Democratic California congressman Adam Schiff, who was the top Democrat of the House intelligence committee during the Russia investigation and one of the Democrats whose data records were seized by the Justice Department under Donald Trump in 2018, applauded the department’s inspector general investigation, but said more still needs to be done. “This incident must be viewed in the context of the systemic politicization of the department, and other flagrant abuses,” he said in a statement.
The justice department will double the number of lawyers working on enforcing protections for the right to vote in the next 30 days, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, announced on Friday.
The announcement came as Republicans have launched an unprecedented effort to restrict voting access across the US. Under Donald Trump, the justice department did not file a single major case aimed at protecting voting rights. Many civil rights groups are closely watching to see how the department, which has unmatched resources and enforcement authority, will wield its power under Biden.
Garland also expressed concern about post-election reviews of ballots, a growing interest among Republican lawmakers, as well as escalating threats against election officials. The former appellate judge also condemned the supreme court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v Holder, which gutted a core protection of the Voting Rights Act and, making it harder for the justice department to protect voting rights.
“Since that opinion, there has been a dramatic rise in legislative efforts that will make it harder for millions of citizens to cast a ballot that counts. So far this year, at least 14 states have passed new laws that make it harder to vote,” he said. “And some jurisdictions, based on disinformation, have utilized abnormal post-election audit methodologies that may put the integrity of the voting process at risk and undermine public confidence in our democracy.”
Garland also called for the passage of the For the People Act, a sweeping voting rights package, that has stalled in the US Senate in recent days as some Democrats express concerns about the bill. He also called on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the pre-clearance provision in the Voting Rights Act the supreme court struck down in 2013.
Now knowing what we know of the Justice Department under Donald Trump seizing the data of at least two House Democrats, this clip of Vice-President Kamala Harris grilling former attorney general William Barr is now making the rounds on the interwebs.
DoJ inspector general launches investigation into Trump-era data seizure
The justice department’s internal watchdog announced on Friday that it was launching an investigation after the New York Times broke the news last night that the department under Donald Trump had subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of Democratic members of the House intelligence committee,Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that he would look into “whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations.”
Schiff and Swalwell said they were notified last month that their metadata had been subpoenaed and turned over to the Justice Department in 2018, as their committee was investigating the former president’s ties to Russia.
In addition to Schiff and Swalwell, prosecutors retrieved the records of aides, former aides and family members, including one minor.
Schiff said the seizures suggested “the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.” Senate Democratic leaders immediately demanded that former attorneys general William Barr and Jeff Sessions, who both oversaw Trump’s leak probes, testify about the secret subpoenas, with senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and senate judiciary committee chairman Dick Durbin saying that “this appalling politicization of the Department of Justice by Donald Trump and his sycophants” must be investigated.
The US justice department will prosecute threats against election officials and aggressively scrutinize new state election laws to ensure they do not violate citizens’ voting rights, the attorney general Merrick Garland said today.
The pledge followed a special report by the Reuters news wire earlier about an ongoing problem of vicious threats by fanatical supporters of Donald Trump, against senior election officials in several states, especially in Georgia.
DoJ asks for watchdog investigation into Trump seizure of Dems’ data
The justice department has asked for an internal investigation into the Trump-era seizure of phone data from House Democrats in 2018, the Associated Press is reporting.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco asked the department’s inspector general to open the investigation on Friday, a senior Justice Department official told the AP, after Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and Senate judiciary committee chair, Dick Durbin demanded that Trump-era attorneys general William Barr and Jeff Sessions testify about the seizures.
The New York Times broke the news last night that amid the Russian investigation, the justice department under Donald Trump had subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of Adam Schiff, then the top Democrat on the committee, and California Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell. Adam Schiff, then the top Democrat on the committee, and the California Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell, In addition, prosecutors subpoenaed records from aides, former aides and family members, including one who was a minor.
A Republican lawmaker has become the first representative ever expelled from the Oregon state house for helping far-right agitators enter the capitol during a special session.
Security footage from 21 December, when the state legislature was in special session and closed to the public, showed Republican Mike Nearman opening a door for demonstrators protesting coronavirus-related public health measures.
Some of the agitators skirmished with law enforcement officers, spraying them with bear spray and breaking doors. Outside, they assaulted reporters.
The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly has more here:
The state attorney generals of 22 states have asked the supreme court not to end the eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Covid-19 pandemic, Reuters is reporting.
A group of landlords asked the supreme court last week to end the national ban on residential evictions, with the CDC order already set to expire 30 June.
The CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, declined to say this week if the agency will again extend the order.
Schumer, Durbin call for Barr, Sessions to testify before Senate judiciary
The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and Senate judiciary committee chair, Dick Durbin,shared in the outrage over the justice department under Donald Trump retrieving data from from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House intelligence committee, in addition to their aides and family members.
They said Trump’s former attorney generals, William Barr and Jeff Sessions, “must testify before the Senate judiciary committee under oath”.
“If they refuse, they are subject to being subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath.”
In an attempt to split the Democratic vote in a number of close races, a digital marketing firm closely linked to a pro-Trump youth group ran a series of deceptive Facebook ads promoting Green party candidates during the 2018 US midterm elections.
A new Guardian investigation found that Facebook was aware of the true identity of the advertiser – Rally Forge, a group with ties to Turning Point Action – which used socialist memes and rhetoric to sway leftwing voters toward the Green party.
The Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong has the story here:
Georgia election workers still receiving death threats
FBI director Christopher Wray reiterated yesterday that Donald Trump’s claims about a stolen presidential election were nothing more than a lie: “We did not find evidence of fraud that could’ve changed the outcome of the election.”
Yet seven months later, election workers in Georgia are still receiving death threats over the election results.
The family of Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state who took a stand against Trump over the election results, told Reuters that the death threats started almost immediately and have continued ever since. The family had to go into hiding for almost a week after intruders broke into the home of their widowed daughter-in-law in late November – the same night people who identified themselves to police as Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group that has supported Trump’s bid to overturn the election, were found outside the their home.
“Vitriol and threats are an unfortunate, but expected, part of public service,” Raffensperger said. “But my family should be left alone.”
Let’s head west for a second. The Biden administration has restored the $929m grant for the high-speed rail project in California that Donald Trump revoked in 2019.
Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, said the action comes after months of negotiations to restore funding and is “proof that California and the Biden-Harris Administration share a common vision – clean, electrified transportation that will serve generations to come”.
To recap: California is a really big state, both land mass-wise and population-wise. In a state that big, transportation is a sticky topic. Because of high housing costs around the coastal hubs of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, residents were stuck in traffic, commuting hours a day for work from as far inland as the Central Valley before the pandemic.
High-speed rail has been a pipe dream for the state for decades, but years of protest, lawsuits, politicking and replanning have forced officials to rework plans.
Then as California set itself up as a resistance flagbearer against Trump, the former president withdrew its federal grant, with Trump calling the project a “green disaster”.
The restoration of the funding comes amidst a recall battle for Newsom, and is being viewed as a victory for the governor and his policies.
“Restoring nearly $929m in grant funding back to California’s high-speed rail project will continue to spur job creation, advance the project and move the state one step closer to getting trains running in California as soon as possible,” Newsom said in a statement.
Democratic Florida congresswoman Val Demings reportedly raised $1m the day after she announced that she was running to unseat Republican Marco Rubio in the Senate, the Hill is reporting.
For a Senate race in a year without any regularly scheduled federal elections, $1m in the first 24 hours is a huge haul – for context, Vice-President Kamala Harris raised $1.5m in the first 24 hours of her presidential campaign, while former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourkeraised more than $6m and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders raised $5.9m.
But Florida is known to be an expensive market for campaigns, and Rubio reportedly already has $4m on hand in his senate campaign war chest.
The White House announced today that Joe Biden will be welcoming Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for a visit on 15 July, to discuss ending the pandemic, the climate crisis and international security, among other things.
Biden and Merkel, of course, will meet today as the G7 summit officially kicks off in Cornwall. For all things G7, please check out our sister liveblog at the Guardian UK:
Democrats and Republicans may not be agreeing on much in Washington these days, but members on both sides were able to join together to attack Democratic Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her remarks earlier this week.
To recap: Omar posted a tweet of her questioning Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a foreign affairs committee hearing about the international criminal court. “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” she tweeted. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban.”
Those attacking her apparently believe that she was equating the US and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic leadership have asked her to clarify her statement.
Omar pointed out that the reaction to her question – she has received death threats – just goes to prove that the systems in place aren’t enough for those who suffer the injustices of war crimes.
President Joe Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, are set to meet again with the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and his wife Carrie Johnson shortly again in Cornwall, following a successful first encounter yesterday. Johnson, eschewing the usual “special relationship” descriptor – he felt it made the UK seem weak and needy – chose to go with the phrase “indestructible relationship”.
The Bidens and Johnsons will then go on to join with other leaders as the G7 summit officially kicks off today.
Democrats outraged over Trump’s DoJ secretly seizing members’ data
Greetings, liveblog readers. Happy Friday.
The New York Times broke the news last night that amid the Russian investigation, the justice department under Donald Trump had subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House intelligence committee.
As part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks, the records of Adam Schiff, then the top Democrat on the committee, and the California Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell, were seized. In all, the records of at least 12 people – aides, former aides and family members. including one who was a minor – were eventually shared.
“Trump repeatedly demanded the DOJ go after his political enemies,” Schiff tweeted last night. “It’s clear his demands didn’t fall on deaf ears.”
The Democratic Florida congresswoman Val Demings, an impeachment manager in Trump’s first trial who is now challenging Senator Marco Rubio for his seat in the Senate, is calling for a “thorough investigation” that will “hold everybody responsible accountable”.
Swalwell described the seizure of his records as “the weaponization of law enforcement”. He told CNN that he believed “they were targeted punitively, not for any reason in law but because Donald Trump identified Chairman Schiff and members of the committee as an enemy of his”.