Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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Flashback: Tammy Baldwin Mourned ‘Innocent Victims’ on Pro Hamas Flotilla

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U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) once lamented what she labeled the tragic loss of “innocent victims” on a pro-Hamas flotilla that she misleadingly described as a “Freedom Flotilla” that was simply “carrying activities and supplies” to the Gaza Strip for humanitarian purposes.

The comments were, minimally, exceptionally naive and incomplete.

The truth of the Mava Marmara raid by Israeli commandos is complex, and Israel is not above scrutiny or criticism over it, but Baldwin’s statement misleadingly adopted the most simplistic anti-Israeli rhetoric.

For example, she ignored the fact that a pro-Hamas Turkish group organized the flotilla, and that Israeli commandos were attacked when they attempted to board the boat, which was purposely attempting to violate the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip for political and propaganda reasons.

“All of them were terrorists who belonged to IHH (the Turkish group) and wanted to kill Israeli soldiers,” Israeli Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom told The Jerusalem Post.

“On the deck of the Mavi Marmara, the IDF (Israeli) soldiers were met with extreme violence,” a report on the incident by the Israeli Turkel Commission reads.

The raid commander told the Commission, “As we approached, I gave an order not to carry out any shooting at this stage, including with less-lethal weapons. When we came close to the stern, we began to receive a barrage of objects, anything that came to hand, including metal bars, metal chairs, large cans of tinned food, large screws, which hit the combat personnel and the boat. One of the combat personnel was hit by a blunt object in the face and was cut under the eye. Another of the combat personnel was hit by a metal object on the head, and I gave an order to fire less-lethal weapons at the persons using violence against us.” The phrase “Allahu Akbar” rang out.

As Baldwin now attempts to position against Hamas in the wake of the 2023 attacks on Israel, her previous stance on the Mava Marmara raid is illustrative; for years, Baldwin has attempted to act like she is pro-Israel while taking actions that are anything but. As we previously reported, she has taken a series of anti-Israel policy positions over the years, and she has been weak on Iran, supporting Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal and opposing sanctions against that terrorist regime. At election time, Baldwin tends to remake herself.

It is in this context that we bring her comments on the pro-Hamas flotilla.

“I was deeply troubled to learn of the violence and loss of life when six ships delivering humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip were attacked last week. My heart goes out to the many innocent victims,” Baldwin said at the time, becoming one of only a few people in Congress to speak out against the raid. In that same letter, she stressed her opposition to Israeli’s blockage of Gaza. She urged a “ceasefire” and said she supported both “Israeli and Palestinian peoples.” She wrote that she was pressing for a “full and impartial investigation,” presumably against Israel.

When Hamas, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel imposed the blockade that Baldwin opposed.

Baldwin’s naive statement ignores the following:

    • The flotilla “was organized by a Turkish charity that is sympathetic to Hamas,” according to Jewish Telegraph Agency.
    • BBC reported that Israeli officials said the Israeli commandos “opened fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and a gun which was taken from them,” although the people on the boat denied this.
    • The Turkish charity (IHH) that organized the flotilla “is closely linked to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas…and is a member of another organization, the Union of the Good, which supports suicide bombings,” BBC reported, attributing the information to the Israeli government.
    • According to American Progress, Israel banned the group in July 2008, along with 35 other organizations, “since they are part of Hamas’s fundraising network.”
    • “Israel has long maintained that İHH is an extremist group with ties to Hamas, but only placed it on its terrorist list after the Gaza flotilla incident,” American Progress noted. “Germany banned the organization’s Frankfurt affiliate due to its relationship with Hamas on July 12, 2010.”
    • According to the German publication Taz, “The cooperation and ideological proximity of the IHH towards radical Islamic Hamas, which took power in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, was already known before this conflict.”
    • Taz reported that, in a video published by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a man spoke to people aboard the “Mavi Marmara” who were kneeling on the ground and said, “We follow the footsteps of the martyrs…If you send the commandos, we will throw you on board.” Dozens of listeners shout to him: “Millions of martyrs march to Gaza!”
    • According to Taz, in the mid-1990s, German prosecutors “had already accused the IHH of using donations for Muslims in Bosnia not for humanitarian purposes, but to finance the Islamist Milli-Görüs movement in Turkey. And even in the Chechen war, weapons are said to have been bought instead of aid, according to the prosecutor’s office.”
    • Taz reported that IHH head Bülent Yildirim “has met with Hamas leaders several times: in January 2010 with Ismail Haniyya and in January 2009 with Khalid Mashaal, who lives in Damascus in exile. He thanked Mashal for the help. About a year ago, Yildirim said in Gaza: ‘Three or four years ago, Hamas was known as a terrorist organization. Today we call Israel, the USA and Great Britain the terrorists.'”

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A report from the United Nations General Assembly outlined the violence perpetrated against commandos by the people on the boat but also was critical of the Israelis, saying they violated international law.

According to that report, the closure on the Gaza Strip “was imposed by Israel after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. In September 2007, Israel declared the Gaza Strip ‘hostile territory’ and that the movement of goods into and out of Gaza would be restricted for security concerns as well as in order to apply pressure on the Hamas government ‘as part of the State of Israel’s operations against continuous terrorism.'” That’s the blockade Baldwin opposed.

“From mid-2008, in response to the Free Gaza Movement’s attempts to enter Gaza by sea, the Israeli Government took a series of steps aimed initially at deterring shipping from traveling to the area. A Notice to Mariners was issued stating that all ships entering the central zone of the Gaza Maritime Area would be ‘subject to supervision and inspection,'” the report says.

The UN believed the flotilla was motivated by “concerns about the possible propaganda victory that might be claimed by the organizers of the flotilla” versus posing an active security threat.

“The Free Gaza Movement, a human rights organization registered as a charity in Cyprus, organized five successful boat voyages to Gaza between August and December 2008 using on each occasion one or two small boats. The self-declared purpose of the voyages was to break the blockade on Gaza,” the report said.

The UN said that while the flotilla did try to bring humanitarian supplies through the blockade, it’s primary objective was political. “Many of the participants interviewed did not have specific skills or qualifications for humanitarian work,” the report says.

Israel made its plans clear that it planned to prevent the flotilla from breaking the blockade, using diplomatic efforts to deter it, the report says.

“Video evidence shows a meeting of about 50 to 100 passengers on the ship on 30 May at which the IHH President and a number of other prominent passengers spoke with some bravado about preventing an Israeli takeover of the ship. The pressure of the water hoses was seen being tested on the decks the day before the interception,” the report says.

Some passengers also sawed off railings to turn them into weapons. Israeli authorities released recordings showing that insulting references were made referring to “Auschwitz” and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The UN could not authenticate those, though.

“The Israeli forces attempted to board the ship through attaching ladders to the hull. Passengers engaged in efforts to repel the attempted boarding using the ship’s water hoses and the throwing of various items at the boats including chairs, sticks, a box of plates and other objects that were readily to hand. This initial attempt to board the ship proved unsuccessful,” the report says.

“A fight ensued,” resulting in “at least two soldiers being pushed down onto the bridge deck below, where they were involved in struggles with groups of passengers who attempted to take their weapons,” the UN report says. “The equipment jacket of at least one soldier was removed as he was pushed over the side of the deck. A number of weapons were taken from the soldiers by passengers and thrown into the sea: one weapon, a 9-mm pistol, was unloaded by a passenger, a former U.S. Marine, in front of witnesses and then hidden in another part of the ship in an attempt to retain evidence.”

In addition, says the report, a “number of the passengers on the top deck fought with the soldiers using their fists, sticks, metal rods and knives. At least one of the soldiers was stabbed with a knife or other sharp object.” Passengers also used catapults to propel projectiles at helicopters.

In return, the Israel forces used paintballs, plastic bullets and live ammunition, “fired by soldiers from the helicopter above and soldiers who had landed on the top deck,” which resulted in the deaths of four passengers and injuries to 19 others, the report says, claiming “Israeli soldiers continued shooting at passengers who had already been wounded, with live ammunition, soft baton charges (beanbags) and plastic bullets.”

“The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution,” the report says. However, a separate Israeli inquiry called the Turkel Commission concluded that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) acted lawfully. That commission explained that the blockade arose after a series of terroristic and security concerns including smuggling of weapons on ships.

“Overall, the IDF personnel acted professionally in the face of extensive and unanticipated violence,” the Commission found.

However, no other than Joe Biden defended the raid at the time, calling it “legitimate.”

“We stopped all the ships and it was all done in two hours. Over 700 people were arrested. Whoever was killed or injured were IHH terrorists and the eight soldiers who were injured returned to service,” Marom told Jerusalem Post, calling the raid a success. “Twelve years later, there are no flotillas,” he said.

Israel Defense Forces told Haaretz that some of the activists on the flotilla tried to “lynch” commandos.

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Prosecutors Rest Their Case Against Trump in Hush Money Trial

State prosecutors rested their case against former President Donald Trump on Monday, capping off four weeks of testimony from 20 witnesses.

The first-ever trial of a former President was one step closer to a conclusion after prosecutors concluded their case Monday. Next up: Trump's attorneys will get a chance to present their defense. The case centered around Trump's alleged sexual encounter with an adult film actress in 2006 and a $130,000 payment to her in 2016 to keep her quiet ahead of the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied the encounter happened.

Prosecutors allege that Trump covered up the payment to Stormy Daniels and another hush money payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal ahead of the election and covered them up as legal payments.

Trump, 77, is the first former U.S. president to be charged with a felony.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law when he falsified business records with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege Trump falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors allege the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements. Both Cohen and Daniels testified during the trial.

Daniels detailed the alleged 2006 sexual encounter and testified she "blacked out." She also said Trump didn't wear a condom. Defense attorneys asked for a mistrial after that testimony, which they argued was prejudicial.

Judge Juan Merchan denied that motion and repeatedly fined Trump for his comments and social media activity outside of the courtroom. Merchan ordered Trump to pay a total of $10,000 for violations of the gag order.

The gag order remains in place. Trump, the nation's 45th president, is prohibited from making or directing others to make public statements about the jurors, witnesses, attorneys, court staff, district attorney staff and family members of staff.

It is not clear if Trump plans to take the stand in his own defense. He previously said he would take the stand if necessary.

Under New York state law, falsifying business records in the first degree is a Class E felony that carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

In late March, Trump said that he wasn't worried about a conviction when asked if he thought a conviction could hurt his chances of returning to the White House.

"It could also make me more popular because the people know it's a scam," he said. "It's a Biden trial, there is no trial, there's a Biden trial."

Whatever happens during the trial, Trump will be protected by the U.S. Secret Service.

Even if convicted and sentenced to jail, Trump could continue his campaign to retake the White House.

"The Constitution does not bar felons from serving as President," said Richard Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Trump could not pardon himself from any state charges, Hasen said.

Federal Scholarship Program Under Fire For Alleged Bias Against Conservatives

Lawmakers have threatened to revoke the appropriations for a federally-funded scholarship program that an audit found favors liberally leaning students over conservatives by a ratio of 10 to 1.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established in the 1970s to award scholarships to students who “demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service.”

An audit of those scholarships performed by the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, though, reported strong liberal bias at the taxpayer-funded foundation.

“While this role suggests these programs should include scholars who reflect a breadth of views, values, and interests, their participants instead display a stark ideological tilt,” AEI said in its report.

The foundation does have members of both parties on its board, including U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kans.

Notably, President Joe Biden's Education Secretary Miguel Cardona also sits on the board.

House Republican lawmakers on leadership on the relevant committees sent a letter to foundation Executive Secretary Terry Babcock-Lumish demanding answers.

“Between 2021 and 2023, the Truman Foundation selected 182 Truman winners,” the letter said. “Yet, despite the Truman Foundation’s claims that it ‘supports scholars from a wide range of perspectives, interests, and geographic areas,’ just six recipients espoused interest in a cause traditionally considered conservative-leaning.

“Not a single winner professed interest in causes such as protecting the rights of the unborn or defending the Second Amendment,” the letter continued. “By contrast, the Foundation selected at least 74 winners professing interest in a progressive cause.”

The foundation awards about 60 scholarships every year.

“As a publicly funded award charged with preparing the civic leaders of tomorrow, the Truman Scholarship should, at a bare minimum, be reflective of the country’s breadth of values, viewpoints, and interests,” the letter said. “The Truman Foundation requested approximately $3 million in appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year. However, if the Truman Scholarship functions as a career booster solely for students of a particular political persuasion, it should no longer be worthy of Congressional support, taxpayer funding, or its exalted public image.”

Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development Chairman Burgess Owens, R-Utah., and Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., led the letter.

The foundation did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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Wisconsin Lawmakers Push Questions About IDs For Illegal Immigrants, Voting

(The Center Square) – Some Wisconsin lawmakers are trying to calm fears about illegal immigrants getting IDs and voting in the state.

The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections and the Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection held a hearing Thursday with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, some local election clerks and Fond du Lac County’s district attorney.

“We're not trying to get anybody into a bad spot here, or in a corner, or make accusations on that level,” Sen. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, said. “We want our clerks, who are already stressed enough, to know that we are here to be there as an assist to them.”

Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, said he wants to make sure voters have faith in Wisconsin’s electoral process.

“This is one of the topics that hit our inboxes quite a bit the last three months or so,” Krug added. “We thought it’s pretty important just to vet it out, to get all the information out to the public.”

The Wisconsin Elections Commission was invited to Thursday’s meeting but didn’t attend because commissioners were having a meeting of their own. But that left lawmakers’ questions unanswered.

Wis-DOT Deputy Secretary Kristina Boardman said Wisconsin is known as a strict voter ID state.

“I want to make very clear that Wis-DOT is required to provide free identification cards for U.S. citizens that request them for the purposes of voting, and that to be eligible for that free identification card one must be a U.S. citizen and at least 17 years of age,” Boardman said. “Wis-DOT staff do not determine voter eligibility or register anyone to vote. Someone who has a Wisconsin ID or a driver's license is eligible to register to vote online, and that information will be confirmed with Wisconsin DMV systems to ensure that the information entered for voter registration is consistent with the DMV's records

Boardman said in Wisconsin, less than a fraction of one percent of ID requests are fraudulent.

“We put together [a] case activity report, assemble all of the documentation that we have, we have the investigator that had the case pull that together, and we do refer that to law enforcement so that they can take whatever action is appropriate,” Boardman added. “We note what statutes we believe may have been violated. And then it's up to law enforcement to take action.”

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Senate Republicans Override Evers’ Vetoes

(The Center Square) – On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate voted to override nine vetoes from Gov. Tony Evers, including the vetoes that scuttled PFAS clean-up money, millions of dollars that were earmarked for hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls and a plan that would allow advanced practice registered nurses to work more independently.

“The legislature has passed hundreds of bills to solve problems facing Wisconsin businesses and families. Most of these bills were signed into law, but many were vetoed by a governor more focused on politics than policies that help everyday Wisconsinites,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said Tuesday. “Overriding the governor’s obstructive vetoes is the last, best way to address these critical issues.”

The override votes came one day after Evers sued the legislature over nearly $200 million that is attached to some of his vetoes.

Most of that money is the $125 million that’s supposed to go toward PFAS clean up in Wisconsin.

“For the fifth time this legislative session, I voted to provide Wisconsin families with the largest investment in clean drinking water in state history – five more times than every Democrat legislator in this state combined. The bill that Gov. Evers vetoed (SB 312) would have created a grant program that targets this critical funding to areas of the state most heavily impacted by PFAS contamination while protecting innocent landowners from financial ruin,” Sen Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg, said.

Evers has accused the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee of obstructing his plans to clean up Wisconsin’s drinking water, and of delaying his other actions across the state.

LeMahieu said Evers is simply playing the game.

“While Gov. Evers plays politics, the legislature will continue to do the right thing on behalf of the people of our state,” LeMahieu added.

Senate Democrats responded with game-playing accusations of their own.

“Coming in to do all these veto overrides was clearly a stunt to try to appeal to voters ahead of the fall election,” Den. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said. “Clearly Republicans were hearing from things in their district and wanted political cover. I don't think they got political cover today. I think what they got was people realizing just how afraid they are.”

But Tuesday’s veto overrides are largely symbolic.

While Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate have a veto-proof majority, Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly do not.

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Trump Holds Lead Over Biden Heading Toward November

With less than half a year until the 2024 presidential election, former President Donald Trump holds a sizable lead over incumbent President Joe Biden in several swing states.

While the overall national polling varies and shows a tighter race, Trump holds significant leads in several swing states.

According to Real Clear Politics, Trump leads in a slew of key battleground states like Arizona (+5.2), Georgia (+4.6), Michigan (+0.8), Nevada (+6.2), North Carolina (+5.4), Pennsylvania (+2.0), and Wisconsin (+0.6).

Other polling has shown Trump with a dominant lead in the Sun Belt while performing less well against Biden in some rust belt swing states.

“As the old saying goes, good gets better and bad gets worse, and it’s clear President Biden is in bad shape right now,” Colin Reed, a Republican strategist, former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and co-founder of South and Hill Strategies, told The Center Square. “Five and a half months is an eternity in politics, and there’s theoretically still time to right the ship, but it’s getting late early for the president, especially when Father Time remains undefeated and doubts about his age continue to grow. “

According to the Real Clear Politics’ national polling average, Trump leads Biden 46.1% to 44.9%.

A New York Times poll released this week showed leads for Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania but slightly trailing Biden in Wisconsin, raising concerns among supporters.

Trump’s lead has been in large part fueled by minority voters flocking to his side.

Meanwhile, Biden’s approval rating has plummeted since taking office. While that is not unusual for incumbents, Biden’s approval is lower than recent presidents.

Gallup recently released polling data showing that in the 13th quarter of Biden’s presidency, he averaged a 38.7% approval rating, worse than Trump at the same time in his term.

“None of the other nine presidents elected to their first term since Dwight Eisenhower had a lower 13th-quarter average than Biden,” Gallup said.

Axios reported this week that Biden and his team think the polls don’t represent Americans’ actual feelings and that the president’s position is strong.

“They're still 50% (well 45%) to win, per betting markets,” pollster Nate Silver wrote on X. “But Biden has been behind Trump in polls for a year now. His approval is in the tank, and voters have been clear they think he's too old. If Trump wins, history will not remember Biden kindly.”

Meanwhile, Trump spends valuable campaign time in a series of court appearances for his myriad of federal prosecution court dates.

“I’m under a gag order,” Trump told reporters after a court appearance Tuesday. “Nobody has actually seen anything like it ... I'm beating him in every poll and I have a gag order, so I think it's totally unconstitutional."

Republicans have blasted Biden for Trump’s prosecution, accusing Biden of using the Justice Department against his political opponent.

“Despite Far Left Democrats’ illegal election interference, President Trump is beating Joe Biden in the polls!” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., wrote on X Tuesday. “Voters see right through the sham Biden Trials and know President Trump is the best choice for president.”

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