Ronn Blitzer


The proposal is among dozens of suggested criminal justice reforms

Virginia Democrats are proposing a long list of criminal justice reforms in response to the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, but while some of them – such as banning chokeholds – are aimed at protecting citizens, at least one measure could reduce protection for officers.

According to a document shared by multiple local reporters and retweeted by the Virginia Senate Democrats, the proposals include downgrading the charge of assault on a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor.

“The Senate Democratic Caucus has led and is continuing to conduct a series of community conversations to discuss these issues and we have heard from the public that now is not the time for studies or delay and that changes must be made during our Special Session,” says the document, which is titled, “Senate Democratic Caucus Police Reform and Criminal Justice Equity Plan.”

It goes on to say, “We will continue to take public input and work with stakeholders, the House of Delegates, state agencies, and Governor Northam to refine these measures over the next 60 days.”

Currently, assaulting an officer is a Class 6 felony with a minimum penalty of six months in jail and a maximum of five years. Misdemeanors carry a one-year maximum and no minimum.

Virginia state Sen. Scott Surovell told Fox News in a phone interview that assault on an officer has only been a felony since 1997, and that was done as part of a compromise related to harsher treatment of hate crimes. He said that as a result of this, any kind of unwanted contact with an officer including “minor bumps” could be charged as a felony, and that such cases have been prosecuted accordingly.

Surovell, who is also a criminal defense attorney, said that police often tack on felony charges for minor incidents. As a result of the felony charge, defendants face additional pressure to plead guilty, he said.

In addition to reducing the consequences for assaulting an officer, the proposals also include a number of restrictions that would be imposed on police officers to limit the use of force. These proposals include required attempts to de-escalate situations before using force, as well as issuing warnings and exhausting “all other means” before firing shots.

The proposals also call for canceling supplemental funding to local police departments if they have had “disproportionate use of force incidents in their jurisdiction.” Surovell explained that while the details have yet to be ironed out, the idea is that there would be a uniform standard of force, and that if a particular department was found to be disproportionately using force against a particular group over the course of a year, they could face reduced funding.

Additional proposed reforms include prohibiting the searches of people or vehicles based on an odor of marijuana if there is no suspicion of any other offenses, and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences.

“The Senate Democratic Caucus has led in the area of Criminal Justice Reform for years and we look forward to working with the Governor and the House of Delegates to collaboratively enact these policies,” the document says.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Virginia Dems draft proposal to downgrade assault on police to misdemeanor

Hundreds of troops with the Washington, D.C., National Guard have mobilized to protect monuments in the nation’s capital, a Pentagon spokesperson has confirmed.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt requested the action earlier this week, as protesters target statues and other historical markers during ongoing demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s police custody death in Minneapolis at the end of May.

The Pentagon confirmed that roughly 400 D.C. Guard members have been activated and are on standby.

“Since their activation, none of the National Guard members have been dispatched to actual monument locations to provide assistance to the NPP,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christian Mitchell said in a statement. “They remain on standby at the DC Armory at this time. They will support U.S. Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction.”

Mitchell noted that the National Guard members are unarmed and “will serve as a uniformed deterrence” and in a “crowd management capacity.”

Protesters on Monday attempted to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square by the White House, and defaced it with the phrase “killer scum,” Reuters reported. Bernhardt said afterward that he visited Lafayette Square and witnessed the destruction. He said the country “will not bow to anarchists,” and that “law and order will prevail, and justice will be served.”

The Lincoln Memorial and WWII Memorial were also defaced in earlier protests.

During a protest on Tuesday that took place in front of D.C.’s Emancipation Memorial, one demonstrator announced that on Thursday they would tear down the memorial’s statue of Abraham Lincoln standing over a freed slave.

President Trump warned Tuesday morning that anyone caught vandalizing monuments or any other federal property would be subject to arrest and face up to 10 years in prison under federal law.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, meanwhile, announced a more formal measure against the Emancipation Memorial, stating that she will introduce a bill calling for the statue to be removed from its home in Lincoln Park and placed in a museum.

“Although formerly enslaved Americans paid for this statue to be built in 1876, the design and sculpting process was done without their input, and it shows,” Holmes Norton said in a statement. “The statue fails to note in any way how enslaved African Americans pushed for their own emancipation. Understandably, they were only recently liberated from slavery and were grateful for any recognition of their freedom.” She noted that at the statue’s unveiling, keynote speaker Frederick Douglass “expressed his displeasure” with it.

Fox News’ Morgan Phillips and Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.

Author: Ronn Blitzer, Lucas Tomlinson

Source: Fox News: Hundreds of National Guard troops mobilized to protect DC monuments amid protests

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s senior campaign adviser Symone Sanders dodged a question of why the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has not held a news conference in 80 days.

Biden has maintained a relatively low profile on the campaign trail during the coronavirus pandemic, holding occasional virtual events, but has not addressed questions from national media either in person or online. When asked about this by “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, Sanders began by pointing to Biden’s interactions with voters, not reporters.

“Just because we’re campaigning virtually does not mean we are not meeting actual voters across the country,” Sanders said. “Vice President Biden has campaigned in Michigan and Florida. Dr. [Jill] Biden has campaigned in Colorado and Texas. So the reality is what we have been doing is following CDC guidelines.”

When asked a second time why Biden has not held a news conference in 80 days, Sanders said that Biden and his campaign “take pride in prioritizing local media.”

“And so the vice president is doing local media interviews, he’s doing national media interviews, and he is taking questions from reporters,” she said.

Earlier in the interview, Sanders took President Trump to task for holding a campaign rally during the pandemic, while defending Biden’s support for large-scale protests after George Floyd’s death.

Sanders insisted that there is no double-standard, then proceeded to explain to Wallace why it is OK for people to protest en masse, but not for Trump to hold big events.

“There is no double-standard here,” she said. “Protesting is an American right. The American people have the right to go out and raise their voices. The difference here is, Chris, we are talking about the president of the United States — whose vice president, by the way, heads the White House coronavirus task force — holding a rally not following their own precautions that his own public health officials have put out.”

Sanders said that while citizens have a right to protest, Trump “has to lead” and “has demonstrated in so many times in every sense of the word that he is unable to do so.” She saw no problem with Biden campaigning for the presidency while saying the protests are “right and necessary.”

Earlier in the program, Dr. Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins University expressed concern that both Trump’s rally and the protests could result in the spread of COVID-19, although he noted that so far there has not been any indication that the protests have caused spikes in case numbers.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Biden campaign adviser weighs in on why former VP hasn’t held news conference in nearly three months

A Michigan judge has blocked efforts by the state’s attorney general to continue trying to hold a local barber in contempt of court over the businessman’s refusal to keep his shop closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday had vacated a ruling that ordered Karl Manke to close his haircutting business in Owosso. Manke, 77, lost his business license after refusing to comply in early May with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shutdown order for non-essential businesses. He appealed and won an important court victory, and now a Michigan Circuit Court order says the state can no longer go after him.

“It is no longer appropriate for Plaintiff to seek to compel Defendant to comply with a nonexistent injunction,” the order from Judge Matthew J. Stewart said.

The state’s attorney general last week filed a motion to find Manke in contempt if he continued to cut hair following an appeals court decision, the Flint Journal reported. The motion asked for thousands of dollars in fines each day against Manke if he kept cutting hair.

The high court ruled Friday that the state appeals court made mistakes in its decision to shut down Manke’s business.

“It is incumbent on the courts to ensure decisions are made according to the rule of law, not hysteria,” Justice David F. Viviano wrote in his opinion. “One hopes that this great principle — essential to any free society, including ours — will not itself become yet another casualty of COVID-19.”

Whitmer said Friday that barbershops and salons can reopen June 15.

Manke had continued to cut hair after being cited twice and having his license stripped. He explained his reasoning to “Fox & Friends First” in May.

“I’m 77 years old. I mean, what are they going to give me? Life?” he asked. “I’ve got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. I [couldn’t] care less.”

Fox News’ Alexandra Rego and Stephen Sorace contributed to this report.

Author: Ronn Blitzer, Bill Mears

Source: Fox News: Michigan judge orders state to stop trying to hold barber in contempt for not closing shop during pandemic

Sen. Lindsey Graham says that he plans on calling former FBI Director James Comey and former deputy director Andrew McCabe to testify before his Senate Judiciary Committee, because he doubts they were unaware the dossier compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele had been debunked before it was used to get a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

After former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein denied having knowledge of any altered documents or that the Steele dossier had been disavowed beforehand, McCabe responded by saying that Rosenstein’s claim that he was misled by him or anyone else at the FBI “are completely false.” Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that he wants to press McCabe on his knowledge regarding the FBI’s interview with Steele’s sub-source, who denied the information in the dossier.

“Here’s what I would say to Mr. McCabe,” Graham said. “In the warrant application by the FBI and Department of Justice to the FISA court, you said that the Russian sub-source was truthful and cooperative. Inspector General Horowitz found a memo about the interview with the Russian sub-source saying the Russian sub-source disavowed all the information in the dossier, that it wasn’t reliable, that it was bar talk, it was hearsay, it shouldn’t be used to get a warrant.”

Graham said he is determined to make sure high-ranking officials who knew what was going on are held accountable.

“We’re not going to let the system blame some low-level intel analyst or case agent for defrauding the court,” he said. “I believe it goes to the very top, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it and that means Sally Yates and Rosenstein, and McCabe and Comey are all going to come before the committee and they’re going to be asked, ‘What did you know and when did you know it?’”

Graham said that anyone who knew that the dossier had been refuted and then went along with or approved the FISA warrant for Page could face jail time. He recalled how, according to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report, the FBI tried to apply for a FISA warrant earlier and it was turned down, and said it was McCabe who suggested using the dossier as additional evidence to back the warrant application.

Graham said he finds it hard to believe that an intel analyst and case agent would be the only ones at the time who were aware that the sub-source refuted the dossier, and said if any higher-ups were notified, they would be “in trouble with the law.”

The senator said he has tried to call the intel analyst and case agent who interviewed the sub-source, but that so far he has been denied.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Sen. Graham refuses to let FISA abuse get pinned on low-level FBI staff: ‘I believe it goes to the very top’

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday that she is lifting her state’s stay-at-home order effective next week, easing restrictions placed on businesses and public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the new guidelines, stores will be able to have customers without appointments and restaurants will be able to have customers dine in, but social distancing requirements remain in place requiring limited capacity. The state has noted that coronavirus cases and deaths have dropped more sharply and treatment capacities at hospitals and other health-care facilities have improved, among other criteria.

“While Michiganders are no longer required to stay home, we must all continue to be smart and practice social distancing, and encourage those who meet the criteria to get tested for COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a statement, as The Associated Press reported.

Whitmer moved 93 percent of the state into “phase four” of the reopening plan, with hopes to move to “phase five” by July 4. In addition to stores and restaurants being able to open up to customers, day camps and pools will be open as well.

Outdoor public gatherings, which had been limited to a maximum of 10 people, will now be allowed to have up to 100, as long as social distancing is practiced.

Indoor theaters, hair salons, and gyms will remain closed, although gyms will be permitted to hold outdoor classes.

Whitmer’s stay-at-home order was among the strictest in the nation. Many residents said Whitmer overstepped her authority by banning most travel between homes and by temporarily prohibiting sales of items such as garden supplies and activities such as some forms of fishing.

Michigan residents protested the order, with some even storming the state capitol while armed. Businesses sued over the order, but a judge allowed it to continue, refusing to grant a preliminary injunction that would have blocked it for the duration of the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifts state’s stay-at-home order

President Trump said Wednesday that Iran is planning a “sneak attack” on U.S. troops or “assets” in Iraq, warning the country will pay a “heavy price” if this happens.

The president made the abrupt announcement in a tweet Wednesday afternoon, coming amid lingering tensions between the two countries over past confrontations as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

“Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s tweet came soon after he attended an intelligence briefing at noon at the White House.

Sources told Fox News that the U.S. believes Iranian-backed proxies were planning the sneak attack, and that Trump’s tweet was a warning to the Iranian leadership to tell their proxies to back down or face consequences

In late March, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that Iran had refused American aid for addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

Pompeo also condemned Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for spreading conspiracy theories that the U.S. was responsible for the outbreak, and pointed out Iran’s own misdeeds that exacerbated the spread of the virus.

The latest tension comes several months after hostilities between the U.S. and Iran that included an attack at the U.S. Embassy compound in Iraq that U.S. officials blamed on Iran. In response, the U.S. carried out a strike that resulted in the death of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Prior to the embassy attack, U.S. airstrikes against an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq, which the U.S. military said was retaliation for the killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that it had blamed on the militia.

Fox News’ John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Trump says Iran planning ‘sneak attack’ on US troops, assets in Iraq

An anonymous group claimed it was behind the release of pigeons over the city of Las Vegas that are wearing MAGA hats and — in at least one case — a wig that resembles President Trump’s hair.

The group, calling itself Pigeons United To Interfere Now, or P.U.T.I.N., called it an “aerial protest” of Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, local Fox affiliate KVVU reported. They also released a video of birds wearing the headgear, with a voiceover of dialogue from the Alfred Hitchcock film “The Birds.”

“I mean, birds don’t just go around attacking people without no reason,” one of the lines says, with several birds wearing tiny red hats that say “Make America Great Again” perched ominously.

The birds were released late Tuesday night, prior to Trump’s visit to the area.

“The release date was also coordinated to serve as a gesture of support and loyalty to President Trump,” a group member using the name Coo Hand Luke told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Members of the organization said they wish to remain anonymous because they want attention directed toward their actions, not the individuals behind them. When asked by the Review-Journal if it was meant as a prank, they said it was mainly intended as satire.

They said they bathed the birds in Dove detergent and then used eyelash glue to stick the hats and wig onto the pigeons.

This is not the first time pigeons in the area were found with hats on. In December, several pigeons were found in the Las Vegas Valley wearing cowboy hats. Two of them were rescued and had the hats removed but one of them died.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Mysterious group protests Dem debate by unleashing pigeons wearing MAGA hats

Former secretary of state, senator and first lady Hillary Clinton has a new title to add to her resume, even if it’s not “president”: Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Clinton was announced Thursday as the school’s 11th chancellor — the first woman to hold the position — following the death of the previous office holder, Tom Moran.

“Secretary Clinton has made a considerable contribution to Northern Ireland and as an internationally recognized leader will be an incredible advocate for Queen’s and an inspirational role model for the Queen’s community,” Stephen Prenter, chairman of the school’s senate, said in a statement posted on the school’s website.

Clinton, who received an honorary degree from the university in October 2018, said it was “a great privilege” to take on the position, which she will have for a five-year term.

“The University is making waves internationally for its research and impact and I am proud to be an ambassador and help grow its reputation for excellence,” she said.

Chancellor Clinton’s role will be largely ceremonial. According to the university’s website, the position serves three main functions: presiding over degree ceremonies, acting as an ambassador for the university in an effort to “open doors,” and advising Vice Chancellor Professor Ian Greer and other senior staff.

The announcement comes not long after Clinton had played coy about possibly running for president again in 2020. In a November BBC interview, she stated that while she was not planning on having a rematch against President Trump, she refused to rule it out, saying, “never, never, never say never.”

Clinton is not the first former U.S. politician to serve as the university’s chancellor. Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, had the job from 1999 until 2009, when he was named special envoy to the Middle East by then-President Barack Obama.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Hillary Clinton named chancellor at Northern Ireland university

A California town hall meeting featuring House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., descended into chaos after jeers led to clashes among attendees.

Schiff was discussing how recognition of the Armenian genocide was a significant bipartisan issue at the event hosted by the Armenian National Committee of America on Saturday when members of the crowd began shouting at him.

“Liar!” at least one attendee at the Glendale event yelled.

The commotion escalated from there, with a number of people present bearing signs or shirts supporting President Trump and opposing the impeachment process. Schiff is one of the leaders of the impeachment inquiry, which is expected to lead to a vote by the full House later this week.

“You will be going to jail for treason!” one man could be heard shouting in videos from the event that were posted online. The man acknowledged the outburst was unrelated to the purpose of the event, stating, “No disrespect to you all, I’m glad you guys are getting recognized for your genocide, but this man is a f—–g liar!”

Videos captured physical scuffles that broke out soon after, while Schiff stepped away from the podium as organizers and authorities struggled to regain control of the event. No one was injured, police told the Los Angeles Times.

Schiff’s supporters eventually rallied on his behalf, chanting, “Adam! Adam!”

The event made a Monday town hall held by Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., seem tame in comparison. Slotkin, who announced her support for Trump’s impeachment in a Detroit Free Press op-ed hours earlier, faced a chorus of boos and numerous interruptions as she addressed constituents.

Slotkin pressed forward with her speech, stating, “I’m glad to see so much enthusiasm for civic engagement.”

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Schiff town hall erupts into clashes amid shouts of ‘liar’ and ‘treason’

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