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EU backlash: Furious member states fed up with Brussels' chaotic vaccine rollout



THERE is growing anger among EU member states at Brussels’ handling of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine roll-out, after a third of the bloc’s members called out its leadership.

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GOP state legislators backed Trump in Capitol attack. It’s on them to stop what’s coming.



If last week’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol in Washington by supporters of President Donald Trump was scary, the reported follow-up riots planned for state capitols as early as this weekend are downright terrifying. Since Trump appears unwilling to stop them, the responsibility falls to the Republican state legislators who have reliably embraced and enabled Trump for the last four years.

We need Republicans to act to prevent any further loss of life. Congressional Republicans failed miserably at this in the days and weeks leading up to Wednesday’s insurrection.

The protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol hunting for Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will not be dissuaded from further violence by additional calls from Democratic leaders. They believe, incorrectly, that Democrats stole an election. Some even wish us harm. There is no message of unity from President-elect Joe Biden and no olive branch from Democratic leaders in Congress that can stop this storm. At this point, we need Republicans to act to prevent any further loss of life.

Congressional Republicans failed miserably at this in the days and weeks leading up to Wednesday’s insurrection in Washington, with five people dying in the aftermath. Unbelievably, 147 congressional Republicans still voted to overturn the election results declaring Biden the victor of the 2020 election even after seditious rioters invaded their hallowed chamber.

Will Republican state lawmakers do any better with the protests planned for their states in the days before the inauguration? They must take action to quell the violence this time around.

We’ve seen this toxicity, destruction and anti-democratic force in our own state legislatures. In Michigan, armed protesters occupied the state Capitol, and a group of terrorists plotted to kidnap and possibly kill Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; their actions were undoubtedly spurred by inflammatory rhetoric from Trump. And in Pennsylvania, Republicans refused to seat Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster, whose election was certified by state election officials.

At last count, more than a dozen Republican state legislators had been identified as attending the rally preceding the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol, including Republican colleagues of ours in Pennsylvania and Michigan. One lawmaker — West Virginia Rep. Derrick Evans — even recorded video of himself celebrating his illegal breach of the Capitol. (Evans resigned his seat after being arrested and charged with unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.)

Those Republican state legislators were at the Capitol to pressure Congress to ignore the Constitution and overturn the results of a lawfully conducted presidential election. Republican legislators in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming sent letters to public officials urging them to delay certification or overturn the results entirely, seeking essentially the same thing as the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol and symbolically standing in solidarity with them.

There’s the North Carolina state senator who said Trump should suspend habeas corpus; the Virginia state senator who called on Trump to declare martial law over Biden’s victory; the six New Hampshire state representatives who signed a “declaration” dissolving the state government over the governor’s Covid-19 policies; the Michigan state representative who intimated during a radio interview that there could be violence at a rally in Lansing related to a “Hail Mary” effort to disrupt the confirmation of Electoral College vote; and the Oregon representative who opened security doors in the state Capitol to allow violent protesters to enter and interrupt a special session of the legislature.

In short, Republicans in America’s state legislatures have consistently followed Trump’s lead in the dereliction of their constitutional duties, embracing Trump’s culture of denial and — most recently — perpetuating the lie of widespread election fraud in hopes of stealing the presidential election from the voters.

That makes GOP state legislators just as responsible for impending violence as the president. They must quickly choose: Will they stand with Trump or with America?

Staying silent as extremists plan their attacks on capitols cannot be an option for Republican state lawmakers any longer.

The FBI is warning of planned efforts by armed protesters to “storm” state, local and federal courthouses as well as state capitols in the days leading up to and including Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony in Washington. Twitter cited similar intelligence pointing to a second attack being planned for Sunday in its announcement that it was banning Trump from its platform.

Staying silent as extremists plan their attacks on capitols cannot be an option for Republican state lawmakers any longer. And tepid statements bemoaning violence after the fact can’t be enough to get them off the hook. The Republican state legislators who helped Trump fan the flames of division and distrust must now take responsibility for putting out the fire.

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Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers fostered false election allegations that fueled Capitol riot



Conspiracy theories about the counting of ballots in Pennsylvania appear to have made it the unfortunate ground zero of much of the discord the country has seen since President Donald Trump lost the November election.

Rioters who supported Trump cited false allegations about election fraud in Pennsylvania — shared by some of the state’s own Republican lawmakers, including Congressman Scott Perry and state Sen. Doug Mastriano — as a reason to “storm the Capitolon Jan. 6.

Now statehouses across the country, including the one in Pennsylvania, are bracing for additional confrontations in the coming days.

The state where the country’s democracy was founded, Pennsylvania saw members of Congress object to its electors even as broken glass still littered the floor of the Capitol hours after the riot ended, perpetuating doubts among Trump supporters about the integrity of the state’s election.

Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies said this past week that they are gearing up for potential violence in the state ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., and Gov. Tom Wolf has assigned 450 members of the state’s National Guard to protect the Pennsylvania Capitol.

“I will not allow what happened at our nation’s capital to happen here,” said Wolf, who also assigned approximately 2,000 members of the state National Guard to protect Washington.

Jack Thomas Tomarchio, who served as the principal deputy under secretary for intelligence under the Bush administration and helped set up domestic intelligence gathering networks nationwide, said Pennsylvania — where he lives — is particularly under threat because of the number of militia groups in the state and its central role in the election fraud conspiracy theories.

Tomarchio, who called claims that Pennsylvania Democrats had stolen the election “utter hogwash,” said the state faces manpower issues in protecting state and federal buildings across from being targeted by domestic extremists.

“Pennsylvania is definitely a high-profile target because it’s one of the states these groups were contesting,” he said. “At the same time, Pennsylvania has the dubious distinction of having about 28 militia groups, especially in the northern tier of the state. These places harbor a lot of right-wing extremist groups, and so that’s another reason why the state has to be really careful.”

The Republican-controlled legislature has done little to lower the temperature, however.

A day prior to the riot in the Capitol, Pennsylvania Republicans refused to seat state Sen. Jim Brewster, a Democrat who won a tight race in the western part of the state by 69 votes. They also removed Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, as presiding officer of the Senate because he attempted to seat Brewster.

Brewster has since been seated after a federal judge sided with Democrats, but some state Republicans are now attempting to amend Pennsylvania’s constitution and change how state Supreme Court judges are elected after lawsuits to overturn the election and challenge pandemic safety measures were denied by the state court.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman delivers an introduction for Gov. Tom Wolf during an inaugural ceremony on Jan. 15, 2019, in Harrisburg, Pa.Mark Makela / Getty Images file

“What Republicans are planning to do with the Supreme Court is reprehensible,” said Fetterman, who Republicans voted to remove as president of the Senate last week in what state Democrats called “an attempted coup.”

“My dudes had no problem with the Supreme Court from 2002 to 2015, when it was in conservative control,” he said. “But then the Democrats hustled, we took control of the Supreme Court and now they hate that Supreme Court. They literally are going to change the constitution to try to eliminate and gerrymander the court.”

Currently, members of the state’s Supreme Court are elected to their seats in statewide elections for 10 year terms. Republicans want to confine those elections to districts that would be drawn by the state legislature.

The attempted change to the state constitution could make its way before Pennsylvania voters if passed, but Wolf, a Democrat, warned the effort was an attempt at control by “hyper-partisan” Republicans.

“I strongly oppose giving the legislature the power to gerrymander our justice system,” the governor said. “This constitutional amendment is just another effort by Harrisburg Republicans to prevent the will of the people from being heard by stopping all Pennsylvanians from having a voice in selecting judges for the highest courts in the state.”

Those efforts by Republican state lawmakers now have a months-long history: The GOP-controlled legislature refused to allow state workers to count ballots early during the election and members of the party shared election fraud falsehoods before and after the election — oftentimes parroting President Donald Trump and his lawyers.

Mastriano and Perry, both Republicans, are two Pennsylvania lawmakers who pushed election fraud conspiracy theories in their state at two levels of government.

Both are military veterans: Mastriano served as a colonel in the Army and taught at the Army War College, and Perry served as a brigadier general in the Pennsylvania National Guard. They have received numerous calls to resign for using their positions to bring the election fraud allegations to the mainstream.

Scott Perry speaks to supporters of President Donald Trump at a protest in front of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa., on Nov. 5, 2020.Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters file

Perry objected to Pennsylvania’s electors after the riot occurred, along with seven other Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation. Mastriano met with Trump regarding Pennsylvania’s election at the White House and held a hearing for the president’s lawyers in Gettysburg to attempt to further legitimize the unsupported allegations.

Mastriano attended the protest in Washington last week, though he said he and his wife left before it turned into a riot at the Capitol.

Fetterman and other Democrats lay much of the responsibility for the perpetuation of the election falsehoods in Pennsylvania at the feet of Perry, Mastriano and state Republicans.

“It’s stunning,” said Fetterman, who expressed concern for his family’s safety. “Last Tuesday there were literally 200 crazy Trump protesters under my office balcony on the front steps of the state Capitol, and then we had the big conflagration in the Senate when they voted to eject me. There was no difference between Harrisburg and D.C. because it easily could’ve gone the same way in Harrisburg, and they could’ve stormed the state Capitol.”

“What I’m trying to say is, they stoked it, stoked and stoked it, and then Wednesday happened,” Fetterman added.

Neither Mastriano nor Perry responded to requests for comment about their active participation in spreading the election fraud falsehoods, their roles in undermining voters in Pennsylvania or the calls for their resignation. Both have released statements condemning the violence.

Perry also released a one-word statement in response to the demands that he leave office.

“No,” he wrote.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, attends a hearing of the Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Policy Committee, in Gettysburg, Pa. on Nov. 25, 2020.Julio Cortez / AP file

Mastriano, meanwhile, has since requested on social media that his supporters “not participate in rallies or protests over the next ten days. Let’s focus on praying for our nation during these troubling times.” The statement represents a sudden about-face in the rhetoric he previously used, such as when he told a conservative radio show host that Trump supporters are in “a death match with the Democrat party” over the election results, according to Media Matters for America.

Mastriano, who became a right-wing celebrity and saw his social media following blossom from a few thousand people to hundreds of thousands over his opposition to the state’s pandemic precautions and perpetuation of the president’s election falsehoods, also used campaign funds to rent buses for his supporters to travel from Chambersburg to Washington for the protest last week, according to NPR affiliate WHYY.

He charged $25 for an adult and $10 for a child to travel on the bus, the Facebook event shared by Doug Mastriano Fighting for Freedom said.

But the state senator — who was appointed by Republican Senate leadership to chair the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee this week — said on NewsMax that the Capitol riot was caused by only a few agitators and insinuated they were not Trump supporters.

“We were there peacefully,” he said, “99.9 percent of us, and they should not be blamed for anything.”

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