As White House approves vaccine guidelines, Trump sees conspiracy

It was two weeks ago today when Donald Trump first raised the prospect of rejecting strict FDA guidelines on possible coronavirus vaccines. “That has to be approved by the White House,” the president said. “We may or may not approve it.”

Around the same time, the Republican suggested FDA officials were conspiring against him, “delaying” the vaccine as part of a pre-election “political hit” against him.

It was against this backdrop that the public learned this week that White House officials were, in fact, blocking the tougher federal vaccine guidelines. That is, until yesterday, when the White House relented and released the stricter standards.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines will need to follow tens of thousands of study participants for at least two months to look for any possible safety issues before the agency would consider authorization…. The FDA will require two months of follow-up for at least half of the study participants after they receive their last doses of vaccine. The vaccine candidates furthest ahead in phase 3 clinical trials, from Moderna and Pfizer, each require two doses, given about one month apart.

This will, among other things, make it impossible for a vaccine to be available before Election Day, which had been a presidential priority.

With this in mind, Trump returned to Twitter last night, writing, “New FDA Rules make it more difficult for them to speed up vaccines for approval before Election Day. Just another political hit job!”

Just so we’re all clear, Trump believes FDA officials are only pretending to care about vaccine safety, and the agency has actually issued strict guidelines as part of a political scheme. The president also apparently believes that his own White House is part of the “hit job,” since it was White House officials who yesterday cleared the new standards for public release.

I can’t say whether Trump’s medications are affecting his judgment or not, but I can say it’s weird to see a sitting president denounce a public-health decision made by his own team.

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U.S. House condemns ‘QAnon’ conspiracy theory; 17 Republicans vote no

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted to condemn the online pro-Trump conspiracy theory known as “QAnon,” but 17 Republicans opposed the non-binding resolution, whose sponsor Democrat Representative Tom Malinowski said he has received death threats.

a large clock tower in front of United States Capitol: The U.S. Capitol building dome is seen in Washington

© Reuters/ERIN SCOTT
The U.S. Capitol building dome is seen in Washington

The House voted 371-18 to reject the conspiracy theory, which posits President Donald Trump has been working to take down a global child sex ring. As many as a dozen Republican candidates for Congress have voiced some support for the theory, and at least one of them appears to be a on a path to victory.

“The grotesque nature of the tweets and Instagram posts and the anti-Semitic tripe spewed by QAnon adherents should cause concern for everyone,” Representative Denver Riggleman, a Republican co-sponsor of the resolution, said on the House floor.

“But the death threats Tom Malinowski received were at surprise and a shock,” Riggleman said. “This type of behavior is easily condemned.”

Seventeen Republicans lawmakers and independent Representative Justin Amash voted against the resolution. Another Republican voted present, and forty lawmakers, most of them Republicans, did not vote.

Writing on Twitter, Amash said the resolution threatened protected speech – and may make things worse. “These are conspiracy theorists who believe in a deep state that’s fighting against them,” he wrote.

Republican candidates who have voiced some measure of support for the QAnon theory include Georgia businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, on track for a House seat after her Democratic opponent dropped out, and Jo Rae Perkins, who is running for Senate in Oregon against incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley. He is expected to win.

The theory claims without evidence that “deep-state” traitors, child sex predators and prominent Democrats are plotting against Trump, who in turn is leading a plot against them. The FBI included QAnon last year in a warning about “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists.”

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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House votes to condemn baseless QAnon conspiracy theory

Seventeen Republicans and one independent opposed the resolution.

Adherents of QAnon believe President Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex. In August, Trump gave a major boost to the baseless theory, saying that he appreciated the support of its followers, calling them “people that love our country.”

Malinowski said he has faced attacks online from QAnon supporters and received threats after the National Republican Congressional Committee ran an ad that falsely said Malinowski tried to block a provision in a 2006 crime bill that would have expanded registration requirements for sex offenders.

Malinowski, a freshman who worked on national security issues in the Clinton and Obama administrations, was the director of Human Rights Watch from 2001-2013.

“If you’ve seen extra vitriol on my social media, here’s why: the “Q” persona dropped a statement targeting me, citing the discredited NRCC (GOP SuperPAC) attacks on me & my resolution condemning QAnon. My office has gotten 6 death threats since yesterday,” Malinowski tweeted earlier this week.

Speaking on the House floor Friday, Malinowski warned of the threat of QAnon.

“Conspiracy theories, just like this one, have fueled prejudice, terrorism, even genocide and today, social media is fanning the flames,” he said.

The resolution “condemns QAnon and rejects the conspiracy theories it promotes,” while encouraging the FBI and law enforcement to focus on preventing violence, threats and harassment by extremists motivated by fringe political conspiracy theories. The measure also outlines a vision unlikely to be fulfilled — urging Americans, regardless of their political leanings, to seek information from authoritative sources and debate from a “common factual foundation.”

In his remarks, Malinowski alluded to the political gains of QAnon adherents.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has endorsed the baseless theory and made several other racist remarks on video, won a GOP primary runoff in Georgia’s heavily Republican 14th Congressional District in August, and has a clear path to becoming QAnon’s first devotee in Congress. Last month, her Democratic rival in the GOP-leaning district dropped out of the race, citing personal reasons.

Malinowski condemned other conspiracy theories. He added: “Only one of these threats is considered a terrorist threat by the FBI. Only one is winning elections.”

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House Republicans won’t expressly reject the QAnon conspiracy theory

  • Insider spoke with a dozen House Republicans about QAnon, a conspiracy theory that alleges a cannibalistic child-sex-trafficking cult has taken over the Democratic Party and global elites. Most of them would not denounce it.
  • The absence of a strong and unified stand in the GOP against QAnon suggests that Republicans have little appetite for alienating their party’s most extreme voters, with fewer than 50 days before Election Day.
  • A supporter of the outrageous conspiracy theory that has taken root in the Republican Party, Marjorie Taylor Greene, is favored to win a Georgia congressional seat in the November elections. House GOP leaders are ready to welcome her.
  • “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a close ally of President Donald Trump who has embraced QAnon supporters. Other Republican lawmakers deflected, saying they’d instead like to see a stronger condemnation for Black Lives Matter activists protesting police brutality.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

QAnon has been labeled a terrorism threat by the FBI and is linked to violent incidents across the country, but many Republican members of Congress Insider interviewed this week would not outright disavow it or call for a stronger condemnation by the party’s leadership. 

Only a handful of elected Republicans have voiced concern about the wild conspiracy theory that has infiltrated the party’s base.

Of the more than a dozen Republican lawmakers Insider talked to, only one — Rep. Peter King of New York — expressly denounced QAnon and its adherents. 

The absence of a strong and unified stand in the GOP against QAnon raises questions of how seriously the party is willing to take a dangerous conspiracy theory animating a part of its base. It also suggests that some Republican lawmakers have little appetite, with fewer than 50 days before Election Day, for alienating their party’s most extreme voters.

In interviews with Insider on Capitol Hill this week, some Republicans claimed ignorance, even though QAnon has received significant media coverage since at least 2018. A resolution denouncing QAnon is pending in Congress, and even President Donald Trump has commented on it.

Other members expressed skepticism about QAnon’s seriousness. At least three lawmakers deflected, saying they’d instead like to see stronger condemnation of racial-justice protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement’s call to “defund the police,” a rallying cry for reforms in American law enforcement. 

Those who did criticize QAnon demurred when asked if House Republicans should take a stand against the QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican congressional candidate who is all but certain to win in November after her Democratic opponent suddenly dropped out last week.

Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said she hadn’t “spent time looking into” QAnon.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a close ally of Trump, downplayed it.

“I didn’t know anything until y’all started talking about it, and I haven’t taken the time to research it,” Jordan told Insider. “I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Trump has

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Former ComEd VP charged with bribery conspiracy in scheme to sway House Speaker Michael Madigan

A former vice president for ComEd was charged Friday with bribery conspiracy alleging he helped orchestrate a scheme to pay political allies of powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan to influence legislation in Springfield that would benefit the utility.

Fidel Marquez, a longtime lobbyist and former senior vice president of governmental affairs at ComEd, was charged in a one-count criminal information made public late Friday.

Marquez was the first person to be charged in the ongoing investigation of an elaborate bribery scheme aimed at influencing legislation in Springfield by making payments to Madigan associates and approved lobbyists, some of whom did little or no actual work for the company.

ComEd was charged with bribery in July and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government, agreeing to pay a record $200 million fine and cooperate with investigators in exchange for the charges being dropped in three years.

Defendants who are charged via criminal information — as opposed to grand jury indictment — likely intend to plead guilty. Neither Marquez nor his attorney could immediately be reached for comment.

Madigan, the nation’s longest-serving speaker and Illinois Democratic Party chairman, has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

The four-page information against Marquez alleged that from 2011 to 2019, he conspired with others to corruptly solicit jobs, contracts and monetary payments for the benefit of Madigan — identified as Public Official A — and his associates with the intent of influencing legislation beneficial to ComEd.

Specifically, on July 30, 2018, Marquez directed a $37,500 payment to Company 1, “a substantial portion of which was intended for associates of (Madigan),” the information stated.

The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Marquez was a focus of the federal investigation, as is former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, who abruptly retired last year. Pramaggiore has not been charged. A Pramaggiore spokesman has said that she “has done nothing wrong and any inference to the contrary is misguided and false.”

Prosecutors have said ComEd’s scheme began around 2011 — when key regulatory matters were before the Illinois House that Madigan controls — and continued through last year.

Many of the illegal payments allegedly were arranged by downstate lobbyist Michael McClain, a key confidant and adviser at the center of the probe, according to court records. McClain also has not been charged.

One example cited in ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement involved a man identified as “Consultant 1,” who allegedly was speaking to a ComEd executive identified by the Tribune as Marquez. The consultant said he believed McClain had spoken to Madigan about the payments, saying the money was “to keep (Public Official A) happy (and) I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise,” prosecutors alleged.

Records show ComEd tried to clean up its lobbying operation in the midst of the investigation last year. One of those departing was Marquez. ComEd officially announced it on Sept. 23, saying only that Marquez was “retiring after 39 years of service.”

Marquez, who has homes in Chicago

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