Elections officials across the country have a problem with Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) "just asking questions" shtick.
Even before President-elect Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election, President Trump and his allies have been relentlessly questioning the results. While some of Trump's supporters have launched mostly-failed legal challenges to throw out votes in swing states Biden won, Graham took another approach, claiming he is innocently trying to investigate election integrity in states Biden coincidentally won.
Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) disputed Graham's methods on Monday, saying the senator asked him to "look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out." Gabriel Sterling, an aide to Raffensperger, confirmed that account to CNN on Tuesday.
In what seemed like to be another attempt to add legitimacy to his investigation, Graham said Tuesday he also talked to the secretaries of state in Arizona and Nevada — two states that Biden won, but also took a while to count their votes. But Arizona's Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) said she hadn't heard from Graham.
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (D) said the same, though Graham said he may have talked to some other election official in the state. Kathryn Krawczyk
Lindsey Graham told me he doesn’t remember the names of the Nevada officials he spoke with, but Nevada’s Secretary of State says: “I have not spoken with Senator Lindsey Graham or any other members of Congress” about election results.
The Capitol Police inspector general has issued a blistering report criticizing the agency's response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, writing that leaders received ample warning that extremist supporters of former President Donald Trump posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians, but were still not prepared to handle the crowd, The New York Times reports.
The report from Inspector General Michael A. Bolton was issued Tuesday, and has been reviewed by the Times. On Jan. 6, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, following a "Stop the Steal" rally that claimed the election had been rigged. Bolton writes in the report that three days earlier, a Capitol Police intelligence assessment revealed that a map of the Capitol complex's tunnel system had been shared on pro-Trump message boards. Further, the Jan. 3 assessment warned, "Congress itself is the target on the 6th. Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike."
Despite this cautionary message, when Capitol Police on Jan. 5 put together a plan on how to handle the protest, they wrote there were "no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress."
Bolton also found that agency leaders told the Civil Disturbance Unit not to use stun grenades and other powerful crowd-control tools to quell the Jan. 6 assault. Officers who were at the Capitol during the attack told Bolton these instruments could have helped them "push back the rioters," the Times reports. Additionally, some officers wielded riot shields that "shattered upon impact" because they had been kept in a trailer that was not climate-controlled. Extra shields were kept on a bus that was locked, leaving officers unable to access them.
Nearly 140 law enforcement officers were injured during the assault, with Officer Brian Sicknick collapsing during the riot and later dying. In the report, Bolton determined that the Capitol Police's internal dysfunction led to an intelligence and communication breakdown, the Times reports, and there needs to be "guidance that clearly documents channels for efficiently and effectively disseminating intelligence information to all of its personnel." On Thursday, Bolton will testify in front of the House Administration Committee. Catherine Garcia
The White House said Tuesday night that President Biden has accepted an invitation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to address a joint session of Congress on April 28, the night before his 100th day in office. Pelosi extended the invitation earlier Tuesday, suggesting Biden could "share your vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of this historic moment."
It isn't clear yet how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the speech, traditionally attended by all members of the House and Senate, plus Supreme Court justices and Cabinet members. The House, which will host the address in its chamber, has enacted social distancing measures and requires everyone to wear a mask, and the visitor gallery, usually full during such speeches, has been closed to the public.
Biden is delivering his inaugural address to Congress later in his first year than his predecessors Donald Trump and Barack Obama did. Although the April 28 event will resemble a State of the Union address, presidents don't deliver that speech until their second year in office. Peter Weber
For the third night in a row, hundreds of people have surrounded police headquarters in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, protesting against the officer-involved shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man.
Some protesters have been throwing bottles and other objects at police officers, who in turn have deployed tear gas and flash bangs, the Star Tribune reports. A curfew will go into effect in Brooklyn Center at 10 p.m., and at 9 p.m., law enforcement declared the protest was an "unlawful assembly" and ordered the crowd to disperse.
Wright died on Sunday afternoon, after being shot during a traffic stop. On Monday, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters it appeared the officer, Kim Potter, meant to fire her Taser, but accidentally grabbed her gun. Both Gannon and Potter resigned on Tuesday. Catherine Garcia
Nearly 25 years after 19-year-old college student Kristin Smart vanished while walking back to her dorm, a former classmate, Paul Flores, 44, has been charged with one count of murder in connection with her disappearance.
Flores' father, Ruben Ricardo Flores, 80, was also arrested on Tuesday and accused of helping his son dispose of Smart's remains.
Smart, a freshman at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, disappeared in May 1996 after attending a party. Witnesses said Paul Flores said he would make sure she made it safely back to her dorm, but Smart was never seen again. Classmates described Flores as awkward and unpopular, the Los Angeles Times reports, and during questioning from authorities, he admitted to lying about how he got a black eye. Investigators used search dogs and radar equipment to try to find Smart's body, but her remains have never been discovered. She was declared dead in 2002.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson told reporters on Tuesday that new evidence in the case was secured in 2016, and in 2019, after hearing a podcast about the Smart case, witnesses came forward and were interviewed for the first time by authorities. Search warrants were issued for the home of Flores, his father, his mother, and his sister, and during a second search of Flores' home, physical evidence "related to the murder of Kristin Smart" was found, Parkinson said.
An attorney for Paul Flores declined to comment, while an attorney for Ruben Flores told the Times his client is "absolutely innocent." Parkinson said police will continue to look for Smart's remains, and in a statement, her family said they hope the arrests of Paul and Ruben Flores will be "the first step to bringing our daughter home." Catherine Garcia
Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Florida, has been providing information about the conduct of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to federal investigators since last year, two people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times on Tuesday.
In late March, the Timesreported that Gaetz, 38, was the subject of a Justice Department investigation into whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel out of state with him. The Times says the inquiry stemmed from an investigation into Greenberg, who has been charged with sex trafficking of a minor, stalking, and bribery.
People familiar with the matter told the Times that once Greenberg realized how much evidence the government had on him, he determined that in order to get leniency, he would need to start cooperating. He reportedly told investigators that he and Gaetz gave cash and gifts to women in exchange for sex.
During a hearing last week, Greenberg's lawyer and a federal prosecutor told the judge it's likely Greenberg will plead guilty sometime in the next few weeks. Following the hearing, Greenberg's attorney, Fritz Scheller, said, "I'm sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today." Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill told the Times that Gaetz "has never paid for sex" and proposed that Greenberg is "trying to ensnare innocent people in his troubles." Catherine Garcia
After nearly two weeks, the prosecution on Tuesday morning rested its case against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, and the defense began calling its witnesses, including a former police trainer who said Chauvin was justified in using a prone restraint against George Floyd.
Chauvin, a 45-year-old white man and 19-year police veteran, is facing murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man who died while being arrested on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill. A bystander recorded the arrest, and the video shows Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.
The prosecution called to the stand several use-of-force experts, police officers, and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to testify about Chauvin's actions during the arrest, with Arradondo saying he "absolutely" violated department policy, adding, "that is not what we teach."
One of the first witnesses the defense called on Tuesday, former police trainer Barry Brodd, testified that Floyd was resisting officers, and as such, Chauvin was justified in using a prone restraint. Officer Peter Chang, who responded to the scene of Floyd's arrest, also testified that the crowd gathered nearby was "very aggressive," and he was "concerned for the officers' safety, too."
The defense argument is that Floyd's underlying heart disease and the fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system led to his death, not having Chauvin's knee on his neck for more than nine minutes. Several prosecution witnesses testified earlier in the trial that Floyd died due to low oxygen levels, with cardiology expert Dr. Jonathan Rich asserting that it was "truly the prone restraint and positional restraints that led to his asphyxiation." Catherine Garcia
Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) really doesn't like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a fact he made quite clear in his new book, On the House. Still, he probably doesn't mind the fact that his rival gave the publication some free promotion on Tuesday.
Cruz tweeted that someone dropped off a signed copy of the book at his office, seemingly as a prank, and he posted what is most likely a tongue-in-cheek picture of it sitting prominently in "the appropriate place" — the fireplace. Who says politicians don't have a sense of humor? Tim O'Donnell