Editorial: Did Trump use the FBI to silence Burr?

Be sure to check out this morning’s provocative Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com. As the headline (“Did Trump use FBI to silence Sen. Burr?”) indicates, it poses a very important question about North Carolina’s senior U.S. senator, Richard Burr.

As you will recall, Senator Burr spent much of 2020 under investigation by the FBI after questions were raised about stock trades he made at the onset of the pandemic after he received government briefings about its likely impact in his role as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Recently, just hours before the end of the Trump presidency, the FBI announced that it was ending the investigation.

This is from the editorial:

We’d like to think the probe into Burr’s questionable stock transactions, made ahead of a sharp market drop amid the spread of the coronavirus and after Burr and others in the Senate had received a closed-door briefing on the emerging pandemic, was prompted by the Trump administration’s concerns over ethical behavior by public officials.

But experience leads us to wonder if it looks like something else altogether. To those looking on, it may seem to be more a scene from a movie like “The Godfather” than “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Based on all we’ve witnessed of Trump’s modus operandi, it looks like an effort to put the squeeze on and muzzle any action – no matter how mild – that Burr’s Senate Intelligence Committee might take in its inquiry into efforts by Russia and other international actors to influence the 2016 elections.

As the editorial notes, Burr had shown that he would not blindly defend Trump from allegations regarding his links to Russia and on May 8 — just days before the FBI announced its investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to Donald Trump, Jr. What’s more, all the other senators under investigation for the same action saw their cases dropped by the end of May.

Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

Burr allowed, in a bipartisan way, the committee and its investigators to do their work and find the facts. That was not to Trump’s liking and when the stock transaction controversy hit as the 2020 campaign was heating up, it was Trump’s opportunity to shut the committee up and get Burr out of the way.  FBI agents seized Burr’s cellphone and launched a Justice Department probe.  Burr “temporarily” stepped down as the committee’s chair and was replaced by Trump cheerleader Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The committee went quiet.

Burr has insisted there was nothing inappropriate about the stock trades and took his actions based on publicly available information. He asked the Senate Ethics Committee to examine his actions.  There’s been no word, as of yet, from the Ethics Committee.  The committee should do its work and fully disclose its findings.  If Burr did anything wrong, so be it and appropriate action should be taken.

Trump wanted to make Burr an example. Republicans in Congress were so afraid of Trump and his base, they feared doing their job and telling the truth, only to face the retribution sure to follow.

Step out of line and look at what happens. It won’t be nice.  Just ask exhibit #1: Richard Burr.

If Trump really did this it would be horrific, but given his other misdeeds, not surprising. If they didn’t already have plenty of other evidence to convict him on, it would be a topic worth investigating for inclusion in Trump’s impeachment proceedings.

Click here to read the full editorial.

Report: Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s sad trail of fibs continues to grow

Congressman’s claim that he trained for the Paralympic Games shown to be misleading at best

The list of disturbing reports about freshman North Carolina congressman, Madison Cawthorn — both with respect to his behavior since winning election last November and the truthfulness of the public statements he’s made over time about his background — continues to multiply.

For the latest, check out reporter Sara Luterman’s story from earlier today in The Nation entitled “The Ignominious Deceits of Congressman Cawthorn.” As Luterman reports in great detail, Cawthorn — whose repeated outrageous actions have already spurred tens of thousands of people to sign a petition demanding his resignation — has been caught in another whopper about his background. This is from the story:

Throughout his short but meteoric political career, Cawthorn has used his disability to tell a story of overcoming: Despite great adversity, he claims to have achieved excellence through grit and physical strength. Many of his campaign ads featured images of Cawthorn intubated and hospitalized alongside videos of him lifting weights and hurtling forward in a racing wheelchair. But his claims of sporting success—like his accounts of education and business acumen—have often been misleading.

Not only has Cawthorn mislead people into believing that he was a successful business owner headed for enrollment at the U.S. Naval Academy at the time of the car accident that caused him to become partially paralyzed (neither statement was true), he has also falsely indicated that he was training for the 2020 Paralympic Games before he ran for office.

As Luterman’s story details, Cawthorn has not participated in any of the kind of elite paralympian training or events that would have allowed him to genuinely be in the position to be “training” for the Paralympics. As she notes, Cawthorn’s claim that he was doing so could only be true in the same sense that she or any average person who likes to engage in an activity that happens to be an Olympic sport could claim that they are in “training” for the Olympics.

Through a series of interviews with genuine paralympians — none of whom had ever seen Cawthorn anywhere near that relatively small community of elite athletes — Luterman demonstrates that Cawthorn’s claim is — like so much of what he says — B.S. Here’s the conclusion to the story:

Multiple athletes expressed frustration, not just with Cawthorn but with the general ignorance of disability and athletics. If Cawthorn had claimed to be preparing for the 400 meters in the Summer Olympics, the press would have ridiculed him, but no one in media questioned his claims of training for the Paralympics. “There is such a lack of awareness about the Paralympic Movement,” Siemann said. “[People] don’t understand the time and effort and energy that Paralympic athletes put in their training. It’s an elite sport. You can’t just get in a racing chair. That’s really not how it works.”

In short, the only thing sadder and more frustrating than Cawthorn’s serial dishonesty is the gullibility of voters and members of the media who fell for it and allowed him to ascend — however briefly it ends up being — to an important position of public service.

Click here to read the full story.

How Richard Burr can redeem himself now that he’s escaped federal prosecution

Richard Burr, appears to have pulled off a political Houdini trick. North Carolina’s senior U.S. Senator didn’t grab one of the scores of presidential pardons that Donald Trump was dispensing like candy yesterday in what appeared to be a kind of “going out of business/two-for-one” sale, but he did hear from federal prosecutors that they’re going to let last year’s troubling stock sales (which took place in and around the onset of the pandemic and a special briefing he received on the matter in his role as a senator) slide.

As the New York Times reported last night:

The Justice Department informed Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, on Tuesday that it would not pursue insider trading charges against him, quietly ending a monthslong investigation into his dumping of hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock in the turbulent early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision by the department effectively cleared a cloud of legal jeopardy that has loomed over Mr. Burr since the sales were first disclosed in March.

The news has to be a tremendous relief to Burr, who must now feel like he’s received a second lease on life. He’s gone from looking at the ignominy of removal from the Senate, losing his sweet pension and even serving time in prison, to returning to his normal position — that of a relatively inconsequential senator who’s spent more than a quarter-century in Washington to little effect, but who will retire from office when his term ends next year to a comfortable, country club life and, if he still wants it at age 67, a few lucrative years on the corporate lobbying circuit.

Of course, one also hopes it’s possible that Burr’s close call could inspire some more noble emotions and desires. Perhaps, after staring into the abyss for several grim months, Burr will have a Scrooge-like epiphany and realize that there can be more to life in Washington than padding one’s retirement accounts and doing the biding of the one percent.

Maybe, just maybe, Burr’s harrowing brush with the law will inspire him to devote the last two years of his his term to — dare we say it? — doing what’s right.

Could it be that, having gotten a second chance (and, by virtue of his announced retirement, no longer facing the pressure to placate the far right Trumpists in the GOP base), Burr might just align himself with other relative “moderates” in the GOP — Romney, Murkowski, Sasse, Collins — and help President Biden rescue the country?

Admittedly, it’s a long shot. The easiest thing for Burr at this point would be to fade back into comfortable, come-to-work-late-and-leave-early, backbench obscurity.

But it’s also clear to anyone paying attention that, while he is certainly no progressive, deep down, Burr is also not a fire-breathing Trumpist. Richard Burr has to know that Donald Trump’s presidency has been disaster for the country in innumerable ways and that it’s essential for the nation’s well-being that the new administration succeed in pursuit of its top four agenda items: overcoming the pandemic, rebuilding the economy, healing our nation’s racial divides and attacking the climate emergency.

After all, Burr has children and grandchildren. He has to want to leave them a nation and planet that are healthier than they are right now. And you’d also think he’d want them to remember him as someone who capped a lengthy career in Congress by, when the chips were down, putting true public service ahead of shallow personal and political expediency.

C’mon, Senator: How ’bout it — what have you got to lose?

BREAKING: Trump includes Robin Hayes in last-minute flurry of pardons at Tillis’s request

Former GOP Chairman Robin Hayes (L), Sen. Thom Tillis (R)

Former North Carolina Congressman, state Representative, gubernatorial candidate and state Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes is among the scores of individuals granted presidential pardons by President Trump as one of his last acts.

This is  from the White House announcement:

Robert Cannon “Robin” Hayes – President Trump granted a full pardon to Robert Cannon “Robin” Hayes. The former North Carolina Congressman is serving a 1-year term of probation for making a false statement in the course of a Federal investigation. In addition to his years in Congress, Mr. Hayes has served as Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party and Chair of the National Council of Republican Party Chairs. Senator Thom Tillis and several members of the North Carolina Congressional delegation strongly support clemency for Mr. Hayes.

Hayes, as you’ll recall, is a wealthy heir to the Cannon textiles fortune who plead guilty to lying to the FBI in 2019 regarding the effort by businessman and big-money GOP contributor Greg Lindberg to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Hayes received a modest sentence of probation for his involvement in the scandal that some saw as a relative slap on the wrist.

In ad, Elmcroft Senior Living tries to profit from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has provoked a great deal of unseemly behavior in many places, but as Adam Searing of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families pointed out in a weekend tweet, a national senior living chain may have just taken the cake.

Oregon-based Eclipse Senior Living manages facilities in 25 states, including North Carolina, where it runs a dozen locations operating under the Elmcroft Senior Living brand.

Recently, in an apparent effort to recruit new residents when many people are understandably hesitant to enter congregate care (seven of the 12 Elmcroft locations in North Carolina are on the state’s most recent list of COVID outbreaks in congregate living settings), the firm bought online advertising in which it implied to prospective customers that they could gain priority for COVID vaccinations by moving into one of its facilities.

Searing saw the ad and copied it from a local news website.

As you can see at left, the ad read:

“This is your shot!…By making the decision to become a part of our community now, you’re also ensuring that you can receive the vaccine before millions of others.”

The company’s come-on is, in a word, revolting.

COVID vaccines (which are free of charge and for which seniors are already a priority) should be distributed exclusively pursuant to transparent public criteria and priorities – not the actions of companies who seek to profit by helping (or implying they can help) their customers to jump the line ahead of others.

Let’s hope the company takes down the ad immediately and that state official investigate if it doesn’t.