Virginia Assault Weapon Ban, Magazine Confiscation Defeated in Senate

The Virginia proposal to ban “assault weapons” and confiscate ammunition magazines holding more than 12 rounds was defeated in a bipartisan vote on Monday morning.

In a 10-5 vote, the state senate’s Judiciary Committee referred HB961 to the crime commission for further study, meaning the bill will not go to a final vote this legislative session. Democratic senators Creigh Deeds, John S. Edwards, Scott Surovell, and Chap Petersen joined all of the Republicans on the committee to vote down the measure. It passed the Democrat-controlled House of Delegates by a slim majority last week.

The crowd of gun-rights advocates who had filled the committee room to capacity began to cheer as the bill was defeated. Their cheers, combined with those of the overflow crowd in the hallway outside the meeting, were loud enough that senators briefly paused the meeting.

The defeat of the ban and confiscation measure followed mass demonstrations from Second Amendment rights advocates in January. Tens of thousands peacefully rallied in Richmond during a gun-rights gathering as lawmakers debated gun-control bills. The rally was a culmination of three months of grassroots opposition to measures—especially confiscation efforts—backed by Governor Ralph Northam (D.) and members of the newly elected Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature. As of February, 141 localities, including 91 of Virginia’s 95 counties, had declared themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries” and vowed not to enforce new gun laws they deemed unconstitutional.

“Everybody’s hard work, Lobby Day, and sanctuary movement paid off!” Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which organized the Richmond rally and helped facilitate the sanctuary movement, tweeted after the vote.

The National Rifle Association, which also organized a lobby day in January and had been continually working with lawmakers to block HB961, said the vote represented a significant victory for Virginia gun owners.

“This is a victory for honest, hard-working Virginians who shared their support for the Second Amendment in rallies on the capitol, in one-on-one meetings with their lawmakers, in letters to the editor, and in phone calls, emails, and texts to their state senators,” Catherine Mortensen, an NRA spokeswoman, told the Washington Free Beacon. “We thank the senators on the judiciary committee for listening to their constituents and delivering a bipartisan defeat of an egregious gun ban that would have criminalized law-abiding gun owners.”

Gun-control supporters decried the bipartisan vote.

“Wimps,” Senator L. Louise Lucas (D.) said as the bill was defeated. “Bunch of wimps.”

Everytown for Gun Safety, which spent $2.5 million in the 2019 state elections, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But gun-control group Brady United called the defeat disappointing. It vowed to pursue similar legislation next year.

“While we are disappointed in today’s vote, we are undeterred,” Kris Brown, the group’s president, said in a statement. “This was not the outcome we wanted, but they can rest assured that they will hear from us, from advocates and from everyday Virginians in the intervening months about why we need to ban assault weapons in Virginia.”

Had it passed, the bill would have had a wide-reaching effect. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade group, said the vast majority of modern firearms come standard with magazines that hold more than 12 rounds. It estimated HB961 could have affected hundreds of thousands or even millions of Virginians.

“This bill would affect more than just your modern sporting rifles like the AR-15,” Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the group, told the Free Beacon when Democrats passed HB961 through a House committee earlier this month. “It would affect the vast majority of handguns.”

The gun-control fight in Virginia is not over. The house and senate have passed five gun measures, including a universal background check bill, red flag proposal, and one-gun-a-month purchase limit. These proposals have not attracted as much vocal opposition from Democratic lawmakers as the ban and confiscation legislation did. The legislature also has another session next year before the house and gubernatorial elections in November 2021.

“Today the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to defeat the largest attack on Virginia’s gun owners that we have seen in years,” the Virginia Shooting Sports Association, the NRA’s state affiliate, tweeted after the vote. “The battle is not over but this bill is dead for this session.”

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New 1776 Project Aims to Counter ‘Lethal’ Narrative of 1619 Project

A group of predominantly African-American academics, journalists, entrepreneurs, and community activists on Friday launched one of the most significant challenges yet to the New York Times’s controversial 1619 Project, which is named for the year slaves arrived in Virginia and argues that the United States was founded on racism.

Bob Woodson, a leader in the African-American community who has spent his career fighting to stave off the cycle of poverty and crime, argued on Friday that the 1619 Project’s message—that life outcomes for African Americans are shaped by the history of slavery and Jim Crow—is a “lethal” narrative that perpetuates a culture of victimhood in the African-American community. During the launch of his new 1776 initiative, named for the year America was founded, Woodson said the new group would challenge those who assert America is forever defined by past failures.

While different academics and journalists have criticized the 1619 Project since its release last year, the 1776 project represents one of the largest coordinated challenges to the New York Times’s narrative. It will focus its efforts on opposing the negative impact the 1619 story will have on future generations of African Americans.

The 1776 project will promote a series of essays and educational resources that provide an “aspirational and inspirational alternative” to the Times’s narrative. “People are inspired to achieve when they’re given victories that are possible, not always showering them with injuries to be avoided,” Woodson said alongside partners at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The fatalistic narrative of the 1619 Project, which is already taught in “thousands of classrooms” across the country, according to the partnering Pulitzer Center, deprives African Americans of the agency to improve their lives, Woodson said.

“This garbage that is coming down from the scholars and writers from 1619 is most hypocritical because they don’t live in communities [that are] suffering,” he continued. “They are advocating something they don’t have to pay the penalty for.”

Glenn Loury, a professor of economics at Brown University and a 1776 contributor, echoed Woodson on the damaging impact the 1619 Project’s message would have on future generations.

“The idea that the specter of slavery still determines the character of life among African Americans is an affront to me,” Loury said at the Friday event. “We have shown, and will continue to show, that we are not merely bobbles at the end of a historical string, being pushed this way and that by forces beyond our control.”

“I believe in America, and I believe in black people,” Loury added. “Something tells me when I read that document that the 1619 Project authors don’t. They don’t believe in America … and I’m sorry to have to report, I get the impression they don’t believe in black people.”

“The 1619 project offers a very crippling message to our children,” said Dr. Carol Swain, a former professor of political science at Princeton and Vanderbilt University. “I was spared from having that message brought to me. And I believe that if I had been exposed to that, if I had internalized that negative message, I don’t believe I would have been able to do the things I’ve done in life.”

The 1619 Project was launched last summer to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of African slaves to the American colonies. It “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative,” and to show that “different aspects of contemporary American life, from mass incarceration to rush-hour traffic,” are derived from America’s history of slavery.

In her inaugural essay for the Times’s initiative, Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Times correspondent and head of the 1619 Project, wrote, “Anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country, as does the belief, so well articulated by Lincoln, that black people are the obstacle to national unity.”

The 1776 project will promote success stories designed to counter the message of 1619, such as “slaves who became millionaires through entrepreneurial determination” or who went on to buy the “plantations on which they once worked,” Woodson explains on the group’s website.

The 1776 essays, published by the Washington Examiner, include pieces by Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, DePaul University philosophy professor and author Jason Hill, and Columbia University English professor and Atlantic editor John McWhorter.

1776 is not the first coordinated effort to critique the 1619 Project. Last December, the Times published a letter from five distinguished American historians—Victoria Bynum of Texas State University, James M. McPherson of Princeton University, James Oak of City University of New York, Sean Wilentz of Princeton University, and Gordon Wood of Brown University—requesting that the Times issue corrections for a series of factual errors.

Among the 1619 Project’s inaccuracies, the historians argued the Times should correct the claim that the Revolutionary War was fought to “ensure that slavery would continue.” In a previous interview, McPherson, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his writings about the Civil War, said the 1619 Project is a “very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery.” In November, Wood said he was surprised the 1619 Project has the “authority of the New York Times behind it” given the project is “so wrong in so many ways.”

In a response to the letter, New York Times Magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein refused to issue a correction and said, “Historical understanding is not fixed; it is constantly being adjusted by new scholarship and new voices.”

In the months since Silverstein’s response, Princeton’s Wilentz and journalist Cathy Young have highlighted historical inaccuracies in the 1619 Project. Young also argues that the project has a “fairly clear present-day agenda of furthering progressive-left ideology.”

Woodson says he hopes 1776 will be able to “counter the false history that the 1619 Project espouses and has disseminated as a school curriculum.”

Woodson will not aim to challenge each assertion presented by 1619 Project, but rather to offer forward-looking solutions to counter 1619’s focus on the past.

“Our focus will be to identify and highlight solutions, models of success in reviving our streets and communities, and actionable goals that should be pursued,” Woodson says.

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U.S. Vows to Continue Backing Fight Against Islamic Terror in Africa

DAKAR, Senegal – The United States is committed to sending counter-terrorism resources to Africa to aid the continent’s ongoing fight against radical Islamic forces, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Speaking Sunday alongside senior Senegalese officials during the first stop of a multi-nation visit to Africa, Pompeo said the Trump administration is currently reviewing its security plans for West Africa and will ensure nations in the region receive all the support they need in the fight against Islamic terrorist forces.

In his meetings with the Senegalese president and foreign minister, Pompeo said he “talked about Islamist terrorism, which endangers 350 million people right here in West Africa. It threatens Americans, too, and we are counting on Senegal. It is an important ally in this fight. And I assured our friends that the U.S. will keep this fight up as well.”

Pompeo’s comments are being viewed as a dose of much-needed reassurance to African nations concerned about America’s ongoing commitment to their safety and security.

“We did have a lot of conversation about the security situation here and America’s role in those,” Pompeo told reporters. “We made it clear we’re looking at West Africa to make sure we have our force levels right.”

Pompeo traveled to the region in his previous role as CIA director.

“We’ll get it right and we’ll get it right collectively,” Pompeo said of the number of American forces likely to be sent to the region to assist with security.

As the lead stop on his first-ever tour of sub-Saharan Africa as secretary of state, Pompeo discussed key regional security issues, as well as private investment opportunities for American businesses.

“We have an obligation to get security right here in the region that will permit economic growth,” Pompeo said.

Senegal remains a “vibrant democracy rich in culture and history,” he added. “The United States is proud to have Senegal as one of our closest friends on the continent.”

In addition to regional security issues, the Trump administration is seeking to let Africa know that it is not pulling back its economic investment. Pompeo announced the start of several multi-million dollar projects and will continue to advocate for American businesses as he continues through the region.

“President Trump’s ‘Prosper Africa’ initiative is making the kinds of deals signed this morning possible,” Pompeo said.

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Stelter: Was I Stupid to Take Avenatti Seriously as Possible 2020 Candidate?

CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter asked his Reliable Sources guests Sunday if he was “stupid” to take disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti seriously as a possible 2020 presidential candidate.

Avenatti, who was found guilty this week of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike, was a media darling in 2018, making hundreds of television appearances as he promoted client Stormy Daniels’s litigation against President Donald Trump. He used his newfound fame to flirt with a presidential run, and Stelter told him during one Reliable Sources appearance that he took his potential candidacy seriously because of his presence on cable news.

On Sunday, Stelter told Daily Beast reporters Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng that he got “grief” for that remark.

“Give me a media critique,” Stelter said. “Was that stupid on my part? What do you make of how Avenatti was covered by CNN and MSNBC?”

Markay said Trump had succeeded at times in “Trumpifying” his opposition, allowing his foes to buy into conspiracy theories and get taken in by shady figures like Avenatti.

“By virtue of granting that, they were being played by that very strategy, his ability to manipulate the media,” Markay said.

Stelter was hardly alone in boosting Avenatti. Panelists on MSNBC’s Deadline: White House said the political novice should be given attention as a possible 2020 hopeful because he was a “fighter.” Pundits called him a “beast,” the “savior of the republic,” and an “existential threat to the Trump presidency.”

Avenatti constantly promised news nuggets that would bring down the president and promised several times Trump would not serve out his first term in office. It was not uncommon to see Avenatti on multiple programs in a single day.

In one two-month span, he earned $175 million in free media from CNN and MSNBC alone. He also made appearances on TodayCBS This MorningGood Morning AmericaThe ViewReal Time with Bill MaherThe Late Show with Stephen ColbertThe Circus, and other shows outside of cable.

However, his reputation began to fall apart when he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in November 2018. The charges were later dropped, but Daniels’s lawsuit against Trump failed and she eventually accused Avenatti of stealing $300,000 from her.

In 2019, he was indicted in California and New York for multiple financial crimes, including tax evasion, fraud, and embezzlement.

Vanity Fair, which reported in 2018 on his style and skincare routine, published a story in 2019 alleging he physically abused his ex-girlfriend and terrorized media figures behind the scenes.

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Klobuchar: Obama Admin. ‘Went Way Too Far’ on Deporting Illegal Immigrants

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) said Sunday that the Obama administration “went way too far” on deporting illegal immigrants.

“I think that went way too far, yes, and I think you’ve seen a lot of that across our country,” Klobuchar said on Face The Nation. “The question is what do we do going forward? To me the very straightforward answer is comprehensive immigration reform.”

Under President Barack Obama, the United States deported three million illegal immigrants, including many who had not committed criminal offenses aside from their illegal entry.

Former vice president Joe Biden said Saturday that the administration made a “big mistake” and “we took far too long to get it right” on deportation policy.

Klobuchar’s remark comes in the wake of the reemergence of a clip of her taking a more aggressive line on illegal immigration.

In a 2006 debate during her first Senate run, Klobuchar called for “order at the border” and supported building a “fence.” While she supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States, she also said they should learn English, a nonstarter for top Democrats in the party today.

The Democratic 2020 nomination fight has been marked by a sharp swing to the left on immigration policy. Two of the top five candidates in the delegate count to date, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), support decriminalizing illegal border entries.

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Johnson: Biden’s Backpedaling on Obama Immigration Policy Is a ‘Fail for Him’

Former vice president Joe Biden’s lack of a forceful defense for Obama administration immigration policies is a failure of messaging, Washington Free Beacon editor in chief Eliana Johnson said Sunday.

Ed O’Keefe argued on Face The Nation that Biden is now calling the detainment of children a mistake because of Nevada’s large Latino population, but Johnson replied Biden is missing an opportunity to address immigration in a way more moderate voters would appreciate.

“The problem with Biden and immigration is his response to it,” Johnson said. “If he wanted to own that moderate lane, he should be vocally defending the Obama administration’s policies on this by saying, ‘This is an endemic problem that multiple administrations, Democrat and Republican, have been dealing with—we dealt with it the best we could.'”

“Trump’s strongest supporters are on the issue of immigration. Biden needs to win some of those Obama-Trump voters back, and I think explaining and backpedaling, and doing so in such a tentative way, is a fail for him,” she added.

Biden told Univision’s Jorge Ramos in a new interview that the Obama administration made a “big mistake” by deporting undocumented immigrants who didn’t have a criminal record.

While Biden defended the administration’s record regarding young migrants and their families, he said it’s not truthful to compare the Obama administration’s detainments to those of the Trump administration. O’Keefe said Biden was “happily” discussing the issue now that the campaign has turned to Nevada, since he needs to shore up support among young and Latino voters.

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Former DNC Chair ‘Extremely Dismayed’ at Bloomberg’s Record on Race, Sexism in Workplace

Former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile said Sunday that Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s history of racially discriminatory policies and mistreatment of women in the workplace has her “dismayed.”

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace asked whether the Washington Post‘s latest report on sexist behavior at Bloomberg L.P. would hurt his campaign, and Brazile said it would be “extremely damaging.”

“I am extremely dismayed at the information I read over the weekend about his sexist work environment,” she said. “It’s one thing to have this so-called top law enforcement policy, stop-and-frisk—it was ruled unconstitutional. And it has taken him years to say, ‘I’m sorry about that.’ He has the resources, but I am very uncomfortable with his record. Very uncomfortable.”

Brazile argued Bloomberg’s recent bump in the polls is due to his money. Not only has he paid for a vast ad campaign all over the country, but he is also attractive to voters who want a powerful campaigner to take on President Donald Trump.

“There are many people in the Democratic Party who are looking at Mr. Bloomberg because he has the resources to take on President Trump, but the question in my judgment is his record,” Brazile said.

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Steyer Frustrated by Poll Showing High Economic Satisfaction

Democratic 2020 candidate Tom Steyer on Sunday accused ABC News anchor Martha Raddatz of “standing up for” President Donald Trump’s “version of the economy” after she cited a poll showing high satisfaction with the economy.

Raddatz, noting Steyer has campaigned on challenging Trump on the economy, pointed to a new Quinnipiac poll showing 70 percent of respondents felt the economy was excellent or good. That mark was only slightly lower than the 73 percent who answered that way in December, an all-time high.

“How do you convince them that a change is needed when they think they’re doing so well under Donald Trump?” she asked.

Steyer said that Trump’s talking points on the economy sounded true but were actually “a lie.” He argued that low unemployment disguises poor wage growth, while stock market growth largely benefits the most wealthy.

Raddatz reiterated the “70 percent” economic approval rating, noting that respondents were not “all wealthy people.”

“Here we are on a show, and you’re standing up for Mr. Trump’s version of the economy,” Steyer said.

“I’m telling you about a national poll,” Raddatz cut in. “I’m not standing up for anybody.”

“There is a different story of this economy and this country that has to be told,” Steyer said. “Mr. Trump has to be faced down about what he’s saying on the economy … He’s going to say, ‘I’m great on the economy and Democrats stink’ … I can take him on in that because it has to be shown that this economy actually isn’t working for the vast bulk of Americans.”

Steyer is one of eight Democrats remaining in the race despite his dismal showings in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. The billionaire candidate spent a combined $36.4 million on advertising in the two states yet came away with zero delegates.

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In Africa, Pompeo Oversees Multi-Million Dollar Business Deals

Mike Pompeo

DAKAR, Senegal—A group of U.S.-based companies inked several multi-million dollar deals with Senegal on Sunday, a move meant to promote American values in the developing world.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the first leg of a 10-day trip through Africa and the Middle East, oversaw the signing of several agreements that will see U.S. companies partner with the Senegalese government to build critical infrastructure projects.

Pompeo’s stops in Africa are meant to pushback against mounting criticism that the Trump administration is backing away from the global stage and focusing inward on America domestically. In a major foreign policy speech on Saturday in Munich, Germany, Pompeo argued that the Trump administration’s criticism of historical alliances such as NATO is not part of a foreign policy that seeks to limit America’s role in the world.

In Africa, Pompeo is looking to promote American business interests and push back against economic gains made by nations such as China, which has invested heavily in the developing world.

“The private sectors drive economic growth and value for the United States,” Pompeo said ahead of the signing in Dakar of five new economic partnerships. “They’re important because not only will they deliver value here in Senegal, it will be good for these American global companies” and benefits workers in both countries.

Pompeo’s presence as the business deals were inked appears to be part of his push to show the world America still values free enterprise and the spirit of capitalism across the developing world.

The first agreement was inked between the U.S. Bechtel Corporation and Ageroute, Senegal’s road construction agency. The deal will see the American firm build some 100 miles of highway linking Dakar to the more northern city of Saint-Louis. The State Department says the deal will create up to 4,000 Senegalese jobs and support around 1,500 back in America.

The second deal was signed between the Philadelphia-based ABD Group and Senegal’s Ministry of Economy, Planning, and International Partnerships. The $320 million deal will spark social infrastructure projects across Senegal, including in the education, housing, and health care sectors.

Another $100 million electric grid project was established between the Weldy-Lamont corporation and Senelec.

American powerhouse General Electric also announced the signing of two agreements with the Senegalese government, including one to upgrade the country’s power plants and increase access to gas resources. A second agreement will be centered in the health care sector and provide Senegal with diagnostic technology. The combined value of the deals is around $200 million, according to U.S. officials.

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Chuck Todd to Biden: ‘Can You Say This Is Not a Cookie-Cutter Campaign?’

Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd on Sunday asked former vice president Joe Biden whether his campaign is faltering because he is playing it safe.

“Can you say this is not a cookie-cutter campaign?” the NBC News broadcaster asked. “Some of your supporters feel like there’s not the urgency they want out of you.”

Biden said he understands his supporters’ concerns but argued he has only seemed less aggressive because he has not wanted to smear his opponents.

“I was viewed as the front-runner, I had the target on my back, I had been put through the test,” Biden said. “And they have thrown a lot at me, some misrepresentations, and so I have to ask myself whether or not it has been wise to be as sort of polite and not negative as I have not been [sic].”

He then argued that his policy proposals are actually some of the boldest and most progressive in history, while those of current frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) are “fanciful.”

“This idea that I’m not the progressive in the race—I mean, my lord, if I get elected president of the United States with my position on health care, my position on global warming, my position on foreign policy, my position on the middle class, this will go down as one of the most progressive administrations in American history,” he said. “But what you’re up against is things that are almost fanciful, like Medicare for All—35, 40 trillion dollars? Even Bernie is now saying, ‘how much will it cost? Who knows, we’ll find out.’ I think that’s the phrase he used.”

Biden correctly captured Sanders’s description of Medicare for All’s costs. In January, CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell asked how much the program would cost; Sanders replied, “you don’t know. Nobody knows. This is impossible to predict.”

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