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US Monthly Headline News October 2020 Page 3

“Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account?” the former president asked, referring to a recent Times report, as he returned to the campaign trail in Philadelphia to stump for Joe Biden.
By Glenn Thrush

Former President Barack Obama burned rubber racing off the high road in Philadelphia on Wednesday as he returned to the campaign trail to stump for Joseph R. Biden Jr., ridiculing President Trump for complaining about campaigning in Pennsylvania, contracting the coronavirus and hiding business dealings with China.

“We know that he continues to do business with China because he has a secret Chinese bank account. How is that possible?” Mr. Obama asked supporters who had been invited to hear him speak at a drive-in rally in the parking lot of a Philadelphia sports complex. He was referring to a recent New York Times report that revealed previously unknown financial holdings of the president’s — at a time when Mr. Trump is criticizing Mr. Biden’s ties to the country.

“Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account?” said the former president, wearing a blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up, his voice straining. “Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for re-election?” He added, “They would’ve called me Beijing Barry.” It is “not a great idea to have a president who owes a bunch of money to people overseas,” Mr. Obama said, adding that he had probably paid more in income taxes working a high school job at an ice-cream parlor than what Mr. Trump paid during each of his first two years as president — $750.  more...

Dire budget conditions of many states increasingly aid arguments in favor of legalization
By Emily Kopp

Marijuana legalization advocates, afraid that efforts to win ballot initiatives would go up in smoke given the challenges of a pandemic, are fired up about chances in five states this fall. The difficulty of safely getting signatures in person helped doom marijuana legalization efforts in some states, like Idaho and Missouri. But voters will decide next month whether to legalize recreational marijuana in four states, only one of which is reliably Democratic: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. Mississippi will also consider a pair of ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana.

Despite COVID-19 risks, advocates managed to collect more than 661,000 signatures in four of those states in the 2020 election cycle to put the questions on the ballot. Some began before the pandemic hit, while advocates with later deadlines added protective steps like using individual plastic-wrapped pens. In recent years, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 years old or older, while 33 states plus the District have legalized medical marijuana for some patients. If successful, as is likely in all the states this year except possibly Mississippi, the new legalization efforts could altogether bring in hundreds of millions in tax revenue, which could help blunt the impact of states’ plummeting revenue due to the economic collapse. more...

By Reed Richardson

President Donald Trump is seriously considering the firing of his second FBI director in less than four years, having grown frustrated with the lack of investigations into his political foes by Christopher Wray. According to the Washington Post, a frustrated Trump is looking at replacing Wray after the 2020 election. Wray was sworn in to a 10-year term as the nation’s federal law enforcement agency in August 2017 after Trump infamously fired James Comey earlier that year.

Wray has run afoul of the White House’s messaging on a number of critical issues of late, effectively dismissing Trump’s false claims of widespread mail-in voter fraud and knocking down the president’s hyperbole about the threat of left-wing violence from antifa. His very public break from the White House’s narrative earned him rebuke from the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as well as Trump himself. more...

By Manu Raju and Ted Barrett, CNN

(CNN) Senate Judiciary Democrats, facing criticism from the left that they have not done more to question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court confirmation proceedings for Amy Coney Barrett, plan to take the extraordinary step of boycotting a key committee vote on Thursday. Republicans said they can still hold the committee vote Thursday and advance the nomination even if Democrats boycott the proceedings, though the act is a sign of the partisan rancor over the election year nomination to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Democrats hardball move comes amid dissatisfaction from some liberal groups over their handling of the nomination, with Sen, Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, in particular singled out for praising Republican chairman's stewardship of the proceedings. Democrats say they plan to fill the seats Thursday with pictures of people impacted by the Affordable Care Act, part of the Democratic strategy for tying Barrett's nomination to a threat posed to President Barack Obama's signature health care law, which is scheduled to be before the Supreme Court the week after Election Day. more...

Dan Mangan, Kevin Breuninger, Spencer Kimball

Iran and Russia have both obtained information about American voter registrations and are trying to influence the public about the upcoming U.S. presidential election, national security officials said Wednesday night. “Iran and Russia have taken specific actions to influence public opinion related to our elections,” said Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily scheduled press conference.

“First we have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia,” Ratcliffe said at the briefing, which comes less than two weeks before Election Day. “This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy.” more...

The Justice Department announced an $8 billion settlement with Purdue on Wednesday.
By German Lopez

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma has reached a supposedly $8 billion settlement with the federal government in which it pleads guilty in a criminal investigation over its role in the opioid epidemic, the US Department of Justice announced Wednesday. As part of the settlement, Purdue will plead guilty to three counts related to its misleading marketing of opioid painkillers and faces a $3.5 billion criminal fine, $2 billion in criminal forfeitures, and a $2.8 billion civil settlement.

Purdue admits it illegally and misleadingly marketed its opioids, including “to more than 100 health care providers whom the company had good reason to believe were diverting opioids” for misuse; illegally paid doctors to prescribe more opioids; and took part in other fraudulent and illegal practices. Purdue says it did all of this between 2007 and at least 2017 — after a separate guilty plea in 2007 forced the company to pay more than $600 million in fines.

But no one — neither the company’s executives nor members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue — will go to jail or prison as a result of the settlement. Despite the settlement, it’s unclear how much Purdue will actually pay. The company is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings, with claims from other people to whom it effectively owes money. The federal government is only one of many entities that Purdue’s holdings will likely be divvied up among. The Justice Department also threw its support behind a deal that would turn Purdue into a public benefit company overseen by new leadership, with proceeds from OxyContin and other drugs purportedly going to help victims of the opioid crisis. Purdue previously proposed the deal to settle thousands of lawsuits against it, including from local and state governments, over its role in the opioid crisis. more...

By Rob Kuznia, Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Curt Devine, CNN

(CNN) It was a blockbuster story. A respected Chinese virologist appeared on Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News in mid-September to share the results of her just-completed report. The conclusion: The novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was likely engineered in a Chinese lab. On Carlson's show, she claimed it was intentionally released into the world. Then, its validity began to unravel. The publication of the paper by lead author Li-Meng Yan -- an ex-patriot from China seeking asylum in the US -- was quickly linked to former White House adviser Steve Bannon, long a strident critic of China's government. The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security -- a leading authority on the pandemic -- criticized the science behind the report, and pointed out that Yan and her co-authors "cite multiple papers in their reference section that have weaknesses or flaws."

A CNN review of Yan's research found it was also built on what appears to be the same theories, similar passages and identical charts presented by an anonymous blogger whose writings were posted on a website linked to Bannon months earlier. Additionally, a source told CNN the three co-authors of Yan's paper used pseudonyms instead of their real names, a practice frowned upon in scientific and academic work. Yet, even after Facebook slapped a "false information" flag on Carlson's September 15 interview with Yan and Twitter suspended Yan's account, Carlson, Bannon and Yan have pressed forward.

"You'd think that our media would want to get to the bottom of this pandemic," Carlson said on his October 6 show, "but instead they ignored her claims." Yan -- who is back on Twitter -- published a second report on October 8 titled "SARS-CoV-2 is an Unrestricted Bioweapon," which doubled down on the theory that the virus sweeping the globe was manmade and added that its "unleashing" was intentional. That study also included material seemingly copied from the anonymous blogger. more...

by: Russell Falcon

NEW YORK (KXAN) — Questions about credibility surrounded the publication of a story alleging claims that a laptop belonging to Joe Biden’s son Hunter proved shady dealings with foreign countries. The claims made in the article, titled “BIDEN SECRET E-MAILS,” allege that Joe and Hunter Biden profited from deals in the Ukraine while Joe Biden was vice president, according to the New York Times. The New York Times reports that the Post based its story around photos and documents claiming to be from the laptop of Hunter Biden. But two employees of the tabloid say the staff writer who wrote the story refused to put his name on it because he had doubts about the credibility of the claims.

Additionally, the Times says other Post staff members weren’t sure the paper did enough to verify claims — in addition to having doubts on the reliability of sources. Sources that were named in the article were Pres. Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Bannon, who was arrested in August on charges claiming he ripped off fundraising donors, reportedly flagged the laptop’s contents to the Post last month, the NYT reports. Giuliani, meanwhile, is said to have given “a copy” of the laptop contents to The NY Post on Oct. 11, according to the Times. Two writers with The Post report that after the “BIDEN SECRET E-MAILS” article was written, editors pressed staff to put their names on it, but many refused out of fear over its possibly questionable content — in addition to possible legal ramifications. more...

Allegations of women who've accused Trump of non-consensual sexual contact share many details, from forced kisses to where it took place.
Jeanine Santucci, Jim Sergent, and George Petras, USA TODAY

Today, writer E. Jean Carroll goes to court in a unique case: she accused the sitting president of defamation. But when she came forward in 2019 to say Trump had raped her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s, her story started with a familiar detail. "The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips," she wrote in June 2019.

Former model Amy Dorris, the latest to come forward just last month to allege that Trump had sexually assaulted her in 1997 at the US Open tennis tournament, said it began in a similar way.  “He just grabbed me. And he just shoved his tongue down my throat,” Dorris told the Guardian. “His grip was hard, you know, you couldn’t pull away.”

Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis said Dorris' claim was "totally false" and an attempt to attack Trump before the election. Thirteen of the 19 women who have accused Trump of sexual assault or non-consensual physical contact said he kissed them without consent, often out of the blue, sometimes holding them firmly in place. more...

The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office Thursday morning.
By Nate Gartrell

SAN FRANCISCO — Robert Brockman, the Houston billionaire and CEO of a software company, has been charged with taking $2 billion through a scheme to evade taxes, hide assets, and launder money, in what federal prosecutors say is the biggest case of its kind. Brockman, 79, was charged in a 39-count indictment that includes charges of money laundering, conspiracy, wire fraud, and tax evasion. The 42-page indictment, unsealed Thursday morning, alleges that in the late 1990s, Brockman formed companies on the British Virgin Islands and later used them to conceal assets from the IRS.

Federal prosecutors have not moved to hold him in pretrial detention, but argued that Brockman’s access to a private jet in Houston makes him a flight risk. At a court hearing Thursday morning, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins ordered Brockman to remain released but imposed a $1 million bond over defense objections. The indictment covers a 20-year period. It was secured thanks in part to the help of Robert F. Smith, another billionaire who was also being investigated for allegedly evading taxes on a massive scale, though Anderson would not detail what sparked the investigation. Smith avoided criminal charges by agreeing to help with Brockman’s prosecution. more...

By Chris Isidore, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has agreed to plead guilty to three federal criminal charges for its role in creating the nation's opioid crisis and will pay more than $8 billion and close down the company. The money will go to opioid treatment and abatement programs. The privately held company has agreed to pay a $3.5 billion fine as well as forfeit an additional $2 billion in past profits, in addition to the $2.8 billion it agreed to pay in civil liability. The company will be dissolved as part of the criminal charges, and its assets will be used to create a new government-controlled company. That new company will continue to produce painkillers such as OxyContin, as well as drugs to deal with opioid overdose. The money that the new company makes will now go to combat the opioid crisis. more...

*** Did Trump pay more taxes to China than he paid to the U.S. ***

By Aila Slisco

Around the same time President Donald Trump was reportedly paying little to no U.S. income taxes, he allegedly paid the Chinese government more than $188,000 in taxes over two years. Trump paid China $188,561 between 2013 and 2015 through a Chinese bank account controlled by his company Trump International Hotels Management L.L.C., according to a report published Tuesday by The New York Times. The Chinese bank account is said to be one of only three foreign accounts the president maintains, with the other two being located in the U.K. and Ireland.

Despite the account being used to pay a relatively large tax bill, the Trump International Hotels Management reportedly only declared a few thousand dollars in income. The IRS requires Americans to report income from foreign countries. It is not clear how much money flowed through the soon-to-be president's foreign accounts, according to the Times report.

The paper reported late last month that it had obtained 17 years of Trump's tax returns, which the president and his lawyers have continually attempted to block from becoming public. The documents are said to reveal that Trump paid no income taxes for 10 out of 15 years and only $750 in both 2016 and 2017, the year he was elected president and the year he took office. more...

Allison Quinn, Blake Montgomery

Hours after Rudy Giuliani publicly claimed that he’d turned over a computer belonging to Hunter Biden that contained “numerous pictures of underage girls” to the Delaware State Police, Delaware authorities punted the matter to the FBI, citing “credibility” questions. “In light of ongoing questions about the credibility of these claims and multiple reports that the FBI is investigating their veracity, law enforcement is referring this matter to the FBI,” the Delaware Department of Justice told The Daily Beast in a statement about the Trump lawyer’s latest allegation. Giuliani had made the claim in an interview with Newsmax just a few hours earlier on Tuesday, providing no evidence. more...

By David Wright and Alex Rogers, CNN

(CNN) Throughout the spring, summer and fall, vulnerable Senate Republicans and their allies ran TV ads touting their efforts to pass multi-trillion dollar bills addressing the coronavirus pandemic. In Georgia, a Republican super PAC praised "quick action" from Sen. David Perdue to direct funding to hospitals, while North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis ran ads about setting up the Paycheck Protection Program to save small businesses.
But Senate Republicans have largely dropped mentioning coronavirus in TV ads during the final weeks of the election, while Senate Democrats have continued to emphasize the pandemic and health care throughout their campaigns, according to a CNN analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG advertising data. The review covers the top 10 competitive Senate races in nine states: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina (Georgia has two Senate races this year).

Republicans referred to coronavirus in roughly 41% of their TV ads in these Senate races through the end of September, but only in 6% of their ads since October 1. At least 10 other issues were more frequently mentioned in their ads over the past few weeks.
By contrast, coronavirus has been a top-three issue for Democrats and their allies, referenced in over 43% of spots through the end of September, and about 25% in the final weeks of the race. The top issue for both parties is still health care. In general election advertising through the end of September, Senate Democrats and their allies referenced health care in over 67% of TV advertisement spots, and they have continued to do so in nearly 58% of spots since October 1. It was referenced to a lesser extent by Republicans, popping up in about 47% of their ads through September and about 40% of their ads since October. more...

Sender address was from the far-right Proud Boys, but evidence suggests the origin was faked
By Isaac Stanley-Becker and Craig Timberg

Authorities in Florida and Alaska on Tuesday were investigating threatening emails sent to Democratic voters that claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supportive of President Trump, but appeared instead to be a deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organization’s online network.

The emails, which appeared to target Democrats using data from digital databases known as “voter files,” told recipients the group was “in possession of all your information” and instructed voters to change their party registration and cast their ballots for Trump. “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the emails warned. Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys and the Florida state director of Latinos for Trump, denied involvement, saying the group operates two sites, and was increasingly migrating away from the domain used in the email campaign. more...

By Melissa Quinn, Stefan Becket and Graham Kates

Washington — Dozens of voters in a heavily Democratic county in Florida and across several states reported receiving emails on Thursday purporting to come from a right-wing group threatening to "come after" them unless they vote for President Trump. But an examination of the messages, which are now under investigation by state and federal authorities, shows they were sent via servers located overseas, raising questions about their origin amid concerns about voter intimidation just two weeks before Election Day.

Democratic voters in Alachua County, Florida, began receiving the email on Tuesday morning, and voters in Alaska and Arizona also reported receiving the message. Early voting began in Florida on Monday. The emails appeared to come from the right-wing group The Proud Boys, and showed a "from" address of info@officialproudboys.com. The Proud Boys has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group. more...

Joshua Bote USA TODAY

A ballot drop box in a majority-Latino town in California was set on fire Sunday night, which may have destroyed up to 100 ballots two weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Los Angeles County officials are investigating the fire, which took place in Baldwin Park — a suburb nearly 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles with a nearly three-quarters Latino populationn.

“The arson of an official ballot drop box by the Baldwin Park Library in the First District has all the signs of an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis in a statement. “Tampering, or attempts to tamper, with our democracy will not be tolerated.” The County Registar’s Office has asked both the FBI and the Attorney General to investigate the fire. more...

Rachel Aretakis, John Bacon, Jorge L. Ortiz - USA TODAY

Election officials across the nation continued to review security plans Tuesday at early and Election Day voting sites, strengthening ties with local law enforcement and training poll workers to prepare for voter intimidation tactics. There are already signs of wrongdoing, as a ballot drop box in a California town east of Los Angeles was set on fire.

Even before the Sept. 29 presidential debate – when President Donald Trump urged his supporters to "go into the polls and watch very carefully" – there was concern over the prospect of voter harassment at the polls. Some context: Poll watching or poll observing has long been a way for parties and outside groups to monitor voting, but such observers typically have to be certified in advance, and detailed rules vary from state to state. more...

The statement came after a judge ordered records in the proceedings released to show if "publicly elected officials are being honest."
By David K. Li and Tim Stelloh

A grand juror who heard evidence in the Breonna Taylor probe said Tuesday that the grand jury didn’t agree that her death was justified, a disclosure that came after a Kentucky judge ordered records in the proceedings released to show if "publicly elected officials are being honest." In a statement, “Grand Juror #1,” as the person has been identified by lawyer Kevin Glogower, said that the only charge presented during the proceedings was wanton endangerment. Former Louisville Police Det. Brett Hankison was indicted last month on that charge for firing shots into the apartment of Taylor’s neighbors on March 13.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, whose office investigated the fatal shooting, has called the use of force justified. Taylor, 26, was shot to death after officers with a no-knock warrant broke down her door during a narcotics investigation. Taylor's boyfriend, who fired on police once, striking an officer, has said he believed the raid was a home invasion. Hankison was the only officer charged in the incident, and none of the officers — including the one who Cameron says fired the fatal shot — faced charges directly related to Taylor's death.

In the statement, the grand juror said that homicide laws were not explained during the proceedings, even though the panel asked about them. “Questions were asked about the additional charges and the grand jury was told there would be none because the prosecutors didn’t feel they could make them stick,” the statement said. “The grand jury didn’t agree that certain actions were justified, nor did it decide the indictment should be the only charges in the Breonna Taylor case.” more...

More than 50 former intelligence officials signed a letter casting doubt on the provenance of a New York Post story on the former vice president's son.

More than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”

The letter, signed on Monday, centers around a batch of documents released by the New York Post last week that purport to tie the Democratic nominee to his son Hunter’s business dealings. Under the banner headline “Biden Secret E-mails,” the Post reported it was given a copy of Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who said he got it from a Mac shop owner in Delaware who also alerted the FBI.

While the letter’s signatories presented no new evidence, they said their national security experience had made them “deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case” and cited several elements of the story that suggested the Kremlin’s hand at work. “If we are right,” they added, “this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this.”

Nick Shapiro, a former top aide under CIA director John Brennan, provided POLITICO with the letter on Monday. He noted that “the IC leaders who have signed this letter worked for the past four presidents, including Trump. The real power here however is the number of former, working-level IC officers who want the American people to know that once again the Russians are interfering." more...

QAnon has become a linchpin of far-right media—and the effort to preemptively delegitimize the election.
Renée DiResta

Whether President Donald Trump wins or loses, some version of QAnon is going to survive the election. On the day of the vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, the individual or group known as “Q” sent out a flurry of posts. “ONLY THE ILLUSION OF DEMOCRACY,” began one. “Joe 30330—Arbitrary?—What is 2020 [current year] divided by 30330? Symbolism will be their downfall,” read another, darkly hinting at satanic numerology in Joe Biden’s campaign text-messaging code.

Vague, foreboding messages that could mean anything or nothing—these are the hallmarks of QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory, built around Q’s postings on internet message boards, in which Trump is heroically battling a global cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles. But something noteworthy lurked in Q’s final post of the night: “SHADOW PRESIDENT. SHADOW GOVERNMENT. INFORMATION WARFARE. IRREGULAR WARFARE. COLOR REVOLUTION. INSURGENCY.”

Color revolution. This was the first time Q used the term. Originally a reference to mass protests such as the one in Ukraine in 2004, when citizens wearing orange clothes and carrying orange banners rallied to bring down a government, it became a catchphrase that authoritarian governments use to discredit pro-democracy movements as the handiwork of the CIA. Q was using color revolution in just that way. more...

Keris Lahiff

The U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit against search giant Google on Tuesday. Five experts break down what the suit means for parent company Alphabet, whether it has any merit and how Google will defend itself. Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” poked holes in the logistics of a breakup.

“One, it’s baked in. Two, it’s not the first rodeo. They’ve been able to defend this over and over and over again. There’s a huge number of documents that are in favor of Google. … If they broke up the company … what would you get? You’d get Waymo. You’d get health care. You get fantastic YouTube and you get search. What are they going to do? Break search up into what? Like A through M goes to Facebook?” Tim Wu, Columbia Law School professor, said the odds of a full breakup are low. more...

Our View: In 2016, we broke tradition in urging you not to vote for Trump. Now we're making our first presidential endorsement. We hope it's our last.
The Editorial Board, USA TODAY

Four years ago, the Editorial Board — an ideologically and demographically diverse group of journalists that is separate from the news staff and operates by consensus — broke with tradition and took sides in the presidential race for the first time since USA TODAY was founded in 1982. We urged readers not to vote for Donald Trump, calling the Republican nominee unfit for office because he lacked the “temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.” We stopped short, however, of an outright endorsement of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. This year, the Editorial Board unanimously supports the election of Joe Biden, who offers a shaken nation a harbor of calm and competence.

Recent polls show that more than 90% of voters have decided between Biden and Trump, and nothing at this point will change their minds. This editorial is for those of you who are still uncertain about which candidate to vote for, or whether to vote at all. It’s also for those who settled on Trump but might be having last-minute doubts.

Maybe you backed Trump the last time around because you hoped he’d shake things up in Washington or bring back blue-collar jobs. Maybe you liked his populist, anti-elitist message. Maybe you couldn’t stomach the idea of supporting a Democrat as polarizing as Clinton. Maybe you cast a ballot for a minor party candidate, or just stayed home. Now, two weeks until Election Day, we suggest you consider a variation of the question Republican Ronald Reagan asked voters when he ran for president in 1980: Is America better off now than it was four years ago? more...

CBS News

A poll worker in Memphis, Tennessee, has been fired after turning away early voters who were wearing "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe" shirts, an elections official said Monday. The worker was fired Friday after officials received a call from a witness at the Dave Wells Community Center in Memphis, Shelby County Election Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson said.

Tennessee law does not allow voters to wear items bearing the name of a candidate or a political party in a polling place. But state law does not prohibit statements such as "Black Lives Matter," Thompson said. The number of voters who were told to leave was not immediately known, but Thompson said it was only a few. The poll worker thought the statements were tied to the Democratic Party, Thompson said. more...

Douglas Kuhn, 50, allegedly fired a shotgun as a truck drove by after they honked at him, police said. No one was injured.
By Phil Helsel

A Maryland man is accused of firing a shotgun at a truck with two Trump supporters after they honked as he was putting up a sign in his yard, police said. No one was hurt in the incident, which happened around 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Kingsville, a community of around 4,400 northeast of Baltimore, Baltimore County police said in a statement. Douglas Kuhn, 50, was arrested on two counts of first-degree assault and other charges, police said.

Police said that Kuhn was putting up a political sign on his property and that the men had a political sign in the back of the truck. They did not provide additional details about the signs. The people in the truck told NBC affiliate WBAL of Baltimore that they are Trump supporters and were giving a friendly honk to Kuhn while he put up a Black Lives Matter sign. The victim "honked his horn several times" at Kuhn, and he "picked up a shotgun and discharged it as they drove by," causing no injuries or damage to the vehicle, police said. more...

Adam Rawnsley, The Daily Beast

Facebook has suspended the account of Ukrainian politician—and alleged Russian agent—Andrii Derkach for election interference activity. The member of Ukraine’s parliament has been working with President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to gather allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson told The Daily Beast, “We removed this account and this Page for violating our policy against the use of our platform by people engaged in election-focused influence operations.”

Derkach was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in September for allegedly acting as an agent of Russian intelligence and being “directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in an attempt to undermine the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election.”

Through his “Nabu Leaks” website, Derkach began spreading leaked recordings of conversations between Vice President Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko discussing a $1 billion loan to Ukraine and the need to fire an allegedly corrupt former prosecutor. Derkach and a number of Republican politicians have spread unsubstantiated allegations that Biden’s internationally backed pressure on Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general was part of a corruption scheme involving Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company where Biden's son, Hunter, sat on the board. Giuliani has come under increasing scrutiny for his relationship with Derkach, as revelations swirl about the U.S. intelligence community’s concerns that Russian spies may have tried to use the former mayor of New York as a conduit to launder disinformation from Moscow. more...

Brendan Morrow, The Week

The Department of Justice has announced charges against six Russian intelligence officers in connection with a series of majorly "disruptive and destructive" cyberattacks. The DOJ on Monday said that a federal grand jury had indicted six Russian computer hackers, officers of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), for their role in a series of "computer intrusions and attacks" conducted from 2015 through 2019 "for the strategic benefit of Russia." This allegedly included malware attacks against Ukraine's electric power grid, as well as efforts to disrupt France's 2017 elections and the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Officials also said the defendants were responsible for "destructive malware attacks that infected computers worldwide" and led to nearly $1 billion in losses. The alleged hackers, The Washington Post notes, are a part of the same intelligence agency previously charged over interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, although the indictment unsealed on Monday didn't include charges related to U.S. election interference. NBC News' Kevin Collier wrote that "naming six officers (allegedly) responsible for election meddling and destruction two weeks before the election seems a pretty clear sign." The Post reports that "officials said the announcement was not timed to the current political schedule," however. more...

Ed Pilkington

From the frequency of attacks to the scope of ambition, racist terror groups – encouraged by the president, are showing unparalleled activity in the modern era. On 6 October Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, released his department’s annual assessment of violent threats to the nation. Analysts didn’t have to dig deep into the assessment to discover its alarming content. In a foreword, Wolf wrote that he was “particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years. [They] seek to force ideological change in the United States through violence, death, and destruction.”

Two days later, the FBI swooped. It arrested 13 rightwing extremists who had allegedly been plotting to carry out a range of attacks in Michigan, including the kidnapping of the Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer. Later revelations revealed that a group of anti-government paramilitaries that included some of those arrested had also discussed kidnapping the governor of Virginia. The double strike, just days apart, of the threat assessment and the Michigan plot arrests marked an important moment in America’s tortured history of racist terrorism. US authorities appeared not only to have woken up finally to the extent of the white supremacist threat but were actually doing something about it. more...

You might see people sharing the hashtag #SavetheChildren on social media. But much of this online activity has nothing to do with the respected and real Save the Children charity. Its name has been hijacked by followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory. video...

Some reporters withheld their bylines and questioned the credibility of an article that made the tabloid’s front page on Wednesday.
By Katie Robertson

The New York Post’s front-page article about Hunter Biden on Wednesday was written mostly by a staff reporter who refused to put his name on it, two Post employees said. Bruce Golding, a reporter at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid since 2007, did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article’s credibility, the two Post employees said, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.

Coming late in a heated presidential campaign, the article suggested that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had used his position to enrich his son Hunter when he was vice president. The Post based the story on photos and documents the paper said it had taken from the hard drive of a laptop purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden. Many Post staff members questioned whether the paper had done enough to verify the authenticity of the hard drive’s contents, said five people with knowledge of the tabloid’s inner workings. Staff members also had concerns about the reliability of its sources and its timing, the people said.

The article named two sources: Stephen K. Bannon, the former adviser to President Trump now facing federal fraud charges, who was said to have made the paper aware of the hard drive last month; and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who was said to have given the paper “a copy” of the hard drive on Oct. 11. more...


As President Trump launches "Character Counts Week," CNN's Jake Tapper takes a look at some of the demonstrations of the President's character over the past few weeks. video...

Patricia Kelly Yeo

Two New York Post employees told The New York Times that the primary author of its Wednesday Hunter Biden article, whose veracity three news organizations have been unable to independently verify, refused to appear on the byline. The sources also said Gabrielle Fonrouge, one of the article’s two named authors, did little of its reporting and writing and was unaware of her byline until after its publication. The other named author, Post deputy politics editor Emma-Jo Morris, did not have a byline in the newspaper until Wednesday’s article, according to the Times, and previously had publicly available Instagram photos with former Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Times he went to the Post with the hard drive because “either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.” more...

Opinion by Anushay Hossain

(CNN) Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican who is facing a tight reelection battle, intentionally mispronounced Sen. Kamala Harris' name at a Friday rally in Macon, Georgia, where he took the stage before introducing President Donald Trump. The GOP Senator called the vice presidential candidate, and his Senate Budget Committee colleague whom he has served alongside for years, "Ka-MAL-a, Ka-MAL-a or Kamala, Kamala, Ka-mala, -mala, -mala, I don't know, whatever," drawing laughter from the crowd. (Harris herself has written that it's pronounced "'comma-la,' like the punctuation mark.") Does anybody aside from Trump's toxic base find this racist behavior funny? The answer is no. more...

Cornyn is among the lawmakers campaigning for reelection who have signaled distance from the president.
By Li Zhou

Texas Sen. John Cornyn is among a growing number of Senate Republicans who’ve begun to highlight their disagreements with President Donald Trump amid surprisingly competitive reelection races. “When I have had differences of opinion, which I have, [I] do that privately,” Cornyn said in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board released on Sunday, claiming that he’s previously clashed with Trump on border security and budget deficits. Cornyn’s interview comes shortly after leaked audio captured Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) criticizing Trump in a conversation with constituents this week.

“I don’t think the way he’s led through Covid has been reasonable or responsible or right,” Sasse said in audio obtained by the Washington Examiner. “The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership, the way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor.” And both follow comments by Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) — who avoided saying whether she was “proud” of her support for Trump at an October debate, and longstanding statements from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — who has consistently declined to say who she’s voting for in November.

As a whole, these remarks speak to a broader trend of Republicans doing what many GOP lawmakers have long been unwilling to do: signal a break with Trump. These efforts to create distance between themselves and the president come as voters’ aversion to Trump appears to be threatening key Republican-held Senate seats. Cornyn, Sasse, McSally, and Collins are all running for reelection. Of the four, only Sasse’s seat is seen as safe, partially because Trump has pushed more moderate Republicans away from the party in several battleground states. more...

There's an easier way to lessen the impact of retaliatory agriculture tariffs: repeal our own
Baylen Linnekin

With the presidential election now just over two weeks away, President Donald Trump has mounted a frantic effort to ensure America's farmers, a key Trump voting bloc, will support his flagging re-election campaign. In short, he's shoving piles of cash their way. The New York Times details the "gush of funds" Trump has promised U.S. farmers—with more on the way. Some say total farm subsidies could top $40 billion this year. The Times says the figure may be as high as $46 billion. Either figure would be a record.

Generally, it appears Trump may see this sort of "massive pre-election stimulus" as his best hope for reelection. Critics have seized on the manner in which the Trump administration is subsidizing farmers—mostly outside of the traditional (though also lousy) programs funded under the five-year Farm Bill. "[T]he bulk of USDA payments to farmers since 2017 have flowed through stop-gap programs created by the Trump administration, with payment limits far larger than those that apply to the traditional farm program," Successful Farming reported in August.

The combination of farm subsidies included in the current Farm Bill and subsidies doled out under Trump's executive order means, the Times reports, that two out of every five dollars American farmers receive this year will come directly from taxpayers. Critics, including many Democrats, argue the funds are being doled out as political favors. They appear to have a point. Last month, for example, during an election rally in Wisconsin, Trump announced additional payments to farmers totaling $13 billion.

Non-partisan observers have also labeled them political handouts. "The Government Accountability Office found last month that $14.5 billion of farm aid in 2019 had been handed out with politics in mind," The Week reports. The Times, citing the same GAO report, also highlighted by some Democrats, shows farm subsidies last year appeared to be directed to "big farms in the Midwest and southern states," mirroring at least some segments of Trump's farm base. more...

The recruit, Joseph Zacharek, is believed to have participated in a forum called “Iron March” four years ago, a police official said.
By Tim Stelloh

A police recruit in Lafayette, Indiana, was fired after an anti-fascist flagged his apparent ties to a neo-Nazi internet forum, authorities said Saturday. The recruit, Joseph Zacharek, is believed to have participated in a forum called “Iron March” four years ago, Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly said in a statement. The department was alerted to Zacharek’s posts on Friday, when a self-described anti-fascist tagged its Twitter account with a link to messages from the forum that were posted on a site called “ironmarch exposed.” The department opened an investigation and determined that the messages were accurate and credible, the statement said. more...

By Jeff Peterson, opinion contributor

When asked about climate change and the environment in the first presidential debate, President Trump stated, “I want crystal clean water and air.” As we mark the 48th anniversary of the 1972 Clean Water Act on Oct. 18, the president’s words ring hollow. For most of the past 48 years, the Clean Water Act produced dramatic improvements in the quality of our nation’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters. But problems persist: In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that 46 percent of rivers and streams were in poor condition, contaminated with pollutants. That was also true of 21 percent of lakes and 14 percent of coastal waters.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s unrelenting rollback of clean water protections is stalling progress toward fixing these problems and endangering a half-century’s worth of gains. Let’s start with the budget. One core element of our nation’s commitment to clean water is federal funding to states to construct sewage treatment plants. For FY 2021, the president proposed to cut this funding by 32 percent. This cut would come at a time when the need for clean water infrastructure is estimated to be $271 billion. Worse, this reduction is in the context of a potentially devastating overall cut to the EPA budget in FY 2021 of 27 percent.  

Enforcement is essential to meeting the Clean Water Act’s goal of “fishable and swimmable” waterways. But a new study looked at 14 years of data and reported a 70 percent decrease in Clean Water Act prosecutions under Trump. Report authors concluded, “It is hard to overstate the significance” of this decrease, speculating that one explanation may be “uncertainty about the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act” resulting from Trump administration regulatory changes to narrow the scope of waters protected by the act. more...

By Michael J. Coren

Elon Musk is known for spending billions of dollars to build better electric cars and bigger rockets. Since 2008, the Tesla CEO has spent more than $80 billion just rolling out the electric carmaker’s first three models, according to public financial filings. But when it comes to giving money away, the billionaire and head of the Musk Foundation is in a bit less of a hurry. Founded in 2002 by Musk and his younger brother Kimbal, the Musk Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Kimbal Musk serves as secretary, treasurer, and board director, while the elder Musk serves as president and the sole funder, having started the organization with $2.5 million in 2002. more...

Martin Pengelly

Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan who was the subject of a rightwing plot to kidnap and possibly kill her over coronavirus lockdown measures, has accused Donald Trump of “inspiring and incentivising domestic terrorism”. Whitmer spoke after Lara Trump, a campaign surrogate for her father-in-law, insisted the president was merely “having fun” when he attacked Whitmer and responded to chants of “Lock her up!” at a rally in Muskegon.

“Lock ’em all up,” the president said. On Sunday, on NBC’s Meet the Press, Whitmer was asked about the coronavirus situation in her state and Trump’s encouragement of the chants against her. “It’s incredibly disturbing,” she said, “that the president of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap me, put me on trial and execute me was uncovered, the president is at it again and inspiring and incentivising and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism. “It is wrong. It’s got to end. It is dangerous not just for me and my family, but for public servants everywhere who are doing their jobs and trying to protect their fellow Americans. People of goodwill on both sides of the aisle need to step up and call this out and bring the heat down. more...

Baines could face a statutory maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison.
By Jon Haworth

A rapper who bragged about defrauding the government’s unemployment program in a music video has been arrested on federal charges of carrying out the exact scheme he mentioned in his video, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Fontrell Antonio Baines, 31, who goes by the stage name “Nuke Bizzle” was arrested after applying for more than $1.2 million in jobless benefits and using stolen identities in a scheme to fraudulently obtain unemployment insurance benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Baines, originally from Memphis Tennessee but who now resides in the Hollywood Hills in California, was allegedly exploiting the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provision of the CARES Act which the DOJ says is designed to expand access to unemployment benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors, and others who would not otherwise be eligible.

“Baines possessed and used debit cards pre-loaded with unemployment benefits administered by the California Employment Development Department (EDD),” the DOJ said in a statement announcing Baines’ arrest. “The debit cards were issued in the names of third-parties, including identity theft victims. The applications for these debit cards listed addresses to which Baines had access in Beverly Hills and Koreatown.” more...

By Kara Scannell and Erica Orden, CNN

New York (CNN) If things don't go Donald Trump's way on Election Day, the President may face more serious matters than how to pack up the West Wing. Without some of the protections afforded him by the presidency, Trump will become vulnerable to multiple investigations looking into possible fraud in his financial business dealings as a private citizen -- both as an individual and through his company. He faces defamation lawsuits sparked by his denials of accusations made by women who have alleged he assaulted them, including E. Jean Carroll, the former magazine columnist who has accused him of rape. And then there are claims he corrupted the presidency for his personal profits.

As President, Trump has been able to block and delay several of these investigations and lawsuits -- including a yearlong fight over a subpoena for his tax returns -- in part because of his official position. Many of those matters have wound through the courts and will come to a head whether he is reelected or not. But with the polls showing that Democratic rival Joe Biden is leading in the race, the stakes become much higher for Trump if he loses the election. A raft of legal issues, including a criminal investigation by New York prosecutors, will come into focus in the weeks after Election Day. "In every regard, his leaving office makes it easier for prosecutors and plaintiffs in civil cases to pursue their cases against him," said Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor in the Manhattan US attorney's office. "For example, he is claiming a higher protection from subpoenas in the criminal cases and also in the congressional subpoena cases, [and that] is based largely on the fact that he is President."

Some have suggested a formal apparatus for investigating Trump after he leaves office. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, has floated the creation of a "Presidential Crimes Commission," made up of independent prosecutors who can examine "those who enabled a corrupt president," as he put it in an August tweet. "Example 1: Sabotaging the mail to win an election." The most serious legal threat facing Trump is the Manhattan district attorney's broad criminal investigation into the financial workings of the Trump Organization. Prosecutors have suggested in court filings that the investigation could examine whether the President and his company engaged in bank fraud, insurance fraud, criminal tax fraud and falsification of business records. more...

Andrii Derkach jumped into the fray even as Giuliani shrugged off concerns that his latest smears against the Biden family may be fueled by a foreign election-interference plot.
Allison Quinn

Rudy Giuliani has dismissed concerns that his latest anti-Biden smears are part of a foreign-election interference plot, but a Ukrainian lawmaker recently deemed an “active Russian agent” by the U.S. Treasury is now touting further details to come. Andrii Derkach, one of the key players in Giuliani’s years-long dirt-digging mission against Joe Biden in Ukraine, piggybacked on the former New York City mayor’s latest Biden smears—supposedly involving a forgotten laptop. Derkach claimed on Facebook that there is a “second laptop” with evidence of corruption involving the Biden family.

The claim appears to muddy the waters around Giuliani’s latest “smoking gun” charge against Hunter Biden. He says they came to light after an obscure Delaware computer repair shop owner found Biden’s laptop in his possession and copied the hard drive before alerting federal authorities and inexplicably Giuliani’s own lawyer. Now, with Derkach jumping in with claims of a “second laptop,” that would mean private computer contents allegedly connected to Hunter Biden have somehow found their way into the hands of three separate parties: A media empire controlled by a Chinese billionaire who’s tight with Steve Bannon; a random Delaware shop owner who is outspoken in his support of Trump; and Derkach, a Ukrainian conspiracy theory peddler who studied at Moscow’s FSB academy.

Derkach wrote on Facebook about the questionable New York Post report that relied on unverified images of emails provided by Trump allies to supposedly prove a corruption scheme by Biden and his son involving Ukrainian gas company Burisma. He then said there was a second laptop, which was used by “two representatives for the interests of [Burisma founder Mykola] Zlochevsky.” more...

By David Brennan

Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to President Donald Trump, has claimed that Hunter Biden emailed a computer repair shop to reclaim a hard drive now at the center of an FBI probe into Russian disinformation. The New York Post this week detailed alleged conversations between Hunter—the son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden—and an executive at Ukrainian gas company Burisma, on whose board Hunter previously served.

The Post cited emails reportedly found on a hard drive supplied by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani has long been involved in Trump's political machinations in Ukraine and has reportedly been flagged by U.S. officials as a potential conduit for Russian government disinformation. One of the released emails shows Hunter was planning to introduce Burisma executive Vadym Pozharsky to Biden—then vice president—in 2015. Pozharsky wrote to Hunter: "Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent some time together. It's realty an honour and pleasure."

Trump and his allies have seized on the email as evidence that Biden misused his position to benefit his son, though it is not clear if Pozharsky and Biden ever actually met. Biden has said he "never discussed" Hunter's foreign business interests with him. Bannon told Sky News Sunday: "Hunter Biden's lawyer has come to us both with phone calls and with emails saying, 'Hey, I've got to get the hard drive back.'" more...

Caren Bohan, Kevin Johnson, Matthew Brown, Jeff Neiburg USA TODAY

When a New York tabloid published the alleged contents of a computer hard drive purporting to document the Ukrainian and Chinese business activities of Hunter Biden, the newspaper cast the information as a "smoking gun." Enter the FBI. Less than three weeks before one of the most contentious presidential campaigns in history, federal authorities are investigating whether the material supplied to the New York Post by Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, is part of a smoke bomb of disinformation pushed by Russia.

The inquiry, according to a person familiar with the matter, is at least in part, aimed at determining whether Russia has set its sights on a familiar target: Biden's father, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The FBI has declined to comment, refusing to either confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

The gauzy details of the newspaper's account trace the hard drive to a computer repair shop in Delaware, where a laptop had been left for service last year but was never re-claimed by the customer. Exactly how the material moved to Giuliani,who with Trump has long pushed debunked conspiracy theories about the Bidens, has raised as many questions as the authenticity of the laptop data the president's lawyer provided to the tabloid. more...

By Hannah Knowles

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Saturday slammed President Trump’s rally in her state where people chanted “lock her up,” denouncing it as promoting “exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans.”

The chants — a familiar refrain deployed against political foes at Trump’s campaign events — came a little more than a week after authorities revealed a foiled plot to kidnap Whitmer, allegedly motivated in part by the belief that Michigan’s government was violating the Constitution with its coronavirus restrictions. Trump has repeatedly condemned Whitmer’s pandemic response as overly strict with calls to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and he reprised his criticisms at his Saturday campaign event in the swing state.

“You have got to get your governor to open up your state, okay?” he said to huge cheers at the rally in Muskegon, Mich. “And get your schools open.” The crowd began to chant for Whitmer’s imprisonment, and Trump shook his head at one point but did not tamp them down. “Lock ’em all up,” he said, as the chants continued amid a sea of red hats. Tori Saylor, deputy digital director for Whitmer, immediately criticized Trump’s behavior as dangerous. “I see everything that is said about and to her online,” Saylor tweeted. “Every single time the President does this at a rally, the violent rhetoric towards her immediately escalates on social media. It has to stop. It just has to.” more...

By Raja Razek and Rebekah Riess, CNN

(CNN) The mayor of Wichita, Kansas, says a man who he says threatened to kidnap him was upset over the city's COVID-19 mask ordinance. Meredith Dowty, 59, is facing a criminal threat charge after officials were "alerted to threatening statements directed toward city of Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple," according to a news release from Wichita police. According to Sedgwick County Detention Center records, Dowty was booked at 6:05 p.m. Friday with no bail amount set. CNN has been unable to determine whether he has an attorney. Whipple told CNN he gets threats periodically, but the details of "this one seemed different." more...

By Sheena Jones and Theresa Waldrop, CNN

(CNN) A 14th person has been charged in the alleged domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to the Michigan attorney general's office. Brian Higgins, 51, of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, has been charged with material support of an act of terrorism for his "alleged participation in a plan of domestic terrorism that included storming the Michigan Capitol building and harming government officials," Attorney General Dana Nessel's office said in a release. Seven other people, all associated with the extremist group Wolverine Watchmen, were charged by the state of Michigan last week, and the federal government has charged an additional six people.

"While the political rhetoric in our nation may at times be divisive, I am encouraged by the united front our law enforcement community has displayed in response to this indescribable act of terror," Nessel said.  "These were very credible and very serious threats to our elected officials and the public in general, and the swift actions taken by state and federal authorities this past week are nothing short of heroic," she said. Higgins has been charged with "material support or resources to a terrorist organization," according to the arrest warrant. Higgins is thought to have "provided material support and resources in the furtherance of terrorist acts," according to the affidavit.

Higgins provided his night-vision goggles for surveillance of Whitmer's vacation home and used a dash camera in his vehicle to record the surveillance "to aid in kidnapping plans," the affidavit said. Those charged in Michigan last week are suspected of attempting to identify the addresses of law enforcement officers "in order to target them," Nessel said after those arrests. more...

Emma Newburger

The Senate will vote on a $500 billion coronavirus stimulus bill on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday, as a larger bipartisan deal remains elusive despite continued talks between top Democrats and the Trump administration. McConnell blamed his opponents across the political aisle for the current stalemate, arguing that the Senate has enough time to pass the GOP stimulus package and confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barret if “Democrats do not obstruct this legislation.”

“Nobody thinks this $500B+ proposal would resolve every problem forever,” McConnell said in a statement on Saturday. “It would deliver huge amounts of additional help to workers and families right now while Washington keeps arguing over the rest.” Democrats have accused McConnell of pushing ahead with Barrett’s confirmation instead of focusing on passing stimulus legislation. Democrats blocked a $500 billion Republican plan in the Senate last month and will likely dismiss the latest GOP proposal as insufficient. more...

By Nicole Chavez, CNN

(CNN) Demonstrators wore pink knit pussyhats and black face masks honoring the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday for the second Women's March of the year. Women and allies gathered in Washington, DC, and several other cities around the country to protest President Donald Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and urge women to vote in the upcoming election. "I want my country back," Barbara Moore of Arlington told CNN affiliate WJLA.

The crowd marched from Freedom Plaza to the National Mall, some carrying signs with messages like "Hell no, Amy must go!" and "You call us nasty because you are afraid of what strong women can do." Karen Ehrgott said she traveled from the Philadelphia area to attend the march to protest Barrett's nomination and the push to confirm her before the November 3 election. "It's a mess. It's really, really a mess. I am very, very fearful of our democracy," Ehrgott told CNN. "I thought it was thriving and nothing could ever happen, but clearly it's a lot more fragile than we understood it to be."

Trump has pointed to the November 3 election as a reason for seeking swift Senate confirmation of Barrett, a federal appeals court judge who would be his third appointee to the nine-member bench. The President has said he believes the Supreme Court could ultimately decide whether he or his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, is the winner of the election. more...


In a wild interview, Giuliani defended his years-long mission to torpedo the Bidens by exposing their alleged misdeeds in Ukraine. And he doesn’t care who supplied the ammunition.
Asawin Suebsaeng, Erin Banco - the daily beast

Rudy Giuliani thinks it’s hilarious. He says the questions mounting around him—including those about whether his efforts to dump Hunter Biden’s documents and photos are part of some foreign election-interference operation—are “a bunch of bullshit.” He’s unconcerned about intelligence assessments that one of his former associates was a Russian agent, a proposition that he gave more or less even odds. In fact, Giuliani said, he has been “laughing my head off” about the whole affair.

Instead, the pugnacious former New York City mayor said he was on a mission to push out all the contents of a hard drive he allegedly obtained, that he claims belongs to the former vice president’s son—no matter how seemingly irrelevant others may say they are. “I sleep with it at night,” Giuliani said of the hard drive, chortling. “It’s because I work late.” more...

David Folkenflik

It is a classic moment in the weeks before Election Day: a news outlet runs a front-page exclusive promising scandalous revelations about a big-ticket candidate. This week, the New York Post published a story based on what it says are emails — "smoking gun" emails, it calls them — sent by a Ukrainian business executive to the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The story fits snugly into a narrative from President Trump and his allies that Hunter Biden's zealous pursuit of business ties abroad also compromised the former vice president.

Yet this was a story marked more by red flags than investigative rigor. To start, the emails have not been verified as authentic. They were said to have been extracted from a computer assumed — but not proven — to have belonged to the younger Biden. They were said to have been given to the Post by Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is known for making discredited claims about the Bidens. The venue is also suspect. The pro-Trump New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a steady supporter of the president despite recently casting doubt on Trump's reelection prospects. The lead reporter was a former producer for Sean Hannity, Trump's best friend on his favorite news network, Fox News, also controlled by the Murdochs. And the story asserted the existence of a meeting absent any documentation that it actually occurred. (The Biden campaign says the tabloid never sought comment on the veracity of the claims.) more...

Mairead McArdle, National Review

A Kentucky postal worker who allegedly threw out more than 100 absentee ballots in a dumpster on Thursday has been fired by the U.S. Postal Service and may face federal prosecution. The Postal Service Office of Inspector General discovered 112 discarded absentee ballots intended for voters in ZIP code 40299, which is located in the Louisville metro area, as well as two political fliers that had also been discarded.

The unidentified individual responsible for throwing out the ballots in a dumpster near Jeffersontown has been fired and his case has been accepted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution, the USPS Office of the Inspector General said. “Federal privacy concerns preclude me from providing any more details about their employment,” special agent Scott Balfour commented. more...

By Clare Duffy, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) Texas tech mogul Robert T. Brockman has been charged in a $2 billion tax evasion case, the largest ever tax charge in the United States, law enforcement officials said. A federal grand jury returned an indictment alleging that Brockman, the CEO of software company Reynolds & Reynolds, engaged in tax evasion, wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes as part of a nearly 20-year scheme to conceal around $2 billion in income from the Internal Revenue Service and defraud investors in his software firm's debt securities, federal authorities said in a release.

The 39-count indictment — filed earlier this month in the Northern District of California and unsealed this week — reads at times like a screenplay: Allegations against Brockman include operating a complex web of foreign companies and bank accounts; using unreported taxable income to buy a luxury yacht called "Turmoil;" creating an encrypted email system to communicate with employees using code names such as "Bonefish" and "Snapper;" asking a money manager to attend a "money laundering conference" under an assumed identity; and persuading that same money manager to destroy documents and electronic media using shredders and hammers. "Dollar amounts aside, I have not seen this pattern of greed or concealment and cover-up in my 25+ years as a special agent," Jim Lee, chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit, said during a press conference. more...

By Kaelan Deese

A PAC with ties to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) donated hundreds of dollars to two candidates running for state legislature seats who have openly supported QAnon conspiracy theories. Republican candidates Kevin Bushey and Brian Redmond, who are running for election to Maine's House of Representatives, received $400 each from Dirigo PAC, which is heavily associated with Collins, Business Insider reported.

QAnon is a far-right internet conspiracy theory that purports President Trump is fighting a battle against a "deep state" of satanic pedophiles and cannibals. The baseless theory has grown in popularity to international proportions and has garnered significant public support from GOP candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is running to represent Georgia's 14th Congressional District.

Last year, the FBI classified QAnon as a potential domestic terrorist threat, saying in a document that the agency "assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread ... occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts." more...

In a six-part series, USA TODAY investigates how racist policies of the past and present have fueled high COVID-19 deaths in communities of color.
Alan Gomez, Wyatte Grantham-Philips, Trevor Hughes, Rick Jervis, Rebecca Plevin, Kameel Stanley, Dennis Wagner, Marco della Cava, Deborah Barfield Berry, and Mark Nichols, USA TODAY

A Louisiana pastor prays as his parishioners die, first from cancer and now from COVID-19. An Indigenous community in New Mexico lacks adequate health care as the death toll mounts. A sick hospital worker in New Jersey frets about infecting others in her heavily populated neighborhood. As the country cries out for a vaccine and a return to normal, lost in the policy debates is the reality that COVID-19 kills far more people of color than white Americans. This isn't a matter of coincidence, poor choices or bad luck — it's by design. A team of USA TODAY reporters explored how the policies of the past and present have made Black, Asian, Hispanic and Indigenous Americans prime targets for COVID-19. They found:

   America's education and economic systems are still unequal, disproportionately leaving people of color out of higher-wage jobs. When COVID-19 struck, more people of color were serving as essential workers directly in the path of the virus. Decades of discrimination in housing corralled people of color into tightly packed neighborhoods, fueling the virus' spread. Those neighborhoods tend to lie in "food deserts," leading to diabetes, obesity and heart disease that make people more likely to die from the virus. Environmental policies designed by white power brokers at the expense of the poor has poisoned the air they breathe, fueling cancers and leaving communities weakened in the path of the virus. A lack of federal funding left the most vulnerable communities cut off from healthcare at the most critical moment.

Put simply, America's history of racism was itself a preexisting condition. more...

It turns out not even a shiny Supreme Court supermajority can hide the problems Trump’s party has caused Americans.
By Susan Del Percio, Republican strategist and senior advisor to the Lincoln Project

Looks like Sen. Mitch McConnell got it wrong — again. And this time it could cost him the Senate majority. Republicans initially thought that a fast appointment of a conservative justice would help them in battleground states. After all, nothing rallies the conservative base like a Supreme Court appointment. However, given the likelihood of confirmation, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to confirm Amy Coney Barrett turned out to be fairly uneventful and relatively drama-free. Most importantly for Democrats, they have not taken America’s focus off the coronavirus.

The reality on the ground is that the virus has not gone away, and there are spikes across the Midwest and elsewhere. Suddenly, McConnell is interested in passing some kind of Covid-19 relief package again. That the majority leader would realize the political importance of this pivot isn’t surprising. That the members of his own party aren’t pushing harder for it is. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who recently tested positive for Covid-19, said he would wear “a moon suit” to the Senate so he could vote to confirm Barrett as a Supreme Court justice. It was a “joke” devoid of both humor and empathy. more...

Republicans find success in remaking the federal judiciary as more conservative, white and male under the Trump presidency.
By Leigh Ann Caldwell and Sahil Kapur

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday reached a significant milestone during the Trump presidency by filling the final vacancy on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, an achievement that fulfills his goal of remaking the federal judiciary as more conservative for a generation but also one that is less diverse. McConnell, who has vowed to “leave no vacancy behind,” heralded the achievement on the Senate floor Wednesday, noting that there hasn’t been a fully appointed Circuit Court in decades.

“When we depart this chamber today, there will not be a single Circuit Court vacancy anywhere in the nation for the first time in at least 40 years,” McConnell said. “Our work with the administration to renew our federal courts is not a partisan or political victory. It's a victory for the rule of law and for the Constitution itself.” The conservative shift of the court under President Donald Trump and McConnell is not just ideological — the federal courts have also become younger, more white and more male. Nearly 76 percent of the judicial confirmations under Trump are men compared with 58 percent during President Barack Obama’s tenure, according to data collected by the American Constitution Society. more...

Donald Trump knows that taxes are for the poor.
By Nicholas Kristof

While reading that President Trump had claimed $70,000 in highly dubious tax deductions for hair styling for his television show, I kept thinking about a homeless African-American woman named Tanya McDowell who was imprisoned for misleading officials to get her young son into a better school district. McDowell was sentenced to five years in prison in 2012, in part for drug offenses and in part for “larceny” because she had claimed her babysitter’s address so her son could attend a better school in Connecticut.

In some sense both Trump and McDowell appear to have cheated on their taxes. McDowell sent her son to a school district without paying taxes there. And according to The Times’s extraordinary reporting, Trump may have illegitimately claimed a $72.9 million refund that the I.R.S. is now trying to recover. In addition, my ace Times colleague James B. Stewart reported that hair styling is not a deductible expense and that, in any case, Trump’s hair expenses for his “Apprentice” TV shows should have been reimbursed by NBC — in which case Trump may have committed criminal tax fraud. The bottom line: We imprisoned the homeless tax cheat for trying to get her son a decent education, and we elevated the self-entitled rich guy with an army of lawyers and accountants so that he could monetize the White House as well. (Sure enough, Trump properties then charged the Secret Service enormous sums for hotel rooms and other fees while agents were protecting Trump.) more...

*** That would be great for America, good riddance to bad rubbish. The real reason Trump may leave is so he does not go to jail for all the shit he has pulled. Trump and his enablers need to go to jail lock them up, lock them all up. ***

President says he cannot face defeat by former vice president
Graeme Massie

Donald Trump has said he might leave the US if he loses the White House to Joe Biden on election day. Mr Trump was talking about the prospect of his Democratic rival winning the upcoming election during his latest Make America Great Again campaign rally in Macon, Georgia. The president told the crowd that Mr Biden was the “worst candidate in the history of presidential elections” and that he could not face the prospect of being defeated by the former vice president.

“Can you imagine if I lose, my whole life, what am I going to do? I am going to say I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics?” Mr Trum said. “I am not going to feel so good, maybe I will have to leave the country, I don’t know,” Mr Trump added, while drawing laughs from the crowd. Earlier Mr Trump had laughed as he called for Mr Biden and his family to be jailed. more...

Stephen Fowler

Kathy spotted the long line of voters as she pulled into the Christian City Welcome Center about 3:30 p.m., ready to cast her ballot in the June 9 primary election. Hundreds of people were waiting in the heat and rain outside the lush, tree-lined complex in Union City, an Atlanta suburb with 22,400 residents, nearly 88% of them Black. She briefly considered not casting a ballot at all, but decided to stay. By the time she got inside more than five hours later, the polls had officially closed and the electronic scanners were shut down. Poll workers told her she'd have to cast a provisional ballot, but they promised that her vote would be counted.

"I'm now angry again, I'm frustrated again, and now I have an added emotion, which is anxiety," said Kathy, a human services worker, recalling her emotions at the time. She asked that her full name not be used because she fears repercussions from speaking out. "I'm wondering if my ballot is going to count." By the time the last voter finally got inside the welcome center to cast a ballot, it was the next day, June 10. more...

Eleven of 15 suspects are accused of distributing 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
By Andrew Blankstein and Dennis Romero

Federal authorities in Utah announced a crackdown Friday on 21 white supremacist gang members and associates in the Salt Lake City area who allegedly distributed drugs or illegally possessed guns. The charges in 15 indictments unsealed Friday target Soldiers of Aryan Culture, Silent Aryan Warriors, and Noble Elect Thugs, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force launched an investigation last year, concluding members of the gangs trafficked methamphetamine and firearms, according to the statement. Investigators said they purchased 1.65 pounds of meth and recovered 15 guns during the operation. "Many of the defendants have been involved in criminal conduct in Utah communities for many years," the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Lawyers for the suspects could not be located for comment, and the Federal Public Defender's office in Utah did not immediately respond to a request for comment. more...

Her originalism ignores the significance of the second American Revolution.
By Jamelle Bouie

On Tuesday, Judge Amy Coney Barrett took a few minutes during her confirmation hearing to discuss her judicial philosophy, best known as originalism. It means, she explained, “that I interpret the Constitution as a law, I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. That meaning doesn’t change over time and it is not up to me to update it or infuse my policy views into it.”

Now, originalism is subject to a good deal of criticism and critique as a method for decoding the Constitution. Zeroing in on its narrow preoccupation with language, Jonathan Gienapp, a historian of the early American republic at Stanford, charges originalists with building a framework “such that no amount of historical empiricism can ever challenge it,” in which neither “the Framers’ thoughts or agendas or the broader political, social, or intellectual contexts of the late eighteenth century” have any bearing on the so-called original public meaning of the Constitution.

Likewise, the historian Jack Rakove, also at Stanford, argues in a 2015 paper, “Tone Deaf to the Past: More Qualms About Public Meaning Originalism,” that the events of the American Revolution put “sustained pressure” on critical terms like “constitution” or “executive power” that cannot be understood without a historical understanding of this political and intellectual tumult. “Anyone who thinks he can establish conditions of linguistic fixation without taking that turbulent set of events into account is pursuing a fool’s errand,” Rakove writes. more...

By Jake Tapper, Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent

(CNN) Former White House chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, has told friends that President Donald Trump "is the most flawed person" he's ever known. "The depths of his dishonesty is just astounding to me. The dishonesty, the transactional nature of every relationship, though it's more pathetic than anything else. He is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life," the retired Marine general has told friends, CNN has learned. The reporting comes from a new CNN special scheduled to air Sunday night, "The Insiders: A Warning from Former Trump Officials," in which former senior administration officials -- including former national security adviser John Bolton, former Health and Human Services scientist Rick Bright and former Department of Homeland Security general counsel John Mitnick -- explain why they think the President is unfit for office.

Kelly's sentiments about the President's transactional nature and dishonesty have been shared by other former members of the Trump administration who also appear in the special. Olivia Troye, a former top adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, has said the President knew about the impact the coronavirus pandemic would have on the US by mid-February, but that "he didn't want to hear it, because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year." Miles Taylor, a former DHS chief of staff who now serves as a CNN contributor, has asserted Trump essentially calls individuals within the federal government who disagree with him "deep state." Elizabeth Neumann, another former DHS official, had criticized Trump for not condemning White supremacy after the first presidential debate in September. "The fact that he continues to not be able to just point-blank say, 'I condemn White supremacy.' It boggles the mind," she told CNN at the time. more...

Jeff Cox

Efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic left the U.S. government submerged in red ink as its fiscal year came to a close. The final tally for the budget deficit in fiscal 2020 came to $3.13 trillion, more than triple last year’s shortfall of $984 billion and double the previous record of $1.4 trillion in 2009, courtesy of a stimulus package passed that year to battle the financial crisis. Most of the damage to this year’s budget came due to the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion spending package that included extra unemployment compensation to workers displaced during the pandemic and forgivable loans to business as an incentive to retain workers.

Receipts for the year came to $3.42 trillion against outlays of $6.55 trillion, the biggest of which came during June when the government spent $1.1 trillion, according to the Treasury Department. The fiscal year ended with government debt at just under $27 trillion, all but $6 trillion of which is held by the public. Tax collections came in at 1.61 trillion for the year, $203 billion less than estimated in the budget. Corporate tax collections missed the budget estimate by $51.8 billion while social insurance and retirement receipts were $2.1 billion below. more...

By Marshall Cohen, Zachary Cohen, Michael Warren, Evan Perez, Alex Marquardt and Mark Morales, CNN

(CNN) US authorities are investigating whether recently published emails that purport to detail the business dealings of Joe Biden's son in Ukraine and China are connected to an ongoing Russian disinformation effort targeting the former vice president's campaign, a US official and a congressional source briefed on the matter said. The conservative-leaning New York Post claimed in a series of articles this week that it obtained "smoking-gun" emails about Hunter Biden and his dealings in Ukraine. CNN has not determined the authenticity of the emails.

President Donald Trump and his allies have used this topic to smear the Bidens over the past year and seized on the recent articles to attack Biden in the final weeks of the presidential election. The specific new allegations touch on the same topics as the Kremlin's ongoing disinformation campaign against the Bidens, which the US intelligence community said this summer was intended to weaken Biden's candidacy against Trump. The FBI is leading the investigation, the official and congressional source said. NBC was first to report the inquiry.

The probe is part of a larger investigation into Russian disinformation that dates back to before the impeachment inquiry last fall. The alleged disinformation campaign is aimed at tying the former vice president to his son's dealings with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, according to US officials familiar with the matter. The New York Post says it obtained the emails through two Trump confidants: His personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Giuliani has openly coordinated with a known Russian agent to promote disinformation about the Bidens. The Washington Post reported Thursday the White House, and Trump personally, were warned in 2019 that Giuliani "was being used to feed Russian misinformation" to the President. Separately, Bannon was recently charged by the Justice Department with orchestrating a million-dollar fraud scheme and accused of deceiving thousands of donors to his nonprofit. more...

By Maegan Vazquez, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump doubled down on his refusal to denounce QAnon conspiracy theorists, saying in a nationally televised town hall Thursday night that "they are very much against pedophilia" and he agrees with that sentiment. In a heated exchange, NBC News' Savannah Guthrie asked Trump if he could state that the prevailing conspiracy devised by QAnon was not true. "I know nothing about QAnon," Trump responded. "I just told you," Guthrie said. Trump fired back, saying, "What you tell me doesn't necessarily make it fact."

QAnon's main conspiracy theories -- none based in fact -- claim dozens of Satan-worshipping politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. Followers also believe there is a "deep state" effort to annihilate Trump and that the President is secretly working to bust these pedophilic cabals. The President claimed that all he knows about the movement, which has had a prevalent presence at his campaign rallies, is that "they are very much against pedophilia" and that he agrees with that sentiment. Followers of the group -- which has been labeled a domestic terror threat by the FBI -- have also peddled baseless theories surrounding mass shootings and elections and have falsely claimed that 5G cellular networks are spreading the coronavirus. more...

Hannah Allam

The news raced through the encrypted chats of leaders in the far-right militia movement: The Feds got Barry Croft. Croft, one of 13 men charged Thursday in connection with a domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, was a visible figure on the message boards and Facebook pages of the so-called Patriot Movement. NPR interviews with associates who know him from that world portray a power-hungry figure whose angling for stature was unsettling at times. Now that Croft is in custody and his connections under scrutiny, their fear is: Who's next? "He was very out and open in the movement," one militia leader said.

The leader said that around two years ago Croft, a Delaware resident, made waves as an unknown who tried to streamline national leadership of the Three Percent, a fragmented movement of loosely affiliated armed groups. But regional Three Percent leaders began to question Croft about his motives, the leader said, and weren't satisfied with the answers. A separate account from another state leader described Croft as "radical" even within the heavily armed Patriot milieu. more...

In the past two years, kidnappings, car chases and a murder appear to have been fueled by belief in a fictional narrative
Lois Beckett

The QAnon conspiracy theory has been linked to several violent acts since 2018, with QAnon supporters arrested for threatening politicians, breaking into the residence of the Canadian prime minister, an armed standoff near the Hoover dam, a kidnapping plot and two kidnappings, and at least one murder.

QAnon adherents believe that Donald Trump is trying to save the world from a cabal of satanic pedophiles. The conspiracy theory’s narrative includes centuries-old antisemitic tropes, like the belief that the cabal is harvesting blood from abused children, and it names specific people, including Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities, as participants in a global plot. Experts call these extreme, baseless claims “an incitement to violence”. The conspiracy theory’s claims have put ordinary people at risk. The FBI identified QAnon in 2019 as a potential domestic terror threat and the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point described it as a “novel challenge to public security”.

QAnon supporters believe that there will soon be mass arrests, and members of the cabal will be brought to justice. If supporters of the conspiracy theory begin to lose faith in Trump’s ability to stop the cabal of child abusers, said Travis View, one of the hosts of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, that might inspire them to begin taking more direct violent action themselves. “QAnon has not brought a single child abuser closer to justice,” View said. “But QAnon has radicalized people into committing crimes and taking dangerous or violent actions that put children at risk.” Here is a list of violent and criminal acts linked to QAnon: more...

by Cedric 'BIG CED' Thornton

Ever since President Donald Trump was afflicted with the coronavirus and had to be hospitalized, the president was anxious to get back on the trails to hold rallies in support of his re-election bid. The first public rally since Trump was hospitalized that took place this past Saturday was held on the White House South Lawn. Although the president hasn’t been home a week from his bout with the coronavirus, the event didn’t require any social distancing, testing, or even face masks for attendees.

According to ABC News, some of the Black guests that attended Saturday’s White House event on the South Lawn had their travel and lodging paid for by controversial conservative pundit Candace Owens and her group BLEXIT (a campaign urging Black Americans to leave the Democratic Party), according to emails obtained by ABC News.

Those attendees were also scheduled to attend a separate BLEXIT event before the rally at the White House earlier in the day. They were invited to attend a “HUGE outdoor rally” by the group and also asked to fill out a form that informed them that BLEXIT will be paying for their travel costs. Guests were later informed they would be receiving an invitation from the White House to attend an event with Trump. more...

The U.S. wasn't spying on Giuliani, but on people with whom he talked, including Andrii Derkach, identified by the Treasury Department as a Russian agent.
By Ken Dilanian and Carol E. Lee

WASHINGTON — The CIA and other spy agencies gathered intelligence on Rudy Giuliani's dealings with alleged Russian intelligence agents last year and passed that information on to the White House, a source familiar with the matter tells NBC News. The existence of the intelligence was first reported by the Washington Post and later confirmed by the New York Times, both of which reported that White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien warned President Donald Trump about it. NBC News has not confirmed that detail. The Post cited four former officials while the Times relied on four current and former officials.

John Ullyot, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in a statement that "the characterization of the meeting as described in reports is not accurate," but he did not dispute that the president was informed that his lawyer was dealing with alleged Russian agents. Spokespersons for the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. American intelligence agencies were not spying on Giuliani, but on the people with whom he was talking, said the source, including Andrii Derkach, who has been identified by the Treasury Department as a Russian agent. That collection led them to learn about Giuliani's dealings with Derkach and other Russian operatives who wanted to feed him information attempting to discredit Democrat Joe Biden, the source said. more...

By Dominick Mastrangelo

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has filed a federal elections complaint against Twitter, accusing the social media company of making what it describes as "in-kind contributions" to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign. In a four-page complaint filed Friday, according to Fox News, the RNC accuses Twitter of “using its corporate resources to provide active support for Joe Biden’s campaign in violation of federal law."

The committee cited Twitter's decision to block users from posting or sending a link to a New York Post story alleging corruption by the former vice president's son, Hunter Biden, and detailing what critics have said is his illegal overseas business dealings.  An in-kind contribution is a noncash contribution to a campaign for a good or service, which Twitter nor any other social media company has provided the Biden or Trump campaigns.  Citing a hacked material policy, Twitter said the story about Hunter Biden is harmful disinformation and should not be allowed on the platform. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later said it was a mistake to block the story on the platform without providing additional context. more...

Dan Mangan

Michigan’s secretary of state on Friday banned the open carry of guns at polling places and other official voting locations on Election Day in the state, a move that comes on the heels of an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and after armed protests at the statehouse. “Fair, free and secure elections are the foundation of our democracy,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in announcing the open carry ban, which will be backed by the state attorney general and State Police.

“I am committed to ensuring all eligible Michigan citizens can freely exercise their fundamental right to vote without fear of threats, intimidation or harassment,” said Benson, who is Michigan’s top election official. “Prohibiting the open-carry of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure every voter is protected.”  Benson outlined the prohibition in a guidance issued to local election clerks. more...

By Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN) The White House was warned in 2019 that President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani "was being used to feed Russian misinformation" to the President, The Washington Post reported Thursday. Citing conversations with four former officials familiar with the matter, the Post said that US intelligence agencies warned the White House that Giuliani "was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence" in which Trump was the intended recipient of the misinformation. The paper said the warnings were "based on multiple sources, including intercepted communications, that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine, where he was gathering information that he thought would expose corrupt acts by former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter." One of the former officials told the Post that the warnings caused national security adviser Robert O'Brien to privately warn Trump that "any information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia." more...

By Rafi Letzter
Their stings are like a 'scorching hot knife.'

A bizarre little insect that looks like a walking toupée and squirts venomous pus from knifelike spines is terrorizing Virginia this year, according to the state's Department of Forestry (VDoF). The venomous pus caterpillar is the larval form of the southern flannel moth (Megalopyge opercularis), and if you see one you should stay away from it. Its "hairs" are actually spines that make it among the most venomous caterpillars in the United States. A woman in New Kent County described the sensation of a "scorching hot knife passing through the outside of my calf" when she brushed against one on the door of her car, according to The Daily Progress.

Pus caterpillars have appeared in Virginia before, according to the VDoF. And they've been found as far north as New Jersey. But they're much more common in Florida and at greatest abundance in west-central Texas, according to the University of Florida. Eric Day, manager of Virginia Tech's Insect Identification Lab, told The Daily Progress that this appears to be "an outbreak year." more...

By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) Joe Biden's town hall on ABC averaged 13.9 million viewers on Thursday night, easily surpassing the Nielsen ratings for President Trump's town hall on NBC. That alone was a result virtually no one in the TV business expected. And that's not even the most surprising part. The Trump town hall was simulcast by two of NBC's cable channels, MSNBC and CNBC, but even when those channels are included in the total, Biden -- on only one network -- still prevailed. The Trump town hall averaged 10.6 million viewers on the NBC broadcast network. On MSNBC, Trump reached 1.74 million viewers, and on CNBC, about 671,000 viewers. So Trump's gross audience across the three channels was 13 million, about one million fewer than Biden's audience on ABC alone. Staffers at ABC News privately admitted to their surprise when the preliminary ratings came in on Friday. more...

By Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and Maggie Haberman

WASHINGTON — The intelligence agencies warned the White House late last year that Russian intelligence officers were using President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani as a conduit for disinformation aimed at undermining Joe Biden’s presidential run, according to four current and former U.S. officials.

The agencies imparted the warning months before disclosing publicly in August that Moscow was trying to interfere in the election by taking aim at Biden’s campaign, officials said. Trump and Giuliani have promoted unsubstantiated claims about Biden that have aligned with Russian disinformation efforts, and Giuliani has met with a Ukrainian lawmaker who U.S. officials believe is a Russian agent.

Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, presented the warning about Giuliani to Trump in December. Two former officials gave conflicting accounts about its nature. One said the report was presented to Trump as unverified and vague, but another said the intelligence agencies had developed solid and credible information that Giuliani was being “worked over” by Russian operatives.

Trump shrugged it off, officials said, but the first former official cautioned that his reaction could have been colored in part by other information given to him not long before that appeared to back some of Giuliani’s claims about Ukraine. The specifics of that material were unclear. more...

By Natalie Rahhal Us Health Editor

More than a third of Americans now want the government to create more of a social safety net - ensuring health and unemployment benefits - an increase of 40 percent since the coronavirus pandemic came to the US. As of April, 60 percent of Americans favored universal health insurance, according to a new Johns Hopkins University survey. Nearly 80 percent of Americans answered that they they want their employers to guarantee two weeks of paid sick leave. The pandemic seems to have shifted Americans' priorities and preferences about the involvement of the government in their health and wellbeing. It comes as President Trump pushes for lawmakers to approve an economic stimulus package even larger than the proposed $1.8 trillion relief bill to assist the tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs amid the pandemic. more...

By Glenn Kessler

The New York Post on Wednesday published an article based on emails purportedly obtained from a laptop that Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, had supposedly left behind for repair in a Delaware shop in April 2019. Here’s a brief explainer to help readers evaluate its significance. We will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.

What’s new?
The key thrust of the article is that an April 17, 2015, email suggests Hunter Biden arranged for a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm to meet with the then-vice president when he was in charge of U.S. policy toward Ukraine. “Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” reads the email, supposedly written by Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma.

Why would that be important?
Hunter Biden in 2014 became a board member of Burisma, which news reports at the time suggested was a conflict of interest, given his father’s position. The former vice president has said he did not discuss Burisma with his son. The email is not specific about the nature of the meeting and is written in a way that it could be talking about a possible future meeting. Nevertheless, Republicans have long sought to tie Joe Biden to his son’s business interests, even launching a Senate investigation, so any indication that the vice president helped his son could be politically damaging. The New York Post claimed it was a “smoking-gun email.”

How do we know the email is authentic?
We do not. The New York Post published PDF printouts of several emails allegedly taken from the laptop, but for the “smoking-gun” email, it shows only a photo made the day before the story was posted, according to Thomas Rid, the author of “Active Measures,” a book on disinformation. “There is no header information, no metadata.” The Washington Post has not been able to independently verify or authenticate these emails, as requests to make the laptop hard drive available for inspection have not been granted. The New York Post said it obtained the material from former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a personal lawyer to President Trump.

There also is no indication that Hunter Biden replied to the email. Moreover, another alleged email published by the New York Post contradicts the notion that Hunter Biden could influence his father. “What he will do and say is out of our hands,” Hunter Biden wrote in an email that the New York Post said was sent April 13, 2014. more...

As tech platforms battle with QAnon conspiracy theorists, some Republicans are opening the door to the fringe group

The QAnon world is no longer simply a social media community trafficking in conspiracy theories. It’s increasingly a new constituency for the GOP — one that’s fired up like the rest of the MAGA movement, warring with tech giants and ready to battle through Election Day on behalf of a struggling president. Just this month, President Donald Trump has retweeted and highlighted several accounts with a history of posting QAnon content. He’s stoked conspiracy theories that originated in the QAnon world, even to the detriment of his own supporters. And along with other Republicans, he’s increasingly allowed into the arms of his MAGA movement a group that had been dismissed as fringe nonsense.

While both groups started from very different places, both MAGA and QAnon supporters share the belief that Trump is fighting conspiracies emanating from inside the Deep State — a notion Trump himself has invoked. “MAGA world kind of sees Trump as this epic hero, and QAnon does the same exact thing,” said Kristen Doerer, managing editor of Right Wing Watch, a nonprofit that tracks far-right groups.

The QAnon movement suffered another blow on Thursday when YouTube became the latest platform to block some content from QAnon believers. Facebook in August announced a ban on QAnon groups with “discussions of potential violence,” expanding it to a blanket ban on QAnon-affiliated groups and pages in early October. Twitter’s approach was narrower, simply banning nearly 7,000 accounts back in July. The Facebook and Twitter moves came in response to reports that QAnon pages had been spreading pandemic-related misinformation, as well as inspiring acts of violence nationwide.

But QAnon has already found other ways to survive. Parts of the GOP are falling into an uneasy relationship with the QAnon conspiracy theory, which alleges in part that a cabal of demon-worshipping, pedophile elites live in Washington and will stop at nothing to maintain their power. more...

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) A federal appeals court in Washington stepped in to potentially save the subpoena power of the US House of Representatives, wiping away on Thursday a previous court ruling that made it essentially impossible for the House to force a witness's testimony without passing a new law. The move by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals revived the case House Democrats are pursuing against former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn, who has avoided testifying about the President's attempts to shut down the Mueller investigation for more than a year-and-a-half. The Justice Department has stopped McGahn from appearing under the House subpoena and instead kept the case in court through multiple appeals, arguing for the courts to stay out of the interbranch standoff.

The case won't be resolved until after the presidential election. But the DC Circuit now gives a boost to the House in the major, long-running separation of powers fight. It's a standoff that, as it progresses in court, has been risky for both the executive branch and Congress. So far in the case, the House has earned a ruling from the DC Circuit that certified its ability to go to court. But nine judges on the appeals court will now consider other preliminary questions related to the McGahn subpoena, such as whether the House has a law it can invoke in court that allows it to sue. The House also seeks to stop the administration from claiming blanket immunity from testimony for its top officials. The previous ruling blocking a subpoena lawsuit, which the appeals court vacated on Thursday, had put the House in a bad position to enforce a subpoena. So the court reviving the case restores some power to the Democratic-controlled chamber. more...

A historically black university in Alabama has renamed a dormitory that honored a one-time governor who also led the Ku Klux Klan about a century ago
By JAY REEVES Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A historically black university in Alabama has renamed a dormitory that honored a one-time governor who also led a Ku Klux Klan chapter nearly a century ago. Workers at Alabama State University removed the name “Bibb Graves” from a residence hall on Wednesday. The building had carried Graves' name since 1928, when he served as the head of a state government that constitutionally mandated white supremacy.

At least two other state schools also have renamed campus buildings that honored Graves, who was known as a pro-education, progressive governor despite leading a KKK chapter in the capital city. Klan membership was so large at the time that politicians used connections in the racist terror group to win votes. Alabama State President Quinton T. Ross Jr. said the idea of replacing the building's name had been discussed at least as far back as when he was a student at the school, located a few miles from the Alabama Capitol.

“Many of our alumni have asked for this to happen," he said in a statement. Alabama State trustees voted to rename the building earlier this year during the national discussion generated by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The school has yet to decide on a new name for the residence hall. Troy University has renamed its Bibb Graves Hall for the late Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who grew up near campus and died earlier this year. The University of Montevallo, near Birmingham, voted to rename buildings honoring Graves and Braxton Bragg Comer, who worked to maintain remnants of the old plantation system as governor. more...

Weeks before the Post published its Hunter Biden report, a YouTube channel linked to Steve Bannon-backer Guo Wengui broadcast conspiracies about “hard disks” full of Biden dirt.
Adam Rawnsley, Allison Quinn, Justin Baragona, Martha Mercer, Blake Montgomery, Katie Baker

Weeks before the New York Post began publishing what it claimed were the contents of Hunter Biden’s hard drive, a Sept. 25 segment on a YouTube channel run by a Chinese dissident streamer, who is linked to billionaire and Steve Bannon-backer Guo Wengui, broadcast a bizarre conspiracy theory. According to the streamer, Chinese politburo officials had “sent three hard disks of evidence” to the Justice Department and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi containing damaging information about Joe Biden as well as the origins of the coronavirus in a bid to undermine the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Three days later, a Twitter account linked to Guo and Bannon’s Himalaya movement subsequently amplified an edited clip of the segment alongside the pledge of a “Bombshell… 3 hard disk drives of videos and dossiers of Hunter Biden’s connections with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have been sent to Nancy Pelosi and DOJ. Big money and sex scandal!”

Many of the claims made in the September video are absurd on their face. And the video leaves it unclear whether Guo and his media empire had foreknowledge of the Post’s impending story or whether their endless conspiracy theorizing simply handed them a lucky coincidence that only looks prescient in hindsight. But this wasn’t the first time that Guo’s media empire reinforced narratives that aligned with Team Trump’s. Guo’s outlets repeatedly pushed various debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus as either a Chinese lab accident or an intentional bioweapon. more...

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) Caroline Giuliani, the daughter of President Donald Trump's personal attorney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, is urging Americans to "end this nightmare" by voting for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris. In a piece for Vanity Fair published Thursday, she called on voters to end Trump's "reign of terror" and "elect a compassionate and decent president." "I may not be able to change my father's mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office," Giuliani, who has publicly csupported Democratic candidates in past presidential elections, wrote. On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that the White House was warned that Rudy Giuliani "was being used to feed Russian misinformation" to the President.

"If being the daughter of a polarizing mayor who became the president's personal bulldog has taught me anything, it is that corruption starts with 'yes-men' and women, the cronies who create an echo chamber of lies and subservience to maintain their proximity to power," Caroline Giuliani wrote. "We've seen this ad nauseam with Trump and his cadre of high-level sycophants (the ones who weren't convicted, anyway)." She accused Trump "and his enablers" of using the presidency to "stoke the injustice that already permeated our society," slammed his policies rolling back protections for the LGBTQ community, and criticized his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. more...

By Nicole Santa Cruz, Alene Tchekmedyian

Noel Aguilar was riding his bicycle on a sidewalk when he stole a glance at a couple of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and quickly pedaled away. Within minutes of what began as a routine encounter, the 23-year-old was dead with three rounds in his back. When Christian Cobian was stopped by deputies because his bike didn’t have lights, he ran from them with his hand underneath his shirt. Deputies said they thought Cobian, 26, was going to shoot them and fired 13 rounds, killing him. No gun was found. In August, Dijon Kizzee, 29, was shot 16 times and killed by deputies who tried to stop him for riding his bike on the wrong side of the street in South L.A., spurring weeks of protests.

Kizzee’s death and the others highlight how deadly violence can erupt from minor infractions and has sparked criticism of law enforcement’s failure to deescalate such incidents. The Times identified 16 cases since 2005 where a stop for bike violations in Los Angeles County resulted in a police shooting, according to interviews and a review of public records from the district attorney, coroner and various court cases. Most of the stops occurred in communities made up largely of Black and Latino residents. In 11 incidents, including Kizzee’s, the bicyclists — all male and Black or Latino — were killed. more...

Arjun Kharpal

Twitter has changed its policy on hacked materials. It comes on the heels of it controversial decision to block links to a New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son. The unverified story alleged that Hunter Biden — the son of Joe Biden who was vice president at that time — attempted to introduce his father to a top executive at a Ukrainian company Hunter Biden worked for. Twitter said the article was in violation of its hacked material policy. The company clarified that it was banning links to the article because it contained images of hacked material with personal and private information.

The decision drew backlash from conservatives and President Donald Trump. After receiving “significant feedback,” Twitter decided to make changes to its hacked material policy, according to the company’s legal, policy and trust and safety lead Vijaya Gadde. There are two amendments. The first is that Twitter will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them. The second is that Twitter will label tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on the social media platform. more...

By Omar Jimenez and Rebekah Riess, CNN

(CNN) Cynthia Donald, a 14-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department (CPD), has filed a civil lawsuit against former CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson alleging that she was subjected to "unwanted and uninvited sexual advances, abuse, harassment, and a hostile work environment" by Johnson, her superior and supervisor, court filings show. Johnson was fired last December after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said he intentionally lied to her and to the public about his actions when he was found sleeping behind the wheel.

The lawsuit includes allegations of unwanted sexual acts in Johnson's personal office at CPD Headquarters, claims Johnson texted nude photographs to Donald, says Johnson conditioned Donald's employment and advancements within CPD upon her submission to unwanted sexual activity and alleges Lightfoot exacerbated the hostile work environment by ordering Johnson to "dump" Cynthia Donald and have her relocated. CNN has reached out to Eddie Johnson's attorney, Tom Needham, for comment. more...

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