November 19, 2019

Testifying in the impeachment inquiry sure sounds stressful.

Case in point: The U.S. Army is taking security precautions to protect Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who listened in on the July phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked the impeachment investigation and will provide public testimony about it Tuesday. Should the Army determine that Vindman and his family are in danger after Tuesday's hearing, they will be moved onto a military base in the greater Washington, D.C., area, officials told The Wall Street Journal.

Army security officials have reportedly been looking into Vindman's physical and online security at his request in recent weeks, and have also reportedly been monitoring his family "around the clock" to make sure there aren't any threats to their safety.

"The Army will make sure he's safe, and the Army is actively supporting any safety needs as deemed necessary," an official told the Journal. "It's hard that he has been catapulted into the public eye. He served his country honorably for 20 years, and you can imagine this is a tough situation for him and his family."

Some Republican critics have accused Vindman, an Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient, of harboring divided loyalties between the U.S. and Ukraine, his birth country. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

1:58 p.m.

The Biden administration will not raise the U.S. refugee cap from its historically low level set by the Trump administration, a senior administration official told The New York Times.

While President Biden previously pledged to welcome more than 60,000 refugees, rather than the 15,000 maximum set by his predecessor, the White House will instead keep the target of refugee admissions at the lower level. The reversal "signals the president's hesitant approach to rebuilding an immigration system gutted by his successor," writes the Times, noting hundreds of refugees fleeing war and religious persecution have already been left in limbo by the delayed decision on the cap.

The decision reportedly comes as a result of a surge of migrants at the southern border, which has "already overwhelmed the refugee branch of the Department of Health and Human Services," though asylum seekers go through a different process than refugees seeking protections.

Read more at The New York Times. The Week Staff

1:54 p.m.

More than three months after the Capitol riot, the first defendant in the case has pleaded guilty and is set to cooperate with prosecutors.

Jon Schaffer, a founding member of the far-right group the Oath Keepers, pleaded guilty on Friday to charges stemming from his participation in the riot at the Capitol building on Jan. 6, The Washington Post and Politico reported. He is the first Capitol riot suspect to plead guilty, and under the deal, he will "cooperate fully with the United States," per Politico.

Schaffer pleaded guilty to charges of obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and entering and remaining in a restricted building while armed with a weapon. Prosecutors said he was armed with bear repellent and was wearing a tactical vest during the riot.

"Schaffer admits that his belief that the electoral college results were fraudulent is not a legal justification for unlawfully entering the Capitol building and using intimidation to influence, stop, or delay the Congressional proceeding," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said that Schaffer admitted he was "among the first individuals to push past" a set of damaged doors into the Capitol building during the riot. Schaffer was one of over 400 people to face charges over the riot, according to the Post, and Politico reports a dozen members of the Oath Keepers have been charged.

Former federal prosecutor Peter Skinner explained to the Post this was a "huge" development in the case, as cooperation deals of this kind are "what the government needs to investigate and possibly prosecute the leaders of the organization." Skinner added, "Clearly, they're trying to send a strong signal to other Oath Keepers and leaders that there's somebody in the organization that is going to be telling them everything they know about the organization." Brendan Morrow

12:58 p.m.

Peaky Blinders and Harry Potter actress Helen McCrory has died at 52 after a battle with cancer, her husband, actor Damian Lewis, has announced.

Lewis on Friday said that McCrory, whom he married in 2007, died "peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family," following a "heroic" cancer battle.

McCrory was known best for her roles as Polly Gray on Peaky Blinders and as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. She also starred in films like The Queen, Skyfall, and Hugo. According to Variety, McCrory's career began in theater, and her stage work included Macbeth and Pride and Prejudice. McCrory and Lewis had two children together, according to Entertainment Tonight.

"She died as she lived," Lewis said. "Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you." Brendan Morrow

12:14 p.m.

Lawmakers who have criticized former President Donald Trump have reportedly had to spend a significant amount of cash on security following the deadly Capitol riot.

A report from Punchbowl News on Friday described how members of Congress "are spending tens of thousands of their campaign dollars on security to protect themselves and their families" in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, during which supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol to disrupt the certification of President Biden's election win.

This phenomenon has reportedly been "most acute" among Republicans who voted to impeach and convict Trump earlier this year. For example, first-quarter Federal Election Commission reports showed that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) spent $43,633 on security, while Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) spent almost $70,000 and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) spent $50,400, according to Punchbowl. These lawmakers all drew Trump's ire after they voted to impeach him on charges of inciting the Capitol riot, and Romney was also the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump in his first impeachment trial.

Some prominent Democrats are also spending similar sums on their private security, according to the report, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) security costs reportedly totaling $45,000 in the first quarter. In the wake of the Jan. 6. attack, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in February unveiled new security measures for lawmakers traveling to and from the nation's capitol, Axios notes, and according to Punchbowl, she's also preparing a spending bill that would add more officers to the Capitol Police and provide certain lawmakers with security in their districts.

"Several lawmakers privately told us that they got a flood of death threats after opposing Trump," Punchbowl also writes, adding that "threat levels against lawmakers have soared." Brendan Morrow

11:36 a.m.

In a Thursday night vote, the House overwhelmingly passed a reauthorization of the National Marrow Donor Program, which matches bone marrow donors and cord blood units with patients who need transplants. Overwhelmingly, that is, except for Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), reports CNN.

The two lawmakers were the only nays in a 415-2 vote, though another 12 representatives didn't vote, including fellow freshman Republican Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), reports Newsweek.

Greene's spokesperson Nick Dyer told Newsweek: "Nothing in this bill prevents the funding of aborted fetal tissue by taxpayers. It opens the door for the [National Institutes of Health] to use this bill to research the remains of babies who were murdered in the womb." Meanwhile Boebert said "this bill added hundreds of millions of dollars to the national debt, while not receiving a [Congressional Budget Office] score or going through the committee process."

As Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said on the House floor before the vote, the authorization greenlit "$23 million each year for 5 years for the cord blood side and, again, some $30 million each year for the bone marrow program." He noted the Be The Match registry, which pairs donors with patients who have leukemia and other diseases, has facilitated more than 105,000 bone marrow transplants and more than 40,000 cord blood transplants.

Greene has continued to double down on her argument, asserting Americans "would be outraged if they knew" the details of the bill, seemingly referring to the authorization of stem cell research as detailed here. Summer Meza

9:43 a.m.

Just when she thought she was out...

Chrissy Teigen returned to Twitter on Friday weeks after generating headlines for deleting her account, as the exit apparently wasn't all she expected it might be.

"Turns out it feels TERRIBLE to silence yourself and also no longer enjoy belly chuckles randomly throughout the day and also lose like 2000 friends at once," she wrote.

Teigen, who had nearly 14 million followers when she deleted her Twitter account in March, had previously explained she was leaving because the platform "no longer serves me as positively as it serves me negatively." She clarified this was "absolutely NOT Twitter's fault" and also wasn't the result of being bullied by trolls, but she said she was struggling to "come to terms with the fact some people aren't gonna like me."

Less than a month later, Teigen's account was back online on Friday, and she's apparently got a lot of catching up to do, joking she's spent "weeks just saying tweets to shampoo bottles." Teigen added that in returning to Twitter, she's choosing to "take the bad with the good," which fans can perhaps see as a more positive lesson out of this whole saga than the idea that there's truly no escape from Twitter for anyone. Brendan Morrow

8:32 a.m.

One of the Louisville police officers who shot Breonna Taylor is writing a book, but Simon & Schuster is now backing away from plans to be involved.

The publisher announced it has "decided not be involved in the distribution of" a book written by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers involved in the raid that Breonna Taylor was killed in last year, The New York Times and CNN report.

Officers in March 2020 were executing a no-knock warrant at Taylor's apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, and Mattingly was shot by Taylor's boyfriend, who says he thought they were intruders and was firing a warning shot. Taylor was killed after the officers returned fire. According to the Times, Mattingly "fired at least one of the six shots that hit Ms. Taylor, but not the lethal bullet."

It had previously been reported by the Louisville Courier Journal that Post Hill Press would publish Mattingly's book, The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy. But after facing criticism, Simon & Schuster said it only "learned of plans by distribution client Post Hill Press to publish a book by Jonathan Mattingly" on Thursday as this report emerged and will no longer be involved.

Prior to Simon & Schuster's announcement, a spokesperson for Post Hill Press told the Times it was standing by its decision to publish the book, as "in the case of Sergeant Mattingly, the mainstream media narrative has been entirely one-sided related to this story and we feel that he deserves to have his account of the tragic events heard publicly." Mattingly previously sued Taylor's boyfriend for assault and battery last year. Brendan Morrow

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