Discover more from Letters from an American
May 17, 2022
On this day in 1954, the Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision, which declared the segregation of public schools unconstitutional.
Today, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Buffalo, New York, where ten Americans were murdered and three wounded at a grocery store by a white supremacist on Saturday.
Biden named and described the victims, ten of whom were Black: a baker, a public school teacher, an election worker, a church deacon, a retired police officer, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers. “Individual lives of love, service, and community that speaks to the bigger story of who we are as Americans,” Biden said. We’re a “great nation because we’re a good people.”
Evil will not win in America, Biden promised. “Hate will not prevail. And white supremacy will not have the last word.”
“What happened here is simple and straightforward,” Biden said, “Domestic terrorism. Violence inflicted in the service of hate and a vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group. A hate that through the media and politics, the Internet, has radicalized angry, alienated, lost, and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced—that’s the word, “replaced”—by the “other”—by people who don’t look like them and who are therefore, in a perverse ideology that they possess and [are] being fed, lesser beings.”
Biden called on “all Americans to reject [that] lie.” He condemned “those who spread the lie for power, political gain, and for profit.” “[T]he ideology of white supremacy has no place in America,” he said. “Silence is complicity.”
“We have to refuse to live in a country where fear and lies are packaged for power and for profit.
“We must all enlist in this great cause of America.
“This is work that requires all of us—presidents and politicians, commentators, citizens. None of us can stay in the sidelines. We have to resolve here in Buffalo that from…this tragedy…will come hope and light and life. It has to. And on our watch, the sacred cause of America will never bow, never break, never bend. And the America we love—the one we love—will endure.”
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who represents Buffalo, today wrote a letter to Rupert Murdoch, chair of the Fox Corporation, along with another three of the corporation’s leaders, to urge them to stop “the reckless amplification of the so-called ‘Great Replacement’ theory on your network’s broadcasts.” He noted that people who watch the Fox News Channel are nearly three times more likely to believe in the replacement myth than those who watch other networks. He pointed out “the central role these themes have played in your network’s programming in recent years,” especially on Tucker Carlson’s show. He wrote: “I implore you to immediately cease all dissemination of false white nationalist, far-right conspiracy theories on your network.”
New York representative Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, who paid for ads pushing the replacement myth, today said: “It is not the time to politicize this tragedy. We mourn together as a nation.” Other Republicans insisted they did not know what the Great Replacement Theory is, although a number of them are on video articulating it.
Interviewed by Silvia Foster-Frau of the Washington Post, Buffalo resident James Baldwin dismissed the notion that it was the devil who inspired the Buffalo shooter. “That’s not the devil,” he said. “That’s America. They made him, they brought him up, they put him there.”
There was other big news today. Glenn Thrush and Luke Broadwater of the New York Times reported that on April 20, attorneys in the Department of Justice (DOJ) wrote to the lead investigator for the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, Timothy J. Heaphy, to ask if the committee would share transcripts from some of their interviews. Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Kenneth A. Polite Jr. and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew M. Graves told Heaphy that some of the transcripts might “contain information relevant to a criminal investigation we are conducting.”
The House committee is trying to figure out exactly what happened on January 6 and in the weeks around it. It is not conducting a criminal investigation. That ground is the turf of the Department of Justice, which has so far brought indictments against at least 828 people, more than 280 of whom have pleaded guilty. The four defendants who had a jury trial were each convicted on all counts. One defendant was acquitted by a Trump-appointed judge, who agreed with the defendant's statement that he had not seen a police line and had possibly been waved into the building. (Video shows the defendant was not screaming or attacking anyone inside the building).
The request indicates that the Department of Justice is looking broadly at the period around January 6. It also suggests that the committee has covered a lot of ground very quickly and that its information might be of use to the Justice Department.
The committee will not simply hand over their material. Congress is part of the legislative branch of government, and the Department of Justice is part of the executive branch, so there is the issue of the separation of powers to deal with. A source told Thrush and Broadwater that the committee and the Justice Department are negotiating. The Justice Department wants the transcripts; the committee wants any relevant evidence the Justice Department has.
Legal analyst Glenn Kirschner tweeted: “Whether this was always the DOJ plan (& whether the J6 committee knew it or not), important info has been developed by the J6 panel that would not have been developed had the witnesses been subpoenaed to the grand jury (as they would have pled the 5th).” He added: “If the J6 committee investigation HAD taken a back seat to a DOJ grand jury investigation, we would go years w/out knowing what any of the 1000+ witness[es] had said. But now, we’ll have a front row seat to it all beginning June 9 AND all of those transcripts can be used in the GJ!”
Hugo Lowell, who is a congressional reporter for The Guardian, tweeted tonight that Stephanie Grisham, a former Trump aide, will be back in front of the January 6th committee tomorrow. The committee is bringing former witnesses back in to confirm evidence and details.
The committee will begin to hold its public hearings on June 9.
There are other legal cases in the news today, too, having to do with foreign influence during the Trump administration. The Department of Justice filed a civil enforcement action to force Stephen A. Wynn to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as a foreign agent working for China. The Justice Department says that from at least June 2017 through at least August 2017, Wynn lobbied Trump and members of his administration to force out of the U.S. a Chinese national who was here for political asylum. Such a case is so exceedingly rare that the Department of Justice said it had not brought such a case in more than 30 years. Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said, “Where a foreign government uses an American as its agent to influence policy decisions in the United States, FARA gives the American people a right to know.”
During this period, Wynn was one of four Republican National Committee finance chairs; the other three were Elliott Broidy, Michael Cohen, and Louis DeJoy. In 2020, Broidy pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws; he worked to win benefits for Chinese and Malaysian interests from the Trump administration. Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud. Louis DeJoy was appointed in May 2020 to head the United States Postal Service, where he made changes that appeared to be attempts to influence the 2020 election. Broidy recruited Wynn to work for China, thinking that Wynn’s work with the RNC, his business experience in China, and his friendship with Trump “would be helpful in getting access to Trump Administration officials.”
FARA scholar Carrie Levine tweeted: “So, to recap, DOJ is alleging that Wynn was contacting Trump administration officials to advocate for China while serving as RNC finance chair.”
In another case, a superseding indictment filed today in New York federal court accuses Trump’s good friend Thomas Barrack of accepting a pledge of $374 million from the United Arab Emirates while he was also illegally lobbying the administration for the UAE.
Today, in the wake of the Buffalo shooting, Miles Taylor—a member of Trump’s administration who warned anonymously of how dangerous Trump was—announced he was leaving the Republican Party and called on others to do the same. “In the wake of the mass shooting in Buffalo on Saturday,” he wrote, “it’s become glaringly obvious that my party no longer represents conservative values but in fact poses a threat to them—and to America.”