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Political Notebook

Thomas’s lawyer says there is no reason for her to talk to Jan. 6 panel

Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence ThomasPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

The lawyer for Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, says there is “no sufficient basis” yet for her to testify to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol.

In a letter dated Tuesday, lawyer Mark Paoletta also tells the committee the Thomases “have been subjected to an avalanche of death threats and other abuse by the unprecedented assault on the conservative Supreme Court Justices and their families.”

The committee’s chairman, Bennie Thompson, earlier in June sent a letter requesting that Ginni Thomas voluntarily sit for questioning about her alleged involvement in plans to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

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That request had come after e-mails surfaced from then-President Donald Trump’s lawyer John Eastman showing she was in contact with the attorney and her efforts to prevent Joe Biden from taking office were more extensive than previously known.

But Paoletta, in his letter, argues the Eastman e-mails provide no basis to interview her. He also writes that her previously known text messaging to Trump’s last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, simply expressed concerns about the 2020 results and also do not warrant questioning.

Paoletta does acknowledge that Ginni Thomas had previously “expressed a willingness to try to come before the Committee as a means of clearing her name.” But he added that based on his understanding of the facts the committee has in its possession, “I do not believe there is currently a sufficient basis to speak with Mrs. Thomas.”

Bloomberg News

Fox viewers tune out hearings on Capitol attack

NEW YORK — Fox News Channel is airing the Jan. 6 committee hearings when they occur in daytime hours and a striking number of the network’s viewers have made clear they’d rather be doing something else.

During two daytime hearings last week, Fox averaged 727,000 viewers, the Nielsen company said. That compares to the 3.09 million who watched the hearings on MSNBC and the 2.21 million tuned in to CNN.

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It completely flips the typical viewing pattern for the news networks. During weekdays when the hearings are not taking place, Fox News Channel routinely has more viewers than the other two networks combined, Nielsen said.

Last Thursday, Fox had 1.33 million viewers for the 2 p.m. Eastern hour before the hearing started — slightly below its second-quarter average but on par for early summer, when fewer people are watching TV.

After the hearing started, Fox’s audience’s sank to 747,000 for the 3 p.m. Eastern hour and even lower, to 718,000, at 4 p.m. Fox cut away from the hearing at 5 p.m. to show its popular panel program “The Five,” and fans immediately rewarded them: Viewership shot up to 2.76 million people, Nielsen said.

The apparent lack of interest explains why the frequently Trump-friendly network stuck with its regular lineup during the committee’s only prime-time hearing, while ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC all showed the Washington proceedings.

Associated Press

Pelosi receives Communion at papal Mass at the Vatican

ROME — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, a Catholic and vocal supporter of abortion rights, received Holy Communion on Wednesday during a papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to an attendee at the Mass.

The ceremony at the Vatican stood in marked contrast to the decision by conservative San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to instruct the priests in his diocese to withhold Eucharist from Pelosi because of her stance on abortion.

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In September, Pope Francis had said, “I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone,” although he later added that he had never knowingly encountered during Communion a politician backing abortion rights and reiterated the church position that abortion is “murder.” But Francis had said that the decision on granting Communion to politicians who support abortion rights should be made from a pastoral point of view, not a political one.

The Communion for Pelosi comes shortly after the US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, erasing the right to abortion. In a statement on the decision, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life called for a “nonideological” debate: “In the face of Western society that is losing its passion for life, this act is a powerful invitation to reflect together on the serious and urgent issue of human generativity and the conditions that make it possible,” said the academy’s head, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia.

During the Mass at the Vatican on Wednesday, it wasn’t the 85-year-old Francis who personally handed Pelosi the holy wafer, as his active participation in Masses is increasingly constrained by a knee condition that often requires him to use a wheelchair. Before the Mass, Pelosi had a greeting with the pope where she received a blessing, according to an attendee.

Washington Post

McConnell lauds decision to block Obama court nominee

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said his decision to block former president Barack Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy after conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016 led directly to the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

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“It’s the single-most consequential decision I’ve made in my public career,” McConnell said Wednesday in remarks at a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon in his home state of Kentucky.

McConnell said his refusal to consider Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court 11 months before Donald Trump took office cleared the way for Trump to put conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench. Trump’s subsequent nominations of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett have transformed the court’s rulings by creating a court with a 6-3 conservative majority, he said.

He spoke just days after that Supreme Court majority overturned the 49-year-old Roe v. Wade. McConnell said Roe “had no basis in the Constitution whatsoever,” and said last week’s ruling “was a huge step in the right direction.”

He also praised two of the court’s recent 6-3 rulings, one that for the first time held that the Second Amendment protects gun rights outside the home and another in favor of a high school football coach who lost his job for conducting post-game prayers on the 50-yard line.

Bloomberg News

Former Giuliani associate sentenced to 20 months

NEW YORK — Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, was sentenced to 20 months in prison Wednesday for defrauding investors in a sham company and for illegally making donations to US political candidates on behalf of a Russian businessman.

Parnas was convicted at trial on campaign-finance related charges last year and pleaded guilty separately to stealing investment funds directed to a defunct business entity called Fraud Guarantee.

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He personally pocketed $2 million.

Parnas was affiliated with Giuliani while working on then-President Donald Trump’s behalf to seek incriminating information on Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine before the 2020 election.

Although federal prosecutors in New York also have been investigating Giuliani for his dealings in Ukraine during that time period, he has not been charged.

New York Times

Lawyer who left Jan. 6 panel plans Mo. Senate run

ST. LOUIS — An attorney who held key roles in the George W. Bush administration and who left his post last week as a senior investigator for the US House committee probing the Jan. 6 insurrection said Wednesday he is running for a Missouri US Senate seat as an independent.

John F. Wood announced in a prepared statement that he’s beginning the effort to get on the November general election ballot for retiring GOP Senator Roy Blunt’s seat.

The announcement comes as some Republican leaders express concern that former governor Eric Greitens might prevail in a 21-candidate field for the Republican nomination for the seat in the Aug. 2 primary, then lose in November because of the sex and campaign finance scandals that pushed him from office in 2018. Greitens also faces allegations of physical abuse from his ex-wife, which he has denied. With the Senate evenly divided, the GOP can’t afford to lose what would otherwise be a safe seat.

Those concerns intensified last week when Facebook removed a Greitens campaign video that shows him brandishing a shotgun and declaring that he’s hunting RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only.

“I am conservative and a life-long Republican. But the primaries for both parties have become a race to the bottom,” Wood said in a prepared statement. “This was evident a few days ago when the leading candidate for one of the parties released a campaign advertisement glorifying violence against his political enemies, from his own party no less. Missouri deserves better. Missouri needs another option.”

To get on the November ballot as an independent, Wood would need to submit petitions signed by 10,000 registered voters by Aug. 1.

Wood, 52, served as US attorney for Missouri’s Western District from 2007 to 2009 and before that held key roles in the George W. Bush administration. He was working as general counsel for the US Chamber of Commerce when he stepped down in September to become senior investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 committee. He resigned that post Friday.

Former Republican senator John Danforth has urged Wood to run as a right-leaning independent. Wood once worked for Danforth’s staff.

Associated Press