ISRAEL BOMBING OF MEDIA TOWER CONDEMNED ‘THE WORLD WILL KNOW LESS’

Image: Smoke billows after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City targeted the Ansar compound, linked to Hamas in the Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021.

The White House said it has told Israel that ensuring the safety of the press is “paramount.”

An Israeli airstrike that obliterated a 12-story Gaza City building that housed offices for The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outlets sparked an outcry from international press advocates on Saturday, with AP leadership calling it an “incredibly disturbing” development in the conflict. 

“We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. 

Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, slammed the attack as a “war crime.”

“We call on the international community to condemn such barbaric actions and targeting of journalists and we demand an immediate international action to hold Israel accountable for its deliberate targeting of journalists and the media institutions,” Souag said in a statement. He went on to accuse Israel of attempting to “hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza.”

Pruitt said the Israeli military has “long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there.” The agency received a warning that the building would be hit, which allowed time for evacuations. 

“This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time,” Pruitt said. “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”

The AP is seeking information from Israel on the bombing and is “engaged” with the U.S. State Department, Pruitt said. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration has “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.” President Joe Biden spoke with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday. 

The attack on the press offices came one day after an Israeli Defense Forces spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, led the international press corps to believe that Israeli ground forces had entered Gaza when they had not. The spokesman said the mistake was an honest one, but prominent Israeli news outlets said it was an intentional effort to smoke out Hamas fighters ― and that it had worked.

The building that housed the media offices was mostly residential. It collapsed into a massive cloud of dust, according to video and reports from the scene.

Earlier in the day, another air raid on a refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians, mostly children, in what amounted to the deadliest single strike from Israeli forces in the current conflict, which dramatically escalated earlier this month. So far, at least 139 people have been killed in Gaza, including 39 children, according to the AP. 

In a series of tweets, the IDF justified the strike by asserting that the militant group Hamas had “turned residential areas in the Gaza Strip into military strongholds.” 

“It uses tall buildings in Gaza for multiple military purposes such as intelligence gathering, planning attacks, command and control, and communications,” the IDF said. “When Hamas uses a tall building for military purposes, it becomes a lawful military target.” 

The IDF said it called the building’s residents with warnings, sent SMS messages and dropped “roof knocker” bombs, which make a loud noise on rooftops as a warning to evacuate. 

Conricus told the AP that the military believed Hamas had “a highly advanced technological tool” either “within or on the building,” but could not provide evidence without “compromising” intelligence efforts. Conricus said he would try to provide more information. 

Ethical Journalism Network founder Aidan White told Al Jazeera that the images of press offices being destroyed were “disgraceful.”

“The threat to civilian life is completely unacceptable. I think it once again highlights perilous risks facing journalists and media in conflict zones,” White told the network, which receives funding from the government of Qatar. 

The International Federation of Journalists also condemned the attack, calling it intentional. 

Barbara Trionfi, the International Press Institute’s executive director, said it was “completely unacceptable” to target news organizations, “even during an armed conflict.”

“It represents a gross violation of human rights and internationally agreed norms,” she said. “In particular during times of crisis, the media plays a fundamental role in offering timely, accurate and fair information about developments on the ground. Israel must immediately stop such attacks against news organisations.” 

In the United States, the scale of Israel’s response to rocket attacks coming from the Gaza Strip has attracted a noticeable uptick in criticism, including from elected officials, who have long refrained from speaking harshly of the U.S. ally. A growing number of Democrats in the House have begun speaking out against Israel’s attacks, led by Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian American.

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‘I Was There’ Mitt Romney Sets Record Straight On Jan 6 Insurrection

The Utah senator responded to House Republicans attempting to rewrite history just months after the violent attack.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) says the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was no ordinary “tourist visit,” as one Republican congressman claimed this week when describing the thousands of Donald Trump supporters who stormed the building in an attempt to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president.

“I was there,” Romney told HuffPost on Thursday. “What happened was a violent effort to interfere with and prevent the constitutional order of installing a new president.”

“As such, it was an insurrection against the Constitution that resulted in severe property damage, severe injuries and death,” he added.

Romney was a direct witness to the attack, which resulted in five deaths and more than 100 officers injured. In security footage from that day, the Utah senator can be seen narrowly escaping danger as he runs down a corridor moments after rioters enter the building.

On Wednesday, newly released body camera footage from a D.C. metropolitan police officer gave a vivid portrayal of the life-and-death struggle on the Capitol steps that day. Officer Michael Fanone is heard screaming in pain after rioters beat him and shocked him with a stun gun, an experience he later called “the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat of my entire life.”

During a House oversight committee hearing on Wednesday discussing what went wrong in police preparation for the events of Jan. 6, Republican lawmakers tried to rewrite history and paint Trump supporters as the victims.

“There was no insurrection,” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) claimed during the hearing. “And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a boldfaced lie.”

Clyde also said that video of the day’s violence looked to him like “a normal tourist visit.”

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) claimed that Trump supporters were the real victims on Jan. 6, citing the death of Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was killed by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to enter the House chamber. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), meanwhile, referred to hundreds of insurrectionists arrested and charged by the FBI as “peaceful patriots,” describing efforts by law enforcement officials to round up suspected rioters as harassment.

The brazen attempt by Republicans to downplay the disturbing events of Jan. 6 even shocked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who called it “quite appalling.”

“It was beyond denial,” Pelosi told reporters on Thursday. “It fell into the range of ‘sick.’”

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House GOP ousts Trump critic Liz Cheney from top post

House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney from her post as the chamber’s No. 3 GOP leader on Wednesday, punishing her after she repeatedly rebuked former President Donald Trump for his false claims of election fraud and his role in fomenting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans seem ready to toss Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post after she repeatedly rebuked former President Donald Trump for his false claims of election fraud and his role in fomenting the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack.

GOP lawmakers gathered privately in the Capitol Visitor Center on Wednesday and were expected to vote to remove Cheney, R-Wyo., from the party's No. 3 House position, a jarring turnabout to what's been her fast-rising career within the party. She is Congress' highest-ranking Republican woman and a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and her demotion would provide the latest evidence that challenging Trump can be career-threatening.

In an audacious signal that she was not backing down, Cheney took to a nearly empty House chamber Tuesday evening to deliver an unapologetic four-minute assault on her GOP adversaries and defense of her own position. 

“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” she said, adding, “I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine our democracy.” 

Cheney's replacement was widely expected to be Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who entered the House in 2015 at age 30, then the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Stefanik owns a more moderate voting record than Cheney but has evolved into a vigorous Trump defender who’s echoed some of his unfounded claims about widespread election cheating.

It was initially unclear when the separate vote on Cheney's replacement would be. 

Stripping Cheney, 54, of her leadership job would stand as a striking, perhaps historic moment for the GOP. 

One of the nation’s two major parties was in effect declaring an extraordinary admission requirement to its highest ranks: fealty to, or at least silence about, Trump’s lie that he lost his November reelection bid due to widespread fraud. In states around the country, officials and judges of both parties found no evidence to support Trump's claims that extensive illegalities caused his defeat.

It’s been clear that Cheney’s days in leadership were numbered as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., No. 2 leader Steve Scalise, R-La., joined Trump and other Republicans from across the party’s spectrum aligned against her.

Critics said Cheney’s offense wasn’t her views on Trump but her persistence in publicly expressing them, undermining the unity they want party leaders to display as they message in advance of next year’s elections, when they hope to win House control. 

“It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about the focus" of House Republicans, Scalise said Tuesday. 

Many Republicans also agree with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who’s said the allegiance many GOP voters have to Trump is so intense that the party can’t succeed without him. 

A small number of Republicans have spoken out against removing Cheney.

“It will do nothing but drive some people away from our party,” said Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee and one who has clashed often with Trump.

Seemingly conceding that the numbers were against her, Cheney made no discernible effort to cement support ahead of Wednesday’s vote, several Republicans said.

Rather, she all but erected billboards advertising her clash with Trump, declaring in a Washington Post column last week, “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”

Cheney has told Republicans she intends to remain in Congress and seek reelection next year in her solidly pro-Trump state. The former president has said he’ll find a GOP primary challenger to oppose her.

Cheney arrived in Congress in 2017 with a well-known brand as an old-school conservative, favoring tax cuts, energy development and an assertive use of U.S. power abroad. By November 2018 she was elected to her current leadership job unopposed and seemed on an ambitious pathway, potentially including runs at becoming speaker, senator or even president.

She occasionally disagreed with Trump during his presidency over issues like his withdrawal from Syria and attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci over the pandemic. But her career hit turbulence in January once she became one of 10 House Republicans to back his second impeachment for inciting his supporters' deadly Capitol assault of Jan. 6. The Senate acquitted him.

In a memorable statement before the House impeachment vote, Cheney said: “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing.”

Her words — and her pre-vote announcement, which allowed Democrats to cite her opposition during the debate — infuriated many House conservatives. 

She withstood a February effort by conservatives to boot her from leadership in a 145-61 secret ballot, but a McCarthy speech on her behalf is credited with saving her. That wasn't expected to happen this time.

Since then, she’s stood by her views, in one noteworthy incident while McCarthy stood awkwardly nearby at a news conference. 

Stefanik also arrived in Congress with sterling GOP establishment credentials. A Harvard graduate, she worked in President George W. Bush's White House and for the campaign of the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, Wisconsin Rep. and later Speaker Paul Ryan.

Her district, bordering Canada and Vermont, voted twice for Barack Obama and then twice for Trump in the past four presidential elections. She opposed Trump's trademark 2017 tax cut and his efforts to unilaterally spend billions on his southwestern border wall.

Stefanik grabbed center stage as a fierce Trump defender in 2019 as the House impeached him over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to produce damaging information about Joe Biden, his Democratic rival. Senate acquittal followed.

While Stefanik has won adoration from Trump, some of Washington's hardest-right conservatives have remained suspicious of her moderate record.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, wrote colleagues Tuesday chastising “Republicans who campaign as Republicans but then vote for and advance the Democrats' agenda once sworn in.” 

No Stefanik challenger has yet emerged, and other conservatives like Scalise and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are in her camp. 

“We have a great deal of support from the Freedom Caucus and others,” she said Tuesday.

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Former RNC Chair Agrees GOP Is One Of The World’s Largest Anti-Democracy Forces

Michael Steele

“How do you make democracy something that the right cares about again?” MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace asked Michael Steele.

Former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele agreed Monday with MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace that the GOP has morphed into “one of the largest anti-Democratic movements in the world.”

Wallace and Steele were discussing Republican leaders’ repeated attacks on the presidential election and on party dissenters like Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) who support the choice of American voters and justice against Capitol rioters. You can watch their exchange at 1:20 in the clip above

Wallace, who served as White House communications director to former President George W. Bush, played a clip of Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) hedging about the legitimacy of the presidential election results in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

Wallace then turned to Steele: “Part of me wants to ask you if the Republicans now represent one of the largest, in terms of numbers, anti-democratic movements in the world.”

Steele fired back: “There’s no doubt about that. We’re streaming headlong into that truth about who Republicans are and how they see themselves right now.

Republicans’ continued efforts to undermine American voters’ choice for the presidency is one of their key assaults on democracy, he said.

“How do you get [to] the rest of the country that’s sitting there, going, ‘Oh no, no, no, Joe Biden didn’t win, because Donald Trump told us so?’” Steele added. “As long as that narrative persists, we’re going to have ... a very difficult time holding that line on democracy because you’re going to have those folks ... buying into this idea that what they’re seeing happen didn’t happen.”

Wallace asked: “How do you make democracy something that the right cares about again?” 

Steele responded: “One is what do good citizens out there decide to do. How do they stand up and respond?”

“The other part of that is the ballot box,” he said, later adding: “That’s where you have to overwhelm the system with your legitimate votes. At the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie. You can’t outrun 8 million more votes than the other guy.”

He added, “You can’t let up and you can’t sit down.”

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