John Prine, the ingenious singer-songwriter who explored the heartbreaks, indignities and absurdities of everyday life in “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There” and scores of other indelible tunes, died Tuesday at the age of 73.
His family announced his death from complications from the coronavirus; he died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
His wife, Fiona, said last month that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and she has since recovered, but her husband was hospitalized on March 26 with coronavirus symptoms. He was put on a ventilator and remained in the intensive care unit for several days.
Winner of a lifetime achievement Grammy earlier this year, Prine was a virtuoso of the soul, if not the body. He sang his lyrics in a voice roughened by a hard-luck life, particularly after throat cancer left him with a disfigured jaw.
He joked that he fumbled so often on the guitar, taught to him as a teenager by his older brother, that people thought he was inventing a new style. But his open-heartedness, eye for detail and sharp and surreal humor brought him the highest admiration from critics, from such peers as Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson, and from younger stars such as Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves, who even named a song after him.
In 2017, Rolling Stone proclaimed him “The Mark Twain of American songwriting.”
Prine began playing as a young Army veteran who invented songs to fight boredom while delivering the U.S. mail in Maywood, Illinois. He and his friend, folk singer Steve Goodman, were still polishing their skills at the Old Town School of Folk Music when Kristofferson, a rising star at the time, heard them sing one night in Chicago and invited them to share his stage in New York City. The late film critic Roger Ebert, then with the Chicago Sun-Times, also saw one of his shows and declared him an “extraordinary new composer.”
Suddenly noticed by America’s most popular folk, rock and country singers, Prine signed with Atlantic Records and released his first album in 1971.
“I was really into writing about characters, givin’ ’em names,” Prine said, reminiscing about his long career in a January 2016 public television interview that was posted on his website.
“You just sit and look around you. You don’t have to make up stuff. If you just try to take down the bare description of what’s going on, and not try to over-describe something, then it leaves space for the reader or the listener to fill in their experience with it, and they become part of it.”
He was among the many promoted as a “New Dylan” and among the few to survive it and find his own way. Few songwriters could equal his wordplay, his empathy or his imagination.
“I try to look through someone else’s eyes,” he told Ebert in 1970.
His characters were common people and confirmed eccentrics, facing the frustrations and pleasures anyone could relate to. “Sam Stone” traces the decline of a drug-addicted Vietnam veteran through the eyes of his little girl.
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CNN to Begin Mass Layoffs, CEO Says
CNN CEO Chris Licht informed employees in a recent email that a new round of layoffs is underway. CNN recently had a round of layoffs in September, which included Brian Stelter and the demotion of Don Lemon.
The email begins, “Our people are the heart and soul of this organization. It is incredibly hard to say goodbye to any one member of the CNN team, much less many. I recently described this process as a gut punch, because I know that is how it feels for all of us.
“Today we will notify a limited number of individuals, largely some of our paid contributors, as part of a recalibrated reporting strategy.
“Tomorrow, we will notify impacted employees, and tomorrow afternoon I will follow up with more details on these changes. It will be a difficult time for everyone. If your job has been impacted, you will learn more through an in-person meeting or via Zoom, depending on your location. In those meetings, you will receive information specific to you about notice period or any severance that would apply, and your anticipated last day. I want to be clear that everyone who is bonus eligible will still receive their 2022 bonuses, which are determined by company performance,” the email states.
“I know these changes affect both our departing colleagues and those who remain, and we have resources designed to support you. I will include a link to those resources in my follow up email tomorrow. Let’s take care of each other this week,” it concludes.
CNN has attempted to embrace a “middle ground” vision of reporting since Chris Licht took over as CNN president in February after disgraced former boss Jeff Zucker was ousted due to a salacious affair scandal. Licht said in June that he wanted to reduce the partisan nature of some of the network’s programming and on-air personalities.
Licht promised to prune the network in order to reduce its partisanship.
CNN has been plagued with consistent low viewership ratings in recent months. Earlier in August, reports emerged that the network was on the “hunt for new revenue” as their ratings plummeted. Their profits have slumped steeply since 2016, reflecting the energy the channel poured into reporting on former President Donald Trump.
Dems Elect Hard-Left Rep. Hakeem Jeffries To Succeed Pelosi as House Leader
House Democrats on Wednesday elected New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries — who has repeatedly painted conservatives as racists — as their leader, making him the successor to Nancy Pelosi, who led the House Democrats for decades and served as speaker when her party was in the majority.
Jeffries’ leftist rhetoric over the years has included saying of Kyle Rittenhouse, “Lock up Kyle Rittenhouse and throw away the key,” prompting Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) to fire back, “If this isn’t proof that the Democrat Party has largely departed from American principles of neutrally applied justice and the right of self-defense, then I don’t know what is.”
If this isn’t proof that the Democrat Party has largely departed from American principles of neutrally applied justice and the right of self-defense, then I don’t know what is. https://t.co/WYsTAw3PeU
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 11, 2021
In July 2021, Jeffries, who was named one of seven impeachment managers by Pelosi in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump, ripped Republicans for their efforts to restore election integrity across the nation while branding them as racists, tweeting, “The Civil War ended in 1865 and the racists lost. Get over it.”
Crenshaw fired back on Twitter with a blunt reminder of exactly which party had the history of racism, snapping, “You’re right, the Democrats lost.”
You’re right, the Democrats lost. https://t.co/fapklELoeh
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) July 14, 2021
Appearing on Spectrum News NY1, Jeffries was asked if President Biden had exaggerated when he called measures such as voter ID and tighter control of mail-in ballots “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.”
“He’s not exaggerating at all,” Jeffries replied. “The Republican party has adopted voter suppression as an electoral strategy. Which is a shame because the modern history here in America post the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has largely been — this was a settled question. The right to vote was a sacred thing, an important part of our democracy.”
Jeffries implied that Republican efforts stemmed from racist reaction to the election of Barack Obama, calling the GOP efforts part of a “voter suppression epidemic.”
In February 2022, Jeffries attacked the legitimacy of the conservative members of the Supreme Court.
“Supreme Court majority has zero legitimacy,” he tweeted. “Ghosts of the confederacy are alive and well.”
The Supreme Court majority has zero legitimacy.
Ghosts of the confederacy are alive and well.
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) February 8, 2022
In September, Jeffries claimed that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and fellow Republican and Texas Governor Greg Abbott were “behaving like human traffickers” after DeSantis sent 50 illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard.
DeSantis, who served three terms in Congress before becoming the Sunshine State’s governor, fired back at his former House colleague, noting that the Biden administration has been moving illegal immigrants around the country since coming to power.
“When Biden is flying these people all over the fruited plain in the middle of the night, I didn’t hear a peep out of those people,” DeSantis said.
Visibly Nervous FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Speaks Publicly for First Time
FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, claimed during an interview on Wednesday that he never tried to commit fraud against anyone at the now-bankrupt company.
The company filed for bankruptcy earlier this month after customers discovered that firms controlled by Bankman-Fried and his associates were allegedly fraudulently intertwined, triggering a liquidity crisis as customers hurried to withdraw funds. A number of individual users and institutional clients still have as much as $8 billion remaining with the company.
“I didn’t ever try to commit fraud on anyone,” Bankman-Fried said during an interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the Dealbook Summit. “I saw it as a thriving business and I was shocked by what happened this month.”
“What are your lawyers telling you right now?” Sorkin asked. “Are they suggesting it’s a good idea for you to be speaking?”
“No, they’re very much not,” he responded. “The time that I really knew there was a problem was November 6. When we looked at that, there was a potential serious problem.”
When asked if he was in the Bahamas because he believes that he can’t leave, SBF responded by claiming that he runs the company in the Bahamas and that he believes that organizations around the world might still “want” his help.
In his first live interview since the crypto firm he founded collapsed, Sam Bankman-Fried said he had “made a lot of mistakes” and “didn’t ever try to commit fraud on anyone.” Watch his conversation with @andrewrsorkin live: https://t.co/Zq5v4GdS5A pic.twitter.com/bRRqjwnVo0
— DealBook (@dealbook) November 30, 2022
“How concerned are you about criminal liability at this point?” Sorkin asked.
“So, I don’t think that, I mean, obviously I don’t, I don’t personally think that I have, you know–, but I think the real answer is it’s not, sounds weird to say but, but I think the real answer is that’s not what I’m focusing on,” SBF answered. “It’s, there’s gonna be a time and a place for me to sort of think about myself and my own future, but I don’t think this is it.”
“Like, right now, I mean, look, I’ve had a bad month,” SBF continued as the crowd erupted in laughter. “This has not been fun for me.”
SBF said he was focused on doing everything he could to help out all the millions of people that were hurt by his actions.
Al Roker Rushed Back to Hospital Via Ambulance Amid Health Issues
Al Roker was rushed back to the hospital via ambulance the day after Thanksgiving amid his ongoing health scare due to blood clots.
The beloved “Today” anchor fell ill on Friday — just a day after he missed hosting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the first time in 27 years due to having just been released from the hospital.
The popular weatherman, 68, was taken away by ambulance as his frantic wife, Deborah Roberts, attempted to break into their malfunctioned Tesla to retrieve her mobile phone to follow her husband to the uptown Manhattan hospital, sources say.
ABC News journalist Roberts, 62, tried to smash her way through a reinforced glass window on the front side of the car with the help of a neighbor outside their Upper East Side home, say witnesses.
One witness told Page Six, “Al was taken from his home in a stretcher back to the hospital on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. His condition was worrying, but once back in the hospital, he improved.
“His wife, Deborah, was understandably very upset. She had left her phone and other possessions inside their Tesla, which had malfunctioned and wouldn’t unlock, so she was trying to smash in a window.”
The onlooker said Roberts’ attempt to retrieve her belongings from inside the electric vehicle was “unsuccessful.”
“Deborah then went to the hospital by taxi with her daughter, where Al has since been surrounded by his family.”
Roker will also miss Wednesday’s Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting, it was announced today.
Roker and Roberts — who have been married since 1995 — share daughter Leila, 24, and son Nicholas, 20. The meteorologist also has daughter Courtney, 35, with ex-wife Alice Bell.
Page Six reported earlier this month that Roker was hospitalized due to blood clots in his leg and lungs. The condition may be fatal if not discovered and treated early enough.
“Last week I was admitted to the hospital with a blood clot in my leg which sent some clots into my lungs,” Roker wrote on Instagram on Nov. 18.
“After some medical whack-a-mole, I am so fortunate to be getting terrific medical care and on the way to recovery. Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers and hope to see you soon.”
On Thanksgiving, he posted a video of himself walking the hospital corridors and wrote how grateful he was to be going home.
“So much to be #thankful for on the #thanksgiving day. Leaving the hospital and home for #thanksgivingdinner,” he captioned the clip.
The ever-cheery anchor joked that his hospital departure was his “version of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
Later that day, the weathercaster uploaded a picture of himself watching the parade hosted by his “Today” colleagues Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, plus fellow meteorologist and anchor Dylan Dreyer.
He wrote, “Back home in time to catch a little bit of the #macysthanksgivingparade. Missing being next to @savannahguthrie and @hodakotb.”
He also posted a photo of himself and his family, including wife Deborah and kids Courtney, Leila and Nicholas, writing, “So very #thankful to be able to be home for #thanksgivingdinner #dinner with #family.”
A second source told us that Roker was staying “positive,” despite his health concerns.
“Al is the most positive, upbeat, energetic person. Everyone is rooting for him.”
A spokesperson for “Today” told Page Six, “Al is forging ahead on the road to recovery. He has the unwavering love and support of Deborah, his children, and his entire TODAY family.
“He is beyond grateful for the outpouring of well-wishes, and we cannot wait for him to be back with us in studio and with our viewers at home.”
A spokesperson for Tesla didn’t immediately get back to us about Roberts’ lockout, an issue that reportedly happens after the car’s battery dies.
Philly Filmmaker Dies ‘Suddenly in His Sleep’ at Age 45 on Thanksgiving
Frank Tartaglia, a filmmaker and beloved fixture in the south Philadelphia arts scene, died suddenly last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Here’s how writer Mike Newall described Tartaglia’s passing:
On Thanksgiving Day, just weeks after his first major film headlined the Philadelphia Festival to positive reviews, Frank Tartaglia died suddenly in his sleep at his family home in South Philadelphia. He was 45. The family said they did not yet know the cause of death. Family members said they were shocked — and that he had been in good health and excited about the success of his film.
Tartaglia was described as a “writer, filmmaker, comedian, painter, singer, and arts enthusiast, who first found show business success as a childhood performer,” the Inquirer said, adding that he was “celebrated as much for his endless originality, sweet nature, and outgoing personality as for his openness about the struggles of living a creative life, and his unflagging encouragement for those who chose the same path.”
Tartaglia’s brother Joseph died in 2013 at the age of 44 after a six-month bout with an aggressive form of brain cancer, the paper added.
“That spirit, that energy, the color they brought to the entire neighborhood — it’s irreplaceable,” Peter Pelullo, co-owner of Connie’s Ric Rac club with the Tartaglia brothers, told the Inquirer. “There is never going to be another Frankie — his whole spirit was creative.”
The Ric Rac — a storefront near Ninth and Washington that the Tartaglia brothers’ dad gave them in 2006 — became a gathering spot for local artists but closed permanently during the pandemic in 2021, the paper said.
“It really did become a sort of public living room on Ninth Street for artists,” improv comedian PK Kelly recalled to the Inquirer. “If there was a crack in the door, I would pop in to find something special happening behind the doors.”
By age 11, Frank Tartaglia got into an HBO kids’ comedian contest; at 15, he and a friend won the $10,000 grand prize on “America’s Funniest People”; and soon he was writing — still in his teens — for MTV comedy show “Squirt TV,” the paper said.
He also fronted a rock band, the Discount Heroes, the Inquirer noted. Here’s a clip of Tartaglia (left) singing with cofounder of the group Robert Ogus in 2011:
“He was endlessly fascinating, a Dickens character straight out of South Philly, full of droll self-awareness and a never-ending knack for helping to amplify the creative spark of hundreds of dreamers who wandered in and out of Connie’s Ric Rac over the years,” James Doolittle, a Philadelphia producer and longtime friend, told the paper.
Tartaglia also worked on numerous film projects over the years, and the Inquirer noted that his first major film, the recently released crime drama “Not for Nothing” — based in south Philly and starring actor Mark Webber — was praised by critics as a “gripping tale.”
Here’s a behind-the-scenes vignette about creating “Not for Nothing,” in which Tartaglia and others offer commentary. (Content warning: language):
“It hadn’t happened yet, but he was going to be huge,” Pelullo added to the paper.
Tartaglia’s family will greet relatives and friends Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Burial Company funeral home at 1327 Broad St., the Inquirer noted. A celebration of his life will be held Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at Casa Mexico at 1132 S. South 9th St., the paper said. The interment is private, the Inquirer said, and in lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Tartaglia’s memory to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN, 38105.
Bill Clinton Tests Positive for COVID-19, Urges People to Get Vaccinated and Boosted
Former President Bill Clinton announced that he tested positive for COVID-19, noted that he is thankful he is vaccinated and boosted, and encouraged others to get the vaccine jabs as well.
“I’ve tested positive for Covid. I’ve had mild symptoms, but I’m doing fine overall and keeping myself busy at home. I’m grateful to be vaccinated and boosted, which has kept my case mild, and I urge everyone to do the same, especially as we move into the winter months,” he tweeted.
I’ve tested positive for Covid. I’ve had mild symptoms, but I’m doing fine overall and keeping myself busy at home.
I’m grateful to be vaccinated and boosted, which has kept my case mild, and I urge everyone to do the same, especially as we move into the winter months.
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) November 30, 2022
Clinton served as president from early 1993 though early 2001. His wife Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election to Republican candidate Donald Trump — she had previously served as secretary of state during a portion of President Barack Obama’s White House tenure and, before that, as a U.S. senator from the state of New York.
Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19.
“Well, I’ve tested positive for COVID. I’ve got some mild cold symptoms but am feeling fine. I’m more grateful than ever for the protection vaccines can provide against serious illness. Please get vaccinated and boosted if you haven’t already!” she tweeted in March.
Earlier this month, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry tested positive for COVID-19.
“Secretary Kerry is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt,” spokesperson Whitney Smith said in a statement, according to the New York Times. “He is fully vaccinated and boosted and experiencing mild symptoms.”
Last month, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky tested positive, took a course of Paxlovid, tested negative, but then tested positive again.
“COVID-19 vaccines may not prevent every infection, but they do provide us important protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. My updated #COVID19 vaccine helped ensure my immune system was equipped to protect me against severe illness,” Walensky noted earlier this month in a tweet.
COVID-19 vaccines may not prevent every infection, but they do provide us important protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. My updated #COVID19 vaccine helped ensure my immune system was equipped to protect me against severe illness.
— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) November 8, 2022
Prince William’s Godmother Resigns After Asking Black Guest ‘Unacceptable’ Question
A Buckingham Palace official has resigned after she allegedly asked a black guest where she “really came from.”
The late Queen Elizabeth II’s lady-in-waiting, Susan Hussey, made the remarks during an event that took place at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, per the BBC. The publication noted that she asked the background question of charity founder Ngozi Fulani.
Fulani said she was “totally stunned” by Hussey’s comments. The 83-year-old former royal official is Prince William’s godmother.
A spokesperson for Prince William said “racism has no place in our society” and called the comments “unacceptable,” saying that “it is right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect.”
Eyewitness Mandu Reid, who is leader of the Women’s Equality Party, told BBC News that she found the comments by Hussey to be “offensive, racist and unwelcoming.” She also recalled having a “sense of incredulity” upon hearing the question.
“We take this incident extremely seriously and have investigated immediately to establish the full details,” Buckingham Palace shared in a statement.
“In this instance, unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments have been made. We have reached out to Ngozi Fulani on this matter, and are inviting her to discuss all elements of her experience in person if she wishes,” the statement continued.
“In the meantime, the individual concerned would like to express her profound apologies for the hurt caused and has stepped aside from her honorary role with immediate effect. All members of the household are being reminded of the diversity and inclusivity policies which they are required to uphold at all times.”
Fulani was attending the reception at Buckingham Palace as a representative of London-based charity Sistah Space, which supports African and Caribbean women who have experienced domestic and sexual abuse, the publication noted.
This isn’t the first time the royal family and employees have been accused of racist behavior. Former senior working royal Meghan Markle, who is half black, claimed during an interview with Oprah Winfrey that a royal family member had questioned what skin tone her children would have.
Markle said that individual expressed “concerns” over her son Archie’s skin tone and “how dark the baby’s going to be potentially and what that would mean or look like.”
Prince Harry corroborated his wife’s story but refused to identify which person made the statements. “That conversation I’m never going to share,” Harry said.
Fitness Celebrity ‘Liver King’ Claimed to Be All Natural. Alleged Leaked Email Says Otherwise.
A man who has gained fame online by showing off his ripped physique while claiming that he eats raw liver and bone marrow has allegedly been revealed to have been on a hardcore regimen of steroids despite claiming that he does not do steroids.
Brian Johnson, who goes by “Liver King,” claims that he was bullied growing up and so decided to get jacked to be “able to impose my will.”
“I took ownership and I ran towards my demons. I led myself to confidence and I created a new life for myself … a life that I wanted to live in,” he claims. “That was my rite of passage, and it changed me and it forged me into the evolutionary hunter, the unrelenting fighter, the serial ancestral entrepreneur, that I am today. Thirty years later (now ), I’m in the best shape of my life.”
“If you’re asking what changed … that’s simple. I started putting back in what the modern world left out. #BeforeAncestralLiving,” he added.
A YouTuber named Derek, who runs the highly popular channel More Plates More Dates, revealed this week an email that he claims that he got from the Liver King last year that allegedly shows the thousands of dollars of steroids that he consumes every month.
The alleged email states in-part:
As it relates to my goals, I’m the face of several brands, including Ancestral Supplements, and I’ve just hired a team to build the Liver King brand with the goal of 1MM followers by March 2022 — I’m pouring ridiculous resources into making this happen including hosting a video guy, that will be living at my guest house, and a film crew that will be filming 7 days a month… stated, I have to stay in great f***ing shape year-round (maybe take 1-2 months off / year). Here’s a clip of where I’m at currently: [Instagram link]
I’ve been working out for 35 years. I know how to eat, train, rest and recover (I even have a hardshell hyperbaric chamber at my house)… but… as I’ve reached my mid-forties, it’s getting harder and the back fat f***ing kills me. To support these exhaustive efforts, I’ve recently started taking Omnitrope… the 5.8MG vials from Empower Pharmacy ($11K USD per month for my new dose which is 4 vials / week – 16 vials / month). I don’t know if this s*** is grossly underdosed or what but I have been taking 2 vials per week and my IGF-1 is only at 139 (see recent labs below). My doctor told me that I could double it in an effort to get to the upper 200s/ low 300s. She thinks I could be a hyper non-responder??? I’m wondering if taking a f***load of other peptides could be confounding the results and possibly interfering with efficacy. For instance, here’s what I’m currently taking….
- IGF-1 LR — been taking this for a year
- CJC w/ Imap — been taking this for a year
- Ibutamoren – been taking this for 2 months
- Omnitrope – been taking this for 6 weeks
- Test[osterone] cyp[ionate] 0.6cc per week – cruise dose
- Decca [Nandrolone] 0.6cc per week — been taking this for 3 weeks
- Winstrol 50mg / day (just started this) — been taking this for 3 weeks
Joe Rogan, host of the “The Joe Rogan Experience,” has weighed in on the Liver King in the past, saying that it is absurd for people to believe he is not on steroids.
“The Liver King thing drives me nuts,” Rogan said. “Because that guy’s on steroids. Just, shut the f*** up. I know he’s eating really healthy. It’s clear he’s eating all these animal foods and, you know, he’s eating organ meat which is very rich in nutrients. All that is true, but he’s dodging the main bullet.”
“Look at him,” he continued. “Do you know how rare it is to have a physique like that and not be on steroids?”
Why would you eat a vegetable when you eat a testicle 💀 RIP Primals pic.twitter.com/MNyfaVUaZn
— OutKick (@Outkick) November 29, 2022
The Liver King has not yet responded to the allegations made by More Plates More Dates.
Here Are the 12 Senate Republicans Who Helped Pass Same-Sex Marriage Bill
Twelve Senate Republicans on Tuesday supported final approval of a bill securing federal protections for same-sex marriage, allowing it to surpass the 60-vote threshold needed for passage.
The Republicans in the upper chamber who backed the bill were:
- Sens. Susan Collins (Maine)
- Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
- Rob Portman (Ohio)
- Thom Tillis (N.C.)
- Mitt Romney (Utah)
- Roy Blunt (Mo.)
- Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.)
- Richard Burr (N.C.)
- Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.)
- Dan Sullivan (Alaska)
- Joni Ernst (Iowa)
- Todd Young (Ind.)
The GOP senators’ support came as no surprise since they all supported advancing the legislation in a series of recent votes, and Tuesday’s 61-36 vote now sends the legislation back to the House, which previously passed a similar version.
Three of the bill’s Republican supporters — Collins, Portman and Tillis — served as lead negotiators.
The five-member group, which also included Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), had punted the legislation until after the midterm elections to improve its chances of passing, also adding provisions to alleviate some Republicans’ religious liberty concerns.
“Tonight, the Senate took a historic step to help prevent discrimination, promote equality and protect the rights of all Americans by passing the Respect for Marriage Act that @SenatorBaldwin and I authored,” Collins wrote on Twitter. “Our bill would help ensure everyone is treated with respect and dignity.”
Blunt, who had publicly expressed support for the delay, cited the religious liberty protection additions in voting for the bill.
Blunt, Portman and Burr did not seek reelection this year and will retire from the upper chamber in January.
Some Republicans who supported the bill, including Lummis, said they did so while personally disagreeing with gay marriage.
“Wyoming is the Equality State, and while I firmly believe marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman, I respect that others hold different beliefs,” Lummis said in a statement, citing her state’s constitution.
Romney, who earlier this fall was still undecided on the bill, similarly voiced approval after the Mormon church announced it supported the legislation. Romney is a longtime active member of the church.
“While I believe in traditional marriage, Obergefell is and has been the law of the land upon which LGBTQ individuals have relied. This legislation provides certainty to many LGBTQ Americans, and it signals that Congress — and I — esteem and love all of our fellow Americans equally,” Romney wrote in a statement after an earlier vote to advance the legislation.
With the exception of Sen. Raphael Warnock, who missed Tuesday’s vote as he campaigned for Georgia’s upcoming runoff, all Senate Democrats supported the legislation.
Retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who previously opposed a procedural vote on the bill, also missed the vote, in addition to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).
Kari Lake Doesn’t Concede After Maricopa County Certifies Results
Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake did not concede on Monday after Maricopa County certified its election results in favor of Democrat Katie Hobbs and said she is “firmly in this fight.”
“I want you to know that I am firmly in this fight with you,” Lake said in a video released on Twitter shortly after the election results were certified in Arizona’s most populous county. “Maricopa County just couldn’t wait to certify their botched election,” she said.
Citing issues reported by Maricopa County officials and voters on Nov. 8, Lake then said that “Election Day voting centers were inoperable” and said that “Arizonans were expected to wait in line two, three, four, even five hours” to cast a ballot.
Lake, a former television news anchor backed by former President Donald Trump, said that she is currently working with lawyers on a legal case to challenge the election in Maricopa County. It came after her team filed a lawsuit last week against officials there.
“State statute requires certification before our case can move forward,” Lake asserted. “You know how hard I worked on the campaign trail leading our movement to bring common sense solutions to our problems. I am taking that same work ethic and using it behind the scenes right now, building a strong legal case.”
In the Twitter video, Lake did not elaborate on the nature of her next lawsuit. The one her team filed last week (pdf) demanded the release of Maricopa’s election records, which Lake later said would be the basis of a larger legal challenge.
During the public comment period on Monday, a number of voters told Maricopa County supervisors that thousands of voters were disenfranchised at polling locations on Nov. 8. They made reference to problems at some voting centers such as being forced to drop off ballots in dropboxes, also accusing Maricopa officials of being corrupt.
County officials, however, pushed back on claims that voters were disenfranchised and said that tabulator machines were fixed later on Election Day. The five supervisors unanimously voted to certify the results of the election.
“Every voter had that opportunity to put their vote in that ballot box.” Scott Jarrett, an elections official, told the hearing on Monday.
And Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates told the audience that they had no choice but to certify the result of the election. The last day under state law to certify is Nov. 28.
“Certification is not an optional act for boards of supervisors,” he said. “We’ve had this date circled on our calendars for quite a while now.”
Gail Golec, a Republican candidate for supervisors, said that Gates’ claims are inaccurate, according to local media. The county’s elections manual said a certification, or canvass, shouldn’t be conducted “until all necessary audits have been completed to verify the accuracy and the integrity of the election results.”
“We do not have accuracy, we do not have integrity in these election results,” Golec told the board, adding that more audits are needed.
Sam Bankman-Fried Addresses Rumors Whether He Laundered Ukraine Donations
The disgraced former head of the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange tells his side of the story in candid but occasionally inarticulate interviews.
Former FTX head Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) selected cryptocurrency vlogger Tiffany Fong for a series of lengthy and candid telephone interviews. In the two interviews that had been released on YouTube at press time, SBF speaks about many of the major questions connected with the collapse of FTX.
The first interview was conducted Nov. 6 and released Nov. 29 on YouTube. “I’ve started to trust my gut on things like this,” SBF said, explaining why he selected the relatively unknown figure to speak to. Fong has less than 10,000 subscribers to her channel. “Here’s someone who will, like, approach this from at least a somewhat neutral and interested vantage point,” he said of her. He continued:
“We as a society, in my opinion, my humble opinion, have spent quite enough time this week trying to figure out whether anyone living in [the FTX residential facility in] Albany [Bahamas] was polyamorous […] and the answer is too boring for people to believe.”
The recording began with SBF saying, “You don’t get into the situation we got in if you, like, make all the right decisions.” Taking her cue from that, Fong started her interview by asking about the “backdoor” that allowed SBF “to execute commands that could alter the [FTX] company’s financial records without alerting others.”
SBF expressed surprise at the very idea. “And this is something I would be doing?” he asked. “That I can tell you is definitely not true. I don’t even know how to code. […] I literally never even opened the code for any of FTX.”
This set the tone for the rest of the conversation, in which Fong politely asked hardball questions and SBF answered with seeming openness.
SBF went on to comment on FTX’s FTT coin. “I think it had real value. That being said, there are a few problems. […] This was f*****g embarrassing given my background. […] I think it was basically more legit than a lot of tokens in some ways. Its was more economically underpinned than the average token was,” he said.
“Illiquidity didn’t cause the crash,” SBF continued. Rather, it was “the massive correlation of things during market moves, especially when they are triggered by fear over the position itself.”
SBF agreed with Fong that “the recovery looks pretty slim” for international customers, while “U.S. is a hundred percent. If its Amazon account had not been turned off, “they could already be withdrawing.”
Speaking about his political activities, SBF said, “I donated about the same to both parties. […] All of my Republican donations were dark.” He addressed rumors about money laundering of Ukrainian donations:
“The Ukraine one? I wish I could have pulled that off. I wish. I didn’t fully understand the goal of it. I was helping Ukraine launder funds for the Democratic Party? I don’t know why Ukraine is laundering funds for the Democratic Party. I don’t know how they would or why they would.”
In the second, undated, phone interview, SBF addressed the use of FTX customer funds by Alameda Research. Struggling for words, SBF said that he should have thought more about “what a hyper-correlated cross-scenario looks like. It’s the oldest game in the book in finance. […] There was no one person in charge of monitoring risk positions at FTX.” Fong pressed for specifics from the situation, with little success.
SBF took a moderate position on the role of Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) in the FTX downfall. “Things would certainly be a lot more stable and there would be a lot more ability to generate liquidity […] and I don’t know for sure.”
Asked about the impact of the collapse of FTX and surrounding scandal on him, SBF said, “I wake up each day and think about what happened, and I have hours per day to ruminate on it. […] It’s different than what it seems to other people.”
New Twist: Cars of Idaho Slaughter Victims Seized as Killer Remains on the Loose
Authorities towed away five vehicles from the house where four University of Idaho students were brutally murdered as investigators continue to search for clues on who killed the students.
A tow truck removed the cars — some of which are believed to have belonged to the victims — one by one Tuesday and brought them to a city-owned lot, where they’ll be processed for any evidence.
“Today, as part of the ongoing homicide investigation and original search warrant, there will be an increase in detective activity and tow trucks onsite as investigators move five vehicles from within the police perimeter to a more secure long-term storage location to continue processing evidence,” the Moscow Police Department said in a statement.
A day earlier, forensic investigators were seen recombing the off-campus rental in footage obtained by The Post. Detectives dusted windows for fingerprints, looked over the crime scene inside the house and were spotted in a nearby wooded area as mournful neighbors looked on.
The four students — Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20 and Ethan Chapin, 20 — were each stabbed to death by an intruder as they slept in their beds around 3 a.m. on Nov. 13.
More than two weeks later, police have yet to name a suspect or a motive in the slayings. The murder weapon is still missing as well, but investigators believe their killer used a fixed-blade knife — possibly a KA-BAR-style combat knife.
Gonclaves and Mogen, who were best friends, were killed while they slept in their own bedrooms on the third floor of the 2,300-square-foot home. Housemate Kernodle and her boyfriend Chapin were killed in her bed on the second floor, police said.
The coeds’ two other roommates who had bedrooms on the ground floor of the house were unharmed and are believed to have slept through the early-morning murders.
The Moscow police and FBI have processed more than a thousand tips, collected 103 pieces of evidence, conducted nearly 100 interviews and taken more than 4,000 photographs of the crime scene but have not made a breakthrough in the case.
The father of Goncalves told ABC News he’s hopeful investigators will find his daughter’s killer in his first on-screen interview Tuesday.
“I know that there’s some really good, hard-working guys and girls that are on this case that I’ve met,” Steve Goncalves said. “And they looked me in the eyes and they told me straight out that they’re working and they’re doing everything in their power.”
The quadruple homicide has rocked the small college town as the murderer is still out there.
Steve Goncalves said the hurt he feels for the loss of his daughter is compounded by the fact that the killer is “having a great life out there, and [we’re] just left in shambles.”
WATCH: San Francisco Approves ‘Deadly Force Option’ for Police Robots
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a request by police for the allowance of a “deadly force option” on robots already in law enforcement use.
The San Francisco Police Department asked for permission related to military grade machines that are operated by trained officers.
The department already uses 17 robots, but only 12 are functional and five are out of commission. They can now potentially be used to kill suspects during critical incidents.
“While an explosive charge may be considered an intermediate force option, it could potentially cause injury or be lethal,” said a police statement. “Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives.”
A similar request was made by the Oakland police, but the language approving the policy was later removed.
Critics decried the plan to use police robots in a lethal manner.
“We are living in a dystopian future, where we debate whether the police may use robots to execute citizens without a trial, jury, or judge,” said Tifanei Moyer, an attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
“I think it would be irresponsible not to make some kind of plan to use that technology in that horrific eventuality,” argued Rafael Mandelman, one of the supervisors who approved the plan.
In a statement to NPR, the SFPD said it does “not own or operate robots outfitted with lethal force options and the Department has no plans to outfit robots with any type of firearm.”
The first use of a robot by police to kill a suspect was in 2016 in Dallas, Texas, after a shooting attack that killed five officers. Police killed a suspect by detonating a bomb that had been attached to a robot. Seven other officers were wounded and two civilians were injured in that attack related to the Black Lives Matter protests.
Kristi Noem Bans TikTok Use On South Dakota State Devices
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota issued an executive order banning the use of TikTok on Tuesday, according to a state press release.
The order prohibits any South Dakota state agency or government employee from downloading or using the TikTok application on a state-issued device, as well as from visiting the TikTok website. Additionally, it extends these prohibitions to any contractor and their personnel doing business with the state.
“South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us,” said Noem in the release. “The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform.”
The order cites TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, being subject to the National Security Law of the People’s Republic of China, legislation passed in 2015 that mandates private companies to cede user data to the Chinese government upon request, as the reason for the prohibition. It also notes that bans on TikTok have been issued by all branches of the U.S. military and the Transportation Security Administration, while a general prohibition on TikTok across the federal government has been endorsed by the Federal Communications Commission and “a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators.”
Noem added that “our serious duty to protect the private data of South Dakota citizens” compelled the action, and expressed the “hope other states will follow South Dakota’s lead, and Congress should take broader action, as well.”
TikTok is one of the most prominent social media applications in the world, with over 94 million active users in the United States. Its ownership by ByteDance makes it the foreign-owned application most used by Americans, which has led to criticism from U.S. officials who have called for the app to either be banned or sold to an American owner.
In August of 2020, then-President Donald Trump issued an executive order that would ban TikTok across the United States if it wasn’t sold to a non-Chinese entity. ByteDance, which received several offers of purchase from U.S. companies, filed several lawsuits against the measure in federal courts, with a preliminary injunction being issued in November 2020 by U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols.
President Joe Biden revoked Trump’s executive order forcing TikTok’s sale in June of 2021.
Should a South Dakota employee violate Noem’s order, they will commit a second-degree criminal misdemeanor, a conviction for which carries 30 days’ imprisonment and up to $500 in fines, said Ian Fury, chief of communications for Noem, to the Daily Caller News Foundation. The order would not apply to the personal devices of employees and contractors, however, and would not extend to their families.
In November, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin introduced legislation in the Senate and House, respectively, to ban the use of TikTok across the United States.
Clarence Gilyard Jr. Dead: ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Top Gun’ Star Was 66
Clarence Gilyard Jr., known for starring in “Walker, Texas Ranger” and for supporting roles in several box office hits, has died. He was 66.
Gilyard died after a battle with a “long illness,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, adding that no further details are currently known about his death.
His death was confirmed in a statement that was published late Monday by the University of Northern Las Vegas’ College of Fine Arts, where he had worked as a film and theater professor in recent years.
“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him,” UNLV film chair Heather Addison said. “Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”
UNLV Dean Nancy J. Uscher of Gilyard said, “His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments.”
“His generosity of spirit was boundless – he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible,” Uscher continued. “We remember Clarence with joy and gratitude for all he contributed to the College of Fine Arts, the UNLV community, and, through his impressive personal achievements, to the world.”
Gilyard had put his acting career on hold for a period of time to teach at UNLV. “My manager-agent is not happy that I’m not working, but the university is just too much fun. And once you start a semester and meet those students, it’s like doing a TV series,” Gilyard said in 2010. “You’re plugged into them. How can you leave them once you see in their eyes that they’re depending on you? They have aspirations for their own growth for those 15 weeks.”
Born on Christmas Eve in 1955, Gilyard grew up a military brat and moved throughout the U.S. and even spent a year at the Air Force Academy as a cadet when he was older.
Gilyard made his first major appearance as Lieutenant Marcus “Sundown” Williams in “Top Gun” in the 1980s and later as the computer savvy terrorist Theo in “Die Hard.”
In the late 1980s, he starred as Conrad McMasters on “Matlock,” and later departed to play Jimmy Trivette on Chuck Norris’ hit crime show “Walker, Texas Ranger,” where he appeared in 196 episodes of the show which spanned nearly a decade.
Gilyard was a devout Christian and played in several Christian movies, including, “A Matter of Faith,” “Christmas on the Coast,” “The Perfect Race,” and “Left Behind: The Movie.”
Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin Dies at 96
Former Chinese communist party leader Jiang Zemin, who single-handedly launched one of the most brutal persecutions against a faith group in modern times, has passed away at the age of 96, according to China’s state-run media.
Jiang, who was the communist regime’s top leader from 1993 to 2003, passed away owing to leukemia and multiple organ failure. He died at 12:13 p.m. local time in Shanghai, where he was once the city’s mayor.
His legacy stands as one of the worst human rights abusers in history, responsible for countless deaths over his lead role in launching the persecution against Falun Gong in 1999.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, consists of moral teachings based on the universal principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, along with daily meditative exercises. Since its introduction in China in 1992, the practice surged in popularity, leading to an estimated 70 million to 100 million adherents in the country by the end of the decade.
On June 10, 1999, in anticipation of the anti-Falun Gong campaign, Jiang gave direct orders to establish an extra-legal Party organization for the purpose of coordinating and directing the coming repression via nationwide branches. Known as the 610 Office for the date of its creation on June 10, its structure and functions were comparable to that of the infamous Gestapo in Nazi Germany.
Jiang declared that he would eliminate Falun Gong within three months by targeting practitioners’ reputations, seizing their wealth, and attacking them physically. Practitioners murdered as a result of persecution were to be declared victims of suicide and cremated immediately, without identification. The Chinese regime mobilized all resources available to it—including the courts, propaganda departments, cultural and political institutions, and schools—in its effort to destroy Falun Gong.
State-run media—television, radio, newspapers, and later the internet—at all levels served the CCP to produce fake news slandering Falun Gong’s teachings, defaming its founder, and dehumanizing its adherents. The hate campaign manufactured many hoaxes, such as the “1,400 deaths” supposedly caused by practicing Falun Gong, the staged self-immolation at Tiananmen, and claims that Falun Gong was a threat to the Party orchestrated by overseas “anti-China forces.”
The CCP also extended its propaganda overseas to demonize Falun Gong and politicize the issue. Many international media outlets repeated the pejoratives and narratives crafted by the CCP to frame Falun Gong, effectively pushing the persecution to the global stage by priming audiences to misunderstand or feel hostility towards the practice.
The Chinese regime under Jiang’s leadership made liberal use of extreme violence, constant propaganda, and brainwashing tactics in its bid to force Falun Gong practitioners to choose between their faith or their lives. Over the course of the persecution, millions of people have been imprisoned or held in labor camps, detention centers, insane asylums, drug rehabilitation facilities, or unofficial “black jails” for refusing to give up their beliefs.
Human rights groups have documented over 100 methods of torture used by the Chinese authorities to persecute Falun Gong, as well as the use of toxic, nerve-damaging substances. Many practitioners died, were maimed, or went insane as a result of this abuse.
The number of deaths caused by the persecution is difficult to estimate, due to the difficulty of transmitting information out of mainland China. Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website founded by Falun Gong practitioners to document the persecution, has confirmed and verified the deaths of 4,828 people at the hands of the authorities for refusing to abandon their faith in Falun Gong.
However, many deaths have gone unreported, or due to the victims having been murdered under conditions of utmost secrecy—such as for the harvesting of their organs.
Besides physical and psychological torture, the Communist Party under Zemin also imposed measures to shut Falun Gong out of public life. Adherents were fired from their jobs, expelled from school or college, or deprived of pensions and other welfare benefits. Relatives of practitioners have also endured great suffering, with the repression having broken up countless families.
U.S. Representative Donald McEachin Dies at 61
Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) died Monday night after battling cancer for many years, according to a statement from his office. He was 61.
“We are all devastated at the passing of our boss and friend, Congressman Donald McEachin,” Tara Rountree, his chief of staff, said in the statement. “Valiantly, for years now, we have watched him fight and triumph over the secondary effects of his colorectal cancer from 2013.”
“Tonight, he lost that battle, and the people of Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District lost a hero who always, always fought for them and put them first,” the statement continued. “Until a new representative is elected, our office will remain open and continue to serve our constituents.”
“The family asks for privacy at this time,” the statement concluded. “Arrangements will be announced over the next few days.”
— Rep. Donald McEachin (@RepMcEachin) November 29, 2022
McEachin had just won re-election earlier this month in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District where he has served ever since 2017. He was known for championing woke environmental justice and climate change policies.
The Washington Post reported that McEachin was a minister and that he said of his battle with cancer a couple of years ago, “God gets you to stuff, and then he gets you through stuff.”
The Post noted that while his battle with cancer had been known for years, news of his death “still caught many by surprise,” including Democrats.
L. Louise Lucas, president pro tempore of the Virginia state Senate, tweeted, “Hearing the news of his death sent a shock of pain through me tonight.”
I served in the General Assembly with Donald McEachin for over 20 years, watching him make history as the first ever African American nominee for Attorney General of VA in 2001 before he went to Congress. Hearing the news of his death sent a shock of pain through me tonight.
— L. Louise Lucas (@SenLouiseLucas) November 29, 2022
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced his death “with great sadness” in a statement, saying that he was “a tireless champion for Virginia families and a force for economic opportunity and environmental justice.”
“For two decades, Congressman McEachin was a distinguished leader on climate in Richmond: serving in both the House of Delegates and the State Senate,” Pelosi said. “His many contributions to our Select Committee on the Climate Crisis helped lay the essential groundwork for our climate action over the last two years, especially the important progress toward environmental justice.”
“Congressman McEachin understood that every family — whether in the East End of Richmond or any community across America — deserves clean air, clean water and a healthy planet,” the statement concluded. “He will be deeply missed by his colleagues, and he leaves behind a legacy that will improve the lives of all of our children for generations to come. May it be a comfort to his loving wife Colette, their dear children Mac, Briana and Alexandra, grandchild Gael and the entire McEachin family that so many join them in mourning during this sad time.”
Here’s Where the Last Uncalled House Races Stand 3 Weeks After Election Day
As results from the midterms elections continue to trickle in three weeks after Election Day, two critical House races in California and Colorado remain too close to call.
Republicans currently hold a slim majority in the House with 220 seats in GOP control – two seats more than the 218 needed to hold a majority in the 435-seat chamber. The final uncalled House races could reshape the legislative outlook through the end of President Joe Biden’s term, depending on which way these races swing.
Fox News Digital breaks down the two outstanding races and what is taking so long.
The “toss-up” race to win California’s 13th Congressional District remains uncalled by the Associated Press. The Republican nominee, John Duarte, holds a narrow lead over Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray with a roughly 600-vote difference; however, with approximately 99% of votes counted, the final outcome could still go either way.
Despite the 0.4% margin of victory Duarte currently holds over Gray, there is “no provision in California law to require an ‘automatic recount’ in any election contest,” according the California secretary of state website.
California accepts mail-ballots for the week following Election Day, although the ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 8. The ballots must also go through a signature verification process before being counted.
California is a predominately vote-by-mail state, and every registered voter is automatically mailed a ballot 29 days prior to Election Day. With 22 million registered voters and weeks-long processing times, this means race calls can move very slowly in the Golden State.
Statewide, California still has 244,003 remaining ballots to be counted, according to estimates from the California secretary of state’s report on Monday. Of the unprocessed ballots remaining, 184,989 of these ballots were mailed by voters. California permits election authorities one month to complete tallying. Voters could be waiting as late as Dec. 9 for a final call in the 13th District race, according to the secretary of state’s website.
Colorado predominantly votes by mail, but processing is much swifter than California. In 2020, 90% of the vote was counted by Wednesday morning after Election Day, according to the Associated Press. Even so, mail-in ballots from out of state and overseas military service members can arrive as late as Wednesday as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.
Despite relatively speedier ballot processing times, Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District remains too close to call, according to projections from the Associated Press.
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, who won her first election in 2020 by six points, was not expected to have such a close race with her Democratic opponent, Adam Frisch, in the “likely Republican” seat. The one-term congresswoman is narrowly leading by 554 votes with 99% of the vote counted, according to the latest tallies from the Associated Press.
Though the race qualifies for a recount under Colorado state law, Frisch conceded to Boebert on Nov. 18. However, the Associated Press has not called the race as of Tuesday.
Oath Keepers Stewart Rhodes Found Guilty of Seditious Conspiracy
Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers militia group, was found guilty by a jury on Nov. 29 of seditious conspiracy connected to the events on Jan 6, 2021.
One co-defendant, Kelly Meggs, was also found guilty of seditious conspiracy on Tuesday, while three others—Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell—were acquitted of that charge.
In total, Rhodes was found guilty on three out of five counts: seditious conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, and tampering with documents or proceedings.
Meggs was found guilty on five counts out of six: seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties, and tampering with documents.
The other three defendants were each found guilty on multiple lesser charges.
In closing arguments, defense attorneys said the government failed to prove that the Oath Keepers planned to attack the Capitol or to interfere with the certification of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021.
A defense lawyer said that none of the 50 witnesses in the Oath Keepers trial testified that they heard any of the defendants discuss or plan to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
However, in the final rebuttal, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said that according to the jury instructions (pdf), the government did not have to prove that the defendants had a detailed plan to breach the Capitol and meet in person to discuss their alleged scheme. An implicit agreement and mutual understanding were enough to prove the defendants’ conspiracy, he said.
Nestler told the jury that the three defendants who decided to take the witness stand to testify in their defense (Stewart Rhodes, Thomas Caldwell, and Jessica Watkins) allegedly lied.
“But it’s important to ask not just whether they lied. Ask yourself, why? Because the truth is so damning,” Nestler emphasized.
The government told the 14 jurors that the defendants deleted evidence that could prove even further their plan to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
James Bright, the attorney for Rhodes, asked the jury how the Oath Keepers could conspire as early as November 2020 to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, if the Jan. 6 rally wasn’t announced until late December 2020.
Rhodes founded the Oath Keepers organization in 2009 to assist in natural disaster situations, Bright said, to volunteer to provide security for small businesses that could not afford security services from a regular company and to offer personal security details for VIPs.
Several members of the Oath Keepers testified during the weeks-long trial, saying that the organization gave them a sense of purpose since most members were retired veterans who found meaning in continuing to serve the country.
During nearly two months of trial, the U.S. prosecutors presented exhibits showing contact between the five defendants on trial and others who allegedly plotted to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Most of the government’s evidence came from the FBI agents assigned to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach. Text messages, video footage, Signal messages (an encrypted messaging app), and Zello audio recordings (a walkie-talkie app) were frequently shown in the courtroom, among other exhibits.
In his closing argument, defense counsel Bradford Geyer walked the jury through a video where he pointed out that unknown provocateurs broke through the Capitol doors first.
“Please send Ken home,” Geyer told the jury.
Another defense attorney, David Fischer, explained an unsent message that Thomas Caldwell, an Oath Keeper affiliate, deleted containing a link. That shouldn’t be considered evidence, the attorney said, since a link is not a document. That link was a video available to everyone, Fischer continued.
The prosecution distorted timeframes throughout its presentation of when the defendants walked up the stairs and entered the building, argued Jonathan Crisp, Jessica Watkins’ attorney. He also said that the government’s evidence was mostly out of context. Crisp explained that the stack formation was a way to get through the dense crowd and not for attacking the Capitol.
Only defendants Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs, and Kenneth Harrelson entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Rhodes and Caldwell did not.
In the aftermath of Jan. 6, the U.S. government charged Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell with seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, aiding and abetting, conspiracy to prevent an officer from carrying out any duties, destruction of government property, civil disorder, and tampering with documents.
Before passing the trial to the jury on Nov. 21 evening, Judge Amit Mehta, an appointee of Barack Obama, reminded the jurors that the trial was against the five defendants on trial and not against the Oath Keepers’ organization.
Edward Tarpley, attorney for Rhodes said, “The judge treated us with respect.”
“There was no evidence ever introduced that there was a plan,” Tarpley told The Epoch Times, “I am grateful for the jury for not finding them guilty on all counts.”
“Jessica testified well, however, the government will seek multiple enhancements,” Jonathan Crisp, attorney for Jessica Watkins, told The Epoch Times.
The most recent charge of seditious conspiracy was in 2010 when the government accused nine members of the Hutaree Militia from Michigan of “levy war against the United States.” An FBI agent who infiltrated the militia group provided most of the prosecution evidence.
When the defendants’ trial began two years later, in 2012, U.S. district judge Victoria Roberts dismissed the conspiracy charges. The judge explained that the government’s evidence mainly consisted of the defendants’ controversial speech protected by the First Amendment and did not prove the group’s alleged plan to overthrow the government.
The U.S. government pressed multiple charges, including attempted murder and seditious conspiracy, against five members of the Puerto Rican Nationalists who attacked the Capitol in 1954. The group opened fire on the House of Representatives and injured five Congress members.
Another seditious conspiracy charge was pressed in 1995 against Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine of his followers. They were found guilty of planning to bomb bridges, tunnels, and other landmarks in New York City.
In 2006, Adam Gadahn was the first American charged with treason since World War II. He “gave al Qaeda aid and comfort … with intent to betray the United States.”
Democrat DA in Texas Agrees to Resign Amidst Claims of Incompetence
A Democrat prosecutor in Texas, who is facing suspension, has submitted her resignation after nearly two years of bungled prosecutions and for allegedly mishandling a case against the suspect in one of America’s biggest mass shootings on record. El Paso County District Attorney Yvonne Rosales’ resignation takes effect just one day before a judge was set to decide whether she should be thrown out of office pending a trial.
The process of giving Rosales the boot was first initiated on Aug. 24 by El Paso criminal defense attorney Omar Carmona, who filed a petition to remove the Democratic DA for incompetency and alleged official misconduct.
The petition accused Rosales of failure to charge cases in a timely manner; significant decreases in case filings; mishandling of the Gabaldon murder case; mishandling and stalling of the 2019 El Paso Walmart massacre case; and bad faith representations to the the court.
“Rosales’ incompetency is demonstrated by both her conduct AND the conduct of her subordinates,” said the petition.
Carmona suggested it’d be prudent for Rosales to resign rather than go to trial, saying, “I believe that she will see the writing on the wall.”
In September, Judge Tryon D. Lewis of Odessa enabled the petition to move forward.
On Nov. 21, Lewis set a hearing for Dec. 15 to ascertain whether Rosales should be suspended ahead of a trial scheduled for March 13, which in turn would determine whether she should be fully removed from office.
On Tuesday, the Democratic DA threw in the towel. Her resignation will go into effect on Dec. 14.
In her resignation letter to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Rosales wrote that her first assistant Salah George Al-Hanna will assume all duties and responsibilities as acting DA.
Rosales wrote, “It has been an honor and a pleasure serving as the District Attorney of El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culberson Counties, so it is with a heavy heart that I tender my letter of resignation.”
The El Paso Times indicated that it now falls on Abbott to appoint a replacement for Rosales to serve out the remainder of her term, which ends in 2024.
According to El Paso County attorney Jo Anne Bernal, Rosales technically retains her duties and powers and remains in office as a “holdover” office holder until the governor appoints her successor.
Since taking office on Jan. 1, 2021, Rosales, formerly a family law attorney, has been embroiled in a series of scandals. While her career has evidently been affected, it is possible that the credibility of her office and the safety of El Paso’s residents have also been impacted.
Last December, the Texas Ethics Commission determined that Rosales had violated state law when her office allegedly misused thousands of dollars of public money on self-promotion.
The El Paso County Auditor’s Office showed that the Democratic DA had used forfeiture funds to buy T-shirts and badges with her name and title on them, reported the El Paso Times. Rosales suggested that the auditor’s office, in holding her to account, was discriminating on the basis of gender.
Rosales also accused the judge overseeing the Walmart massacre case, state District Judge Sam Medrano, of discriminating against her on the basis of her sex.
In 2019, Patrick Crusius allegedly murdered 23 people in an El Paso Walmart. Crusius was charged with 90 federal crimes, 45 of which were hate crimes. That became Rosales’ case to lose.
According to the Texas Tribune, Roger Rodriguez, a municipal judge working with Rosales, allegedly masqueraded as the relative of Walmart shooting victim Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, using his widow’s cellphone to send details about the case to the press and to condemn Medrano, thereby violating the terms of a July court gag order.
An attorney for the family indicated that Rodriguez said that he had been “acting on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office” and that the family should not “betray” him because he had “snipers everywhere.”
Notwithstanding her resignation, Rosales must still appear before Medrano on Wednesday for a hearing on whether her office was the source of the email to the news media violating the gag order.
Rosales has reportedly tried and repeatedly failed to shut down the gag order investigation.
Perhaps more significantly, nearly a thousand potential criminals accused of misdemeanors and felonies went free because Rosales’ office routinely failed to file charges on time.
According to El Paso Matters, the El Paso Public Defender’s Office requested 390 dismissals between Aug.15 and Aug. 18 and had nearly 370 approved because Rosales and her team reportedly dragged their feet.
Among that spate of dismissals, there were 15 first-degree felonies, 33 second-degree felonies, and 65 third-degree felonies.
Between 2018 and 2020, 14 people were released under the provision prohibiting the jailing of defendants past 30 to 90 days if the state isn’t ready for trial. In Rosales’ first year in office, that number skyrocketed to 183.
The Wall Street Journal noted that in addition to case dismissals, the failure of Rosales and her office to file indictments also resulted in the loss of bond provisions intended to keep victims safe, such as warning them of their accused aggressors’ release.
One of the suspected felons who got off on account of Rosales’ alleged incompetence was Ivan Gabaldon, a man accused of stabbing a 62-year-old to death.
Rosales’ senior division chief Curtis Cox demanded the death penalty against Gabaldon just moments after stating he would not object to releasing the accused murderer on a personal recognizance bond. This alleged ploy to delay the trial backfired. Gabaldon was cut loose.
Local judges and attorneys reportedly began to doubt whether the Democratic DA could handle her most basic responsibilities as the region’s top prosecutor.
Despite her apparent ineptitude, Rosales told KFOX-14, “Justice will be served.”
Here is the resignation letter that Rosales would ultimately serve to Abbott:
Unsigned resignation letter from D.A. Yvonne Rosales addressed to Governor Greg Abbott. Rosales agreed to resign Dec. 14. pic.twitter.com/Ib9rR1ngIX
— Karla Draksler (@karladraxKTSM) November 29, 2022
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