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Wake Up To Politics - November 18, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: House censures Gosar for violent anime video
Wake Up To Politics - November 18, 2021

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Thursday, November 18, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 355 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,083 days away.

House censures Gosar for violent Twitter video

The House voted Wednesday to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), rebuking the right-wing lawmaker for tweeting an animated video that was edited to show him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and attacking President Joe Biden.

Gosar was censured in a 223-207 vote, with two Republicans — Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) — joining all Democrats in supporting the reprimand. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) voted present, effectively an abstention. According to the House Historian, Gosar is the 24th House member to be formally censured in congressional history, and the first since 2010.

The censure resolution also stripped Gosar of his committee assignments, removing him from the Oversight and Natural Resources Committee. It was the second time a House majority had voted to remove a member of the minority party from their committees; the first time was in February, when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-AZ) was removed from her committees after making violent comments about prominent Democrats.

“We cannot have members joking about murdering each other or threatening the president of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Wednesday before the censure vote. “This is both an endangerment of our elected officials and an insult to the institution of the House of Representatives.”

Rep. Paul Gosar was censured by the House on Wednesday for sharing a violent video. (Gage Skidmore)

Ocasio-Cortez, the target of Gosar’s video, also spoke in support of the rebuke: “What is so hard, what is so hard about saying that this is wrong?” she asked.

Gosar, meanwhile, said there had been a “mischaracterization” of the video. “I do not espouse violence toward anyone,” he insisted. “I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset.” Gosar, who deleted the video last week after a call from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), did not issue an apology to Ocasio-Cortez.

The Arizona Republican, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, has long courted controversy, but since the January 6 riot at the Capitol, has been one of the symbols of the increasingly right-wing, pro-Trump House GOP. In recent months, he has been linked to a prominent white nationalist and to extremist groups such as the Proud Boys.

On the day of the Capitol riot, Gosar tweeted a photo of the protesters with the false claim that Biden lost the 2020 election and the message, “Don’t make me come over there.” Hours later, he claimed without evidence that the attack was an “antifa provocation,” referring to the constellation of left-wing groups.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez railed against Gosar after he tweeted a video edited to show him killing her. (Ståle Grut)

Gosar was required to stand in the well of the House on Wednesday as the censure resolution was read aloud; he was joined there by about a dozen allies, including Greene.

McCarthy, the top House Republican, has largely declined to discipline his members as several of them have recently promoted conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric. In floor remarks on Wednesday, he promised to strip controversial House Democrats from their committee assignments if Republicans retake the House majority next year.

Ocasio-Cortez spoke after the GOP leader, shrugging off his charge that the rebuke of Gosar was an “unprecedented” reaction by Democrats. “What I believe is unprecedented,” she responded, “is for a member of House leadership of either party to be unable to condemn incitement of violence against a member of this party.”

Policy Roundup: Legal

On Thursdays, WUTP contributor Anna Salvatore offers a rundown of the week’s top legal news:

A conservative-dominated appeals court may determine the fate of the Biden administration’s new vaccine mandate. Finalized last week, the regulation mandate all private companies with 100 or more employees require their workers either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. After more than two dozen Republican states joined forces with businesses, religious groups, and lobbyists to sue the government last week, the Fifth Circuit paused the mandate on Friday, calling it a “staggeringly overbroad” extension of the government’s power. The administration has since suspended enforcement of the mandate.

Now the conservative-dominated Sixth Circuit will review that ruling. “The Sixth Circuit is a favorable draw for mandate challengers, one of the best they could have hoped for,” said Sean Marotta, a prominent attorney at Hogan Lovells. “The court has many Trump-appointed judges skeptical of broad assertions of agency authority, and this is their chance to cement that reputation.”

Nine years after InfoWars host Alex Jones began spreading lies about the Sandy Hook massacre, a Connecticut judge ruled on Monday that he defamed the families of the victims. The ruling was technical; the court found him “liable by default” because he failed to turn over his financial documents. “He deliberately chose to prevent us from collecting evidence that would prove how his business works,” said the families’ attorney, Chris Mattei, “and why he engaged in this extended campaign against the families, and the relationship between that and his profitability.”

The families filed the lawsuit against Jones in 2018, after he had been falsely claiming for years that the Sandy Hook massacre was a “false flag” devised by the Obama administration. InfoWars fans would then harass the families on the streets, abuse them online, and even force them to change homes. In trials scheduled for next year, judges in Connecticut and Texas will decide how much money Jones owes the families in damages.

InfoWars host Alex Jones was found guilty by default in a defamation lawsuit this week. (Sean Anderson)

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, the only remaining member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission implored President Biden to fill the empty seats. “I would be surprised and dismayed if nominees are not sent to the Senate by the early part of next year,” said Judge Charles Breyer, who added that the commission cannot advise judges on how to implement the First Step Act without a quorum.

Signed by President Trump in 2018, the First Step Act was a bipartisan law that reduced sentences for many nonviolent offenders — and Breyer thinks that judges are applying it inconsistently. “Some people were granted compassionate release for reasons that other judges found insufficient,” he said. “There was no standard. That’s a problem when you try to implement a policy on a nationwide basis.” There are currently six vacant seats on the commission.

More legal headlines:

  • Jurors will enter their third day of deliberations today in the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who fatally shot two people during protests last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
  • Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon Shaman” who became the face of the January 6 rioters, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison on Wednesday.
  • Ohio is suing Meta — formerly known as Facebook — for allegedly misleading the public about the platform’s effects on children.
  • The New York Times reports that the Supreme Court “has grown increasingly hostile to arguments made by death row inmates.”

One more thing you should know...

More than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021, the CDC announced on Wednesday. It is the first time drug-related deaths have reached six figures in a one-year period, a troubling milestone in the worsening U.S. drug epidemic.

Here are two graphs from the Washington Post that highlight the extent of the epidemic — and how unique it is among other wealthy countries:


All times Eastern.

→ President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9 a.m. Then, at 9:45 a.m., he will deliver remarks and sign three bills into law: S. 1511, the Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021; S. 1502, the Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support Counseling Act or the COPS Counseling Act”; and S. 921, the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act.

At 1:15 p.m., Biden will meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. At 3 p.m., he will meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico. At 4:45 p.m., the three leaders will meet together for the first North American Leaders’ Summit (NALS) since 2016. The summit will not include a press conference, which is traditionally part of such meetings.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with López Obrador at 1:30 p.m. and with Trudeau at 2:45 p.m.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1:45 p.m.→ The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of H.R. 4350, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022. The chamber may vote on the motion to the proceed to the bill, as well as on various amendments to the package. The NDAA, which is the annual legislation that sets policy and funding levels for the Department of Defense, advanced in an 84-15 vote on Wednesday night.

    → The House will convene at 10 a.m. and launch debate on H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act. Democratic leaders are hoping to vote this week on the measure, which is their $1.75 trillion social spending package.

    The chamber is also slated to vote under “suspension of the rules” on two pieces of legislation:
  • H.R. 3730, to amend title 38, United States Code, to establish in the Department of Veterans Affairs an Advisory Committee on United States Outlying Areas and Freely Associated States
  • H.R. 5574, the TRANSLATE Act

→ The Supreme Court is not in session today.

→ Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon will be arraigned at 11 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington. Bannon pleaded not guilty on Wednesday after being charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate with the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot.