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What Happened: December 8, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: 26-year-old Israeli mother of five stabbed in the back on Wednesday by 14-year-old Palestinian Arab girl in East Jerusalem; Finland PM just wants to have fun; U.S. Army generals accused of lying to Congress

The Scroll
December 08, 2021

The Big Story

A scathing memo by a former D.C. National Guard officer accuses top U.S. Army generals of lying to Congress about their response to the January 6 Capitol riots. The memo, obtained by Politico, was authored by Col. Earl Matthews, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 in his role as the top legal counsel to Maj. Gen. William Walker, who was then the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard. Backing up earlier testimony from Walker, Matthews asserts that the National Guard was held back from securing the Capitol by two senior Army generals: Gen. Charles Flynn, who was then the deputy chief of staff for operations, and Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, then the director of Army staff. In their testimony to Congress, both Flynn and Piatt denied that they ever prevented the Guard from deploying to the Capitol. But Matthews says that the stand-down order came during a 2:30 p.m. conference call on Jan. 6, in response to pleas for help from Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund. By that point, rioters had already breached the Capitol’s perimeter, but Flynn and Piatt, the two senior Army officers on the line, denied the request, saying that the “optics” of sending the National Guard to the Capitol would be negative, according to Matthews. Matthews’ version of events is corroborated by earlier testimony from his former boss Walker and by a separate memo dated Jan. 7 by a D.C. Guard official who took notes during the call and recorded that Piatt and Flynn “recommended for D.C. Guard to stand by.” In addition to going after the alleged lies from the generals, Matthews also takes aim at a November report from the Pentagon’s inspector general that he says is “replete with factual inaccuracies,” as well as at an internal Army document concerning the January 6 riot that he deems “worthy of the best Stalinist or North Korea propagandist.”

Read it here:

Today’s Back Pages: A Correction and a Follow-Up on Trump, Nunes, and Russiagate

The Rest

→ Hispanic voters in the United States are shifting away from their traditional allegiance to the Democrats toward a more even split with the Republican Party, according to a new poll in The Wall Street Journal. A year ago, polls showed more than 60% of Hispanic voters supporting Democratic House candidates, but in the Journal’s new survey, 37% of Hispanic voters polled said they would vote for the Republican congressional candidate, 37% said they would support the Democrat, and 22% were undecided. The same split showed up in a prospective 2024 presidential race, with 44% backing President Biden and 43% supporting Donald Trump. The real divide in the poll was along gender lines. When it comes to the potential Biden-Trump rematch, 55% of Hispanic women backed Biden and only 30% backed Trump, while 56% of Hispanice men backed Trump, compared to 33% who said they’d vote for Biden.
Read more:

→A 26-year-old Israeli mother of five was stabbed in the back on Wednesday by a 14-year-old Palestinian girl in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The girl is reportedly a member of a well-known local family whose home is one of the contested properties at the center of a long-running legal battle between Palestinian and Jewish claimants to houses in the area that has become the center of an international controversy. The victim of the terrorist attack, Moriah Cohen, 26, also lives in Sheikh Jarrah. Hamas released a statement declaring that the “heroic operations in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the last of which was at dawn today, with the stabbing of a settler in Sheikh Jarrah, prove the greatness of our rebellious people and that their resistance is unbreakable.”
Read more:

→Of course the defense budget increased. Where else would it go but up? The House overwhelmingly passed a $768 billion defense bill Tuesday night—up from the $740 billion in 2020—after dropping a provision to expand the draft to include women and a measure to end the 2002 authorization of the Iraq War, which has grown into an all-purpose authorization for military operations across the globe over the past two decades.

→A new report from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy describes a state of anguish and lethargy among young Americans that has gotten dramatically worse during the pandemic. The most dramatic detail is the 51% increase in adolescent girls going to the emergency room in 2021 due to suicide attempts. The more mundane statistics paint a picture of teens isolated from interpersonal contact who are increasingly uneasy, depressed, and immersed in digital simulations as the average nonschool-related screen time for teens doubled during the pandemic from 3.8 to 7.7 hours per day.

→Ah, the carefree youth—nothing can stop them from having their fun. Finland’s 36-year-old Prime Minister Sanna Marin sent a powerful message about not allowing the pandemic to become an endless imprisonment that deprives us of all joy by going out to a club in Helsinki on Saturday and partying the night away. This turned into a controversy because the clubbing happened just hours after the country’s foreign minister, with whom Marin had recently been in contact, tested positive for COVID-19. Eventually, in a Facebook post, the double-vaccinated Marin apologized for her indiscretion, but this may be a case where actions speak louder than words.

→Germany’s long-serving Chancellor Angela Merkel ended her 16-year term on Wednesday when the Bundestag elected the center-left Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats as the country’s new leader. Scholz, a former vice chancellor and Germany’s finance minister since 2018, will head a coalition government with the domestically progressive but internationally hawkish Greens, and the business-focused Free Democrats. 

→In appalling news that demands urgent action, coffee prices just hit a 10-year high. As inflation has jacked up prices globally for energy and food products, the sweet black nectar that keeps civilization running has had the biggest price increase of any commodity in 2021.

→Maybe it’s time to stop subsidizing all this debt by propping up universities with bloated administrative staffs and vanishing educational benefits.

It’s astonishing that someone who makes $174,000 a year isn’t embarrassed to ask working class taxpayers to pay off her law school debt. At least they’re honest: $50,000 in student loan forgiveness is a bail out for highly educated elites, and the Squad are their patron saints.

— Batya Ungar-Sargon (@bungarsargon) December 6, 2021

The Back Pages

backpages A Correction and a Follow-Up on Trump, Nunes, and Russiagate

Devin Nunes is assuredly not a senator as I incorrectly described him yesterday in an unfortunate, unforced error. Rep. Nunes, as numerous Scroll readers pointed out, is a Republican congressman from California. I especially regret the error because I have followed Nunes more closely than I do most members of Congress owing to his 2018 memo outlining “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation” and his larger role on the House Intelligence Committee debunking the dramatic claims alleging collusion between President Donald Trump and the Russian government. 

This brings me to the follow-up. I understand from reader emails that some people are disturbed to hear me refer to Russiagate as a hoax, but those are the facts. We now know as a matter of public record that the Steele dossier was a political product paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign; that multiple people working for the Clinton campaign lied about their relationship to it in the course of passing information damaging to the Trump campaign to the FBI; that multiple FBI officials lied or doctored evidence in the course of manufacturing the spurious evidence for the collusion narrative. And, among many, many other disturbing details that I’m leaving out here, we know that the main source for the Steele dossier was not some Russian FSB officer whom Christopher Steele had encountered in his espionage work, but a mid-level Brookings think tank functionary in Washington, D.C., whose claims about Trump were recycled second- and third-hand anecdotes. 

It has become impossible to defend the Steele dossier without losing credibility, so the effort now is to suggest that the dossier was never that important to the larger case against Trump. Who actually believes this? We were all here for the past four years, weren’t we, watching as Steele was lionized and the dossier’s claims were aggressively amplified by the press and members of Congress, such as Adam Schiff. Not to mention, the dossier was a key piece of evidence submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court court to secure the warrant that authorized spying on the Trump campaign. What about Trump campaign officials’ “repeated contacts with Russians?” They never happened. It was just a claim repeated so often it started to feel true. Even former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who led the Trump-Russia probe, acknowledged, in documents that were only declassified in 2020, “We are unaware of any Trump advisers engaging in conversations with Russian intelligence officials.”

It’s understandable given the low-level civil war environment in the United States right now that some people interpret criticisms of these claims as a matter of right-wing partisanship and endorsement of Donald Trump, but it’s neither. I don’t vote in American presidential elections, if that makes it any better. 

In fact, accepting that the U.S. intelligence community and the press—two communities I’m personally connected to—had perpetrated a massive fraud on the public was something I came to terms with only gradually. My inclination in 2016 and 2017 was that while there was some clear exaggeration about Trump’s Kremlin ties, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I realized that I was wrong about this only because the evidence became overwhelming. My team, insofar as I had one, was the intelligence community. Accepting that the case against Trump was cooked meant the bad guys were on my side. I didn’t find the experience pleasant.

Finally, on to this new Trump-Nunes media venture. Several people wrote in to say that I’m a rube for thinking that it could actually pan out. Their view is that this is just a money, publicity, and messaging machine with no intention of serving an audience. They may be right. On the other hand, poll after poll shows that trust in the media is at record lows. And Trump remains the single most popular Republican figure in the country. Why not try to leverage that into a media business?

Would it be good for the United States to have a media magnate running for the presidency? I didn’t particularly think so in the case of Michael Bloomberg, and I don’t think so about Trump either, who has more than a few similarities to former Italian prime minister and media empire owner Silvio Berlusconi. But that’s a different question.

Send your tips, comments, questions, and suggestions to [email protected].

Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel and Park MacDougald.

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