Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Last Call For Executing A Training Exercise

Turns out the Obama State Department was responsible for the training contract of four members of the Saudi hit squad that butchered US journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, trained through a private military contractor.

Four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by the State Department, according to documents and people familiar with the arrangement.

The instruction occurred as the secret unit responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was beginning an extensive campaign of kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, to crush dissent inside the kingdom.

The training was provided by the Arkansas-based security company Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The company says the training — including “safe marksmanship” and “countering an attack” — was defensive in nature and devised to better protect Saudi leaders. One person familiar with the training said it also included work in surveillance and close-quarters battle.

There is no evidence that the American officials who approved the training or Tier 1 Group executives knew that the Saudis were involved in the crackdown inside Saudi Arabia. But the fact that the government approved high-level military training for operatives who went on to carry out the grisly killing of a journalist shows how intensely intertwined the United States has become with an autocratic nation even as its agents committed horrific human rights abuses.

It also underscores the perils of military partnerships with repressive governments and demonstrates how little oversight exists for those forces after they return home.

Such issues are likely to continue as American private military contractors increasingly look to foreign clients to shore up their business as the United States scales back overseas deployments after two decades of war.

The State Department initially granted a license for the paramilitary training of the Saudi Royal Guard to Tier 1 Group starting in 2014, during the Obama administration. The training continued during at least the first year of former President Donald J. Trump’s term.

Louis Bremer, a senior executive of Cerberus, Tier 1 Group’s parent company, confirmed his company’s role in the training last year in written answers to questions from lawmakers as part of his nomination for a top Pentagon job during the Trump administration.

The administration does not appear to have sent the document to Congress before withdrawing Mr. Bremer’s nomination; lawmakers never received answers to their questions.

In the document, which Mr. Bremer provided to The New York Times, he said that four members of the Khashoggi kill team had received Tier 1 Group training in 2017, and two of them had participated in a previous iteration of the training, which went from October 2014 until January 2015.

“The training provided was unrelated to their subsequent heinous acts,” Mr. Bremer said in his responses.

He said that a March 2019 review by Tier 1 Group “uncovered no wrongdoing by the company and confirmed that the established curriculum training was unrelated to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”


It's all related. The number of horrific things that happened during the Trump years that start with "following Obama administration policy" is disturbingly high, but there you are. For all his loud screaming about how awful Obama was, Trump was sure good at taking a bad Obama idea that he liked and making it into a hideous one.

Why we continue to be friends with the Saudi regime, well, we all know the answer to that.

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

After Senate Republicans killed any idea of a bipartisan January 6th Commission to investigate the Trump insurrection to kill lawmakers in the US Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going ahead with a select committee anyway, and Republicans will of course do everything they can to stall, attack, and discredit it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to appoint a select committee to investigate the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission to probe the insurrection, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Pelosi announced Tuesday evening to the House's Steering and Policy Committee that she will create a select committee, the sources said. She told Democrats the January 6 inquiry will be a "pursuit of truth" investigation, according to one source who heard her remarks.

One of the sources said Pelosi indicated she believes a regular standing committee of several dozen members just would not work, and notes the House has already given the Senate several weeks to get a bill on an independent commission passed and that has not happened.

Pelosi later denied that she had made a decision. "No, I did not make that announcement. Somebody put out a false report," she told reporters.

After CNN and numerous news outlets reported on her decision, her spokesman, Drew Hammill, later tweeted, "Clarification on tonight's meeting of the Steering and Policy Committee. Speaker Pelosi told Members she plans to announce WHETHER she will create a select committee THIS WEEK. Her preference continues to be a bipartisan commission which Senate Republicans are blocking."

However, CNN stands by its reporting and the sources who confirmed her initial remarks.

The decision to appoint a select committee to investigate the attack means that House Democrats will channel their various efforts examining the events surrounding January 6 into one place. It was one of several options Pelosi had been considering after Senate Republicans filibustered legislation creating an independent commission that had passed in the House.

The commission is likely to fuel the political brawl that's played out in the House the aftermath of January 6, in which Democrats have charged that Republicans are trying to whitewash the insurrection carried out by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Republicans, meanwhile, have accused Democrats of trying to use the commission and their committee investigations for political gain.

Trump's role in the lead-up to the January 6 attack is sure to be a focus of the select panel, and the committee could look into actions of some House members, too.


I don't expect much of anything from the committee anyway. I'm not even sure the Biden White House or Justice Department will even cooperate very much, given both of those entities looking to protect Trump and the executive branch more than reach the truth. Certainly Republicans will ignore any subpoenas, and they won't be enforced.

Hell, I don't even expect public hearings. I expect all of this to be done behind closed doors, and for us to get a quickly-forgetten Committee report late next year.  Hell, if the GOP wins the House back, we may not even get the report at all if Trump and friends can drag it out long enough. And even if the report does come out, it'll be heavily redacted.

No, absolutely nothing will come of this, let alone any real consequences for the Republicans who voted to overturn the election. Nearly all of them will be re-elected in 2022.

There Is No Plan B For Plan V

Well, we've apparently gotten the desired outcome of the death of the For The People Act: all Republicans voted against it, all Democrats voted for it, but the Republicans still win because the Democrats let them keep the filibuster. Precisely none of this makes voting any more fair or more safe, but it's the thought that counts as Republicans at the state level lock in permanent GOP majorities for decades to come.

After months of build-up, Democrats are boxed in on their party’s signature election reform plan. And there’s no apparent escape route.

Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ sweeping ethics and elections legislation on Tuesday, a filibuster that many in President Joe Biden’s party hoped would turbocharge the demise of the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for most bills. But Democratic moderates’ support of the filibuster has only hardened in recent days, culminating in an emphatic defense of the supermajority requirement by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on the eve of Tuesday’s vote.

Liberals eager to change the minds of Sinema, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and nearly a dozen other senators reluctant to eliminate or reform the filibuster had staked their success on a series of Republican blockades on former President Donald Trump’s impeachment, a Jan. 6 commission, equal pay standards and most notably, the elections bill dubbed “S1.”

In today’s 50-50 Senate, Democrats would need every single one of their members to vote in favor of any changes to the rules, and there is no sign that’s close to happening.

It gets worse for Biden’s party: Now that the GOP has rejected debating the legislation that would overhaul federal elections, Democrats are without a new strategy to show party activists some momentum before the 2022 midterms. At the moment, the party doesn't have a backup plan on elections and Democratic senators acknowledged their internal maneuvering over the filibuster has only begun after months of dominating their time in control of Washington.

“There doesn’t seem to be much of a path to getting any Republican votes on voting reforms. So what does that leave?” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “It leaves a conversation in the caucus about whether you want to give Republicans the authority to continue to strip away from people the right to vote.”

Democratic leaders have told members that Tuesday’s vote is only the beginning of the discussion, not the end. And some Senate Democrats took it as a positive sign that all 50 members of the caucus — including Manchin — were united in Tuesday’s vote.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did not detail next steps during Tuesday’s private caucus meeting, according to an attendee. But later on the floor, he said that Democrats will “have several, serious options for how to reconsider this issue" and "are going to explore every last one.”

Many in his caucus are desperate to find a path forward. “A body that won’t defend itself from an internal attack hardly deserves the name of a U.S. Senate,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “No consequences for Trump, no impeachment, no censure, no January 6 commission ... no agreement on voting rights.”

Potential backup plans after the filibuster include breaking up the elections bill into pieces to force more votes on the GOP or waiting until the fall to push a voting-rights-specific bill. Democrats could also put elections spending in a party-line budget reconciliation bill.

But on Tuesday evening success looked far off, even as Democrats vowed not to give up after Schumer promised that “failure is not an option.” Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters that “the fight is not over.”

In the meantime, the Senate is left with a handful of bipartisan gangs negotiating critical legislation on infrastructure and policing — and a lot of angry progressives who want to exercise their party’s power while they still have full control of Congress.


I understand the actual problem is Republicans voting to make sure that Republican states can caontinue to disenfranchise millions, but we've wasted five months to get to a guaranteed failure point, and everyone is asking "So now what?"

 That question should have been answered months ago.

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