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New York City’s Mayoral Race Remains Unpredictable, Even After Voting Has Begun

New York City’s Mayoral Race Remains Unpredictable, Even After Voting Has Begun
New York City’s Mayoral Race Remains Unpredictable, Even After Voting Has Begun


Voting has already begun in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary.

Given the city’s heavy Democratic tilt, the winner of the primary, which concludes on Tuesday, is all but assured of the top job.

New York City, home to nearly 8.4 million people, is an American anomaly in many ways ― denser, more multicultural and less car-dependent than the country at large.

But this year — after eight years of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Big Apple’s first Democratic leader in two decades, and a self-styled progressive loathed by the activist left and right in equal measure — the city could chart a course for the future of the Democratic Party.

The leading contenders for control of City Hall are Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia; Maya Wiley, a former counselor to de Blasio; and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

Other less formidable candidates include city Comptroller Scott Stringer; former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan; and former Citigroup senior executive Ray McGuire.

Adams and Yang, both moderate by New York City standards, have led the polls most of the race. But lately, Yang’s standing has declined, while Garcia, a moderate running as a competent technocrat, has risen.

Although the result is still likely to disappoint the city’s activist left, Wiley, who has consolidated progressive support at the last minute, is now also in a competitive position. 

Below is a look at each of the top four candidates.

‘Old-School New York Politics’

Eric Adams campaigns with Mexican American community leaders in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood. Adams is the frontrunner

Eric Adams campaigns with Mexican American community leaders in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood. Adams is the frontrunner thanks to his leads with Black and Latino voters.

Adams, a former New York City Police Department captain-turned-state senator and borough leader, is something of a throwback to the heyday of machine politics in New York.

Adams has leveraged long-standing relationships with politicians, business people, clergy and union leaders to a career in public office that has been defined by sometimes-outlandish antics, loose ethics, and a savvy nose for the direction political winds are blowing.

“The way he talks, the way he debates ― he is so old-school New York politics,” said Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a Democratic media consultant who used to work for de Blasio.

Another word to describe Adams might be “transactional”: He appears to trade favors for support. As Yang is fond of noting, Adams has been the subject of federal, state and local investigations for alleged violations of campaign finance or ethics laws. 

None of the probes has resulted in anything more than a rebuke of Adams’ judgment, though it is clear that he has used his campaign account ― and a nonprofit not subject to contribution limits ― to solicit support from real-estate moguls and other well-connected individuals whose interests he went on to boost while in office.

At the same time, Adams has a unique personality. Faced with a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis in 2016 that threatened his eyesight, Adams became a vegan and an exercise nut who lost 30 pounds and eliminated his Diabetes symptoms. He meditates every day and writes in a journal; he credits the latter habit for his tendency to refer to himself in the third person. 

Although Adams was an outspoken member of a group of Black cops calling for reform within the NYPD, he was also a registered Republican in the late 1990s and suggested that the party had something to offer Black Americans.

Adams’ tenure in the state Senate was marked by his coziness with Republicans, who held the majority at the time, and a Democratic colleague, Hiram Monserrate, who was expelled in 2010 for slashing his girlfriend with broken glass. Adams objected to Monserrate’s expulsion, claiming that he wanted to wait to see whether his assault conviction was overturned on appeal.

Adams subsequently supported the 2018 reelection of Jesse Hamilton, a Democratic state senator aligned with senate Republicans, during Hamilton’s unsuccessful effort to ward off a progressive primary challenger.

Adams’ scandals have taken on an increasingly bizarre turn in recent weeks. A Politico investigation raised questions about whether Adams lived in Brooklyn, or split his time between Borough Hall and his partner’s condo in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Adams, who took members of the press on a tour of a ground-floor apartment in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where he claims to live, has likened the charges to former President Donald Trump’s racist suggestion that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Past ― and present ― peccadilloes notwithstanding, the secret to Adams’ strong performance in the mayoral primary has been his deep well of support in the city’s working- and middle-class, Black and Latino neighborhoods.

That support has widened thanks to his early and continued focus on the rising number of shootings and murders in the city. As the city’s recovery from the pandemic has taken flight, violent crime has become the central issue in the mayoral race.

Even as he promises to invest in long-term progressive solutions designed to attack the root causes of crime (a track he calls “prevention”), Adams has insisted on the need for more “intervention” as well ― short-term tactics like stationing more cops in subways and reconstituting the city’s plainclothes policing unit.

Yang has largely matched Adams’ tough-on-crime rhetoric and policy proposals in recent weeks, but Adams made it his central theme from the start. And of course, when it comes to crime, it is tough to out-do a former cop ― to say nothing of one who has mused about carrying a handgun at City Hall.

“When crime became such a dominant issue in the race, that positioned Eric Adams as the candidate to beat,” a New York Democratic strategist, who requested anonymity for professional reasons, told HuffPost.

‘A Progressive In Gracie Mansion’

Maya Wiley arrives at a rally in Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park. An endorsement from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has

Maya Wiley arrives at a rally in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park. An endorsement from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has helped consolidate the left behind Wiley.

If Adams is running as a lock-’em-up moderate disdainful of the activist left, civil rights attorney Maya Wiley is a champion of the social movements and causes that have breathed radical new life into city politics in recent years.

A former counselor to de Blasio, Wiley is casting herself as the city’s chance to deliver on the progress that de Blasio promised but fell short of providing. 

“I am the progressive who can win this race,” Wiley said at a June press conference. “And I look forward to earning the vote of every single New Yorker so we can choose a path where we all prosper.”

Even in a race defined by calls to crack down on crime, Wiley, who would be the first Black woman to govern the city, has stuck to bold reform proposals. She is calling for $1 billion in cuts to the NYPD budget to be transferred to social programs, and in one of her ads, featured footage of NYPD cars ramming Black Lives Matter protesters during demonstrations last summer.

Until the final few weeks of the campaign, Wiley occupied a kind of inverse goldilocks position as someone who neither had the perceived electability of Stringer ― a newcomer to left-wing causes ― nor the ideological purity of Morales. 

But with Stringer laid low by accusations of sexual misconduct and Morales’ campaign unraveled by charges of union-busting, progressives finally consolidated behind Wiley in June as their last best alternative to a moderate chief executive.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)’s surprise endorsement of Wiley on June 5 was a key turning point. Ocasio-Cortez framed a vote for Wiley as the only way to prevent a return to the pro-business and pro-police consensus of the Mike Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani mayoralties. 

“These are the stakes,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Maya Wiley is the one. She will be a progressive in Gracie Mansion.”

A recent poll showing Wiley in third place ― behind Adams and Garcia, but ahead of Yang ― has revived progressive hopes of a victory and suggested that lamentations of the disarray besetting the ascendant left in New York City might be premature.

You will see a lot of the Black community turn out for Black elected officials.
Olivia Lapeyrolerie, Democratic consultant

Wiley appears to benefit from a ranked-choice voting system that allows some ideologically flexible Black voters casting ballots for Adams to rank Wiley high up as well. Shoring up substantial Black support alongside that of college-educated liberals was one of de Blasio’s key political strengths, but an achievement that has since eluded many other would-be progressive leaders.

“You will see a lot of the Black community turn out for Black elected officials,” said Peyrolerie, who is Black.

At the same time, Wiley’s surge into the spotlight has heightened criticism from Adams and other moderates at what they see as her privileged brand of progressivism. Wiley lives with her family in an upscale Brooklyn community where a private security car patrols the streets. And she has actually elicited criticism from civil rights advocates for going too easy on police officers accused of misconduct during her tenure as chair of de Blasio’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.

“She is a hypocrite,” said Mona Davids, a South African immigrant, moderate political consultant and charter school parent in the Bronx’s Co-Op City neighborhood.

Wiley’s loss would embolden figures like Davids who accuse the activist left of being out of touch with the city’s multiracial working class.

“The small but loud minority of the activist left does not speak for the majority of New Yorkers and working families,” she said.

A Fresh Face Who Might Have Peaked Too Soon

Andrew Yang talks to a voter in Manhattan's Morningside Park on Saturday. Once a frontrunner, the businessman and former pres

Andrew Yang talks to a voter in Manhattan’s Morningside Park on Saturday. Once a frontrunner, the businessman and former presidential candidate has slid in recent polls.

For the first few months of the mayor’s race, it seemed like Andrew Yang, who would be the city’s first Asian American mayor, was the only candidate publicly campaigning. 

Not unlike Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, Yang’s team adopted a “flood the zone” approach to media coverage. He was everywhere ― playing piano outside the Coney Island theme park in his announcement video, snapping selfies with fans of his proposal for universal basic income, and regaling New Yorkers with his commentary on professional basketball. He did so much in-person campaigning that he tested positive for COVID-19 in early February. 

Most of all, Yang’s earnest and upbeat tone felt like an elixir to the dark cloud of the pandemic ― a cheerleader the city needed to emerge from the crisis stronger.

“New York City! Can you feel it? Our comeback starts today,” he tweeted on Jan. 14.

But with greater media attention comes greater media scrutiny. The New York Times took a withering look at Venture for America, a nonprofit Yang founded that aimed to create startup jobs in struggling cities.

Local and national media also focused on Yang’s reliance on the counsel of Bradley Tusk, a former Bloomberg adviser who profited personally from lobbying against regulation of tech companies like Uber. It did not help matters that Tusk told a New York Times columnist that Yang is an “empty vessel,” solidifying suspicions that Yang would be a Trojan horse for big business.

What really hurt Yang — who, critics note, has never voted in a city election — was a series of public flubs in May that reinforced a sense that he was out of his league. For example, at a campaign discussion hosted by a provider of shelters for those who need a temporary place to stay, Yang suggested that there should be specific shelters for survivors of domestic violence — even though such shelters already exist.

He’s saying something different ― that’s all.
Brenda Williams, home health aide

For a candidate promising to bring fresh energy and business acumen to City Hall, the remarks ― and related mistakes ― eroded a potential strength. Without a base among Black voters or progressive activists, he needed to capture a significant portion of college-educated voters critical of de Blasio’s management of the city and incidents that pointed to his ignorance were not helpful.

“He doesn’t have a clue as to what he’s doing,” Joan Beranbaum, a retired union lawyer living in lower Manhattan, told HuffPost.

In addition, Yang’s strong online presence and national profile made him a greater object of left-wing scorn than Adams, even though many of his aides and allies believe his focus on cash relief for low-income families and generally open-minded spirit should make him more palatable to progressives than the former NYPD captain. A statement of unequivocal support for the Israeli government in mid-May that elicited stern condemnation from Ocasio-Cortez, despite similar remarks from Adams, embodied this trend.

By the time of the final debate, Yang had fully embraced his centrist coalition of Asian Americans, Orthodox Jews and moderate, outer-borough whites. In lieu of the cheerful New York sports fan was a guy complaining about illegal ATVs and mentally ill homeless men. 

“Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights?” he said at a debate last week. “We do! The people and families of the city.”

Given his declining standing in the pre-election polls, Yang resorted to forging a one-sided coalition with Kathryn Garcia on Saturday. He plans to rank her second on his ballot and has advised his supporters to do the same, while Garcia, who campaigned alongside him, has not reciprocated.  

But Yang, whose most loyal voters ― Asian Americans and Orthodox Jews ― are hard to poll, still has a path to victory, particularly if enough voters ranking other candidates first include him on their ballots one way or another. 

“He’s saying something different ― that’s all,” said Brenda Williams, a home health care aide who plans to rank Yang second after Adams. “If we get something different, maybe something happen [sic] better.”

The Uncharismatic Manager

Kathryn Garcia campaigns on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Wednesday. It is unclear whether Garcia has enough support in work

Kathryn Garcia campaigns on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Wednesday. It is unclear whether Garcia has enough support in working-class Black and Latino communities to win.

The high drama of the Yang-Adams slugfest, the decline of an experienced city hand like Stringer, and the hunger for more efficient city services have all converged to give Kathryn Garcia a shot at City Hall.

Garcia is ideologically closer to Yang and Adams than Wiley, Stringer or Morales. She supports unfettered private-sector housing development, more charter schools and tougher policing.

But Garcia, who would be the city’s first woman mayor, has managed to capture the imagination of college-educated liberals — many of whom are to her left ideologically — thanks to her relentless focus on managerial experience and competence. 

She got a major boost with this voting bloc when The New York Times endorsed her in mid-May. The Times touted, among other things, Garcia’s modernization of the city’s snow-plow system and successful reduction of lead paint in public housing.

“The city’s recovery and its longer-term future … depend on a mayor who will understand and work the levers of good government,” the Times’ editorial board wrote.

A divorced, pack-a-day smoker with a dry speaking style, Garcia is the candidate for voters tired of outsize personalities and eager for a boring, no-nonsense, get-it-done technocrat. 

I’m not running to get the title of mayor. I’m running to do the job of mayor.
Kathryn Garcia, former NYC sanitation commissioner

In addition to running the city’s sanitation department, she led emergency food distribution during the pandemic, headed up the city’s public housing authority for a period of time, and served as chief operating officer of the city’s department of environmental protection.

“I’m not running to get the title of mayor,” she said in the final debate. “I’m running to do the job of mayor ― because New York City needs someone who is going to roll up their sleeves and solve the impossible problems.”

In the rush to find an alternative to Adams or Yang, some of Garcia’s record has escaped greater scrutiny. Despite some of Garcia’s efforts, for example, the city’s recycling rate was 18% as of January 2020. And a state government audit of Garcia’s department that came out in September panned the city agency’s record at maintaining sidewalk and street cleanliness. 

What’s more, politics is part of a New York City mayor’s job ― and it’s not clear that Garcia has what it takes to win this election, let alone assemble delicate coalitions at City Hall.

Garcia lacks support in the city’s massive working-class Black and Latino communities, which narrows her path to victory. And she failed to secure a cross-endorsement with Ray McGuire that might have helped her make inroads with Black voters in southeast Queens and Harlem, according to The New York Times.

Garcia, who is adopted, has a brother named Matthew who is Black. She has mentioned him in the context of her sensitivity to police racial profiling, on Saturday posted a photo of them eating breakfast together, and referenced that she was “adopted into a multiracial family” in a TV ad

But neither Matthew, nor Garcia’s two Latino kids ― her ex-husband is Puerto Rican ― have appeared in any of her TV ads. That has deprived her of the kind of multiracial moment that vaulted de Blasio to the mayoralty in 2013. A TV ad featuring de Blasio’s Black teenage son Dante went viral and solidified his standing with Black voters.


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Mississippi Argues Supreme Court Should Overturn Roe V. Wade

Mississippi Argues Supreme Court Should Overturn Roe V. Wade
Mississippi Argues Supreme Court Should Overturn Roe V. Wade


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court should overturn its landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide and let states decide whether to regulate abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb, the office of Mississippi’s Republican attorney general argued in papers filed Thursday with the high court.

“Under the Constitution, may a State prohibit elective abortions before viability? Yes. Why? Because nothing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion,” Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and four of her attorneys wrote in the brief.

The arguments are a direct challenge to the central finding of the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and its 1992 decision in a Pennsylvania abortion case. Both rulings said states may not put an undue burden on abortion before viability. The Mississippi attorneys argue that the rulings are “egregiously wrong.”

The Mississippi case is the first big abortion-rights test in a Supreme Court reshaped with three conservative justices nominated by former President Donald Trump.

A 6-3 conservative majority, with the three Trump nominees, said in May that the court would consider arguments over a Mississippi law that would ban abortion at 15 weeks. Justices are likely to hear the case this fall and could rule on it in the spring.

Nancy Northup is president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is defending Mississippi’s only abortion clinic in its challenge of the 15-week ban. She said Thursday that half of the states are poised to ban abortion altogether if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country,” Northup said in a statement. “Their goal is for the Supreme Court to take away our right to control our own bodies and our own futures — not just in Mississippi, but everywhere.”

Republican lawmakers in several states have been pushing laws designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, including bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks.. A federal district judge on Tuesday blocked an Arkansas law that would ban most abortions, ruling that the law is “categorically unconstitutional” because it would ban the procedure before the fetus is considered viable.

The Mississippi 15-week law was enacted in 2018, but was blocked after a federal court challenge. The state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, remains open and offers abortions up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. Clinic director Shannon Brewer has said about 10% of its abortions there are done after the 15th week.

More than 90% of abortions in the U.S. take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Mississippi clinic has presented evidence that viability is impossible at 15 weeks, and an appeals court said that the state “conceded that it had identified no medical evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks.” Viability occurs roughly at 24 weeks, the point at which babies are more likely to survive.

Mississippi argues that viability is an arbitrary standard that doesn’t take sufficient account of the state’s interest in regulating abortion.

The Mississippi law would allow exceptions to the 15-week ban in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. Doctors found in violation of the ban would face mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license.

“That law rationally furthers valid interests in protecting unborn life, women’s health, and the medical profession’s integrity. It is therefore constitutional,” the Mississippi attorney general’s office wrote in its Thursday filing.

The attorney who will make Mississippi’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court is the state solicitor general, Scott G. Stewart, a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.

Also in the filing Thursday, the Mississippi attorneys wrote that if the Supreme Court does not overturn the standard that abortion restrictions should face heightened-scrutiny, the court “should at minimum hold that there is no pre-viability barrier to state prohibitions on abortion and uphold Mississippi’s law.”

The Mississippi attorneys wrote that circumstances for women have changed since the 1973 and 1992 Supreme Court rulings.

“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” the Mississippi attorneys wrote. “States should be able to act on those developments.”

Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at


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Marjorie Taylor Greene Wants Chinese Booted For COVID, But Not A Peep About Unvaxxed

Marjorie Taylor Greene Wants Chinese Booted For COVID, But Not A Peep About Unvaxxed
Marjorie Taylor Greene Wants Chinese Booted For COVID, But Not A Peep About Unvaxxed


Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) wants Chinese residents in the U.S. deported because of China’s links to COVID-19.

But Greene, a QAnon disciple who rails against COVID-19 vaccinations, said nothing about unvaccinated Americans, who scientists say not only spread the disease but to serve as incubators for stronger variants of the coronavirus.

If she were in charge, Greene told Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon on his “War Room” program Wednesday, “I would kick out every Chinese in this country who is loyal” to the communist party because “China tried to kill us, and did kill us, this past year” with COVID-19. “If I had my way, I would come down on China so hard.”

Greene subscribes to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory that China, where COVID-19 first emerged, deliberately created COVID-19 to kill Americans.

But Greene is an outspoken critic of vaccination, which experts say is the best way to save lives as well as suppress and, hopefully, eradicate the pandemic.

“We are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky warned earlier this month.

People who refuse to be vaccinated also serve as “incubators” for increasingly stronger variants of COVID-19 that threaten everyone, health experts warn.

Viruses don’t mutate if they don’t replicate,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, last month. “If you give them the opportunity to replicate by allowing them to [spread] from person to person, you’re giving them a perfect opportunity to mutate even more and perhaps evade the vaccine.”

Greene also told Bannon that to punish China she would crank up Trump’s tariffs on the country, apparently mistakenly believing, as the former president did, that China then would have to somehow pay money to the U.S. treasury. In fact, U.S. importers of Chinese goods pay the tariffs. Economists from the Federal Reserve Bank in New York estimated that Trump’s Chinese tariffs cost American businesses and consumers $3 billion a month in increased prices in 2018.

Check out Greene’s vision for the future in the tweet above. 


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Ex-Airman Says Guilt Over Drone Strikes Prompted Him To Leak Secrets

Ex-Airman Says Guilt Over Drone Strikes Prompted Him To Leak Secrets
Ex-Airman Says Guilt Over Drone Strikes Prompted Him To Leak Secrets


ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former Air Force intelligence analyst said his guilt over participating in lethal drone strikes in Afghanistan led him to leak government secrets about the drone program to a reporter.

Daniel Hale of Nashville, Tennessee, is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria after pleading guilty to violating the Espionage Act by leaking top secret documents.

In court papers filed Thursday, Hale’s lawyers asked that he receive a 12- to 18-month sentence, which would be well below sentencing guidelines.

In an 11-page handwritten letter from the Alexandria jail where he’s being held, Hale outlines what led him break the law, describing his regret and horror as he saw gruesome videos of Afghans killed in part because his work helped track them down.

He said when he deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, his job was to track down cellphone signals linked to people believed to be enemy combatants.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t question the justification for my actions,” Hale wrote.

His guilt is compounded by the clinical nature of the drone strike program, in which Afghan targets are killed going about their daily lives — at times with innocent civilians killed as collateral damage — rather than on a traditional battlefield.

“The victorious rifleman, unquestionably remorseful, at least keeps his honor intact by having faced off against his enemy in the battlefield,” Hale wrote. “But what possibly could I have done to cope with the undeniable cruelties that I perpetrated?”

As a result, he said, his conscience compelled him to disclose details about the program to an investigative reporter he had previously met. The documents showed, among other things, that the drone program was not as precise as the government claimed in terms of avoiding civilian deaths.

Hale leaked the documents after he left the Air Force and had taken a civilian job with a contractor assigned to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, where he worked for a brief stint in 2014 as a toponymist, using his Chinese language expertise to help label maps.

Hale’s lawyers argue in court papers that his altruistic motives, and the fact that the government hasn’t shown any actual harm occurred from the leaks, should be taken into account for a light sentence.

“He committed the offense to bring attention to what he believed to be immoral government conduct committed under the cloak of secrecy and contrary to public statements of then-President Obama regarding the alleged precision of the United States military’s drone program,” defense attorneys Todd Richman and Cadence Mertz wrote.

Prosecutors, though, say the classified documents’ disclosure had the potential to cause serious damage. In sentencing papers, prosecutors Gordon Kromberg and Alexander Berrang write that documents leaked by Hale were found in an internet compilation of material designed to help Islamic State fighters avoid detection.

“(A)s a result of Hale’s actions, the most vicious terrorists in the world obtained documents classified by the United States as “Secret” and “Top Secret” — and thought that such documents were valuable enough to disseminate to their own followers in their own manuals,” Kromberg and Berrang wrote.

The prosecutors say that Hale’s leaks were more serious than those made by Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor who received a five-year sentence, the longest given to a whistleblower prosecuted for leaking classified documents to a journalist under the Espionage Act.

Prosecutors don’t request a specific prison term but say an appropriate sentence would be “significantly longer” than the 63 months imposed on Winner.


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Republicans Stumble Trying To Show More Urgency About COVID-19 Vaccines

Republicans Stumble Trying To Show More Urgency About COVID-19 Vaccines
Republicans Stumble Trying To Show More Urgency About COVID-19 Vaccines


Several high-profile Republicans have recently embraced the coronavirus vaccine, finally getting their shots or encouraging others to get theirs. 

Fox News host Sean Hannity, who previously called COVID-19 a “hoax,” promoted the vaccine on his show this week. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) received the shot this week after saying months ago that he would be getting it “soon.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been urging Floridians to get vaccinated. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has repeatedly encouraged vaccinations in recent days. 

But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) rejected the idea Thursday that Republicans have been speaking differently about vaccines.

“I don’t think we shifted in our tone,” he said, explaining that the rapid development of the vaccine has always been a top Republican achievement under former President Donald Trump. 

And some other Republicans aren’t quite ready to ditch the doubt and skepticism they’ve sown in the public about the danger of the virus and the effectiveness of the vaccines. 

House Republicans gathered for a news conference with doctors Thursday morning, which was billed as a push to get more Americans vaccinated and to discuss the new delta variant, which is more contagious and spreading rapidly around the country. But they spent most of their time blaming China for creating an “evil virus,” as Scalise put it, and criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for not doing enough to examine its origins.

“Why is she trying to do the work of the Chinese communist party in covering this up?” asked Scalise.

When the Republican lawmakers did talk about the need to get vaccinated, they framed it as a personal decision rather than an imperative in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

“We urge all Americans to talk to their doctors about the risks of COVID, talk to their doctors of the benefits of getting vaccinated and then come to a decision that’s right for them about the vaccine,” said Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a doctor and co-chair of the House Republican Doctors Caucus. “If you are at risk, you should be getting this vaccine.”

One of these days, if we’re not careful, we’re going to get a variant that isn’t something that we can handle with the vaccine we’ve already got.
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone eligible for the vaccine get the shot as soon as possible, not just people who are at higher risk of illness. 

Republicans have been far less likely to get vaccinated than Democrats, according to survey data. Polling also shows that doctors are the most trusted source of vaccine information and that unvaccinated adults put relatively more trust in doctors than in the government, which is likely why elected Republicans are telling people to talk to their doctors when they promote the vaccine. 

Though Scalise attended the news conference that strayed from its advertised vaccine-boosting message, earlier this week he posed for a photo while finally getting his shot. 

Scalise told HuffPost he hadn’t gotten vaccinated until now because he’d previously tested positive for antibodies ― meaning he thought he had some protection from COVID-19 from a mild or asymptomatic prior infection ― but with the new variant spreading, he decided to get vaccinated.

“I’ve talked to the hospital directors in my state, and over 98% of the people that are being admitted to hospitals right now for COVID are unvaccinated,” he said, “and I just felt this was the right time to get that extra level of protection and also thought it was important to publicly encourage people.”

“Ultimately it’s everybody’s choice and, you know, if they have questions, talk to their doctor, but at the same time it’s safe and effective and I’m glad I got it,” he added. 

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), who got the shot as soon as he could earlier this year, said he didn’t think there was necessarily more enthusiasm for the vaccine within the House Republican conference because of the delta variant. 

“If you weren’t scared of the original COVID, you shouldn’t be scared of the delta,” Hudson told HuffPost. “I think most of the outbreak we’re seeing is non-vaccinated people, but even among the non-vaccinated, the hospitalization and death rates are extremely low.”

Hudson added: “I do see, from the left, kind of a growing hysteria about the variant, which is concerning.” 

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) also said he didn’t think there’s been any increase in pro-vaccine sentiment among Republicans, though he said he had gotten his shot immediately. 

“It’s no change. I’m still thrilled,” he said. “It’s the success of Mike Pence and Operation Warp Speed.”

Even if most Republicans aren’t publicly admitting that there’s a shift, the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus seems to have people nervous, according to GOP strategists. The stock market recently tumbled amid concerns about the virus’s resurgent spread, and there are fears of returning to the lockdowns and restrictions of the past year. 

Cases are also on the rise in unvaccinated areas ― including many districts represented by Republicans in Congress. That reality may be prompting some lawmakers to push vaccinations with more urgency.

For example, in Plaquemines Parish in Scalise’s district, there has been a 929% increase in COVID-19 cases over a recent 14-day stretch and a 57% jump in hospitalizations. 

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said there indeed had been a shift. 

“Seems to me both Republican elected officials and some conservative news people are talking about having vaccines that weren’t a couple of weeks ago,” Blunt told reporters. 

Blunt suggested the rise of the delta variant could explain the rhetorical change and noted the available vaccines work well against the newer strain of the virus. 

“One of these days, if we’re not careful,” he said, “we’re going to get a variant that isn’t something that we can handle with the vaccine we’ve already got.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Richard Hudson as from New York rather than North Carolina.


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In Rejecting Trump Loyalists, Pelosi Defends—and Damns—the Truth About Jan. 6

In Rejecting Trump Loyalists, Pelosi Defends—and Damns—the Truth About Jan. 6
In Rejecting Trump Loyalists, Pelosi Defends—and Damns—the Truth About Jan. 6


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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave her Republican counterpart a chance to rethink his choices of appointees to a special panel to study how and why insurrectionists breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a brazen attempt to derail democracy. “I’m reviewing that,” she said Tuesday morning of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the panel, with a concision typical when she’s trying to say something without being explicit. In other words, she was aware McCarthy had asked her to appoint two loyalists to former President Donald Trump, who was impeached for inciting the mob to attack the Capitol, ultimately leaving five dead.
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Pelosi gave McCarthy a day to read the room. Seeing no change in his position, she announced she would accept only three of the GOP’s picks, rejecting Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, two outspoken Trump allies who had voted against certifying the 2020 election results. Upon hearing the news, McCarthy decided he would boycott the panel entirely as a political exercise designed to embarrass Republicans, many of whom continue to promote The Big Lie that Joe Biden is not the legitimately elected President of the United States. Instead, McCarthy said he would be empaneling his own investigation to find out what role Democrats played in sparking political violence. (Fact: Democrats did not storm the Capitol.)

“Pelosi has broken this institution,” said a seething McCarthy on Wednesday after Pelosi’s announcement.

In Washington, there is the type of outrage lawmakers can summon for show. Ultimately, though, the lights go down, the show ends and they move on with the next post office to rename or park to dedicate. Most players get the game and you occasionally see its lighter side, like when female lawmakers from both parties band together to play a charity softball game against female members of the Capitol press corps.

McCarthy is usually that kind of showman. He likes to be liked. He’s deeply conservative but—to borrow a phrase from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee—he’s typically not mean or angry about it. He’ll fight from a place of political gamesmanship but he can leave the pieces behind when he heads to a social event, where he is more comfortable glad-handing with donors and lobbyists. He would much prefer to dodge budget scores to talk about his latest bicycle ride through Rock Creek Park or—in times gone by—how Kevin Spacey’s office in House of Cards looks very much like his own.

So to watch McCarthy go so deep into rage yesterday was jarring. I had to think about the last time that I had seen him so visibly—and seemingly sincerely—agitated. Then it hit me: on Jan. 6 itself, when McCarthy strode through a still-smoky Capitol to speak on the floor of the House. Then, he urged colleagues to drop protests certifying Biden’s victory and pause to consider the fact that a violent pack had come closer than anyone in the room would like to admit to reaching them. “Nobody has a right to become a mob and we all should stand united in condemning the mob together,” he said. A week later, as the House voted to impeach Trump a second time, McCarthy said he was against the proceedings because they were too rushed, before adding this: “The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.”

Two weeks later, McCarthy was at Mar a Lago for a meeting with Trump to discuss how the ex-President might help Republicans win back a majority in the House and, with it, make McCarthy the next Speaker. Not six months later, McCarthy was nominating two of the 147 Republicans who rejected the results of the 2020 election to serve on the House panel that will probe the insurrection. This newsletter has covered Trump’s perceived hold over the GOP plenty in the last six months, but it deserves one more repetition: most Republicans don’t see a way to win in 2022 without keeping Trump and his base happy.

It’s clear McCarthy is making the play for 2022 and not a minute further. Historians will not judge the Republican Party kindly for this sheer political calculation given what we know now about how the Jan. 6 rally was planned on social media and promoted among far-right fringes of the GOP. But if McCarthy is known for being a likeable guy, he also doesn’t exactly have a reputation for thinking beyond the current fight. As The L.A. Times’ sage political columnist Mark Z. Barabak asked in a recent piece about the California Republican’s pliability these days: “Why get hung up on principle when power is so near at hand?”

For her part, Pelosi did her best to avoid this pitched partisanship. She sought to establish a special commission, similar to the one formed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, to sidestep explicit partisanship. She even ceded to Republicans’ complaints that they weren’t getting the same number of seats and staff. The effort cleared the House with just two GOP votes before failing in the Senate. Facing that reality, Pelosi announced she was creating a select committee made of House lawmakers, whom she could veto.

And today she had no apologies at the ready for spiking two of McCarthy’s picks. “They had made statements and taken actions that I think would impact the integrity of the committee, the work of the committee,” the Speaker told reporters. When asked about Republican criticism of the move, Pelosi calmly replied, “Perhaps you’ve mistaken me for someone who cares about that.”

From the start, Republicans crowed that Pelosi was creating a political tool—a third impeachment panel. And then they went on to name two of the most partisan Trump acolytes to serve on it, including one who skipped the vote on Pelosi’s first effort so he could tour the Texas border with Trump. McCarthy previously had told Republicans that if they accepted Pelosi’s invitations to serve, they would be booted from all committee assignments. So far, only Republican Rep. Liz Cheney—who lost her job as the third-ranking Repubican in the House because she refused to humor Trump’s lies about the election—has accepted a spot on the committee.

If McCarthy follows through with his threat to boycott and form his own so-called investigation into Jan. 6, he will be leaving Trump’s fate and a verdict on the broader GOP with Democrats and Cheney alone, one of her party’s most talented infighters in quite some time to hold up Republicans’ flag. And there’s a good bet she won’t be using it to break windows like the mob did on Jan. 6. Absent any other GOP participation, it’s doubtful that Republicans will even bother to crack the binding on the eventual report the select committee produces, leaving Democrats and Republicans to choose their own truth about what happened on Jan. 6. It’s hardly an outcome that builds confidence in democracy.

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Pelosi Says Jan. 6 Panel To Move Ahead Without GOP’s Choices

Pelosi Says Jan. 6 Panel To Move Ahead Without GOP’s Choices
Pelosi Says Jan. 6 Panel To Move Ahead Without GOP’s Choices


WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says a committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection “will do the job it set out to do” despite Republicans’ vow to boycott the probe.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Wednesday that Republicans won’t participate after Pelosi rejected two of the he chose to sit on the panel, Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Pelosi made clear on Thursday that she won’t relent, telling reporters that the two men “took actions that made it ridiculous to put them on such a committee seeking the truth.”

“It is my responsibility as the speaker of the House to make sure we get to the truth of this, and we will not let their antics stand in the way of that,” Pelosi said.

Banks and Jordan are outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump, whose supporters laid siege to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s electiwin. Both men voted to overturn the election results in the hours after the siege.

It is unclear, for now, whether Pelosi will try and appoint other members to the panel, as she has the authority to do under committee rules. She left open the possibility, saying that there are other members who would like to participate. “We’ll see.”

One possibility is Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was one of only two Republicans to vote in favor of setting up the committee. The other, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, has already been appointed by Pelosi to sit on the panel along with seven Democrats — ensuring they have a quorum to proceed, whether other Republicans participate or not.

The back and forth over the panel is emblematic of the raw political tensions in Congress that have only escalated since the insurrection and raises the possibility that the investigation — the only comprehensive probe currently being conducted of the attack — will be done almost entirely by Democrats. The House voted in May to create an independent investigation that would have been evenly split between the parties, but Senate Republicans blocked that approach in a vote last month.

McCarthy called Pelosi’s move an “an egregious abuse of power” and said it will damage the institution of Congress.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts,” McCarthy said.

It is unclear how McCarthy would lead a separate investigation, as the minority does not have the power to set up committees. He said the panel has lost “all legitimacy” because Pelosi wouldn’t allow the Republicans to name their own members.

Most in the GOP have remained loyal to Trump despite the violent insurrection of his supporters that sent many lawmakers running for their lives. McCarthy wouldn’t say for weeks whether Republicans would even participate in the probe, but he sent the five names to Pelosi on Monday.

Pelosi accepted McCarthy’s three other picks — Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Texas Rep. Troy Nehls. But McCarthy said that all five or none would participate.

Like Jordan and Banks, Nehls voted to overturn Biden’s victory. Armstrong and Davis voted to certify the election.

Banks recently traveled with Trump to the U.S.-Mexico border and visited him at his New Jersey golf course. In a statement after McCarthy tapped him for the panel, he sharply criticized the Democrats who had set it up.

“Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda,” Banks said.

Democrats whom Pelosi appointed to the committee earlier this month were angry over that statement, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the private deliberations and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss them. They were also concerned over Banks’ two recent visits with Trump, the person said.

Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, was one of Trump’s most vocal defenders during his two impeachments and last month likened the new investigation to “impeachment three.” Trump was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate both times.

Cheney said she would support fellow Republican Kinzinger’s appointment if Pelosi goes that route. Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin said he’d be open to anyone who doesn’t want to obstruct the work of the committee, and “I’m sure Kinzinger does not want to obstruct the work of the committee.”

The panel is also considering hiring former Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia, a Republican who has criticized Trump’s lies about election fraud, as an outside adviser, according to a person familiar with the committee’s work who was granted anonymity to discuss the private talks.

Cheney told reporters Wednesday she agrees with Pelosi’s decision to reject the two Republicans named by McCarthy.

“At every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened — to block this investigation,” Cheney said.

The panel will hold its first hearing next week, with at least four rank-and-file police officers who battled rioters that day testifying about their experiences. Dozens of police officers were injured as the violent mob pushed past them and broke into the Capitol building.

Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the panel, said the committee would carry out its duties.

“It has been more than 6 months since the attack, we owe it to our democracy to stay the course and not be distracted by side-shows,” Thompson said in a statement. “That is exactly what we will be doing next Tuesday, when the bipartisan committee members take testimony from frontline heroes who put their lives on the line to protect our democracy.”

Seven people died during and after the rioting, including a woman who was shot by police as she tried to break into the House chamber and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies.

Two police officers died by suicide in the days that followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and later died after engaging with the protesters. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.

Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.


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