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Alabama joins other states in effort to stop pesky robocalls

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama is joining a multistate coalition to stop or reduce annoying robocalls.

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Thursday that Alabama will participate in a bipartisan group of 39 attorneys general who are working to find a solution to stop malicious robocalls by focusing on the technology that major telecom companies are pursuing to stop the illegal calls.

“Robocalls are not simply annoying but have become a persistent harassment that is disrupting the lives of our citizens and can be a means for scammers to steal their hard-earned money and savings,” Marshall said. “We are committed to working together to find a constructive way to combat this growing problem. Robocalls, as well as spoofing which is often done to make it appear the calls are coming from someone known and reputable, will require technological solutions. We support the efforts of telecom companies to address this and urge them to reach and implement solutions as soon as possible.”

The multistate group has had in-depth meetings with several major telecom companies.

Marshall and the other state attorneys general say they are working to develop a “detailed understanding” of what technology could feasibly minimize the number of unwanted robocalls and illegal telemarketing. They’re also planning to press major companies to expedite the process to protect consumers and determine whether states could make further recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission.

Other states in the group include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

 

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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Crime

Alabama officials watching for possible armed protests

The Montgomery Police Department will have officers at the Capitol on Sunday, girding for potentially violent demonstrations.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

It wasn’t clear Friday whether armed protestors would show up at Alabama’s Capitol building this weekend after an FBI internal report this week warned that there were plans for armed demonstrations in state capitals across the country until Inauguration Day.

First reported by ABC News and corroborated by numerous other news outlets, the FBI’s memo warns that continued violence targeting state capitols remains possible between now and President-elect-Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. 

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to the Associated Press

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency spokeswoman Robyn Bryan, in a message to APR on Friday, said the agency continues to monitor activity for public safety concerns “and possible threats related to the ongoing protests across the nation.” 

“ALEA recognizes that United States Citizens have constitutionally protected rights to assemble, speak, and petition the government. ALEA safeguards these first amendment rights, and reports on only those activities where the potential use of rhetoric and/or propaganda could be used to carry out acts of violence,” Bryan continued. “Additionally, potential criminality exhibited by certain members of a group does not negate the constitutional rights of the group itself or its law-abiding participants to exercise their individual liberties under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” 

The Montgomery Police Department on Friday issued a warning in a tweet to anyone who might plan to bring a firearm to a demonstration. 

“Be mindful that it shall be unlawful for any person, other than a law enforcement officer, to have a firearm in his or her possession or in any vehicle at a point within 1,000 feet of a demonstration at a public place,” the department said in the tweet, citing a portion of Alabama’s state law.

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Montgomery Police will have officers at the Capitol on Sunday, Capt. Saba Coleman of the Montgomery Police Department said in a message to APR on Friday.  

“It’s no exaggeration to say that Trump’s army of domestic terrorists came close to mounting the first successful coup in American history,” said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, speaking to reporters Friday during a briefing on a report the group released on right-wing extremists attempting to overshadow Biden’s inauguration.

“Now our nation stands at the edge of the abyss. Threats of violence are steadily escalating, with some of Trump’s followers talking openly of civil war. Law enforcement personnel are bracing for potential violence this weekend at the armed protests planned for Washington D.C. and all 50 state capitals,” Huang said. 

Michael Hayden, lead investigative reporter at the SPLC, told reporters during the briefing that the odds for violence “are a lot higher than I’ve seen in a long time.” 

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“And that’s largely to do with the rhetoric that we’re seeing,” Hayden said. 

The chances of far-right extreme groups coming together for another large event in Washington D.C. in the coming days is less likely because of the additional security measures in place since the Capitol attack, Hayden said, adding that leaders of some of the larger extremist groups have urged followers not to go to Washington D.C. 

“I’m not saying it’s impossible to generate a large crowd in Washington D.C. I’m just saying that there are huge obstacles that they did not face on January 6, and it’s missing that sort of galvanizing moment of the Trump rally,” Hayden said. 

Demonstrations at state capitols are far more likely to galvanize crowds, Hayden said. In his work monitoring extremists online he has seen the sharing of maps of state capitols, dotted with pinpoints where groups want people to go, he said. 

Some states have publicized bolstered security around their capitols, a sign that perhaps those state officials have more information about possible threats than SPLC has access to, Hayden said.

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Congress

SPLC responds to arrest of man carrying Confederate flag inside U.S. Capitol

Kevin Seefried and his son, Hunter, face multiple charges connected with their alleged part in the deadly Capitol riot.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Widely shared images of a white man carrying a Confederate flag across the floor of the U.S. Capitol during last week’s deadly attempted insurrection is a jarring reminder of the treasonous acts that killed more than 750,000 Americans during the Civil War, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

“Just as defeated Confederate soldiers were forced to surrender the Civil War and end their inhumane treatment of Black people, the rioter who brazenly carried a Confederate flag into the Capitol has been forced to surrender to federal authorities,” said Lecia Brooks, chief of staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement Friday following the arrests of Kevin Seefried, 51, and his 23-year-old son Hunter.

Seefried, the Baltimore man allegedly seen in those photographs carrying the Confederate flag, and his son are charged with entering a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Hunter is also charged with destroying government property.

“Incited by the President’s disinformation campaign, the rioter’s decision to brazenly roam the halls of Congress clinging to this painful symbol of white supremacy was a jarring display of boundless white privilege,” Brooks’s statement reads. “Despite the revisionist history promoted by enthusiasts, his disgraceful display is proof that the Confederate flag clearly represents hate, not heritage.”

Brooks added:

 “Over 750,000 American lives were lost because of the Confederacy’s treasonous acts. We cannot allow more blood to be shed for efforts to split our Union. January’s immoral coup attempt is an embarrassment to the United States, and we call on the federal government to prosecute these insurrectionists to the fullest extent of the law.”

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An affidavit detailing the charges states that videos taken during the riot show both Seefrieds enter the Capitol building through a broken window, that Hunter helped break, at about 2:13 p.m.

Both men on Jan. 12 voluntarily talked with FBI agents and admitted to their part in the riots, according to court records. 

The elder Seefreid told the FBI agent that he traveled to the rally to hear Trump speak and that he and his son joined the march and were “led by an individual with a bull horn.” 

There were numerous pro-Trump attendees at the rally and march to the Capitol who had bull horns, according to multiple videos taken that day, but at the front of one of the largest groups of marchers with a bull horn was far-right radio personality Alex Jones, who was walking next to Ali Alexander, organizer of the Stop the Steal movement. 

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Alexander in three separate videos has said he planned the rally, meant to put pressure on Congress voting inside the Capitol that day, with Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, and Arizona U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs. Alexander is now in hiding, according to The Daily Beast

Congressman Brooks’s spokesman told APR on Tuesday that Brooks does not remember communicating with Alexander. 

“Congressman Brooks has no recollection of ever communicating in any way with whoever Ali Alexander is. Congressman Brooks has not in any way, shape or form coordinated with Ali Alexander on the January 6th ‘Save America’ rally,” the statement from the congressman’s spokesman reads. 

Jones and Alexander can be seen leading the march in a video taken and posted to Twitter by freelance journalist Raven Geary. 

“This is history happening. We’re not giving into globalists. We’ll never surrender,” Jones yells into his bullhorn as they marched toward the Capitol. 

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Congress

Tuberville says Trump admitted to “mistake” over deadly Capitol riot. He hasn’t

Trump has not admitted to any responsibility in the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week.

Eddie Burkhalter

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In this July 14, 2020, file photo, Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville speaks at a campaign event in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, in his first media appearance in Alabama as a senator on Wednesday, was asked his thoughts about the possibility of impeaching President Donald Trump, which happened later that day. He said Trump admitted to making a “mistake” and that it was time to move on. 

Trump has not admitted to any responsibility in the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week that left at least five dead, including a Capitol police officer and a woman who was shot by police while attempting to climb through a broken window inside the Capitol. Two others, including an Alabama man, died from “medical emergencies” while on Capitol grounds during the riot. 

“He made a mistake. He said he made a mistake. That’s not, to me, not an impeachable offense,” Tuberville told reporters outside of St. Vincent’s Hospital in downtown Birmingham, according to WSFA. “He’s got one week to go from today. We’ll have a new president in President Biden. We need to go on with life. I mean, to me, you know, when you understand you made mistakes and admitted. You forgive. You go on.” 

Questions to a Tuberville staffer on Thursday regarding Tuberville’s comments Wednesday were received, but APR had not received responses as of Thursday evening. 

Trump was impeached for a second time — a first in U.S. history for any president — on Wednesday. With 10 Republicans joining Democrats in voting to impeach a Republican president, it was the most bipartisan impeachment in American history.

“Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted in December. The House cited that and similar remarks in charging Trump with inciting an insurrection.

In the moments before the riot last week, Trump told the crowd of supporters assembled near the Capitol: “We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen.”

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“If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump said to the crowd. Toward the end of his speech, Trump encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol. 

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump said. “You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them,” Trump said. 

Instead of walking to the Capitol with his supporters, Trump returned to the White House where he watched the violence unfold on live television from the West Wing, according to The Washington Post

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Senators and members of the House, including Tuberville and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, were bunkered down inside the Capitol as rioters broke into the building, smashing windows, beating police officers and threatening others to stand aside and let them enter further into the building, where the lawmakers were being protected by police. 

Despite attempts by some to get Trump to call off his supporters, Trump wasn’t reachable for a time as he watched the violence unfold on television, according to The Washington Post. 

“It took him a while to appreciate the gravity of the situation,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, to the newspaper. Graham, also being protected at the time inside the Capitol, called Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, but couldn’t get through to the president. 

“The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen,” Graham told the newspaper. 

At 1:26 p.m. local time, the day of the attack, Trump supporters broke into the Capitol, according to a timeline of events by The Wire. Vice President Mike Pence is escorted out of the Senate chamber at 2:22 p.m. and a short time later Trump tweets an attack on Pence for not intervening on Trump’s behalf as Electoral College votes were being certified. (Pence has — rightfully — said he did not have the legal authority to so.)

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” Trump tweeted as his supporters continued the siege. 

At 2:38 p.m. Trump tweets: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” 

Nearly 45 minutes later, Trump tweets again: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!” 

Shortly after 2 p.m. Trump mistakenly called Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, while trying to reach Tuberville, according to CNN. Lee handed his cellphone to Tuberville. Both men were in a temporary holding room, having been evacuated from the Senate floor, according to CNN. 

“Tuberville spoke with Trump for less than 10 minutes, with the President trying to convince him to make additional objections to the Electoral College vote in a futile effort to block Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, according to a source familiar with the call,” CNN reported. “The call was cut off because senators were asked to move to a secure location.” 

President-elect Joe Biden in a video posted at 4:06 p.m., more than two hours after the siege began, pleaded with Trump to call for peace. At 4:17 p.m., Trump released a video to Twitter in which he continued to allege the election was stolen from him. 

“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. … So go home. We love you, you’re very special…I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace,” Trump said. 

A second call to Lee at 7 p.m. came from Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, according to a recording of the voicemail. Giuliani believed he was also calling Tuberville. 

“I’m calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down so we can get these legislatures to get more information to you,” Giuliani said, according to the recording. “I know they’re reconvening at 8 tonight, but it … the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow — ideally until the end of tomorrow.”

Speaking Tuesday at a section of the border wall with Mexico in Texas, Trump took no responsibility for the violence at the Capitol.

“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, speaking on the House floor before his vote against impeachment, said Trump was responsible for the violence.

“The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” McCarthy said.

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, spoke before her vote about being on the House floor when rioters broke into the Capitol.  

“I rise today to support impeachment. I do so with a heavy heart and a lasting and searing memory of being in this gallery, the people’s House, right up there, fearing for my life,” Sewell said, pointing to where she and other representatives hid from rioters during the siege. “And why? Because the President of the United States incited others to be violent. A mob of insurgency, in this House. It’s unacceptable, it led to the killing of five Americans.  Blood is on this house. We must do something about it. I ask we move from ‘stopping the steal’ to to healing, but healing requires accountability, and everyone must be accountable.” 

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National

Shelby praises U.S. Space Command HQ decision

Shelby has advocated for the selection of Redstone Arsenal for the U.S. Space Command headquarters.

Staff

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Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby speaks on the U.S. Senate floor.

Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on defense, on Wednesday praised the Air Force’s selection of Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville as the permanent location for the U.S. Space Command headquarters, following a two-year competition for the decision.

Shelby said:

“Redstone Arsenal will be the new home to U.S. Space Command.  This is outstanding news, not only for our state but also for the Air Force.  This long-awaited decision by the Air Force is a true testament to all that Alabama has to offer.  Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things.  I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force.”

Shelby has advocated for the selection of Redstone Arsenal for the U.S. Space Command headquarters throughout the competition, having continually highlighted to the Air Force the wide-ranging benefits that Huntsville would provide, if selected.

Selection criteria for the U.S. Space Command headquarters include installation capacity, cost and timing, future U.S. Space Command components and Department of Defense space installations. 

Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville meets many of the needs for the U.S. Space Command headquarters, including significant cost savings, qualified workforce, vast industrial base and expertise, and many support agencies currently located on the Arsenal. Huntsville is ranked fourth among top metro areas for STEM occupations and is well-known nationally as one of the top cities for engineers. Additionally, the Redstone region employs one of the highest number of DoD acquisition experts, and local schools and universities supply a high percentage of entry-level talent.

The industrial base surrounding Redstone is vibrant with more than 400 aerospace and defense technology companies. Many of these companies are situated in Cummings Research Park, the second-largest research park in the country and located directly adjacent to the Redstone Federal Campus. The region has long held a position of national leadership in space and rocket research, development, manufacturing, operations and maintenance which is recognized and sustained to this day.

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U.S. Space Command was established in August 2019 and is DOD’s eleventh unified combatant command. Its mission is to better advance the Department of Defense’s military operations in space.

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