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Here’s why a Dem victory in Wisconsin last night was a big deal

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WASHINGTON — A state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin followed a familiar pattern we’ve seen over the past year in other contests during the Trump Era: Democrats are way overperforming from 2016 and even before that.

“Rebecca Dallet trounced Michael Screnock on Tuesday for a seat on the state Supreme Court, shrinking the court’s conservative majority and giving Democrats a jolt of energy heading into the fall election,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. “It marked the first time in 23 years that a liberal candidate who wasn’t an incumbent won a seat on the high court.”

 Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet Scott Bauer / AP file

Dallet beat Screnock statewide by 12 points out of about 1 million votes cast, 56 percent to 44 percent. Remember, in 2016, Trump won Wisconsin 47 percent to 46 percent. And in 2012, Obama won it by 7 points, 53 percent to 46 percent.

And here are the results from some key counties:

Brown (Green Bay)

2012: Mitt Romney 50 percent, Barack Obama 49 percent

2016: Trump 52 percent, Clinton 41 percent

2018: Dallet 55 percent, Screnock 45 percent

Dane (Madison)

2012: Obama 71 percent, Romney 28 percent

2016: Clinton 70 percent, Trump 23 percent

2018: Dallet 81 percent, Screnock 19 percent

Eau Claire

2012: Obama 56 percent, Romney 42 percent

2016: Clinton 50 percent, Trump 42 percent

2018: Dallet 64 percent, Screnock 36 percent

Kenosha

2012: Obama 56 percent, Romney 43 percent

2016: Trump 47 percent, Clinton 47 percent

2018: Dallet 57 percent, Screnock 43 percent

Milwaukee

2012: Obama 68 percent, Romney 32 percent

2016: Clinton 66 percent, Trump 29 percent

2018: Dallet 66 percent, Screnock 34 percent

Waukesha (outside of Milwaukee)

2012: Romney 67 percent, Obama 32 percent

2016: Trump 60 percent, Clinton 33 percent

2018: Screnock 64 percent, Dallet 36 percent

Bottom line: Dallet’s margins were about equal to Democrats’ 2012/2016 performance in the urban areas, and they were significantly better in more rural counties. (Just as an aide, but with the teacher rebellions in Oklahoma and West Virginia, is there something going on in rural America that Team Trump is missing?)

“This is freaking code RED,”said MSNBC GOP analyst Charlie Sykes, who hails from Wisconsin.

GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who’s up for re-election in 2018, tweeted:

Begun the trade war has

The Star Wars reference here is intentional – this U.S.-vs.-China battle over tariffs is straight out of the George Lucas prequels.Bloomberg News: “China said it would levy an additional 25 percent tariff on imports of 106 U.S. products including soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft, in response to proposed American duties on its high-tech goods.”

CNBC adds that, as of 7:00 am ET this morning, Dow Jones futures had dropped more than 500 points due to worries about this standoff over tariffs.

We agree with the take from Bloomberg’s morning “Balance of Power” newsletter: This is a standoff that both sides – Trump and China – think they can win. “Trump sees China’s economy as fragile and is betting that Xi will force through reforms before risking instability, according to Scott Kennedy, a China scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Xi, on the other hand, doesn’t think Trump can endure much political pain or equity market losses, and will likely take a quick deal.”

This morning, Trump tweeted:

So in other words: Yes, we’re in a trade war…

WaPo: What Mueller has told Trump’s team so far

Turning to the Mueller investigation, last night’s Washington Post scoop contained two big pieces of news: 1) Mueller is investigating President Trump but doesn’t consider him a target AT THIS TIME, and 2) Mueller is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office, including potential obstruction of justice.

“In private negotiations in early March about a possible presidential interview, Mueller described Trump as a subject of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges,” the Post reports. “Mueller reiterated the need to interview Trump — both to understand whether he had any corrupt intent to thwart the Russia investigation and to complete this portion of his probe, the people said.”

More: “The president and some of his allies seized on the special counsel’s words as an assurance that Trump’s risk of criminal jeopardy is low. Other advisers, however, noted that subjects of investigations can easily become indicted targets — and expressed concern that the special prosecutor was baiting Trump into an interview that could put the president in legal peril.”

Trump says no one has been tougher than he has on Russia. His outgoing national security adviser appears to disagree

At his news conference with Baltic leaders yesterday, President Trump declared, “No one has been tougher on Russia than I have.”

But check out these words from outgoing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who said the U.S. could be doing much more against Russia: “For too long, some nations have looked the other way in the face of these threats. Russia brazenly, and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs,” McMaster said in a speech to the Atlantic Council, per Politico.

“The three-star Army general added that Russian President Vladimir Putin believes he is ‘winning’ through the county’s ‘hybrid warfare,’ which ‘combines political, economic, informational, and cyber assaults against sovereign nations.’ But, he argued, the U.S. and its allies will prevail. ‘We will triumph over new threats, including those posed by Russia’s increased aggression around the world,’ he said.”



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As law enforcement braces for more violence, state capitols come into focus

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Federal and state law enforcement agencies are bracing for violence planned by radical conservatives and extremists in Washington in the days before the inauguration.

And while significant preparations have been put in place around the U.S. Capitol, there is growing concern that statehouses around the country will be targeted, many of which have already been the scene of armed protests, arrests and violence.

More than a dozen flyers are circulating online advertising pro-Trump rallies at state capitols, according to a social media analysis by NBC News. “Freedom is a right,” one popular flyer reads; “Refuse to be silenced,” says another.

As part of its response to an increase in online activity and organization efforts that could lead to further violence, Facebook has been tracking many of these flyers across alternative sites popular with militia groups and QAnon followers and pre-emptively blocking them, according to a spokesperson who asked not to be named for safety concerns.

State capitols, long seen as meeting places for activists to protest and sometimes clash with counterprotesters, are on alert. The FBI reportedly sent a memo to law enforcement agencies across the country warning of possible armed protests at all 50 state capitols starting next week, citing in part chatter on social media.

Social media platforms have taken unprecedented steps in recent days to keep their sites clear of content that might incite further violence — including the suspension of President Donald Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts — but threats of violence at events persist online. Now mostly relegated to less popular and alternative apps, the events are more difficult for other extremists to find but also for law enforcement and researchers to track.

That may help stop another mass mobilization in Washington, but it is less effective for extremists at the state level who are now less reliant on online organizing and recruiting, said Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation.

“The infrastructure in the states has been there longer than what we saw in D.C.,” Ryan said, adding that protests in state capitols last year to reopen the economy and lift lockdown restrictions were “centralized.”

“They mobilized via Facebook groups and built on existing infrastructure and created these local cells that are still active,” she said. “They haven’t stopped.”

Though the actual threat is unclear, every state seems to be on high alert.

Police and National Guard troops have already been posted and made arrests at statehouses in Washington and Idaho. Windows at the state Capitol in Wisconsin have been boarded up, and Michigan banned the open carry of firearms inside its Capitol.

Seemingly inspired by a gun rights rally that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Virginia’s state Capitol last January, Trump supporters, sometimes armed, have flooded statehouses from Sacramento, California, to Tallahassee, Florida, since the pandemic started to protest lockdown measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus and then to counterprotest against and intimidate activists marching for the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Michigan, photographs of a protest in April showed armed protesters in military fatigues rushing and occupying the Capitol in Lansing during a vote to extend Covid-19 restrictions. Two men were charged in a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Even as a riotous mob pushed its way through the U.S. Capitol last week, protesters at statehouses for smaller demonstrations cheered news of the melee in D.C.

Many of the spring and summer rallies were planned on Facebook, said Diara J. Townes, an investigative researcher at First Draft, a nonprofit that tracks misinformation. But since the deadly Capitol riot, conservative activists have begun using Facebook’s platform and existing groups more like a bridge, sending followers to private spaces, such as encrypted apps and social media platforms specifically for radical conservatives and militia members.

“It’s a way to skirt around the content moderation and warnings,” Townes said.

The Capitol mob has offered some inspiration to far-right organizers. Several posters spreading in QAnon and Boogaloo forums invoke Ashli Babbitt, the Air Force veteran and QAnon believer who was fatally shot during the Capitol riot as she tried to enter the Speaker’s Lobby. Several flyers for an event billed as a “Million Martyr March” on Inauguration Day next Wednesday include illustrations of Babbitt.

Few of the flyers include any details about organizers. Several are signed by “common folk who are tired of being tread upon.” Some of the discussion in anti-government Boogaloo web forums — where users are creating and posting flyers that strangely refer to civil rights, women’s rights and unity — suggests anti-government activists could sow chaos at state capitols to further their own ends.

“We saw this in the spring. Boogaloo used Black Lives Matter protests as an opportunity to use the crowd as cover to target law enforcement,” said Marc-André Argentino, a researcher who tracks extremists online and has followed their migration to other platforms after the mainstream purge.

“Mainstream extremists are angry about what happened on Jan. 6, and they’re preparing to rally and protest again,” Argentino said. “The violent extremists who have been in this space for years are taking this as an opportunity to recruit, bolster their ranks and prepare for the impact of government overreaction to potentially start actual violent conflict.”

Most of the posters for state events were circulating online weeks and months before the Capitol riot. One Inauguration Day event, billed as the Million Militia March, for example, was first promoted in December on Wimkin, a conservative alternative to Facebook.

Indeed, one of the first comments on the event planner’s original posts reads: “We can not wait until the 20th. We have to mobilize into action on the 6th.”

The online fervor has been somewhat tempered by some websites that served as key cogs in the far-right misinformation ecosystem and promoted the Capitol Hill rally. Most notably, the conspiracy theory websites InfoWars and Gateway Pundit have advised readers to stay away from state capitols before the inauguration, warning that such events were part of a “sinister plot” to take away guns.

Similar warnings have been spreading across such platforms as Facebook and the Trump-loyalist website TheDonald. In conservative Facebook groups, posts with thousands of shares read that armed rallies in any state capitol were “false flags” or set-ups perpetuated by “leftist” activists.

The livestreamed violence at the Capitol riot and the subsequent law enforcement response may result in fewer rallies and public events organized by extremists, said Anne Berg, an assistant professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on the history of Nazi Germany and extremism.

Berg drew a comparison to the 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counterprotester was murdered and the nation’s modern face of hate was on full display.

“All of a sudden, people start to realize: ‘Oh my God, this is real. This is actually happening,'” she said. “And the movement retreated out of the public sphere back online. But that doesn’t mean that the movement has shrunk.”

“I’m personally less worried about the next two weeks,” Berg said, “than I am about the next several years.”

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FBI probing if foreign governments, groups funded extremists who helped execute Capitol attack

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WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating whether foreign governments, organizations or individuals provided financial support to extremists who helped plan and execute the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, one current and one former FBI official told NBC News.

As part of the investigation, the bureau is examining payments of $500,000 in bitcoin, apparently by a French national, to key figures and groups in the alt-right before the riot, the sources said. Those payments were documented and posted on the web this week by a company that analyzes cryptocurrency transfers. Payments of bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, can be traced because they are documented on a public ledger.

Separately, a joint threat assessment issued this week by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and various other federal and D.C.-area police agencies noted that since the Jan. 6 riot, “Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition.”

Russian state and proxy media outlets “have amplified themes related to the violent and chaotic nature of the Capitol Hill incident, impeachment of President Trump, and social media censorship,” the unclassified intelligence report said. “In at least one instance, a Russian proxy claimed that ANTIFA members disguised themselves as supporters of President Trump, and were responsible for storming the Capitol building.”

Chinese media, meanwhile, “have seized the story to denigrate U.S. democratic governance, casting the United States as broadly in decline — and to justify China’s crackdown on protestors in Hong Kong.”

The examination of possible foreign influence related to the Capitol riot, which involves the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, comes after years of what current and former FBI officials say is mounting evidence that Russia and other foreign adversaries have sought to secretly support political extremists on the far right and far left.

Law enforcement officials and terrorism experts say there has long been “a mutual affection between Western white supremacists and the Russian government,” as two scholars put it in a February paper on the JustSecurity web site.

Some senators were concerned enough about the issue that they inserted a requirement in the 2021 defense bill that the Pentagon “report to Congress on the extent of Russian support for ‘racially and ethnically motivated violent extremist groups and networks in Europe and the United States’ — and what can be done to counter it.”

The current FBI official told NBC News that the bureau did not necessarily suspect Russian involvement in the bitcoin transfers, which appear to have been made by a French computer programmer who died by suicide on Dec. 8 after triggering the transfers, according to French media.

But the cryptocurrency payments prompted the FBI to examine whether any of the money was used to find illegal acts, which, if true, raises the possibility of money laundering and conspiracy charges, the FBI official said.

On Dec. 8, Chainalysis reported, the donor sent 28.15 BTC — worth about $522,000 at the time of transfer — to 22 separate addresses, many of which belong to far-right activists.

The Chainalysis blog post, first highlighted by Yahoo News, said far-right podcaster Nick Fuentes received the most money, 13.5 BTC — worth approximately $250,000.

Fuentes, who spoke at pro-Trump rallies last year in Michigan and Washington, D.C., told the ProPublica news organization that he was at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Wednesday but didn’t follow the mob into the Capitol.

One group of Fuentes’ supporters, which calls itself the Groyper Army, was filmed running through the Capitol carrying a large blue flag with the America First logo, ProPublica reported.

“We’re looking at and treating this just like a significant international counterterrorism or counterintelligence operation,” Michael Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in D.C., said at a news briefing last week.

“We’re looking at everything: Money, travel records, looking at disposition, movement, communication records.”



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Labour leadership election: How Jeremy Corbyn could lead the Labour party AGAIN

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LABOUR LEADERSHIP election candidates have now all officially come forward and will launch their respective campaigns over the coming days in hopes to replace Jeremy Corbyn at the helm.

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