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Buttigieg slams disruption of black supporters’ rally that turned into chaos

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Pete Buttigieg on Thursday criticized an explosive — and nearly violent — interruption by a protester in a “Black Lives Matter” shirt at a gathering of African American supporters in South Bend, Indiana, as an “unfortunate” result of the political “climate that we’re in.”

“It shows kind of where politics has come to, especially for somebody to interrupt an African American woman who was speaking about her truth and in her experience,” Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, told NBC News about the Wednesday night incident.

“But this is the climate that we’re in and we need to continue making sure that everyone is empowered to speak their truth, their experience, and in particular, when it comes to South Bend’s story,” he said.

Buttigieg was responding to a skirmish — caught on video — at which several African Americans who support his campaign were interrupted by a protester.

Sharon McBride, a black South Bend Common Council member, was speaking about why she backs Buttigieg, who has struggled to win over African American voters, when a man in the audience began shouting over her.

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“Where are the black leaders who don’t have three-piece suits, leather jackets, and nice clothing?” yelled a man who was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt.

“Who chose these people as black leaders?” said man asked. He then approached the front of the room, grabbed the microphone from McBride and shouted, “Who organized them?”

“We have a police crisis in this town,” he said. “Why are we talking about Pete Buttigieg?”

Several local media outlets in South Bend identified the protester as Igor Rodriguez.

An older woman in the crowd then stood up and raised her cane above her head and gestured toward the man in what appeared to be a threat to strike him before being subdued.

Buttigieg was not present at the event, which was organized with the help of his campaign.

In a statement Thursday, Black Lives Matter-South Bend said it “fully supports the actions of our members and allies at the Pete for America press conference held in South Bend, IN, yesterday.”

“This protest represents only a fraction of the longstanding pain many Black, Brown, and poor citizens endure in Mayor Pete’s South Bend,” the group said.

The incident Wednesday night was the latest display of Buttigieg’s struggles to appeal to African-American voters. As his polling numbers have risen, Buttigieg has been forced to confront questions about his record on race, police accountability and crime reduction in South Bend, which all came to the forefront after police shot and killed a black man in June.

Buttigieg campaign staffers expressed anger and sadness after the incident.

Lis Smith, a senior aide for the Buttigieg campaign, tweeted that the protester was a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir told NBC News that the campaign “does not support the disruption of any candidates’ events, and we condemn anyone who does so.”

Priscilla Thompson contributed.



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Tulsi Gabbard sues Hillary Clinton for $50M, claims defamation over ‘Russian asset’ remark

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Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday against Hillary Clinton seeking $50 million in damages, claiming the former Democratic presidential nominee “carelessly and recklessly impugned” her reputation when she suggested in October that one of the 2020 Democratic candidates is “the favorite of the Russians.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, says it aims to hold Clinton and other “political elites” accountable for “distorting the truth in the middle of a critical Presidential election.” It also says Gabbard suffered an economic loss to be proven at trial.

Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, responded: “That’s ridiculous.”

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Gabbard, a dark horse candidate who represents Hawaii, was on the campaign trail Wednesday and unavailable for comment about the suit, according to her law firm, Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP.

“Although Rep. Gabbard’s presidential campaign continues to gain momentum, she has seen her political and personal reputation smeared and her candidacy intentionally damaged by Clinton’s malicious and demonstrably false remarks,” Brian Dunne, a partner at the law firm, said in a statement.

Dunne added that Clinton had exhibited a “personal hostility” toward Gabbard last fall, and that the former secretary of state “resorted to a damaging whisper campaign founded on lies, and when presented with the opportunity to retract her damaging remarks, she refused.”

According to the suit, Clinton felt slighted because Gabbard was one of the first Democrats to publicly endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for president in 2016 over her, “becoming the most prominent politician to do so at the time.”

Clinton made her remarks during a podcast appearance on “Campaign HQ” with David Plouffe, a Democratic strategist. She did not identify the current Democratic candidate whom she was referring to, but also said Jill Stein was a “Russian asset” as the Green Party candidate in the 2016 election.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and congressional investigations have shown that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election included bolstering Stein’s run.

Later, when asked if Clinton was referring to Gabbard, Merrill said, “If the nesting doll fits … .” He subsequently tweeted that Clinton’s comments were being misrepresented and that she was referring to the Republican Party, not the Russians, grooming Gabbard.

Gabbard seized on Clinton’s remark, accusing her in a tweet of being the “queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.” The spat lasted for several days, with Gabbard saying on the campaign trail that it was bringing her negative attention, and that Clinton refused to retract her statements or apologize.

Monica Alba contributed.



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Brexit Party plans special surprise for Brexiteers instead of Big Ben bongs chiming

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THE BREXIT PARTY will sound its own Big Ben bongs on the day the UK leaves the EU after the Commons silenced calls for the iconic clock to ring.

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Schiff praises those who have testified and calls for new witnesses

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Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., praised the “courageous Americans” who had testified in the impeachment inquiry against president Trump and told the Senate they could hear from more relevant witnesses if they voted in favor of doing so.

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