U.S. foreign policy. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has repeatedly promoted the exclusion of the internationally recognized Venezuelan government from hemispheric and international bodies and supported the imposition of unilateral coercive measures against the country, despite their illegitimacy under international law and their devastating effects on the social and economic rights of the Venezuelan population. These actions by OAS leadership undermine the organization’s legitimacy as a representative of American states collectively.

Despite the OAS’ stated concern with constitutional order in Bolivia, it failed to condemn or even criticize the military coup or the self-designated presidency of Jeanine Áñez. The OAS has a long history of anti-communism and was founded at a conference convened by U.S. military officials at the beginning of the Cold War in 1948. Even with this history, however, the membership of the OAS has not been willing to go along with the plans of its leadership and their U.S. backers, prompting the creation of the Lima Group. Nonetheless, in 2018, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) – which has provided millions of dollars to anti-Morales Bolivian groups over the years – declared that the OAS “promotes U.S. political and economic interests in the Western Hemisphere by countering the influence of anti-U.S. countries such as Venezuela.”

These actions undermine the OAS’ own charter, which claims to support “the peace and security of the continent.” The OAS charter declares that “Every State has the right to choose, without external interference, its political, economic, and social system and to organize itself in the way best suited to it, and has the duty to abstain from intervening in the affairs of another State.” Nevertheless, the OAS has served as an arm of U.S. foreign policy in the region, at the same time that the U.S. has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council and has otherwise attempted to undermine multilateral human rights organizations.

Violation of the UN Charter and UN Resolutions 

The UN Charter also obliges member countries to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” This provision of the Charter is expanded upon by UN Resolution 2625, the Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States, which makes clear that this principle applies not only to military intervention but to other forms of intervention, including unilateral coercive measures such as economic sanctions. A mainstay of generally accepted international law, these principles emphasize the necessity of “the strict observance by States of the obligation not to intervene in the affairs of any other State is an essential condition to ensure that nations live together in peace with one another, since the practice of any form of intervention not only violates the spirit and letter of the Charter, but also leads to the creation of situations which threaten international peace and security…[and] the duty of States to refrain in their international relations from military, political, economic or any other form of coercion aimed against the political independence or territorial integrity of any State.”

In Bolivia as in Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and repeatedly throughout the region, the U.S. government has repeatedly breached and continues to breach its obligations under the UN Charter, the OAS Charter and international law. The cooptation of the OAS to do so does not mitigate the responsibility of the U.S. government for the current destabilization in Bolivia, including ongoing violations of the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of the press and the right to life itself. We also note the dire threat to the economic, social and cultural rights of the plurinational peoples of Bolivia, particularly the rights of indigenous peoples. Under the MAS-led government of Evo Morales, Bolivia reduced poverty by 42% and extreme poverty by 60%. The fomentation of a military coup risks the destruction of over a decade of advances that has seen Bolivia lower its Gini coefficient, measuring economic inequality, by 19%.

The Coup is Led by Openly Fascist, Anti-Indigenous Groups and Oligarchic Interests

The racist, anti-indigenous nature of the coup is apparent in the statements of many of the coup’s leaders and most widely recognized public figures. When Áñez declared herself president of Bolivia despite the lack of a quorum in the Senate due to the absence of senators from the Movimento al Socialismo (MAS), President Morales’ party, she lifted a huge bible, declaring that “The Bible has returned to the palace,” echoing her 2013 tweet that the indigenous Aymara people’s new year celebrations were “satanic,” and declaring that “no one can replace God.” (The Aymara people make up 41% of Bolivia’s plurinational population.) It also echoes the rhetoric of fellow far-right coup proponent Luis Fernando Camacho, formerly affiliated with the openly fascist Unión Juvenil Cruceñista. Camacho entered the presidential palace after Morales’ exit, holding a Bible as one of his supporters declared that “Pachamama will never return to the palace. Bolivia belongs to Christ.”

The anti-indigenous aspects of the coup were not confined to statements from prominent far-right leaders. Video footage was widely disseminated featuring pro-coup groups on the streets in La Paz, burning the Wiphala, the square flag representing indigenous people of the Andes. Police were photographed cutting out the Wiphala from the flag patches on their uniforms or lowering the indigenous flag from the front of Bolivian state flags. The Wiphala was integrated by the Morales government as the dual flag of Bolivia in 2009, along with a new constitution.

In the days following the coup, at least 23 deaths at the hands of military or police forces have been documented in Bolivia. A decree issued by self-proclaimed president Áñez claims to exempt members of the military or police from prosecution for crimes committed during the repression of anti-coup protests. Despite the role that OAS leadership has played in Bolivia, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of that body, expressed grave concerns about this decree, noting that it “ignores international human rights standards and encourages violent repression.”

The coup, unsurprisingly, also implicates the Bolivian oligarchy, whose control over wealth and resources continued to be challenged by the MAS government and its social programs Camacho himself has a long-running alliance with separatist oligarchs and large landowners in the Santa Cruz area of Bolivia. The government’s efforts toward nationalization were limited rather than radical. Indeed, many left and indigenous organizers and social movements sharply criticized the Morales government for the concessions that it made to oligarchs and multinational corporations. Nevertheless, the Morales government faced fierce opposition from oligarchic figures like Branko Marinkovic, a longtime Camacho backer and the former president of the Federation of Private Industries in Santa Cruz. He warned in 2006 that pursuit of land reform would lead to “civil war,” and was charged in 2009 with providing $200,000 to plotters planning the assassination of Morales. He fled to Brazil, where he remains today, a strong supporter of extreme-right president Jair Bolsonaro. The Bolivian oligarchy has retained a close alliance with foreign corporations, including Canadian, Swiss and German mining companies, who have objected strongly to constraints on their activities by the Morales government and brought lawsuits in an attempt to perpetuate their exploitation of Bolivian resources. In particular, Bolivia is home to the world’s largest reserves of lithium, an element necessary to the development of electric-car batteries. The future of Bolivia’s lithium industry and the people and lands affected by it also hang in the balance.

The United States Has a Long History Of Destabilizing Progressive Regimes in Bolivia and throughout Latin America via the School of the Americas

There is a lengthy history of U.S. involvement in destabilization and dictatorship in Bolivia. In the 1970s, Gen. Hugo Banzer, a right-wing military dictator, was backed by the U.S. in his coup to bring down the left-leaning government of Juan José Torres, who was later killed in the U.S.-backed covert Operation Condor in Argentina. The military training academy in Fort Benning, Georgia, now known as WHINSEC and previously as the School of the Americas, has trained coup plotters and human rights violators throughout the region for decades. Infamous training manuals used at the school openly encouraged the use of blackmail, torture and the targeting of civilians.

At least six major figures in the coup were trained at WHINSEC/School of the Americas. Bolivian army commander Williams Kaliman, who issued the “suggestion” that Morales resign only hours before he did, citing a “civic, military and political coup,” completed a class there in 2003. He also served as Bolivia’s past military attache in Washington. Meanwhile, commanding police general Vladimir Yuri Calderon Mariscal, who reportedly led a police revolt on November 9, previously served as the President of Police Attachés of Latin America in the United States of America (APALA). This security alliance has been strongly criticized for attempting to bring Latin American police departments into the security ambit of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Political Leaders in the US Openly Supported the Coup

Leaked audios released before the coup implicate SOA alumnus Manfred Reyes Villa, a U.S. resident, in plotting to bring down the Morales government. Four former military officials, all SOA graduates, are also heard on the recordings. But most troubling, the recordings include boasts of support from various U.S. elected and appointed officials, including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Bob Menendez. Rubio, in particular, has made no secret of his advocacy to bring down the Bolivian government, echoing his threats against the Venezuelan and Cuban governments. He also attempted to intervene in and impugn the credibility of the Bolivian electoral process.

Following the coup, President Donald Trump issued a statement “applauding…the Bolivian military,” and declaring that the military coup “send[s] a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua….We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous, and free Western Hemisphere,” in a blatant endorsement of the seizure of power by unelected military officials.

NLG Calls for A Restoration of the Legitimate MAS Government and Compliance With the Bolivian Constitution and Laws against the Coup

The National Lawyers Guild supports the movement of the Bolivian people marching and struggling to undo the coup and restore the legitimate government in line with the Bolivian Constitution. A strong response of solidarity has been seen in other Latin American countries, including mass mobilizations in Argentina as well as official responses from Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua and Uruguay. For lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers in the United States, it is urgent that we do our utmost to stop U.S. human rights violations and violations of international law throughout Latin America and the world. Of course, there is a long, bloody history of U.S. imperialism in Latin America that continues to threaten the continent and the world today. In particular, we must act to challenge U.S. involvement in the ongoing coup in the Plurinational State of Bolivia and unilateral coercive measures against states in the region including Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and show solidarity with indigenous people, campesinos, workers and social movements braving military control to stand for their rights and restore democracy in Bolivia.


El Gremio Nacional de Abogados (NLG) de los Estados Unidos condena enfáticamente el golpe militar que tuvo lugar en Bolivia el 10 de noviembre, seguido por la presidencia autodeclarada de la senadora boliviana de extrema derecha Jeanine Áñez, en plena violación de la Constitución de Bolivia.

Hay pruebas contundentes de que funcionarios y organismos electos de los Estados Unidos trabajaron para fomentar este golpe de estado en el Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia contra el presidente electo Evo Morales, a expensas de los pueblos indígenas, los campesinos y los movimientos sociales de los pobres y la clase trabajadora y en violación de la Carta del Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA), la Carta de las Naciones Unidas, y las leyes y las resoluciones internacionales.

El papel de la OEA es particularmente preocupante, especialmente porque el liderazgo de la OEA está sirviendo como un apoderado de las maniobras políticas de Estados Unidos en toda la región, a pesar de la posición de muchos estados de América Latina en oposición a esta intervención.

También expresamos nuestra firme solidaridad con el pueblo de Bolivia que continúa marchando, organizando y resistiendo a pesar de enfrentar violencia dura y represión militar. Destacamos la importancia de terminar la intervención de los Estados Unidos en Bolivia y en toda América Latina e insta a la restauración del gobierno civil legítimo y la democracia en Bolivia.

El golpe de estado viola la Constitución de Bolivia

La elegibilidad del presidente Morales para postularse a la reelección fue establecida por el Tribunal Constitucional Plurinacional, que en 2017 abolió los límites del mandato por violar la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos. Esta decisión anuló los resultados de un referéndum de 2016 que habría prohibido a Morales postularse.

El Tribunal Constitucional fue establecido por la Constitución boliviana de 2009. Es la autoridad final en Bolivia que adjudica la constitucionalidad de las leyes, el poder del gobierno y los tratados. No hay argumento de que la decisión del Tribunal estuvo fuera de la jurisdicción de su tema o de otra manera ultra vires. Por lo tanto, su decisión de establecer la elegibilidad del presidente Morales para la reelección fue final y vinculante. Los perpetradores del golpe no están contentos con el resultado de la decisión del tribunal. Pero los golpistas rechazaron el curso provisto por la Constitución de Bolivia para abordar su infelicidad, que sería elegir un nuevo presidente utilizando el proceso democrático establecido por la Constitución, quien podría nombrar a los miembros del Tribunal más a su gusto.

No hay argumento que el candidato de los golpistas, el neoliberal Carlos Mesa, perdió la primera ronda ante Morales. La única pregunta era el margen de la victoria de Morales. En lugar de unirse al llamado del presidente Morales para nuevas elecciones, los conspiradores ganaron la delantera en el ejército y obligaron a Morales a salir con violencia y amenazas de fuerza. Como segundo vicepresidente del Senado, Añez, la autoproclamada presidente instalado por los golpistas, no estaba en la línea constitucional de sucesión. Todos los sucesores constitucionales renunciaron junto con Morales. La restauración de la autoridad constitucional requiere la restauración de Morales a la Presidencia. Luego, la elección podría volverse a ejecutar de conformidad con la Constitución y los leyes nacional e internacional, como ya propuso Morales antes del golpe, con Morales como candidato y con observadores de elecciones internacionales más creíbles y respetables que la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) .

No hay resultados creíbles de fraude electoral: el fraude es un pretexto para el golpe

El período previo al golpe incluyó acusaciones de fraude electoral contra el presidente Morales. Principalmente, estas acusaciones se centraron en la afirmación de que Morales no pudo lograr legítimamente un margen del 10% por encima del candidato del segundo lugar, Carlos Mesa, evitando así una segunda vuelta en diciembre. Más comúnmente, una supuesta demora en la notificación de resultados se utilizó para respaldar estas acusaciones. Por supuesto, cuando se ejecutó el golpe de estado en Bolivia, Morales ya había acordado convocar nuevas elecciones, a pesar de la falta de pruebas o documentación que respalde estas acusaciones.

A pesar de la falta de evidencia de fraude electoral, la OEA emitió un comunicado un día después de las elecciones del 20 de octubre advirtiendo sobre un cambio ‘inexplicable” en la tendencia del conteo de votos. Esta declaración se produjo a pesar del hecho de que las áreas rurales en Bolivia han mostrado consistentemente resultados de informes más lentos, así como un mayor apoyo para Morales y su partido, el Movimiento Ante Socialismo (MAS). La OEA emitió un informe “preliminar” cuestionando el resultado de las elecciones del 10 de noviembre, poco antes del golpe de estado.

El Centro de Investigación Económica y Política (CEPR) presentó un análisis estadístico integral que no solo no encontró evidencia de fraude o irregularidades, sino que también indicó que la votación y el patrón de resultados reflejaban patrones muy similares de años anteriores, especialmente en términos de la demora en la presentación de informes de votos rurales.

Investigaciones adicionales del CELAG (Centro Estratégico Latinoamericano de Geopolítica) también respaldaron este análisis y señalaron la evidencia insuficiente para respaldar las afirmaciones en la declaración de la OEA.

La OEA viola su propia Carta y sirve como brazo de la política exterior de los Estados Unidos

El papel del liderazgo de la OEA en Bolivia se hace eco de sus acciones en Venezuela, Nicaragua y en otras partes de la región. En Venezuela, el oficialismo de la OEA ha sido un defensor cada vez más vociferante del cambio de régimen, y sus pronunciamientos han estado muy en línea con los mandatos de la política exterior de Estados Unidos. El Secretario General de la OEA, Luis Almagro, ha promovido en repetidas ocasiones la exclusión del gobierno venezolano internacionalmente reconocido de los organismos hemisféricos e internacionales y ha apoyado la imposición de medidas coercitivas unilaterales contra el país, a pesar de su ilegitimidad en virtud del derecho internacional y sus efectos devastadores sobre los derechos sociales y económicos de la población venezolana. Estas acciones del liderazgo de la OEA socavan la legitimidad de la organización como representante de los estados americanos colectivamente.

A pesar de la preocupación expresada por la OEA con el orden constitucional en Bolivia, no logró condenar ni criticar el golpe militar o la presidencia autodenominada de Jeanine Áñez. La OEA tiene una larga historia de anticomunismo y fue fundada en una conferencia convocada por oficiales militares estadounidenses al comienzo de la Guerra Fría en 1948. Sin embargo, incluso con esta historia, la membresía de la OEA no ha estado de acuerdo con los planes de su liderazgo y sus patrocinadores estadounidenses, lo que provocó la creación del Grupo de Lima. No obstante, en 2018, la Agencia de los Estados Unidos para el Desarrollo Internacional (USAID), que ha proporcionado millones de dólares a grupos bolivianos contra Morales a lo largo de los años, declaró que la OEA promueve los intereses políticos y económicos de los Estados Unidos en el Hemisferio Occidental al contrarrestar la influencia de países anti-EEUU como Venezuela.”

Estas acciones socavan la propia carta de la OEA, que afirma apoyar “la paz y la seguridad del continente”. La carta de la OEA declara que “Todo Estado tiene derecho a elegir, sin interferencia externa, su sistema político, económico y social y a organizarse de la manera más adecuada para él, y tiene el deber de abstenerse de intervenir en los asuntos de otro Estado.” Sin embargo, la OEA ha servido como un brazo de la política exterior de los EEUU. En la región, al mismo tiempo que los EEUU se han retirado del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU y han intentado socavar a las organizaciones multilaterales de derechos humanos.

Violación de la Carta de la ONU y las Resoluciones de la ONU

La Carta de la ONU también obliga a los países miembros a “abstenerse en sus relaciones internacionales de la amenaza o el uso de la fuerza contra la integridad territorial o la independencia política de cualquier estado, o de cualquier otra manera incompatible con los propósitos de las Naciones Unidas.” Esta disposición de la Carta se amplía mediante la Resolución 2625 de la ONU, los Principios de Derecho Internacional sobre Relaciones Amistosas y Cooperación entre Estados, que deja en claro que este principio se aplica no solo a la intervención militar sino a otras formas de intervención, incluidas medidas coercitivas unilaterales como sanciones económicas. Un pilar del derecho internacional generalmente aceptado, estos principios enfatizan la necesidad de “la estricta observancia por parte de los Estados de la obligación de no intervenir en los asuntos de ningún otro Estado es una condición esencial para garantizar que las naciones vivan juntas en paz entre sí, ya que la práctica de cualquier forma de intervención no solo viola el espíritu y la letra de la Carta, sino que también conduce a la creación de situaciones que amenazan la paz y la seguridad internacionales … [y] el deber de los Estados de abstenerse en sus relaciones internacionales de los militares, política, económica o cualquier otra forma de coerción dirigida contra la independencia política o la integridad territorial de cualquier Estado.”

En Bolivia, como en Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador y repetidamente en toda la región, el gobierno de los EE.UU. ha incumplido reiteradamente y sigue incumpliendo sus obligaciones bajo la Carta de la ONU, la Carta de la OEA y el derecho internacional. La cooptación de la OEA para no mitiga la responsabilidad del gobierno de EE. UU. por la actual desestabilización en Bolivia, incluidas las violaciones continuas del derecho a la libertad de reunión, la libertad de asociación, la libertad de prensa y el derecho a la vida misma. También observamos la grave amenaza a los derechos económicos, sociales y culturales de los pueblos plurinacionales de Bolivia, en particular los derechos de los pueblos indígenas. Bajo el gobierno de Evo Morales, liderado por el MAS, Bolivia redujo la pobreza en un 42% y la pobreza extrema en un 60%. El fomento de un golpe militar arriesga la destrucción de más de una década de avances que han visto a Bolivia reducir su coeficiente de Gini, midiendo la desigualdad económica, en un 19%.

El golpe está liderado por grupos abiertamente fascistas, anti-indígenas e intereses oligárquicos.

La naturaleza racista y anti-indígena del golpe es evidente en las declaraciones de muchos de los líderes del golpe y las figuras públicas más reconocidas. Cuando Áñez se declaró presidenta de Bolivia a pesar de la falta de quórum en el Senado debido a la ausencia de senadores del MAS, el partido del presidente Morales, levantó una gran biblia, declarando que “La Biblia ha vuelto a el palacio,” haciéndose eco de su tuit de 2013 de que las celebraciones de año nuevo de los pueblos indígenas aymara fueron “satánicas” y declarando que “nadie puede reemplazar a Dios.” (El pueblo aymara representa el 41% de la población plurinacional de Bolivia). También se hace eco de la retórica del defensor golpista de extrema derecha Luis Fernando Camacho, anteriormente afiliado a la abiertamente fascista Unión Juvenil Cruceñista. Camacho ingresó al palacio presidencial después de la salida de Morales, sosteniendo una Biblia mientras uno de sus partidarios declaraba que “Pachamama nunca volverá al palacio. Bolivia pertenece a Cristo.”

Los aspectos anti-indígenas del golpe no se limitaron a declaraciones de destacados líderes de extrema derecha. El video fue ampliamente difundido con grupos pro golpistas en las calles de La Paz, quemando el Wiphala, la bandera cuadrada que representa a los pueblos indígenas de los Andes. Se fotografió a la policía cortando el Wiphala de los parches de la bandera en sus uniformes o bajando la bandera indígena desde el frente de las banderas estatales bolivianas. El Wiphala fue integrado por el gobierno de Morales como la doble bandera de Bolivia en 2009, junto con una nueva constitución.

En los días posteriores al golpe, se han documentado al menos 23 muertes a manos de fuerzas militares o policiales en Bolivia. Un decreto emitido por el autoproclamado presidente Áñez afirma que exime a los miembros del ejército o la policía del enjuiciamiento por crímenes cometidos durante la represión de las protestas contra el golpe. A pesar del papel que ha desempeñado el liderazgo de la OEA en Bolivia, la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, un brazo de ese organismo, expresó su profunda preocupación por este decreto y señaló que “ignora las normas internacionales de derechos humanos y alienta la represión violenta.”

El golpe de estado, como era de esperar, también implica a la oligarquía boliviana, cuyo control sobre la riqueza y los recursos continuó siendo desafiado por el gobierno del MAS y sus programas sociales. El mismo Camacho tiene una alianza de larga data con oligarcas separatistas y grandes terratenientes en el área de Santa Cruz de Bolivia. Los esfuerzos del gobierno hacia la nacionalización fueron más limitados que radicales. De hecho, muchos organizadores y movimientos sociales de izquierda e indígenas criticaron duramente al gobierno de Morales por las concesiones que hizo a los oligarcas y las corporaciones multinacionales. Sin embargo, el gobierno de Morales enfrentó una feroz oposición de figuras oligárquicas como Branko Marinkovic, un antiguo defensor de Camacho y ex presidente de la Federación de Industrias Privadas en Santa Cruz. Advirtió en 2006 que la búsqueda de una reforma agraria conduciría a una “guerra civil,” y fue acusado en 2009 de proporcionar $200.000 a los conspiradores que planearon el asesinato de Morales. Huyó a Brasil, donde permanece hoy, un firme defensor del presidente de extrema derecha Jair Bolsonaro. La oligarquía boliviana ha mantenido una estrecha alianza con corporaciones extranjeras, incluidas compañías mineras canadienses, suizas y alemanas, que se han opuesto firmemente a las restricciones sobre sus actividades por parte del gobierno de Morales y han presentado demandas en un intento por perpetuar su explotación de los recursos bolivianos. En particular, Bolivia alberga las mayores reservas de litio del mundo, un elemento necesario para el desarrollo de baterías de automóviles eléctricos. El futuro de la industria de litio de Bolivia y las personas y tierras afectadas por ella también están en juego.

Estados Unidos tiene una larga historia de desestabilizadores de los regímenes progresivos en Bolivia y en toda América Latina a través de la Escuela de las Américas

Hay una larga historia de participación estadounidense en la desestabilización y la dictadura en Bolivia. En la década de 1970, el general Hugo Banzer, un dictador militar de derecha, fue respaldado por Estados Unidos en su golpe de estado para derrocar al gobierno de izquierda de Juan José Torres, quien luego fue asesinado en la Operación Cóndor encubierta respaldada por Estados Unidos en Argentina La academia de entrenamiento militar en Fort Benning, Georgia, ahora conocida como WHINSEC y anteriormente como la Escuela de las Américas, ha capacitado a golpistas y violadores de los derechos humanos en toda la región durante décadas. Los infames manuales de capacitación utilizados en la escuela fomentaron abiertamente el uso del chantaje, la tortura y los ataques contra civiles.

Al menos seis figuras importantes en el golpe fueron capacitadas en WHINSEC/School of the Americas. El comandante del ejército boliviano Williams Kaliman, quien emitió la “sugerencia” de que Morales renunciara solo unas horas antes que él, citando un “golpe de estado cívico, militar y político,” completó una clase allí en 2003. También se desempeñó como agregado militar de Bolivia en Washington. Mientras tanto, el comandante general de policía Vladimir Yuri Calderón Mariscal, quien presuntamente encabezó una revuelta policial el 9 de noviembre, anteriormente se desempeñó como Presidente de Agregados de Policía de América Latina en los Estados Unidos de América (APALA). Esta alianza de seguridad ha sido fuertemente criticada por intentar llevar a los departamentos de policía latinoamericanos al ámbito de seguridad de las agencias de inteligencia estadounidenses.

Los líderes políticos en los Estados Unidos apoyaron abiertamente el golpe

Los audios filtrados publicados antes del golpe implican al alumno de SOA Manfred Reyes Villa, un residente de EE. UU., En un complot para derrocar al gobierno de Morales. Cuatro ex oficiales militares, todos graduados de SOA, también son escuchados en las grabaciones. Pero lo más preocupante es que las grabaciones incluyen alardes de apoyo de varios funcionarios electos y designados de los Estados Unidos, incluidos Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz y Bob Menéndez. Rubio, en particular, no ha ocultado su defensa para derrocar al gobierno boliviano, haciéndose eco de sus amenazas contra los gobiernos venezolano y cubano. También intentó intervenir e impugnar la credibilidad del proceso electoral boliviano.

Después del golpe, el presidente Donald Trump emitió una declaración “aplaudiendo … al ejército boliviano,” y declarando que el golpe militar “envió una fuerte señal a los regímenes ilegítimos en Venezuela y Nicaragua … Ahora somos uno acercarse a un hemisferio occidental completamente democrático, próspero y libre,” en un apoyo rotundo a la toma del poder por oficiales militares no elegidos.

NLG llama a la restauración del gobierno legítimo del MAS y al cumplimiento de la Constitución y las leyes bolivianas contra el golpe

El Gremio Nacional de Abogados apoya el movimiento del pueblo boliviano que marcha y lucha por deshacer el golpe y restaurar el gobierno legítimo de acuerdo con la Constitución boliviana. Se ha observado una fuerte respuesta de solidaridad en otros países de América Latina, incluidas movilizaciones masivas en Argentina, así como respuestas oficiales de México, Cuba, Nicaragua y Uruguay. Para los abogados, estudiantes de derecho, trabajadores legales y abogados de la cárcel en los Estados Unidos, es urgente que hagamos todo lo posible para detener las violaciones y violaciones de los derechos humanos en los Estados Unidos.


Featured Image: Indigenous woman marching against coup in Bolivia. Twitter/Redfish

Yes, Juul Targeted Teens, Part 63

Mother Jones Magazine -

Emily Baumgaertner of the LA Times takes us down memory lane in the cigarette biz:

In February 1973, a researcher at Reynolds saw a conundrum: While cigarettes had wide appeal to adults, they would never become “the ‘in’ products” among youths. For a teenager, the physical effects of smoking were “actually quite unpleasant,” Claude E. Teague Jr., who is now deceased, wrote in a confidential internal memo.

….One of the company’s top researchers, Frank G. Colby, pitched a design late in 1973 that would secure “a larger segment of the youth market” by packing “more ‘enjoyment’ or ‘kicks’ (nicotine)” and softening the chemical’s harsh effect on the throats of young smokers.

By boosting nicotine, the addictive chemical, the company could generate faster and more intense addictions among the youngest clients, securing decades of business. But a key challenge was to make nicotine palatable: Combine the high-pH nicotine with a low-pH acid. The result was a neutralized compound called a salt — nicotine salt.

So clever! Guess who benefited from this research 40 years later?

Juul’s salts contain up to three times the amount of nicotine found in previous e-cigarettes. They use softening chemicals to allow people to take deeper drags without vomiting or burning their throats. And they were developed based on research conducted by the tobacco companies Juul claimed to be leaving behind.

….Taken together, the evidence depicts a Silicon Valley start-up that purported to “deconstruct” Big Tobacco even as it emulated it, harvesting the industry’s technical savvy to launch a 21st century nicotine arms race.

So Juul used research specifically designed to make smoking palatable to teenagers, and then produced a product with lots of fruity flavors. And during their first year of operation, they explicitly marketed their product to teenagers. So what does Juul have to say about that?

We never designed our product to appeal to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products,” a spokesperson for Juul said in a statement to The Times. “We are working to urgently address underage use of vapor products, including Juul products, and earn the trust of regulators, policymakers, and other stakeholders.”

Raise your hand if you believe a single word of that. These people deserve to be given forced lobotomies and then set free on the streets of San Francisco with big tattoos on their foreheads.

Amnesty Says at Least 106 Killed in Iran Protests

TruthDig.com News -

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Days of protests in Iran over rising fuel prices and a subsequent government crackdown have killed at least 106 people across the Islamic Republic, Amnesty International said Tuesday, citing “credible reports.”

Iran’s government, which has not made nationwide numbers available for the toll of the unrest that began Friday, did not immediately respond to the report. A request for comment to its mission at the United Nations was not immediately acknowledged.

The Amnesty report comes after a U.N. agency earlier said it feared the unrest may have killed “a significant number of people.” Amnesty added that it “believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed.”

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Iranian authorities have not offered a definitive account of how many people have been arrested, injured or killed in the protests that spread quickly across at least 100 cities and towns. Authorities shut down internet access to the outside world Saturday, an outage that persisted Monday in the nation of 80 million.

That has left only state media and government officials to tell their story. State television showed video Tuesday of burned Qurans at a mosque in the suburbs of the capital, Tehran, as well as pro-government rallies, part of its efforts to both demonize and minimize the protests.

Absent in the coverage, though, was an acknowledgement of what sparked the demonstrations in the first place. The jump in gasoline prices represents yet another burden on Iranians who have suffered through a painful currency collapse, following President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the United States from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and the re-imposition of crippling U.S. economic sanctions.

Relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani has promised that the fuel price increase will be used to fund new subsidies for poor families. But the decision has unleashed widespread anger among Iranians, like Maryam Kazemi, a 29-year-old accountant in the southern Tehran suburb of Khaniabad, who said the new cost of fuel was “putting pressure on ordinary people.”

“It was a bad decision at a bad time. The economic situation has long been difficult for people, and Rouhani unexpectedly implemented the decision on fuel,” she said.

Amnesty said it gathered its figures from interviewing journalists and human rights activists, then cross-checked the information. In its breakdown, it showed the hardest-hit areas as the western Kermanshah province and its oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan. Many online videos released before the internet outage showed unrest there.

“Video footage shows security forces using firearms, water cannons and tear gas to disperse protests and beating demonstrators with batons,” Amnesty said. “Images of bullet casings left on the ground afterwards, as well as the resulting high death toll, indicate that they used live ammunition.”

So far, scattered reports in state-run and semiofficial media have reported only six deaths.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” about reports of live ammunition being used against demonstrators. It also urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

“We are especially alarmed that the use of live ammunition has allegedly caused a significant number of deaths across the country,” spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement.

Colville added that it has been “extremely difficult” to verify the overall death toll.

Meanwhile, an article published Tuesday in the hard-line Kayhan newspaper suggested that executions loomed for those who led violent protests. Though the state-owned newspaper has a small circulation, its managing editor Hossein Shariatmadari was personally appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Some reports say that the judiciary considers execution by hanging for the riot leaders a definite punishment,” Kahyan said, without elaborating.

It also repeated an allegation that protest leaders came from abroad. Khamenei on Sunday specifically named those aligned with the family of Iran’s late shah, ousted 40 years ago, and an exile group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. The MEK calls for the overthrow of Iran’s government and enjoys the support of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Police and security forces remained on the streets of Tehran on Tuesday, but in lower numbers. Traffic also appeared to be flowing better, after part of the demonstrations saw people abandon their cars on major roadways.

Authorities postponed four soccer matches in different parts of the country scheduled for Thursday and Friday, the Iranian weekend, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency. With the internet outage and phone services spotty, it remained difficult to know the situation in some regions.

The protests were prompted by a plunging economy. Many Iranians have seen their savings evaporate amid scarce jobs and the collapse of the national currency, the rial, since Trump withdrew Washington from the nuclear deal over a year ago and imposed sanctions. The rial now trades at over 123,000 to $1, compared to 32,000 to $1 at the time the deal took effect.

Cheap gasoline is practically considered a birthright in Iran, home to the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserves despite decades of economic woes since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Gasoline remains among the cheapest in the world, with the new prices jumping 50% to a minimum of 15,000 rials per liter. That’s 12 cents a liter, or about 50 cents a gallon. A gallon of regular gas in the U.S. costs $2.59 by comparison.

The U.N. rights office addressed that background of economic anger across Iran in its statement.

“Protests of this nature and on this scale are an indication of deep-rooted and often well-founded grievances that cannot simply be brushed aside,” Colville said.

Those grievances could be heard in Khaniabad and elsewhere around Tehran. Several described taking part in peaceful protests later hijacked by violent masked demonstrators. Others heard gunfire.

“We were out to protest the gasoline price on Saturday,” said Reza Nobari, a 33-year-old car mechanic. “Suddenly a group of six or seven who covered their faces appeared together and started to break the windows of a bank. This wasn’t what we were out for.”

Jafar Abbasi, a 58-year-old who runs a dairy, said he saw another group of people who arrived in a van smash the windows of nearby shops.

“Some looted the place and some other quickly disappeared,” he said.

He added: “This is all the result of Rouhani’s decision to increase the price of fuel.”

The post Amnesty Says at Least 106 Killed in Iran Protests appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

What Was It All For: Iranian Intel Leaks and the US Folly in Iraq

AntiWar.com News -

East Baghdad, January 25, 2007. Newly minted 1st Lieutenant Danny Sjursen, all of 23-years-old, led his scout platoon – the "Ghost Riders” – on yet another meaningless presence patrol in an increasingly aimless war, at about 9:00pm local time in the Al Amin neighborhood of Shia-majority East Baghdad. We were no longer allowed to call … Continue reading "What Was It All For: Iranian Intel Leaks and the US Folly in Iraq"

The post What <I>Was</I> It All For: Iranian Intel Leaks and the US Folly in Iraq appeared first on Antiwar.com Original.

She Can’t Vote, but 2020 Democrats Want Her Support

TruthDig.com News -

LAS VEGAS — One of the most sought-after presidential endorsements in a key early voting state is from a woman who cannot vote.

As Democrats jockey for support in Nevada, a meeting with Astrid Silva, a 31-year-old immigrant rights activist who has become a public face of the “Dreamers,” has become a can’t-miss early stop.

Silva has had dinner with Kamala Harris, policy roundtables with Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, and vegan tamales with Cory Booker. Just this week, after Pete Buttigieg saw she attended Supreme Court arguments on the program shielding her from deportation, the candidate called to make sure she knew he was supportive of her cause.

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“Presidential wannabees, when they come here —I don’t know a single one that hasn’t met with her,” said Harry Reid, the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, who helped elevate Silva’s profile during his push for immigration reform. Reid said he didn’t know if Silva would like the title of “kingmaker” but said “there’s no question in my mind that candidates are well-served to visit with her.”

Silva’s busy calendar highlights the power of Latino voters in Nevada, the third state in Democrats’ primary calendar. The state has a large immigrant community and Latinos account for roughly 19% of the electorate, according to the Pew Research Center. Many of those voters are Democrats, making Nevada’s contest a critical test of the candidates’ appeal among a group with rising political power in the party.

While immigration has taken a back seat to health care and impeachment in the national primary debate, it remains on the forefront for Nevada Democrats, many of whom want candidates to have a plan to permanently protect Dreamers and offer a path to citizenship, among a host of other changes.

One of about 13,000 young immigrants in the state temporarily shielded from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Silva has become a visible figure in the push for immigration reform since meeting Reid in 2009. President Barack Obama cited her in a 2014 immigration speech, and she spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. In 2016, she declared Hillary Clinton’s immigration plan to be the most feasible and endorsed her, helping Clinton as she won the Nevada caucuses and later carried the purple state.

If she were to endorse, “it gives that candidate the ability to say that they have been vetted by someone who is fighting with the immigrant community for the immigrant community,” said Democratic state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, a close friend of Silva. “I think that is a badge of respect that obviously candidates are actively seeking.”

Silva, who says she’s uncertain if she will endorse, is wary of giving that stamp of approval easily.

Over the last several months, she has spent hours in private meetings in Las Vegas with the candidates, usually bringing with her a team of other activists, immigrants and volunteer attorneys.

Over chips and salsa at family-run Mexican restaurants or, in Cory Booker’s case, vegan tamales and prayer at the altar in a local home, Silva has tried to focus the candidates on personal stories. She and others often described the fears immigrants face and the complexities of navigating of the U.S. immigration system. They’ve talked about victims of sexual assault who are too afraid to report to police because they don’t have legal status. They recount how family members were forced to leave and remain out of the country for up to 10 years before applying to legally rejoin their family.

“It’s very different when you’re the one that’s afraid of the police, when you’re the one that’s afraid of ICE, when you’re the one that goes to bed at night thinking, ‘Will I come home tomorrow?’” Silva said.

Silva sometimes tells them her story, about being brought at age 4 by her parents across the border from Mexico without legal permission. Until she was 26 and Nevada began issuing driver privilege cards to immigrants, she relied on the bus to get around sprawling Las Vegas. She runs a nonprofit that connects immigrants with support and legal help but says she ensures her family or friends can access her bank account to pay her bills in case her legal status changes and she ends up in an immigrant detention facility.

“Our literal everything is in somebody else’s hands,” she said. “I don’t have a say over my life.”

While meeting with candidates, her fellow Latino immigrants often give the 2020 hopefuls small tokens to remember them, like an image of St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, or an escapulario, a devotional necklace featuring the Catholic icon Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, that’s seen as a protection from bad things.

“They can’t vote. The one thing they can give is their time and literally their treasures, which is their religious artifacts,” Silva said.

Some of the candidates took pages of notes and had their staff follow up with Silva as they crafted their immigration plans, Silva says.

Booker, Warren and Harris, who had several meetings with Silva, have released Dreamer plans that would use executive action to extend protections for those already covered and allow other immigrants, like Dreamers’ family members, to apply for protection from deportation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders also has proposed extending protection to parents of legal residents, along with placing a moratorium on all deportations and allowing those without legal status to get health coverage under his Medicare for All plan. His campaign has been working to set up a meeting with Silva.

Buttigieg and Silva spoke for about five minutes by phone on Sunday.

Biden, who has not released a detailed immigration plan, has called for Congress to grant citizenship to Dreamers.

All the candidate face time hasn’t shed Silva’s worries about the Democratic field. She’s seen few candidates truly reaching out and organizing families in the immigrant community, she said. She worries that candidates will change their tune in the general election, when the fight shifts to the Rust Belt, where immigration is an issue that could drive some white, working-class voters away.

“Right now, they could be talking really nice, but when they have to go moderate, or when they have to go to the right, our families are first to be sacrificed,” Silva said. “We are the first to be on the cutting board because we don’t vote. We can’t vote.”

Others worry about campaigns thinking one activist — or one issue — alone will unlock the Latino vote.

Like other voters, Latinos care about health care, education and climate change, among other issues, said Leo Murrieta, the director of advocacy organization Make the Road Nevada.

While Silva plays an important role, candidates need to do more than just meet with her “just to check off a box,” Murrieta said.

“One person can’t possibly be asked to represent an entire population,” he said.

Meanwhile, Silva acknowledges the race for the White House has been overshadowed by the day-to-day struggles she and other immigrants are facing, which have intensified under the Trump administration.

The Supreme Court heard arguments last week about whether President Donald Trump can terminate the DACA program, and a decision in the case is expected by the end of June. Opponents on the right argue DACA protections reward people who broke the law and encourage more people to immigrate without legal permission.

Moderate Republicans have backed a path to citizenship for Dreamers, but past efforts to pass the change have repeatedly collapsed in Congress.

“If my work permit is taken away,” Silva said, “does it matter, my endorsement? Does it matter that I’m advocating for a candidate when I can’t see my family?”

The post She Can’t Vote, but 2020 Democrats Want Her Support appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Retail Sales Remain Ho-Hum

Mother Jones Magazine -

The Wall Street Journal reports that retailers are heading into the holiday season with lackluster sales:

Retailers gave a mixed read on consumer spending heading into the key holiday season, with department store chain Kohl’s Corp. and Home Depot Inc. reporting weak sales, but discounter TJX Cos. continuing to log strong sales.

Advance sales were released on Friday. Here they are:

Vehicle sales have been declining on a year-over-year basis since 2011 and dropped again last month. In October they were 5.1 percent below October sales a year ago.

Retail sales are a little more encouraging. They dropped a bit in 2019, but have recovered since then. However, they dropped last month and are currently 2.9 percent above October of last year. That’s not rockin’ and rollin’, but it’s not too bad either.

As usual these days, the upshot is that the economy is doing OK, but not great. Eventually that will change, and mostly likely we’ll be unhappy about it.

House Democrats Hand Trump ‘Authoritarian’ Surveillance Powers

TruthDig.com News -

Buried in a stopgap government funding resolution unveiled by House Democrats Monday is a provision that would reauthorize the notoriously abusive Patriot Act for three months, a move privacy advocates warned would ensure President Donald Trump’s administration holds on to “terrifying authoritarian surveillance powers.”

Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, highlighted the provision on Twitter shortly after House Democrats released the continuing resolution (pdf), which would temporarily avert a looming government shutdown by providing funding for federal agencies through December 20. A House vote on the measure is expected as early as Tuesday.

“Wow,” said Greer. “House Democrats are ignoring civil liberties and including a three month straight re-authorization of the Patriot Act (with zero reform) in the continuing resolution.”

“When the Patriot Act’s surveillance authorities were initially enacted, they came with a ‘sunset’ clause to safeguard against the exact scenario where we had an authoritarian, racist, openly fascist president,” Greer added. “And yet here we are and top Dems are still supporting reauthorization.”

Wow. House Democrats are ignoring civil liberties & including a three month straight re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act (with zero reform) in the Continuing Resolution.

Very cool way to resist Trump by ensuring he continues to have terrifying authoritarian surveillance powers. pic.twitter.com/KxiCBlPpKS

— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) November 18, 2019

The provision, which appears on the second-to-last page of the funding measure, quickly drew outrage from advocacy groups and vows of opposition from a few House lawmakers.

“Yeah that’s gonna be a no from me,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Hours later, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) echoed her colleague: “Yeah… no. Count me out.”

While the Patriot Act provision received virtually no attention in the media—reporting on the continuing resolution in NPRPoliticoRoll Call, and CNBC did not mention it—advocacy groups ramped up calls for House Democrats to reverse course.

Shame on them.

Retweet if you want Congress to repeal the Patriot Act instead of reauthorizing it. pic.twitter.com/k5noU6m2yz

— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) November 18, 2019

“The continuing resolution would reauthorize a mass surveillance authority that has never been proven useful and that has consistently broken the laws and rules governing surveillance,” tweeted Demand Progress. “Democrats must not hand this president these dangerous Patriot Act authorities.”

The post House Democrats Hand Trump ‘Authoritarian’ Surveillance Powers appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Trump Campaign Attacks Another Impeachment Witness as He Testifies

Mother Jones Magazine -

President Donald Trump’s campaign attacked Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman as he testified during Tuesday morning’s impeachment hearing. Using one of its Twitter accounts as the hearing unfolded, the campaign sought to undermine Vindman’s integrity and paint him as part of a deep-state coup leaking information to overthrow the president—a strategy echoed by Republicans across Washington in the lead-up to Vindman’s testimony.

Alexander Vindman is an unelected bureaucrat who was upset that President Trump was leading foreign policy instead of sticking to Vindman’s talking points.

He complained that what President Trump said on the July 25 call "was not in the preparation material that I had offered.”

— Trump War Room (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TrumpWarRoom) November 19, 2019

Alexander Vindman’s supervisors had serious concerns about his judgement, and testified that others raised concerns that he improperly leaked information.

Tim Morrison: “I had concerns about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman’s judgment.”

— Trump War Room (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TrumpWarRoom) November 19, 2019

Vindman is a Purple Heart recipient who serves as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. But ever since Vindman testified behind closed doors last month, Trump and his allies have sought to discredit him as someone disloyal to the president. Trump called Vindman a “Never Trumper witness.” Fox News’ Laura Ingraham described him as “working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interests.” John Yoo, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, even suggested without evidence that Vindman had committed “espionage.”

Those attacks were ramped up again on the eve of Vindman’s public testimony. “A significant number of bureaucrats and staff members within the executive branch have never accepted President Trump as legitimate and resent his unorthodox style and his intrusion onto their ‘turf,’” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wrote Monday in a letter to House Republicans. “They react by leaking to the press and participating in the ongoing effort to sabotage his policies and, if possible, remove him from office. It is entirely possible that Vindman fits this profile.”

The Republican counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, Steve Castor, also used his time at Tuesday’s hearing to raise questions about Vindman’s loyalty. Vindman’s father brought his family to the US from the Soviet Union as refugees nearly 40 years ago, a fact that Vindman raised in his opening statement. But Castor raised an incident in which a Ukrainian official offered Vindman the job of defense minister in Ukraine. Vindman laughed it off as an absurd offer and possibly a joke, and he made clear that he turned it down. 

Castor asks about Vindman being offered Ukrainian Minister of Defense earlier this year. He says he turned it down.

VINDMAN: "I'm an American. I came here when I was a toddler. I immediately dismissed these offers. Did not entertain them … the whole notion is rather comical.

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 19, 2019

The attacks on Vindman have created worries about his security. 

NEW Army is ready to relocate Lt. Col Alex Vindman and his family to an Army base to protect him. Stepped up patrols of his home and security assessment come after @realDonaldTrump & GOP allies have attacked impeachment witness.https://t.co/iM0Pa6PPD9

— Carol Leonnig (@CarolLeonnig) November 19, 2019

This isn’t the first time a witness in the impeachment inquiry has been smeared in real time. On Friday, Trump himself used Twitter to attack former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch while she testified. But the attacks on Vindman appear to be part of a more coordinated strategy to discredit a key witness. 

Most Superfund Sites Are Threatened by Climate Change. EPA Doesn’t Plan to Do Anything About It.

Mother Jones Magazine -

Two years ago, Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to determine how prepared the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was to address the threat climate change poses to Superfund sites—spaces that store hazardous materials, like coal ash ponds or decommissioned mining sites that the EPA has identified for eventual clean up. The GAO findings just have been made public in a new report, EPA Should Take Additional Actions to Manage Risks from Climate Change. And they’re troubling. The majority of Superfund sites identified are in regions threatened by extreme climate events, and the EPA largely ignored GAO’s recommendations to address those dangers.

The report comes as the result of a request submitted by a group of elected officials, including current presidential candidates Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D- N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and former 2020 candidate Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The GAO found that of more than 1,500 Superfund sites they examined, scattered across all 50 states and four territories, more than 900 are threatened by climate cahnge. As we reported when Hurricane Dorian threatened some sites last summer: 

There are thousands of contaminated sites in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency says on its website, “due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed.” And as Hurricane Dorian made landfall over the coast of North Carolina Friday and dropped heavy rainfall in the area, scientists worry about a repetition of what happened with Hurricane Harvey: Chemicals being swept up in stormwaters and spreading into nearby communities. 

The increasing number and severity of hurricanes are only one potential problem facing these sites. “What we found is that about sixty percent of the Superfund sites are at some risk of one of these climate change impacts,” says Alfredo Gómez, director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO who was in charge of the report. “The question is then, ‘How well-prepared is EPA to safeguard these sites, knowing that these risks are out there?’” As the GAO reports, the answer seems to be  not very.

GAO made four recommendations to EPA, suggesting that the agency define how its mission aligns with “actions to manage risks to human health and the environment from the potential impacts of climate change effects” at Superfund sites, and create guidelines and offer help for site managers asses climate risks and responses. It also recommended that EPA update its Superfund site map because, Gomez explained, GAO had to work with outdated mapping information, which does not take into account the fact that Superfund sites can grow and shift over time. “GAO continues to believe that all four [recommendations] are warranted,” the report reads.

In the end, EPA rejected all of the recommendations, except to update its maps, stating that “existing processes and resources adequately” address the issues at hand. Research scientist Jacob Carter at the Union of Concerned Scientists says most of the background work required to satisfy those recommendations—if the EPA chose to accept them—already had been accomplished by the previous EPA administration. “[Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response] identified different ways to adapt the Superfund sites to the impacts of climate change,” he says. “The groundwork has been done.” Carter acknowledges that the data would need updating, it’s now five years old, but that the resources necessary for that are negligible in comparison to those required for the previous work required to dig up the findings in the first place.

The consequences of inaction can be serious. Carter once described the sites as containing “the most dangerous chemicals known to mankind.” In the case of a flood “you can imagine those materials being picked up by the flood and carried outside the site,” he says, adding that during a wildfire, hazardous materials could burn into the air, infiltrating any community in the wind-flow’s direction.

These are not hypothetical scenarios, either. The GAO outlines situations in which Superfund sites have been overwhelmed by extreme weather, with subsequent serious consequences. One example is a waste pit on Texas’ San Jacinto River, a 60-year old, 40-acre site housing hazardous bleach by-products from a paper mill. In 2010, EPA required the site’s owners to install a “temporary armored cap” atop the waste. Seven years later, the cap failed under the torrent of Hurricane Harvey, and spilled the materials into the surrounding waters. According to the report, “EPA detected high levels of [hazardous materials]” in the contaminated area. In that case, it’s difficult to say whether the overhaul GAO says is missing would have led to a different outcome. But the report makes one thing certain. “In some cases,” Gómez says. “The EPA has fallen short.”

‘Community Control Over Police Should Be a Democratic Right’ - CounterSpin interview with Netfa Freeman on police militarization

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting -

Janine Jackson interviewed IPS’s Netfa Freeman about Trump’s police “surge” for the November 8, 2019, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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MP3 Link

New York Times (10/28/19)

Janine Jackson: Corporate media made Donald Trump’s recent speech to a conference of police chiefs in Chicago a story about the hate/hate relationship between Trump and the city, and in particular its black superintendent, who didn’t attend. Factchecking consisted of noting that, actually, homicides are down in Chicago, and rehashing Trump’s fabricated tale about a cop who told him he could “fix” the city’s violence “in one day.”

For the press, Trump’s comment that “Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison” was just another slam at the city, proof of how histrionic Trump is, and even how unpatriotic: He imagines the US could be as bad as someplace else. But for black communities in Chicago and elsewhere, the comparison to an occupied country isn’t outlandish at all. In fact, Trump announced an alarming plan to escalate the militarization of the police, unleashing what he called “a new crackdown on violent crime,” “targeting gangs and drug traffickers” in cities and rural areas. It will be, he said, “very dramatic”: “Let’s call it ‘The Surge.’”

What fresh horrors this administration has in mind under the guise of a new crackdown on crime ought to be of grave concern to the press. It assuredly is to communities across the country.

Joining us now to talk about that is Netfa Freeman. He’s events coordinator and policy analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Netfa Freeman.

Netfa Freeman: Thank you for having me, Janine.

JJ: Donald Trump explicitly boasted of making $600 million worth of surplus military equipment available to local law enforcement, saying, “If you remember, the previous administration didn’t want to do that…. They didn’t want to make you look so tough. They didn’t want to make you look like you’re a threat.” I didn’t read that, though, in the New York Times report, but in Jake Johnson’s piece on Common Dreams; the Times told me Trump “struck a law-and-order tone.”

Well, law enforcement being encouraged to see themselves as “at war” is a different story when you’re the enemy, right? What do you make, first of all, of media’s burying the lead on this? “Let’s call it ‘The Surge’”? I mean, the headline wrote itself. What do you make of this whole event, and of media’s kind of non-response to it?

NF: Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. I don’t think it really should be surprising, and I think it’s less about Donald Trump and their declared “surge” than it is about the intrinsic nature of law enforcement as entities for control and containment. They’re actually counterparts to what the military does abroad, is what the police do here.

I think what helps us understand it is if we understand this country as a settler colony, and settler colonialism as a system that persists. Not settlers being something in history that happened—the Pilgrims and then it’s over; it persists in terms of indigenous people’s rights being curtailed, and also in enslaved Africans being brought here. That same relationship of colonizer to colonized, particularly under the settler colonial paradigm, still exists.

And the antecedents of the police were the slave patrols, that’s where it evolved out of. And it becomes even more of an understanding if—for example, Donald Trump makes his pronouncement trying to disparage Barack Obama, but I mean, he hasn’t even reached Barack Obama’s achievement of having expanded the 1033 Program, which is the Department of Defense program that authorizes the transfer of military equipment to local police forces. Under Barack Obama, this program expanded by 2,400%. And this is not a new program, and precedes Barack Obama all the way back to 1990. It was authorized in an act called the National Defense Authorization Act of 1990, which first started it. And you also hear, with the rise of Black Lives Matter, and the concern over police killings of us with impunity and brutalization, you hear about the repair of the community’s distrust of police, instead of looking at root causes of that distrust, being the violations the police commit against the people.

JJ:  I wanted to say one thing about whatever may happen. Trump is announcing something that we’re told Attorney General Barr is going to roll out soon, and I want to just say one thing about the media coverage we’re likely to see, which is, you’re talking about getting to the actual root of what police are for. And I know that with the rollout of this, there’s going to become this distinction between violent criminals…. that this is targeted, you know, this is just about “violent criminals.”

This is the oldest strategy. We always see the aid cutoffs, pretending to distinguish between “deserving” and “undeserving” poor; we see this attempt to separate immigrants against one another. And I’m afraid that media are going to see some significance in this idea that this is a targeted crackdown. And what I wanted to say about it is, in Trump’s speech in Chicago—which media had so little interest in, relatively—he indicated how wide the de facto net was going to be. He identified the enemy when he talked about how, before him, he said, “Radical activists freely trafficked in violent anti-police hostility, and criminals grew only more emboldened as a result.”

Nobody should fool themselves that anything that calls itself being about “crime” is about crime at all.

Netfa Freeman: “The police and law enforcement are needed to sustain the status quo, and put down threats to the status quo that emanate from the people, but particularly organized and politically conscious formations and efforts.”

NF: That’s right. You hit it on the head, and we can’t divorce this development from the development of the FBI’s designation of “Black Identity Extremists,” the actual use of the 1033 Program and the militarized police in the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore, and all these things. And even in the earlier times, the real use of  SWAT, and its starting, was against the Black Panther Party. And so what they’re really seeing—and I’m referring to the purveyors of the world power elite—are threats to the system, that are really coming out of the results of neoliberal policies, which increase unemployment, which increase all these different disparities, and [they] have much more of what would be considered a surplus population that they have to contain and control.

Under the “war on drugs”, most of the people that were subject to the mass incarceration that was a result were nonviolent people dealing with drug charges (and some of them weren’t really guilty of them). So it really is something that we should be concerned with, in terms of an intensified fascism.

And not only is the media very tellingly silent, so are the Democratic candidates and policymakers who claim to be a “resistance,” and claim to be against Trump. They at least made some pronouncements of standing up to the egregious and very draconian immigration policies and the lock-up of people. This has implications for that same thing, but they’re not talking about it. And so they have to, at some point.

This is where we see the bipartisan consensus: The police and law enforcement are needed to sustain the status quo, and put down threats to the status quo that emanate from the people, but particularly organized and politically conscious formations and efforts.

JJ:  Well, yes, and going right from that, I think we do see people, despite the void of corporate media—and the stories that I saw on this, I would say again, were independent media, some college media, and also libertarians, who are concerned about the feds getting involved in local law enforcement — but even around those media voids, we see people pushing back at a deeper level, at a more structural level, not only protesting when police kill somebody, for example, but recognizing when criminality is being manufactured—and I’m thinking about here in New York, with this new crackdown on people who don’t pay subway fares.

New York Post (11/2/19)

We saw major action just this week, with Decolonize This Place and others—“cop-hating law breakers” as the New York Post had it—converging to protest and to say, “We’re not going to turn against ourselves. We don’t buy your divisions of ‘criminal’ and ‘law-abiding,’ we don’t respect that whole system.”

So I know you’re involved with Black Alliance for Peace, on that Coordinating Committee. I see trouble, but I also see hope, and I wonder if you can leave us with what folks are doing.

NF:  Yeah, we should really boost up some of these programs and campaigns that are on the ground. The Black Alliance for Peace recently launched, it’s been a few months now, our campaign “Defeat War Against African/Black People in the US and Abroad,” making the links between the militarization of the world, particularly AFRICOM, the US Africa command, and the 1033 Program here. The campaign is focused on mass incarceration, police exchanges with Israel — which we really need to pay attention to, it speaks to the shared settler colonial nature, and why they have so much interest together, the police in Israel and here train each other, and share different ways of controlling the population, the so-called “exposing” of elected officials, making them take a position, rather, on things like the Blue Lives Matter bill, that makes it a hate crime to assault a police officer (which, we know, the assault of police officers can be really misused). That campaign is trying to nationalize and get louder voices around this militarization of police, and the repression that ends up happening within black and brown working-class communities.

An organization that I’m in, it’s a member organization of the Black Alliance for Peace, is Pan-African Community Action (PACA), here in Washington, DC. And one of the campaigns that we have, that’s also within the policy platforms of the Movement for Black Lives, is Community Control Over Police, asserting that the communities that have these armed forces in them should be able to decide who these armed forces are, what the priorities of these armed forces are, who gets to be police, what happens if they do something, you know, misconduct, if they get fired—they’d have the power to do that. Not advocate to review boards or oversights or anything, but actually have a democratic process of community control over public safety and police, which is something that is possible to have, and should be the democratic right of people.

And we’re not the only ones doing that. There’s other formations around the country that are calling for community control of the police, which is a just thing that shifts power and takes it out of the traditional legacy that police grow out of, and makes “Protect and Serve” a real policy, versus some kind of public relations ploy.

And so those are the kind of things that we have going on, and I think people should check into that, and look at the history and the role and purpose, and how the militarization of the police and the US trajectory to militarize the world, how they’re related.

JJ: Absolutely. Well, community control of police; we’ve been talking on the show about community control of banks, public control of utilities; the community control of police seems absolutely of a piece with that. It seems like an idea that ten years ago, I’m not sure what people would have said, but I think folks are more than ready to have that kind of conversation right now.

NF: If I can say that the history of it goes back to the Black Panther Party, during the ’60s; they actually got it as a referendum on the ballot, which is what we’re trying to do, in ballot initiative. And almost won, in Oakland, I think; it was California, but I’m not sure if it was Oakland specifically. And it had to be actually sabotaged, in terms of the campaign, for them to lose; they lost by a very close margin. But that’s where the history comes from.

JJ:  The work that you’re doing is linking, of course, black people in the United States and in Africa and elsewhere. And I think seeing Americans through an international prism, you know, and thinking about communities that are affected by police brutality, and the way that they would be looked at by a UN rapporteur, for example. It’s an unusual position, I think, for a lot of US citizens. And I think it’s a useful prism. It’s a hopeful way forward, I think, to think about making these connections across across national borders.

NF: Yes it is, and it’s very necessary, and it helps people get out of the American exceptionalism that manifests itself in more than the obvious ways, just the fact that the United States can put sanctions on a country, for some so-called benevolent purpose, and have no more moral authority, or legitimacy, to be able to do such a thing… and have their troops all around the world and all kinds of US command forces, networks all around the world, at the expense of people here, in terms of basic human needs, and things like universal healthcare and education that they could be funding, and also at the expense of the safety and livelihood of people outside of this country. So we really have to, like what you mentioned, this is our effort to try to establish a real internationalism.

JJ:  We’ve been speaking with Netfa Freeman, events coordinator and policy analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies. Netfa Freeman, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

NF: Thank you.


Top White House Aides Call Trump ‘Improper,’ ‘Unusual’

TruthDig.com News -

WASHINGTON — One top national security aide who listened to President Donald Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s president called it “improper.” Another said it was “unusual.” The two testified Tuesday at House impeachment hearings as the inquiry reached deeper into the White House.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer at the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, his counterpart at Vice President Mike Pence’s office, said they had concerns as Trump spoke on July 25 with the newly elected Ukrainian president about political investigations into Democrat Joe Biden.

“What I heard was inappropriate,” Vindman told lawmakers.

Related Articles by by Common Dreams by

The two led off a pivotal week featuring testimony from nine witnesses in all as the House’s impeachment inquiry accelerates. Democrats say Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden as he withheld U.S. military aid that Ukraine needed to resist Russian aggression may be grounds for removing the 45th president.

Trump says he did no such thing in his call with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the Democrats just want him gone.

Vindman, a 20-year military officer arrived at Capitol Hill in military blue with a chest full of service medals, and said he reported his concerns “out of a sense of duty.”

He did so, he said, “because they had significant national security implications for our country.”

Williams, a career State Department official who has worked for three presidential administrations and counts former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a “personal hero,” said the phone call was the first time she had heard anyone specifically seeking investigations from Ukraine.

“The reference to Biden sounded political to me,” she said. Williams said the call was “unusual because the specific reference to Joe Biden and his son Hunter “struck me as political in nature.”

Vindman, an immigrant who arrived in the U.S. as a toddler from Ukraine, told the panel he was grateful his father brought the family to the U.S. 40 years ago and for “the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.”

In the audience was his twin brother, also an official at the National Security Council and among those he told about his concerns over Trump’s phone call.

Addressing his father, Vindman said, “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”

Gaveling open the second week of live televised hearings, the Democratic chairman leading the probe, Rep. Adam Schiff, noted that Trump tweeted against Williams over the weekend and Vindman has seen “far more scurrilous attacks” on his character by the president’s allies.

Schiff, who has warned that the president’s attacks on others in the impeachment inquiry could be seen as intimidation, said the witnesses “are here because they were subpoenaed to appear, not because they are for or against impeachment. That question is for Congress.”

Schiff said that both Williams and Vindman noted the use of the word “Burisma” on the call. That’s a reference to the gas company in Ukraine where Hunter Biden served on the board.

They both said Zelenskiy had mentioned it on the call, but testified it was missing from the rough transcript released by the White House.

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. David Nunes, began the hearing with an extended attack on the media and dismissed last week’s testimony as “secondhand and thirdhand conversations.” He blasted the hearing as a “hoax.”

Both witnesses have testified in earlier, closed-door sessions and received subpoenas to appear Tuesday. Their depositions have been publicly released.

Williams testified the call was unlike about a dozen others she had heard from presidents over her career. Vindman said Trump’s remarks strayed from the talking points prepared for the president.

“Without hesitation, I knew I had to report this,” Vindman testified. “It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to demand an investigation into a political opponent.”

At the time, the officials were just beginning to make the link with the stalled military aid, $391 million approved by Congress, that Ukraine was relying on as it confronts neighboring Russia.

Vindman said the uneven power dynamic between the presidents of the East European ally and the U.S. made the demand obvious.

“The culture I come from, the military culture, when a senior asks you to do something … it’s not be taken as a request, it’s to be taken as an order.”

It wasn’t the first time Vindman, a decorated Iraq War veteran, was alarmed over the administration’s push to have Ukraine investigate Democrats, he testified.

Earlier, during an unsettling July 10 meeting at the White House, Ambassador Gordon Sondland told visiting Ukraine officials that they would need to “deliver” before next steps, which was a meeting Zelenskiy wanted with Trump, the officer testified.

“He was talking about the 2016 elections and an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma,” Vindman testified, referring to the gas company in Ukraine where Biden’s son Hunter served on the board.

“The Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens,” he said. “There was no ambiguity.”

On both occasions, Vindman said, he took his concerns about the shifting Ukraine policy to the lead counsel at the NSC, John Eisenberg.

When the White House produced a rough transcript later that day, she put it in the vice president’s briefing materials. “I just don’t know if he read it,” Williams testified earlier in her closed-door House interview.

Pence’s role throughout the impeachment inquiry has been unclear, and the vice president’s aide was questioned by lawmakers looking for answers.

Trump has assailed Williams, associating her with “Never Trumpers,” even though there is no indication she has shown any partisanship.

Under earlier questioning, Republicans wanted Vindman to disclose who else he may have spoken to about his concerns, as the GOP inches closer to publicly naming the still anonymous whistleblower whose report sparked the inquiry.

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, who was deeply involved in other White House meetings about Ukraine, offered a sneak preview of this strategy late Monday when he compared Vindman, a Purple Heart veteran, to the “bureaucrats” who “never accepted Trump as legitimate.”

The White House has instructed officials not to appear, and most have received congressional subpoenas to compel their testimony.

Later Tuesday afternoon, the House was to hear from former NSC official Timothy Morrison and Kurt Volker, the former Ukraine special envoy.

The witnesses are testifying under penalty of perjury, and Sondland already has had to amend his earlier account amid contradicting testimony from other current and former U.S. officials.

Sondland, the wealthy donor whose routine boasting about his proximity to Trump has brought the investigation to the president’s doorstep, is set to testify Wednesday. Others have testified that he was part of a shadow diplomatic effort with the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, outside of official channels that raised alarms.

Morrison has referred to Burisma as a “bucket of issues” — the Bidens, Democrats, investigations — he had tried to “stay away” from.

Sondland met with a Zelenskiy aide on the sidelines of a Sept. 1 gathering in Warsaw, and Morrison, who was watching the encounter from across the room, testified that the ambassador told him moments later he pushed the Ukrainian for the Burisma investigation as a way for Ukraine to gain access to the military funds.

Volker provided investigators with a package of text messages with Sondland and another diplomat, William Taylor, the charge d’affaires in Ukraine, who grew alarmed at the linkage of the investigations to the aid.

Taylor, who testified publicly last week, called that “crazy.”

A hotelier who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, Sondland is the only person interviewed to date who had direct conversations with the president about the Ukraine situation.

Morrison said Sondland and Trump had spoken about five times between July 15 and Sept. 11 — the weeks that the U.S. assistance was withheld from Ukraine before it was released.


Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Zeke J. Miller, Laurie Kellman, Colleen Long, Eric Tucker and Jill Colvin in Washington and Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

The post Top White House Aides Call Trump ‘Improper,’ ‘Unusual’ appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.


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