Sen. Ted Cruz Flies To Cancun As Texas Freezes (UPDATED)

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 18, 2021

On Monday, a historic winter storm blanketed the state of Texas. A mix of rain, snow and sleet fell on the ground in Texas as temperatures reached historic lows. By Tuesday morning, the temperature was 9 degrees, as opposed to the normal low of 47 degrees. Texas had 4.3 million power outages that morning — more than any other state, according to ABC 13. (By 12:15 pm Tuesday, 4.5 million Texans — 35% of state residents — had lost power, according to the New York Times.)

The extreme weather disrupted water service for more than 12 million residents, per MSN, forcing many of the more than 680 water systems in Texas to issue boil water notices. Pipes began to burst, flooding the homes of Texas residents. That further exacerbated the situation for Texans, already without wifi, lights or heating. Without power or heat, some Texans posted videos on social media of them burning old furniture to stay warm. Others shared images of flooding caused by burst pipes and collapsed ceilings.

The New York Times revealed that burst pipes even extended to a Dallas domestic violence center. “The power had been out for two days when the waterlogged ceiling caved in at the Family Place, a domestic violence shelter in Dallas, unleashing a freezing waterfall onto the 120 women and children seeking refuge there on Tuesday,” the Times reported. The clothes of vulnerable women and children were soaked, their important legal documents ruined.

“They lost basically everything,” said Shelbi Driver, a resident advocate at the shelter. The Times added that three other shelters in the area had to be evacuated due to burst pipes. Here in Houston, pipe-bursting cold was a problem for residents, too. I know this problem all too well.

On Tuesday morning, I noticed dripping water coming from a light fixture in my laundry room. The dripping rapidly intensified into a heavy downpour. Though I tried to absorb the water by placing laundry baskets under the leak, the leak became a deluge. Within minutes, the roof had collapsed, destroying the layers of sheet rock that used to be my roof.

My pipes burst. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

While water flooded the homes of Texas residents, the drinking water remained unsafe to drink or even cook with. According to the Associated Press, “Texas officials ordered 7 million people — one-quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking the water, after days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.”

While his city froze, Texas Senator Ted Cruz hopped on a flight to Cancun.

Sen. Cruz flew to Cancun, Mexico for a family vacation on Wednesday, as thousands of his constituents were literally freezing in their homes. Photos emerged of Cruz at Bush Intercontinental Airport (which canceled flights earlier this week, due to ice on the roads. The airport was also under a boil water notice, per ABC 13). Then cameras caught him on board a flight to Mexico. (The CDC has advised that individuals “should avoid all travel to Mexico” due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

Yet there Cruz was, on a flight to Mexico. His staff reached out to the Houston Police Department to confirm the senator’s arrival at the airport, according to HPD spokeswoman Jodi Silva. She said that the officers were present to “monitor” Cruz’s movements as he prepared to fly away. (By the time pictures of Cruz surfaced on Wednesday night, blackouts in Texas had affected 1.8 million customers Wednesday night, according to tracking website poweroutage.us. That number was down to just over 511,000 as of 11:28 a.m. local time, the site said.)

In Houston, more than 1 million people remained without power Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner said, adding that service would not be restored fully for another couple of days. The city has been under a boil water notice since Wednesday morning. It is not clear whether Cruz knew (or cared) about any of this when he jet-setted to Cancun.

As Microsoft News noted, “Mr. Cruz had been acutely aware of the possible crisis in advance. In a radio interview on Monday, he said the state could see 100 or more deaths this week. ‘So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids,’ he said. More recently, in December, Mr. Cruz had attacked a Democrat, Mayor Stephen Adler of Austin, for taking a trip to Cabo while telling constituents to “stay home” during the pandemic.

“Hypocrites,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Complete and utter hypocrites.”

As one might expect, Cruz’s actions were met with opprobrium:

Sen. Cruz issued a statement in response to the reports, claiming that he took the trip per a request from his daughters. The statement reads, in part:

With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.

Sen. Ted Cruz

UPDATE (4:11 pm): Sen. Cruz has now returned to Houston. He was spotted in Bush IAH just minutes ago:

Meanwhile, part of Texas is still under a boil water notice. ABC reporter Steve Campion noted that it is not safe to drink, eat with or cook with the water at this point. The Houston Chronicle noted: “A boil water notice is still in effect for the city of Houston, which means that all water consumed by residents and pets should be boiled to kill potential bacteria. This includes water used for cooking, brushing your teeth, preparing baby formula, preparing food or given to pets for drinking. Even water used for hot beverages, like coffee made with a coffee maker, should be boiled beforehand. It’s also a good idea to throw away any ice that may have been contaminated.”

The Chronicle added: “Once boil water notices are lifted, flush home plumbing systems by running cold water through all faucets for at least five minutes. Residents should also flush out all appliances connected to the water line, such as refrigerators and dishwaters.” 

According to the New York Times, the boil water notices aren’t just limited to Houston. “About 13 million Texans remain under a boil-water advisory, and 797 water providers are reporting problems, Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said at a news briefing on Thursday.” The Times added that the state capital of Austin is also under a “boil water” notice.

Houston and Galveston remain under a “hard freeze” warning from midnight through 9 am on Friday. Lows are broadcast in the mid-20s for at least the next two days, KTRK says.

At least 25 deaths have been attributed to the storm. 11 of the victims were from Texas, according to CBS News. Widespread outages left over 3 million without power this week, although most had been restored. More than 500,000 residents were still without power as of Thursday afternoon. As the sun goes down and the struggles continue, Cruz tried to do damage control today with some inelegant spin.

“I certainly regret that this has become a distraction,” Cruz said today, about a distraction that he created. “I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane.” He stressed that “leaving when so many Texans were hurting didn’t feel right,” which prompted his return to Houston today.

In his statement issued earlier today, Cruz said his daughters wanted to take a trip; he said he and his wife flew to Cancun, dropped them off, and flew back to Texas. In an interview with KTRK, he admitted that he had, in fact, planned to stay through the weekend. Beyond that obvious contradiction lay a seamy report. Cruz said his intention wasn’t to abandon constituents: “My intention was to take care of my family,” he insisted. But that explanation rang especially hollow after some bombshell reporting by the Times.

“Text messages sent from Ms. Cruz to friends and Houston neighbors on Wednesday revealed a hastily planned trip. Their house was ‘FREEZING,’ as Ms. Cruz put it — and she proposed a getaway until Sunday,” wrote Times reporters Shane Goldmacher and Nicholas Fandos. “Ms. Cruz invited others to join them at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, where they had stayed ‘many times,’ noting the room price this week ($309 per night) and its good security. The text messages were provided to The New York Times and confirmed by a second person on the thread, who declined to be identified because of the private nature of the texts.”

Goldmacher appeared on CNN’s AC360 to detail the report further. He claimed that Mrs. Cruz’s texts did not mention their daughters’ wishes. “This is a multilayered issue for Ted Cruz,” Goldmacher said, noting the obvious issue with Cruz leaving in the middle of this crisis in Texas and the additional issue that we are still in a pandemic. He echoed Cooper’s sentiment about the CDC’s warning against travel to Mexico.

UPDATE (Feb, 19, 2021): There are now 22 confirmed deaths from the winter storm in Texas. One of them was a local Vietnam War vet with COPD. He relied on an electric oxygen tank to live. But the lack of electricity — then a water main break — led to Mr. Anderson going to his truck in search of power. He died from hypothermia. “He’s gonna be missed terribly,” sobbed his widow in an interview with KTRK.

UPDATE (Feb. 26): While President Joe Biden is heading to Houston to survey the damage, Ted Cruz is in Orlando, Florida, speaking at the CPAC conference. Cruz made light of his trip to Cancun before the crowd. “I gotta say, Orlando is awesome. It’s not as nice as Cancun, but it’s nice,” Cruz quipped in his speech, titled “Bill of Rights, Liberty, and Cancel Culture.”

Cruz also criticized physicians who recommend mask-wearing: “This is just dumb,” Cruz said, downplaying the importance of wearing a mask to curtail the spread of COVID-19. “We’re gonna wear masks for the next 300 years. And by the way, not just one mask—two, three, four—you can’t have too many masks! How much virtue do you wanna signal?”

As if that weren’t enough, Cruz also took aim at Black Lives Matter, a favorite target of conservatives: “In Houston where I live, I have to tell you: there weren’t any rioters because let’s be very clear, if there had been, they would discover what the state of Texas thinks about the 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms.” Cruz appeared not to remember the 60,000 protesters who gathered in Houston (peacefully) to march for George Floyd.

He also conveniently forgot to mention that 93% of Black Lives Matter demonstrations were peaceful — yet Black people were still assailed as “violent thugs” on the right and met with tear gas and hand-to-hand combat by police officers. A report by the Armed Conflict Location and Data Project found that police “disproportionately used force while intervening in demonstrations associated with the BLM movement, relative to other types of demonstrations.” That seems not to matter to Cruz or Rand Paul or Jim Jordan — all of whom took special care to cast aspersions on Black Lives Matter during (and after) the impeachment trial.

Fox Business Cancels “Lou Dobbs Tonight”

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 5, 2021

Fox Business has abruptly canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight” — its highest-rated show. Dobbs’ program, which airs twice a night at 5 pm and 7 pm eastern, will air for the final time tonight. Starting next week, the program will be called “Fox Business Tonight”, with rotating substitute hosts, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Dobbs, 75, remains under conntract at Fox News but will in all likelihood not appear on the network again, the Times said. The sudden move comes after Dobbs spent months as one of Donald Trump’s most loyal defenders. But the cancellation also comes just a day after what could be a game-changing lawsuit.

On Thursday, voting technology company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News and three of its hosts: Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, and Maria Bartiromo. The lawsuit claims that they perpetuated “a disinformation campaign” about Smartmatic and its practices during the 2020 election. It further alleges that Dobbs was one of the “primary components” of the campaign. The suit charges that, beyond just repeating a false narrative about election fraud, Dobbs “contributed additional falsehoods to the narrative”.

On a Nov. 12 episode of “Lou Dobbs Tonight”, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed that Smartmatic was funded by Venezuelans “in order to fix elections”. According to the Washington Post, Dobbs thanked Giuliani for being “on the case,” adding that “it has the feeling of a coverup in certain places”.

The exchange prompted a letter from Smartmatic attorneys, demanding that Dobbs and others refute and retract their statements. In a 20-page letter, Smartmatic’s attorney J. Erik Connolly cited statements made by Dobbs and Bartiromo, as well as guests who have appeared on their shows. According to Deadline, this includes two lawyers who have been claiming election fraud, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who have represented the Trump campaign.

Among other things, Connolly cited comments that Dobbs has made, including a Nov. 18 show in which he said, “I am alarmed because of what is occurring in plain sight during this 2020 election for president of the United States. The circumstances and events are eerily reminiscent of what happened with Smartmatic software electronically changing votes in the 2013 presidential election in Venezuela.”

In the letter, Connolly wrote that Smartmatic has no operations in Venezuela, but did election projects in the country from 2004 to 2017. It said that it stopped doing business in the country after the National Electoral Counsel announced results “that differed from results reflected in Smartmatic’s voting systems.” It then publicly condemned election authorities and ceased operations there. (In fact, Smartmatic performed work in only one county during the November elections, per the Post.) Connolly wrote that the network “would have easily discovered the falsity of statements and implications being made about Smartmatic by performing even a modicum of investigation.”

In his defense, Dobbs eventually did run a segment that served as a fact-check on the statements he’d made. But now, it’s too late. A lawsuit has been filed, alleging that Giuliani and Powell used Fox News as a medium to spread lies — and Fox (along with Dobbs) happily obliged.

“Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell settled on two villains: Smartmatic and Dominion. They had no evidence that Smartmatic or Dominion had done anything wrong. Indeed, in the case of Smartmatic, they had no evidence that Smartmatic’s election technology and software were even used in any of the states that had close outcomes in the 2020 U.S. election. But, casting Smartmatic and Dominion as the villains made for a good story,” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell needed a platform to use to spread their story. They found a willing partner in Fox News.”

In fact, Smartmatic’s role in the election was limited to crafting software for Los Angeles County’s “Voting Solutions for All People” initiative. Part of that initiative involved the creation of “Ballot Marking Devices” or BMDs, voting machines that allow people to cast ballots. As the lawsuit explains:

“Redesigned Ballot Marking Device (“BMD”): The BMD replaces the
County’s legacy InkaVote system. The BMD allows every voter to
customize their experience with both visual and audio access in thirteen
languages and offers accessibility features that provide voters with
disabilities equality and independence in casting ballots. For auditability
and security, the BMDs produce human-readable paper ballots that exceed
national voting system security standards.”

From “Smartmatic Complaint Against Fox Corporation”

Now, the time for investigation has passed. Fox News is being sued, accused of willfully furthering a disinformation campaign that cost Smartmatic valuable business.

Dobbs emerged over the past few months as one of Trump’s most dogged supporters. Trump returned the favor while reacting to the news. “Lou Dobbs is and was great,” Trump said in a statement, per the New York Times. “Nobody loves America more than Lou. He had a large and loyal following that will be watching closely for his next move, and that following includes me.”

The suit describes the aforementioned Nov. 12 appearance by Giuliani on Lou Dobbs Tonight: “On November 12, 2020, Mr. Giuliani appeared on Lou Dobbs Tonight to spread the disinformation campaign to millions of people. At the time of his appearance, Mr. Giuliani had presented no evidence that the 2020 U.S. election had been rigged or stolen. He provided no such evidence to Mr. Dobbs and Mr. Dobbs had seen no such evidence. But, Mr. Dobbs was in alignment with the false story that Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell wanted to spread.

Mr. Dobbs: Let’s talk about, just for a moment, an update on Dominion and
how important do you believe the concerns that are being expressed of a
number of states about the ability of these machines not to be hacked?

Mr. Giuliani: Well, first of all, the machines can be hacked. There’s no question about that. Their machines can be hacked, but it’s far worse than that. Dominion, Dominion is a company that’s owned by another company Smartmatic, through its intermediary company Indra.

Smartmatic is a company that was formed way back in 2004, 2003, 2004. You’re gonna be astonished when I tell you how it was formed. It was formed really by three Venezuelans, who were very close to [] dictator, Chávez, of Venezuela. And it was formed in order to fix elections. That’s the, that’s the company that owns Dominion.

Dominion is a Canadian company, but all of its software is Smartmatic software. So the votes actually go to Barcelona, Spain. So we are using a foreign company that is owned by Venezuelans who are close to, were close to Chávez, are now close to Maduro, have a history, they were founded as a company to fix elections. They have a terrible record and they are extremely hackable.

From “Exhibit 1” of the lawsuit
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screenshot-23.png
Screenshot of the lawsuit’s Exhibit 1 involving Rudy Giuliani and Lou Dobbs.

Dobbs is directly implicated here: “Mr. Dobbs then took the initiative and contributed additional falsehoods to the narrative by telling people that Smartmatic and Dominion sent votes out of the country so the voting is not auditable. He had no evidence of this assertion, and Secretaries of State had stated the opposite, but that was another aspect of the false narrative that Defendants ultimately wanted to spread. Mr. Dobbs stated: ‘And, by the way, the states, as you well know now, they have no ability to audit meaningfully the votes that are cast because the servers are somewhere else and are considered proprietary and they won’t touch them. It won’t permit them being touched.’

Mr. Dobbs then passed the microphone back to Mr. Giuliani to describe the
widespread nature of the fraud perpetrated by Smartmatic.


Mr. Giuliani: I’m working on the part of the case which is demonstrating how many illegal votes were cast. And I’m way beyond the margin that I need in Pennsylvania or Michigan to overturn the vote there. We’re up to about 623 thousand unlawful ballots in Pennsylvania and about 320 unlawful ballots in Michigan. . . This was, this was a stolen election. I know, I know the phony elites don’t want to hear it, but this was a stolen election. The same pattern exists in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, [and] Wisconsin…

Mr. Dobbs: This looks to me like it’s the end of what has been a four and a
half, the end game to a four and a half effort, four and a half year long effort
to overthrow the President of the United States. It looks like it’s exactly that,
that there is a, these are all parts of a piece here.

“Exhibit 1”

“Mr. Dobbs closed Fox News’ first broadcast about Smartmatic with an endorsement of Mr. Giuliani’s statements about the election being stole by Smartmatic,” the lawsuit says. Dobbs said: “And Rudy, we’re glad you’re on the case and, and pursuing what is the truth and straightening out what is a very complicated and difficult story. And by the way, it’s not only difficult, it has the feeling of a cover up in certain places, you know, putting the servers in foreign countries, private companies, we don’t have transparency with those servers. This is, this is an election nightmare, as well as a battle.”

Just four days later, host Lou Dobbs featured a member of Trump’s legal team: Sidney Powell. “On November 16, Mr. Dobbs continued his part in spreading the disinformation campaign on Lou Dobbs Tonight,” the lawsuit charges, labeling the offending incident: (Lou Dobbs Tonight, November 16, 2020 (Exhibit 15)). The suit charges that Dobbs made statements about the company without knowing anything about it:

At the time of the broadcast, Mr. Dobbs had seen no evidence that Smartmatic’s election technology and software were used to rig or steal the election. Smartmatic had only been used in Los Angeles County, making it impossible for Smartmatic to have influenced the outcome of the election.

Nonetheless, he started his show by stating: ‘Dominion has connections to U.K based Smartmatic, a voting technology company established in 2000 that had ties to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.’ And then he made sure everyone understood that Smartmatic had stolen the election.

Mr. Dobbs: This is the worst in our country’s history. There is no election in our presidential history, our nation’s history in which there were so many anomalies, so many irregularities and so much clear evidence of fraud.

From “Exhibit 15” in the lawsuit
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screenshot-27.png
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screenshot-24.png

In fact, Smartmatic’s role in the election was limited to crafting software for Los Angeles County’s “Voting Solutions for All People” initiative. Part of that initiative involved the creation of “Ballot Marking Devices” or BMDs, voting machines that allow people to cast ballots. As the lawsuit explains:

“Redesigned Ballot Marking Device (“BMD”): The BMD replaces the
County’s legacy InkaVote system. The BMD allows every voter to
customize their experience with both visual and audio access in thirteen
languages and offers accessibility features that provide voters with
disabilities equality and independence in casting ballots. For auditability
and security, the BMDs produce human-readable paper ballots that exceed
national voting system security standards.”From “Smartmatic Complaint Against Fox Corporation”

The company claims the extent of its work during the election was in Los Angeles County, working largely on BMD production and implementation. It says the efforts were successful:

In total, Smartmatic provided the following technology and services to Los Angeles
County under the VSAP initiative: (1) engineered and manufactured the BMD hardware, (2)
programmed and installed the BMD software, (3) led the California certification process, (4)
created the backend software to manage the devices, (5) provided systems integration services, (6)
built the VSAP operations center, (7) handled logistics and setup/breakdown of the vote centers,
(8) oversaw real-time data management for deployment, and (9) supplied Help Desk services on
Election Day. […]

Smartmatic’s involvement with Los Angeles County was a success. Smartmatic’s election technology and software were used in the March 3, 2020, California presidential primary in Los Angeles County. It was an undisputed success. Loyola Marymount University conducted an exit poll following the primary and concluded that most voters trusted the election and felt the technology made the voting easier. (3/11/20 Loyola Marymount University, 2020 LA Votes Presidential Primary Exit Poll (Exhibit 118)).From “Smartmatic Complaint Against Fox Corporation”

Now, the time for investigation has passed. Fox News is being sued, accused of willfully furthering a disinformation campaign that cost Smartmatic valuable business. And Dobbs, who has hosted his show since March 2011, is now out of a job.

Dobbs emerged over the past few months as one of Trump’s most dogged supporters. Trump returned the favor while reacting to the news. “Lou Dobbs is and was great,” Trump said in a statement, per the New York Times. “Nobody loves America more than Lou. He had a large and loyal following that will be watching closely for his next move, and that following includes me.”

Trump Banned From Twitter; House Dems Prepare to Impeach Him (Again)

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 8, 2021

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, holds her weekly press conference at the US Capitol on January 7, 2021, in Washington, DC. Pelosi called for the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to be invoked, following the attack on the US Capitol. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

“In calling for this seditious act, the President has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people. I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the Vice President to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment. If the Vice President and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.”

With these words, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made clear her intention to hold the President accountable for inciting a deadly, seditious riot on Wednesday afternoon. But Democratic Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland have already distributed a draft article of impeachment titled “Incitement of Insurrection,” according to NBC News. The article, which at present is singular, begins: “Resolved, that Donald John Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Article I: “Incitement of Insurrection,” reminds the reader that the House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach a President, based on the rather nebulous “high crimes and misdemeanors”. It continues as follows: “In his conduct of the office of President to the United States — and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States,” they write, “Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, Trump addressed his supporters at a rally, ahead of a congressional vote that would cement the victory of his opponent. During that rally, he repeated a variety of false claims. “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide,” he lied. “They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before.” He encouraged the crowds to march on the Capitol in protest of what he insisted was a “stolen” election: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He spoke to the misplaced anger and victimhood the supporters felt, inflaming it further: “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore […] You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

While Congress was meeting to certify Biden’s win as President-Elect,, the mob of Trump supporters showed their strength — by swarming the Capitol building and bursting inside. The House members credit Trump with emboldening the mob, writing that he “willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol.”

“Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement, menaced members of Congress and the Vice President [and] engaged in violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts,” the Article of Insurrection reads. Indeed, the mob stormed the steps, forced their way into the building, and even scuffled with law enforcement (on video!). They climbed the walls and broke glass windows. They trespassed into government offices and put their feet up on desks. They vandalized doors and even stole furniture. In the end, five people died in the melee yesterday, including a Capitol Police officer.

But far from being upset by the fracas, Trump seemed to relish it. A video has emerged of him and his family watching the carnage onscreen, with son Don, Jr. live-streaming the event; his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle is seen dancing to the ’80s hit “Gloria”. And CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins said the President was “enthusiastic” about it: “He did not come out outright and condemn it. Actually, they had to convince him to send in the National Guard. He was very resistant to that at the beginning. And I’m told by one person that he was borderline enthusiastic over watching people wearing his sweatshirts, waving his flags going up to Capitol Hill and derailing the certification process, which is what the president wanted,” she told Don Lemon.

One Republican senator backed up Collins’ account. “As this was unfolding on television, Donald Trump was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt in an interview. “That was happening. He was delighted.”

House Reps. Lieu, Raskin and Cicilline write that Trump’s actions were part of a pattern of behavior intended to subvert the election. “Those efforts include, but are not limited to, a phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, in which the President of the United States urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia presidential election results and threatened Mr. Raffensperger if he failed to do so.” Now, a bombshell CNN report reveals that Trump made other calls to achieve his goal.

CNN says that while riots raged at the Capitol, Trump was calling senators in yet another attempt to overturn the election. Trump called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) Wednesday afternoon, thinking he was calling Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama). “Trump first called the personal cell phone of Lee, a Utah Republican, shortly after 2 p.m. ET. At that time the senators had been evacuated from the Senate floor and were in a temporary holding room, as a pro-Trump mob began breaching the Capitol. Lee picked up the phone and Trump identified himself, and it became clear he was looking for Tuberville and had been given the wrong number. Lee, keeping the President on hold, went to find his colleague and handed Tuberville his phone, telling him the President was on the line and had been trying to reach him.”

Tuberville spoke with Trump for less than 10 minutes, CNN says. Trump tried to convince him to object further to the Electoral College vote, in a futile effort to block Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, according to a source familiar with the call. The call was cut off because senators were asked to move to a secure location.

In the wake of this seditious activity, social media platforms are taking action. After temporarily suspending him, Twitter announced today that it is banning Donald Trump from posting on the platform. “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said. “In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action.” The ban does not apply, however, to the @POTUS account.

But it’s the latest in a series of blows to Trump on social media. After Trump recorded a video urging protesters to go home — saying, “We love you. You are very special” — Facebook and YouTube took down the video, with Facebook also banning Trump from posting for 24 hours. Snapchat and Instagram locked Trump’s account.

UPDATE: Trump has begun tweeting from the @POTUS account, insisting that “We will not be SILENCED!!!” He added that he would “also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future.” Twitter has taken the tweets down.

UPDATE (Jan. 11, 2021): The representatives have introduced an updated version of the impeachment resolution. The language is largely reminiscent of the earlier draft. As in the previous version, this version alleges that Trump’s incitement of the riot is part of a pattern of behavior: “President Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election. Those prior efforts included a phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so.”

UPDATE (Jan. 12, 2021): A bombshell new report from the New York Times alleges that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is actually pleased with House Democrats’ impeachment of President Trump. “Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking. The House is voting on Wednesday to formally charge Mr. Trump with inciting violence against the country,” the Times reports.

At the same time, House Minority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), has asked other Republicans whether he should call on Mr. Trump to resign after the riot at the Capitol last week, according to three Republican officials briefed on the conversations. Despite being one of Trump’s most steadfast allies in Congress, McCarthy is considering joining fellow Republicans like Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger in requesting the President’s resignation. While Mr. McCarthy has said he is personally opposed to impeachment, he and other party leaders have decided not to formally lobby Republicans to vote “no,” the Times added. An aide to Mr. McCarthy said he was open to a measure censuring Mr. Trump for his conduct.

And one House Republican says he will even vote for impeachment. According to syracuse.com, U.S. Rep. John Katko said today he will vote to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting a riot last week at the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Katko is the first House Republican to acknowledge that he will join at least 218 House Democrats who signed onto an impeachment resolution. “To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” Katko said in a statement. 

BREAKING: Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (of Wyoming) says that she will vote to impeach the President. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President,” Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

JUST IN (7:11 pm): In a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Mike Pence says he will not invoke the 25th Amendment to have Trump removed from office: “Every American was shocked and saddened by the attack on our Nation’s Capitol last week, and I am grateful for the leadership that you and other congressional leaders provided in reconvening Congress to complete the people’s business on the very same day,” Pence writes. “But now, with just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment.”

“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Pence declares. “I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.” Pence argues that invoking the 25th now would “set a terrible precedent”. He concludes:

“I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment. Work with us to lower the temperature and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.”

This move sets up a showdown in Congress, as the House is set to vote on impeachment tomorrow. Today, Rep. Adam Kinzinger joined fellow Republicans Liz Cheney and John Katko in saying that he would vote for impeachment. They join over 100 House Republicans who have pledged to do the same.

Tonight, in a statement on her website, Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Impeachment Managers. “Tonight, I have the solemn privilege of naming the Managers of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump,” said Speaker Pelosi.  “It is their constitutional and patriotic duty to present the case for the President’s impeachment and removal.  They will do so guided by their great love of country, determination to protect our democracy and loyalty to our oath to the Constitution.  Our Managers will honor their duty to defend democracy For The People with great solemnity, prayerfulness and urgency.”

The Impeachment Managers include:

Congressman Jamie Raskin, Lead Manager: Congressman Jamie Raskin is a member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, where he serves as Chair of Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and on the Judiciary Committee, where he serves as Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution. Before his time in Congress, Raskin was a three-term State Senator in Maryland and a professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law for more than 25 years.

Congressman David Cicilline: Congressman Cicilline is a member of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee.  He is serving his sixth term in Congress.  Early in his career, Cicilline served as a public defender in D.C. He served two terms as Mayor of Providence and four terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

Congressman Ted Lieu: Congressman Lieu serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  He is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force who served as a prosecutor in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and currently serves as a Colonel in the Reserves.  He is serving his fourth term in Congress.

Congressman Joaquin Castro: Congressman Castro serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he is also Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  He is serving his fifth term in Congress.  Prior to his election to Congress, he served five terms in the Texas Legislature and served as a litigator in private practice.

Congressman Eric Swalwell: Congressman Swalwell serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and on the Judiciary Committee.  He is a former prosecutor and is the son and brother of law enforcement officers.  He is serving his fifth term in Congress.

Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Congresswoman DeGette serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee as Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  She is serving her 13th term in office. Before serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, DeGette was an attorney focusing on civil rights.

UPDATE: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will transmit the article of impeachment on Monday. The House still plans to deliver its impeachment charge at 7 p.m. Monday evening, per the New York Times, and senators will be sworn in for the trial the following day. But the trial will not begin for some time.

Newly installed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the chamber will pause until the week of Feb. 8 to give the prosecution and defense time to draft and exchange written legal briefs. “During that period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as cabinet nominations and the COVID-19 relief bill, which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic,” Mr. Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Please watch this space for any continuing updates.

Biden Announces Groundbreaking Picks for Defense, Commerce, Treasury

By Terrance Turner

Dec. 8, 2020 (UPDATED Jan. 8, 2021)

UPDATE (Jan. 22): Today, Gen. Lloyd Austin was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, making him the first Black Secretary of Defense in the nation’s history. He obtained the necessary waiver needed for him to be confirmed.

On Jan. 8, President-Elect Joe Biden introduced members of his health care team; they included the first-ever Latino nominee for Health & Human Services Secretary (Xavier Becerra) and the request that Dr. Anthony Fauci become Chief Medical Adviser. But he’s also making headlines with a historic choice for Secretary of Defense: Biden has nominated retired four-star Army Gen. Lloyd Austin. If confirmed, Austin would become the first Black person ever to lead the Department of Defense.

Austin, 67, graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1975. He served 41 years in uniform. Gen. Austin was commander in Baghdad of the Multinational Corps-Iraq in 2008. He returned to lead U.S. troops from 2010-2011, according to the Associated Press (source of the above photo). Austin also served as the first Black vice chief of staff of the Army in 2012. (That’s the No. 2 ranking position.) There, he fashioned and implemented a U.S. military strategy to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He is the first Black general to command an Army division in combat and the first to oversee an entire theater of operations, per Politico.

Austin is also a civilian. By law, a leader of the Defense Dept. must have at lest seven years distance between that position and his military service. Austin retired in 2016 and thus has only four. He would require a waiver to serve. This has aroused concerns in some Democratic legislators — and rather blunt, pejorative criticism from pundits like The Atlantic‘s Eliot A. Cohen and the Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin. But Gen. James Mattis served in the same position with a waiver from 2017 to 2019. And the objection to Austin’s appointment and not Mattis’s presents an optics problem:

Biden defended his choice in an op-ed in The Atlantic: “General Austin got the job done. He played a crucial role in bringing 150,000 American troops home from the theater of war,” Biden wrote. “In his more than 40 years in the United States Army, Austin met every challenge with extraordinary skill and profound personal decency. He is a true and tested soldier and leader. I’ve spent countless hours with him, in the field and in the White House Situation Room. I’ve sought his advice, seen his command, and admired his calm and his character. He is the definition of a patriot.” 

Kim Kardashian West Files for Divorce

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By Terrance Turner

July 23, 2020 (Updated Jan. 5, 2021; Feb. 19, 2021)

Photo from Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

Kim Kardashian West has filed for divorce from husband Kanye West, according to her spokeswoman Christy Welder. Mrs. West, 40, and Mr. West, 43, have four children: North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm. (The children range in age from seven years to 21 months.) Mrs. West’s filing comes after months of reports and speculation about marital troubles. It also ends a nearly seven-year marriage. The couple wed in May 2014.

This split was a long time coming. Last month, multiple sources told Page Six that “divorce is imminent” for the couple, as Kardashian hired divorce attorney Laura Wasser. “They are keeping it low-key but they are done,” says a source. “Kim has hired Laura Wasser and they are in settlement talks.” People magazine quotes a source who says Kanye West is aware of the looming decision: “He knows that she’s done. She has had enough, and she told him that she wants some space to figure out her future,” the source tells People, adding that West, 43, is bracing for a filing but doesn’t know when it will take place.

NBC News adds a more nuanced view, quoting a source that says the two have been in counseling. “They have been going to therapy. They are working on their marriage,” the source said. They are “100% aligned when it comes to the kids,” per the source. The couple is dealing with “regular relationship issues,” and there is “no one else involved.”

“Divorce has been discussed off and on,” the source said, but Kardashian West has not filed for divorce. “They are working through it … (and) trying to work through things.”

Kim, 40, hasn’t been seen wearing her wedding ring, and Kanye, 43, remained at his $14 million Wyoming ranch over the holidays instead of spending it with the Kardashian family, who drew criticism for their extravagant celebrations. While Mr. West has remained in Wyoming over the past few months, Mrs. West has stayed in Los Angeles, along with the couple’s four children. People magazine article last month described the pair as “living separate lives”.

The writing has been on the wall for months now. I wrote about this imminent split in July of last year. The original content is below:

After breaking down at a campaign rally on Sunday, West said he and his wife had considered abortion when expecting their daughter North. “I almost killed my daughter!” he sobbed, breaking down in tears before revealing that he and his wife had considered terminating the pregnancy. The revelation made headlines and reportedly caught Mrs. West off guard. But between late Monday night and Tuesday morning, West upped the ante with some explosive tweets.

“Kim was trying to fly out to Wyoming with a doctor to get me locked up like in the movie Get Out,” the rapper tweeted late Monday, before claiming that the movie is actually about him. “Kim tried to bring a doctor to lock me up with a doctor,” he tweeted. (Mrs. West has been consulting with doctors and has been trying to get Kanye help “for weeks”, per People.)

Late Tuesday night, he went even further: “I’ve been trying to get divorced since Kim met with Meek at the Waldorff [sic] for ‘prison reform’.” He praised Meek — “Meek was respectful. That’s my dog” — but claimed, “Kim was out of line”. She was out of line, he said — a day after he told the world that he and his wife had considered aborting their firstborn child. (Editor’s note: Kim K and Meek Mill met publicly at a restaurant in November 2018. They were joined by philanthropist Clara Wu Tsai, according to Complex. Mrs. West left the restaurant immediately after the meeting.)

The tweets are the latest in a string of provocative (and sometimes nonsensical) comments Mr. West has made in recent days. They include a suggestion on Sunday that every woman who has a baby should be awarded $1 million. Among the statements are some baldly untrue claims. “Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves,” West claimed on Sunday night. (She freed hundreds.) West also claimed that rapper Lil’ Baby was his favorite rapper, but he “won’t do a song with me”. Lil’ Baby responded by saying he had never heard of such a thing.

Today, Kim addressed the issue(s) head-on in a series of posts on Instagram Stories. “As many of you know, Kanye has bi-polar disorder,” she wrote. “I’ve never spoken publicly about this because I am very protective of our children and Kanye’s right to privacy when it comes to his health. But today, I feel like I should comment on it because of the stigma and misconceptions about mental health.”

“Those who understand mental illness or even compulsive behavior know that the family is powerless unless the member is a minor,” she continued. “People who are unaware or far removed from this experience can be judgmental and not understand that the individual[s] themselves have to engage in the process of getting help, no matter how hard family and friends try.”

“I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure,” she wrote, adding that West can be polarizing. But she also painted a nuanced, loving picture of a man in pain: “He is a brilliant but complicated person who, on top of the pressures of being an artist and a black man, [also] experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that [are] heightened by his bi-polar disorder.”

“I kindly ask that the media and public give us the compassion and empathy that is needed so that we can get through this,” she added. 

The Wests have been married since May 2014 and have four children: North, 7, Saint, 4, Chicago, 2, and Psalm, 14 months. But it appears that their six-year marriage is in serious trouble. Two sources contributed to People magazine’s stunning report today about the state of their marriage. One source said that the two have been mulling a split “for several weeks”, even before West’s outburst on Sunday. A second source added: “There has been enough communication, both in the past few days and in the weeks prior, to establish that both sides feel the marriage is over.”

UPDATE: People reported last week that the pair are doing well, quoting a source who said Kim is quietly supporting her husband: “She just wants to get through the next few months peacefully. She is kind of standing back while Kanye does whatever makes him happy.”

While Mrs. West is freezing her Facebook & Instagram acccounts in protest of Facebook’s practices, her husband is tweeting up a storm. Within an hour, Mr. West posted a video of himself urinating on a Grammy, tweeted out pages of his record contract, AND posted the phone number of a Forbes magazine editor whom he calls a “white supremacist”. (Where was all this energy when his friend Donald Trump was defending white supremacists and Nazis as “very fine people”?)

The Forbes post violated Twitter’s private information policy, which carries a first-time penalty of having to remove the tweet and having the user temporarily unable to tweet.

Supreme Court Upholds DACA in 5-4 Verdict

By Terrance Turner

The Supreme Court today blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end DACA, a program that protects immigrants brought to the United States as children. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court found that the administration’s attempt to end DACA in 2017 was “arbitrary and capricious”.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created in 2012 under then-President Barack Obama. Under the program, immigrants brought to the U.S. as children could stay in the States temporarily. They could apply and file for a two-year “forbearance” that would shield them from deportation. They have to be within 15 and 30 years of age, with no felony convictions. They must also pass a background check. According to NPR, DACA recipients must also be currently in school, a high school graduate, or honorably discharged from the military. The fee to renew and apply is $495.

Obama was moved to create the program after activists staged sit-ins in congressional offices and protested outside the White House. It was launched after the DREAM Act, which had similar protections, failed to pass Congress. (It was blocked in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Senator John Cornyn.) The current president moved to end the program in 2017, after winning office on an anti-immigrant platform. But the Supreme Court today handed Trump his second defeat of the week, ruling that his administration acted capriciously in trying to dismantle the program.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion. He was joined by the Court’s left-leaning justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Clarence Thomas wrote the majority dissent, joined by Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh. (According to the AP, the latter two wrote dissents of their own.)

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed.”

The agency in question is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the text of the Court’s decision, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked then-acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke to rescind the policy. “The next day, Duke acted on that advice. Taking into consideration the Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court rulings and the Attorney General’s letter, Duke decided to terminate the program. She explained that DHS would no longer accept new applications, but that existing DACA recipients whose benefits were set to expire within six months could apply for a two-year renewal. For all other DACA recipients, previously issued grants of relief would expire on their own terms, with no prospect for renewal.”

The result was a number of lawsuits by those who argued that the administration had violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. One of those plaintiffs was the NAACP, which said that the administration unlawfully reneged on a promise to protect young, undocumented immigrants of color. “NAACP, whose membership includes DACA registrants across the United States, is filing this lawsuit to protect the hundreds of thousands of Mexican, Caribbean and African immigrants,” NAACP General Counsel Janette M. Louard said. (NAACP’s website says that while over 80% of DACA recipients are Mexican, 36,000 Africans are also eligible for the program.)

The text of the Court’s decision (DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ET AL. v. REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA ET AL.) says the NAACP suit was in D.C.’s District Court. The District Court granted partial summary judgment to the NAACP; today’s verdict upheld that ruling. NAACP President Derrick Johnson called the decision “a tremendous victory for America”.

“Today’s decision is completely monumental,” said Krissia Rivera, a 27-year-old DACA recipient and fourth-year medical school student at Brown University. “This decision means that I will be able to apply to residency programs and hopefully achieve my dream of becoming a surgeon,” Rivera told ABC. The decision is a major victory for thousands of immigrants: an estimated 800,000 people have enrolled in the program. DACA shielded them from deportation while they graduated, started businesses, became doctors or nurses, bought homes, even married and had children.

Some of them are working for major companies. According to ABC News, 200 major corporations filed briefs in the Supreme Court supporting the DACA recipients. Among them Microsoft, which was a plaintiff in one of the cases that made it to the Supreme Court, and Microsoft President Brad Smith. “There are more than 30,000 DACA registrants working in the health space alone. We’ve never needed these people more than we do today,” he said. “Every time I meet with them, I have the same reaction. We are lucky as a country to have them.”

Former vice president Joe Biden praised the ruling, writing: “The Supreme Court’s ruling today is a victory made possible by the courage and resilience of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients…As President, I will immediately work to make it permanent.”

Unemployment Soars Across U.S.

CH weekly ui claims march 21
Photo courtesy of CNBC.

By Terrance Turner

Last week, 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department. That is the largest number since the Dept. began collecting data in 1967. It’s also nearly five times the previous record of 695,000 filings in October 1982.

In Texas, there’s a similar pattern. Last week, over 155,000 out-of-work Texans filed for unemployment. According to KPRC, that’s a 215% increase from the worst recorded week during the “Great Recession” in Texas, when almost 50,000 people filed in a week. Last year, an average of about 13,600 Texans filed new unemployment claims each week.

“The unique situation that we’re presented with, with regard to COVID-19, is different than anything anybody in the state has dealt with, with regard to the sheer magnitude of the problem [and] the pervasive nature of the problem and the number of individuals it’s affecting and families it’s affecting,” said Ed Serna, the executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission, during a Facebook Live Q&A Wednesday. Serna told KPRC that the TWC plans to hire additional call center staff and increasing server capacity to accommodate what’s now nearly 30,000 claims a day. Currently, about 75% of commission staff are working from home.

Texans can apply for benefits any time online at https://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services#applyForBenefits. But the website is currently experiencing a high volume of users. Alternately, Texans can call the toll-free number 800-939-6631 from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The office is also open Saturday starting this week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.