In Brief: January 13, 2021

Top military leaders remind troops of free speech limits

WASHINGTON — Amid worry about renewed violence on Inauguration Day, the military’s top leaders issued a written reminder to all service members Tuesday that the deadly insurrection at the Capitol last week was an anti-democratic, criminal act, and that the right to free speech gives no one the right to commit violence.

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A memo signed by all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also reminded military members that Joe Biden was duly elected as the next president and will be sworn in to office on Jan. 20.

The memo was unusual in that the military leadership, including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, felt compelled to remind service members that it is wrong to disrupt the constitutional process. The language went further than statements by the civilian leader of the Pentagon, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, by describing the assault as an act of sedition and an insurrection. Miller has called it “reprehensible and contrary to the tenets of the United States Constitution.”

It comes as law enforcement agencies attempt to determine the full extent of criminal activity at the Capitol and to discover the extent of participation by current or past military members.

It has already been established that some military veterans participated in the riots at the Capitol, but the extent of any active-duty involvement has not been established. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran, on Monday wrote to the Defense Department requesting that its criminal investigative organizations cooperate with the FBI and the U.S. Capitol Police in investigating whether current and retired members of the armed forces were part of a “seditious conspiracy” against the government.

Michigan plans to charge ex-Gov. Snyder in Flint water probe

FLINT, Mich. — Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, The Associated Press has learned.

Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution told the AP on Tuesday that the attorney general’s office has informed defense lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The AP could not determine the nature of the charges against Snyder, former health department director Nick Lyon and others who were in his administration, including Rich Baird, a friend who was the governor’s key troubleshooter while in office.

Courtney Covington Watkins, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said only that investigators were “working diligently” and “will share more as soon as we’re in a position to do so.”

From wire sources

Snyder, a Republican who has been out of office for two years, was governor when state-appointed managers in Flint switched the city’s water to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost-saving step while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. The water, however, was not treated to reduce corrosion — a disastrous decision affirmed by state regulators that caused lead to leach from old pipes and spoil the distribution system used by nearly 100,000 residents.

Trump takes no responsibility for riot, visits Texas

ALAMO, Texas — President Donald Trump on Tuesday took no responsibility for his part in fomenting a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, despite his comments encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol and praise for them while they were still carrying out the assault.

“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said.

He made the comments during his first appearance in public since the Capitol siege, which came as lawmakers were tallying Electoral College votes affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump arrived in Texas on Tuesday to trumpet his campaign against illegal immigration in an attempt to burnish his legacy with eight days remaining in his term, as lawmakers in Congress appeared set to impeach him this week for the second time.

In Alamo, Texas, a city in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexican border — the site of the 450th mile of the border wall his administration is building, Trump brushed off Democratic calls on his Cabinet to declare him unfit from office and remove him from power using the 25th Amendment.

“The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me, but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” Trump said. “As the expression goes, be careful of what you wish for.”

Trump business backlash part of ‘cancel culture,’ son says

NEW YORK — The PGA canceled its tournament at his golf course. Banks say they won’t lend to him anymore. New York City is looking to end his contract to operate the Central Park skating rink.

Hits to President Donald Trump’s business empire since the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol are part of a liberal “cancel culture,” his son, Eric, told The Associated Press on Tuesday, saying his father will leave the presidency with a powerful brand backed by millions of voters who will follow him “to the ends of the Earth.”

“We live in the age of cancel culture, but this isn’t something that started this week. It is something that they have been doing to us and others for years,” said Trump, who along with his brother, Donald Jr., have been running the family company since their father took office four years ago. “If you disagree with them, if they don’t like you, they try and cancel you.”

The remarks in an extended interview to the AP come amid an extraordinary backlash against the Trump Organization after thousands of the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol last week in a violent riot seeking to keep lawmakers from confirming Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.

Amid accusations Trump incited the mob, the PGA of America voted to strip its namesake championship from Trump’s Bedminister, New Jersey, golf course next year, a British golf organization said the British Open will not be played at a Trump property in the “foreseeable future,” the e-commerce company Shopify stopped helping run the online Trump Store, and New York City announced it was looking to cancel contracts with Trump for skating rinks and a golf course in the Bronx.

Female inmate’s execution on hold; 2 more halted over COVID

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The U.S. government’s plans to carry out its first execution of a female inmate in nearly seven decades were on hold Tuesday amid a flurry of legal rulings, and two other executions set for later this week were halted because the inmates tested positive for COVID-19.

The three executions were to be the last before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the federal death penalty, is sworn-in next week. Now it’s unclear how many additional executions there will be under President Donald Trump, who resumed federal executions in July after 17-year pause. Ten federal inmates have since been put to death.

Lisa Montgomery faced execution Tuesday for killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife. Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own.

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But an appeals court granted a stay of execution Tuesday, shortly after another appeals court lifted an Indiana judge’s ruling that found she was likely mentally ill and couldn’t comprehend she would be put to death. If a higher court puts the execution back on, Montgomery, the only female on federal death row, would receive a lethal injection at a federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. By Tuesday night, the Supreme Court lifted a separate injunction that was put in place by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Separately, a federal judge for the U.S. District of Columbia halted the scheduled executions later this week of Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs in a ruling Tuesday. Johnson, convicted of killing seven people related to his drug trafficking in Virginia, and Higgs, convicted of ordering the murders of three women in Maryland, both tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

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