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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy could emerge as a key figure in the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection

“Kevin McCarthy will be meeting with me this afternoon at Trump National in Bedminster, N.J. Much to discuss!” Trump announced in a statement Thursday.
According to a GOP source familiar with the meeting, McCarthy will sit down with Trump at his New Jersey golf club to discuss upcoming special elections, vulnerable Democrats in 2022 and the GOP’s record-breaking fundraising numbers. But the announcement of the meeting comes the day after the select committee investigating the Capitol riot said that it will hold its first public hearing on July 27, essentially setting a deadline for McCarthy to make his picks as to who will represent the GOP on the commission. Sources tell CNN that McCarthy intends to announce his selections before the first hearing.
McCarthy’s trip to Bedminster also coincides with a series of new revelations this week surrounding Trump’s final days in office that describe the former President’s increasingly defiant and belligerent behavior in refusing to concede his 2020 election loss.
McCarthy is expected to return to Washington following the meeting for a dinner at the White House on Thursday evening honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel. McCarthy’s office confirms the House minority leader will attend the dinner.
McCarthy can appoint five members of the committee that will investigate the insurrection, which was perpetrated by Trump’s supporters and came hours after the former President held a rally encouraging his followers to fight Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
The timing of the Trump meeting shows McCarthy remains loyal to the former President. Sources say his picks for the committee will likely be supporters and defenders of Trump. It is expected that the GOP leader will avoid controversial firebrands like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia or Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, in part because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reserves the right to veto any of McCarthy’s picks.
Still, McCarthy has the option of finding Republican members who will defend Trump and his supporters in what is expected to be a bitter partisan fight, while at the same time remaining loyal to him.
McCarthy himself could be emerge as a key figure in the committee’s investigation. The chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, has not ruled out calling McCarthy before the committee to discuss the phone call he made to Trump as rioters stormed the Capitol begging the then-President to tell his supporters to go home.
McCarthy has said he is willing to testify and discuss Trump’s role on January 6 if asked.
A series of books — Michael Bender’s “Frankly We Did Win This Election” and Michael Wolff’s “Landslide” both just came out, and “I Alone Can Fix It” by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker is scheduled to be released next week. All three help paint a picture of the chaotic White House in its final months of Trump’s presidency leading up to the insurrection in January.
In one example, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, was so shaken by Trump’s refusal to concede that he worried he might attempt some sort of illegal gambit to stay in power.
“They may try, but they’re not going to f**king succeed,” Milley told his deputies, according to excerpts of the book “I Alone Can Fix It” obtained by CNN.
McCarthy previously met with Trump in Mar-a-lago on January 27, after initially being critical of the former President’s handling of the January 6 insurrection.
McCarthy has since joined many members of his conference in trying to move on and downplay the insurrection and its aftermath. He has opposed forming an independent commission to probe January 6, and CNN reported earlier this month that, according to two GOP sources with knowledge of the matter, he threatened to strip committee assignments from Republicans who accepted Pelosi’s invitation to serve on the select committee.
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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The House minority leader ditches the idea to boycott the Jan. 6 committee and finalizes a GOP roster

Initially, there was an internal debate inside the House GOP about whether the California Republican should appoint members to the select committee or just skip it altogether as a way to paint the entire effort as partisan. But McCarthy indeed plans to place Republicans on the high-profile panel, CNN has learned, according to multiple GOP sources familiar with his intentions, and is in the process of making his selections. The thinking among Republicans is that the perch will enable them to shape a counternarrative to a probe that could ensnare not only Donald Trump, but also other members of their party.
And while McCarthy is almost certain to tap some trusted Trump allies for one of the five Republican spots on the committee, he is facing increased pressure to also pick some more pragmatic members for the job who can help bring credibility to their side of the debate. Some GOP sources even think it would be a smart political move for McCarthy to select at least one member who voted to certify the presidential election results in order to help inoculate against some of the criticism from Democrats.
That is especially true after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose a Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, as one of her eight selections for the congressional probe — a move designed to win bipartisan buy-in for their investigative work and sell a polarized public on their findings. Plus, the California Democrat has made clear that she has veto power over McCarthy’s picks, though it’s unclear under what circumstances she’d be willing to use it.
Who McCarthy ultimately taps for the select panel will set the tone for a partisan brawl that is almost certain to drag into 2022, which is why he wants to strike the right balance with his picks. And it could have far-reaching implications in the battle for the House, where Republicans have history and redistricting on their side but could be dogged by uncomfortable questions about Trump and the deadly Capitol riots in the run-up to the midterms.
“If you don’t (appoint Republicans), the reality is, then there’s only one news story,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong, a Republican from North Dakota. “I’ve never been a ‘take your ball and go home’ type of guy.”
Yet the time line for McCarthy’s decision remains unclear, though GOP sources think it could come soon. As Pelosi noted last week, the January 6 panel now has a quorum, so it can begin its work with or without McCarthy’s picks, meaning there’s little incentive for him to slow-walk his selections.

GOP contenders start to emerge

While some in the GOP would have preferred that their party not participate in the probe, others, including McCarthy, would rather have Republicans in a position where they can readily push back on Democrats in high-profile hearings and potentially even write a minority report in the end.
But McCarthy is likely to steer clear of choosing the most controversial firebrands in the party, such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia or Matt Gaetz of Florida, who would be harder for the Republican leader to control and could undermine the GOP’s strategy.
Instead, McCarthy is likely to tap lawmakers whom he feels he can rely on or who have proven track records when it comes to defending Trump, including those who led the charge to overturn the election results in Congress.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a staunch Trump ally whom McCarthy has used as an attack dog in other high-profile assignments, is seen as an obvious choice inside the House GOP conference. But Jordan already has a full plate: He is the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, chairs a brand-new GOP task force and serves on the coronavirus select committee.
In a similar vein, there’s now-House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York, who was propelled to GOP stardom and became a fundraising powerhouse after furiously defending the-then President during the first impeachment; Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, a McCarthy ally and the ambitious chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee; and Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a member of GOP leadership and a former constitutional law attorney who served as one of Trump’s impeachment surrogates in 2019.
If McCarthy doesn’t name Stefanik, he will face pressure to select another woman. Rep. Jackie Walorksi of Indiana, the ranking GOP member on the House Ethics Committee, who was interested in running for leadership earlier this year, is considered another contender for the assignment.
Some Republicans think McCarthy should choose Republicans who sit on the House Administration Committee, which oversees the Capitol’s day-to-day operations, or have expertise in national security, law enforcement or legal matters. One GOP lawmaker said it should be someone who has a grasp on “security procedures” and “can give thoughtful context to the types of things that we need, as a physical feature of the city, but also a unit of government.”
Other names that have been floated include Reps. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, a US Army Reserve member who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and was on the field during the GOP baseball shooting in 2017; John Rutherford of Florida, a former Jacksonville sheriff; and Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, a former professional mixed martial arts fighter who also sits on the intelligence panel.
McCarthy, however, may be inclined to appoint a lawmaker who voted to certify the 2020 presidential election results and therefore could have more sway with moderate pockets of the country. Potential members on that list include Armstrong, a former state party chairman, as well as Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who co-chairs the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and supported an independent commission on January 6; and Tom McClintock of California, a veteran lawmaker who serves on the House Judiciary Committee.
But a major challenge for McCarthy is that many House Republicans, especially those in tough reelection races, want to avoid the politically fraught assignment at all costs. Fitzpatrick and Armstrong, however, both told CNN they would serve on the panel if asked — even though they oppose the select committee.

Broader strategy takes shape

Other elements of the GOP’s game plan are beginning to take shape. Republicans are already casting the investigation as a politically motivated probe that Democrats are just trying to use to damage Trump and the GOP ahead of the midterm elections — similar to the playbook they deployed during Trump’s first impeachment, when they relied heavily on process arguments.
Democrats, however, said they were given no choice but to establish a select committee after the Senate GOP blocked an independent commission that would have tasked outside experts with investigating the insurrection. And even under the select panel format, Democrats maintain they are motivated only by finding the truth and preventing another violent siege of the Capitol — not going after their political opponents.
Republicans are also signaling that they want to focus on the steps that Pelosi took — or didn’t take — to secure the Capitol that day. They also are expected to call attention to political violence on the left, including last summer’s protests that broke out in response to police brutality.
GOP lawmakers will likely be looking to derail the Democrats’ investigation at every turn. And that may mean defying subpoenas, which Democrats have said they could issue in order to force Trump or other Republicans to testify about the ex-President’s mindset and conduct on the day of the riots.
“They should go wherever the facts lead. They may be able to get what they want and need without him testifying,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “I would not want to see a former President testify in such a situation as this, but if that’s what it takes in order to get to the bottom of this.”

Author: Melanie Zanona, CNN
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Four decades the World Council of Churches and the Vatican in the scope of the Committee for State Security (KGB)

A new publication in Bulgaria of top secret documents will shed more light on the historical period under review and will reveal more thoroughly Secret services’ interest in religious organizations. The book The KGB and the Bulgarian State Security Service – connections and dependences” is a Collection of Records (1950-1991),ISBN 978-954-92467-1-1, Sofia, 2009, edited by the Committee for Disclosing the Documents and Announcing Affiliation of Bulgarian Citizens to the State Security and the Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian National Army (CDDAABCSBNA) of the Republic of Bulgaria. It is the first in a series of publications which will facilitate researchers in their work with confidential files from the funds of the archives of the Bulgarian former secret services.

On 480 pages we find: 1. Foreword by Tatyana Kiryakova, member of the CDDAABCSBNA and managing editor; 2. Introduction by associated professor dr. Jordan Baev, scientific consultant; 3. List of documents; 4. Facsimile of documents; 5. Comparative structure of KGB (1954-1991) and the Bulgarian State Security Services (1952-1990); 6. Terms and abbreviations; 7. Index of names; 8. List of the documents with an English annotation. The facsimiles published in the collection follow a chronological order – a selection of the most important documents, a total of 53 agreements, perspective plans, instructions, information papers, reports and notes, found in the archives of the various departments of the Bulgarian State Security Services. Some documents are published in Russian because their translation was not found in the Bulgarian archives. The stamp reading “The level of classification is waived” represents an integral element of the documents’ authenticity because it evidences when and on what legal grounds each archive unit has been declassified.

The Commission for Disclosing the Documents and Announcing Affiliation of Bulgarian Citizens to the State Security and the Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian National Army has as an important aspect of its work the granting of access to the secret files for the purposes of research and investigative journalism. By virtue of article 10 of the Act on Access to and Declassification of the Records and on Disclosure of Involvement of Bulgarian Nationals With the Former State Security and the Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian People’s Army, the Commission undertook the publication of a part of the documents preserved in the integrated archive it created. This year we mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and the beginnings of the new democratic order in Central and Eastern Europe.

The disclosure of those documents will help researchers in conducting a more comprehensive analysis of the global confrontation between the two opposing camps which led to the emergence, expansion and regulation of a number of regional crises, especially astonishing we find the constant interest of the archives related to the cooperation between the Bulgarian State Security – Ministry of the Interior of the Peopleнs Republic of Bulgaria (MoI of the PRB) and the Committee for State Security (KGB) of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in regard of the national and international church organizations – incl. the World Council of Churches.

At this point and on this subject the most important documents on the coordination of the tasks of interaction between the security authorities of the two countries are the following:

Document №5 is in Russian – “Notes on the measures for the improvement of the work of the state security bodies of the PR of Bulgaria, 1953” (f. MoI, s.f. 1, i. 5, a.u. 23, sh. 198-206)

After 1944-46 the intelligence and counter-intelligence work of the state security bodies of the PR of Bulgaria was coordinated by “instructors” from the Forth Directorateof the People’s Committee for State Security (KGB). Very active since 1947 was colonel “Mitya” Trifonov esp. in the process against the arrested in end of 1948 evangelical pastors. Later on his colleagues – Soviet advisors on the measures needed to improve the work of the state security bodies of the PR of Bulgaria to be used as a basis for the drafting of a concrete plan for 1953 as seen in Document 5 – a top-secret text recommending on national level to collect detailed information on suspicious groups of citizens potential State enemies, incl. Church high-ranking officials and to control their correspondence (see p. 42, about. Department “Panega”). On international level as main task on page 101 is planned the infiltration of agents in the Vatican and the World Council of Churches in order to unveil and discredit their plans and activities against the socialist countries. In paragraph 23 (see pages 47-480 is recommended to profit from the materials about the recent process on the catholic conspiracy in Bulgaria and to take measures to close catholic monasteries, churches, as centers of conspirator’s and espionage, as well as to reduce the number of the operating mosques (in the original text: “Turkish churches”).

Document №8 is a translation from Russian: “Measures for the further intensification of the coordination and interaction between the State Security of the PRB and the security organs of the USSR, 3 July 1959″ (f. of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), s.f. 9, i. 2, a.u. 804, sh. 8-12).

It points measures and specific steps for joined and coordinated intelligence activity of the security services of the PRB and the USSR against the main enemy оr the USA and the other capitalist countries and their intelligence services. In part III (p. 64) we find a statement on the hostile activity of the Vatican against the USSR and the countries from the socialistic camp. As very useful was proposed soviet intelligencers to investigate in Bulgaria (by the time fixed – 15.08.1959) all opportunities for interception the activity of the Vatican trough the connections of the Pope (cardinal Roncalli) who lived in the country.

Document №9 “Information of G. Kumbiliev before a meeting of the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior, Sofia, August 11, 1959″ (f. NIS, s.f. 9, i. 2, a.u. 803, sh. 142-170)

On the Meeting of the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior held on August 11, 1959 to discuss the results of the visit of the Bulgarian delegation led by the Interior Minister to the Committee for State Security (KGB) of the USSR, Moscow, – an critic analysis was done regarding the need of political demoralization of the clergy through denunciatory articles in the Bulgarian media, not only the corruption of the Eastern Orthodox clergymen, but to use the Muslim imams and the religious sects infiltrating agents’ provocateur amongst the leaders of the religious communities (pp.87-88). As “good practices” are cited the use of the imams to agitate the rural population for entering the co-operative farms, as well as the involvement of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to counter designs and discontent among the people and how exactly to “interpret the gospel” in favor of the co-operative farms.

Document №11 is a “Recorded discussion on the coordination of intelligence and counter-intelligence measures some joint operations between the MoI of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Committee for State Security (KGB) at the Council of Ministers of the USSR, 5 June 1961″(f. NIS, s.f. 9, i. 2, a.u. 804, sh. 74-81).

It was adiscussion between the leadership of the MoI of the PRB and the leadership of the KGB regarding the coordination of the intelligence and counter-intelligence measures and the joint implementation of some of them between the MoI of the PRB and the KGB at the Council of Ministers of the USSR on the 5th June 1961. on page 103 we find an analysis on the hostile activity of the Vatican, especially the danger of the intention to organize an Ecumenical council (Second Vatican Council) as an antisocialist gathering. That’s why on page 101 is decided to infiltrate intelligencers in the Vatican City and the World Council of Churches for the exposure and denunciation of the practical application of their enemy’s activity against peace, democracy and countries of the socialist camp. More active measures to be taken (as described on p. 105) in this regard through the media of the socialist and capitalist countries; trough disinformation in order to create distrust amongst some circles of the roman-catholic clergy towards the Vatican; to explore the Prague’s Peace Christian Conference as leading international church organization for the purposes in favor of the socialist countries and to put it on the war-path with the Vatican. The Bulgarian and Soviet secret services decided to work in common “for the disgrace of the ecumenical council of the Vatican as an anticommunist front of all churches, incl. the Muslim one”.

Document №13 “Instruction No.C-1164 of the Council of Ministers (CoM) dated July 11, 1962 regarding the approval of agreement dated July 3, 1962” (f. MoI, s.f. 1, i. 7, a.u. 808, sh. 20-22) (Re.: Instruction No. C-1164 of the of the CoM dated July 11, 1962 on the approval of agreement dated July 3, 1962 for cooperation between the Committee for State Security (KGB) at the Council of Ministers of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics and the Ministry of the Interior of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria signed on July 3, 1962)

Document №14 “Transckript talks discussion between V.E. Semichastni and D. Dikov regarding the results and the future cooperation between the KGB at the CoM of the USSR and the MoI of the PRB, Moscow, 17 May 1963” (f. NIS, s.f. 9, i. 2, a.u. 804, sh. 158-168) – Discussion between V. E. Semichastni, Chairman of the KGB, and D. Dikov, Minister of the Interior of the PRB, on the results and the future cooperation between the KGB at the CoM of the USSR and the MoI of the PRB in the area of intelligence and counter-intelligence, and additional operative possibilities of the secret services in expanding the coordination of actions in fields of common concern and in consolidating mutual assistance. An agreement was reached to exchange information on the results from the first session of the Vatican’s “ecumenical council” and till the 1st of August to prepare joint actions for the period of the second session of the Council.

Document №22, “Information No 724 regarding the talks held with the visiting KGB delegation led by Y. Andropov, Sofia 24 December, 1969″ (f. NIS, f. 9, i. 2, a.u. 813, sh. 16-23), represents talks between the leadership of the MoI of the PRB and the delegation of the Committee of State Security, KGB, of the USSR on matters related to the international environment, the organization of the intelligence and counter-intelligence work and the relations among the security authorities of the socialist countries, held in Sofia from 27 to 29 November 1969. Regarding Cyprus was planned to deepen the contradictions between Greece and Turkey and to support the mood of Archbishop Makarios for self-dependence and independence through the “opportunities” of the Orthodox Church for gathering information and for influencing Makarios.

Document №27 “Plan for interaction and practical cooperation in the field of counter-intelligence between the KGB Fifth Directorate and the Sixth Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior of the Peopleнs Republic of Bulgaria for the period 1972-1974, April 1972″ (f. MoI, s.f. 1, i. 10, a.u. 1282, sh. 1-13)Plan for interaction and practical cooperation in the field of counter-intelligence between the KGB Fifth Directorate and Sixth Directorate of the MoI of the PRB for the period 1972-1974, signed by F. Bobkov, head of the KGB Fifth Directorate and P. Stoyanov, head of the Sixth Directorate of the MoI. It shows specific interest in the hostile circles of the Muslim emigration in Turkey and in infiltrating agents in Muslim organization in this country. This interest in the activities of the Muslim centers lasts for decades as seen also from Document №43 or “Plan for joint action with the KGB structures for the period 1983-1985, Sofia, June 20, 1983″(f. MoI, s.f. 22, i. 1, a.u. 202, sh. 1-5) – Plan for joint action and further improvement of the interaction between the KGB structures and division 02 of Department 06 of SS for the period 1983-1985 in which we find a detailed plan regarding the organization “Muslim Brothers” (p. 343). In Document 27, see p. 227, follows a detailed description of the operative actions of various church organizations in order “to prevent the organizational consolidation of the antisocialist clerical organizations” (more specific the World Council of Churches – WCC) using the Russian and the Bulgarian Orthodox churches for ideological diversion. On page 222 are mentioned the names of certain agents: “Borisov”, “Stoyanov”, “Petrov” (MoI of PRB), “Svetoslav”, “Nesterov”, “Ostrovski”, “Adamant”, “Vidmantas” (KGB of USSR) and other amongst among respectful Orthodox clergy members. For the historians of the modern church history is possible to research who are the clergy or lay persons behind this nicknames. For the year 1972 was planned WCC to be directed in advantage of the socialist secret services; also the consolidation of the leadership of “Prague’s Peace Christian Conference” with representatives from socialist countries confronting the ideological diversion of the capitalist clerical centers and organizations.

Document №44 “Information on the discussion held during the meeting of Vladimir Kryuchkov, Deputy Chairman of KGB and the head of the KGB FCD with a delegation of the FCD of SS, November 19, 1984″(f. NIS, s.f. 9, i.4, a.u. 663, sh. 26-30) is aninformation of D. Stankov, head of division 08 of the FGD of SS and M. Kolarov, head of division 17 of the FGD of SS regarding a meeting of a delegation of the FGD of SS with Vl. Kryuchkov, Deputy Chairman of KGB, on matters related to the joint work of the two intelligence services in special operations in Albania, Moscow, November 1, 1984. “Comrade” Kryuchkov analyses on pp. 348-49 the development of the lawsuit “Antonov” and the attempt on the life of Pope John-Paul II, the Italian jurisprudence and the attitude of Judge Ilario Martella. This statement of the top-KGB officer describes the Pope as “very dangerous for us clergyman, much more dangerous compared to the late cardinal Vishinski”. A recommendation is given to ask for help the Polish “comrades” regardless their preoccupation with “the case Popelushko”.

Document №46 is the “Prospective plan for the interaction between the external intelligence services of the Ministry of the Interior of the PRB and the Committee for State Security (KGB) of the USSR for the period 1986-1990, March 19, 1986″(f. NIS, s.f. 9, i. 4a, a.u. 40, sh. 1-19) – prospective plan for the successful implementation of the tasks of the external intelligence services of the MoI of the PRB and the KGB of the USSR, further improvement of the efficiency of the intelligence activity, consolidation of the interaction and coordination of the efforts of the State Security (SS) and the KGB mostly against the USA, NATO and China. On page 385 special interest and attention is shown toward the leadership of the Vatican and the protestant church and their position and activity in regard issues like global peace and disarmament.

Author: Petar Gramatikov
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NATO Military Committee to visit Georgia in September

BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 2

Tamilla Mammadova – Trend:

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili discussed with the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai the visit of the Alliance Military Committee, which is scheduled for September, Trend reports referring to the press service of the Georgian government.

“At the meeting, the sides stressed the importance of the visit of the NATO Military Committee, which is planned for September, as well as the role of the Georgia-NATO joint exercises in strengthening the compatibility of the Georgian Defense Forces. According to the Prime Minister, despite the coronavirus pandemic, it is necessary to maintain positive dynamics in Georgia’s cooperation with NATO and the integration process,” the statement reads.

In addition, the parties discussed the issue of the Black Sea security and the results of the NATO summit held in Brussels in June.

“We discussed cooperation between Georgia and NATO, the security of the Black Sea, as well as significant achievements of Georgia on the Euro-Atlantic path and the need for further advancement in the political dimension of the integration process,” Garibashvili wrote on his Twitter following the meeting.


The NATO Military Committee is the supreme military body of the North Atlantic Alliance, which consists of the Chiefs of Staff of NATO countries. Its main role is to provide guidance on military policy and strategy. The committee discusses NATO’s operations and missions and makes recommendations to the North Atlantic Council on how to address security challenges around the world.

Follow the author on Twitter: @Mila61979356

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Read more here >>> Trend – News from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkey.

Texas Senate bill restricting transgender students

Author: Megan Munce
This post originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

Special Senate Committee holds hearing on Texas permitless carry plan

Author: Wes Rapaport
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A newly-formed committee in the Texas Senate will hold its first-ever hearing, focusing solely on the proposed permitless carry legislation.

The Senate Special Committee on Constitutional Issues will hear testimony on House Bill 1927 on Thursday, which would remove permitting requirements to carry a firearm in the state.

The legislation cleared the House earlier this month after an hours-long debate between lawmakers.

Supporters note it would allow responsible gun-owners access to firearms after costs to secure a license are removed.

“Very frequently, people of lesser means are more directly affected by such restrictions, because they may or may not have the means to apply for a license to carry a handgun,” Rick Briscoe, legislative director for Open Carry Texas, said in an interview Wednesday. “Or they may have had some minor scrape with the law which, under present, Texas law would disqualify them from being able to obtain a license to carry, and yet they have the same need protect their families and themselves.”

Opponents argue the bill would remove safeguards like background checks and training currently required when Texans seek to obtain a license to carry.

“Current law in Texas is to carry a handgun in public, a person has to have a license to carry, and that means you have to get a background check, you have to have classroom or virtual training about safety and gun laws and you have to demonstrate a level of live fire shooting proficiency in front of a license to carry instructors,” Gyl Switzer, director of Texas Gun Sense, said in a press conference this week.

“The permitless carry bills call for no background check, no training, no demonstration of proficiency,” Switzer claimed.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, President Joe Biden’s new nominee to head up Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said it seemed “irresponsible that we would eliminate just basic common sense regulations.”

“Permitless carry does not make our community safer,” Gonzalez said. “Instead, it increases the odds of deadly confrontations and puts the lives of first responders at even greater risk.”

State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, who authored the bill, said, “criminals don’t care about our laws.”

“Criminals don’t care what laws we pass in this building and that puts criminals at a advantage,” he stated. “And so it’s time to restore faith in law abiding Texans who want to protect themselves and their families.”

Briscoe said bad guys “simply don’t ask permission.”

“If they see an individual who is in possession of a firearm, and they say, put the gun down,” Briscoe explained. “It’s been our experience that the good guy does, and bad guy turns and tries to shoot him.”

Briscoe’s eyes are on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on whether the conservative priority has enough support to pass through the Republican-led legislature.

“There are still not enough votes in the Senate to pass a permitless carry bill,” Patrick’s senior advisor Sherry Sylvester said on Friday after Patrick established the new committee and referred the bill to the panel.

“He will continue meeting with law enforcement, gun rights stakeholders and Senators on this issue to find consensus and the votes needed to pass,” Sylvester said.

After Gov. Greg Abbott was non-committal on the issue last week, he said in a radio interview this week he would sign a permitless carry bill should one reach his desk.

“I support it, and I believe it should reach my desk, and we should have constitutional carry in Texas,” Abbott told radio station WBAP on Tuesday.

Should Senators approve any changes to the version of the bill that the House sent over, the lower chamber would need to sign off before the legislation heads to the Governor’s desk.

House committee advances anti-abortion bills outlawing the procedure in Texas

Shannon Najmabadi

This article originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

Russian Paralympic Committee President Lukin resigns amid WADA sanctions

President of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) Vladimir Lukin has resigned due to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) sanctions imposed on Russia over alleged doping violations.

Lukin left his post on Tuesday having spent 24 years at the helm of the national Paralympic Committee after being elected the body’s president in 1997.

READ MORE:Striking the wrong chord: CAS bans use of ‘Katyusha’ song instead of Russian national anthem at Olympic Games

His resignation comes two months after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling which upheld a series of sanctions introduced by WADA over alleged manipulation of data at a Moscow anti-doping laboratory.

Under the terms of the CAS decision, Russian government officials are prohibited from holding key positions in sports bodies until December 2022. Those appointed to boards and committees are bound to leave their roles in accordance with court’s verdict.

Lukin, who also serves as the Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, stepped down as the RPC chief in accordance with WADA’s demand.
Also on rt.com ‘Putting Russian athletes first’: RUSADA calls CAS ruling ‘unjustified,’ but will not challenge ban on country
Today, at the Executive Committee meeting, letters of resignation filed by the Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Lukin as president of the RPC, and State Duma deputies Boris Ivanyuzhenkov, Rima Batalova and Oleg Smolin as vice presidents of the RPC, were considered and satisfied,” the RPC said in statement.

Earlier, President of the Russian Athletics Federation (RUSAF) Peter Ivanov was forced to resign over WADA restrictions less than three months after being appointed to the role.

The same reason forced President of the Russian Hockey Federation (RHF) Vladislav Tretiak to leave his seat in the Council of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

RT

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Restrictions on Texas voting could tighten under Republican bill advanced by Senate committee

After more than five hours of public testimony, largely in opposition, a Texas Senate committee on Friday night advanced a wide-ranging elections bill that would further tighten the state’s already restrictive voting rules and clamp down on local efforts to make it easier to vote.

Senate Bill 7[2] — one of Texas Republicans’ priority elections bills — would limit extended early voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting and allow partisan poll watchers to record voters who receive help filling out their ballots. It would also forbid local election officials from encouraging voters to fill out applications to vote by mail, even if they qualify.

They also would not be able to proactively send out applications to voters who do not request them — a practice that is commonly used by political parties[3]. Texans would also have to provide proof of disability to qualify for mail-in voting under the bill.

SB 7, which was offered under the banner of “election integrity,” sailed out of the Republican-dominated Senate State Affairs Committee on a party-line vote and now heads to the full Senate. The bill is a significant piece in a broader legislative effort by Texas Republicans[4] this year to enact sweeping changes to elections in the state[5] that would scale up already restrictive election rules.

In presenting the bill to the committee on Friday, Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes[6] described the legislation as an effort to strike a balance between “maintaining fair and honest elections with the opportunity to exercise one’s right to vote.”

But the bill was met with a chorus of opposition. Advocates for people with disabilities and voting rights tagged the proof of disability requirement as harmful and potentially unlawful. The bill was also widely panned as detrimental to local efforts that would widen access to voting, particularly extended early voting hours and drive-thru voting offered in Harris County in November.

In written testimony delivered to the committee, the AARP warned the bill would result in “disproportionate and unnecessary risks of disenfranchising older voters in Texas.” The League of Women Voters raised concerns about increased barriers in urban areas home to Black and Hispanic voters and voters with disabilities. And organizations with histories of fighting unlawful voting rules, including the Texas Civil Rights Project, the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, raised the prospect of litigation if the legislation became law.

“What this bill does, whether intentionally or not, is in several ways treats voters with disabilities differently than other voters — both in terms of having to prove their disability and not trusting the people that assist them,” said Jeff Miller, a policy specialist with Disability Rights Texas. “And that’s problematic on lots of levels, but fundamentally it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Texas voters can qualify for mail-in ballots only if they are 65 years or older, have a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail. The Texas election code defines disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person without the risk of “injuring the voter’s health.”

But under SB 7, voters wanting to request a ballot based on a disability would have to provide proof, including written documentation from the Social Security Administration or a doctor’s note, to qualify.

After a pandemic-era election with increased voting by mail, Republicans have partly focused on limiting a method of voting that until last year was lightly used and largely uncontroversial.

Some Texas counties, including Hidalgo County on the border, sent applications to voters 65 and older who automatically qualify. But Texas Republicans’ ire fell on Harris County when it moved to send applications to all 2.4 million registered voters in the county with instructions on how to determine if they were eligible. The Texas Supreme Court ultimately blocked that effort[7].

On Friday, Hughes also framed the legislation as a response to some local officials who he said went beyond the letter or “the spirit of the law” in 2020.

“We’re all big on local control to varying degrees, in different circumstances to let local communities adjust to their own needs,” Hughes said. “We like this approach because, again, each community varies. But we also recognize that that power — that local control, that power to decentralize — can be abused.”

The bill was originally written to limit early voting hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. That would pull back efforts like those recently adopted in Harris and Bexar counties — home to Houston and San Antonio — where voting ran until 10 p.m. for several days to accommodate people like shift workers for whom regular hours don’t work. A slightly reworked version adopted by the committee on Friday would allow for voting only between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. — a revision that would still outlaw initiatives like the day of 24-hour voting Harris County offered last November.

During the hearing, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, attempted to question Keith Ingram — the chief of elections at the Texas secretary of state’s office — about any evidence of increased fraud at night or a rationale for how prohibiting 24-hour voting would enhance the security of Texas elections.

Ingram, who recently told House lawmakers that “Texas had an election that was smooth and secure,” replied that the state had “very little experience with voting at night.”

“I think after a certain period people get tired and are more likely to have mistakes,” Ingram replied. “I don’t know if that is necessarily related to security, but I think that if you want to keep people in their best frame of mind for doing the activity, then you need to limit the hours in which it is happening.”

But Harris County’s election administrator Isabel Longoria defended the efforts before the committee late Friday evening, noting they were particularly successful in reaching Black and Hispanic voters who cast more than half the ballots counted at both drive-thru sites and during extended hours. Longoria also rebutted Ingram’s comments, telling lawmakers that the county staffed the 24-hour polling places without issue so voting during extended hours was carried out under the same conditions and strict state rules that exist during daytime hours.

“Voting happened at the 24th hour like it did at the first hour — exactly as the law prescribes,” Longoria said.

During her testimony, Nina Perales, MALDEF’s vice president for litigation, told lawmakers the bill would violate the federal Voting Rights Act by policing the assistance voters can get to fill out their ballots. She also raised concerns about widening access for partisan poll watchers in a way that could result in increased intimidation of Latino voters “who are the historical targets of vigilante activity at the polls in Texas.”

Her concerns focused, in part, on a provision that would allow partisan poll watchers to video record voters if they are receiving assistance the poll watcher “reasonably believes to be unlawful.”

“Only voters who receive assistance are singled out in this way by these provisions,” Perales said. “Most limited English proficient voters in Texas are Latino; many use assisters to vote and will be intimidated and deterred from voting by having poll watchers record them and stand close to them while they vote.”

Disclosure: AARP and Texas Secretary of State have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here[8].

References

  1. ^ Sign up for The Brief (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ Senate Bill 7 (capitol.texas.gov)
  3. ^ commonly used by political parties (www.texastribune.org)
  4. ^ broader legislative effort by Texas Republicans (www.texastribune.org)
  5. ^ enact sweeping changes to elections in the state (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ Bryan Hughes (www.texastribune.org)
  7. ^ The Texas Supreme Court ultimately blocked that effort (www.texastribune.org)
  8. ^ list of them here (www.texastribune.org)

Alexa Ura

Russian Olympic Committee chief ‘in cell with no change of clothes’ as he ‘warns arrest could damage Tokyo Olympics performances’

The president of three Russian sports federations, Alexey Vlasenko, who was arrested this week on allegations of fraud, is said to have warned that the move could negatively affect the performance of athletes at the Olympic Games.

The 56-year-old, who heads Russia’s water polo, diving, and synchronized swimming federations, has been charged with large-scale fraud and could face 10 years in prison.

The former adviser to the president of the Russian Olympic Committee is set to be detained until May 16 and is currently in a four-bed “quarantine cell” for new arrivals to the isolation ward.

We visited Vlasenko in prison,” Marina Litvinovich, a member of the Public Monitoring Committee, told Tass.

“He thinks that the arrest will badly affect the performance of Russian teams at the Tokyo Olympics.

“He is even thinking to ask the prosecutor to release him for the Games. He is ready to return afterwards.”

Russian synchronized swimmers, whose federation has come under Vlasenko’s guidance, are preparing to defend their Olympic title at the Games in four months – and they have been unbeaten on the international circuit for more than 20 years.

“His relatives do not even know where he is, so he is still sitting without packages, letters and money,” said Litvinovich.

“Now we will contact his relatives so that they urgently bring him a change of clothes.

“We asked to have a kettle or a boiler in the cell, which is not there. There is no TV or refrigerator there either. And we also asked to bring him books – in particular, a textbook on English.”
Also on rt.com ‘We can sing it while we’re standing on the podium’: Russian synchronized swimming coach on Olympic anthem ban

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