DML Morning Briefing Tues. Feb. 9: Trump ‘trial’, Biden ditches Trump attorneys, strips ICE, danger to US water system, and more…
By Team DML
Today is February 9 and I am Dennis Michael Lynch. Below are my opinions on the stories grabbing headlines this morning. I hope you share this briefing as doing so will make you the smartest person in the room, in my opinion.
1 – Democrats to go for emotion at Trump trial
The Hill reports: The team of Democrats prosecuting former President Trump for his role in last month’s assault on the U.S. Capitol are prepping their argument for maximum emotional impact.
The nine House impeachment managers plan to avoid any long or abstract legal analysis in favor of efforts to tell the “gripping and spellbinding story” of how Trump incited the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
That strategy, they believe, carries at least two advantages: It keeps the message simple and easily digestible for the TV audience; and it allows the prosecution to wrap up quickly so that Democrats can get on with the ambitious legislative agenda of the nascent Biden administration, starting with another massive round of COVID-19 relief.
The outcome of the trial is all but predetermined: It’s highly unlikely that 17 Republican senators will cross the aisle to convict their former White House ally, who remains enormously popular among the GOP faithful.
Democrats will argue that Trump’s instructions to “fight like hell” incited his followers to sack the Capitol that day. The managers are also expected to present senators with video clips of insurrectionists hunting for lawmakers and attacking police; one Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died after suffering injuries. And they are likely to play audio from Trump’s phone call asking Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” enough votes to flip the state in Trump’s favor — an episode mentioned in the single article of impeachment passed by the House last month.
DML: Waste of time!
2 – DOJ To Ask Trump’s U.S. Attorneys To Resign But Spare Prosecutor In Hunter Biden Probe
The Huffington Post reports: Less than three weeks after Joe Biden was sworn in as president, the Justice Department’s acting leadership will ask all but one of the top federal prosecutors appointed by former President Donald Trump to step down
A senior Justice Department official confirmed that DOJ leadership would seek the resignations of the dozens of presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys who were put in place by Trump. The expected resignations could begin as soon as Tuesday.
But U.S. Attorney David Weiss of Delaware, who is overseeing the investigation of Biden’s son Hunter, will remain on the job. The official also said that the move would not affect U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham’s role as special counsel investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, even though Durham is expected to be asked to step down as his state’s top federal prosecutor.
The move could also spare, at least temporarily, officials like Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin, who was put in place by the Trump administration and is now overseeing the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation of the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in support of Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
DML: I’ll be talking about this on my show today!
3 – Psaki defends updated guidance not to prioritize deporting those convicted of DUI or assault
The Washington Examiner reports: White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that President Biden’s administration will not push to deport illegal immigrants who are convicted of driving under the influence or drug-related crimes.
“The priority for the enforcement of immigration laws on those who are posing a national security threat … a public safety threat, and on recent arrivals,” Psaki said during Monday’s press briefing. “Nobody is saying that DUIs or assault are acceptable behavior, and those arrested for such activities should be tried and sentenced as appropriate by local law enforcement. But we’re talking about the prioritization of who is going to be deported from the country.”
A Sunday Washington Post report revealed that the Biden administration was prepping new guidelines to seek to deport immigrants for crimes such as DUI and assault. Instead, the plan will focus on immigrants who pose an immediate national security threat. From the Washington Post:
The Biden administration is attempting to reorient ICE….But frustrated ICE officials say the proposed changes will take away agents’ discretion and severely constrain their ability to arrest and deport criminals. Agents seeking to arrest fugitives outside of jails and prisons will need prior approval from the agency’s director in Washington justifying the decision while explaining how the enforcement action “constitutes an appropriate allocation of limited resources,” according to a draft memo circulating at the agency.
“They’ve abolished ICE without abolishing ICE,” said one distraught official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The pendulum swing is so extreme. It literally feels like we’ve gone from the ability to fully enforce our immigration laws to now being told to enforce nothing.”
Below is Psaki’s response when confronted about the new policy:
DML: Biden’s fundamental transformation. I’m outraged!
4 – Biden’s CIA Pick, William Burns, Leads A Think Tank With Close Ties To China
The Daily Caller reports: William J. Burns, who is President Joe Biden’s nominee for director of the CIA, is president of a think tank that has received up to $2 million from a Chinese businessman as well as from a think tank with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
As president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Burns also invited nearly a dozen congressional staffers to attend a junket to China, where they met with a communist party operative and a president of a Chinese front group.
Burns, who was paid $540,580 last year as president of Carnegie, will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee for a confirmation hearing likely to be held this month. He has been president of Carnegie since March 2015.
During Burns’ tenure at Carnegie, a businessman named Zhang Yichen joined the think tank’s board of trustees. “We are very fortunate to have Zhang Yichen on our board,” Burns, a former deputy secretary of state, said in a statement in October 2016. “I look forward to working with him to make Carnegie an even finer institution.”
Zhang, the CEO of CITIC Consulting, a China-based investment firm, donated between $500,000 and $999,999 to Carnegie from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018, according to Carnegie’s website. He gave between $250,000 and $549,999 in the 2020 fiscal year, according to Carnegie’s 2020 annual report.
Zhang is a member of two organizations linked to the Chinese Communist Party, according to his biography at CITIC Capital: the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the Center for China and Globalization.
DML: Anyone think this is a threat to national security?
5 – Georgia officials open inquiry into Trump efforts to overturn election results
The Hill reports: The Georgia secretary of state’s office is investigating former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results in the Peach State, which included a phone call he placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) in early January.
Walter Jones, a spokesman for the office, confirmed the probe in a Monday statement and described it as “fact-finding and administrative.”
“The Secretary of State’s office investigates complaints it receives. The investigations are fact-finding and administrative in nature,” Jones said. “Any further legal efforts will be left to the Attorney General.”
The investigation is likely to focus in part on a Jan. 2 phone call in which Trump pressed Raffensberger to “find” the votes necessary to overturn his electoral loss in Georgia and issued veiled threats.
“The ballots are corrupt, and they’re brand new, and they don’t have seals, and there’s a whole thing with the ballots. But the ballots are corrupt. And you are going to find that they are — which is totally illegal — it is more illegal for you than it is for them because, you know, what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer,” Trump said during the hourlong phone call.
DML: They will never let this man rest.
6 – Hackers try to contaminate Florida town’s water supply through computer breach
Reuters reported: Hackers broke into the computer system of a facility that treats water for about 15,000 people near Tampa, Florida and sought to add a dangerous level of additive to the water supply, the Pinellas County Sheriff said on Monday.
The attempt on Friday was thwarted. The hackers remotely gained access to a software program, named TeamViewer, on the computer of an employee at the facility for the town of Oldsmar to gain control of other systems, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in an interview.
“The guy was sitting there monitoring the computer as he’s supposed to and all of a sudden he sees a window pop up that the computer has been accessed,” Gualtieri said. “The next thing you know someone is dragging the mouse and clicking around and opening programs and manipulating the system.”
DMLNewsApp further reported on Monday: During a press briefing on Friday, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri explained that about 8:00 Friday morning, an operator noticed that a brief remote access occurred, but he at first thought nothing of it, because sometimes his supervisor and others will remotely access the system to monitor it.
However, again about 1:30 that afternoon, it happened again, and the operator saw a curser being moved to open various functions that controls the water being treated in the system. After about three to five minutes, the hacker changed the sodium hydroxide level from about 100 parts per million to 11,000 parts per million.
“This is obviously a significant and potentially dangerous increase,” the sheriff stated, explaining that sodium hydroxide is the main ingredient in liquid drain cleaners.
After the intruder increased the volume, the person exited the system, and the operator immediately reversed it back to normal. “At no time was there a signifiant, adverse affect on the water being treated, and the public was not in danger,” the sheriff said.
Steps were immediately taken to prevent further remote access to the system, the sheriff said. No suspect has yet been identified, but officials do have leads they’re following. “We don’t know right now whether the breach originated from within the United States or outside the country,” Gualtieri said.
DML: I’ll be talking about this on my podcast today!
7 – WHO drops investigation into whether COVID-19 virus leaked from Wuhan lab, calling theory unlikely
The Associated Press reports: The coronavirus is unlikely to have leaked from a Chinese lab and is more likely to have jumped to humans from an animal, a World Health Organization team has concluded, an expert said Tuesday as the group wrapped up a visit to explore the origins of the virus.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China has collected extensive virus samples, leading to allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community. China has strongly rejected that possibility and has promoted other theories for the virus’s origins. The WHO team that visited Wuhan, where the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered in December 2019, is considering several theories for how the disease first ended up in humans, leading to a pandemic that has now killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide.
“Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific targeted research,” WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek said at a news conference Tuesday.
“However, the findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population” and will not be suggested as an avenue of future study, Embarek.
The WHO team — which includes experts from 10 countries — arrived in Wuhan from Singapore on Jan. 14 and spent the first two weeks working by video conference from a hotel while in quarantine. The visit is politically sensitive for Beijing. An AP investigation has found that the Chinese government put limits on research into the outbreak and prevents scientists from speaking to reporters.
The WHO team’s mission is intended to be an initial step delving into the origins of the virus, which is believed to have originated in bats before being passed to humans through another species of wild animal, such as a pangolin or bamboo rat, which is considered an exotic delicacy by some in China.
DML: Well, of course they’ll say this!
8 – US considers Covid-19 testing requirement for domestic air travel
CNN reports: The Biden administration is considering a rule that would require negative Covid-19 test results for domestic air travel, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg mentioned the possible testing requirement for air travelers within the United States in an interview Sunday with “Axios on HBO.”
Buttigieg was asked, “What’s the way transportation has been permanently changed by the pandemic?”
He responds, “Our old patterns of life, the 9-5, Monday-Friday commuting patterns, are not going to be exactly the same.”
DML: I’ll be talking about this on my podcast!