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Biden to halt new oil drilling permits on public lands

President Joe Biden is expected to announce an executive order Wednesday suspending new oil and gas leasing on federal land, The Wall Street Journal reports.

This follows Biden’s 60-day suspension of new drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters announced last week.

During his campaign, Biden pledged to halt new drilling on federal lands and waters and end the leasing of publicly owned energy reserves as part of his plan to address climate change and transition to renewable energy.

Biden is set to suspend new drilling permits to oil companies for wells on federal land indefinitely while the Department of the Interior conducts a review of oil development’s impact on climate change, according to The Journal. While federal land accounts for roughly 9% of onshore U.S. oil production, Biden’s order will have a large impact on states such as New Mexico and Utah where the federal government controls about a third of the state.

The Biden administration has been working quickly to reverse the policies set in place by the Trump administration.

On Biden’s first day in office, he revoked the permit for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, eliminating over 1,000 jobs.

According to the Keystone XL website, the pipeline project would employ more than 11,000 Americans, including more than 7,000 union workers, in 2021 and generate $1.6 billion in gross wages.

“The early actions of the administration are unilaterally shutting down and restricting the ability of American oil and gas producers to run their operations,” said Anne Bradbury, chief executive of the American Exploration and Production Council, which represents independent U.S. oil companies. “The scope and the lack of consultation with industry stakeholders has been alarming.”

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said “[Biden’s] radical Green New Deal-inspired agenda” will destroy American jobs.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said Biden’s energy policies will cause “$5 a gallon at the pump and higher home energy bills.”

Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy

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Federal judge blocks Biden administration’s deportation moratorium

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an attempt by President Joe Biden to halt the deportation of many immigrants for a 100-day period.

During his campaign, Biden promised he would make immigration reform a priority and put a stop to deportations for 100 days.

The Biden administration announced the moratorium on the first day in office.

Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the 100-day pause, claiming that the administration would be violating an agreement it has with the Department of Homeland Security, requiring the department to provide notice and allow time for review before making immigration policy changes.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the state would face irreparable harm if the deportation moratorium went into effect. Moreover, Paxton said it would increase education and healthcare costs as more immigrants remained in Texas illegally.

U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a temporary restraining order, blocking Biden from moving forward with the policy for 14 days.

“The January 20 Memorandum not only fails to consider potential policies more limited in scope and time, but it also fails to provide any concrete, reasonable justification for a 100-day pause on deportations,” Judge Tipton said in the ruling.

Paxton praised the ruling, saying a deportation moratorium would “endanger Texans and undermine federal law.”

The Biden administration is expected to appeal the ruling.

“We’re confident that as the case proceeds, it will be clear that this measure was wholly appropriate in ordering a temporary pause to allow the agency to carefully review its policies, procedures, and enforcement priorities – while allowing for a greater focus on threats to public safety and national security,” a White House spokesman said.

“President Biden remains committed to taking immediate action to reform our immigration system to ensure it’s upholding American values while keeping our communities safe.”

Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy

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45 GOP senators vote against tabling motion about constitutionality of the impeachment trial

Forty-five Republican senators on Tuesday, notably including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), voted against tabling Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) effort to deem the forthcoming Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump as unconstitutional, possibly foreshadowing the results of next month’s trial.

While many Republicans claim that it is unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial once a president has left office, supporters of holding a trial for Trump argue that historical precedent is on their side, often citing the 1876 impeachment of Secretary of War William Belknap after he had resigned from his post.

“45 Senators agreed that this sham of a ‘trial’ is unconstitutional,”

Senator Rand Paul, R-Kentucky

Moreover, while a report this month from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) acknowledged that there are reasonable arguments in favor of both interpretations of the Constitution, which does not explicitly mention if an official can only be impeached while still in office, the CRS report said that “it appears that most scholars who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office.”

Tuesday afternoon, Paul raised a point of order to hold a vote regarding the constitutionality of the impeachment trial since Trump is no longer president. However, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) then requested a vote to table it, which senators voted 55-45 in favor of doing. Despite Paul’s point of order being killed, the sheer amount of Republican senators who supported his motion, including McConnell, demonstrates that there may not be as much appetite in the Senate GOP to impeach Trump.

The five Senate Republicans who joined Democrats in voting to table Paul’s point of order were Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Ben Sasse (Neb.) Pat Toomey (Pa.), and Mitt Romney (Utah).

“I think there will be enough support on it to show there’s no chance they can impeach the president,” Paul had said earlier in the day. “If 34 people support my resolution that this is an unconstitutional proceeding, it shows they don’t have the votes.”

After his point of order was tabled, Paul claimed that the impeachment trial will be “dead on arrival.”

“45 Senators agreed that this sham of a ‘trial’ is unconstitutional,” Paul tweeted. “That is more than will be needed to acquit and to eventually end this partisan impeachment process. This ‘trial’ is dead on arrival in the Senate.”

In order for the Senate to convict Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” 17 Republicans would need to join all 50 Democrats in order to reach a two-thirds supermajority. If Trump is convicted, he will be barred in the future from serving in public office.

The impeachment trial will begin the week of February 8, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is the president pro tempore and the senior-most Senate Democrat, will oversee the trial.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Biden admin to purchase 200 million more vaccine doses, send more doses to states: reports

The Biden administration said Tuesday it would increase the amount of coronavirus vaccines sent to states by about 16% for the next three weeks and will purchase enough additional doses to vaccinate the U.S. population with a two-dose regimen by the end of the summer, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported.

“It’s going to take a number of months for us to be in a position for us to say to Americans it’s open season to sign up for vaccinations,”

A senior Biden Administration Official Said

Both reported that a senior administration official said the purchases would increase the administration’s total vaccine order by 50%, raising it from 400 million to 600 million doses. The Times reported that it was during a Tuesday phone call with reporters to preview the announcement of these purchases.

The purchases will provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans in a two-dose regimen over the summer.

Despite the boost in doses sent to states beginning next week, supplies aren’t yet sufficient for what is needed, a senior administration official said.

“It’s going to take a number of months for us to be in a position for us to say to Americans it’s open season to sign up for vaccinations,” the official said, according to The Journal.

The administration will also begin giving states a three weeks’ advance notice of their estimated vaccine allocations, updated on a running basis, to assist them with their planning, according to The Journal. Governors had said allocations fluctuated under the Trump administration, complicating efforts to staff vaccination sites and manage appointments.

Members of President Joe Biden’s administration, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and White House coronavirus coordinator Jeffrey Zients, briefed state governors on the updates on a call Tuesday afternoon, people familiar with the discussion told The Journal.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Florida offers to host 2021 Olympics if Tokyo backs out

RIO DE JANEIRO – OCTOBER 14, 2015: Olympic rings stand under bright blue sky.

Amid speculation that Tokyo might back out of its 2021 Olympics hosting gig because of the coronavirus pandemic, the state of Florida has put itself forward as a back-up host.

Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer, on Monday pitched Florida as a host for the 2021 Olympic Games in a letter to the International Olympic Committee.

“Today, I am writing to encourage you to consider relocating the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo, Japan to the United States of America, and more specifically to Florida,” Patronis wrote.

“With media reports of leaders in Japan ‘privately’ concluding that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place, there is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida to meet with statewide and local officials on holding the Olympics in the Sunshine State,” Patronis continued. “I would welcome the opportunity to pitch Florida and help you make the right contacts to get this done.”

Patronis also made a point of mentioning the Sunshine State’s growing population and praising its distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.

“Unlike other states, when the COVID-19 vaccine comes to Florida it doesn’t just sit on the shelf wrapped in government red tape; it moves fast to protect our communities,” Patronis wrote, also touting Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s (R) battle to keep the state’s economy open while combatting the spread of the coronavirus.

Florida, the country’s third-biggest state, right now is ranked number four for coronavirus deaths so far during the pandemic with over 25,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. While California had far stricter restrictions than Florida, the former has the second-most deaths so far. New York has the most deaths of any U.S. state, while Texas has the third-most.

Patronis took a moment to promote that Florida “successfully allowed sports to take place during the pandemic,” such as NFL, NBA, and college football games and UFC events. He also bragged about Disney World being open, saying that it is “an incredible model for how to run a complex organization in the midst of COVID-19.”

Due to Florida being a massive tourist destination, Patronis argued that the Sunshine State is well-suited to handle a massive influx of people, listing off the state’s statistics for transportation infrastructure, lodging, already existing sports facilities, and world-renown health facilities in each of the state’s regions.

On January 13, a state of emergency was issued in Japan after the nation surpassed 300,000 COVID-19 cases, according to The Hill.

The upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are set to start in July, were originally supposed to happen last July but were pushed back.

Last Friday, parties responsible for putting together the Tokyo Games emphasized they would be continuing with the scheduled dates of July 23 to August 8, according to The Japan Times.

“I am determined to realize a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Tulsi Gabbard claims Schiff, Brennan, Big Tech turning U.S. into a ‘police state’

Former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) on Tuesday went after Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), large technology companies, and former CIA Director John Brennan, claiming that they are much more “powerful” and therefore more “dangerous” than the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6.

She pointed out the expansion of powers requested by lawmakers, like Schiff, and numerous former and current senior government officials who are targeting Trump supporters in an effort “turn our country into a police state.”

Gabbard posted a video and thread to Twitter Tuesday morning in which she railed against Schiff, who is the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Brennan, and “the oligarchs in Big Tech.” She argued that they have been trying to “undermine our constitutionally protected rights” in the aftermath of the riot that resulted in five deaths.

“The mob who stormed the Capitol on January 6 to try to stop Congress from carrying out its constitutional responsibilities were behaving like domestic enemies of our country,” Gabbard said. “But let’s be clear, the John Brennans, Adam Schiffs and the oligarchs in Big Tech who are trying to undermine our constitutionally protected rights and turn our country into a police state with KGB-style surveillance are also domestic enemies—and much more powerful, and therefore dangerous, than the mob that stormed the Capitol.”

The former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate then plays a clip of Brennan telling MSNBC that President Joe Biden’s nominees and appointees “are now moving in laser-like fashion to try to uncover as much as they can” about activities that he said were similar to “insurgency movements” that have cropped up abroad.

Back in 2019, Schiff introduced legislation that would have created a new federal statute for domestic terrorism. It should be noted that the legislation did acknowledge the room for abuse regarding such a statute, saying that a report on civil liberty issues that could crop up from the new statute to be released to the public within four years of the legislation being enacted.

In the aftermath of a mob storming the U.S. Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden‘s 2020 election victory, supporting then-President Donald Trump‘s allegations on social media and on television that widespread fraud “stole” the election from him and “rigged” it, “Big Tech” companies have either suspended or permanently banned Trump and allies from their platforms.

RELATED: Federal judge strikes down Parler’s attempt to force Amazon to host it

After playing the clip of Brennan, Gabbard urged Biden and members of both parties in Congress to denounce such efforts.

“President Biden, I call upon you and all members of Congress from both parties to denounce these efforts by the likes of Brennan and others to take away our civil liberties that are endowed to us by our Creator and guaranteed in our Constitution. If you don’t stand up to these people now, then our country will be in great peril,” she said at the end of her video.

MORE TULSI GABBARD: Rep. Gabbard slams younger members of Congress for getting COVID-19 vaccine before the elderly

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Biden campaign received $145M ‘dark money’ donations: report

President Joe Biden‘s 2020 presidential campaign was aided by $145 million in “dark money” donations to outside groups backing him, according to a Saturday report from Bloomberg News. All this, despite comments from Biden, as well as Democrats criticizing such aspects of campaign finance.

According to the Bloomberg report, anonymous donors gave about $145 million to outside groups advocating for Biden’s campaign, which is miles ahead of the $28.4 million spent on behalf of then-President Donald Trump.

The previous record-holder was 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who had $113 million in dark money donations spent promoting his failed candidacy.

Priorities USA Action Fund for example, one of the highest-profile Democratic super PACs backing Biden, used $26 million in funds originally donated to its nonprofit arm, called Priorities USA, to support the then-candidate, according to Bloomberg. The money’s donors do not need to be disclosed.

During his 2020 campaign, Biden raised a record-breaking $1.5 billion, however, he could only accept donations of at most $2,800 from individual donors under FEC rules. Of that staggering number, $318.6 million of which came from donors who gave less than $200 each, whereas the other money originated from donors who gave over $825,000, with that money split between Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, according to Fox News.

“We weren’t going to unilaterally disarm against Trump and the right-wing forces that enabled him,” Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, told Bloomberg.

Those critical of dark money, which hides the source of the funds, have argued that voters ought to know who’s bankrolling political campaigns and advertisements. The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group, has called it a “serious threat to our democracy,” and Issue One, another nonpartisan group that aims to reduce the influence of money in politics, has called it “the most toxic force in politics,” per Fox News.

While Democrats have introduced legislation in the past to bring down the hammer on anonymous donations, they decided to welcome dark money donations themselves as they fought till the bitter end to oust Trump out of the Oval Office.

“We weren’t going to unilaterally disarm against Trump and the right-wing forces that enabled him,” Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, told Bloomberg.

This Bloomberg report comes as one of the first bills the new Senate will vote on is the “For the People Act,” introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and is the Senate equivalent of the House act of the same name. The act seeks to require that all political organizations disclose their donors, on top of wanting to implement automatic voter registration and expand same-day voter registration across the country.

“The 2020 election underscored the need for comprehensive, structural democracy reform,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who led the charge with the legislation’s House version, said in a statement on his website. “Americans across the country were forced to overcome rampant voter suppression, gerrymandering and a torrent of special-interest dark money just to exercise their vote and their voice in our democracy.”

Biden, as part of his plan to reform government, called for prohibiting certain kinds of nonprofits from spending money in elections and mandating that any organization that spends more than $10,000 on federal elections to register with the Federal Election Committee (FEC) and publicly name its donors, per Fox News. Priorities USA, under such rules, would have been forced to disclose its donors.

Democrats got around $326 million in dark money donations during this past election cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics says, which is more than two-times bigger than the $148 million collected by the GOP, per Fox News. However, the GOP has historically outplayed Democrats when it comes to dark money.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Sara Carter: Investigate Dr. Anthony Fauci

Sara Carter, on “The Sara Carter Show’ podcast Monday, called for Fauci to be investigated following “The Next Revolution” host Steve Hilton’s expose Sunday night exposing explosive information on the origins of the coronavirus and its connection to infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

According to Hilton, Fauci funded a study in 2014 that assessed the risk of new coronavirus emerging from wild animals, like bats. This study was in direct violation of the Obama administration ban of “gain-of-function” research.

The Obama administration banned “gain-of-function” studies after biosafety incidents occurred at federal research facilities.

“Why isn’t Fauci being investigated?” Carter questioned.

“What was Fauci’s responsibility in it? Why is he getting the most pay of anyone in the Biden administration?”

A new report released by Forbes this week revealed that Fauci is the highest paid employee in the U.S. federal government.

“The government and government officials can’t get away with these behaviors,” Carter said. “They’re just stomping on our rights. They’re not answering our questions, simple questions, while they’re asking us to give up our civil liberties, but yet they don’t want to answer anything. They don’t want to say a word to us. They don’t want to tell us what happened.”

“Dr. Fauci, you should be investigated, and you should be removed until a full investigation happens. Steve Hilton is 100% right on that and we need to find out what happened at that Wuhan laboratory.”

“We need answers. We need them now. And we need to understand what is going on,” Carter said.

“I know a lot of you out there feel like frustrated, you feel frustrated after the election, more important than ever, we have to be unified,” Carter reminded her listeners. “We have to get our grip, keep our government in check. We have to keep our government in check. It’s going to get far worse before it gets better.”

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Portland teacher indicted over summer Antifa riot

A Portland teacher, who originally had her charges dropped following an arrest at a violent Antifa protest, has had her charges reinstated after police submitted additional evidence, The Post Millenial reports.

Malia Lynne Trammell (or Treammell), 29, was a Portland high school teacher who was indicted on one count of felony riot, felony identity theft, second-degree criminal mischief, interfering with a peace officer and third-degree escape, according to a report by Andy Ngo and Mia Cathell.

According to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, in Aug. 2020, Trammell and a group of rioters used metal spike devices to puncture a Portland Police vehicle’s tire during a riot outside a police station.

The riot became violent and officers attempted to arrest Trammell after she allegedly damaged a police vehicle. Trammell slipped out of her backpack and escaped. However, she fell while turning a corner and was arrested by police. Officers recovered multiple rebar spike devices in her backpack, according to the report.

Trammell was reportedly released without bail last summer and her charges were dropped by district attorney Mike Schmidt.

Five months later, the Portland Police Bureau completed an investigation and re-submitted the case to the district attorney’s office. The charges were then reinstated by the grand jury.

According to the report, Trammell has also been accused of faking her identity to authorities.

Trammell’s arraignment was held January 20, 2021 and she is scheduled to appear again in court March 10.

Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy

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‘Stop the Steal’ speaker and WalkAway founder charged in Capitol riot

A notable right-wing activist who spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 5 has been charged by federal authorities for participating in the Capitol riot on Jan 6, which turned deadly.

Brandon Straka, 43, was arrested Monday in Nebraska and charged with impeding a law enforcement officer, entering a restricted building and engaging in disorderly conduct with intent to disturb a hearing before Congress, in connection with the Capitol riot earlier this month.

According to the affidavit, which was made public, federal investigators said they received a tip with a YouTube video of Straka on the Capitol steps yelling to others in the crowd to “Take the shield!” from a Capitol Police officer and shouting,

“Go, Go!” near the entrance of the Capitol.

“My review of Straka’s Twitter account on January 11, did not find video or any other posts from January 6, 2021 relating directly to Straka’s actions at the U.S. Capitol,” the affidavit said. “However, the FBI received tips from the public with screenshots of Straka’s Twitter activity from January 6, 2021.”

A relative of Straka’s, who said they saw a video of Straka on the “cusp” of entering the Capitol, reported him to the FBI. The relative said that Straka can be heard saying, “We’re going in. We’re going in,” in a video later posted on YouTube titled, “Straka attacking the Capitol on Jan 6th.”

On Jan. 6, Straka tweeted that he was “quite close to entering [the Capitol] myself during the breach” and, “I missed the part where it was agreed this would be a revolution of ice cream cones & hair-braiding parties to take our government back from lying, cheating globally interested swamp parasites. My bad.”

“Also—be embarrassed & hide if you need to- but I was there. It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom-loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the final hope of our Republic because literally, nobody cares about them. Everyone else can denounce them. I will not,” Straka also wrote on Twitter.

In a video posted on Jan. 7, Straka said, “Yesterday, a lot of us got up very, very early. We went to this event in which Donald Trump spoke. The plan was always to go to the Capitol. We were going to march from that event…to the Capitol, and there was going to be another rally. I was one of the speakers slated to speak at the Capitol.”

He continues, “Wow, so they’re going to basically storm and try to get into the chamber so that they can demand that we get the investigation that we want.”

“Shortly after that, a man came out” who said, “They’ve cleared Congress. Everybody’s left. There’s no one else inside. Everybody turn around. No one else come inside,’” Straka said.

Straka, a self-described “former liberal,” founded the #WalkAway movement during the 2018 midterm elections. #WalkAway urged liberal voters to leave the Democratic Party. Earlier this month, Straka said Facebook had removed the campaign’s page, which had over half a million followers.

Straka also made national headlines in June after he was after he was banned from American Airlines for refusing to wear a mask on a flight to Dallas amid the coronavirus pandemic.

You can follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy