The special House committee investigating the deadly January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol heard testimony for the first time Tuesday. Four officers who were on the scene recounted the harrowing events of the day, after a mob of Trump-instigated rioters breached the government building in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. This is Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell.
Sgt. Aquilino Gonell: “What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battle. We fought hand to hand, inch by inch, to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process.”
Officer Michael Fanone, who was violently dragged into the mob, beaten and shocked with a Taser, said he and his family are still grappling with the trauma from that day. He also confronted the ongoing dismissal and denial by some of what happened that day.
Michael Fanone: “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room. But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist or that hell actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday vaccinated people living in areas with “substantial or high transmission” of COVID-19 should resume wearing masks indoors, citing the rapidly spreading and highly transmissible Delta variant for the change in guidelines. This is top White House coronavirus adviser Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “So, when you have vaccinated people who might have a breakthrough infection, and we know now as a fact, as a scientific fact, that they can transmit the virus to an uninfected person, it’s for that reason that the CDC made the change in recommendation.”
Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. have quadrupled since the start of the month. Almost two-thirds of U.S. counties qualify as high-risk areas, though new cases are particularly high in the South in states with low vaccination rates, including Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Missouri. The CDC also recommended everyone returning to school in the fall from kindergarten through grade 12 wear a mask indoors, including students, teachers and other staff, regardless of vaccination status. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is expected to announce that all federal employees will be required to either get vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID and be subjected to other restrictions. In other related news, Biden said so-called long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu received her COVID-19 vaccine today and urged all eligible citizens to also get the shot. Tanzania recently received 1 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine from the U.S. government via the COVAX program. Her predecessor, who died in March, was a coronavirus denier.
Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison for leaking classified information exposing the U.S. drone and targeted assassination program. Hale, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, pleaded guilty in March to one count of violating the World War I-era Espionage Act. Hale told the judge before his sentencing, “I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take — precious human life … please forgive me for taking papers instead of human lives.” Famed NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted, “[Hale’s] crime was telling this truth: 90% of those killed by US drones are bystanders, not the intended targets. He should have been given a medal.”
North and South Korea restored a central communications hotline and agreed to strengthen ties, more than a year after Pyongyang cut off the link following mounting tensions and failed summit meetings. The two Koreas will start holding regular conversations every day via the hotline.
The U.S. government has suspended some of its cooperation with Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office in response to the abrupt ousting last week of top anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, who fled the country hours after being fired. Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets, angered by Sandoval’s ousting, a worsening economic crisis and government neglect during the pandemic. They are calling for the resignation of right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei. A national strike has been called for Thursday.
In Olympic news, U.S. gymnastics superstar Simone Biles will not defend her title in the all-around final Thursday. On Tuesday, Biles revealed that she withdrew from her team finals for mental health reasons.
Simone Biles: “Yeah, I say put mental health first, because if you don’t, then you’re not going to enjoy your sport, and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to. So it’s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are, rather than just battle through it.”
“At the end of the day we’re human, too,” said Biles, who is considered the greatest gymnast of all time. The U.S. team went on to win the silver medal, with Russia taking home the gold.
In related news, members of Germany’s women’s gymnastics team performed in full-body unitards during the competition in an effort to combat the sexualization of female athletes and instead prioritize their comfort.
Robert Aaron Long — the white man charged with massacring eight people at three Atlanta-area spas in March — has been sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus 35 years in prison. Seven of the victims were women, six of them of Asian descent. He was sentenced in Cherokee County, Georgia. Long still faces murder charges in Fulton County for some of the spa killings, where the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.
In South Carolina, a judge sentenced Nathaniel Rowland to life in prison for murdering and kidnapping 21-year-old University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson in March 2019. Josephson got into the killer’s car after mistaking it for an Uber and was later found dead in the woods.
Democratic Party donor and political activist Ed Buck has been found guilty on nine felonies, including running a drug house and injecting two gay Black men with methamphetamine who then died of an overdose. Twenty-six-year-old Gemmel Moore died in 2017, and 55-year-old Timothy Dean died in 2019. Buck was arrested two years ago after a third man overdosed on methamphetamine at his apartment. That man survived. Black LGBTQ+ activists and the family members of the men who died had for months been calling on prosecutors to file criminal charges against Buck, accusing him of being a sexual predator. Buck faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, with a maximum life sentence.
A new investigation by the Associated Press revealed a number of Ku Klux Klan members are working inside the Florida Department of Corrections. The revelation came as part of an investigation into a failed KKK plot in 2015 to murder a Black man. The murder was planned as revenge for a fight in which a Black prisoner, Warren Williams, bit a white guard, Thomas Driver. The FBI was able to stop the plot, instead staging the murder, after an informant infiltrated the terror group. Tens of thousands of Americans are believed to belong to extremist white supremacist groups including the Klan. The FBI said such groups represent the greatest domestic terror threat.
A ProPublica study found that immigration prosecutors are continuing to deport people who are not considered a threat to public safety, despite a Biden administration policy instructing them to postpone or drop such cases. But the policy is carried out at the prosecutors’ discretion, making it difficult to challenge.
This comes as immigrant justice advocates are denouncing the Biden administration for the growing number of jailed immigrants and asylum seekers. As of mid-July, over 27,000 people are being held in ICE jails, as advocates warn detentions have nearly doubled under Biden.
The closely watched Democratic congressional primary in Ohio to fill the seat of Marcia Fudge is less than a week away. The race pits Nina Turner, who served as Bernie Sanders’s campaign co-chair, against Shontel Brown, the chairwoman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. On Tuesday, the Women’s March threw its support behind Turner in its first-ever electoral endorsement. It came one day after Warrensville Heights Councilmember Walter Stewart announced he was switching his support from Brown to Turner.
Walter Stewart: “Nina Turner is the one that’s going to take us and who has the vision, the know-how, the experience, and she has the sincerity and heart to carry us forward.”
Over the weekend, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned in Ohio for Nina Turner, who also just picked up the endorsement of Congressmember Jamie Raskin. Shontel Brown has received the backing of Hillary Clinton and the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee.
In a special election in Texas yesterday, voters rejected a Trump-endorsed candidate and elected another Republican, state Representative Jake Ellzey, to the U.S. House. Ellzey ran an anti-immigration campaign and called himself a “Reagan Republican.” He ran against Susan Wright, the widow of former Congressmember Ron Wright, who died this year from COVID-19, leaving open his seat in Texas’s 6th Congressional District.