Wednesday News: Bribery & Corruption? No big deal


TRUMP PARDONS FORMER NC GOP CHAIRMAN ROBIN HAYES: Former Republican Congressman Robin Hayes, swept up in one of North Carolina’s worst political corruption scandals, received a late-night pardon Tuesday from President Donald Trump. Hayes, who has completed his probation, was one of three former Republican congressman who received pardons shortly after midnight from Trump’s at the beginning of the president’s last day in office. The others, Rick Renzi of Arizona and Duke Cunningham of California, had finished prison terms tied to corruption convictions. Trump also pardoned former adviser Steve Bannon, the rapper Lil Wayne, and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, imprisoned for 28 years on a corruption charge, according to the Washington Post.

IN LAST MINUTE REPRIEVE FROM TRUMP'S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, BURR IS OFF THE HOOK FOR INSIDER TRADING: Sen. Richard Burr said Tuesday that the Justice Department has told him it will not prosecute him over stock sales made during the coronavirus pandemic, ending an insider trading investigation that led him to at least temporarily step aside from a powerful committee chairmanship last year. Prosecutors had investigated for months whether the North Carolina Republican and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee had exploited advance information when he unloaded as much as $1.7 million in stocks in the days before the coronavirus caused markets to plummet. “The case is now closed,” Burr said in a statement. "I’m glad to hear it. My focus has been and will continue to be working for the people of North Carolina during this difficult time for our nation.” A Justice Department spokesman confirmed it would not bring charges but declined further comment. The New York Times was first to report on the decision to not bring charges.

KERNERSVILLE MAN ARRESTED FOR STORMING THE CAPITOL BUILDING: According to a statement from a task force officer assigned to the FBI, an informant told authorities that Spencer had livestreamed videos to Facebook from inside the U.S. Capitol. The informant suggested Spencer may have had a family member with him, one of whom was captured on the posted video, the statement said. A search warrant turned up three livestream videos from Spencer's Facebook account, and at different times, he showed himself, the officer said. According to the FBI, the videos show Spencer in various places inside the U.S. Capitol, and he can be heard shouting obscenities. Investigators said that Spencer at one point pulled down his neck gaiter and said “Bro, they stormed the Capitol, bro … pushed the cops out of the way, everything … took it over.” At another point, the video shows him walking into an office hallway as he says, “Where's Nancy's office?” in apparent reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the FBI said. As he walked through Statuary Hall, Spencer said, “Who would’ve knew the first time I ever come would be to storm,” according to officials. Spencer was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; violent entry and disorderly conduct on capitol grounds; and obstruction of justice.

OATH KEEPERS WHO COORDINATED INFILTRATION BEING CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACY AGAINST U.S.: FBI charging papers against Caldwell, Watkins and a third person, former U.S. Marine Donovan Crowl, 50, allege that Caldwell and others coordinated in advance to disrupt Congress, scouted for lodging and recruited Oath Keepers members from North Carolina and like-minded groups from the Shenandoah Valley. The group claims thousands of members who assert the right to defy government orders they deem improper. The plotters both anticipated violence and continued to act in concert after the break-in, investigators alleged in court documents. FBI papers also say that Caldwell suggested a similar event at the local level after the attack, saying in a message: “Lets storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!” The three are charged with five federal counts of conspiracy against the United States; obstructing an official government proceeding; impeding or injuring government officers; and destroying U.S. property, entering restricted grounds and disorderly conduct at the Capitol. The arrests this weekend of several people with alleged ties to far-right extremist groups, including the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters, suggest that the riot was not an entirely impulsive outburst of violence but an event instigated or exploited by organized groups. Hours of video posted on social media and pored over by investigators have focused on individuals in military-style gear moving together. “This is the first step toward identifying and understanding that there was some type of concerted conspiracy here,” said one senior official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is leading the investigation.

DONALD TRUMP HAS LEFT THE WHITE HOUSE FOR THE LAST TIME: The Marine One helicopter took off from the South Lawn of the White House at about 8:18 a.m. for the short flight to Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland, where the president planned to hold a farewell event with administration veterans and other supporters. After that, he and Melania Trump were to board Air Force One for the journey to Florida, where they will reside. Mr. Trump surrendered the building after a late night of signing last-minute pardons and other clemency orders for 143 people, including Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist; Elliott Broidy, one of his top fund-raisers in 2016; and a series of politicians convicted of corruption. The White House did not announce the pardons until after midnight and then followed up at 1:07 a.m. with an order revoking the ethics rules Mr. Trump had imposed on his own former aides. In slipping out of Washington before the festivities on Wednesday, Mr. Trump capped a norm-busting tenure by defying one last convention. He refused to host the traditional coffee that presidents hold for their successors at the White House on the morning of the inauguration. And he opted to skip the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol, normally a symbol of the American tradition of peaceful transfer of power that is attended by both departing and incoming presidents. No president has refused to attend his successor’s inauguration since 1869, when Andrew Johnson, miffed that Ulysses S. Grant would not share a carriage with him to the Capitol, refused at the last minute to get into the separate carriage arranged for him and skipped the ceremony. (Woodrow Wilson traveled to the Capitol for Warren G. Harding’s inauguration in 1921, but did not remain for the ceremony because of his failing health.)



I will try to livestream the Inauguration

in a little while, but right now it's still the Trump Show as he's having some sort of rally before getting on Air Force One. To hell with that.