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State and National Government

Jason Miyares

RICHMOND, VA – Attorney General Jason Miyares [on Friday] issued a legal opinion, at the request of Governor Glenn Youngkin, regarding the recent decision by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to include the COVID-19 vaccine on the list of recommended immunizations for children. Miyares’ Attorney General Opinion clarifies that Virginia law does not require a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of attending public and private schools and childcare facilities in the Commonwealth.

“The recent action by the CDC does not change Virginia law on required immunizations for schools and childcare facilities. The CDC cannot force vaccine requirements on Virginia families as a condition of school attendance. Required immunizations for school and childcare attendance statewide are determined by the General Assembly and the Virginia Department of Health,” said Attorney General Miyares.

Governor Youngkin requested this legal opinion

WASHINGTON (AP) — A member of the Oath Keepers who traveled to Washington before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol testified Wednesday about a massive cache of weapons the far-right extremist group stashed in a Virginia hotel room.

Taking the stand in the seditious conspiracy case against Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates, Terry Cummings showed jurors an AR-15 firearm and an orange box for ammunition that he contributed to the so-called quick reaction force the Oath Keepers had staged at the hotel outside of Washington in case they needed weapons.

“I had not seen that many weapons in one location since I was in the military,” said Cummings, a veteran who joined the Oath Keepers in Florida in 2020.

Prosecutors have said teams of Oath Keepers guarded the arsenal of firearms and were prepared to rush them into the hands of extremists in the capital if needed.

The alleged teams and the cache of weapons are a central piece of the Department of Justice’s case against Rhodes and four associates charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attack. Members of the Oath Keepers stashed the firearms just outside Washington district limits, given the capitol’s tougher gun laws.

Authorities have alleged the teams and the stockpile of arms were designed to get weapons into Oath Keepers’ hands quickly if they were needed to support a plot to stop the transfer of power from Republican Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden.

Cummings’ testimony came in the second week of the trial that is expected to last several weeks. The others on trial are Thomas Caldwell of Berryville, Virginia; Kenneth Harrelson of Titusville, Florida; Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio; and Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, Florida.

Defense lawyers have not denied the existence of the quick reaction teams but noted that they were never deployed on Jan. 6. They have accused prosecutors of falsely portraying them as an invasion force.

Defense lawyers have said the Oath Keepers often set up quick reaction forces for events, but insist they were defensive forces only to be used to protect against violence from antifa activists or in the event Trump invoked the Insurrection Act. They are not facing any gun charges for bringing the weapons to Virginia.

Rhodes’ lawyers have said they will argue that cannot find him guilty of seditious conspiracy because all the actions he took before Jan. 6 were in preparation for orders he anticipated from Trump under the Insurrection Act, which gives presidents wide discretion to decide when military force is necessary.

Cummings told jurors that he traveled to Washington on Jan. 6 with other Oath Keepers to be part of a VIP security detail for Trump’s rally at the Ellipse. He said he saw it as an opportunity to “express my First Amendment rights” and see a sitting president speak, which he had never done.

Cummings said his understanding was the quick reaction forces “would potentially be used not as an offensive situation, but more as a show of force.”

Cummings said he was part of a group that acted as a security team for a VIP at Trump’s rally before the riot. Cummings and other Oath Keepers left before Trump’s speech was finished and went toward the Capitol.

He recalled Meggs talked about entering the Capitol – something Cummings didn’t think was a good idea. He then split off to find a bathroom, and when he returned the group was gone. The group entered the Capitol while he was away, he said. Up to an hour later, Cummings rejoined fellow Oath Keepers from Florida, and eventually Rhodes appeared as well.

Cummings said he did not hear any talk about plans to storm or attack the Capitol, though he also said he wasn’t in a position of leadership. He has not faced criminal charges, was subpoenaed to testify for the government and acknowledged on the stand that he has contributed to the legal defense fund of some of the defendants.

Authorities have said that Meggs and the Florida Oath Keepers on Jan. 5 brought gun boxes, rifle cases and suitcases filled with ammunition to the Virginia hotel that served as the home for the quick reaction force. Another team from Arizona brought weapons, ammunition, and supplies to last 30 days, according to court papers. A team from North Carolina had rifles in a vehicle parked in the hotel lot, prosecutors have said.

Prosecutors have described surveillance footage that they say shows Oath Keepers rolling bags, large bins and what appears to be at least one rifle case into the hotel.

Over several days in early January, Rhodes spent $15,500 on guns, including an AR-platform rifle, magazines, mounts, sights and other equipment, prosecutors have said. Caldwell, in one message, suggested getting a boat to ferry “heavy weapons” across the Potomac River into the Oath Keepers’ “waiting arms.”

A former Oath Keeper from North Carolina last week described setting up a quick reaction force for the “Million MAGA March” in Washington on Nov. 14, 2020, in case Trump invoked the Insurrection Act. Thousands of Trump supporters that day gathered at Freedom Plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to rally behind Trump’s false election claims.

The former Oath Keeper, John Zimmerman, told jurors that the Oath Keepers stashed at least a dozen rifles and several handguns in his van parked at Arlington National Cemetery to serve as the quick reaction force on that occasion. He said they never took the guns into Washington.

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Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.

White House photo

Former President Donald Trump has responded to the January 6th bipartisan committee, which in its scheduled final public hearing voted 9-0 to issue a subpoena inviting him to testify. Trump responded with a 14 page letter asserting a number of claims about the 2020 that at least one media outlet so far asserts contains false claims about the legitimacy of the Presidential election that saw Joe Biden succeed him. (Click on link below to read the letter). Trump also called the committee, “highly partisan political Hacks and Thugs whose sole function is to destroy the lives of many hard-working American Patriots,” in his letter.

Former President Trump’s response

 

 

Governor Youngkin is proving to be a popular draw to appear alongside candidates in other states. State Democrats denounce the travels, but our political analyst says is national news media is largely responsible for his increased national profile. Democrats say Youngkin is placing personal ambitions ahead of Virginia’s own needs. They question how much taxpayer money has been spent on his political travel and say records produced so far are inadequate. Youngkin dismisses such questions, saying he pays for all political travel.  State Police say they spent more than $18,000 for security duty for Youngkin travels between March and September, but say it was for personal travel only, not political. Democrats say more information needs to be released. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:

Its probably not a shocker but the latest Wason Center phone survey of Virginia registered voters statewide shows respondents split on how things are going in the Commonwealth right now. There is more agreement on issues like the overturning of Roe V. Wade and bi-partisan support for the inflation reduction act. So what does it all mean for next month’s election? Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo is the Research Director for the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University. See more details from the recent statewide phone survey on the WFIR News website and social media.

More from today’s Wason Center Poll at Christopher Newport University:  Democratic 6-Pt Edge on Generic Ballot Points to GOP Inability to Capitalize Fully on Political Environment; Virginians Opposed Overturning of Roe v. Wade but 15-Week Abortion Ban Finds Slight Majority Support

1.    Virginia voters are fairly split on the direction of the Commonwealth (42% right direction, 40% wrong direction), while 50% say they approve of the job Governor Youngkin is doing.

2.   Virginians are pessimistic about the direction of the country (22% right direction to 65% wrong direction); dissatisfaction is partly reflected in Biden’s approval rating (39% approve to 56% disapprove)

3.   Democrats are slightly favored on a generic ballot with 46% of Virginia registered voters saying they will support the Democratic Party’s candidate in their district compared to 40% for the Republican Party’s candidate.

4.   Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act provisions related to healthcare and the environment are popular among Virginia voters (ranging from 58% to 82% support; a majority oppose increased funding to the IRS (55%).

5.   Among Republicans, the top issues facing the country are the economy/inflation (53%), immigration (11%) and crime (7%). For Democrats the top issues are climate change (17%), racial inequality (16%), and abortion (15%).

6.   Virginia registered voters oppose the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade (58% to 36%) and prefer abortion to be legal in most/all cases (67% to 27%), though a narrow majority support/strongly support an abortion ban at 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother (51%).

 

Poolhouse, the political ad agency behind Governor Glenn Youngkin’s successful gubernatorial run which specializes in work for Republican candidates, reportedly received a $268,000 contract from a state agency to create a tourism video that heavily features Youngkin himself. The Richmond Times Dispatch reports the ad will run in Virginia’s airports and welcome centers. The Virginia Tourism Corporation says it reached out to three Virginia-based entities it believed could produce a product within a short time frame. One of the entities could not work within the given time frame, and another did not respond to the bid. Democratic House Minority leader Don Scott believes the Office of the Inspector general should look into the matter.