US Capitol Riots: Top Republicans mark Jan. 6 with silence, deflection

Republican congressmen Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie watch of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of then US President Donald Trump. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 07 January 2022

US Capitol Riots: Top Republicans mark Jan. 6 with silence, deflection

  • Only two Republicans were present in the House chamber: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who has become a pariah in her party over her criticism of Trump’s actions, and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney

NEW YORK: Oh, how things have changed.
Just a year ago, many Republicans joined Democrats in reacting with horror to the Capitol insurrection, denouncing both the violence perpetrated by the rioters and the role played by former President Donald Trump in stoking the outrage that fueled their actions with lies about a “stolen” election.
But on the anniversary of the attack, top Republicans were far more muted. Some acknowledged the terror of the day but quickly pivoted to bashing Democrats. Many avoided observances planned at the Capitol. And still others didn’t say anything at all.
It’s all part of the political calculus in a party in which the former president remains very much in charge.

Missing in action
The party’s top congressional leaders were missing from Thursday’s commemoration events at the Capitol. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did not make an appearance or issue a statement. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who delivered one of the sharpest denunciations of Trump after the attack, was in Atlanta for the funeral of former Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Indeed, during a moment of silence held in honor of law enforcement officers, only two Republicans were present in the House chamber: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who has become a pariah in her party over her criticism of Trump’s actions, and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
In a statement, McConnell called Jan. 6 “a dark day for Congress and our country” after “the seat of the first branch of our federal government was stormed by criminals who brutalized police officers and used force to try to stop Congress from doing its job.”
But he also criticized Democrats for what he said was their politicization of the attack. “It has been stunning to see some Washington Democrats try to exploit this anniversary to advance partisan policy goals that long predated this event,” he said.
It was a notable shift from the comments he had made last year after the Senate voted against Trump’s impeachment.
“There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it,” he said then, calling it “a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

Pro-Trump supporters rioted and breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Shutterstock)

Then and now
Like McConnell, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a friend and ally of the former president, was clear in his denunciation of Trump immediately following the Jan. 6 attack.
“All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough,” he’d said then.
On Thursday, however, Graham, who remains close to Trump, marked the occasion with a mix of shock and partisan attacks.
“I still cannot believe that a mob was able to take over the United States Capitol during such a pivotal moment — certifying a presidential election. It would have been so easy for terrorists to boot strap onto this protest and wreak even further destruction on the US Capitol,” he wrote.
Still, he pivoted to politics, characterizing the speeches by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the Capitol as an “effort to resurrect a failed presidency more than marking the anniversary of a dark day in American history.”
“Their brazen attempts to use January 6 to support radical election reform and changing the rules of the Senate to accomplish this goal will not succeed,” he wrote.

Politics first
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, was also quick to pounce. Speaking to reporters in Florida on Thursday morning around the same time Biden was addressing the nation, DeSantis slammed Democrats and the media for making so much hay of the event.
“This is their Christmas, January 6th,” he said. “They are going to take this and milk this for anything they could to try to be able to smear anyone who ever supported Donald Trump​.”
He lashed out at those who have compared the gravity of what happened on Jan. 6 to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and said most Florida residents have other issues on their minds.
“I think it’s going to end up being just a politicized Charlie Foxtrot today,” he said, using military slang for a chaotic situation. “I think it’s going to be nauseating, quite frankly.”

No comment
Other potential 2024 candidates, meanwhile, stayed conspicuously silent, underscoring the complicated calculus they face in a party in which Trump remains very much in charge, with the support of wide swaths of the primary-voting electorate.
Former Vice President Mike Pence — who fled for his life on Jan. 6 as rioters broke into the Capitol, chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” — did not not release a statement marking the occasion.
Pence has said that he and the former president will likely never “see eye to eye” on the events of Jan. 6 and has defended his role that day in rejecting Trump’s demands that he overturn the election results — something he did not have the power to do. At the same time, he has accused the media of reporting on the attack to “demean” Trump’s supporters and to “distract from the Biden administration’s failed agenda,” as he said on Fox News in October.

Jake Angeli, wearing fur hat with horns, and other supporters of former US President Donald Trump, leading rioters at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.  (AP file photo)

Also saying nothing were former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been laying the groundwork for a possible 2024 campaign by highlighting the Trump administration’s successes, and former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who found herself on the wrong side of the party’s base when she criticized Trump immediately after the insurrection. She has since said that she will not run for the GOP nomination if Trump chooses to move forward with the comeback campaign he’s been teasing.

While Trump canceled the anniversary news conference he’d been planning in Florida for Thursday, several of his most ardent followers scheduled their own counterprogramming.
“We’re ashamed of nothing,” said GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida during an appearance with Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on a podcast hosted by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, who has been indicted for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the insurrection. “We’re proud of the work that we did on Jan. 6 to make legitimate arguments about election integrity.”
Greene slammed Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, another potential 2024 contender, for having characterized the anniversary as an event marking “a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol.”
She accused Cruz of disrespecting “MAGA patriots” and “people that rioted at the Capitol and did breach the Capitol.”
“Shame on Ted Cruz,” she said.

Party of Trump
The GOP’s transformation into the Party of Trump came perhaps most clearly into focus as former Vice President Dick Cheney paid an unexpected visit to the Capitol to support his daughter, who has become one of the most prominent anti-Trump voices.
Asked what he made of Republican leadership’s handling of the anniversary, Cheney, who served under George W. Bush, was glib in his assessment of an institution that has all but been remade in Trump’s image.
“It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years, dramatically,” Cheney, also a former congressman, told reporters.
“The importance of January 6th as a historic event cannot be overstated,” he added in a statement. “I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation.”
Karl Rove, who served as deputy chief of staff in the Bush administration and advised Trump at points during the 2020 campaign, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal addressing those in his own party “who for a year have excused the actions of the rioters who stormed the Capitol, disrupted Congress as it received the Electoral College’s results, and violently attempted to overturn the election.”
“There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less. That’s true patriotism,” he wrote.

Location of first ship to leave Ukraine carrying grain unknown

Updated 15 August 2022

Location of first ship to leave Ukraine carrying grain unknown

  • Razoni was initially heading for Lebanon with 26,000 metric tons of corn for chicken feed
  • The corn’s buyer in Lebanon later refused to accept the cargo, since it was delivered much later than agreed

BEIRUT: The first grain ship to leave Ukraine under a wartime deal has had its cargo resold several times and there is now no information about its location and cargo destination, the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut said Monday.
The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni, which left Odesa on Aug. 1, and moved through the Black Sea carrying Ukrainian corn, later passed inspection in Turkey. It was initially heading for Lebanon with 26,000 metric tons of corn for chicken feed. The corn’s buyer in Lebanon later refused to accept the cargo, since it was delivered much later than agreed.
The Razoni hasn’t had its tracker on for the last three days and it appeared off the east coast of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus at last transmission.
It was not clear if the Razoni had its tracker off because it was heading to a port in Syria, a strong ally of Russia that Ukraine had accused of importing grain stolen from Ukraine.
Syria is also under Western sanctions because of the 11-year conflict there that has killed hundreds of thousands. Syrian port officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Our task has been to reopen seaports for grain cargo and it has been done,” Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut said in a statement in English, adding that to date, 16 vessels have left Ukraine carrying more than 450,000 tons of agricultural products since a breakthrough agreement was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations with Russia and Ukraine.
The embassy said the Razoni was the first vessel that left Ukraine under the agreement and later successfully passed inspection in Istanbul before moving toward its destination.
“We don’t have any information about (the) position of the vessel and cargo destination,” it said. “We have also information that cargo has been resold a few times after that.”
The embassy said: “We are not responsible for (the) vessel and cargo, especially when it left Ukraine, moreover after vessel’s departure from foreign port.”
The Black Sea region is dubbed the world’s breadbasket, with Ukraine and Russia key global suppliers of wheat, corn, barley and sunflower oil that millions of impoverished people in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia rely on for survival.
An estimated 20 million tons of grain — most of it said to be destined for livestock — has been stuck in Ukraine since the start of the 6-month-old war.

One year since takeover, Taliban urge world to ‘improve relations’ with Afghanistan

Taliban fighters and supporters ride in a convoy to celebrate their victory day in Kandahar on August 15, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 9 sec ago

One year since takeover, Taliban urge world to ‘improve relations’ with Afghanistan

  • Countries have refused to recognize the new government
  • Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy has been in freefall since Taliban seized power

KABUL: Afghanistan’s acting Prime Minister Mohammed Hassan Akhund called on the international community to improve relations with the country on Monday as the Taliban marked the first anniversary of their return to power.

After the Taliban captured Kabul last August and US-led forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the group’s stunning takeover marked the end of two decades of war that killed tens of thousands of Afghans on their soil.

The Taliban had declared Aug. 15 a national holiday just a day earlier, following a year that saw improved security but also increasing uncertainties about the country’s future.

With the new government still struggling to gain recognition from the international community a year later, the acting premier has urged for better relations.

“The world must improve its relations with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. We are not a threat to any country,” Akhund said in a statement.

“Other countries should also have positive political and economic engagement with Afghanistan.”

Under its new rulers, Afghanistan has been struggling to achieve growth and stability, as foreign governments’ refusal to recognize the Taliban has kept the country isolated.

The aid-dependent economy has been in freefall since the Taliban took over, with billions of dollars in foreign aid suspended and some $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets parked overseas have been frozen.

On Monday, Taliban soldiers celebrated the anniversary with marches on the streets of Kabul as they carried their flags of the Islamic Emirate and played anthems.

“This is the day of the victory of right over wrong and the day of salvation and freedom of the Afghan nation,” Taliban Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

The country is safer compared to when the Taliban were fighting against US-led troops and their Afghan allies, even as a local offshoot of the Islamic State has carried out several attacks in the past year.

But the UN has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the country, where nearly 20 million people out of the 38 million population are facing acute hunger.

Forty-year-old Mohammed Ali, a shopkeeper at Kabul’s commercial area of Pul-e-Surkh, went about his daily business on Monday morning, despite the national holiday.

Amid increasing hardships, feeding his family is what matters most for Ali.

“We have to work every day to earn some income and feed our children. It doesn’t matter who’s in power, no one cares much about ordinary people,” Ali told Arab News.

“There are so many anniversaries. This is just another one. When we have enough food on our destarkhan, that’s the best celebration for us,” he said, referring to the meal-setting placement on the ground or floor that is commonplace across Afghanistan.  

The day prompted questions about the future for 21-year-old Shamsia Amini, whose dream of becoming a soccer player was shattered last year when the Taliban barred women from all sports.

“So many women’s aspirations were put on hold for an uncertain time. We don’t even know whether we will have a future under the Taliban,” she told Arab News.

Women’s rights have been curtailed in the past year, as women were ordered to wear face coverings in public, banned from making long-distance journeys alone and prevented from working in most sectors outside of health and education. Education has also been limited for women, even though allowing girls into schools and colleges was one of the key demands made by the international community.

“We should all, men and women, remember Aug. 15 as a dark day for Afghan women,” she added.

Qasim Haqmal, a Taliban soldier based in Kabul, told Arab News that the victory and freedom the group gained a year ago was what Afghans wanted.

“We are trying our best to serve the people the best way possible,” Haqmal said. “I ask people to have some patience.”


Dutch court to announce ruling in MH17 murder trial on Nov. 17

Updated 15 August 2022

Dutch court to announce ruling in MH17 murder trial on Nov. 17

  • The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit over Ukraine’s rebel-held Donetsk region

AMSTERDAM: The Dutch court handling the murder trial of four suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 said on Monday it would hand down its verdict on Nov. 17.
Prosecutors say the one Ukrainian and three Russian defendants, who are all at large, helped supply a missile system that Russian-backed separatists used to fire a rocket at the plane on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board were killed.
The prosecution is seeking life terms for all suspects.
Lawyers for Oleg Pulatov, the only defendant who has chosen to participate in the proceedings through counsel, have argued that the trial was unfair and prosecutors did not properly examine alternative theories about the cause of the crash or the involvement of Pulatov.
The other suspects, named as Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, and Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko, are being tried in absentia. Under Dutch law Pulatov, while he is also at large, is not considered to be tried in absentia because he is represented through lawyers he has instructed.
The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit over Ukraine’s rebel-held Donetsk region by what international investigators say was a Russian-made surface-to-air missile. The eastern region has also become a key focus of Russia’s nearly six-month-old war in Ukraine.
Most of the victims on board MH17 were Dutch nationals. The Dutch government holds Russia responsible for the crash. Authorities in Moscow deny any involvement.
The MH17 case has seriously strained the Netherlands’ diplomatic relations with Moscow, even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine that started on Feb. 24.

3 injured in shooting at amusement park near Chicago

Updated 15 August 2022

3 injured in shooting at amusement park near Chicago

GURNEE, Illinois:Three people were injured in a shooting in the parking lot of an amusement park north of Chicago that sent visitors scrambling for safety, authorities said.
Officers responded about 7:50 p.m. Sunday after 911 calls reporting shots fired at Six Flags Great America, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Chicago, the Gurnee Police Department said.
“The shooting ... was not a random act, and appeared to be a targeted incident that occurred outside the park,” police said in statement posted to Facebook.
According to an initial investigation, police said a white sedan entered the parking lot and drove toward the park’s front entrance. People got out of the car and shot at another person in the parking lot before driving away, police said.
Additional detail about the suspects, including the number of people who fired shots, wasn’t immediately released. Police were investigating.
A 17-year-old boy from Aurora, Illinois, had a thigh wound and a 19-year-old woman from Appleton, Wisconsin, had a leg wound, police said. They were taken to a hospital and their wounds were described as non-life-threatening. A third victim had a shoulder injury and declined to be taken to a hospital.
In a statement, Six Flags Great America said park security responded immediately along with Gurnee officers.
WGN News in Chicago spoke with Laurie Walker and her daughter, Grace, who were inside the park when the shooting occurred. Walker said they were waiting in line for an attraction around 7:50 p.m. when she noticed people running.
“There is an active shooter, get down, get down,” Walker said she heard someone shouting. “We didn’t know what was going on, so we get down.”
Walker and her daughter climbed two fences to get where she could call her husband. Walker told WGN she was able to leave the park a short while later.
Gurnee is in Lake County, about 5 miles south of the Wisconsin border. It’s about 20 miles north of Highland Park, where seven people died in a mass shooting during a July Fourth parade.

Myanmar court convicts Suu Kyi on more corruption charges

Updated 15 August 2022

Myanmar court convicts Suu Kyi on more corruption charges

BANGKOK: A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on more corruption charges on Monday and sentenced her to an additional six years in prison, a legal official said.

The trial was held behind closed doors, with no access for media or the public, and her lawyers were forbidden by a gag order from revealing information about the proceedings.

In the four corruption cases decided Monday, Suu Kyi was alleged to have abused her position to rent public land at below market prices and to have built a residence with donations meant for charitable purposes. She received sentences of three years for each of the four counts, but the sentences for three of them will be served concurrently, giving her a total of six more years in prison.

She denied all the charges, and her lawyers are expected to appeal.

She already had been sentenced to 11 years in prison on sedition, corruption and other charges at earlier trials after the military ousted her elected government and detained her in February 2021.

Analysts say the numerous charges against her and her allies are an attempt to legitimize the military’s seizure of power while eliminating her from politics before the military holds an election it has promised for next year.