Brett Wilkins

Rep. Bonnie Watson goes to hospital for COVID after hiding from mob with maskless Republicans

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, headed to the hospital for Covid-19 treatment on Monday after testing positive for the coronavirus and becoming mildly ill following last week's shelter-in-place with maskless Republican lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol during the attack by a militant pro-Trump mob.

On Monday afternoon, Watson Coleman tweeted that although she felt fine, she was heading to the hospital to receive monoclonal antibody therapy—a potentially lifesaving treatment received by President Donald Trump and others fortunate enough to have access—following advice from her doctor.

The Washington Post reports Brian Monahan, the attending physician to Congress, on Sunday informed lawmakers that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus while they waited out the Capitol siege in close quarters together.

"The time in [that] room was several hours for some and briefer for others," Monahan said, urging the lawmakers to get tested for coronavirus. "During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection."

Watson Coleman released a statement earlier on Monday saying she was "experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms" and that "she believes she was exposed during protective isolation in the U.S. Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots."

"As reported by multiple news outlets, a number of members within the space ignored instructions to wear masks," Coleman Watson's statement added. Indeed, video footage tweeted by multiple accounts shows at least six Republican lawmakers refusing masks being offered by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.).

Some of the GOP lawmakers who refused masks include Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.); Rep. Scott Perry (Penn.); Rep. Michael Cloud (Texas); Rep. Doug LaMalfa (Calif.); Rep. Markwayne Mullin (Okla.); and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene(Ga.), a supporter of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory who previously blasted a congressional mask mandate by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as "an oppressive violation of my rights."

While the lawmakers took refuge during the Capitol assault, at least hundreds of mostly maskless Trump supporters rampaged through the building, hopped up on lies spread by some congressional Republicans and the president that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen" from him.

Public health experts said the riot, as well as participants' travel to and from Washington, D.C., would likely further exacerbate a pandemic in which more than 22.5 million Americans have been infected and at least 375,000 people have died.

Scott Gottlieb, a physician and former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said on CBS "Face the Nation" Sunday that there will be "chains of transmission that come out of that kind of mass gathering."

News of Watson Coleman's hospitalization comes as House Democrats on Monday introduced articles of impeachment accusing Trump of "incitement of insurrection," and amid reports of an FBI bulletin warning of possible armed right-wing protests at numerous state Capitols in coming days and at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.

FBI memo warns pro-Trump extremists plan armed insurrections in across the US

The FBI on Monday warned law enforcement agencies across the United States that armed protests by Boogaloo Boys and other far-right groups are possible at state Capitols throughout the nation starting later this week, and that an unnamed militant group is planning a "huge uprising" if President Donald Trump is removed from office for inciting last week's deadly mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol.

"The FBI received information about an identified armed group intending to travel to Washington, D.C. on 16 January," the FBI bulletin—which was reported by ABC News and other outlets—read. "They have warned that if Congress attempts to remove POTUS via the 25th Amendment, a huge uprising will occur."

According to ABC News, the FBI has also received information that an unnamed right-wing extremist group is calling for "storming" federal, state, and local courthouses and other government buildings in the event that Trump is removed from office before his term expires on January 20.

The group is also planning on invading government offices in every state, regardless of whether Trump or President-elect Joe Biden won it in the 2020 presidential election, the FBI memo said.

NBC News reports the memo includes information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the DEA; Defense Department; Park Police; and the U.S. Marshals, among other agencies.

Another FBI memo from December 29, 2020 obtained by Yahoo News states that members of the Boogaloo movement planning protests scheduled for January 17 "indicated willingness to commit violence in support of their ideology, created contingency plans in the event violence occurred at the events, and identified law enforcement security measures and possible countermeasures."

The Boogaloo Boys are a far-right movement known for their violence, their Hawaiian shirts, and their desire to spark a second U.S. Civil War. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group's name and movement refer to their desire for a insurrectionist revolt that would constitute another Civil War. The first such war, started by secessionist Southern slave states, lasted from 1861 and 1865 and left some 620,000 Americans dead.

At least five people died during the January 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol that occurred while lawmakers were attempting to certify the Electoral College vote that officially affirmed Biden as the next president.

Trump, along with some of his most prominent supporters, as well as numerous Republican members of Congress, stand accused of inciting the rioters with with lies about a "stolen election" and exhortations to "take back our country" and engage in "trial by combat."

Common Dreams reported that House Democrats on Monday introduced articles of impeachment accusing Trump of "incitement of insurrection."

There are also growing calls for Republican inciters including Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) to resign over their roles in spurring the insurrectionists, and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) on Monday introduced a resolution calling for the expulsion of her GOP colleagues who incited the mob attack.

Federal judge blocks Trump order targeting lawyers supporting ICC Afghan war crimes probe

A federal judge in New York on Monday issued an injunction against President Donald Trump's June executive order sanctioning human rights lawyers cooperating with an International Criminal Court investigtion of alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla in Manhattan issued a preliminary injunction (pdf) barring the Trump administration from targeting four law professors with criminal or civil penalties for supporting the work of the ICC in its investigation of alleged extrajudicial killing, torture, rape, and other potential war crimes committed by military and CIA personnel and allied forces during the ongoing 19-year war in Afghanistan—the longest campaign of the so-called War on Terror.

"The court is mindful of the government's interest in defending its foreign policy prerogatives and maximizing the efficacy of its policy tools," Failla wrote. "Nevertheless, national security concerns must not become a talisman used to ward off inconvenient claims, a 'label' used to 'cover a multitude of sins.'"

The ruling came in a case filed last October by the Open Society Justice Initiative and professors Diane Marie Amann, Margaret deGuzman, Gabor Rona, and Milena Sterio, who argued that Trump's order violates their constitutional rights.

Failla determined that Trump's order unconstitutionally prohibits free speech "so as to induce [ICC officials] to desist from their investigation of U.S. and allied personnel."

James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, welcomed Failla's decision, saying in a statement that the injunction "affirms what we have said from the start: the executive order is misguided and unconstitutional, violating our fundamental rights to free speech."


The lawsuit came a month after Trump imposed sanctions targeting Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, the ICC's chief prosecutor and prosecution jurisdiction division director, respectively, in retaliation for their scrutinty of U.S. wartime conduct.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared at the time that "the United States has never ratified the Rome Statute that created the court, and we will not tolerate its illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction."

In April 2019, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II announced it would not grant a request by Bensouda to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, including deliberate attacks on civilians and child soldier conscription by Taliban militants, torture and sexual violence by members of Afghan National Security Forces, and torture of prisoners held in U.S. military and secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania.

The decision was condemned by human rights advocates, many of whom accused the ICC of bowing to intense pressure from the Trump administration after it barred Bensouda, a Gambian national, from entering the United States. The administration threatened further retaliation, including travel bans and economic sanctions, against the ICC.

In December 2019, the ICC convened a three-day hearing in The Hague, Netherlands at which prosecutors and Afghan victims of alleged U.S. and Afghan government torture pleaded with court officials to reverse their April decision and conduct a war crimes probe. The ICC unanimously ruled in March 2020 that the investigation could proceed. Pompeo condemned the decision, calling the ICC "an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body."

In July 2020, top Trump officials were further incensed after prominent Canadian jurist William Schabas submitted a request to the ICC to investigate senior U.S. and Israeli officials for alleged war crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

Looking ahead to Trump's January 20 departure from the White House, Goldston asserted that "rather than spending time defending an order in direct conflict with Washington's historic support for international justice, the incoming administration should rescind it on day one."

According to Reuters, the incoming Biden administration may consider lifting sanctions against the ICC officials, pending an evaluation of the role of sanctions in U.S. foreign policy.

'Shameful power grab': Pennsylvania GOP state senators slammed for refusing to seat certified election winner

The Pennsylvania state Senate was thrown into chaos Tuesday after Republican lawmakers refused to seat a certified Democratic winner of November's election and removed the lieutenant governor presiding over the session.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reports the raucous Senate session began with a pair of Republicans refusing to wear face masks, which prompted passage of a temporary rule proposed by Democrats compelling all legislators to don face coverings to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

With that out of the way, GOP senators then blocked the seating of 45th District Democratic incumbent Sen. Jim Brewster (McKeesport), who according to certified election results, defeated Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli by 69 votes—citing the latter's legal challenge of the results.



Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) called the Republican move "unlawful" and suggested that Democrats might contest it in court. Costa accused his Republicans colleagues of trying to "steal an election" in what he argued was as a continuation of "the Trump playbook," a referral to President Donald Trump's ongoing refusal to concede defeat to President-elect Joe Biden.

There were more fireworks. In addition to blocking Brewster, Republican senators also voted to take the rare step of removing Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman from presiding over the session, claiming he was not properly following Senate rules.

"I was escorted out," Fetterman told the New York Times minutes after his expulsion. "This was a corruption of the fundamental democratic franchise in our state."


The drama was far from over. After Fetterman's ouster, all but two Democratic senators refused to back Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) from being elected president pro tempore, a position that is second in the line of state succession to Gov. Tom Wolf.

Wolf, a Democrat, weighed in on the controversy Tuesday, issuing a statement saying, "Republicans in Pennsylvania and nationally have spread disinformation and used it to subvert the democratic process."

"Sen. Jim Brewster rightfully won the 45th Senate District, but Senate Republicans are ignoring the voters in the district and refusing to swear him in as senator," asserted Wolf. "This is a shameful power grab that disgraces the institution."


Wolf said it was "unethical and undemocratic to leave the district without a voice simply because the Republicans don't like the outcome of the election."

"Voters, not Harrisburg politicians, decided this election, and Sen. Brewster is the rightful winner," Wolf insisted. "All ballots were counted and certified, and the results are accurate. Sen. Brewster received the most votes in this race and should be sworn in as the senator for the 45th District. There is no precedent, and no legal rationale, for failing to do so."


Biden has a plan to undo Trump's 'midnight regulations'

A spokesperson for President-elect Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the incoming administration will quickly move to stop or postpone the rush of regulatory rollbacks being hastily enacted during the final weeks of President Donald Trump's tenure.

"The Biden-Harris White House will issue a memo to take effect afternoon Eastern Time on January 20 that will halt, or delay, midnight regulations," transition spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a press conference, referring to the last-minute flurry of federal rulemaking common with lame-duck administrations.

Psaki said that while it is normal for incoming administrations to block their predecessors' midnight regulations, "this freeze will apply not only to regulations but also guidance documents, [which] can have enormous consequences on the lives of the American people."

As an example Psaki named a Labor Department rule that would make it easier for employers to classify their workers as independent contractors and not employees in order to avoid paying them the minimum wage or providing legally mandated benefits.

"If it takes effect, that rule will make it easier to misclassify employees as independent contractors, costing workers more than $3.7 billion annually," said Psaki. "The [Biden] memo would potentially freeze this rule and not allow it to be implemented."

The Trump administration has been ramming through rollbacks of rules and regulations, which critics say could adversely affect millions of Americans, the environment, and the ability of the Biden administration to carry out its agenda.

Mandatory public comment periods and detailed policy analyses are being eschewed in favor of streamlined approval processes that have alarmed even some ardent deregulation advocates. Trump has overseen the reversal or weakening of over 100 regulations affecting everything from bomb trains to biometrics.

Many of Trump's 11th-hour rollbacks take aim at environmental regulations. Common Dreams reported Tuesday that the eco-advocacy group Environment America is urging Biden to immediately restore protections gutted by the outgoing president.

"By undoing the Trump administration's rollbacks of environmental protections, the Biden administration will be able to protect our natural landscapes and give Americans cleaner air, cleaner water, and a more livable climate," the group said.

National park ranger condemned for attacking unarmed Indigenous man on sacred native land

Indigenous and wilderness conservation groups were among those on Wednesday responding with outrage to video of a National Park Service ranger tasering an unarmed Indigenous man after he walked off a trail in Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico on Sunday and then refused to comply with the ranger's orders.

Darrell House, a Diné (Navajo) and Oneida U.S. Marine Corps veteran, was hiking with his sister and his dog in the Albuquerque park—which features many petroglyphs, or ancient stone carvings that are sacred to tribes—so that he could harvest dirt for ceremonies and pray.

House said he walked off a marked trail in order to socially distance himself from a large group of walkers when "this park ranger started following me."

"I guess he was upset about me going off trail before, you know, doing my prayers for the rocks," House told KOB. In a video released by the National Park Service, House repeatedly refuses to disclose his real name to the rangers.

"I didn't see a reason to give my identification," House told NBC News. "I don't need to tell people why I'm coming there to pray and give things in honor to the land. I don't need permission or consent. And I don't think he liked that very much."

A ranger House identifed by his last name Graden then fired his Taser at him. In a video recorded by his sister, House is seen writhing on the ground in agony next to his dog while the woman pleads for the attackers to stop.

"I don't have anything; I apologize for going off the trail," House says between cries of pain.

House said the attack left him "traumatized" and bleeding.

"I'm shaking," he wrote in an Instagram post. "What hurt me the most was when my baby Geronimo felt the shock," he said, referring to his dog.

"Here, you will see a white man abuse his power," House. "The law doesn't work for the Indigenous... You would think with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, with the Black Lives Matter Movement, authorities would try to avoid having to pull a weapon out. Imagine I disarm him from the taser then what, I get charged with assault, or worse he grabs for his gun and ends me."

"These scenarios have been going through my head since this afternoon," he added. "I'm a son, I'm a brother, I'm a father. More importantly, I'm a human being."

The Indigenous liberation group Red Nation released a statement on Wednesday condemning the attack on House. It read, in part:

The Petroglyphs National Monument, which is home to ancient Indigenous rock art that still retains spiritual and cultural significance to Indigenous people today, was initially created at the request of Native activists to protect the area from vandalism and developers. Instead, the NPS under the authority of the Department of Interior is policing Native people on Native land.
Public lands are stolen lands. Indigenous people have the right to practice their culture and spiritual ways on Indigenous land without fear of repression, discrimination, or violence. In consultation with our dear relative Darrell House, The Red Nation calls for a full investigation of NPS actions of racial terror that day, the termination of rangers Wineland and Graden, and restitution and a full apology to Darrell and his sister.

"LandBack begins with defunding racist police on Indigenous land, the Department of the Interior is no exception," the group added.

Michael Casaus, New Mexico state director at the Wilderness Society, also released a statement condemning the incident:

Park rules are there for protecting the lands but the enforcement of those policies should not come at the expense of protecting the humanity of all those who visit, especially if these are their traditional homelands. Our parks and open spaces should be welcoming and inclusive places of healing and comfort, yet they are not for so many, especially for Black and Indigenous people and people of color.
The original purpose of the monument was to protect and promote the understanding of the petroglyphs in relation to the cultural and natural features of the West Mesa and to further the heritage of traditional communities connected to these lands. Petroglyph National Monument is a place where Native people should be able to visit and honor the past, the present, and the future on the very lands their ancestors stood without fear for their safety.

House said the incident would not deter him from returning to walk and pray in the park again.

"I will go back, he told KRQE. "I am going to continue to do my prayers, going off trail without permission. Without consent. That is my right."

'Hypocrisy and horror': Trump's DOJ sparks outrage for refusing to take action in Tamir Rice killing

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it has closed its investigation of the fatal 2014 police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, saying no criminal charges would be filed against the officers involved because video of the killing was not good enough to conclusively determine what happened.

"The video footage is grainy, shot from a distance, does not show detail or perspective, and portions of the incident are not visible because of the location of the patrol car," the DOJ explained in a statement. "Further, the time lapse footage captures approximately two frames per second at a variable rate, which is incapable of capturing continuous action."

On November 22, 2014 two Cleveland officers, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, responded to a police dispatch call regarding "a guy with a pistol" seen near the Cudell Recreation Center playground on the city's West Side. A 911 caller said that the person, "probably a juvenile," was "scaring the shit out of everyone," but added that "the gun was probably fake."

Rice was playing with a replica pellet gun with the orange safety barrel cap removed when Loehmann, a rookie officer, fatally shot him.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury then elected to not prosecute the officers, sparking widespread national outrage and spurring the nascent Black Lives Matter movement.

In 2016, Rice's family and the city of Cleveland reached a $6 million settlement, although attorneys for the family said that "there is no such thing as closure or justice" in such situations.

The Justice Department said that "after extensive examination of the facts in this tragic event, career... prosecutors have concluded that the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Loehmann willfully violated Tamir Rice's constitutional rights, or that Officers Loehmann or Garmback obstructed justice."

Subodh Chandra, an attorney for Rice's family, issued a statement in the wake of Tuesday's DOJ announcement claiming the government's "process was tainted."

"It's beyond comprehension that the [Justice] Department couldn't recognize that an officer who claims he shouted commands when the patrol car's window was closed and it was a winter day is lying," Chandra said. "The Rice family has been cheated of a fair process yet again."

Fauci warns we're hitting a COVID 'surge on a surge' thanks to post-holiday spike

The United States will most likely experience a "post-seasonal" spike in coronavirus infections largely due to holiday travel and gatherings, current and former U.S. health officials said on Sunday.

"We very well might see a post-seasonal—in the sense of Christmas, New Year's—surge... a surge upon a surge," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an incoming chief medical adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, on CNN's "State of the Union."

"We're really at a very critical point," he warned.

"I share the concern of President-elect Biden that, as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse," Fauci added, referring to Biden's prediction earlier this week that "our darkest days in the battle against Covid-19 are ahead of us, not behind us."


U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams also said that a post-holiday infection surge was likely.

"But what the important thing for people to understand is that even if you traveled, it doesn't mean you just throw your hands up in the air and say, oh well," he said on ABC's "This Week."

"There are measures that you can take," said Adams, including getting tested, self-quarantining, and avoiding vulnerable people such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, appearing on CBS "Face the Nation," predicted "a grim month."

"We have a very difficult month ahead of us," he said, identifying California, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey as places "where cases are still building."

When asked how long it will be until the nation sees results from the two vaccines which have been administered to some 1.9 million Americans and counting, Gottlieb said that while vaccinations are "going to take about three weeks to get through all the nursing homes," there will be "some indication" that mass inoculation is "probably having an effect maybe as early as this week."


Fauci told CNN that in order to achieve "herd immunity"—the effective neutralization of the virus following the infection or vaccination of enough people—70% to 85% of the public would likely need to be inoculated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 179,104 new coronavirus infections and 1,309 new daily deaths on Sunday, for a total of 18.9 million U.S. infections and 330,901 Covid-19 deaths during the nine-month pandemic.

The health experts' warnings came the morning after Trump refused to sign a $900 billion pandemic relief bill, allowing unemployment coverage for millions of Americans to expire and threatening millions more with eviction as a federal moratorium was set to expire at the end of the year.

Trump acquiesced to bipartisan pressure and later on Sunday signed a $2.3 trillion Covid-19 relief and spending bill that will provide vaccine distribution, unemployment, small business, and airline company assistance, and fund the U.S. government through September 2021.

Relatives, activists and attorneys demand justice for unarmed Black man killed by Columbus police

Grieving relatives of Andre' Hill—an unarmed Black man shot dead by police in Columbus, Ohio earlier this week—along with their lawyers and community activists demanded justice at a Saturday afternoon candlelight vigil and news conference in the Ohio capital.

"My dad was my best friend," Hill's daughter Karissa Hill said at the vigil, according to WBNS. "He was my protector and my provider."

"Big daddy meant a lot in my home, to my kids, and to me," she added, referring to the name by which Hill's three grandchildren called him.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the family, told the audience that "until we get justice for Andre' Hill, there won't be no peace in Columbus, there won't be no peace in Ohio, there won't be no peace in America."

Hill "wasn't an intruder, he wasn't a criminal, he wasn't doing anything nefarious," Crump said. "His crime was he was a Black man."

"We want to find out how many times Andre' was shot, that's why we're going to do an independent autopsy," Crump added.


Hill, 47, was standing inside the garage of a friend's home early Tuesday morning when he was killed by veteran Columbus officer Adam Coy, who was responding to a neighbor's non-emergency disturbance complaint, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Footage from Coy's body camera shows the officer approaching an open door to a dark garage as Hill walks from behind a parked car toward him, holding up a cell phone in one hand. His other hand is not visible.

There is no audio in the footage leading up to the shooting, as neither Coy nor the officer who responded to the call with him had their body cameras turned on until after the incident. However, the cameras have a "look-back" feature that captures 60 seconds of video—but not audio—before they are turned on.



What is clear from the video is that Coy opened fire within 10 seconds of encountering Hill. The audio resumes as Hill is seen lying on the ground and Coy orderes him to put his hands out to his sides and roll over on his stomach. But Hill, who can be heard groaning in the video, does not move until Coy rolls him over.

The two officers waited four minutes before they called for medics. Five minutes into the video, Hill still hasn't received medical attention. Another officer who arrived at the scene can be heard suggesting, "let's cuff him up."

Columbus Police Chief Tom Quinlan on Thursday announced he had begun termination proceedings against Coy.

"Today is Christmas Eve," Quinlan said in a video explaining his decision, "a time when we should be gathering with those we love. The family of Andre' Hill has nothing to celebrate this holiday. Someone very important won't be with them this holiday, or any other."

"A Columbus police officer is responsible for that," the chief added. "And that breaks my heart. This is why today I am announcing action to terminate Officer Adam Coy."


Coy—who was roundly blasted by city officials for failing to turn on his body camera or render aid to Hill after shooting him—has a history of excessive force complaints during the course of his 19-year career. The Dispatch reported Coy had nine complaints filed against him in 2003 alone—including four in one month.

A visibly disturbed Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther spoke at a Wednesday press conference.

"To see [Hill] lying in the driveway, minute after minute after minute, with no attempt to render aid and comfort... I've never seen body-worn camera footage like that," he said.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is overseeing the investigation of Hill's killing, the Dispatch reported.

'Worse than Ajit Pai': Senate confirms Trump's unqualified FCC nominee

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Nathan Simington, President Donald Trump's parting nominee to the Federal Communications Commission, despite serious questions regarding his lack of qualification for the crucial post.

The senators voted along party lines, 49-46, to confirm Simington, an attorney and former senior adviser at the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Simington is a Trump loyalist who backed the president's May 2020 executive order to reinterpret Section 230, described by the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as "the most important law protecting internet speech." Simington said he was acting in the name of protecting free online expression.


However, critics called this claim highly dubious, noting the president issued the order after Twitter added warnings to two of his tweets for the first time, labeling his lies about mail-in voting as "potentially misleading."

Trump tapped Simington after withdrawing Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly's nomination for a new term in August following the commissioner expressing skepticism over whether the agency even had the constitutional authority to issue new social media regulations.

In October, Evan Greer, deputy director of the advocacy group Fight for the Future, called Simington "even worse than Ajit Pai," the outgoing FCC chairman.

"His only qualifications are his steadfast loyalty to an outgoing wannabe tyrant and his undying love for convoluted attacks on internet freedom," Greer wrote.



Simington's appointment, and the impending departure of Pai—who will step down on Trump's final day in office—means the FCC will be deadlocked with two Republican and two Democratic commissioners when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20. A deadlocked FCC would effectively thwart any early efforts to restore net neutrality rules repealed during Pai's tenure as chair.

While progressives and digital rights advocates applauded last month's announcement that Pai would be stepping down, those same voices expressed deep concerns about Simington.

Matt Wood, general counsel and vice president of policy at Free Press, called Simington's confirmation "a cynical Republican ploy to deadlock the Biden FCC."

Wood added that:

The whole point is to prevent a duly elected new administration and its appointees from getting to work. That's unacceptable, considering everything that a Biden FCC must do to promote broadband equity, increase media diversity, and ensure people can get and stay connected during this pandemic.

[Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell rammed this confirmation through despite Simington's utter lack of experience and expertise. But Simington needed only one qualification to pass muster with McConnell: a willingness to obstruct the incoming Biden administration from repairing the damage done under four years of Chairman Pai's incompetent and unpopular leadership.

All that the Trump FCC has to show for four years of negligence is nearly 80 million people without adequate home-internet service—tens of millions of them Black and Indigenous people of color, and all of them lacking affordable broadband choices in urban, rural, and tribal areas alike.

"This is a desperate bid by Senate Republicans as their majority still hangs in the balance," Wood said. "But it leaves the FCC with a profoundly unqualified commissioner placed there to prioritize industry pipe dreams and purposeful gridlock over the serious work the agency must do to help people connect and communicate during a national emergency."

Democratic lawmakers also expressed their staunch opposition to Simington's appointment. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called Simington "the wrong person at the wrong time for the FCC."




Biden—who has expressed support for net neutrality—has not indicated whether he will promote one of the two Democratic FCC commissioners—Jessica Rosenworcel or Geoffrey Starks—to replace Pai, or if he will look outside the agency for the next chairperson.




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