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D.C. Memo: Tourists de force

Minnesota Republicans celebrate Cheney’s removal, revisionist history of the Jan. 6 insurrection and saying goodbye to a Minnesota newspaper legend.

An image of pro-Trump rioters storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
REUTERS/Ahmed Gaber
"Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the...ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit," said Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia.
Hello and welcome back to the D.C. memo. This week you can find me nervously wondering when the giant swarm of 17-year brood cicadas will fully emerge in the District. In this week’s memo: Minnesota Republicans celebrate Rep. Liz Cheney’s removal from leadership, revisionist history of the Jan. 6 insurrection and saying goodbye to a Minnesota newspaper legend.

Liz vs. the ‘Big Lie’

House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from her leadership post as conference chair Wednesday after she repeatedly called out former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen. New York Rep. Elise Stefanik replaced Cheney as GOP Conference Chair on Friday.

Prior to losing her leadership role, Cheney was the third-ranking House Republican and the highest ranking of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection. The nine other members have faced backlash as well, including the threat of primary challenges as well as censure and calls for their resignation. (Minnesota’s four Republican representatives all voted against impeachment.)

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This move sends a strong message to Republicans as primary season approaches: If you speak out against Trump, good luck getting any support from the GOP.

Rep. Pete Stauber was in favor of booting Cheney from leadership, saying in a statement that “I support Elise Stefanik for Chair and voted for a change of leadership this morning. I along with my Republican colleagues stand united in our mission to create a brighter future for the American people and preserve American greatness.”

Rep. Michelle Fischbach, Minnesota’s freshman GOP lawmaker, said in a statement that “our conference has lost faith in Congresswoman Cheney’s ability to look to the future and advance our collective priorities.”

Rep. Tom Emmer, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that he is “solely focused on retaking the majority and firing Nancy Pelosi.”

Rep. Jim Hagedorn has not released public comment on Cheney’s removal from leadership.

Minnesotan perspective on the Mideast conflict

Weeks of unrest in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories led to spiraling confrontations in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah where there was an attempt to block Palestinian Muslims from gatherings at the start of their holy month of Ramadan. A confrontation Monday at the Al-Aqsa mosque left approximately 250 Palestinians hospitalized and several police officers injured, according to local health officials. Later that day, Hamas retaliated by firing rockets into Israel. Israel responded with airstrikes. As of Wednesday morning, the death toll included 48 Gazans, of which 14 were children, and six Israelis, including one teenage girl.

President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, and several of his senior staff spoke with officials from Israel and Qatar in hopes that they could help de-escalate the situation.

In Minneapolis Tuesday, Palestinian and Jewish demonstrators held a protest to put pressure on Minnesota’s congressional delegation to take action, in part by supporting Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s bill, the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act.

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Rep. Ilhan Omar is a cosponsor of McCollum’s bill, but it does not have the support of the rest of the Minnesota congressional delegation.

All of Minnesota’s other representatives — including Democratic Reps. Dean Phillips and Angie Craig — signed a letter to the House Appropriations Committee seeking “full funding of security assistance to Israel,” and saying that there should be no stipulations placed on U.S. unrestricted aid to Israel because added conditions “would be detrimental to Israel’s ability to defend itself against all threats.”

Rioters look like tourists if you squint hard enough

During a House Oversight Committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) said calling the Jan. 6 insurrection an insurrection is a “bald-faced lie” and likened the rioters to tourists.

Members of the committee heard testimony about the riots from former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, and Chief Robert J. Contee of the Metropolitan Police Department.

“Let’s be honest with the American people,” Clyde said. “It was not an insurrection, and we cannot call it that and be truthful.”

“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the … ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” he said.

Both the Capitol itself and the Senate floor were breached by rioters on Jan. 6, and five people died during the attack, including an officer who was beaten by the mob.

More than 460 individuals have been charged with offenses from the Jan. 6 insurrection, including some Minnesota residents.

On Friday, House Democrats and Republicans announced a deal to establish a 10-member panel to investigate the Jan. 6 attack.

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Between you and me, I’ve lived in D.C. for a while, and tourists visiting the Capitol generally don’t enter the building by breaking windows or climbing up walls and scaffolding while wielding weapons and Confederate flags.

More aid than we thought

Minnesota will get more money than previously expected from a federal COVID-19 rescue package — the estimate now is $2.83 billion. The payments, according to Biden administration officials, will start arriving to state treasuries “in a matter of days.” Half will come this year and half will come a year from now. The money, according to MPR, can go to specific purposes:

  • Boosting public health efforts tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccination, contact tracing and testing programs.
  • Addressing economic insecurity caused by the pandemic or helping distressed businesses.
  • Supporting mental health, substance abuse and other crisis treatment that came under strain over the past year.
  • Providing premium pay to essential workers who carried on despite great personal risk.
  • Investing in infrastructure such as water, sewer and broadband. But using the money to pay for debt on roadwork and similar projects won’t be allowed.

Mourning loss of Minnesota reporter & senator’s father

Jim Klobuchar, father of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former columnist for the Star Tribune and MinnPost, died Wednesday at the Emerald Crest care facility in Burnsville. He was 93.

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In a statement, Amy Klobuchar said of her father: “Even to the end, as he lived the final chapter of his life with Alzheimer’s, he was still singing songs and telling incredible stories to my sister Meagan and me. He loved our state. He loved journalism. He loved sports and adventure. And we loved him.”

In lieu of flowers, gifts in honor of Jim Klobuchar’s life can be directed to the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where a scholarship will be established in his name.

What I’m reading

  • The Child Care Industry Was Collapsing. Mrs. Jackie Bet Everything on an Impossible Dream to Save It, ProPublica. Jackie Thomas, a child care provider in Kansas, was $29k in debt and in trouble with state regulators for small infractions like having a trash can without a lid, and for larger ones like being understaffed. But Thomas was fighting hard to keep the staff she had in order to support the mothers who could not keep their jobs without child care during the pandemic. This story outlines the difficult battle Thomas faced to keep her essential business open during a tumultuous time for child care.
  • A “beautiful” female biker was actually a 50-year-old man using FaceApp. After he confessed, his followers liked him even more, Washington Post. Soya no Sohi gained a huge Twitter following as a pretty young motorcyclist, posting daily photos as she tore it up on the roads of northern Japan. But in March, the social media icon labeled as the “ultimate catfish” came clean: Soya was actually Yasuo Nakajima, a 50-year-old father of three who used the iPhone app FaceApp to change his face in all his photos. After the initial fallout, he actually gained a ton of new followers who said they cared more about his personality than his face. This story is both a catfishing adventure and an intriguing look into the fantasy lives people are able to create on social media.
  • Congress Has an HR Problem — and She Loves Crossfit, Mother Jones. Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been the center of several controversies since she took office in November — she was stripped of her committee assignments for hate-filled tweets and support for the execution of top Democrats. She also posted a video of herself doing Crossfit-style pull-ups which she claimed protected her from COVID-19. In a move that was condemned even by Republicans, she also hung an anti-trans flag outside the office of Rep. Marie Newman, whose daughter is transgender. In her latest (successful) attempt to stay in the headlines, Greene chased Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez down the halls of Congress, shouting at her and asking why she supports “terrorist groups” like Black Lives Matter. It seems like anything goes in the Capitol building now.

That’s it from me this week. Thanks for reading! As always, you can send questions, comments or  any “bald-faced lies” to ahackett@minnpost.com. You can also reach me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.