Sen. Cotton says if Apple deplatforms Twitter, it’s because Apple’s CEO is ‘envious’ of Musk

Apple CEO Tim Apple—that’s what Donald Trump calls  him, and Donald Failing Real Estate Company is always right—does pretty well for himself. The chief executive formerly known as Tim Cook made almost $99 million last year, and he’s the top decision-maker at the most valuable company on the planet . Meanwhile, Elon Musk, who recently purchased Twitter for a gobsmacking $44 billion, is turning the beloved social media platform into something more like a social disease.

But just because Cook wants to protect his brand by keeping New Twitter—which is kind of like New Coke if they’d put a Klansman on the production line to spit in every can—at arm’s length doesn’t mean he’s biased against Republicans. Unless Republicans want to step up and admit they’re the party of neo-Nazis and other assorted racists, that is. No, Twitter has—erm, had—hard and fast rules about what you could or couldn’t post. And racist nonsense and dangerous conspiracy theories are—erm, were—strictly verboten.

They were, anyway, before Musk opened the floodgates and let both the ocher abomination and his phalanx of flying monkeys out of their cages. Now Musk is feuding with Apple—though, so far, it’s been little more than a feckless, one-sided slap-fight.

The Verge:

Elon Musk claims that Apple  has threatened to “withhold” Twitter from the iOS App Store for unknown reasons. The news follows a tweet  where Musk said Apple had “mostly stopped advertising” on the platform and a poll asking whether Apple should “publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.” Apple did not immediately comment on Musk’s claim.

The news follows much more subtle signs of mounting tension between Apple and Musk-owned Twitter. Musk has criticized Apple’s App Store fee  for in-app purchases, dubbing it a “hidden 30% tax” on the internet. And Apple App Store boss Phil Schiller deleted his Twitter account  following Musk’s takeover, shortly after Donald Trump’s account was reinstated.

In a November 15th interview  with CBS News, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that “they say that they are going to continue to moderate. I’m counting on them to continue to do that.” Musk, however, has pledged to loosen Twitter’s moderation guidelines and floated the idea of a mass unbanning of suspended accounts .

Yes, by all means, take on the biggest company in the world—one that could make or break your platform with a single decision —instead of just reassuring them you won’t condone racist threats, incitements to violence, or corrosive conspiracy theories. Sounds like a plan!

In a recent tweet, Musk claimed Apple was “withholding” approval of its app without saying why.

Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

He also—rather hilariously—attacked Apple for not sending him money even after he specifically asked them to.

Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

Of course, Musk’s own decisions have no doubt had more than a little to do with Apple’s cold shoulder. He’s weakened the company, including its ability to respond to offensive content, with his massive layoffs, and his new “free speech-ish” vibe has brought the orcs out of hiding. Forbes:

It’s also in context of Twitter losing perhaps 70% of its staff,  with likely many involved in content moderation and brand safety no longer in place. That has resulted in an increase of impersonation — particularly with paid-for verification — which Musk has said has now dissipated, and additional porn, spam, and inauthentic behavior, likely from bots, on the platform. The most recent manifestation : a massive amount of porn targeting any discussion of China  and the anti-Covid restriction riots in its cities.

It’s important to note that Musk used the word “withhold” and not remove. Withholding Twitter from the App Store suggests that Twitter may be having difficulties updating its app, which must pass an Apple App Store review for compliance with app submission guidelines. As a point of reference, Spotify’s recent app update which including various ways for customers to buy audiobooks was rejected three times by Apple . Facebook also had trouble updating its gaming app in recent years.

In other words, if Twitter gets bounced off Apple’s App Store, Musk will have no one but himself to blame. But that’s not how Sen. Tom Cotton sees it! On Hugh Hewitt’s unreality show, the man who puts the “sass” in Arkansas claimed petty envy was lurking somewhere behind Cook’s avuncular gaze. Watch:

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) says Apple CEO Tim Cook may be threatening to pull Twitter off the App Store because he is “envious of Elon Musk’s massive success as a business man.” pic.twitter.com/jAcocPsX4c

— The Recount (@therecount) November 29, 2022

HEWITT: “Apple is considering removing Twitter from the App Store. How does that strike you? How would you respond to that?”

COTTON: “Hugh, I think that would be a very ill-advised decision by Tim Cook at Apple. I understand that he may not care for Elon Musk, maybe he’s a little envious of Elon Musk’s massive success as a businessman, but to remove a widely used social media app from Apple’s App Store simply because he has political disagreements with Elon Musk and the direction he’s taking Twitter would simply be inviting aggressive legislative and regulatory action in Washington.”

Shorter Cotton: “If you don’t create a special carveout for newly racist Twitter, Congress is going to punish you, so let the Nazis run wild—or else.”

If mainstream Republicans are running afoul of Twitter’s rules, they need to either examine themselves or those rules more closely. But what Musk is basically saying is that the old rules against peeing in the pool are brutally unfair to chronic pool-pissers.

Of course, anyone is free to swim in an ocean of urine if they want to, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should be required to join the party.

Sen. Raphael Warnock is still defending his Georgia seat, and the Dec. 6 runoff is coming fast. If you can—and if you aren’t too tired from saving America on Nov. 8—please rush a donation to Team Warnock now!  You can also write letters to Georgia voters with Vote Forward!  Let’s finish up strong!

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium , including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters  to Donald Trump , at this link . Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE .

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RNC commissions panel filled with Trump allies to investigate what went wrong in midterms

The Republican National Committee announced this week it plans to set up a team of advisers to review the party’s midterm performance following the anticipated “red wave” that never materialized. According to Politico , the team of advisors would help guide the party’s strategy.

This is actually a good idea. Any party should examine its performance following an election, whether they win or lose. But while the idea seems productive, the Republicans aren’t sending their best. The RNC panel seems to be full of Donald Trump allies—many of whom, like Trump himself, lost their elections. Why the RNC would pick candidates who lost to advise others on winning strategies is a mystery.

“As we assess the midterms and plan for 2024, we are gathering a diverse range of respected leaders in our movement to join together and help chart a winning course in the years to come,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to Politico. “I am thrilled that this talented group of Republicans will be shoulder to shoulder with us as we work to grow our party, hold Democrats accountable, and elect Republicans.”

Amongst the panel members are Trump administration official Kellyanne Conway, Alabama Sen.-elect Katie Britt, Texas Rep.-elect Monica De La Cruz, Michigan Rep.-elect John James, and Blake Masters—who lost the Arizona Senate run that many people thought would’ve been easy for him to secure. In his case, it’s interesting to see him conducting a review as a panelist as opposed to being one of the campaigns being analyzed as the problem. If the party is trying to analyze issues in midterms and strategy, picking those who lost what many considered “easy” runs is probably not the best way to go about it.

Blake lost his bid to unseat incumbent Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly. As a MAGA candidate, many noted Blake failed to resonate with voters, despite predictions of Kelly’s growing unpopularity.

“Our party needs to modernize. We’re fighting against Big Tech, the media, and now, the Democrats’ GOTV early voting machine,” Trump-endorsed Masters said in a statement despite his loss, according to Politico . Trump also supported claims that Masters had his race stolen, even though Arizona officials pushed back on election fraud allegations.

Love Blake Masters being one of the advisors to help the RNC discover the lessons of the 2022 midterms, chief among which should be “don’t nominate weirdo fascist freaks like Blake Masters” https://t.co/Wzg5Fz332J

— Max Steele (@maxasteele) November 29, 2022

Campaign Action

According to Politico, the plan to create a panel came as McDaniel continues to face growing criticism from Republicans after a lackluster finish and barely gaining control of the House.

Former New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin recently said  he is considering a run for McDaniel’s position—as is MyPillow founder Mike Lindell .

“I am 100% running for the RNC Chairman against Ronna McDaniel,” Lindell said. “One of the big donors said to me, he said, ‘Mike, everybody wants you to be head of the RNC, some of them just don’t know it yet.’”

Others are criticizing Republican leadership, including South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who suggested it may be time to replace McDaniel.

“We really have a responsibility to message what Republican policies bring to this country,” Noem said . “And I don’t know of a party that can continue to lose like we have and keep their jobs. Everybody needs to evaluate what we are doing, and is it effective, and are we messaging truly that our policies work.”

But despite the backlash she is facing for her lack of leadership, McDaniel’s allies say they are confident she has the support needed to win reelection when the 168-member committee gathers for its annual winter meeting in January. According to Politico, the committee is expected to publish the findings sometime during the first half of 2023.

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Arizona Republicans refusing to certify votes might actually turn red seats blue

On Monday, following delay after delay, the MAGA-controlled Cochise County, Arizona, board of elections missed its deadline to certify 47,000-plus (mostly conservative) votes. The move was seen by most as pure political theater from a deep-red county which has swallowed the Big Lie election denialism hook, line, and sinker. Like all political theater, this will cost taxpayers money.

Before two MAGA-conspiracy theorists who don’t trust “any computers” failed to do their part to certify their constituents’ votes, Arizona State Elections Director Kori Lorick explained that there was no evidence of impropriety in the 2022 midterm elections, and “the secretary will use all available legal remedies to compel compliance with Arizona law and protect Cochise County voters’ right to have their votes counted.”

Late on Monday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who will be the state’s next Democratic governor, sued the Republican-controlled county for refusing to do its job. The fact that this move does not help Democrats get more votes seems lost on the fake-triots in Cochise County. However, as people have begun to point out, not only is this quixotic conspiracist’s adventure going to be financially costly for Arizonans, the Republican Party officials behind it are putting a lot of conservative constituents’ votes in jeopardy. “Lorick wrote in a letter last week that Hobbs is required by law to approve the statewide canvass by next week and will have to exclude Cochise County’s votes if they aren’t received in time. ” You know what that means? Yes. It means exactly what you think it means.

RELATED STORY: MAGA-controlled Arizona county fails to certify election results by deadline

According to the Associated Press , the loss of Cochise County’s votes—which are expected to greatly favor Republican candidates—would threaten a possible U.S. House seat and a state schools chief position. The best part about this all is that you can now take the next sentence and file it in your “foot, meet mouth” folder. Those seats are expected to go to Republican candidates—but could now flip to the Democratic challenger.

Thoughts and prayers!

Hobbs’ lawsuit is asking the Cochise County Superior Court to require officials to certify the election results no later than this coming Thursday. Arizona state law requires all results to be certified by Dec. 8—“with or without certification from all of the counties.”

Cochise County had a statutory duty to certify the results of the 2022 General Election by today. My office has filed a lawsuit to ensure all voters have their votes county. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/NXCXWjeQQi

— Secretary Katie Hobbs (@SecretaryHobbs) November 29, 2022

Here’s a thought.

Before you can “own the libs,” you must first learn to own yourself. Cochise County is a fast learner!

— Pence’s Hair Fly (@PENCESFLYTRAP) November 29, 2022

Is it likely that the lack of Cochise votes would result in a big flip from red to blue? No. But it is theoretically possible, and an important reminder to conservative voters that their elected officials, who barely care about their voters under any circumstance, drop all pretense of working for their constituency the moment they are elected to office.

The new Secretary of State-elect has this to say:

The Cochise County Board has disrespected its voters and broken the law. This is ANOTHER stain on Arizona’s reputation, and it’s bad for business. The lie must end.#ProtectDemocracy #ProtectTheRepublic #ProtectAZVoters

— Adrian Fontes (@Adrian_Fontes) November 29, 2022

Elections matter!

Add your name: Thank you for voting, donating and volunteering for Democrats!

Election season overtime is finally winding down, so Democratic operative Joe Sudbay joins David Nir on The Downballot as a guest-host this week to recap some of the last results that have just trickled in. At the top of the list is the race for Arizona attorney general, where Democrat Kris Mayes has a 510-vote lead with all ballots counted (a mandatory recount is unlikely to change the outcome). Also on the agenda is Arizona’s successful Proposition 308, which will allow students to receive financial aid regardless of immigration status.

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Virginia cop killed by police after allegedly killing three people and abducting teen he catfished

Depending on the news source you’ve followed on a very big and disturbing new case out of Riverside, California, it might be unclear to you whether or not Austin Edwards—the 28-year-old cop who allegedly catfished a teenager before killing her family—was an active officer of the law at the time of the crime. For example, as folks on Twitter immediately picked up on, NBC News—a legitimate and reputable outlet—initially ran a story with the headline vaguely framing Edwards as a “law enforcement worker.” To me, and apparently, to many readers, this headline suggests, if anything, Edwards was perhaps a “bad apple” who had once been employed in law enforcement and was no longer.

And that, my friends, is the beauty of cultural “copaganda .” Police get the benefit of the doubt all of the time, including, sadly, in the media. But as covered by BuzzFeed News , for example, we know that Edwards had been a trooper in the Virginia State Police. He resigned from the role in October. But his career in law enforcement didn’t end there—he actually worked for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia after that. He had apparently begun his orientation less than two weeks before allegedly killing the teen’s mother and grandparents. 

RELATED: Republicans have been trying to defund NPR for decades… and they still have no leg to stand on

Here are the specifics of his employment timeline, according to CBS News . A spokesperson for the Virginia State Police said Edwards graduated from the academy as a trooper on Jan. 21, 2022. He was assigned to Henrico County and resigned on Oct. 28, 2022. He was reportedly still employed as a trooper when he applied to work at the sheriff’s office. He was hired by the sheriff’s office on Nov. 16, 2022, and was in orientation. So, put another way: He got this job nine days before allegedly killing three people and trying to flee with a teenager.

Even without all of this confusion about the suspect, this crime is both deeply disturbing and deeply sad. Edwards allegedly first met the teenage girl online, while she was living in California and he was across the country in Virginia. Edwards lied about his identity while they developed some sort of a relationship (hence the “catfishing”), per the Riverside Police Department .

Authorities think Edwards went to California on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, and set the family house on fire, killing the teen’s mother and two grandparents. The specific cause of the fire and causes of death for the girl’s family have not been determined, but they’re considered homicide victims at this time. By the time the police and fire department arrived, the three adults—Mark Winek, Sharie Winek, and Brooke Winek—were found on the floor at the entryway of the home. 

A neighbor told local outlet KABC that she had seen Edwards and the teen get into his car and noted the girl didn’t have shoes or pants on at the time. The neighbor was concerned for obvious reasons, including that the girl couldn’t seem to speak and appeared to be crying.

“She did seem and appear a little distressed,” the public information officer for the police department, Ryan Railsback, told the outlet. “So it was concerning enough to these people to call.”

Per CNN , police believe Edwards killed the three adults before setting the home on fire and taking the girl back to his car. Police have stated they do not believe the girl had any involvement in setting the house on fire or the murders. She is now in protective custody. 

And Edwards? According to a press release from police, he and the girl were found several hours later while Edwards was driving. He was killed by deputies during a shootout with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. 

“It is shocking and sad to the entire law enforcement community that such an evil and wicked person could infiltrate law enforcement while concealing his true identity as a computer predator and murderer,” Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis said in a statement. Andis added their “thoughts and prayers” are with the family, friends, and all affected by the “heinous crime.”

Here’s the thing. More than a little news coverage includes folks reminding us at home to be careful about online predators—don’t give away too much information, don’t tell people where you live, and so on. Obviously, this is good advice. But it feels like, yet again, people are reluctant to discuss the finding that police officers in the U.S. commit domestic violence at roughly 15 times the rate of the general population.

Mind you, it’s tough to get numbers on this for obvious reasons. But that’s a horrifying number as it is. Based on this data—which is admittedly drawn from a small sample size—about 40% of responding cops said they had participated in domestic violence in the previous year. In a related study, about 40% of cops admitted they had been violent with their spouse in the previous six months. 

After sending love to victims and their loved ones in a statement, Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez added in part: “This is yet another horrific reminder of the predators existing online who prey on our children. If you’ve already had a conversation with your kids on how to be safe online and on social media, have it again. If not, start it now to better protect them.”

While it’s, again, fair to remind young people (and really, people in general) to be careful what they share online, it’s not as though online safety was the only factor here. Not by a long shot. 

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Oath Keepers Elmer Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs found guilty of seditious conspiracy

For their attempt to stop the nation’s peaceful transfer of power by force on Jan. 6, 2021, a jury has found the leader of the extremist Oath Keepers organization Elmer Stewart Rhodes and co-defendant Kelly Meggs guilty.

Co-defendants Jessica Watkins, Thomas Caldwell and Kenneth Harrelson were found not guilty on the seditious conspiracy charge. 

The charge of seditious conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. It will likely be many months before the parties are sentenced and presiding U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta did not set a date for sentencing after the verdicts were read for each defendant, count by count. 

Oath Keeper founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding, not guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties and guilty of tampering with documents. 

Florida Oath Keeper leader Kelly Meggs was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties and tampering with documents. Meggs was found not guilty of destruction of government property. 

Ohio Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins, just one of the Oath Keepers who breached the U.S. Capitol in an organized stack, was found not of guilty seditious conspiracy but was found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstruction of an official proceeding. She was also found guilty of conspiring to prevent officers from discharging their duties and civil disorder. Those two verdicts were expected after Watkins admitted to civil disorder from the witness stand at trial. On the destruction of government property charge she was found not guilty. 

Thomas Caldwell, a former Naval commander who prosecutors said coordinated the groups’ efforts to establish a heavily-armed quick reaction force, or QRF, to support Oath Keepers on the ground at the Capitol, was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy; not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; not guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties but guilty on two charges: tampering with documents and obstruction of an official proceeding. 

Kenneth Harrelson, another Oath Keeper leader from Florida that joined the stack breaching the Capitol, was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy, not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and not guilty of destruction of property. He was, however, found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging his duties. 

Elmer Stewart Rhodes was arrested on Jan. 13, a little over a year to the day that he stood outside of the U.S. Capitol, stalking from side to side of the building as the pro-Trump mob swelled and members of the group he founded in 2009 stormed the building with the aim of stopping the certification of the 2020 election.

At trial, Rhodes denied having a specific plan in place for Jan. 6, citing the lack of a written or express agreement to halt the certification. This point made up the lion’s share of the defense and it was often that Oath Keepers would claim they were simply “swept up”  by a jostling, fast moving crowd.

Even from the witness stand, Oath Keepers who have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges like Jason Dolan and Graydon Young testified that there was never an explicit plan about using force to stop Congress.

It was, however, “implied ,” Young said.

And this, according to prosecutors, is what mattered to secure the seditious conspiracy convictions.

An explicit agreement was never required for the jury to find the defendants guilty of seditious conspiracy. An implied agreement was indicated in myriad Oath Keepers texts, video, and audio recordings, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said during the government’s final rebuttal on Nov. 21.

Rhodes alone published two open letters to former President Donald Trump in December 2020 urging him to invoke the Insurrection Act so that Oath Keepers could be called up to stop what Rhodes believed was a “deep state” coup aimed at removing Trump from the White House despite his popular and electoral defeat to now-President Joe Biden.  

If Trump didn’t act, Rhodes wrote, the Oath Keepers would be forced to. A civil war would be inevitable.

”You must act NOW as a wartime President, pursuant to your oath to defend the Constitution, which is very similar to the oath all of us veterans swore. We are already in a fight. It’s better to wage it with you as Commander-in-Chief than to have you comply with a fraudulent election, leave office, and leave the White House in the hands of illegitimate usurpers and Chinese puppets,” Rhodes wrote in an open letter to Trump published on the Oath Keepers website on Dec. 14.

If you fail to act while still in office, Rhodes wrote, “We the people” would be forced to engage in a civil war

— Brandi Buchman (@Brandi_Buchman) October 7, 2022

“Do NOT concede, and do NOT wait until Jan. 20, 2021. Strike now. If you fail to act while you are still in office, we the people will have to fight a bloody civil war and revolution against these two illegitimate Communist China puppets, and their illegitimate regime, with all of the powers of the deep state behind them, with nominal command of all the might of our armed forces (though we fully expect many units or entire branches to refuse their orders and to fight against them) and with their foreign allies also joining to assist in the impression of American patriots.” [Emphasis original]

The seditious missives didn’t stop there.

In a second open letter—published four days after Trump tweeted an invitation to the “big protest in D.C.” on Jan. 6—Rhodes’ frustration reached a fever pitch as he again urged Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act.

Stewart Rhodes’ second open letter to Trump urging him to invoke the Insurrection Act so he could stay in power despite handily losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

When he testified before the jury , Rhodes was unrepentant in his view that the 2020 election was “unconstitutional,” pointing to Covid-19 protocols implemented in battleground states during the pandemic. Under cross-examination from Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy, he also bizarrely denied his letters were intended to convince Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and use a militia of Oath Keepers and other allies to overturn the election results.

He admitted to urging his followers to oppose the result s but then denied urging them to use force. Text messages seized off of his device, however, showed Rhodes explicitly stating: “The answer must be to refuse to accept, acknowledge or respect or obey any of these imposters or their pretend legislation and get gear squared away and ready to fight” and “Trump has one last chance right now to stand but he will need us and our rifles too.”

During the trial, any argument by the defense that the Oath Keepers failed to participate in a seditious conspiracy simply because there was not a definitive, spelled-out plan amounted to a “colossal waste of time,” Nestler said.  

“Let me be clear on behalf of the United States: We do not allege a specific plan to storm the Capitol. Never have. Aren’t now. We don’t have to prove a plan,” he said.

Jurors only needed to find evidence of a mutual understanding. Conspirators rarely put their plans in writing, a feature U.S. criminal law healthily accounts for. No oral agreement was required nor was there a requirement that the government prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all conspirators were aware of every detail of a conspiracy or even agreed to the means of the conspiracy.

The coordination to halt the nation’s transfer of presidential power played out over phone calls and texts among Rhodes and several of the group’s senior-most leaders in various states, including his co-defendant Kelly Meggs of Florida. 

Justice Department demonstrative showing the chain of command for Oath Keepers on Jan. 6

Evidence amassed by prosecutors showed Meggs not only reserved a hotel in November 2020 for a weapons training course, but was joined in that reservation by fellow Oath Keepers Jeremy Brown and Joseph Hackett. Brown brought an RV to the Washington, D.C. area on Jan. 6 allegedly stuffed with explosives. He left the vehicle in College Park, Maryland, roughly a half hour’s commute without traffic from D.C. Brown has not yet gone to trial and update in his case is expected before Dec. 19.

Hackett, like Meggs, was one of the Oath Keepers who stormed the Capitol in a stack formation on Jan. 6. He goes on trial for seditious conspiracy starting Dec. 5 along with Oath Keepers Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel and Ed Vallejo. All were charged alongside Rhodes but due to the limited space available to accommodate the large number of defendants and their attorneys plus the government’s attorneys at the federal courthouse, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta split the defendants into two groups.

This story is developing.

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Elon Musk feuds with Apple as Twitter moderation, payroll, child protection teams collapse

The Great Elon Tire Fire continues to blaze bright and stinky today. If you’ve been following recent coverage of blundering billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover and (allegedly) unintentional dismantling of social media giant Twitter, it’s probably because you have at least some interest in knowing whether or not a social media site now used to organize worldwide protests, expose government corruption, and do other works of accidental good will suddenly vanish, on any given day, never to come back up again because Musk, who is Very Smart, has decimated the company’s staff to the point that entire subsystems have approximately Nobody remaining to maintain them.

Or maybe you’re just here to laugh at the richest and allegedly most brilliant man in the world as he proves, over and over, to be a hot-headed narcissist whose wealth depends near-entirely on the ability of his top aides to keep him from making actual management decisions. Nobody can fault you for that; it’s been a tough year, and we’re all very, very tired.

Either way, however fast you thought things were degrading the last time you checked in, uh, yeah. It’s worse.

COVID-19 misinformation is back

The big news out of Twitter today is an announcement that the site will no longer be enforcing its past rules against COVID-19 misinformation . The policy, which barred posting false information about the virus, masking, and vaccine use, was intended to reduce the number of pandemic deaths caused by conspiracy promoters and bad actors.

There is simply no question that pandemic disinformation led to countless deaths; a past Daily Kos series highlighted the direct connections between far-right pandemic conspiracy believers and their resulting deaths. Whether Twitter’s action was intended as a generous public service during a public health emergency or was instituted because company lawyers believed Twitter’s rank as one of the top distributors of pandemic hoax claims was going to get the company sued into oblivion is immaterial.

But that was then and this is now, and Elon Musk’s mass firings have left the company so gutted that there’s simply not enough remaining staff to enforce the policy. That means conspiracy cranks will now be able to promote false information with abandon.

So many people still wearing masks. I just want to ask you. If a pair of underwear, really thick ones, high quality cotton, can’t protect you from a fart, then how will a mask protect you from covid??

— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) November 29, 2022

Twitter’s teams tasked with preventing the spread of child pornography have been wiped out

It’s not just COVID-19 hoaxes that are coming back to Elon’s Twitter. Genuinely criminal activity is likely to skyrocket as well, including the distribution of child pornography. A new WIRED investigation reports that just one full-time Twitter employee remains on Twitter’s staff tasked with enforcing the company’s ban on child sexual abuse material in the Asia Pacific region , a region that includes 59 million Twitter users in Japan alone. The previous team’s role was to coordinate with child safety organizations in order to automatically block previously discovered abusive content.

WIRED reports that in the last half of 2021, Twitter suspended “more than half a million accounts” for sharing child sexual abuse material. How long will Twitter’s lone remaining anti-child-pornography staffer remain, now that they’ve been tasked with singlehandedly moderating the whole of the Asian Twitter population?

It’s not just Asia, either. Bloomberg reports Twitter anti-child-exploitation teams have been “decimated” globally.

Terrorism

That’s not the only criminal content that Musk’s new plan could be unleashing. The Guardian reports that newly uploaded footage of the 2019 white supremacist terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, was removed by Twitter only after the New Zealand government itself alerted the company to its presence .

Twitter had previously pledged to block footage of the murders, which were filmed by the terrorist in order to encourage similar acts by others.

Twitter layoffs have fouled paychecks for remaining workers

It’s not just the moderation and tech teams that have been devastated by Musk’s performative “business” tantrums. Some salaried Twitter employees have been hit with bank overdraft fees after Twitter delayed payroll checks without warning or explanation .

Whoops. Rather than the collapse of Twitter’s existing revenue streams, it’s more likely that this has to do with the recent mass resignations of Twitter’s payroll and financial staff , the result of a Musk demand two weeks ago that the company’s remaining employees either resign or sign a document promising to … work harder.

This guy just can’t help himself. Everything he touches is coming up gold, eh?

As for Musk himself?

While all of this is going on, ultrabillionaire Elon Musk is tweeting far-right memes and picking fights with Apple and other high-profile companies.

Yes, Elon has given up any pretense of making Twitter a brand-safe advertising haven. Instead we’re getting whatever this is.

My bedside table pic.twitter.com/sIdRYJcLTK

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

Yeah. Yeah, that says “brand stability.” A guy who drinks four Diet Cokes before lying down next to his two bedside guns, one of which appears to be designed to take out George Washington. Sure, whatever.

Not to worry! Our man here is as stable as stable gets!

pic.twitter.com/r22bMdErLi

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

Okay, $8chan.

pic.twitter.com/9LwcH7iUmy

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

He’s purrfectly stable. He just happens to be wallowing in far-right memes and fascist rhetoric after announcing site amnesty for far-right hate accounts. WHY AREN’T YOU COMING BACK, ADVERTISERS?

The bulk of Elon’s time, however, has been spent not on recovering Twitter’s ability to respond to child sexual abuse or on fishing for far-right praise, but on personally calling the chief executives of other companies to “berate” them for scaling down advertising on Twitter , despite firing so many Twitter staffers that “many agencies no longer have any point of contact at the company” to begin with.

Rather than fixing that, he’s now all-in on a new tirade against Apple for Not Paying Him Enough Money. He’s quite convinced that, as a billionaire, other American companies refusing to spend money on his company is a violation of his ‘free speech’ rights—and absolutely nobody has been able to convince him otherwise.

Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 29, 2022

Musk claims to be baffled by Apple’s possible removal of the Twitter app from its highly profitable App Store, but he’s either lying or even more incompetent than we thought. (The answer is always “both,” if you’re still confused about that.) Apple has a long history of removing apps that run afoul of App Store rules prohibiting pornography, criminal conduct, hate speech, and other not-safe-for-children content , and Musk’s new vow to reinstate Twitter users who were previously banned for hate speech and similar content puts Twitter squarely at odds with Apple’s own policies.

Not that anyone can calm Frothy McTunnelboy’s rampage on the subject.

Apple should publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022

update: elon deleted 😭 pic.twitter.com/CqgFVfnsdU

— Best of Dying Twiter (@bestofdyingtwit) November 29, 2022

Now, none of us here are smart enough to blow $44 billion on a money-losing company, then dismantle it and throw each component in a wood chipper, but nonetheless this does not seem to be a winning strategy.

Elon: I’m inviting all the banned hate groups and white supremacists to rejoin Twitter, I’ve fired almost everyone in the company tasked with preventing our site from displaying child pornography, and my new plan includes hosting adult videos for money.

Advertisers: But we don’t want our brands to be displayed next to child porn and Nazi calls for genocide.

Elon: THIS IS A VIOLATION OF MY RIGHTS AND, NAY, AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA ITSELF. YOU WILL SUPPORT MY NAZI AND CHILD PORN SITE OR I WILL UNLEASH MY GREASY ADMIRERS UPON YOU ALL.

So then, what’s today’s update on Twitter’s overall stability?

• Inside Twitter, moderation and other key functions continue to collapse

• Advertisers don’t want to be associated with a site that welcomes hate speech with open arms, as Musk is doing with his mass-amnesty-for-hate-speech order.

• Musk’s directives are in fact quite likely to result in Twitter’s app being pulled from the Apple ecosystem because Apple has very clear moderation requirements that Musk has already promised to break.

• Musk isn’t paying attention to any of Twitter’s actual crises, and instead is focused on gaining cheap praise from the right while berating the companies that were once Twitter’s top revenue streams.

Again, the odds that Twitter will on some upcoming day simply cease to function are increasing by the day; there are enormous business risks associated with firing all the people who actually know how your technology works. The Apple threat is also real, because Apple doesn’t host Nazis, actual “free speech” principles give them every right to not host Nazis, and Elon’s announcement that he’s now going to host Nazis is incontrovertibly at odds with Apple’s long-specified rule set. Google could well follow.

If Musk’s team of gathered ‘yes’ men can’t stanch the bleeding here, we could be looking at a faster Twitter collapse than any of us predicted. Yikes.

RELATED STORIES:

Musk is turning Twitter into 4Chan, and people will die as a result

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Elon Musk has a solution if Google and Apple bounce Twitter from app stores: Make his own phone!

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Fox News says ‘Hunter Biden’s laptop’ three times in a mirror and still, no one cares

Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner spent much of Tuesday morning trying desperately to defend the network she works for, as well as Twitter, the $44 billion trash-fire social media platform Elon Musk bought at what seems to be the peak of his very public midlife crisis. And it’s no wonder that defending one means defending the other: Both excuse their firehoses of right-wing propaganda and disguise unfounded conspiracies as actual verified news under the blanket of “free speech.” That’s not what free speech means, but you try telling Fox News that. We’ve been at it for 20 years.

Faulkner opened her monologue on Fox & Friends by indicting what she called “legacy networks,” meaning mainstream news sources like MSNBC, and alleging that they’ve “come clean” about the Hunter Biden laptop nonsense as an actual story.

But all this is just a way for Fox to keep the bullshit Hunter Biden laptop story in the minds of their viewers. At one point, Faulkner asks what the “punitive damages” should be for outlets she claims committed “censorship” in reporting the laptop story as fake news.

RELATED STORY: This Giving Tuesday offers the gift of a possible probe into Herschel Walker’s potential voter fraud

Faulkner praised Musk as a “smart guy” and then actually had the nerve to riff about “integrity” and “building trust” in your product.

“So people have to know that when they go on this platform, they really are seeing the last bastion, the fight, kind of what we are at Fox, for the truth. And make sure that it sits there without fear.”

Wow! There’s so much hypocrisy to unpack there.

Fox anchor Harris Faulkner: Twitter under Musk/Fox News are the last bastion in the fight for truth 😂😂😂 “People have to know when they go on [Twitter], they really are seeing the last bastion, the fight — kind of what we are at Fox — for the truth” h/t @noah_dowe pic.twitter.com/8SeYzSdTcm

— Lis Power (@LisPower1) November 29, 2022

Let’s dig in.

So, first off, it’s true that most recently, CBS News admitted —along with The Washington Post and The New York Times—that Hunter Biden’s laptop did have some stuff on it. But here’s the other part that Fox News leaves out: the actual report of the findings in the laptop’s examination.

According to reporting by Empty Wheel, The Washington Post asked security experts Matt Green and Jake Williams to investigate the hard drive on Hunter Biden’s laptop. What Williams and Green uncovered was that it was impossible to know what was really on the drive because people were adding new content to the laptop.

The Post writes :

In their examinations, Green and Williams found evidence that people other than Hunter Biden had accessed the drive and written files to it, both before and after the initial stories in the New York Post and long after the laptop itself had been turned over to the FBI.

Maxey had alerted The Washington Post to this issue in advance, saying that others had accessed the data to examine its contents and make copies of files. But the lack of what experts call a “clean chain of custody” undermined Green’s and Williams’s ability to determine the authenticity of most of the drive’s contents.

“The drive is a mess,” Green said.

He compared the portable drive he received from The Post to a crime scene in which detectives arrive to find Big Mac wrappers carelessly left behind by police officers who were there before them, contaminating the evidence.

That assessment was echoed by Williams.

“From a forensics standpoint, it’s a disaster,” Williams said.

Empty Wheel adds that much of the data needed to accurately authenticate the drive had been deleted.

“No evidence of tampering was discovered, but as noted throughout, several key pieces of evidence useful in discovering tampering were not available,” Williams’ reports concluded .

Empty Wheel goes on to highlight and question the Post’s report and the veracity of several more of the GOP’s key pieces of evidence.

“In any case, the “laptop” is a completely unreliable shitshow precisely because Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon were in such a rush to make it a political scandal,” Empty Wheel writes.

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Congress to intervene, force agreement to stop threatened rail workers strike

President Joe Biden has asked Congress to intervene to avert a national railway workers strike before the strike deadline of Dec. 9. “I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators—without any modifications or delay—to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown,” Biden said in his statement on Monday evening.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly released a statement announcing that the House of Representatives will take up legislation this week to adopt the tentative agreement reached between unions and railroads in September. “The historic Tentative Agreement that railroads and railroad workers reached has secured important advances for workers, including a 24 percent raise, no changes in copays, deductibles or coinsurance costs, some time off for routine, preventative and emergency medical care and protecting the two-man crew,” Pelosi said. “At the same time, Democrats are continuing to fight for more of railroad workers’ priorities, including paid sick leave.”

Biden met with congressional leadership—Pelosi and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell—Tuesday morning to discuss this and other priorities for the remainder of the lame duck session, after which Schumer said  that the Senate will take up the rail legislation when it comes from the House, and signaled that Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is on board. “It was a productive meeting … All four of us agreed we’ve got to resolve this rail shutdown as quickly as possible.”

The tentative agreement  reached in September provided all the good stuff Pelosi referred to in her statement, but left out paid sick days and the end to attendance policies that penalize workers for taking time off. Laura Clawson wrote  about the grueling schedules these employees are forced to work.

“Freight rail workers face brutal schedules, forcing them to be on call up to 12 hours a day for 14 days in a row. They don’t get sick days, paid or unpaid. While they can get up to five weeks of vacation and 14 paid holidays, that’s in the context of being on call on many weekends and facing penalties if they take any time off without planning ahead to use vacation time,” Laura explained. Companies even refuse to allow railworkers to take unpaid time off for doctor’s appointments.

Four of the 12 rail unions rejected the tentative contract, but the other eight have vowed to honor the picket lines of any of the unions that decide to strike. The National Railway Labor Conference and The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) argued after Biden’s statement that having Congress impose this contract doesn’t fix any of the underlying problems stemming from supply chain issues  or answer the concerns of railway workers.

“It both denies railroad workers their right to strike while also denying them of the benefit they would likely otherwise obtain if they were not denied their right to strike,” the statement says. “Additionally, passing legislation to adopt tentative agreements that exclude paid sick leave for railroad workers will not address rail service issues. Rather, it will worsen supply chain issues and further sicken, infuriate, and disenfranchise railroad workers as they continue shouldering the burdens of the railroads’ mismanagement.”

Biden is clearly sympathetic to the unions, but more concerned about the economic impact of a strike that would shut down both freight and passenger trains right before the Christmas holiday. “As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement,” Bide said . “But in this case—where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families—I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”

There’s a potential hang-up in the Senate, where moving the bill through quickly needs to be unanimous (all 100 senators have to agree to bring it to the floor without a raft of procedural votes). Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) initial response isn’t supportive. “We will have more to say about that later,” he told  CNN’s Manu Raju about the upcoming vote. He also blasted the deal for not including paid sick leave. “That is outrageous.”

On the other side, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) trolled , tweeting that the “railways & workers should go back & negotiate a deal that the workers, not just the union bosses, will accept.” Because he’s such a man of the people. “But if Congress is forced to do it, I will not vote to impose a deal that doesn’t have the support of the rail workers.”

There is another option for Congress, rather than forcing this tentative deal on the workers. It could extend the cooling-off period that’s been in place since September, allowing more time for negotiations. It could also force both sides into arbitration.

Election season overtime is finally winding down, so Democratic operative Joe Sudbay joins David Nir on The Downballot as a guest-host this week to recap some of the last results that have just trickled in. At the top of the list is the race for Arizona attorney general, where Democrat Kris Mayes has a 510-vote lead with all ballots counted (a mandatory recount is unlikely to change the outcome). Also on the agenda is Arizona’s successful Proposition 308, which will allow students to receive financial aid regardless of immigration status.

RELATED STORIES:

Freight rail workers may strike over bosses’ outrageous scheduling demands

Early reports suggest tentative deal to avert rail strike is a win for workers

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This Giving Tuesday offers the gift of a possible probe into Herschel Walker’s potential voter fraud

While Georgians flock to the polls in the state’s Senate runoff between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and the Republican Party’s most incompetent candidate, Herschel Walker, one Georgia resident is on the attack—and Walker is in her crosshairs.

According to reporting by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) , Ann Gregory Roberts has filed a complaint  asking that the attorney general’s office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation “promptly investigate” Walker for an “apparent violation of Georgia law.”

Roberts alleges that the Heisman Trophy winner broke the law “by registering and voting in Georgia while knowingly maintaining his principal residence in Texas.” As Daily Kos reported last week , Walker received a homestead tax break on his $3 million home in 2021 and 2022—even after announcing his candidacy and then voting in Georgia’s 2022 Republican primary and the general elections.

RELATED STORY: Why is Herschel Walker getting a tax break for his home in Texas but running for Senate in Georgia?

CNN reports that even while he was out campaigning this year, Walker was heard talking about the U.S.-Mexico border during a speech to University of Georgia College Republicans, saying, “I live in Texas … I went down to the border off and on sometimes.”

Walker even added in that same speech , “Everyone asks me, why did I decide to run for a Senate seat? Because, to be honest with you, this is never something I ever, ever, ever thought in my life I’d ever do … And that’s the honest truth. As I was sitting in my home in Texas, I was sitting in my home in Texas, and I was seeing what was going on in this country. I was seeing what was going on in this country with how they were trying to divide people.”

CNN also reports that Walker even gave several interviews from his Texas manse.

AJC reports that, on Monday, Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams doubled down on calls for a probe into Walker to find out whether he “lied about being a Georgia resident.” Williams said, “Georgians deserve answers … and Walker must be held accountable for his pattern of lies and disturbing conduct.”

Julie and I were proud to cast our votes in Atlanta this morning!!! Get out and vote Georgia!! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/2i5I14ZXtD

— Herschel Walker (@HerschelWalker) May 24, 2022

According to CNN , Walker filed for a homestead tax exemption in Texas in 2022, a break that gave him $1,500 off his property taxes. But then the former Dallas Cowboy registered and voted in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2021 and 2022.

Walker’s been living in Texas for decades, but according to The Daily Beast , has allegedly kept a home in Atlanta for 17 years.

“It’s weird. We’ve had this home here for about 17 years. We’ve had this home here in Atlanta about 17 years,” Walker told Rolling Out in a September interview .

The U.S. Constitution states that candidates don’t have to have a primary residence in the state where they’re running—at least until they actually win the seat.

The Daily Beast reports that the Trump-backed candidate’s wife, Julie Blanchard, has been receiving thousands in rental income on the Atlanta home, per the candidate’s 2021 financial disclosure filings. Walker used the Atlanta home as his official address when filing to run for Senate in August 2021. Additionally, Blanchard received $49,997 in COVID-19 relief loans at the Walkers’ Texas home in Dallas.

According to Roberts’ complaint, Walker committed a felony when he voted in the 2022 primary and general elections.

The complaint states:

“To be eligible to vote in Georgia, a voter must be “a resident of [Georgia] and of the county or municipality in which he or she seeks to vote. Georgia law proscribes a number of explicit and unambiguous criteria for determining a voter’s residence, including that ‘[t]he specific address in the county or municipality in which a person has declared a homestead exemption, if a homestead exemption has been claimed, shall be deemed the person’s residence address.’ In addition, Georgia law is clear that “[a] person shall not be considered to have gained a residence in any county or municipality of this state into which such person has come for temporary purposes only without the intention of making such county or municipality such person’s permanent place of abode.”

According to the Texas Tribune , Walker’s use of the homestead exemption tax break could be illegal according to Texas state law, which only allows homeowners to claim the break on their “principal residence.”

Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis told CNN that Walker isn’t actually breaking the rules as a candidate, but it does make him look pretty shady politically.

“At the end of the day, this is more of a political problem than a legal one, in all likelihood … where Walker can be painted as a carpetbagger. It does call into question whether Walker’s change of residency was made in good faith,” Kreis said .

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Jan. 6 committee squeezes in interview with critical Secret Service witness

The Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday will meet with a key subject in its two-year-long investigation: Tony Ornato, former President Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff for operations. 

Ornato transitioned from a long-time stint at the Secret Service to a role in the White House under Trump and retired  from the Secret Service in August. He became a focus for investigators after Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified that Ornato was present during an explosive moment on Jan. 6 when Trump threw a temper tantrum because his security detail would not take his motorcade directly to the Capitol to meet the growing mob.

Under oath, Hutchinson said Ornato invited her into his office at the White House on Jan. 6 along with Bobby Engel, the head of Trump’s Secret Service detail. She told investigators that Ornato asked her if she had yet caught wind of Trump’s freakout in the motorcade. Ornato then recounted to her how Trump “lunged” at Engel as Engel sat in the driver’s seat of the president’s armored vehicle. Trump, Hutchinson recalled Ornato saying, tried to forcibly grab at the steering wheel. 

She said:

“As the president got into the vehicle with Bobby, he thought they were going to the Capitol. When Bobby said ‘we’re not, we don’t have assets to do it, it’s not secure,’ the president had a very strong, very angry response to that.

Tony described him as being irate and the president said something to the effect of ‘I’m the f-ing president take me up to the Capitol now’ to which Bobby responded, ‘Sir we have to go back to the West Wing.’”

“The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Engel grabbed his arm and said, ‘Sir you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing.”

“Trump then used his free hand to lunge at Bobby Engel and when [Tony Ornato] had recounted this story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicle,” she said, gesturing towards her neck.

Anonymous sources cited in the press initially disputed Hutchinson’s testimony and a spokesperson for the Secret Service, Anthony Guglielmi, sought to throw cold water on her remarks as well.

Guglielmi claimed the committee failed to “reach out” to the Secret Service for more than a week before Hutchinson testified publicly. Guglielmi was finally interviewed by the panel on Nov. 1, The Washington Post reported. He fielded questions about his remarks as spokesman that seemed to diminish Hutchinson’s sworn account. 

As for Engel, he never publicly denied Hutchinson’s account of Jan. 6. Engel met with the committee privately once this summer and CNN reported on Nov. 17 that he met with the probe for a second time this month. 

A committee subpoena issued to the Secret Service in July produced over 1.5 million electronic records and other correspondence—though no text messages from agency personnel—from days before and after Jan. 6. 

The New York Times  reported that some of those records demonstrate how the Secret Service tried to find an alternate route to take Trump to the Capitol before finally abandoning the idea altogether due to overwhelming security concerns.

Per the Times:

“The Secret Service staff initially tried to accommodate Mr. Trump’s wishes, but supervisors at the agency expressed alarm, and the District of Columbia police declined to block off intersections for his motorcade as a mob of his supporters began attacking and injuring dozens of police officers, according to the communications, which were described by two people familiar with their contents.

Ornato’s closed-door appearance comes one day after the committee interviewed Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former adviser, for roughly five hours.

She did not appear under a subpoena, and according to NBC News, she spoke to the select committee “on the record” and did not invoke her Fifth Amendment right. 

The committee’s final report should be released before the end of the year.

On Sunday, committee member Adam Schiff told CNN  he wanted the final product to be as “broad and inclusive as possible.”

Ahead of Schiff’s network appearance, it was reported by The Washington Post that there was dissension in the committee’s ranks over the final committee report’s focus.

There was “too much” emphasis on Trump because of committee vicechair Liz Cheney, one former staffer alleged, and Cheney was turning the committee’s final product into a “Cheney 2024 campaign affair,” the anonymous source added.

Schiff denied any break in the committee’s dynamic, and Cheney also pushed back on the reporting as well as complaints that the final report would not feature information about intelligence failures by law enforcement around the Capitol insurrection. 

“That’s simply not true,” Cheney said.

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