Thursday, January 20, 2022

Orange Meltdown, Con't

The Fulton County Georgia investigation into Donald Trump's phone conversation with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over the 2020 elections in that state has now hit the Special Grand Jury phase.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is requesting a special grand jury to aid in her investigation of former President Donald Trump and his efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results.

In a Thursday letter to Christopher S. Brasher, chief judge of Fulton County’s Superior Court, Willis said the move was needed because a “significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation absent a subpoena requiring their testimony.”

She cited comments Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger made during an October 2021 interview with NBC News, in which he said “if (Willis) wants to interview me, there’s a process for that.”

So-called special purpose grand juries are rarely used in Georgia. But they could be a valuable tool for Willis as she takes the extraordinary step of investigating the conduct of a president while he was in office, legal experts say.

“I think it makes sense,” said Melissa Redmon, a former Fulton County deputy DA who’s now an assistant clinical professor at the University of Georgia’s law school. “Having a jury that’s already familiar with the investigation just saves everyone a lot of time.”

Willis’ probe, launched in February, is centered on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump placed to Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the 11,780 votes to reverse Joe Biden’s win in Georgia in November 2020. But it could also include other actions from Trump’s allies who sowed doubts about the election results, including testimony his attorney Rudy Giuliani gave at a state legislative hearing.

In her letter to Brasher, Willis said the DA’s office “has received information indicating a reasonable probability that the State of Georgia’s administration of elections in 2020, including the State’s election of the President of the United States, was subject to possible criminal disruptions.”

Special grand juries, which typically have 16 to 23 members, can’t issue indictments. But they can subpoena witnesses, compel the production of documents and information, and enter into certain offices for the purposes of an investigation.

They were previously used to investigate several metro Atlanta politicians for public corruption, including former Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly, ex-Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill and ex-DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

Willis said a special grand jury would be beneficial for the Trump probe because jurors can be impaneled for as long as prosecutors need, would be focused on the one investigation and have “an investigatory focus appropriate to the complexity of the facts and circumstances involved.”

A regular Fulton County grand jury is seated for two months. Jurors typically hear hundreds of felony cases before their service ends.

So on top of Trump's legal troubles this week in New York and on the Supreme Court, now things get worse for him in Georgia, too.

That hard rain is falling, folks, and it doesn't appear that it's going to be letting up anytime soon, 

The Vax Of Life, Con't

While most Fortune 500 companies are keeping vaccine mandates despite last week's SCOTUS ruling scrapping the Biden Administration's OSHA mandate requirements, some very big American corporations are now dropping COVID vaccine mandates altogether, starting with one of America's biggest employers: Starbucks.

In a memo to employees first reported by the Associated Press, Starbucks said it is no longer requiring employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 after the Supreme Court’s rejection of Biden’s plan to require vaccines or weekly testing at companies with more than 100 workers.

Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote in the memo “we respect the court’s ruling and will comply,” but added the company continues to “believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate,” and encouraged employees to get the vaccine.

Some companies across various industries are holding firm to their plans to require vaccines: Carhartt faced calls for both support and boycotts after a leaked letter surfaced detailing the workwear brand’s plans to keep its vaccine policy in effect.

Major banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup told Forbes they will continue their vaccine mandates in light of the decision, and Wells Fargo said it will continue its testing program as part of its vaccine-or-test policy.

United Airlines and Tyson Foods have also adopted vaccine mandates for their workers while a number of companies require vaccines to work from the office, including American Express, Deloitte, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Salesforce and Uber.

General Electric announced last week it would be rolling back its vaccine and testing plans, and additional companies could follow, as a Willis Towers poll conducted in November found 32% of companies planned to require vaccinations only if Biden’s mandate took effect.

The Big Number: 200,000. That’s how many employees Starbucks has in the U.S., the New York Times reports.

Like many companies, Starbucks had announced it would require all employees to be vaccinated by February 9, or they would be required to complete a weekly Covid test. Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers faced a lengthy legal battle after he signed the executive order in November. A federal appeals court blocked the mandate later in November, which led to arguments at the Supreme Court. In a 6-3 decision last week, the court ruled to temporarily halt the vaccine-or-test mandate, writing the mandate is a “significant encroachment” into employees’ lives and health, and the decision should have been left to Congress. The case has been handed down to lower courts to decide if it will be permanently upheld or struck down.

A majority of Americans still want employer vaccine mandates, even after the Supreme Court ruling, according to a Morning Consult poll: 56% of respondents said they believe employers should require Covid-19 vaccinations, while 33% said they were opposed.

So expect about a third of big corporations to drop vaccine mandates in the days ahead, or to cancel plans to have mandates go into effect on February 9th. It'll mean tens of millions of unvaccinated workers will stay unvaccinated, and thousands will die as a direct result.
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