GOP Clarifies It Would Never Have Freed Brittney Griner - The Friday AM Quickie 12/9/22
As much as I'd like to hibernate for the rest of the winter, I've got a busy writing weekend ahead of me. Take care, folks. Jack's back Monday. - Corey
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THE BIG NEWS
Republicans Are Not Happy That Brittney Griner Is Free
The Biden administration last week quietly negotiated a prisoner swap with Russia that led to the release yesterday of WNBA star Brittney Griner from a penal colony. A Russian court sentenced Griner in August to 9.5 years for having vape cartridges containing a small amount of cannabis oil in her luggage when she arrived in Moscow to play basketball back in February. That was just before Aspiring Tsar Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. Her case was political from the jump; her sentence was double the average given to Russians convicted of similar offenses.
President Joe Biden shared the good news at the White House yesterday. "She's safe. She's on a plane. She's on her way home," he said. "After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along." Griner's wife, Cherelle, also spoke to express her "sincere gratitude" and to say that the couple would "remain committed to the work of getting every American home, including Paul" Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who's been jailed in Russia for the past four years on espionage charges. "We do not begrudge Ms. Griner her freedom," Paul's brother David Whelan told NBC News. "As I have often remarked, Brittney's and Paul's cases were never really intertwined. It has always been a strong possibility that one might be freed without the other."
In exchange for Griner's freedom, Biden gave up the notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, sometimes called "the Merchant of Death," whose life was dramatized by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film Lord of War. It's unclear why Russia wanted Bout's return, but experts suggested to the Washington Post that he still holds secrets on Russian political elites they would prefer to remain secret. Republicans, classy as ever, aren't happy that Biden rescued a U.S. citizen from a de facto hostage situation. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the prisoner swap "a gift" to Putin, while Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said it was "another reason" to impeach Biden. At least two other House Republicans implied Griner should not have been freed because she took a knee during the national anthem in a racial justice protest -- which, let's be honest, gets closer to what really has them mad. Unfortunately, trading a few House Republicans for Griner was never an option.
MORE STORIES TO WATCH
FBI Investigating Power Grid Sabotage in Multiple States
On Monday, Jack told you about the bizarre, unsolved attacks on power substations in North Carolina, which knocked out the electricity for 45,000 people. David Neiwert, a veteran journalist on the right-wing extremism beat, this week dug in to the evidence pointing to domestic terrorism in an article for Daily Kos, and pointed out that the electrical grid has been a far-right terror target for decades. Yesterday, similar attacks and "intrusions" were reported to have taken place in recent months at multiple substations in Florida as well as Oregon and Washington State. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating all of these incidents, which according to one utility company memo include "setting the control houses on fire, forced entry and sabotage of intricate electrical control systems, causing short circuits by tossing chains across the overhead [wires], and ballistic attack with small caliber firearms." Ominous.
DOJ Special Counsel Issues First Round of Trump Subpoenas
Newly appointed Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, whose purview includes criminal investigations into Donald Trump, issued his first subpoenas this week -- at least, the first subpoenas we know about related to Trump. Election officials in Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania received demands for their communications with or involving Trump his aides and his allies related to the 2020 election, the Associated Press reports. Meanwhile, per the Washington Post, Trump is "increasingly isolated within his party as he tries to mount a political comeback," having left Mar-a-Lago only once to play golf since announcing his presidential campaign three weeks ago. The defeat of his handpicked candidate in Georgia's Senate race, Texas resident and certified "train wreck" Herschel Walker, has emboldened more GOP Trump critics to call for a change of direction. For his part, Trump told his Truth Social followers he never actually called for terminating the Constitution last week on the same platform, which must have come as a disappointment to GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who posted, then deleted, a statement endorsing the idea.
- Biden to Sign Respect for Marriage Act Following House Passage The bill guaranteeing same-sex and interracial marriage rights was amended to clarify that the government does not need to recognize polygamous marriages and cannot require religious organizations to host marriage ceremonies. via the Washington Post.
- FTC Sues to Stop Microsoft Purchase of Activision Blizzard Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Competition director Holly Vedova says the lawsuit seeks "to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition." via the Post.
- Peru's Pedro Castillo Appears in Court on 'Rebellion and Conspiracy' Charges Castillo's vice president, the leftist lawyer Dina Boluarte, who was sworn in as president after he tried to dissolve Congress, said yesterday she has not decided whether to call early elections. via Reuters and the Guardian.
- FDA Authorizes Bivalent Covid Boosters for Infants, Toddlers Kids aged 6 months and older are now eligible; federal data show only 6.4 percent of kids under 2 have gotten one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. via Politico.
1 in 3
That's how many Black families in Maricopa County have been investigated by the Arizona Department of Child Safety, according to an analysis of the latest statistics by NBC News and ProPublica. Another study found that by the time a Black child in the county turns 18, there's a 63 percent chance their families have been investigated, though Black people comprise only 7 percent of the local population.
ON THE SHOW TODAY
12/9: It's Casual Friday! Sam hosts Osita Nwanevu, contributing editor at the New Republic and columnist at The Guardian, to round up the week in news. Then, Sam's joined in-studio by comedian H. Jon Benjamin to discuss his new Jazz Daredevil Whisky Highball!
DON'T MISS MR CLIPS
Herschel Walker's Son Christian MELTS DOWN After Dad's Senate Loss
Dude, it's OK, you don't have to be a conservative.
Hannity and McCarthy Trying to Find the Guy Who Made Republicans Distrust Vote By Mail
I'm sure this is a good clip but mostly I picked it because of the hot dog suits.
"One of the injured people I treated wasn't even protesting. He was a bystander…and thought he wouldn't be shot at. They're shooting blindly at everyone who's not one of them."
-- An Iranian surgeon speaking to the Guardian about how state security forces have been shooting pellet guns into crowds, often targeting the faces or genitals of women protesters. Iran's theocratic government yesterday announced it had executed a protester, Mohsen Shekari, for the crime of "waging war against God."
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