The Full Belmonte, 6/29/2022
“A former White House aide testified before Congress that in the run-up to Jan. 6, 2021, Donald Trump’s closest deputy confided in her that ‘real, real bad’ things might happen on that fateful day. It turned out to be a prescient assessment.
Mark Meadows Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg
On Jan. 6, Trump and his aides were told that his followers had shown up with weapons ranging from knives to handguns to assault rifles. They were told the crowd, which included white supremacist groups in body armor, was likely planning to breach the Capitol. As the attack began, they were told Trump’s followers were over-running Capitol Police. They were later told the mob was calling for the execution of Vice President Mike Pence—and they even brought their own gallows.
The above—according to emails, texts, police radio transmissions and the explosive testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson—was the picture presented to America on Tuesday in a public hearing unlike any other in modern memory. A former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Hutchinson gave eyewitness testimony as to how Meadows barely reacted when he was repeatedly warned of the escalating chaos. By Hutchinson’s telling, it began with Trump being ‘furious’ with aides and the Secret Service for using metal detectors before his incendiary Jan. 6 speech. Trump said his followers should be allowed to keep their weapons, both during his speech and later when they march on the Capitol, since ‘they’re not here to hurt me,’ she testified. When the speech was over, the Secret Service sought to prevent Trump from going to the Capitol, given the violence there, she said. ‘I’m the [expletive] president, take me to the Capitol now,’ Trump told his security detail, according to Hutchinson. Another aide, Tony Ornato, told her Trump sought to grab the wheel of the presidential limousine and then physically assaulted the head of his Secret Service detail, Robert Engel.
Cassidy Hutchinson Source: Bloomberg
Evidence that Trump knew an armed attack was possible and that violence was imminent, but did nothing to stop it, could make the difference in any decision by the Justice Department to prosecute the former president. The surprise hearing included other critical allegations: that Meadows and other top aides sought pardons and that witnesses appearing before the committee have been contacted by unidentified individuals who may be close to Trump—possibly an attempt to tamper with testimony. As for what Trump was planning if he reached the Capitol that day, Hutchinson said Meadows—along withTrump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry—discussed Trump entering the House of Representatives as the electoral votes were being counted. Throughout Hutchinson’s testimony, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone loomed large. She testified that Cipollone—who the committee has repeatedly called to testify—warned that if Trump went to the Capitol, ‘we’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable.’
Pat Cipollone Photographer: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Upon returning to the White House after the speech, Hutchinson testified that Meadows appeared ambivalent about stopping the violence on Capitol Hill, where more than a half dozen people would die and scores of law enforcement personnel would be injured. Meadows, she said, explained that Trump didn’t want to stop the insurrection. She added that, according to him, the president’s reaction to the mob’s calls for the vice president to be killed was that he ‘deserves it.’” —David E. Rovella Read more at Bloomberg
1 big thing: ‘I'm the f---ing president’
Cassidy Hutchinson testifies today. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Then-President Trump lunged at the head of his Secret Service detail — and tried to grab the steering wheel — when told he couldn't go to the Capitol on Jan. 6, a former aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows testified today.
‘The president said something to the effect of, 'I'm the f---ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’ Cassidy Hutchinson told the House Jan. 6 committee in the most surprising of six hearings so far.
Trump demanded officials let in people with weapons in order to get the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse to attendance capacity, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said she overheard Trump saying something to the effect of: ‘I don't f---ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the f---ing mags [metal detectors] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.’
Tony Ornato — who headed Trump's detail, then became a White House deputy chief of staff — ‘motioned towards his clavicles’ when recounting how Trump lunged at Secret Service agent Bobby Engel, Hutchinson testified.
Engel was in the room and didn't rebut Ornato's version of the story, she said.
Trump sought to dismiss Hutchinson's testimony, writing on his social media platform Truth Social: ‘Her Fake story that I tried to grab the steering wheel of the White House Limousine in order to steer it to the Capitol Building is 'sick' and fraudulent.’
Committee exhibit showing the proximity of Cassidy Hutchinson's office to the Oval Office.
Between the lines: Hutchinson — whose office in the West Wing was in eyeshot of the Oval Office doors — said Trump was so mad about then-Attorney General Bill Barr telling AP he hadn't found widespread voter fraud that Trump threw his lunch at the wall.
‘So I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall to help the valet out,’ she said.” Read more at Axios
The pardon requests
Hutchinson is sworn in today. Photo: Andrew Solender/Axios
“Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani sought pardons after the attack on the Capitol, Hutchinson testified before the Jan. 6 committee.
Hutchinson testified that on the evening of Jan. 2, 2021, following a meeting with Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani and Meadows, Giuliani asked her: ‘Cass, are you excited for the 6th? It’s going to be a great day.’
He then told her: ‘We're going to the Capitol’ on Jan. 6.
‘It's going to be great. The president is going to be there. He's going to look powerful.’
Hutchinson later asked Meadows about what Giuliani meant, and Meadows told her:
‘Things might get real, real bad on January 6.’” Read more at Axios
Ghislaine Maxwell with her lawyer during her sentencing hearing, in a courtroom sketch Tuesday.PHOTO: JANE ROSENBERG/REUTERS
“NEW YORK—A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell to 20 years in prison for what prosecutors said was a decadelong scheme to help disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse underage girls.
Before being sentenced, Ms. Maxwell spoke to a packed Manhattan courtroom that included some of the dozens of women who have accused her of exploiting them. She called Epstein, her onetime boyfriend, a manipulative, cunning and controlling man who fooled all those in his orbit.
‘It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein,’ she said. Ms. Maxwell, standing shackled in blue jail garb, said she acknowledged the victims’ suffering and empathized with them.
The sentencing brought to a close a decades-long push to hold Epstein and his associates to justice.
On Tuesday, Judge Alison Nathan said Ms. Maxwell’s criminal sex trafficking was far-reaching and involved her selecting young, vulnerable victims for Epstein and at times participating in the abuse herself. She said Ms. Maxwell hadn’t accepted responsibility for her crimes.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
Three people are in custody following the discovery of 50 dead migrants in a sweltering tractor-trailer.
“The number of fatalities is the highest ever in a suspected migrant-smuggling operation in the U.S., said federal officials with knowledge of the incident. The trailer was discovered yesterday in San Antonio, Texas, after a local worker heard a cry for help and went to investigate, according to local police.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants represent 52% of all U.S. Covid-19 cases, the CDC said.
“The strains are adept at circumventing immune defenses, research suggests, increasing the risk of reinfection, and appear to be easily transmitted. That threatens to extend a spring surge in cases.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
Republican primary voters in Colorado on Tuesday rejected three hard-line election deniers in statewide contests in favor of more moderate opponents — including a U.S. Senate contender who supports some abortion rights.
The rebuke of the far-right hopefuls came as House Republicans in more conservative areas across the country prevailed over primary challengers who criticized them for supporting a never-formed independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. And Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who had been poised to reject certification of the 2020 election results but switched his vote after the Jan. 6 attack, also advanced from his primary.
The results of these closely watched primaries, projected by the Associated Press, marked a collective blow to insurgent challengers pressing their case at a time when the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 is under a national spotlight. Tuesday’s primaries unfolded against the backdrop of an explosive congressional hearing about the insurrection and former president Donald Trump’s conduct that day. They also marked the first time Americans went to the polls since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — bringing into the forefront Republican divisions over abortion policy positions and rhetoric.” Read more at Washington Post
“Russia is closer to getting exactly what it didn’t want. Finland and Sweden are on a potentially clear path to NATO membership now that Turkey has agreed to relent on its objections. Turkey said it will support inviting the two Nordic countries into the military alliance, with details to be worked out at a summit underway in Madrid (China may be worried about who else is at the NATO conclave). The accession of the two countries will radically expand the northern frontier between the alliance and Russia. Meanwhile, Russia’s reliance on foreign software to run its factories, farms and oil fields is turning into a huge headache for domestic industries as more IT providers pull out over Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. On the financial front, Russia defaulted on its external sovereign bonds for the first time in a century, the culmination of ever-tougher sanctions that shut down payment routes to overseas creditors. But when it comes to the actual war, the Kremlin is moving to complete its conquest of Ukraine’s Luhansk region as Kyiv tries to bring more Western weaponry to bear.” Read more at Bloomberg
“Trump-endorsed Rep. Mary Miller has won the GOP primary for a heavily Republican district against fellow incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis, who conceded the race Tuesday night.
Miller was able to galvanize conservative voters by painting Davis as a moderate, citing both former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of her and her vote against certifying the 2020 presidential election results.
Miller and Davis ended up vying for the same seat after redistricting, which Illinois Democrats controlled and used to gerrymander the congressional map. The newly formed district skews heavily Republican.
The win comes a week after a shocking moment while Miller was speaking at a rally alongside Trump, when she said the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade was a ‘historic victory for white life.’ A spokesperson later said she meant to say ‘right to life.’” Read more at POLITICO
“Rep. Sean Casten beat out fellow Rep. Marie Newman in the Democratic primary for Illinois’ 6th District on Tuesday, coming out on top in the member-versus-member battle for a Chicago-area seat.
Redistricting forced the incumbents to fight it out for the same seat in an intense, sometimes awkward, race. While the new boundaries favored Newman, Casten benefited from the profile — and campaign fundraising prowess — he built while flipping a battleground seat in the 2018 election.
Casten’s victory came after a quiet conclusion to the campaign, following the recent death of his 17-year-old daughter. Before the tragedy, both Democrats were in an ethics battle: Newman is facing a House ethics probe looking into whether she promised to hire a political rival in exchange for his support. Casten has faced scrutiny for his 2018 campaign’s dealings with a super PAC funded by his father.” Read more at POLITICO
“Rep. Steven Palazzo lost his Republican runoff for Mississippi’s 4th District on Tuesday, failing to break through problems including an ethics investigation involving alleged misused campaign funds.
The six-term lawmaker fell to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell, who finished second in the June 7 primary. While Palazzo was on top in the primary, he only secured 31 percent of the vote — a sign of dissatisfaction among voters.
Palazzo was at risk of losing his seat after an Office of Congressional Ethics report in 2021 found ‘substantial reason to believe’ the lawmaker had misspent campaign funds and tapped staff to run errands and other personal services.” Read more at POLITICO
Democrats are pressuring President Biden to take more dramatic steps to counter the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade.PHOTO: PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
“WASHINGTON—Democrats, including some Biden administration officials, are growing frustrated with President Biden for not mounting a more forceful response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion protections, as the party works to turn the ruling into a rallying cry ahead of the midterm elections.
The day after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, Mr. Biden left for a five-day trip to Europe to attend two global summits. In his absence, the administration has struggled to come up with a detailed plan and messaging strategy, with Vice President Kamala Harris and other officials asking for more specificity, according to people familiar with the matter.
With roughly half of U.S. states banning, or moving to ban, many or most abortions, Democrats are pressuring the White House to take more dramatic steps to counter the decision.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
“The Michigan Supreme Court canceled a lower court judge’s criminal indictments against former officials stemming from their handling of lead contamination in water pipes of the city of Flint that led to illness and death of residents.
In a 6-0 ruling, the court said Tuesday that improper processes tainted the criminal charges following an investigation into the water crisis. The court’s opinion questioned the decision of the prosecution in the case to rely on what’s known as a ‘one-man grand jury’ statute which bypasses the usual grand jury process and empowers a judge to act alone.
The defendants, including the state’s former health director, said evidence was presented against them in secret and then the judge in the case improperly issued indictments against them. The decision affects a number of public officials, including former Gov. Rick Snyder.
‘To this day, the defendants do not know what evidence the prosecution presented to convince the grand jury (i.e., juror) to charge them,’ the Supreme Court’s Chief Judge, Bridget M. McCormack wrote in the lead decision remanding the matter to a lower court.
‘The prosecution team is reviewing the opinion from the court,’ said Lynsey Mukomel, spokeswoman for the state’s attorney general.
The water crisis began in 2014 when the city of 100,000 switched the source of its water supply to save money and failed to properly treat the water, which caused lead in old pipes to leach into tap water. Tests showed that in some places lead levels in children’s blood doubled. In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that weak oversight at many levels contributed to a slow response in addressing the problem. In 2020, the state paid out $600 million to resolve civil claims by residents who were harmed by the water.
This isn’t the first time prosecutors have reassessed their efforts to bring charges against government officials. In some instances, charges were filed and then subsequently dropped. In one instance, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said an investigation had been bungled.
While the criminal indictments were judged to be invalid, the officials including Mr. Snyder still face the possibility of criminal indictment. Supreme court judge Richard Bernstein explained in a concurring note that the indictments were deemed improper and the case remanded not because the defendants should not face prosecution, but because of the public scrutiny of the case.
‘The prosecution of these defendants must adhere to proper procedural requirements because of the magnitude of the harm that was done to Flint residents,’ the judge wrote. ‘The Flint water crisis stands as one of this country’s greatest betrayals of citizens by their government.’
Judge Bernstein said the prosecution should not be allowed to ‘cut corners’ and that by adhering to procedure any possible criminal charges will stand up to scrutiny and could lead to more answers in the public record of what happened in Flint.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado celebrate in New York City on Tuesday after winning the Democratic nominations for their respective offices in Tuesday’s primaries.PHOTO: EDUARDO MUNOZ/REUTERS
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul defeated two rivals to secure the Democratic nomination, a key step toward becoming the first woman elected governor of the state, according to the Associated Press. The AP projected that Ms. Hochul defeated Jumaane Williams, New York City’s progressive public advocate, and Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi, who said the state should do more to combat crime.
Former Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado won a separate contest for lieutenant governor, the AP projected. He was appointed to the post in May by Ms. Hochul and received backing from the state’s major labor unions. Progressive groups had lined up behind community organizer Ana María Archila, who was the chosen candidate of Mr. Williams. Diana Reyna, a former New York City councilwoman running with Mr. Suozzi, finished third.
Rep. Lee Zeldin won a four-way race for the Republican governor nomination, the AP projected. Mr. Zeldin had the backing of party officials and secured large margins on Long Island. Among the candidates he defeated was Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Democrats are heavily favored to retain the governor’s mansion this fall, according to the Cook Political Report.
Lee Zeldin will face Kathy Hochul in the general election after winning New York’s GOP nomination for governor on Tuesday.PHOTO: MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO/GETTY IMAGES
‘Our rights are at stake,’ Ms. Hochul said Tuesday night. ‘No matter what the Supreme Court thinks they can do, New York, you are protected.’” Read more at Wall Street Journal
The settlement with the SEC could complicate EY’s effort to split into separate auditing and consulting firms.PHOTO: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS
“WASHINGTON—Ernst & Young agreed to pay a record $100 million fine and to admit that some of its auditors cheated on required ethics exams in recent years, according to a settlement order released on Tuesday.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said the penalty is the largest fine ever imposed on an audit firm, and stemmed partly from EY’s failure to report the scandal to regulators who had asked the firm about such misbehavior.
The case is the latest reputational setback for a profession entrusted with overseeing the reliability of public companies’ financial statements. KPMG LLP, another of the Big Four accounting firms, was fined $50 million in 2019 over ethical violations including claims that some auditors cheated on training exams.
‘It’s simply outrageous that the very professionals responsible for catching cheating by clients cheated on ethics exams of all things,’ said SEC Enforcement Director Gurbir Grewal. ‘And it’s equally shocking that Ernst & Young hindered our investigation of this misconduct.’
EY said that ‘nothing [at the firm] is more important than our integrity and our ethics.’ It said the firm doesn’t tolerate cheating on exams, adding that its “response to this unacceptable past behavior has been thorough, extensive, and effective.”
The settlement could complicate an effort by the firm’s top leaders to split EY into separate auditing and consulting firms. The executives would have known about the SEC’s investigation as they planned for the possible breakup.
EY received a tip from an internal whistleblower in June 2019 that employees were cheating on ethics exams, which state accounting boards require as part of both initial and continuing license requirements, according to the SEC. The regulator had accused KPMG that same month of a massive ethics breach that included extensive cheating on continuing-education exams. It also accused several former KPMG partners of illicitly obtaining a secret list of their past audits that would be subject to surprise regulatory examinations.
Following up on the KPMG probe, the SEC asked EY in June 2019 about any reports the firm had received about testing misconduct. EY disclosed some past instances of cheating, but didn’t reveal the latest whistleblower report focused on ethics tests.
The firm’s response to the SEC was misleading because it implied EY ‘did not have any current issues with cheating,’ the SEC wrote in the settlement order.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
Meta, TikTok and Snap could face civil liability for addicting children in California.
“A state senate panel is set to vote on a law, which unanimously cleared the state Assembly, that would allow government attorneys to sue social-media companies for features that allegedly harm children. Platforms are lobbying to stop the first-in-the-nation proposal, which would allow for civil penalties of up to $25,000 for a violation or $250,000 if they are shown to have knowingly employed features harmful to minors.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
“China contends that its two largest cities have contained Covid-19 after a four-month lockdown that saw millions of residents confined to their homes, exhaustive testing and restrictions on daily life that impacted every facet of society and the economy. Beijing also announced that it’s reduced quarantine times for inbound travelers by half, the biggest shift yet in a pandemic policy that’s left the world’s second-largest economy isolated. In Europe, a new infection wave is rising as hospitalizations in the US also continue to increase. On Tuesday, an expert committee of the Food and Drug Administration recommended that the US move forward with an updated version of vaccines to address the omicron variant and its progeny.” Read more at Bloomberg
“Airbnb is permanently banning the use of its platform to arrange house parties, the company said today.” Read more at Axios
Austin Butler in a scene from ‘Elvis.’ Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures via AP
‘Elvis’ won its box-office dance-off with ‘Top Gun: Maverick’:
After the two films reported the same ticket sales Sunday, final numbers show ‘Elvis’ was king of the weekend, AP reports.
Why it matters: Baz Luhrmann's Elvis Presley biopic opened above expectations and brought out large numbers of older moviegoers — an audience segment slow to return to theaters during the pandemic.
About 60% of the audience was over age 35.
‘Elvis' was a risky proposition: the music is dated,’ David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research wrote in a newsletter. ‘But critics and audiences are responding. This is ... a music, dance and sex appeal spectacular.’” Read more at Axios