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Jan. 6 panel pressures Republican lawmaker with release of tour video

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chairperson Bennie Thompson (D-MS) , Vice Chair U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) and U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) hold the second public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to

By Susan Heavey and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – – The congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol took aim at a fellow lawmaker on Wednesday as it released video footage showing him giving a tour of the building the previous day to a man who participated in the riot.

The video shows the man in question, who was not named, taking pictures of tunnels and security checkpoints the day before the attack while participating in a guided tour by Republican Representative Barry Loudermilk.

Separate footage released by the House of Representatives panel shows the man issuing threats to prominent Democrats as he approached the Capitol on Jan. 6 with thousands of other supporters of then-president Donald Trump.

Loudermilk’s office accused the Jan. 6 committee of a “smear campaign” in a statement and cited a letter from the Capitol Police saying that the activity of the tour group was not suspicious.

That letter said the group was not seen in tunnels that led to the Capitol and there is no evidence that Loudermilk entered the Capitol with them during their visit.

The committee’s chairperson, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, said the behavior of the group raised questions because they photographed security checkpoints and other areas that were not typically of interest to tourists on a day when the Capitol complex was closed to the public.

The committee said it had repeated a request to Loudermilk to provide information.

The request comes amid heightened tension between the Democratic-led committee and most Republican House members, who have removed the top Republican on the committee, Liz Cheney, from a leadership post.

Committee members said at a hearing last week that more than one congressional Republican had asked Trump for a pardon, drawing a sharp denial from Representative Scott Perry, the only one named.

The video shown on Wednesday includes clips apparently taken on the man’s mobile phone as he narrated, as well as surveillance footage from the Capitol complex on Jan. 5 showing him taking pictures of staircases, security checkpoints and tunnels not normally of interest to tourists.

In the video, the man’s heard threatening high-profile Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. ‘

“They are swarming and converging… from all routes in. There’s no escape… We’re coming for you,” the man said as he approached the Capitol according to a video released by the House of Representatives committee.

It was not clear if the man was among the more than 840 people charged with taking part in the riot.

The committee is holding a series of at least six public hearings this month on the findings of its nearly year-long probe.

Politics

Factbox-U.S. Supreme Court takes broad view of religious rights in key cases

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Anti-abortion activists hold a cross in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building during the annual “March for Life” in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday issued another significant ruling broadening religious rights, siding with a Christian former public high school football coach in Washington state who sued after being suspended from his job for refusing to stop leading prayers with players on the field after games.

The court, especially its conservative bloc, has taken a wide view of religious liberty in numerous cases in recent years. Here is a look at some of the cases involving religious rights decided during its current term, which began in October.

KENNEDY V. BREMERTON SCHOOL DISTRICT

In the case decided on Monday, the court ruled 6-3 in favor of Joseph Kennedy, who until 2015 served as a part-time assistant football coach in the city of Bremerton. The justices rejected the local school district’s concerns that in a public school setting Kennedy’s prayers and Christian-infused speeches could be seen as coercive to students or a governmental endorsement of a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment’s so-called establishment clause. The justices overturned a lower court’s ruling siding with the school district.

CARSON V. MAKIN

In a 6-3 decision on June 21, the court endorsed more public funding of religious entities as it sided with two Christian families who challenged a Maine tuition assistance program that excluded private religious schools. The justices overturned a lower court ruling that had rejected the families’ claims of religious discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion. Maine’s program provides public funds for tuition at private high schools of a family’s choice in sparsely populated areas lacking public secondary schools. Maine required eligible schools to be “nonsectarian,” excluding those promoting a particular religion and presenting material “through the lens of that faith.”

SHURTLEFF V. BOSTON

The court ruled 9-0 on May 2 that Boston violated the free speech rights of a Christian group by refusing to fly a flag bearing the image of a cross at City Hall as part of a program that let private groups use the flagpole while holding events in the plaza below. The justices decided that the city violated free speech rights protected under the First Amendment of the Christian group Camp Constitution and its director Harold Shurtleff. Boston had argued that raising the cross flag as Camp Constitution requested under a flag-raising program aimed at promoting diversity and tolerance in the city could appear to violate another part of the First Amendment that bars governmental endorsement of a particular religion. The justices overturned a lower court ruling in favor of Boston.

RAMIREZ V. COLLIER

The court ruled 8-1 on March 24 that Texas must grant a convicted murderer on death row his request to have his Christian pastor lay hands on him and audibly pray during his execution, bolstering the religious rights of condemned inmates. The justices overturned a lower court’s decision against John Henry Ramirez, who appealed the state’s rejection of his request for pastoral touch and prayer while he dies from lethal injection. Ramirez was sentenced to death for a fatal 2004 stabbing outside a convenience store.

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Factbox-Four key races in Illinois, Colorado midterm primaries

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An American flag flies outside of the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, U.S., January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

2/2

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Voters in Illinois and Colorado will pick candidates for the U.S. Congress and other offices in primaries on Tuesday, in another test of former President Donald Trump’s influence in the Republican Party ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Maryland and Oklahoma also hold nomination contests. Following are four key races to watch:

ILLINOIS’ 15TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Newly drawn district boundaries pit two incumbent Republicans against each other in central Illinois. Trump-endorsed U.S. Representative Mary Miller is an ally of U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a prominent far-right Republican. Miller faces U.S. Representative Rodney Davis, a more traditional conservative, who supported creating a congressional inquiry into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s supporters. Davis’ campaign raised more than $2.7 million through March 31, compared with the $1.1 million raised by Miller. The winner is likely to carry the district in November.

ILLINOIS’ 6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Illinois’ newly drawn districts also pit two Democratic U.S. representatives against each other in the state’s 6th district. Representative Sean Casten raised more than twice as much money through March 31 than Representative Marie Newman, who faces an ethics investigation for allegedly promising a job to a potential political rival.

U.S. SENATE SEAT IN COLORADO

    The Republican nomination contest for the U.S. Senate race in Colorado includes state Representative Ron Hanks, who marched in the Jan. 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol. Hanks has blamed the violence that followed the march on leftists, citing a debunked conspiracy theory. Hanks’ principal opponent is wealthy construction company owner Joe O’Dea, who has self-financed a large portion of his campaign. Hanks has struggled with fund-raising, and his campaign had less than $20,000 in the bank at the end of March. The winner might have a chance against incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, who is seen struggling to hold onto his seat.

COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE

The Republican primary for the state’s top elections official includes Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who has advocated for Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Peters’ main opponent is former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson who has rejected Trump’s claims. The winner will challenge incumbent Democrat Jena Griswold.

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U.S. House speaker’s husband charged with driving under influence of alcohol

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA and her husband Paul Pelosi arrive for the formal Artist’s Dinner honoring the recipients of the 44th Annual Kennedy Center Honors at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., U.S., December 4, 2021.

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was charged on Thursday with driving under the influence of alcohol, weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in Napa County, California, the county’s district attorney said.

Late in May, Paul Pelosi, 82, was booked into the Napa County Detention Center. He was released from custody upon his promise to appear for an arraignment in Napa County Superior Court on August 3.

The California Highway Patrol said at the time he was driving a 2021 Porsche and attempting to cross State Route-29, when his vehicle was struck by a 48-year-old man driving a 2014 Jeep. No one was injured, the highway patrol said.

California law bars drivers from operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level above 0.08 grams per deciliter of blood.

“Today, the Napa County District Attorney’s Office issued a criminal complaint, filing charges against Paul Pelosi based upon an automobile collision and driving under the influence arrest on May 28,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement, adding it filed misdemeanor charges.

“The charges filed today include Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Causing Injury and Driving with .08% Blood Alcohol Level or Higher Causing Injury,” the statement said. His blood sample had a .082% blood alcohol content and the sample was taken a little over two hours after the crash, the district attorney’s office said.

The House speaker’s husband could not be reached for comment.

Nancy Pelosi was in Rhode Island at the time of the incident delivering a commencement address at Brown University and her spokesperson said she “will not be commenting on this private matter.”

The couple have been married since 1963.

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