By Terri Jo Neff |
On Monday, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels met with stakeholders about the ongoing crisis at the Arizona / Mexico border. The next day, he took to the airways to explain why two sheriffs’ associations strongly oppose the nomination of Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus to head the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
As Dannels made his comments to KFYI’s James T. Harris, Magnus was in Washington D.C. for a hearing on his nomination put forth by President Joe Biden to become CBP’s next commissioner. The nomination is being championed by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, but does not have the support of the National Sheriffs’ Association nor the Arizona Sheriffs’ Association.
“We need a leader there who can lead that organization into the future, not be a political puppet or yes man, not somebody who can say ‘hey this is wrong, it’s broke, let’s put action behind the men and women who are doing their best to solve this border,” Dannels told Harris. “This is not a political issue. This is a righteous issue for leadership, and on behalf of our CBP agents who can’t speak on this, we have a voice for them.”
Magnus has worked in public safety since 1979, always with municipal agencies. He currently oversees about 1,200 employees in Tucson, a city that is not even among the top 30 largest in the country.
By comparison, the San Diego Police Department has nearly 3,000 employees, while the Los Angeles Police Department is comprised of about 12,000 employees, 9,000 of whom are sworn officers.
However, CBP has more than 60,000 employees, including 45,000 sworn employees such as CBP officers assigned at America’s 328 ports of entry as well as U.S. Border Patrol agents.
In his testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, Magnus said he recognized CBP “is a proud agency with a mission that is vital to this country” and that he will expect, without exception, “that all agency personnel be conscientious, fair, and humane when enforcing the law.”
He also testified that he prides himself “on being a pragmatic and bipartisan problem-solver,” and that by working with Congress, the employees of CBP, and its various partners “we can build upon its many strengths to make the agency even better.” His comments skated over the fact TPD has not had a good relationship with CBP during his tenure.
Yet the sheriffs groups focused on Magnus’ qualifications -or lack thereof- to lead a massive organization which is critical to homeland security concerns and to deal with what Dannels calls the “hot mess” of a border that saw a 325 percent increase this year in immigrants arriving at America’s southwest border.
Dannels, whose county shares 83 miles of that border with Mexico, is the president of the Arizona Sheriff’s Association, which represents 14 of the state’s 15 elected sheriffs. He also serves as chair of the border security committee of the National Sheriff’s Association.
According to Dannels, the decision by the National Sheriff’s Association to oppose Magnus’ nomination came only after conducting an interview with the chief.
“Obviously, after the interview, based on his experience, knowledge on the border and CBP and trade, off the past relationship -of which there really hasn’t been a past relationship with border communities by Chief Magnus- and the leadership, we felt that he is not the guy to carry this forward on behalf of CBP,” Dannels told Harris.
The group then sent letters to Biden, Mayorkas, as well as all 100 Senators outlining Magnus’ shortcomings for the job. That move prompted the Arizona Sheriff’s Association to send its own letter detailing the “dire circumstances” at the border and Magnus’ lack of qualifications and poor relationship with CBP.
Magnus’ nomination is supported by Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema. Any individual or organization may present their views to the Committee by submitting a single-spaced Word document (not exceeding 10 pages) for inclusion in the official hearing record.
The title of the hearing (Consider the Nomination of Chris Magnus, of Arizona, to be Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security) and the hearing date (Oct. 19, 2021) must be included on the first page of the statement, along with the full name and address of the individual or organization submitting the statement.
The deadline for submitting a statement is Nov. 2. Statements can be emailed to: Statementsfortherecord@finance.senate.gov or mailed to: Senate Committee on Finance Attn. Editorial and Document Section Rm. SD-219 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg. Washington, DC 20510-6200. There is no fax option.
CHIEF MAGNUS TESTIFIES ABOUT HIS NOMINATION:
By Corinne Murdock |
Ron Watkins – a prominent proponent of mass election fraud theories and the ex-administrator of 8chan, the site where the QAnon conspiracy theory originated – announced his run for Arizona’s district one congressional seat last week. He reportedly filed his first FEC report on Sunday.
Watkins recorded a video to announce his run outside of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office, congratulating Brnovich for investigating issues alleged by Cyber Ninjas in their final report of Maricopa County’s election processes. Since relocating to Arizona from Japan this year, Watkins has attempted to meet with Brnovich in person to discuss election fraud.
In his video, Watkins also claimed that the election was stolen from previous President Donald Trump. He promised to fix this by taking down the “dirtiest Democrat” in the “D.C. Swamp”: Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01), who Watkins called “Tom O’Hooligan.”
“I have decided to double down with God as my compass to take this fight to the swamp of Washington, D.C.,” asserted Watkins.
Watkins focused his brief message on rallying support from mainstream Republicans, Trump supporters, and evangelicals.
Watkins’s Twitter account, @CodeMonkeyZ, was suspended on January 8 along with accounts belonging to former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, and Mike Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general who briefly served as National Security Advisor for Trump. In a statement, Twitter explained that those accounts and others like them would be permanently suspended for violating their Coordinated Harmful Activity policy.
“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm, and given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm, and given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” wrote Twitter.
Watkins has platforms on Telegram and Gab.
The mass Twitter suspensions were part of a sweeping effort to eliminate certain rhetoric and content following the January 6 riot at the Capitol. Less than a week after the incident, Twitter removed over 70,000 accounts.
Certain prominent Republicans also supportive of the mass election fraud theory have run in some of the same circles as Watkins.
Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake posed for a picture with Watkins last week, which Watkins posted with the claim that they’d shared dinner together. Lake didn’t post the picture. VICE News reporter David Gilbert claimed that Lake had dinner with Watkins, linking to an article he wrote relying on Watkins’s claim. VICE News also included a statement from Lake saying that she didn’t have dinner with Watkins.
In response to Gilbert’s tweet, Lake reiterated that she hadn’t dined with Watkins and that the picture was taken during an outreach event with over 75 voters in attendance. It is unclear if the article was updated after Lake’s tweet – no editor’s note or disclaimer was published.
“Hey Loser, Be a REAL journalist and contact the people you are writing hit-pieces on. I didn’t eat dinner at this event. I spoke with 75+ voters about my plans for AZ. Why are Leftists infatuated [with] this group? I hang out [with] Conservatives all day – no one ever talks about it,” wrote Lake. “I’d recommend an immediate correction to your propaganda piece and an apology to me and the rest of the world for your s****y reporting.”
In August, Watkins attended MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “cyber symposium” discussing mass voter fraud theories, where State Senators Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) and Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu), as well as State Representative Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley) took the stage. Watkins has shown great support for Rogers as of late.
Prior to December 2020, Watkins ran a user messaging board site, 8chan, owned by his father, Jim Watkins, and the birthplace of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory. The individual behind it, “Q,” claimed that a secret cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles operate a child sex trafficking ring worldwide. Adherents also believe that this cabal and Trump were warring secretly; the cabal worked to undermine the previous president while Trump planned for a massive sting operation of the cabal.
Last week, Watkins announced publicly that QAnon doesn’t exist. Prior to this public denial, some rumored Watkins to be Q – speculations deepened by an HBO documentary released earlier this year.
“The fake news media continues to insist that I am part of some QANON conspiracy. As we all know, there is no QANON,” wrote Watkins. “What does exist are the many hardworking, God-fearing people who are breaking tyranny’s grasp over our Country.”
Controversial content isn’t new for Watkins or his father. The father-son duo were subpoenaed by the House of Homeland Security in 2019 to testify about “violent extremist content” that existed on their platform. Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS-02) claimed that there were least three acts of “deadly white supremacist extremist violence” that could be linked to 8chan that year, alluding to three mass shootings that had occurred.
The elder Watkins defended platform content the committee classified as “hate speech” as protected speech under the First Amendment. As for illegal content, Watkins assured the committee that moderators deleted the content as promptly as possible.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Terri Jo Neff |
When Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich met Monday with stakeholders including Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels for an updated tour of the Arizona / Mexico border, he learned nothing has improved in the last 10 months.
Brnovich took part in an in-person briefing near Bisbee to discuss options for forcing or cajoling the federal government into acknowledging and then dealing with the border crisis which has seen hundreds of thousands of people from more the 160 countries cross into the southwest U.S. with little success by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, including the U.S. Border Patrol, in stopping them.
In an interview with AZ Free News after his border visit, Brnovich said the Biden Administration could make a significant and immediate impact simply by following existing federal laws. That includes deporting the more than 1 million non-citizen convicted felons and others who are the subject an Order of Removal.
Brnovich said deportations could start up very quickly, and would “send a signal that we will enforce our laws.” But instead, the White House continues to incentivize illegal border crossings while signaling “there are no consequences for breaking America’s laws,” he said.
Pushing for deportations is not something new for Brnovich or other state attorneys general. In January, President Joe Biden was asked to reverse an Inauguration Day order imposing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations. Under a 1996 law, such deportations should occur within 90 days of an immigrant receiving an Order of Removal.
According to Brnovich, the Biden deportation moratorium violated a law which went in effect in the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency to require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to provide a six-month notice to the State of Arizona before any immigration policies could be changed.
Brnovich also says he is concerned about the long-term effects of such lax immigration laws, which he called “the most important issue” facing the United States. And he worries that Arizonans and Americans “are becoming numb” to the statistics about the historic levels of unlawful immigration activities.
“The border crisis has the potential to negatively impact our country for generations,” he said. “It could alter the trajectory of our Nation. And it’s a tragedy in the clearest sense that it is preventable.”
Which is why the attorney general said it is important for lawmakers, politicians, and law enforcement officials from across the state to “get out of Maricopa County and see what is going on at the border.”
The border crisis is also why Brnovich finds it frustrating that the Biden Administration repeatedly demonstrates the rule of law no longer means anything. That leaves taxpayers to foot the bills.
“It is a fundamental unfairness,” he said, one which Sen. Mark Kelly “could stop tomorrow.”
According to the attorney general, all Kelly has to do to announce to Biden that border security and immigration must be addressed now.
“If Senator Kelly cared at all regarding Arizona, he would not do anything else until the border crisis is addressed,” Brnovich said. “There is nothing more consequential for Arizona. There is nothing more urgent and pressing than stopping this crisis.”
By Terri Jo Neff |
Last week’s announcement that Arizona Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson is joining the already crowded list of Republicans seeking the party’s nomination to take on U.S. Senator Mark Kelly in November 2022 is drawing attention to the basic economic reality of supply and demand.
Olson’s jump into the race occurred as several of his opponents filed their Third Quarter 2021 campaign committee report of receipts and expenditures.
One of those is Jim Lamon, a utility company executive and political newcomer who reported nearly $133,000 in contributions in Q3. That brought his total campaign receipts to $356,363 as of Sept. 30, nearly 90 percent of Lamon’s contributions have come from WinRed, a Virginia-based political action committee which distributes earmarked contributions to candidates and committees.
His Q3 report also lists $5 million in loans to the campaign which Lamon has guaranteed. As of Sept. 30, the campaign has spent more than $1.7 million. The ability to self-finance his campaign means Lamon, has more time to spent at in-person events in an effort increase his name recognition.
Mick McGuire, Arizona’s recently retired Arizona National Guard adjutant general, submitted his Q3 report showing $200,404 in new contributions, for a campaign total of about $427,000. Of that, more than $155,000 came from WinRed.
McGuire has also made or guaranteed almost $2.5 million in loans to his campaign since it started, of which $49,500 was dated in Q3. The campaign spent about $335,000 during Q3, nearly 93 percent of all disbursements to date.
Another candidate, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, listed just under $559,000 in new contributions in his Q3 report, upping his campaign total to almost $1 million as of Sept. 30. Of that, more than $620,000 has come from WinRed. Brnovich also reported disbursements through Sept. 30 of $486,760.
Another 13 Republicans have announced plans to vie for the nomination to challenge Kelly but none are seen as viable candidates. Although there have been few public endorsements yet for the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, the Q3 reports offered a few clues as to current support.
According to Brnovich’s Q3 filing, he has received contributions from Mike Bailey, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, as well as the Otoe Missoura Tribe of Oklahoma, while Lamon reported contributions from Senate Audit Liaison Ken Bennett and Look Ahead America’s Executive Director Matt Braynard.
McGuire’s report shows financial support from Kathleen Winn of the Maricopa County Community College District and venture capitalist Todd Belfer. However, Masters has the most impressive supporter thanks to his boss, billionaire and PayPayl founder Peter Thiel.
It is Thiel who contributed $10 million to a political action committee called Saving Arizona to support candidates like Masters.
By Corinne Murdock |
Matt Salmon, a Republican gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Representative for Arizona’s fifth district, asked the Arizona School Board Association (ASBA) to disaffiliate from the National School Board Association (NSBA). His request was prompted by the NSBA’s move against parents protesting and challenging their school boards; the organization asked the Biden Administration in a letter to investigate those parents for “hate group” activity and potential “domestic terrorism.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland complied; he promised that the FBI was on the case.
In his letter to ASBA, Salmon reasoned that ASBA shouldn’t support the NSBA’s attempt to have the Biden Administration intimidate parents by investigating them for domestic terrorism.
“[I]t has become crystal clear to the American people that NSBA’s real problem is with everyday parents who are not okay with what is happening in our classrooms,” wrote Salmon. “The bottom line is that I find NSBA’s antagonistic posturing toward concerned parents to be deeply inappropriate and frankly un-American.”
Salmon also asked the ASBA if they consulted about the NSBA’s letter to President Joe Biden ahead of its submission. If they did, he requested to know if they helped edit it.
“I am proud to stand with each and every parent who cares enough to get into this fight for a brighter future, and I hope that efforts will be made by ASBA to reaffirm support for civic engagement in local school board meetings, which cannot be properly achieved until you sever your partnership with NSBA and the poor judgment of its leaders,” concluded Salmon.
Salmon told ASBA that they wouldn’t be leading the pack when it came to withdrawing from the NSBA, noting that Pennsylvania did so last week. He also cited how both Louisiana and Florida’s state chapters condemned the NSBA’s letter.
“TODAY I wrote a letter urging @AzSBA to take immediate steps to withdraw its affiliation with @NSBAPublicEd,” wrote Salmon. “By attempting to intimidate concerned parents, NSBA has disqualified itself from enjoying the benefits of a formal relationship with Arizona.”
ASBA is no longer the only option for school board members. Last week, a coalition of Arizonans launched an alternative to ASBA: the Arizona Coalition of School Board Members (ACSBM). Unlike ASBA, ACSBM offers membership to parents and community members in addition to school board members, and they claim to offer the same caliber of resources and legislative advocacy that ASBA offers currently.
As of press time, ASBA hasn’t issued a public response to Salmon’s letter.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to email@example.com.