St. Paddy’s Parade won’t be held in person
- Associated Press
The Transportation Department’s watchdog asked the Justice Department to criminally investigate Elaine Chao late last year over concerns that she misused her office when she was transportation secretary under President Donald Trump but was rebuffed, according to a report released Wednesday. The report said the department’s inspector general found that Chao used her staff and office for personal tasks and to promote a shipping business owned by Chao’s father and sisters, in an apparent violation of federal ethics rules. Chao, the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, stepped down from her job early this year in the last weeks of the Trump administration, citing her disapproval over the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by Trump’s supporters.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stressed the significance of the role that city and county chief secretaries have in improving the lives of the people and carrying out his five-year economic policies, state news media KCNA said on Thursday. North Korea's drastic measures to contain COVID-19 have exacerbated human rights abuses and economic hardship, including reports of starvation, for its citizens, already battered by international sanctions, a United Nations investigator said. Kim said the city and county chief secretaries had responsibility for taking care of their residents and urged them to embark on a fresh "turning point" to help develop their areas in line with his new five-year strategy unveiled at the January party congress.
The U.S. Justice Department declined to investigate or prosecute then-Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao after the inspector general's office referred allegations of potential misuse of office for review, a report made public on Wednesday said. The report included allegations that Chao directed staff to research or purchase personal items for her online using her personal credit card or performed other personal errands for her or her father. The report focused largely on Chao's actions related to her family's shipping business, the Foremost Group, which was founded by her father and whose current chief executive is her sister.
- The Daily Beast
Greg Nash/ReutersBureaucratic restrictions and public-relations concerns from the Army and top Trump administration Pentagon appointees unreasonably restrained the D.C. National Guard from responding to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, its commander testified to the Senate in a dramatic Wednesday session.The Guard commander, Major General William Walker, described receiving a “frantic” phone call from the then-head of the Capitol Police, Steven Sund, shortly before 2 p.m., as the breach was underway.Yet because of the restrictions from Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, and the “best military advice” of senior Army officers, Walker and his 155 Guardsmen could not respond to the scene of the insurrection for another three hours and 19 minutes—restrictions Walker pointedly noted were not placed upon him during the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, D.C.Had Walker been able to deploy to the Capitol “immediately,” as he testified he wanted, around 2 p.m.—a process he said took less than 20 minutes—“that number could have made a difference,” Walker said. “We could have helped extend the perimeter and pushed back the crowd.”FBI Director Shoots Back, Insisting Bureau Shared Intel Ahead of Capitol InsurrectionIt was perhaps the most intense moment thus far in a series of Senate hearings on Jan. 6 that have prompted dueling claims of irresponsibility, recriminations that have focused overwhelmingly on security and intelligence failures, rather than the politicians who spread the inciting lie that the Democrats stole the presidential election and hailed the violent protest called for by President Donald Trump.Army and Pentagon officials have heard this critique from Walker in the press and pushed back on it. Yet it was clear at the hearing that even senior Republican senators considered the Pentagon’s restrictions on the D.C. National Guard unacceptable.Walker described pre-insurrection letters from McCarthy, relaying instructions from Miller—whom Trump installed atop the Pentagon shortly after losing the election—that withheld from Walker the issuance of “weapons, ammunition, batons, ballistic protection equipment, to include body armor.” He did not have preapproval to mobilize a quick-reaction force of 40 Guardsmen and found it “unusual” to be denied a typical commanders’ authority to protect his own forces.As well, Walker described an instruction that afternoon from McCarthy to provide a “concept of operations” for the Guard before getting approval to shift from backing up the D.C. police and relieving beleaguered Capitol Police officers. “In 19 years, I never had that before happen,” Walker told senators. In several instances that day, Walker acted on his own initiative to muster the quick-reaction force at the D.C. Armory and get his Guardsmen protective gear, ahead of the belated approval to deploy to the Capitol.Neither Miller nor McCarthy testified. Instead, a senior Pentagon civilian, Robert Salesses, was left to effectively testify that Walker was wrong.Walker testified that two Army three-star generals, Charles Flynn and Walter Piatt, told him on Jan. 6 afternoon phone calls that they advised against sending the Guard to the Capitol because it was a poor “optics” and “could incite the crowd.” Salesses stoically said that Piatt, who is not in the chain of command, told him he never “used the word ‘optics,’” which represents the second revision in Piatt’s story, as the Army general recently acknowledged he may have indeed used that word.Walker shot back: “There were people in the room with me on that call that heard what they heard.”But Salesses’ broader point was that the restrictions Miller placed on Walker were political. “There was a lot of things that happened in the spring the department was criticized for,” Salesses said, referring to the Pentagon’s use of the National Guard to suppress the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington.Yet Salesses, questioned by Republican senators, could not explain all the Pentagon restrictions on the National Guard.The National Guard was on the streets of D.C. on Jan. 6 to support the D.C. police, in an unarmed and unarmored fashion, at 30 city traffic-control points and six Metro stations. Walker said he had to seek approval from the Pentagon to accompany the police in moving a traffic point over by a single block. The quick-reaction force, stationed initially at Joint Base Andrews just outside the district, was “not [designed] to respond to the events of the Capitol,” Salesses pleaded. “I don’t know if that’s true,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) replied, quickly prompting Walker’s agreement.Salesses also had to concede that over a half-hour passed between his account of Miller finally authorizing the Guard deployment, at 4:32 p.m., and notifying Walker of that decision at 5:08 p.m. Asked what accounted for that delay by an incredulous Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Salesses said only, “Senator, it’s an issue.”“That’s a significant problem for the future,” Blunt said.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Business Insider
Dr. Fauci has a stunningly simple way to explain how Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine differs from Pfizer's and Moderna's shots
All three of the COVID-19 shots authorized for use in the US train the body to recognize the coronavirus, but J&J's uses a cold virus instead of mRNA.
A nuclear-capable, long-range U.S. bomber flew over the capitals of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Wednesday in a show of solidarity with NATO allies, the U.S. Air Force said, amid Western concerns over a more assertive Russia. "This mission sends a clear message that our commitment to our NATO allies is unshakeable," Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander said in a statement.
Days ahead of Oprah‘s landmark interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, people are already spotting significance in the fashion choices made in the clips released. Meghan Markle‘s Oprah interview outfit reportedly sends a strong message, including a touching tribute to the late Princess Diana. Markle and Prince Harry have spent a year away from the spotlight, adjusting to life after stepping back as “senior members” of the royal family.
- Business Insider
Meghan Markle wore earrings from Mohammed bin Salman 3 weeks after Saudi agents murdered Jamal Khashoggi, report says
Markle was unaware of the rumors that the Saudi crown prince could be connected to the killing when she wore the earrings, a source told Insider.
- The Daily Beast
MATHIEU LEWIS-ROLLANDBy Elaine ShannonThe FBI-Homeland Security intelligence bulletin circulated at midnight Tuesday is ominous, but entirely predictable, given widely published reports of far-right chatter over the past several weeks: It alerts local law enforcement officials that extremists may try to breach the U.S. Capitol on Thursday and attack Democratic lawmakers.The warning is based on a malevolent fantasy spread by followers of QAnon, the cultish pro-Trump movement, that Donald Trump will reemerge to take power as the rightful president on March 4, which was Inauguration Day until 1933. Preposterous, but the FBI has learned not to dismiss any threat, no matter how irrational.“It does not take an armed takeover” by an organized group to do a lot of damage, says Tom O’Connor, an FBI agent who investigated suspected domestic terrorists for 23 years. “It takes one person who believes they need to act. How possible is that, I ask you?”Dead easy, as the FBI knows from the many cases in which lone actors or a couple or three angry people unleashed spectacular destruction, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Charleston church shooter Dylan Roof, and, most recently, Nashville bomber Tony Warner.The FBI’s ability to surveil American citizens and build domestic terrorism dossiers on them is tightly restricted by laws and regulations enacted in the post-Watergate era.Which is why the FBI has developed alternative tools and techniques for finding and discouraging people who might be thinking of escalating from radical anti-government speech, which is protected by the First Amendment, to violent action, which is a crime.FBI agents are currently deploying, among other strategies, preemptive interviews, also known as “knock and talk,” as a tactic for dealing with potential troublemakers when there’s insufficient evidence to file criminal charges—for instance, people who have been out bragging in bars or “shit-posting” online about their determination to come to Washington to help restore Trump to the White House, disrupt Congress or the Biden administration or intimidate lawmakers.The knock-and-talk drill is powerful, requires no intrusive technology and no warrant. It goes like this: FBI agents, sometimes with local police partners, knock on doors of people of interest and ask to interview them. The mere appearance of courteous but unsmiling and obviously well-informed badge-carriers, armed with notebooks and a long list of very specific questions, is often enough to chill someone from carrying out a half-baked scheme.“FBI agents and [Joint Terrorism] Task Force [police] officers routinely conduct these interviews with people who may have information or involvement in activity,” O’Connor told SpyTalk. “The effort is to let the interviewee know the FBI is aware they have potential involvement or information. This may slow the person’s potential involvement and most importantly, after building a relationship with the person, may produce information which will stop potential violence.”“These interviews are related to [uncovering] potential criminal violence,” he stressed, “and not First Amendment-protected activity. The FBI in no way is looking to chill a citizen’s rights to peaceful protest or free speech.”On Wednesday morning, Jill Sanborn, the FBI’s assistant director for counterterrorism, alluded to the FBI uses of the knock-and-talk technique to deter known violent extremists from traveling to the Capitol for the Jan. 6 event. Testifying before a joint session of the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees, Sanborn explained that of the 257 people charged so far for taking part in the riot, only one person was already under criminal investigation for domestic terrorism-related activities. Asked why so few documented domestic terrorists were in the crowd, Sanborn replied, “We were aware of some of our subjects that intended to come here. We took overt action by going and talking to them to get them to not come. That worked in the majority of our already predicated cases.”FBI director Christopher Wray made a similar disclosure to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. “There were individuals on whom we had previously predicated investigations, that we saw getting ready to travel,” Wray said. “…We had agents…approach those individuals, interview them, and even if we didn’t have the basis to charge somebody, it persuaded a number of those people from traveling.”‘Ready to Die’: Two Months of MAGA Mob Warning SignsWray said the FBI has 2,000 open domestic terrorism investigations, a fourfold increse over 2017.Knock-and-talk is “not new and certainly not just for terrorism,” says a retired agent with extensive experience in domestic and foreign counterterrorism investigations. “It's been done for years on organized crime cases. Sometimes to keep people from possibly doing something and sometimes to shake the bushes and see what reaction you get. Put pressure on a group of people, make them worried, make them suspicious and see what they do. In some cases where you are employing [court approved] Title III judicial wiretaps, you do interviews to see who the guys you talked to call. Do they call their bosses or do they warn people? It's a great technique. It works on different levels and it sends the message, ‘We are watching you. We know who you are.’ People think the Internet makes them invisible. Sometimes they need to be reminded that's not true.”Last week, Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pitman disclosed another malign fantasy reported by a FBI-Homeland Security intelligence bulletin—that some domestic extremists were talking of bombing the U.S. Capitol while President Biden was addressing a joint session of Congress in a State of the Union-style event, to assassinate the president and his cabinet and kill every lawmaker in sight.“The State of the Union is the juiciest target this country ever had, but the logistics are challenging,” says a retired senior FBI counterterrorism agent.“We always took the attitude, if your purpose is to stop the State of the Union, all you have to do is set off a bomb somewhere in D.C. and that will shut everything down,” he said, speaking with SpyTalk on condition of anonymity. “If a car bomb goes off in front of Union Station,” four blocks from the Capitol building, “they’ll stop it.”Presumably, the Secret Service would whisk the president away to a bunker and congressional leaders would also go to ground.But, the ex-G-man adds, “If your mission is to blow up the whole Capitol and decapitate the government, you better use a cruise missile because that’s the only way you’re going to get it.”As during previous State of the Union events, when the president travels to the Hill, streets around the Capitol building will be closed. Many are already closed off from the Jan. 6 event. Some will be blocked with buses and trucks. Secret Service, FBI, Homeland Security and local law enforcement surveillance teams will be everywhere, in patrol cars and on foot.Choppers and SniffersCounterterror veterans say that military aircraft and customs and police helicopters will overfly the Capitol and nearby streets, looking for everything from light aircraft to armed drones. Radiation detectors will be mounted in aircraft, cars and in backpacks shouldered by plainclothes agents, so they can head off “dirty” bombs packed with radioactive trash as shrapnel.The Capitol Police force has the biggest bomb squad in Washington, D.C., the ex-G-man says, and if its bomb techs encounter a device they can’t defuse, they’ll be able to summon backup from the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, which includes specialists trained to render safe unusual explosive devices.“If somebody wanted to put a package bomb on a drone, it would be hard to catch, hard to stop, but it wouldn’t do much damage,” he says. “If somebody wants to put a plane down somewhere, it’s very hard to stop that.”“It is possible [to hit the Capitol building] with an improvised missile,” Dave Williams, a retired FBI bomb tech who now consults on security, told SpyTalk. “The payload would be limited depending on the delivery system, but 20 pounds of high explosive would get some attention. A drone attack is unlikely, due to electronic jamming systems that could/will be in place. But a homemade rocket/missile has been made by a number of people. And they could easily fire it from a good distance away, a mile or so. It’s not out of the question.”That’s a chilling scenario, because the domestic extremist movement has attracted a significant number of military veterans. Some of them, or some to be recruited in coming months, could have useful artillery skills. Any explosion would yield the kind of publicity terrorists crave.Nightmares of Bombings PastA truck bomb would be a terrorist’s preferred, low-tech method for demolishing part of a massive stone building. The bomb that blew up about a third of the Oklahoma City federal building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, consisted of about 4,000 pounds of ANFO— ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixed with fuel oil—concealed in a Ryder moving truck. Williams says it would take at least that much ANFO or another homemade explosive to wreak equivalent damage on the hallowed Capitol building. A car, pickup or van couldn’t hold that much. Large trucks are impossible to hide, and they’re under routine scrutiny in Washington, especially during special events.A smaller amount of stolen military high explosives such as C4, PETN or TNT might do the job, but Williams doubts a terror group could get its hands on enough to create a catastrophic event in Washington.The most diabolical scenario is an explosion, or a series of them, detonated by an insider— or an outsider who has gained access to the building.The pros say that’s been considered. They say that since the anthrax attacks in 2001, the Capitol complex’s air conditioning system has been outfitted with filters that capture particles down to nanograms. These filters are regularly checked with forensic instruments that can detect particles of chemical explosives and also biological and radiological agents.As well, the Capitol Police make regular rounds with dogs trained to sniff explosives. Dog’s noses are often more sensitive than machines, and they like the job.“It’s like play for these dogs,” says Williams.Buzz Kill“They have all kinds of detectors within the Capitol, with all kinds of different levels of sensors,” says the ex-G-man. “The military has mobile systems that you can run out of a Humvee to detect explosives. They’re designed to protect troops out in the field. They work in fields, jungle, deserts.” So, the thinking goes, they’ll work well on Capitol Hill.“At this point, all threats have to be run to ground,” says O’Connor, who retired from the FBI in 2019. “The threat does not have to be fully vetted and confirmed to have actions taken to guard against potential attacks. The threats of overrunning the Capitol were thought by many to be along the same lines. No agencies will be writing off any threats until they are proven non-credible.”Privately, though, some FBI counter-terror hands expect the attack-the-Capitol moment to go sideways.“Guys like this don't want to go toe-to-toe with security forces and police that they know are waiting for them and really, really want another shot at the rioters,” says a retired FBI agent. “The Capitol Police and the National Guard both want to prove to the world that they can do the job and would love for people to try and breach the Capitol again. I expect lots of online rhetoric. I expect several groups to declare Trump is president again. I expect stories of a ‘secret Inauguration' taking place.”And then?Nothing for a while. Then maybe a change of venue.“If I was Capitol Police,” says the ex-Gman, “I would be more concerned about direct actions taken against specific congressional leaders when they are at home or traveling back to their home offices. That is when they are most vulnerable now.”Co-published with SpyTalk, where Jeff Stein leads an all-star team of veteran investigative reporters, writers, and subject-matter experts who will take you behind the scenes of the national security state. Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and website.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
A Palm Beach mansion owned by the Trump family just hit the market for $49 million, and it's right across the street from Mar-a-Lago
The home was previously owned by Donald Trump's sister, who sold it to Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump in 2018.
- The Independent
Republicans ‘increasingly irritated’ by Marjorie Taylor Greene’s repeated efforts to disrupt work of Congress, report says
Reps Cheney, Issa, and Kinzinger were among GOP who voted against adjournment
At least 15 people were killed in an SUV crash with a semi in Southern California, hospital authorities say
Officials from the El Centro Regional Medical Center in Imperial County said 27 passengers were in the SUV that crashed into a truck carrying gravel.
A lawyer for an accused Oath Keeper Capitol rioter says the group's 'quick reaction force' of weapon suppliers was actually just one guy
The Oath Keepers were one of the most prominent far-right militia groups the FBI said was involved in the January 6 Capitol riot.
The actor who plays Migs Mayfield on the show said "it's f---ing crazy times" in regards to cancel culture.
- Associated Press
An Israeli military court has sentenced a prominent Palestinian lawmaker to two years in prison in a plea bargain that convicted her of belonging to an outlawed group. Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has been held without charge since October 2019. Israel, along with the U.S. and other Western allies, considers the PFLP a terror group.
See-through fabric, cutouts, bright colors, and backless designs made for some of the best daring wedding dresses.
- Associated Press
President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress are jamming their agenda forward with a sense of urgency, an unapologetically partisan approach based on the calculation that it’s better to advance the giant COVID-19 rescue package and other priorities than waste time courting Republicans who may never compromise. The pandemic is driving the crush of legislative action, but so are the still-raw emotions from the U.S. Capitol siege as well as the hard lessons of the last time Democrats had the sweep of party control of Washington. Republicans are mounting blockades of Biden’s agenda just as they did during the devastating 2009 financial crisis with Barack Obama.
- Associated Press
President Joe Biden took office promising to move quickly to restore and repair America’s relations with the rest of the world, but one major nation has yet to see any U.S. effort to improve ties: China. From Iran to Russia, Europe to Latin America, Biden has sought to cool tensions that rose during President Donald Trump’s four years in office. Although the Biden administration has halted the ferocious rhetorical attacks and near daily announcements of new sanctions on China that had become commonplace under Trump, it has yet to back down on any of Trump's actions against Beijing.
- Associated Press
North Korea may be trying to extract plutonium to make more nuclear weapons at its main atomic complex, recent satellite photos indicated, weeks after leader Kim Jong Un vowed to expand his nuclear arsenal. The 38 North website, which specializes in North Korea studies, cited the imagery as indicating that a coal-fired steam plant at the North’s Yongbyon nuclear complex is in operation after about a two-year hiatus. This suggests “preparations for spent fuel reprocessing could be underway to extract plutonium needed for North Korea’s nuclear weapon,” the website said Wednesday.
- Associated Press
The Tesla Model S debuted nearly a decade ago and instantly portended the future of electric vehicles. Tesla’s continual updates along the way have kept the rest of the automotive industry in catch-up mode. Only recently has a model come out to rival the Model S: the Porsche Taycan.