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Reed co-sponsors resolution to condemn and censure Trump

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) joined Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and other colleagues as they introduced a concurrent resolution to censure President Donald J. Trump for “attempting to unlawfully overturn the 2020 Presidential election and for violating his oath of office on January 6th, 2021.”

“This is an important step to hold the President accountable. Congress must make clear that it rejects extremism and condemns the President’s actions,” said Reed (NY-23). “We will continue to push for Congressional leaders to work with us on investigating the events surrounding this dark period in our history and make sure it never happens again with the public’s trust in our democratic institutions restored.”

“In the aftermath of the riot at the Capitol last week, lawmakers have the solemn duty to accomplish two missions: hold the President fully and unequivocally accountable for his actions, and simultaneously calm and heal the fever-pitch tensions in our country,” a press release from Reed and Fitzpatrick said.

“With only one week remaining until President-elect Biden is sworn in, as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) stated, “…it is clear the 25th Amendment will not be invoked and that the Senate will not convict the president after impeachment,” the press release continued. “A censure resolution is the only way to send a bipartisan, bicameral message without delay to the country and the world that the United States is a nation of laws.”

Reed and Fitzpatrick pointed to Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s recent statement about impeachment as a reason why they didn’t support the move. Manchin stated that the House’s current impeachment approach “is so ill-advised for Joe Biden to be coming in, trying to heal the country, trying to be the president of all the people when we are going to be so divided and fighting again.”

“Moreover, both Democrat and Republican Members of the U.S. Senate are convinced that the House’s impeachment efforts will almost certainly result in a second acquittal of President Trump, which would even further divide and inflame tensions in our nation. There are two constitutional purposes of impeachment: 1) removal from office, and 2) barring the future holding of office. The current approach being advanced by House leadership is certain to accomplish neither one of these,” the press release said.

The Republican congressmen also said “forcing a time-consuming and divisive trial in the Senate, which cannot even occur until after President-elect Biden takes office, would also undermine President-elect Biden’s ability to govern effectively at the beginning and most critical time of his presidency.”

“Because of these concerns, my colleagues and I support a bipartisan, bicameral censure that ensures that the Congress — the House and the Senate — can unite to hold the President accountable by putting it on the record that Congress condemns the President’s conduct and for violating his oath of office on January 6th, 2021,” Fitzpatrick said. “Our country must both hold the President accountable and provide closure and the opportunity to begin anew with the incoming administration. A concurrent censure resolution with language nearly identical to the impeachment resolution introduced in the House is the only immediate, appropriate, and effective means for achieving this.”

This concurrent resolution calls on Congress to publicly state that President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law; censure and condemn President Donald J. Trump for trying to unlawfully overturn the 2020 Presidential election and violating his oath of office; and to affirm that Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was duly elected as the 46th President of the United States on November 3rd, 2020, was certified as the winner of the 2020 Presidential election by a Joint Session of Congress, and he will be lawfully sworn in to office on January 20th, 2021.

“President Trump’s attempts to undermine the outcome of the 2020 election have been unconscionable. The combination of a false information campaign coupled with inflammatory rhetoric led to the devastation that I was a personal witness to on the House Floor on January 6th. His actions threatened the integrity of our democracy, Congress, and his own Vice President. For months, President Trump has been lying to the American people with false information, and giving his supporters false expectations. The election is over,” said Fitzpatrick (PA-01). “Joe Biden will be sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th, 2021. President Trump’s actions, behavior, and language are unacceptable and unbecoming of the office he holds for the next eight days.”

FBI says it warned about prospect of violence ahead of riot

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI warned law enforcement agencies ahead of last week’s breach of the U.S. Capitol about the potential for extremist-driven violence, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, contradicting earlier statements that they were caught off guard by the assault by supporters of President Donald Trump.

Nearly a week after the riot, officials said they were combing through mountains of evidence and vowed to aggressively seek out those who perpetrated the brazen attack on the U.S. Capitol. Though most of the charges brought so far have been misdemeanors, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said the Justice Department was considering bringing sedition charges against some of the rioters, effectively accusing them of attempting to overthrow or defeat the government.

“This is only the beginning,” Sherwin said. “We’re going to focus on the most significant charges as a deterrent because, regardless of it was just a trespass in the Capitol or if someone planted a pipe bomb, you will be charged and you will be found.”

The Justice Department has created a specialized strike force to examine the possibility of sedition charges, which could carry up to 20 years in prison. Officials said they were utilizing some of the same techniques in the riot probe as they use in international counterterrorism investigations, examining the money flow and movement of defendants leading up to the breach. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, called for the rioters to be added to a no-fly list, a tool most commonly associated with terrorisms investigations.

The statements by FBI and Justice Department officials on Tuesday were intended as both a defense of federal law enforcement preparations before the deadly riot and as a warning to participants. But they also raised new questions about the coordination across agencies for the Jan. 6 riot, which was sparked by Trump’s calls for his supporters to fight Congress’ vote confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

In the immediate aftermath of the riot, some law enforcement officials, including the Capitol police chief, said they were unaware of serious concerns leading up to Jan. 6 and had prepared only for a free-speech protest.

But on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported on the existence of a Jan. 5 report from the FBI’s field office in Norfolk, Virginia, that forecast, in detail, the chances that extremists could commit “war” in Washington the following day. Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, said that once he received the Jan. 5 warning, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies through the joint terrorism task force.

D’Antuono was among the officials who suggested law enforcement had simply been caught off guard, saying on Friday: “There was no indication that there was anything other than First Amendment protected activity.”

He did not explain the discrepancy in his statements, though he suggested Tuesday that the Norfolk warning was based on nonspecific information in terms of individual leads to investigate, characterizing it as a “thread on a message board” that was not attributable to any specific person.

In a statement Tuesday night, the FBI said the report’s author had warned that the “FBI might be encroaching on free speech rights” in pursuing further action, and that the document itself did not necessarily associate the comments with a national security threat or crime. It highlighted D’Antuono’s remarks at the news conference suggesting that without knowing the identity of the people whose words were cited in the report, there was not much that could be done with the information.

U.S. Capitol Police and other official didn’t immediately respond to questions about their own initial assessments of the threat.

A U.S. defense official familiar with the discussions said Tuesday that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy was not notified about the FBI warning.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that it is unclear whether any defense or military officials heard about the notification from the FBI, but that statements in recent days from all the leaders indicate they weren’t aware that violence of that level was expected at the Capitol.

Defense and National Guard officials, including McCarthy, have said in interviews over the past several days they were told by D.C. that they believed the protests would be similar to the ones on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12. And they said that federal law enforcement authorities said that there was activity on Twitter, but that they weren’t expecting the level of violence they ultimately saw last Wednesday.

Even without intelligence from law enforcement, there had been ample warning about pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington. But Capitol Police did not bolster staffing and made no preparations for the possibility that the planned protests could escalate into massive, violent riots, according to several people briefed on the law enforcement response. Officials turned down help offered by the Pentagon three days before the riot.

When backup was finally requested, it took more than two hours for troops to mobilize near the Capitol. By then the mob had raged inside for more than four hours.

Once the mob began to move on the Capitol, a police lieutenant issued an order not to use deadly force, which explains why officers outside the building did not draw their weapons as the crowd closed in. Officers are sometimes ordered to keep their weapons holstered to avoid escalating a situation if superiors believe doing so could lead to a stampede or a shootout.

In this instance, it also left officers with little ability to resist the mob. In one video from the scene, an officer puts up his fists to try to push back a crowd pinning him and his colleagues against a door. The crowd jeers, “You are not American!” and one man tries to prod him with the tip of an American flag.

The rampage through the halls of Congress sent lawmakers of both parties and Trump’s own vice president into hiding, as crowds called for Mike Pence’s lynching for his role overseeing the vote count. The scene also undermined the hallmark of the republic — the peaceful transition of power. At least five people died, including one Capitol Police officer.

Cuomo pitches rapid testing to open restaurants, theaters

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he wants to start opening restaurants, theaters and offices by launching rapid testing sites in New York City and eventually at hundreds of new sites in other city centers throughout the state.

An individual could theoretically get tested and in 15 minutes go to a dinner or movie, under the Democratic governor’s plan, which he said could also help get more people onto mass transit. Cuomo said he’ll partner with the real estate community and work with local governments to reduce bureaucratic hurdles.

Public health experts have said frequent rapid testing can help prevent COVID-19 spread by ruling out contagious individuals. But they’ve also warned a single rapid test can be unreliable, particularly for people without symptoms.

“You can imagine if people are going to the theater, to the restaurant, they’re likely to be feeling well,” Columbia University epidemiology and medicine professor Wafaa El-Sadr said.

“That’s when antigen tests are even more limited in terms of accurately identifying those with infections,” said El-Sadr, who is also director of the Global Health Initiative at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

CUNY public health professor Denis Nash said Cuomo’s initiative could create “a major equity issue” if testing’s only available to people who can afford it. The state Department of Health didn’t immediately respond to a question Tuesday about who’ll pay for rapid tests.

Nash questioned why New York would expand rapid testing for restaurants and theaters before launching widespread testing at all schools and for all exposed individuals.

“I would say after all of those higher-priority uses of rapid tests could be met and satisfied, then it would make sense to consider use for lower priorities,” Nash, executive director of the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health, said.

New York has a higher per-capita infection rate than 37 other states and reported 210,000 new COVID-19 positive tests over the last 14 days — up 40% from the previous two weeks. Hospitals and nursing homes have reported about 1,200 COVID-19 deaths over the past seven days, up from nearly 500 for the first week in December.

New York’s economy shuttered last spring, when hospitals and nursing homes reported as many as 800 people who tested for COVID-19 dying each day.

Now, Cuomo has set a high bar for any new COVID-19 restrictions even as cases rise. He’s counting on federal aid to help replace lost tax revenue, but is stressing New York must reopen its economy in 2021 as more people get vaccinated.

Cuomo said he’ll work with property owners to open up “COVID-safe” office buildings, and said major commercial operators in New York have agreed to provide regular testing to all tenants. He also said he’ll propose legislation to require internet service providers to offer $15-a-month high-speed internet plans for low-income households, who could receive help from a hardship fund.

He proposed rapid testing as a way to bring back New York’s $120 billion arts and cultural sector, which lost tens of thousands of jobs.

“We must bring culture and arts back to life,” Cuomo said.

The state will launch “pop-up” performances around New York beginning in February, Cuomo said. Artists will include Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Wynton Marsalis, the National Black Theatre and Ballet Hispánico.

Cuomo’s effort to mass test around 7,000 fans before a Buffalo Bills playoff game held Saturday could potentially serve as a model, he said.

Cuomo said about 2% of fans tested positive using rapid tests they paid for, and called the model an apparent “success.” Department of Health spokesperson Jeffrey Hammond said mask and social distancing compliance was at “very high levels.”

But Nash, of CUNY, said the Buffalo Bills pilot was “flawed” because fans were tested last Wednesday and Thursday — not game day. That opened the stadium door to infected fans who tested negative days earlier.

“To me that’s a flawed implementation of this idea,” Nash said.

He said no one could call the pilot a “success” without following up with every attendee, a move Cuomo’s administration isn’t taking.

Instead, the state plans to cross check the list of attendees with the list of people who test positive in New York in the next two weeks. State health officials said they aren’t able to track test results of about 281 out-of-state fans who attended the game.

Pickett to serve again as House Insurance Committee Chair

HARRISBURG — State Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) announced Monday that she has been reappointed to serve as majority chair of the House Insurance Committee for the 2021-22 Legislative Session.

In addition, she was again appointed to the Consumer Affairs and Rules committees. Pickett was sworn into office for another term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Jan. 5.

The chairmanship appointment was announced by Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster).

The Insurance Committee helps to oversee the Pennsylvania Insurance Department and ensure any legislation pertaining to insurance matters under consideration in the House is studied with extreme care, especially regarding its potential impact on consumers.

“I am grateful to Speaker Cutler for entrusting me once again to lead the Insurance Committee in the new session,” said Pickett. “In a sense, we are legislative ‘watchdogs’ who work on advancing insurance-related policy that treats consumers with fairness and honesty.”

The Consumer Affairs Committee handles legislation involving public utilities, including water, gas, electric, and telecommunications. The committee interacts with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Public Utility Commission, Office of Consumer Advocate and the Office of Small Business Advocate and addresses legislative remedies to matters involving landlord and tenant rights, unfair trade practices and various consumer complaints and scams.

The Rules Committee is reserved for House leaders and senior members who work together to oversee the legislative process. It is also charged with reviewing legislation that returns to the House after being amended by the Senate.

All bills are assigned to a standing committee to undergo review. Committees may hold hearings on legislation, consider amendments to pending bills and report them to the full House for a vote.

Pickett was also appointed to the Committee on Committees, which helps to organize the committee structure in the House.

Athens' Gavin Bradley controls Canton's Isaac Landis during their match at 113 Tuesday night.