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Congress aims to avoid politics with independent Jan. 6 investigation – ABC News



As Congress looks to set up an independent outside panel to investigate the Capitol siege, Democrats and Republicans both have pointed to the 9/11 Commission as a model of bipartisan cooperation.

Trump was acquitted last week. His lawyers argued he wasn’t responsible for the violence at the Capitol and against the propriety of convicting a former president. Seven Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in the 57-43 vote, short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has shared proposed legislation to set up the panel with Republicans after seeking input from lawmakers, relevant committees and leaders of the 9/11 Commission, including former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, Lee Hamilton, the former Indiana congressman who served as co-chair, and Tim Roemer, another former Democratic congressman.

In interviews with ABC News, Kean, Hamilton and Roemer said they told Pelosi a successful commission would require appointing members who can avoid the partisan fray, supplying them with adequate resources and providing enough time to investigate on their own timetable, rather than one laid out by Congress or the White House.

“You cannot have people on the commission whose job is to defend the president or defend the speaker,” said Kean, a Republican, and chair of the 9/11 Commission. “You’ve got to have people who follow the facts.”

To blunt partisanship on the panel, Kean established a strong relationship with Hamilton and didn’t hire any staff who’d recently worked on a political campaign.

The composition of the committee is essential to its success, added Roemer, who has been consulting with Pelosi and her staff over the past two weeks on the drafting of the legislation. Roemer added that the commissioners must have experience in complex areas of policy, from cybersecurity and law enforcement to racial issues and disinformation campaigns.

“You need to pick people who have worked across the aisle and have deep experience in the issue areas involved. The commission will likely be 10 or 11 people, with the president getting to pick the chair and the leadership selecting other people,” Roemer said.

The 9/11 Commission faced resistance from the Bush White House as it explored what intelligence was known about the plot before the attack, and it was pressured to conclude its investigation before the 2004 election, Kean recalled.

Pelosi, in a statement on Monday, said the commission would “investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex” relating to “the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement in the National Capitol Region.”

At an earlier press conference, Pelosi said the new panel would have “nothing to do with President Trump” but would focus on Capitol security, along with white supremacy and anti-Semitism.

“The mandate, the remit, the purpose section of the legislative needs to be specific, it needs to be precise and it needs to be crystal clear,” Roemer said. “It should not be only about how to protect the Capitol complex or how high the walls should be, it should also include what led to attacks and how to strengthen the institutions of our representative democracy.”

It’s not yet clear whether Republicans will back the speaker’s effort. At least 10 Republicans will need to support any proposal in the Senate to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the chamber to pass the legislation.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was noncommittal in a statement to ABC News, and pointed to the commission legislation proposed by House Republicans several weeks ago.

“It is our responsibility to understand the security and intelligence breakdowns that led to the riots on January 6 so that we can better protect this institution and the men and women working inside it,” his statement read. “A commission should follow the guidance of Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton to be ‘both independent and bipartisan,’ and to preserve that integrity it must be evenly split between both parties.”

Some of Trump’s top allies in Congress have tried to shift blame to Pelosi — questioning her handling of Capitol security before the attack — and could bristle at any closer examination of Trump.

“For this to work,” Pelosi said during a press conference on Thursday, “it really has to be strongly bipartisan. You have to have subpoena power.”

“That is the solution to getting access to people and information in this case,” Roemer told ABC News. “Getting access to the material that was out there when President Trump was in office and the cooperation of key witnesses – subpoenaing those people who were there. Others may be absolutely willing to come in without a subpoena.”

Initial Democratic and Republican proposals for the commission differ on the scope of the inquiry, whether members of Congress could serve on the panel, and whether it would explore issues like online disinformation.

Philip Zelikow, a professor at the University of Virginia who served as the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and helped author its bestselling report, told ABC News that the ongoing FBI investigations into Capitol rioters could create “lots of hindrances and potential delays” along with any investigations into Trump’s phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state.

At least 237 people are facing federal charges stemming from the Capitol riot, according to an ABC News review of charging documents.

“We did mutually benefit from a colossal FBI investigation,” he said of the 9/11 Commission. “But the FBI investigation was not in the process of being presented to a grand jury.”

John Farmer, a former attorney general of New Jersey who served as senior counsel on the 9/11 Commission, told ABC News that the panel should be able to confer immunity to witnesses in exchange for help, to incentivize cooperation, although that could complicate ongoing criminal investigations and future inquiries into holding people accountable for the attack.

“A judgment will have to be made in some cases whether a full account of what happened on Jan. 6 is more important than individual culpability,” Farmer said.

At least seven House and Senate committees also are conducting their own investigations into the attack, seeking records and testimony from senior congressional security officials, the FBI and social media platforms, such as Parler, that authorities say were used by rioters to communicate ahead of the siege.

On Friday, the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center produced records to the House panels as part of their inquiry into what federal intelligence agencies knew about the potential for an attack ahead of Jan. 6, a House committee official told ABC News. The Department of Homeland Security is expected to produce records for the committees in the coming weeks.

Several House and Senate panels plan to hold the first public hearings on the Jan. 6 attack, featuring current and former congressional security officials, next week.

Hamilton, the 9/11 Commission co-chair, said the most difficult work will be making sure that any recommendations the commission ends up making are passed into law.

“There isn’t any magic here, no formula, just common sense and the political will to do it,” he told ABC News.

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Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’



British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday as “a big breath of fresh air”, and praised his determination to work with allies on important global issues ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to security.

Johnson did not draw an explicit parallel between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump after talks with the Democratic president in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay on the eve of a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies.

But his comments made clear Biden had taken a much more multilateral approach to talks than Trump, whose vision of the world at times shocked, angered and bewildered many of Washington’s European allies.

“It’s a big breath of fresh air,” Johnson said of a meeting that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.

“It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects,” he said. “It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together.”

The two leaders appeared relaxed as they admired the view across the Atlantic alongside their wives, with Jill Biden wearing a jacket embroidered with the word “LOVE”.

“It’s a beautiful beginning,” she said.

Though Johnson said the talks were “great”, Biden brought grave concerns about a row between Britain and the European Union which he said could threaten peace in the British region of Northern Ireland, which following Britain’s departure from the EU is on the United Kingdom’s frontier with the bloc as it borders EU member state Ireland.

The two leaders did not have a joint briefing after the meeting: Johnson spoke to British media while Biden made a speech about a U.S. plan to donate half a billion vaccines to poorer countries.


Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, was keen to prevent difficult negotiations between Brussels and London undermining a 1998 U.S.-brokered peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Britain that Biden had a “rock-solid belief” in the peace deal and that any steps that imperilled the accord would not be welcomed.

Yael Lempert, the top U.S. diplomat in Britain, issued London with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – for “inflaming” tensions, the Times newspaper reported.

Johnson sought to play down the differences with Washington.

“There’s complete harmony on the need to keep going, find solutions, and make sure we uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU.

Asked if Biden had made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland very clear, he said: “No he didn’t.

“America, the United States, Washington, the UK, plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do,” Johnson said. “And that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That is absolutely common ground.”

The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the “Troubles” – three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Britain’s exit from the EU has strained the peace in Northern Ireland. The 27-nation bloc wants to protect its markets but a border in the Irish Sea cuts off the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Although Britain formally left the EU in 2020, the two sides are still trading threats over the Brexit deal after London unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Northern Irish clauses of the deal.

Johnson’s Downing Street office said he and Biden agreed that both Britain and the EU “had a responsibility to work together and to find pragmatic solutions to allow unencumbered trade” between Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal, Padraic Halpin, John Chalmers; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Potter and Timothy Heritage)

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U.S. senator slams Apple, Amazon, Nike, for enabling forced labor in China



U.S. senator

A U.S. senator on Thursday slammed American companies, including Inc, Apple Inc and Nike Inc, for turning a blind eye to allegations of forced labor in China, arguing they were making American consumers complicit in Beijing’s repressive policies.

Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on China’s crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in its western Xinjiang region, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said many U.S. companies had not woken up to the fact that they were “profiting” from the Chinese government’s abuses.

“For far too long companies like Nike and Apple and Amazon and Coca-Cola were using forced labor. They were benefiting from forced labor or sourcing from suppliers that were suspected of using forced labor,” Rubio said. “These companies, sadly, were making all of us complicit in these crimes.”

Senator Ed Markey, who led the hearing with fellow Democrat Tim Kaine, said a number of U.S. technology companies had profited from the Chinese government’s “authoritarian surveillance industry,” and that many of their products “are being used in Xinjiang right now.”

Thermo Fisher Scientific said in 2019 it would stop selling genetic sequencing equipment into Xinjiang after rights groups and media documented how authorities there were building a DNA database for Uyghurs. But critics say the move didn’t go far enough.

“All evidence is that they continue to provide these products which enabled these human rights abuses,” Rubio said of Thermo Fisher, noting that he had written the Massachusetts-based company repeatedly about the matter.

“Whenever we receive proof of forced labor, we take action and suspend privileges to sell,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

Coca-Cola declined to comment. The other companies mentioned did not respond immediately to Reuters’ questions.

U.S. lawmakers are seeking to pass legislation that would ban imports of goods made in Xinjiang over concerns about forced labor.

Rights groups, researchers, former residents and some western lawmakers say Xinjiang authorities have facilitated forced labor by arbitrarily detaining around a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities in a network of camps since 2016.

The United States government and parliaments in countries, including Britain and Canada, have described China’s policies toward Uyghurs as genocide. China denies abuses, saying the camps are for vocational training and to counter religious extremism.

Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, told the Senate panel that Beijing’s “extreme repression and surveillance” made human rights due diligence for companies impossible.

“Inspectors cannot visit facilities unannounced or speak to workers without fear of reprisal. Some companies seem unwilling or unable to ascertain precise information about their own supply chains,” she said.


(Reporting by Michael Martina, Richa Naidu, Aishwarya Venugopal and Jeffrey Dastin; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more



The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.


Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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