GREENBELT, Md. — A man has been arrested and charged in federal court with sending emails that threatened to harm and kill Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, and their families, federal prosecutors in Maryland announced Tuesday.
A criminal complaint filed Monday charges Thomas Patrick Connally Jr., 56, with threats against a federal official and interstate communication containing a threat to harm.
Beginning in December and up to last week, Connally used a Switzerland-based encrypted email service to send a series of emails to Collins and Fauci, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint.
Fauci is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of NIH in Bethesda, Maryland. He was appointed to his post in 1984, but his visibility has increased during the coronavirus pandemic. He has been a vocal supporter of vaccines and other preventive measures against Covid-19 and has been lauded for his longtime leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
One email threatened that Fauci and his family would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire.”
On April 24, Collins received four emails from the encrypted address associated with Connally, and 30 minutes later, Fauci received a string of seven threatening emails just minutes apart, according to the affidavit. One of those emails threatened that Fauci would be “hunted, captured, tortured and killed.”
The complaint was unsealed Tuesday after Connally’s arrest. He was taken into custody in West Virginia, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Marcia Murphy said. It’s unclear where he lives.
Connally is scheduled for an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on Wednesday. Online court records do not list an attorney for him.
“We will never tolerate violent threats against public officials,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner said in a news release. “Our public health officials deserve our thanks and appreciation for their tireless work, and we will not hesitate to bring charges against those individuals who seek to use fear to silence these public servants.”
If convicted, Connally faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for threats against a federal official, and a maximum of five years in federal prison for interstate communication containing a threat to harm.
Biles said the emotional toll of the Tokyo Games, not a physical injury, prompted her exit.
“Physically, I feel good,” she told Hoda Kotb on NBC’s “TODAY” show after she withdrew. “Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment. Coming here to the Olympics and being the head star of the Olympics isn’t an easy feat. So we’re just trying to take it one day at a time, and we’ll see.”
Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps, who has been candid about his own struggles with depression, said Wednesday he knows how Biles feels.
“We carry a lot of things, a lot of weight on our shoulders,” Phelps said in an interview with NBC sportscaster Mike Tirico. “And it’s challenging, especially when we have the lights on us and all of these expectations that are being thrown on top of us.”
This is a developing story — check back here for updates.
Jamie Knodel is a breaking news editor for NBC News Digital based in the Midwest.
Corky Siemaszko is a senior writer for NBC News Digital.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Republican Jake Ellzey of Texas won a U.S. House seat on Tuesday night over rival backed by Donald Trump, dealing the former president a defeat in a test of his endorsement power since leaving office.
Ellzey’s come-from-behind victory over Republican Susan Wright, the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright, in a special congressional election runoff near Dallas is likely to be celebrated by Trump antagonists who have warned against his continued hold on the GOP.
Ellzey was carrying more than 53% of the vote in Texas’ 6th Congressional District with results from almost all precincts reported.
Ellzey is a Republican state legislator who finished a distant second to Wright in May, and who only narrowly made the runoff over a Democrat. The seat opened up following the death of Ron Wright, who in February became the first member of Congress to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Far from running on an anti-Trump platform, Ellzey did not try distancing himself from the twice-impeached former president. He instead sought to overcome the lack of Trump’s backing by raising more money and showing off other endorsements, including the support of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Trump had endorsed Susan Wright early in the special election, recorded a robocall for her late in the runoff and headlined a telephone rally with voters on the eve of Tuesday’s election. Make America Great Action, a political action committee chaired by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, also made a $100,000 ad buy over the weekend.
But the outcome may show the limits of his influence with voters. Republicans have continued making loyalty to Trump paramount since his defeat in November, even as Trump continues to falsely and baselessly assert that the election was stolen.
The North Texas district won by Ellzey — who narrowly lost the GOP nomination for the seat in 2018 — has long been Republican territory. But Trump’s support in the district had also plummeted: after winning it by double-digits in 2016, he carried it by just 3 percentage points last year, reflecting the trend of Texas’ booming suburbs shifting to purple and, in some places, outright blue.
Ron Wright, who was 67 and had lung cancer, was just weeks into his second term when he died. Susan Wright had also been diagnosed with COVID-19 and at one point was hospitalized with her husband.
About an hour after she was shut out of the medal podium for the first time ever in her Olympic career, U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky claimed gold in the Olympic debut of the women’s 1500-meter freestyle race.
The star swimmer took the lead in the event and never lost it. Team USA’s Erica Sullivan came in second with the silver.
Ledecky’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Games is her sixth career gold.
Her win came after losing two shorter races to Australia’s Ariarne Titmus in the Games, including the 200-meter freestyle earlier Wednesday.
Wednesday’s gold was history-making, as it was the first women’s 1500-meter freestyle in the Olympics, despite it being a fixture in world championships. Athletes swim 30 lengths of the pool, and Ledecky did it in 15 minutes 37 seconds.
“I just think of all the great female swimmers the U.S. has had that haven’t had that opportunity to swim that event,” Ledecky said.
She said she was especially happy that Sullivan took the silver. “I’m so glad we could do it in the best possible way,” she said. It is Sullivan’s first Olympics.
Sullivan, 21, said that she stuck to her game plan and stroke count during the long race.
“But honestly there was a point when I saw Katie ahead of me, and she was the only one — and it really gave me the energy of having someone that you look up to for years, and seeing them a few meters, or several meters in front of you,” she said.
Germany’s Sarah Kohler won the bronze.
Earlier Wednesday, Ledecky came in fifth and did not medal in the 200-meter freestyle race, which Titmus won.
“It hasn’t really set in,” Titmus said when asked how it felt to win two golds.
“Off the 400, I had to try to kind of like forget about it for this race,” she said. “Now that I have the afternoon off, it’s going to be nice to kind of let it settle in a bit.”
In other action in the pool Wednesday, Americans Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass won the silver and bronze in the women’s 200-meter individual medley. Japan’s Yui Ohashi won the gold.
In the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay final, defending champs Team USA came in fourth — which is the first time they have not won a medal in the event other than the 1980 Moscow Games, which the U.S. and other countries boycotted.
Great Britain won the gold and almost beat a world record set by the U.S. in 2009. The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team came in second, and Australia took the bronze.
Actor Bob Odenkirk was rushed to the hospital Tuesday after he collapsed on the set of his AMC show, “Better Call Saul.”
The series is filming its sixth season on location in New Mexico, where Odenkirk, 58, collapsed, a representative for the actor said.
Crew members immediately surrounded Odenkirk, his representative said, and called an ambulance. It’s unclear whether Odenkirk was conscious when he was transported; his representative said he was still receiving medical care Tuesday night.
He didn’t say what caused Odenkirk to collapse.
“Better Call Saul” is a spinoff series of the popular series “Breaking Bad.” Odenkirk plays lawyer and con man Saul Goodman.
Samantha Kubota is a digital journalist and editor for TODAY.com.
Diana Dasrath is entertainment producer and senior reporter for NBC News covering all platforms.
“We know masks work, and they work against every variant that this virus has produced,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health at the University of Washington. “If we use them, they will save lives, save livelihoods and prevent us from shutting down our economy.”
While the majority of the outbreaks are happening among unvaccinated individuals, wearing a mask regardless of vaccination status can protect the entire community, Mokdad said. And while the CDC’s guidance focused on areas where the virus is spreading widely, Mokdad urged people everywhere to take precautions.
“The whole country is on fire,” he said. “Covid-19 is rising in every state. We’re dealing with a stubborn, aggressive variant and we all need to be very careful.”
The CDC’s new recommendation comes less than three months after the agency said masks and social distancing are no longer necessary for people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The change in guidance was driven by the delta variant’s higher transmissibility and new evidence from the CDC that in rare cases, fully vaccinated individuals who get infected with the variant can spread the virus just as easily as unvaccinated people.
“This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday in a news briefing.
Dr. Kartik Cherabuddi, an infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist at the University of Florida, said the CDC was right to alter its guidance to reflect the changing situation on the ground. As the pandemic evolves further, the public should be prepared to make other changes, if necessary.
“You have to look at it as dynamic,” Cherabuddi said. “All of these factors — medical, social, economic impacts — get taken together to keep the guidance dynamic.”
In discussing the updated recommendations, Walensky said the Covid-19 vaccines continue to do “an exceptional job” of protecting people from severe illness, hospitalization and death. The CDC has found, however, that in rare breakthrough infections — instances where a fully vaccinated person tests positive for the virus — the amount of virus in that vaccinated person’s system is similar to the viral load in an infected individual who is unvaccinated.
The finding suggests some fully vaccinated people who get infected with the delta variant could be highly contagious, potentially putting children too young to get vaccinated, immunocompromised individuals and otherwise unvaccinated people at risk. The CDC’s guidance included recommendations that all students in kindergarten through 12th grade should wear masks when they return to classrooms for the new school year.
“If that indeed means that vaccinated people can become a source of transmission, though not the majority of transmission, mask use is a good idea,” said Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist and associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Some experts have been critical of the CDC, saying the agency was premature in lifting its mask mandate for fully vaccinated people in May. Mokdad has been vocal on Twitter, saying the agency needed to reimpose its masking guidance earlier, particularly before the delta variant became the predominant strain circulating in the country.
“You don’t wait until you have a major surge in every state in the country to reverse it,” he said. “They should have reversed it earlier, but I’m still glad they did it now. It’s very important.”
Andy Slavitt, the former lead White House adviser on the country’s Covid-19 response, acknowledged critiques that the CDC has been slow to act, saying on Twitter that the agency must take a measured approach.
“Are there people who have been ahead of the CDC in calling for this? Yes, and there always will be,” Slavitt tweeted Tuesday. “Why? Because those of us on Twitter don’t have to live with the results of our recommendations. Th[e] CDC does.”
Sethi agreed that the CDC is often in a tough position because of all the considerations that go into its official guidance.
“They’re balancing delivering scientifically based recommendations with the sentiment of a public that is just tired of the pandemic and wants it to go away,” he said.
Still, while masks will be critical to slowing the spread of the delta variant, experts said it’s important to also focus on increasing vaccine uptake across the country.
Roughly 49.7 percent of eligible people in the United States are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, but vaccination rates vary widely between states and within individual counties. Ramping up vaccinations in states that are lagging behind will be key to turning a corner in the pandemic, Cherabuddi said.
“This is definitely a critical point where we have to improve our vaccination rates,” he said. “The vaccines are the only thing that will truly get these numbers down.”
When it comes to political and social demonstrations during the Tokyo Olympics, 2021 is the year of women.
Female athletes have attracted the spotlight on the international stage by championing racial equality and taking ownership of what they wear during competitions.
“Historically, we’ve seen the role of patriarchy sort of supersede … the voices, lived experiences of girls and women on the Olympic stage,” said Akilah Carter-Francique, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at San Jose State University.
“What we’re seeing now is an acknowledgment of their value in their perspective on many of the issues that are taking place,” she said.
Carter-Francique said the protests and demonstrations by female athletes in Tokyo are extensions of social movements that have fueled activism on U.S. soil and abroad.
“The Black Lives Matter Movement, Me Too prior to that, served as catalysts for groups that have been historically marginalized and silenced to speak up,” she said.
Several women’s soccer teams — including the U.S. team before its opening match against Sweden — began their matches by taking knees in a gesture to end racism.
Other teams whose players knelt included Chile, Great Britain and New Zealand.
The soccer teams took advantage of a new rule implemented by the International Olympic Committee allowing them to “express their views” on the field of play before competition or during the introduction of athletes or teams.
The new guidelines allow for expressions if they aren’t against “people, countries, [organizations] and/or their dignity” and aren’t disruptive.
Before the new rules, the regulations stated that no “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
Briana Scurry, a goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s national team from 1993 to 2008, said kneeling is an important tool in helping root out the racism that has been embedded in soccer culture for years.
“Soccer overall has now leaned in a bit more in quelling racism that seems to be absolutely rampant in the sport, especially on the men’s side,” she said.
Scurry said “being an instrument for social change” and advocating for women in the sport and society are ideas now embraced by national team members.
Much like women’s soccer players, another athletes carried the mantle of racial equality at the Olympics.
Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado carried the torch of protesting racial equality in Tokyo, paying tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement in her historic Olympic performance Sunday.
Alvarado, 18, the first gymnast from Costa Rica to qualify for the Olympics, concluded her floor routine Sunday by taking a knee, placing her left hand behind her back and raising her right fist into the air.
Alvarado’s demonstration was the first of its kind on an international stage in elite gymnastics, according to NBC Olympics. Alvarado said the end of her routine was choreographed to highlight the importance of equal rights on a global stage.
“Because we’re all the same,” she said. “We’re all beautiful and amazing.”
Patrick Cottrell, a political science professor at Linfield University in McMinnville, Oregon, said: “Women certainly are as vocal as ever. That’s great because they have a lot to be vocal about.”
He said the Olympics have a long history of sexism, noting that women were once banned from participating. He also said women and athletes of color may be more affected by their sports’ rules than other athletes, pointing to a recent decision prohibiting swim caps in the Olympics designed for Black swimmers.
“There are rules that are biased against them,” Cottrell said.
To bend and break those rules, female athletes have been challenging norms and fighting for their right to control what they wear while they compete.
The German gymnastics team chose comfort over tradition when they competed in full-length unitards that stretched to their ankles instead of leotards that stopped at the hips.
Similarly, the Norwegian handball team recently refused to wear bikini bottoms and was fined during the sport’s Euro 2021 tournament.
The German gymnastics team first wore unitards at the European Artistic Gymnastics championships in April. Its outfits comply with the wardrobe rules of the International Gymnastics Federation.
Sarah Voss, 21, said the team members weren’t sure what they would wear during Olympic competition until shortly before the meet.
“We sat together and said, ‘OK, we want to have a big competition,'” Voss said. “We want to feel amazing. We want to show everyone that we look amazing.”
Before the Games even began, and perhaps setting the tone for Tokyo, it was a female athlete who attracted worldwide headlines for her activism.
Hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned away from the U.S. flag as the national anthem played while she stood on the podium at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon, late last month, having placed third and qualified for the Tokyo Games.
Berry said she felt blindsided by the timing of the song. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played once a night at the trials, and it began as Berry was on the podium after she received her bronze medal.
“I feel like it was a set-up and they did it on purpose,” Berry said of the timing of the anthem, according to The Associated Press. “I was pissed, to be honest.
“They said they were going to play it before we walked out. Then they played it when we were out there,” she said.
As the song played, Berry turned to face the stands, away from the flag, and eventually draped a black T-shirt that read “Activist, Athlete” over her head.
After the incident, Berry said her primary goal is to raise awareness for social justice.
“My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports,” she said. “I’m here to represent those … who died due to systemic racism. That’s the important part.”
The officers painted a bleak and disturbing picture of not only the hate and violence they faced that day, but also of how Republicans actually view law enforcement. Members of the GOP are willing to trample — quite literally, in some cases — on one of the last remaining pillars of the party they purport to support rather than acknowledge the truth that Donald Trump lost the election fair and square. The appalling display Tuesday goes to show just how comprehensive is the revisionism party leaders are engaging in, while Trump continues to tout these deceitful views.
U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, through tears, put the jarring Republican contradiction in sharp relief: Participants in the mob used the very instruments with which they proclaim to support the police in actions of violence against them. Some waved Blue Lives Matter flags as they accosted him. Others attacked him with a flagpole.
Gonell pointed out that many of the same people who support the insurrection at the Capitol criticize athletes for taking a knee against police brutality. They’re willing to condemn a peaceful act of protest but not the violence directed at police officers doing their job to protect the Capitol — including some of the lawmakers who claim to support Blue Lives Matter. Their own actions against those who swear to protect and serve were dangerous and selfish; some respect they have for the military, police officers and their families.
In addition to the moral tragedy within the Republican Party that was clearly on display Tuesday, there was political malpractice, as well. Many Americans are unhappy with the criticism that’s been leveled at the police from the left after the killing of George Floyd and the racial justice protests that involved looting.
Yet at the hearing Tuesday, Democrats took the opportunity to express full support for the officers sharing their testimony, even as there’s been infighting among the party about the “defund the police” platform and as many have criticized whole police forces over bad actors who wear the badge. Moreover, the Democrats are offering solutions to address these issues through more community intervention and funding, while Republicans continue to spew faux outrage to score political points with their base.
Indeed, in a year that has been broadly defined by increased violent crime and the state of race relations, it’s Democrats who are doing more to preserve law and order than Republicans. At the beginning of the year, President Joe Biden put forth and signed a stimulus package that included more funding for police forces, but Republicans voted against it and are likely to vote against community intervention programming nestled in the infrastructure and jobs plan the Biden administration also proposed.
Democrats have been quick to take on Republicans in that messaging war — Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., recently said, “When it came to supporting resources for local communities, including law enforcement, not one Republican voted in favor of that funding.”
The tides are changing, and it’s evident that at every turn Republicans are on the wrong side of history. Their refusal to see what clearly happened on Jan. 6 is just a small part of that. Their ignorance toward race relations in this country and the welcoming of white supremacist rhetoric by Trump into the party show just how far from law, order and justice they really are.
Ashley Pratte Oates
Ashley Pratte Oates, an Independent and a former Republican, is a communications strategist and a board member of Republican Women for Progress (which endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020). Previously she was director of media relations and a consultant for Better for America.
Buck, 66, who was accused of plying men with drugs during sexual encounters, was found guilty of all nine felony counts in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, including two counts of distribution of controlled substances resulting in death. The two charges each carry mandatory minimums of 20 years in prison.
“Buck exerted power and control over his victims, typically targeting individuals who were destitute, homeless or struggling with drug addiction,” the Department of Justice said in a release Tuesday. “He exploited the wealth and power balance between them by offering his victims money to use drugs and to let Buck inject them with narcotics.”
Prosecutors have said Buck solicited men to consume drugs and perform sexual acts at his home, where he then injected them with or without their consent. The government characterized Buck’s motive as a sexual fetish, in which he paid Black men he met online to smoke and shoot methamphetamine, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.
He was also charged with two counts of enticing someone to travel with the intent to engage in prostitution, one count of knowingly and intentionally distributing methamphetamine and one count of using his West Hollywood apartment for the purpose of distributing narcotics.
Buck, a notable political donor, had given more than $53,000 to Democratic candidates and to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since 2008, according to federal records. Several Democrats returned Buck’s campaign donations after he was charged.
A sentencing date has not been set and Buck remains in federal custody.
Doha Madani is a breaking news reporter for NBC News. Pronouns: she/her.
DOVER, Del. — Democratic House leaders in Delaware have indicated that they have no plans to initiate an ethics investigation that could lead to the ouster of a fellow Democrat who used a racist and sexist slur to refer to sex workers.
Amid public backlash and calls for his resignation, Rep. Gerald Brady of Wilmington said in a statement issued Monday that he would not seek reelection after his current term expires.
“I cannot in good conscience ask the voters to put their faith in me again after I betrayed theirs,” said Brady, who is executive director of the Delaware AFL-CIO and was elected to the House in 2006.
Brady made the racist comments in a June 27 email he inadvertently sent to an advocate for decriminalizing prostitution. Thinking he was forwarding an email from an advocate to another person from whom he was seeking input, Brady instead mistakenly hit “reply” and sent his comments to the advocate.
“Is the dude basically saying, if we provide free (sex acts) for Uncle Pervie there will be few rapes and few (a slur for Chinese women) will be shipped in CONEX containers to the Port of Wilmington??” Brady wrote from his official government email address.
Democrat House leaders directed Brady last week to complete sensitivity training and reach out to members of the Asian-American community in an effort to regain their trust. But they indicated in their own statement Monday that they are not interested in initiating disciplinary proceedings that could lead to Brady’s suspension or expulsion from the House.
“We want to be clear about something we have heard from residents this past week: As a duly elected official, only Rep. Brady can make a decision about his political future. House leadership cannot unilaterally take action,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Majority Whip Larry Mitchell said in a joint statement.
That’s not true, however.
Schwartzkopf, Longhurst and Mitchell are members of the House Ethics Committee, which is chaired by Longhurst and includes Republican Minority Leader Danny Short and minority whip Tim Dukes. House rules authorize the committee to investigate complaints that a lawmaker has violated the rules of legislative conduct.
Among the rules of legislative conduct: “A member shall not engage in conduct which the House determines (i) brings the House into disrepute or (ii) reflects adversely on the member’s fitness to hold legislative office.”
Ethics Committee rules state that any House member, including any member of the committee, can file a complaint. If a majority of the committee decides that the complaint has been proven, the committee can then, again by majority vote, recommend that the House take “appropriate action,” up to and including expulsion of the offending lawmaker.
Despite describing Brady’s remarks as “reprehensible, racist, sexist and indefensible,” Democratic leaders indicated that, instead of an Ethics Committee investigation, they would make sensitivity training available to all members of the House.
“While we do not believe our colleagues harbor such views, it would be beneficial for them to learn of any microaggressions or other attitudes or actions that negatively impact the Asian American community, and how we all can take steps to improve our relationships with the community,” they said.