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Ron Johnson demands declassification of Susan Rice email on Michael Flynn

“The significance of that meeting is becoming increasingly apparent as more and more information is declassified,” Johnson wrote. “For these reasons, it is essential that Congress and the American people understand what occurred during that January 5, 2017, meeting and how it was later characterized by administration officials. The declassification of Ambassador Rice’s email, in whole, will assist these efforts.”

“On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present,” Rice wrote in a portion of the email that was declassified.

“President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book,’” Rice continued. “The president stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.”

“From a national security perspective, however, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia,” Rice added.

Another unredacted portion of the email reads: “The president asked Comey to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team. Comey said he would.”

When the redacted email surfaced in early 2018, Rice’s then-attorney, Kathy Ruemmler, told reporters there was “nothing unusual” in Rice “memorializing an important discussion for the record.”

Last week, Johnson asked the intelligence community to reveal the names of officials who made so-called unmasking requests that revealed Flynn’s name.

The next day, acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell sent the names to Johnson and other senators; the list was first reported by POLITICO.

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VA orders $300,000 worth of body bags

The Federal Emergency Management Administration recently paid $5.1 million for 100,000 body bags, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal — for a price of about $51 per bag. If the VA paid the same rate, it would have purchased nearly 6,000 bags — a number 12 times larger than the number of VA patients who have died from the disease.

But some retailers sell body bags for lower prices; sells them for as little as $16.80, but limits on how many bags a customer can buy. And on Amazon, one vendor sells body bags for less than $15 each.

The department has struggled to handle the pandemic. Earlier this month, an internal memo leaked showing it didn’t have enough masks for all of its hospital staff, as CNN reported. That contradicted the department’s claim that personal protective equipment was available for all the employees who needed it. Almost 2,000 VA staffers have been diagnosed with Covid-19, according to The Washington Post, and VA workers have protested dangerous work conditions at facilities around the country.

In hard-hit jurisdictions, mortuaries, crematoriums and cemeteries have struggled to safely manage the large number of coronavirus victims’ bodies. POLITICO first reported that New York City’s morgues were nearing capacity back in March. Within weeks, the city’s infrastructure for safely storing and disposing of human remains was taxed in an unprecedented way. The city government buried numerous bodies in mass graves on Hart Island, which has long been its de facto Potter’s Field. And earlier this week, horrific news broke of human bodies left to rot in trucks outside a funeral home in Brooklyn. According to AM New York, some of the bodies were the remains of coronavirus victims.

Other jurisdictions have also balked at the prospect of handling the virus’ growing death counts. Maryland leased two ice skating rinks as possible storage spaces for bodies, and leaders in Spain and the U.K. have taken the same step.

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