Jon Skolnik

New York attorney general launches new probe of disturbing allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Monday that she has received a referral letter to move forward with an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations made against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo by former members of his staff.

"This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously," James said after lawmakers on both sides of the aisles in New York and Washington D.C. called for a probe into Cuomo. All New York state employees have reportedly been directed to cooperate with the investigation.

Charlotte Bennet, a former staffer in the Cuomo administration, alleged that the governor had directly asked her about her sex life, which she interpreted as a sexual overture. A second allegation was made against Cuomo by former staffer Lindsey Boylan, who is now running for the Manhattan borough president. Boylan, who had worked for Cuomo as an economic development advisor, revealed in a blog post on Wednesday that Cuomo had made sexually charged comments to her and subjected her to a non-consensual kiss.

On Sunday, Cuomo officially apologized for any comments that "have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation." Cuomo alleged that he only teased his staffers about their personal lives to be "playful" and denied ever making any advances upon either of his former staffers.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed President Joe Biden's support for an "independent review" of the allegations made against Cuomo. "They're serious," she said. "It was hard to read that story as a woman. And that process should move forward as quickly as possible, and that's something we all support and the president supports."

Psaki's statement comes just after Cuomo backed down from attempting to dictate the terms of his own investigation. On Saturday, the Governor announced that the administration had tapped Judge Barbara Jones to lead the inquiry, drawing sharp criticism from both state and federal lawmakers, as Jones had previously worked with Steve Cohen, one of Cuomo's advisors. On Sunday, Cuomo finally ceded to calls for an independent probe by allowing Attorney General Letitia James to appoint an outside investigator.

"I'm glad to see that there will be a full, independent, and thorough investigation," former New York state senator and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement. "These stories are difficult to read, and the allegations brought forth raise serious questions that the women who have come forward and all New Yorkers deserve answers to."

"Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett's detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read," wrote Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, on Twitter. "There must be an independent investigation — not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who spearheaded an inquiry into the sexual assault allegations made against former Sen. Al Franken, echoed Ocasio-Cortez. ""These allegations are serious and deeply concerning," said on Sunday. "As requested by Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also joined the chorus of condemnation and expressed that he backed James' effort to assign to an independent investigator. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the allegations "credible."

State-level officials have been more strident about the allegations, some even calling for the Governor to step down.

On Saturday, New York state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, D, stated in a press release, "While a truly independent investigation may uncover more evidence or instances of abuse, the existing details are sufficient for me to form my conclusion," adding, "As a New Yorkers, a legislator, Chair of the Senate Ethics and Internal Governance Committee, and a survivor of sexual abuse, I am calling for Governor Cuomo to resign."

Mayor Bill De Blasio called for Cuomo to be stripped of his pandemic emergency powers as the investigation is underway.

'Unconscionable': Texas energy companies face stark criticism for price-gouging amid emergency

As the winter storm in Texas still leaves thousands without power, Texans are reporting that the cost of their utility bills has skyrocketed, with some bills in the thousands for just one week of power.

"The average price for electricity in Texas in the winter is about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration," NPR reported. "Texas utility regulators allowed that price to rise to $9 per kilowatt-hour."

Those most affected by the price hikes are on "variable-rate power plans," which gives energy companies the discretion to change the price depending on consumer demand. Generally, when demand increases, the price does too. Variable-rate plans are particularly desirable during periods of low energy usage (i.e. normal weather conditions) because customers get to pay at a discounted rate. However, when the devastating winter storm hit Texas, leaving millions without water and heat, those discounted rates went out the window.

Many utility companies have already begun the process of damage control. Last week, CPS Energy ("the nation's largest municipally-owned gas and electric utility") told customers that, while it is "unacceptable to have customers bears the costs on their monthly bill," it was "working diligently to find ways to spread those costs to 10 years or longer to make it more affordable."

Wholesale electricity retailer Griddy –– now being sued by a Chambers County resident for $1 billion –– remarkably insisted that its customers switch electricity providers before they might be affected by the price spikes. However, switching providers can take days, making it too late for customers to skirt around the bills.

Scott Willoughby, a 63-year-old veteran on Social Security told The New York Times that Griddy had charged him $16,752 for the month of February. "There's nothing I can do about it," Willoughby said, "But it's broken me."

Griddy wrote in a blog post last Thursday, "We intend to fight this for, and alongside, our customers for equity and accountability – to reveal why such price increases were allowed to happen as millions of Texans went without power,"

On Sunday, the Texas Public Utility Commission implemented two orders: to halt power disconnections due to non-payments and discontinue sending monthly estimates to customers. However, it should be noted that the commission gave the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) –– which oversees the majority of Texas' power grid –– the go-ahead to increase prices due to a bottleneck in supply.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot –– who erroneously attributed green energy to the sweeping outages –– has called for an investigation into ERCOT, five of whose board members announced they would resign on Wednesday. "We have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills that are a result of the severe winter weather and power outages," Abbot said on Saturday during an emergency meeting. Texans, however, are demanding that concrete action be taken.

"The state government is gonna have to step in and basically hold people harmless—in other words, make sure that those exorbitant costs are not passed onto the customer here," said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas. "And I think they're gonna see that there's gonna be a movement throughout Texas of people who are liberal and conservative and across the political spectrum who are refusing to pay $2,000 when for two days they didn't even get power, and they're not even responsible for the poor planning that went on by state leaders."

Other officials echoed Castro's concerns, emphasizing that customers should not bear the brunt of the financial cost when so many of them are already in vulnerable positions during the storm.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg told CNN on Sunday that "it would be unconscionable for bills to go up and for bills to be put on the backs of residents of the state that have been suffering and freezing their homes for the last week, through no fault of their own."

Although it's clear that Texas' energy crisis was primarily brought on by a wildly unregulated energy market, Republicans have nevertheless continued to blame green energy solutions. "Where is the story about the $2B "green" bio plant the City of Austin funded — that didn't produce 5 minutes of energy while Austin residents were without power for days?" tweeted Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Tex. "Doesn't much of the staff for @TexasTribune live in Austin? That's a layup."

Texas GOP officials are haunted by their past mockery of other states' natural disasters

After a blizzard shut down Texas's energy grid last weekend, leaving millions without power, Republican lawmakers from Texas are now being raked through the mud on Twitter for having jumped on the opportunity to mock a similar crisis in California last year.

California faced some of the biggest rolling blackouts in the state's history due to a record-breaking heat wave in 2020, with over 2 million residents affected by the outage. The crisis served as an inconvenient reminder to both state and federal officials that weatherization will become an increasingly important part of coping with the extreme weather changes brought on by climate change. Instead of expressing compassion for the state's residents, who were enduring wildfires, outages, and the COVID crisis all at the same time, many Republican lawmakers from Texas seized upon California's time of need to criticize Democratic leadership and the potential of green energy.

"California is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, tweeted last year, "Biden/Harris/AOC want to make CA's failed energy policy the standard nationwide. Hope you don't like air conditioning!"

Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-TX, echoed Cruz, specifically taking aim at the "corrupt 'green'" policies that have "left Texas energy workers out of a job" without citing any evidence that this has been the case. In fact, there is reason to believe that green energy has created jobs in Texas.

"California's energy nightmare shows us why Texas must trust the free market," Senator John Cornyn, R-TX, stated.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-TX, also joined the chorus last year, tweeting, "Alexa, show me what happens when you let Democrats control energy policy," but then attempted to defend his behavior.

California Governor Gavin Newsom cited climate change (a phenomenon accelerated by gas and coal power plants) as one of the main contributors to last year's blackout, but Texas Republicans nevertheless made non-renewable energy the culprit of California's blackouts, despite there being no evidence for this.

Republican lawmakers from Texas, who have a long history of touting their state's energy prowess, are finding themselves the butt of the joke as millions in the Lone Star State are facing days-long blackouts.

Although many right-wing lawmakers and pundits are loudly blaming frozen wind turbines for the historic blackout Texas is facing, coal and nuclear energy were reportedly responsible for about twice as many outages as renewables, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), which operates the state's power grid. Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program Jacobson, told the Associated Press, "It's really natural gas and coal and nuclear that are providing the bulk of the electricity and that's the bulk of the cause of the blackouts."

The impeachment case is overwhelming — so here's how the GOP is deflecting

On the second day of former President Trump's impeachment trial, emotions ran high on the Senate floor as lawmakers across both aisles watched aghast at security footage that had never before been seen, revealing just how close the rioters were to breaching the Senate chamber while members of Congress were still inside.

Democrats serving as the House impeachment managers showed clips of Sens. Mitt Romney, R-UT, and Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and former Vice President Mike Pence narrowly escaping the violent mob of marauders as they spread throughout the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Impeachment managers methodically recounted a timeline of the events leading up to the insurrection, citing various instances during the many months prior in which Trump sowed the seeds of violence in his followers.

One of the more expected moments in the trial occurred when House manager Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, cited a call Trump had mistakenly made to Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, during the insurrection, thinking that he had, in fact, called Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-AL. Lee claimed that he'd quickly given the phone to Tuberville, who Trump "reportedly" asked to make additional objections to the election certification process over a 10-minute phone call, during which Lee and Tuberville grew increasingly panicked as the riot unfolded.

"Excuse me, Tommy," Lee said he interjected at the time, "We have to evacuate. Can I have my phone?"

On Wednesday, Lee objected to Cicilline's recounting of the report to say that Trump had asked Tuberville to slow down the certification process, ultimately leading Cicilline to withdraw the statement. The House managers did, however, reserve the right to clarify their point on Thursday.

During and after the trial, many GOP senators were relatively forthright about their emotional state following the second day of the impeachment trial — a tense scene in which, as Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, described, "you could hear a pin drop."

Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH, expressed that it was "not easy" to watch the footage and admitted he and his colleagues were "not as protected as [they] thought [they] were."

Sen. Romney, one of the six senators who has expressed his support of the trial, said that he felt "very fortunate" for Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman, who rushed him away from the Senate chambers with just minutes to spare. The "violence that our Capitol Police and others were subjected to," Romney said, "tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes. That was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional."

"I just can't believe that we could lose the Capitol like that," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters, "I got mad. I mean these police officers had every right to use deadly force, they should have used it."

Many GOP senators commended on the clarity of the Democrats' case, a quality strikingly absent from Trump's legal team during the first day of the trial.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, who had also advocated for the trial in January, said, "I think that the House managers are making a very strong case for a timeline that laid out very clearly the words that were used, when he used them, how he used to really build the anger, the violence that we saw here in this Capitol."

"I think they've done a good job connecting the dots," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. told reporters, echoing Murkowski's praise, "The president's Twitter feed is a matter of public record, and they've done, like I said, an effective job of going back several months and just showing that public record."

However, Murkowski and Thune were not joined by most of their Republican colleagues, who remained unconvinced that the former president directly incited the violence that broke out on Capitol Hill.

When asked whether Wednesday's presentation would change his vote, Sen. Mike Braun, R-IA, said during a break, "No, because I've seen, I think, most of it," adding, "I think it's good to review it, but I don't know that that's going to make a difference for any one senator just having it on a loop again."

"They spent a great deal of time focusing on the horrific acts of violence that were played out by the criminals," said Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX, one of the dozen or so Senators who openly backed Trump's effort invalidate the election certification, "But the language from the president doesn't come close to meeting the legal standard for incitement."

Despite the visceral reaction elicited by the new footage Democrats had shown, the lack of any independent investigations or any witness testimony will make it unlikely for the impeachment team to sway more Republicans, solidifying Trump's inevitable acquittal.

In fact, many Republican senators continued to deflect blame to Democrats.

Others made a show of not paying attention to the trial.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri sat up in the gallery reading with his feet up a day after Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was seen by reporters — but not cameras, as Senate rules require only the speakers on the dais be shown — doodling what appeared to be a drawing of the Capitol. And Ted Cruz was rage tweeting about a UK hospital's decision to drop terms considered to be trans-exclusionary such as "breast milk."

Even Trump's biggest Fox News cheerleaders think his impeachment lawyers are doing a terrible job

Donald Trump's lawyers put forth such a flimflam argument to open the Senate's impeachment trial that his biggest sycophants in the right-wing media didn't even bother trying to spin in the disastrous first day.

On Wednesday, Sean Hannity pressed Trump lawyer David Schoen on his team's performance. "I'm not attacking your partner. I don't know him at all, but I like focused arguments."

As Hannity's show closed, Ingraham told her colleague that she was glad to see him press Schoen on Castor's argument.

"Yeah, a little meandering, a little free-associate..." Hannity said of Castor's cringeworthy defense.

Ingraham cut him off. "It was terrible. I'm sorry, it was," she said to Hannity. "You're way too charitable. If you hired that guy in a case that you were paying the bills on, it woulda been like..."

Hannity admitted that he was "a little nervous" at the beginning of Castor's defense.

"How much time can he spend praising the democrats?" Ingraham asked. "The whole thing was, like, a walk down memory lane."

"Sorry," Ingraham continued, "I'm pretty worked up about given what's at stake for the Constitution and the country."

On "Fox & Friends" the next morning, co-host Brian Kilmeade offered a similarly dissatisfied review.

"These are not helpful things that was happening on the president's behalf," Kilmeade spoke for the former president who has gone curiously silent since being booted from Twitter. "You wouldn't blame him if he was upset, but it might've been the president's fault for firing his other attorneys that were doing all the preparing."

Susan Collins suggests going easy on Trump — even after lashing out at Chuck Schumer

Senators Susan Collins, R-ME, and Tim Kaine, D-VA, are privately floating the idea of censuring Trump as the chances of a post-impeachment conviction grow slimmer without substantial Republican support, according to Axios.

On Tuesday, forty-five Senate Republicans voted against holding a trial for Trump's impeachment, dismissing the trial as "unconstitutional." While the 45-55 split will allow the trial to move forward, such a critical mass of Republican opposition does not bode well for a proper conviction, which would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate. A least seventeen more Senate Republicans will be needed to convict.

"I think it's pretty obvious from the vote...that it is extraordinarily unlikely that the president will be convicted," Collins said following the vote, "Just do the math."

The Maine Republican who spent nearly the entirety of Trump's term in a perpetual state of disappointment seems to hold more animosity for her new Senate Leader, Chuck Schumer, D-NY.

In fact, a small coterie of House Republicans led by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, introduced a censure earlier this month, calling Trump's "attempts to undermine the outcome of the 2020 election…unconscionable." Those backing the effort included Reps. Young Kim, R-CA, John Curtis, R-UT, Peter Meijer, R-MI, Tom Reed, R-NY, and Fred Upton, R-MI. At the time, however, House Democrats shut down the Republican-backed censure, deriding it as a lukewarm attempt to hold the President accountable.

Despite the lack of support needed in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, has vowed to nevertheless hold a proper impeachment trial, tabling a point order by Senator Rand Paul, R-KY, a vocal objector to the trial.

Schumer called the Republicans' move to dismiss the trial "deeply irresponsible."

"I would simply say to all of my colleagues," Schumer declared, "There will be a trial, and the evidence against the former president will be presented in living color for the nation and every one of us to see once again."

Schumer faces challenges from both ailes as questions over the filibuster loom large with a 50-50 Senate split. Even with Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's, R-KY, power-sharing agreement –– which seeks to circumvent procedural impasses in committee organizing –– the debate surrounding the filibuster is far from over.

Progressive Democrats see the filibuster as an outdated holdover that Republicans have historically used to undermine legislative progress, posing Congressional obstacles for a Biden presidency. As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, tweeted last September, "The filibuster wasn't made w/ purpose. It's the result of an accident in rulebook revision & bloomed as a cherished tool of segregationists," adding, "Now it empowers minority rule. That's not "special," it's unjust." Sen. Elizabeth Warren has likewise expressed a strong interest in killing the filibuster.

More centrist Democrats are, however, less enthused with the idea of eliminating the procedural relic. Senators Joe Manchin, D-WV, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ, are holding out hope for bipartisan cooperation. "Busting the filibuster under any conditions is wrong," said Sen. Manchin, "We can organize the Senate. I'm sure we can work through that.

Meanwhile, Schumer –– a Democratic centrist who has a reputation as a "consensus builder, not a dictator," –– is still trusted by many of his GOP colleagues to live by this reputation with respect to the filibuster. Sen. Lindsey Graham called Schumer "capable, smart, hard-working, tenacious." Graham told CNN, "I've found him to be honest [...] He's got a problem. He's the majority leader with a primary challenge looming over his shoulder."

With pressure on both sides of the aisle, Schumer will play a consequential role in determining the fate of the filibuster. Hopefully, Sen. McConnell, who did away with a 60-vote threshold to confirm President Trump's three conservative Supreme Court nominees, is poised to get a taste of his own medicine.

This young poet laureate stole the show at Biden's inauguration with an unforgettable performance

When poet Amanda Gorman took center stage during President Joe Biden's inauguration to deliver her poem "The Hill We Climb," it became immediately clear why she was chosen to precede him on the podium.

Only four presidents —John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and now, Biden — have had poets read at their inaugurations and Gorman captivated viewers across America as she spoke of a shaded past and a lighter future, not shying away from four years of grief and trauma, but nevertheless determined to offer an outlook for America's redemption.

Her presence as a young Black woman artist on stage felt deeply historic, especially as deep political divisiveness and racist rhetoric from government leaders and law enforcement has continued to come into clearer view over the last four years. And everything about her reading — from the development of her work, to her chosen outfit, to the poem itself — is imbued with symbolism.

Here's everything you need to know about Gorman and her performance:

Who is Amanda Gorman?

Gorman is a 22-year-old poet from Los Angeles and is the youngest poet to ever perform on Inauguration Day. According to the New York Times, Gorman developed a love of poetry at a young age.

As Gorman told NPR's Steve Inskeep, she, like President Joe Biden, had a speech impediment as a child. She said that was one of the reasons that she was drawn to poetry. "Having an arena in which I could express my thoughts freely was just so liberating that I fell head over heels, you know, when I was barely a toddler," she said.

Gorman was encouraged to really pursue her craft by her middle school teacher mother, Joan Wicks, and became the first person to hold the position of National Youth Poet Laureate at 16. Later, she attended Harvard to study sociology.

How was Gorman chosen to perform at the inauguration?

According to Harper's Bazaar, several weeks before the inauguration, Dr. Jill Biden stumbled upon a video of Gorman reading her original poem "In This Place: An American Lyric" at the Library of Congress in 2017. A Zoom call was set up between Biden and Gorman, during which Gorman was invited to compose and read an original poem.

"They did not want to put up guardrails for me at all," Gorman told the New York Times. "The theme for the inauguration in its entirety is 'America United,' so when I heard that was their vision, that made it very easy for me to say, great, that's also what I wanted to write about in my poem, about America united, about a new chapter in our country."

What was Gorman's writing process like?

Gorman described to several publications how she initially struggled with the enormity of the project ahead of her. She told the Los Angeles Times that she listened to music that helped put her "in a historic and epic mind-set," including soundtracks from "The Crown," "Lincoln," "Darkest Hour" and "Hamilton."

What enabled her to fully complete the poem, however, was observing the insurrection attempt at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

"I wasn't trying to write something in which those events were painted as an irregularity or different from an America that I know," Gorman said. "America is messy. It's still in its early development of all that we can become. And I have to recognize that in the poem

With this in mind, she wrote the lines: "We've seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it / Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy / And this effort very nearly succeeded / But while democracy can be periodically delayed / It can never be permanently defeated."

What poem did Gorman read and what did it mean?

Gorman recited her original poem "The Hill We Climb," a poignant, self-aware piece that speaks boldly to the deep divides in this country, led by people who would rather topple democracy than accept defeat. And yet, she acknowledges how powerful it is that we are in "a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one."

While "The Hill We Climb" describes the brokenness and hopelessness many in this country may feel following Trump's incitement of violence, the poem encourages listeners with the knowledge that they can "step out of the shade." Gorman told NPR that she dug into the works of orators like Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, who all were tasked with calling for hope and unity in times of division.

One particular line that seemed to stand out to viewers was, "Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid. If we're to live up to her own time, then victory won't lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we've made."

"Under their own vine and fig tree" is a phrase found in multiple places throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and is used to describe the simple life of a farmer who was independent of military oppression. It was later used by George Washington nearly 50 times in various correspondence, as a reference to the American Revolution. Then, in a 1787 issue of the New York Journal it was used by a writer to describe America as a place for oppressed immigrants to find independence.

You may also recognize the line from the "Hamilton" song "One Last Time," where it's contextualized as, "Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree/And no one shall make them afraid/They'll be safe in the nation we've made."

Gorman's inclusion of that phrase speaks to America's founding as a place that had the potential to be free of oppression, and the ongoing dream that it could be true for all Americans, regardless of race or cultural background.

How did people respond to "The Hill We Climb"?

Gorman's recitation was met with rhapsodic praise from celebrities, artists, and political organizations alike, who took to Twitter to express their own thoughts on her sober, yet hopeful outlook.

"I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman!" said celebrity entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey, "Maya Angelou is cheering — and so am I."

Gorman also got nods from people in the news media, with CBS National Correspondent David Begnaud saying, "Watch Amanda Gorman. It's a treat." Seth Abramason, a popular columnist from Newsweek, also boosted Gorman's poem on Twitter, urging others to do so.

Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown posted on Twitter, "Oh this is just lovely. Flow like water," later quoting one of Gorman's most poignant lines on Twitter: "If only we're brave enough to see it, if only we're brave enough to be it." American legal scholar Lawrence Tribe also applauded the youth poet: "Amanda Gorman's inspiring inaugural poem perfectly captured the challenge of the moment — and our hopes for the future.

Meanwhile, many Democratic politicians joined the chorus. Senator Cory Booker, expressed on Twitter, "Thank you, Amanda Gorman, for sharing such powerful and inspiring words today." Congresswoman Stacey Abrams said, "Amanda Gorman's message serves as an inspiration to us all." Former First Lady Michelle Obama also added, "With her strong and poignant words, @TheAmandaGorman reminds us of the power we each hold in upholding our democracy. Keep shining, Amanda! I can't wait to see what you do next."

Even Republican political action committee The Lincoln Project chimed in, "Amanda Gorman's poem on unity is one for the history books."

Dazzling as it was, however, reception to Gorman's poem was not without criticism. Editor-in-chief of The Dispatch Jonah Goldberg went against the grain, and admitted, "Not loving this poem."

What's the story behind Gorman's outfit?

Gorman accessorized with subtle symbolism in mind. She wore a ring bearing the emblem of a caged bird, a tribute to poet Maya Angelou, the author of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," who performed at the 1993 presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton.

That ring was a gift from Oprah Winfrey. As Gayle King reported on CBS News on Wednesday morning, Oprah had actually gifted Angelou with the coat she wore that day and wanted to continue the tradition, but Gorman had already purchased the yellow coat seen on Biden's Inauguration Day, so Oprah gave her the earrings she is wearing, as well as the ring, as a nod to Angelou.

Trump spent his final moments in the White House raging at Republican leaders on Capitol Hill: report

With no one else to blame for his own election defeat, President Trump has zeroed in on one of his earliest Congressional backers, House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA.

According to the New York Times' Maggie Haberman, Trump is spending his final moments in the White House fuming because he is still convinced that he won the election. In keeping with his aversion to personal responsibility, Trump has now put a target on his once stalwart ally, who has, as of late, not shown the unconditional support he demands.

McCarthy –– who supported the President's crusade to overturn the election and voted against the electoral certification of President-elect Joe Biden –– surprised his colleagues on the House floor last week when he cast slight aspersion on Trump following the riot on Capitol Hill. "The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters," McCarthy said, treading a fine line, "He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding."

After condemning the riot despite propagating the very lies which incited it, McCarthy stopped short of calling for Trump's impeachment, instead suggesting that censure or a bi-partisan investigation would be better suited for the circumstances. Although McCarthy said just about the bare minimum to oppose Trump, the President is reportedly furious with him for not staying true to the Big Lie. The President's sudden disownment of one of his most loyal boosters comes just after Trump's bizarre disavowal of Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump asked to do the impossible by invalidating the Electoral College votes.

After supporting Trump's baseless election fraud crusade, but condemning the Capitol riot while defending Trump against a second impeachment, McCarthy has now alienated himself on Capitol Hill, with Democrats and Republicans alike demanding that he step down.

The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump Republican political action committee, denounced McCarthy as a "pathetic enabler," telling the Senator, "pack up [his] desk." A blistering op-ed in the Sacramento Bee, a paper-based in McCarthy's home state of California called him a "soulless anti-democracy conspirator." Even McCarthy's very own mentor retired California Congressman Bill Thomas tarred his former protégé as a "hypocrite" for supporting the "the phony lies the President perpetuated."

The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump Republican political action committee, denounced McCarthy as a "pathetic enabler," telling the Senator, "pack up [his] desk." A blistering op-ed in the Sacramento Bee, a paper-based in McCarthy's home state of California called him a "soulless anti-democracy conspirator." Even McCarthy's very own mentor retired California Congressman Bill Thomas tarred his former protégé as a "hypocrite" for supporting the "the phony lies the President perpetuated."

Here's why Rudy Giuliani is having an absolutely terrible week

On Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department placed sanctions on seven foreign members of Rudy Giuliani's inner circle who sought to interfere in the U.S. election and sway the results in Trump's favor. The president has also reportedly dropped his reliance on Giuliani for his second impeachment trial, refusing to pay Giuliani for his unsuccessful post-election campaign to overturn November's results. Meanwhile, the New York State Bar Association has moved to disbar Giuliani this week. Needless to say, the week after he told thousands of Trump supporters to hold "trial by combat" before many of them violently stormed the U.S. Capitol with aims to halt the Constitutionally mandated certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for Rudy Giuliani.

The Treasury's targets include Russian-linked Ukrainians Konstantin Kulyk, Oleksandr Onyshchenko, Andriy Telizhenko, Oleksandr Dubinsky, and –– most principally –– Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker sanctioned just last year, who played a key role in orchestrating the Biden-Ukraine conspiracy theory. It was with the help of these actors that Giuliani spearheaded a failed campaign to smear President-elect Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, with false claims of past corruption. Trump's call to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky –– in which the President pressured Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden on his behalf –– would become the impetus for the President's own impeachment.

"Since at least 2019," said the Treasury in a statement on Wednesday, "Derkach and his associates have leveraged U.S. media, U.S.-based social media platforms, and influential U.S. persons to spread misleading and unsubstantiated allegations that current and former U.S. officials engaged in corruption, money laundering, and unlawful political influence in Ukraine."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a steadfast Trump loyalist, also attempted to add distance between his agency and Giuliani and his goons. "Russian disinformation campaigns targeting American citizens are a threat to our democracy [...] The United States will continue to aggressively defend the integrity of our election systems and processes."

"Trump has been blaming his longtime personal attorney and many others for the predicament he now finds himself in, though he has not accepted any responsibility in public or in private," CNN reported this week. "Giuliani is still expected to play a role in Trump's impeachment defense but has been left out of most conversations thus far."

The New York State Bar Association has also made moves to disavow Giuliani in light of last Wednesday's chaos. The Bar announced on Monday that it has launched an inquiry into Giuliani's role in Trump's months-long crusade to undermine the election. The group's bylaws make explicit reference to anyone "who advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States, or of any state, territory or possession thereof, or of any political subdivision therein, by force or other illegal means" and disowns anyone who has engaged in such activity.

The Association stated, "Mr. Giuliani's words quite clearly were intended to encourage Trump supporters unhappy with the election's outcome to take matters into their own hands," adding, "Their subsequent attack on the Capitol was nothing short of an attempted coup, intended to prevent the peaceful transition of power."

Giuliani, who called for "a trial by combat" in the rally leading up the riot on Capitol Hill, now faces the threat of permanent expulsion from the Bar, which would render him unlicensed to practice law in the state of New York. "We cannot stand idly by," said the Association, "and allow those intent on rending the fabric of our democracy to go unchecked."

Capitol siege sparked pro-Trump protests nationwide — several statehouses stormed

While a violent horde of Trump supporters waged an insurrection on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, pro-Trump protesters also stomped on state grounds across the country to protest President-elect Joe Biden's victory –– a fate officially sealed by the Electoral College later that day. Thousands took to their city and state government buildings in solidarity with the attempted uprising on Capitol Hill, displaying their outrage beyond just D.C.

In California, hundreds assembled in front of the Capitol in Sacramento, waiving Trump flags and clashing with counter-protestors. According to the Sacramento Police, eleven people were arrested, with one report of an assault. A "large police presence will remain in the area throughout the night," the Sacramento Police Department wrote on Twitter. Protesters also gathered at the Los Angeles City Hall, according to the LAPD. Six people were arrested for unlawful demonstration, and three people were apprehended for possessing unpermitted items.

A group of protestors gained access to grounds of the Washington Governor Jay Inslee's Mansion in Olympia, breaking through the Governor's security gates, but were deterred from making entry into the building. "They did not make access to the entrance itself, just to the grounds," said State Patrol spokesman Darren Wright. Just outside the building, far-right group Patriot Prayer's leader, Joey Gibson, put on a fervid speech parroting Trump's election conspiracy and decrying pandemic restrictions.

More demonstrations surfaced in the Pacific Northwest with altercations erupting in Salem, Oregon just outside the Capitol building, where protestors burned an effigy of Governor Kate Brown. Oregon Republican Rep. Mike Nearman was caught on video opening a door to protestors who rushed in and some then sprayed six law enforcement officers with a chemical substance and violently attacked journalists. When counter-demonstrators arrived on the scene hours later, physical violence broke out between the two groups, after which the Oregon State police declared the demonstration an unlawful assembly and dispersed the crowd. Two arrests were made for harassment and trespassing with a gun.

In Georgia –– where Republican State Secretary Brad Raffensberger recently released a damning phone call recording of Trump asking elections officials to "find" more votes in his favor –– a group of protestors convened outside the State Capitol. Several attendees were members of a Georgian militia armed with assault-style weapons –– including on former leader of the KKK. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told The New York Post, "We heard reports of threats and left immediately." Secretary Raffensberger, along with his staff, were forced to evacuate from the building.

A New Mexico statehouse containing the Governor's office in Santa Fe was also evacuated in response to swarms of Trump supporters who descended upon the building. Hundreds of flag-waving Trumpsters arrived in a vehicle caravan, honking their horns and yelling over a megaphone about Trump's "rightful" victory, despite Biden's 11% winning margin in New Mexico.

In Lansing, Michigan, about 800 protestors came together outside the State Capitol, clinging to the hope that Trump will be vindicated. Attendees held flags that read "Stop the steal" and "Fake virus," while organizers blasted a video feed of Trump's speech Wednesday in the Ellipse. The demonstration proved more innocuous than last year's back in March when an armed state militia attempted to make their way inside the Capitol in protest of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order.


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