Monthly Archives: November 2016

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Clinton team sees recount effort as waste of resources

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Clinton’s aides and supporters are urging dispirited Democrats to channel their frustrations about the election results into political causes — just not into efforts to recount ballots in three battleground states.

The former Democratic presidential candidate and her close aides see the recount drive largely as a waste of resources, according to people close to Clinton. The effort is being fueled by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who’s formed an organization to try to force recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

“Believe me if there was anything I could do to make Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States I would,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a longtime Clinton supporter. “But this is a big waste of time.”

Aides say Clinton is focused on moving past her unexpected defeat and has devoted little attention to the recount or thinking about her political future. She’s been spending time with her grandchildren and going for walks near her Westchester home. Sightings of Clinton hiking with her dogs and shopping at a Rhode Island bookstore went viral on social media.

“There have been a few times this past week where all I wanted to do was curl up with a good book and our dogs and never leave the house again,” Clinton said in an emotional speech at a gala for the Children’s Defense Fund, her one public appearance since her loss.

Former President Bill Clinton, meanwhile, has been poring over the election results, second-guessing decisions by top campaign aides and intensely trying to figure out how his wife lost the white working-class voters who were the base of his electoral coalition, say people familiar with the campaign.

Clinton’s team was aware of possible discrepancies soon after the election, telling top donors on a conference call four days after the election that they were looking into potential problems in the three states. But while many campaign staffers believe Russian hacking influenced the outcome of the election, blaming foreign actors for incursions into campaign and Democratic National Committee emails, they’ve found no evidence of the kind of widespread ballot box tampering that would change the results of the race — or even flip a single state.

Still, some dejected Clinton supporters have been unwilling to accept the results. Stein has raised $6.5 million for her recount campaign, according to a count posted on her campaign website on Tuesday. That’s nearly double the roughly $3.5 million she raised during her entire presidential bid.

Some former Clinton aides have asked frustrated supporters to donate their dollars to what they view as more constructive causes, like state parties or the Democratic candidate in Louisiana, where a Dec. 10 runoff will be the party’s last chance to pick up a Senate seat this year.

“I wouldn’t give a dollar to Jill Stein,” said Adam Parkhomenko, a longtime Clinton aide. “Volunteers, supporters and Democrats, they want to pick themselves up and get back out there. The best vehicle to do that is the Louisiana Senate race.”

Clinton’s team conducted an exhaustive investigation into the possibility of outside interference in the vote tally, tasking lawyers, data scientists and political analysts to comb over the results. They contacted outside experts, examined the laws governing recounts and double-checked all the vote tallies.

The campaign found no “evidence of manipulation,” wrote Marc Elias, the general counsel for Clinton’s campaign, in an online essay. But, he said, Clinton agreed to minimal participation in Stein’s effort, largely to make sure that her interests are represented. They put out a call for volunteers to monitor the proceedings and are relying on local lawyers to handle filings and other legal matters.

Clinton is under pressure to participate from her supporters, some of whom have struggled to accept the election results given her lead in the popular vote, which has grown to more than 2.3 million in the weeks after the Nov. 8 election.

“Now that a recount is underway, we believe we have an obligation to the more than 64 million Americans who cast ballots for Hillary Clinton to participate in ongoing proceedings to ensure that an accurate vote count will be reported,” Elias wrote.

Clinton’s lawyers filed motions with a Wisconsin judge on Tuesday looking to join Stein’s lawsuit demanding that Wisconsin officials recount ballots by hand. The state elections commission will formally began the recount on Thursday.

Stein’s organization has also filed for recounts in six of Pennsylvania’s largest counties and says it plans to file a petition Wednesday demanding a Michigan recount.

“It’s election law malpractice to not have your lawyers sitting around the table with Jill Stein’s lawyers,” said Adam Ambrogi, elections program director at the bipartisan Democracy Fund. “It is just due diligence.”


Follow Lisa Lerer on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/llerer

Carrier says it has deal with Trump to keep jobs in Indiana

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Air conditioning company Carrier Corp. says it has reached a deal with President-elect Donald Trump to keep nearly 1,000 jobs in Indiana. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence plan to travel to the state Thursday to unveil the agreement alongside company officials.

Trump confirmed the meeting on Twitter late Tuesday, promising a “Great deal for workers!”

Trump spent much of his campaign pledging to keep companies like Carrier from moving jobs overseas. His focus on manufacturing jobs contributed to his unexpected appeal with working-class voters in states like Michigan, which has long voted for Democrats in presidential elections.

The details of the agreement were unclear. Carrier tweeted that the company was “pleased to have reached a deal” with Trump and Pence to keep the jobs in Indianapolis.

Neither Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick for commerce secretary, nor Steven Mnuchin — the banker picked to be treasury secretary — would discuss specifics about the agreement on Wednesday. But Mnuchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that Trump and his administration are “going to have open communications with business leaders.”

He said Trump called the CEO of Carrier’s parent company and said it was “important to keep jobs here.”

Both Trump and Pence, who is ending his tenure as Indiana governor, are expected to appear with Carrier officials Thursday.

In February, Carrier said it would shutter its Indianapolis plant employing 1,400 workers and move its manufacturing to Mexico. The plant’s workers would have been laid off over three years starting in 2017.

United Technologies Electronic Controls also announced then that it planned to move its Huntington manufacturing operations to a new plant in Mexico, costing the northeastern Indiana city 700 jobs by 2018. Those workers make microprocessor-based controls for the HVAC and refrigeration industries.

Carrier and UTEC are both units of Hartford, Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp. — which also owns Pratt & Whitney, a big supplier of fighter jet engines that relies in part on U.S. military contracts.

In a September debate against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Trump railed against Carrier’s plans.

“So many hundreds and hundreds of companies are doing this,” Trump said. “We have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us. We have to stop our companies from leaving the United States.”

Carrier wasn’t the only company Trump assailed during the campaign. He pledged to give up Oreos after Nabisco’s parent, Mondelez International, said it would replace nine production lines in Chicago with four in Mexico. He criticized Ford after the company said it planned to invest $2.5 billion in engine and transmission plants in Mexico.

Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, which represents Carrier workers, said of Tuesday’s news: “I’m optimistic, but I don’t know what the situation is. I guess it’s a good sign. … You would think they would keep us in the loop. But we know nothing.”

The event Thursday in Indiana will be a rare public appearance for Trump, who has spent nearly his entire tenure as president-elect huddled with advisers and meeting with possible Cabinet secretaries. He plans to make other stops later this week as part of what advisers have billed as a “thank you” tour for voters who backed him in the presidential campaign.


Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com

House Democrats re-elect Pelosi as leader

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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats re-elected Nancy Pelosi as their leader on Wednesday despite disenchantment among some in the caucus over the party’s disappointing performance in elections earlier this month.

The California lawmaker, who has led the party since 2002, turned back a challenge from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. The secret ballot vote was 134-63.

“We need the very best to lead us,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told Democrats in nominating Pelosi. “No one is a better tactician than Nancy Pelosi.”

The 76-year-old California Democrat was forced to promise changes to the caucus to answer complaints from lawmakers fed up with being shut out of the upper ranks of leadership, especially in the wake of a devastating election that installed a GOP monopoly over Congress and the White House.

A half-dozen Democrats delivered testimonials to Pelosi in nominating speeches, but the disenchantment was evident.

“I think Tim Ryan would be a great leader. He’s a new generation and I think he would appeal to a lot of millennials and young people in this country,” Rep. Steve Lynch, D-Mass., said as he headed into the session. “He brings a certain excitement and also a bit of common sense from Youngstown, Ohio.”

“Our base is working people and we’ve got to talk about that. We’ve got to tell working people in this country that we care about them,” Lynch said.

Leadership elections were originally scheduled to be held before Thanksgiving but were delayed to give Democrats more time to discuss and process the election results and consider a path forward. Many are discouraged after losing the White House and making smaller than expected gains in both chambers of Congress.

“I believe we must do more than simply paper over the cracks,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, one of a handful of House Democrats to endorse Ryan. “We can’t just say the right things — we must take concrete steps to move our party in the right direction.”

Nonetheless Pelosi projected confidence heading into the vote. Known for her vote-counting skills, the Californian asserted she had support of two-thirds of Democrats locked up.

“Leader Pelosi is honored to receive the overwhelming support of her colleagues,” said spokesman Drew Hammill. “That so many members are so enthusiastic and eager to take active roles in the caucus is music to her ears.”

Other top leadership posts are uncontested, with Steny Hoyer of Maryland in the No. 2 job of whip, and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina in the No. 3 position of assistant leader. The position of conference chairman is term-limited, and Xavier Becerra of California was replaced by Joe Crowley of New York.

On the eve of the House leadership elections, 85-year-old Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he will not seek re-election to the panel post, clearing the way for a younger lawmaker to move into the spot on the powerful committee. Becerra and Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts told House Democrats they are interested in the position.

Republicans are on track to hold at least 240 seats in the House next year. Democrats, who had high hopes of significant gains in the election, picked up just six seats on Election Day earlier this month and remain in the minority with 194 seats.


Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

Prosecutor: Officer acted lawfully in black man’s killing

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A Charlotte police officer who shot and killed a black man at an apartment complex, touching off several nights of unrest in the city, will not face charges, a North Carolina prosecutor announced Wednesday.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray said Officer Brentley Vinson’s actions in killing Keith Lamont Scott were justified.

Scott’s family has said he was not armed.

However, at a lengthy news conference Murray displayed a nearby store’s surveillance video showing the outline of what appeared to be a holstered gun on Scott’s ankle, and he gave extensive details about other evidence that Scott was armed.

Plainclothes officers had gone to the complex about 4 p.m. on Sept. 20 looking for a suspect with an outstanding warrant when they saw Scott — not the suspect they were looking for — inside a car with a gun and marijuana, department spokesman Keith Trietley has said in a statement.

Officers saw Scott get out of the car with a gun and then get back in, police said. When officers approached, they said, Scott exited the car with the gun again. At that point, officers deemed Scott a threat and Vinson fired his weapon.

Scott, 43, was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center. An autopsy report from Mecklenburg County authorities says Scott died of gunshot wounds to the back and abdomen.

Vinson, who is also black, had been with the department for two years at the time of the shooting. He has been on administrative leave which is standard in police shootings.

Scott’s family has said he did not have a gun, but detectives recovered a firearm at the scene, police said.

At a Wednesday news conference, Murray played a nearby store’s surveillance video that appeared to show the outline of a gun in a holster on Scott’s right ankle.

Body camera and dashcam recordings released earlier by the police department did not conclusively show that and city officials were criticized for the length of time it took to release police video of the shooting.

Scott’s final moments also were recorded by his wife, Rakeyia, in a video shared widely on social media. She can be heard shouting to police that her husband “doesn’t have a gun.” She pleads with the officers not to shoot before a burst of gunfire can be heard.

The shooting led to two nights of violent protests, including a fatal shooting in downtown Charlotte the next night. The unrest gave way to several more days of largely peaceful demonstrations, and the city instituted a curfew for multiple nights.

In October, police in North Carolina’s largest city invited the Police Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., to review its policies and procedures following the shooting.

The foundation has done similar reviews elsewhere, assessing police in St. Louis County, Missouri, after the unrest in Ferguson, and analyzing the response to the terror attack in San Bernardino, California.

The case was among a series across the country since mid-2014 that has spurred a national debate over race and policing.

A trial is underway in Charleston, South Carolina, for a since-fired white patrolman, Michael Slager, facing 30 years to life if convicted of murder in the death last year of a black man, Walter Scott, shot while running from a traffic stop in April.

A Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a July traffic stop remains free as a manslaughter case against him proceeds.

Deaths of other unarmed black males at the hands of law enforcement officers have inspired protests under the “Black Lives Matter” moniker.

The Black Lives Matter movement traces its roots to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012, and gained national ground after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

Opinion: New Report Prompts Call For Democrats To Halt Transfer Of Power To Trump Before Dec. 13 Deadline

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(PhatzNewsRoom / HP)    —-   The Strategic Institute for Intersectional Policy (SIIP) has called for an immediate halt to all efforts related to the transfer of power between the Obama Administration and the Trump Campaign. This call came after a recent analysis revealed that there is strong evidence to suggest that Donald Trump and the members of his campaign intentionally engaged in voter suppression tactics in an attempt to alter the results of the 2016 Presidential Election. Further, the strategic deployment of voter suppression tactics was designed, refined and implemented over the course of a number of years by a network of organizations and individuals attempting to secure power for the alt-right.

This alt-right network has pushed the envelope of political legality since Watergate and the Reagan Administration. It is comprised of white nationalists that have worked strategically to infiltrate local and state governments, members of the Republican party, alt-right media strategists; conservative policy think-tanks and generous donors.

All their activity, though, can be traced back to the efforts of five people: Bert Rein, Richard Wiley, the Koch Brothers, and Robert Mercer.

Bert Rein and Richard Wiley have been key political players since the Nixon Administration. Rein was a member of the Key Issues Committee during the 1968 Nixon campaign and served as the Assistant Deputy Secretary of State under his administration. Wiley also held a position in the Nixon campaign and would go on to become the administration’s Chairman of the FCC. In the 1980’s, Wiley and Rein teamed up with another former colleague from the Nixon Era, Fred Fielding. Fielding was the Associate Counsel to Nixon and was the deputy to John Dean, who served time for his part in the Watergate Scandal. Dean was convicted and served time for his part in Watergate. Together they formed the firm Wiley, Rein and Fielding. After parting from Wiley and Rein, Fielding would go on to represent Blackwater Worldwide. Wiley Rein remains an important part of the conservative landscape.

Wiley and Rein also became prominent figures in the Reagan Administration. Rein worked as part of Reagan’s presidential transition team, while Wiley and Rein both work with conservative billionaire Robert Mercer through collaborations between the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation describes itself as a conservative think-tank “whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” The Heritage Foundation was a dominant figure in directing President Reagan’s transition team as well as in formulating the Administration’s policy.

Ed Meese, John Bolton, Paul Manafort and Jeff Sessions are all key figures in the Trump campaign that originally made a name for themselves, whether for the good or the bad, during the Reagan Administration.

Ed Meese, an early critic of Trump who recently joined the transition team and was also part of the Reagan transition team with Bert Rein, joined the Heritage Foundation in 1988 as the organization’s first Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow. Meese was, and is, an important liaison for the evangelical community, chaired the Just Say No program, and is staunchly anti-immigrant. Counseled Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair and would eventually have to resign his position in the Administration as a result of the Wedtech scandal.

John Bolton and Ed Meese worked together directly on what would come to be known as the Iran-Contra scandal. Then a “controversial UN ambassador,” Bolton has gone on to serve in a number of federal positions including Assistant Attorney General under Ronald Reagan. Bolton was a protégé of Jesse Helms, actively calls for military interference in Iran, supports the War on Drugs, is anti-UN, and was an active promoter of the false WMD narrative for Iraq and similar accusations made about Cuba. He was the Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute – the organization strongly influenced by Bert Rein, supported with funding from Charles and David Koch and that is responsible for the gutting of the Voting Right Act in 2013. He is one of the front runners to serve as the Secretary of State should Trump be allowed to assume the presidency.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, is another alumni of the Reagan Administration. Manafort is a campaign strategist that designs campaigns both nationally and internationally. In the US, he has worked on the Ford, Reagan and Bush campaigns. Internationally, he has been linked to the campaigns of Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Jonas Savimbi of the Angolan rebel group UNITA, admitted to writing the strategy for the Karachi Affair and served as an advisor on the campaign of pro-Russian Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich. Manafort worked closely with the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute to support Savimbi and met Trump through his partnership at Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelley – where Trump was a client. Manafort also has an apartment in Trump Tower. He became Trump’s lead strategist in March 2016 after the departure of Americans for Prosperity’s (Koch) Corey Lewandowski. He is credited with helping Trump destroy decades of potentially damaging documents and emails and is currently under FBI investigation for his ties to foreign nations.

Newt Gingrich is also prominent figure from the Reagan Era with close ties to the Trump campaign. On the short list to be one of Trump’s running mates, the former Congressman from Georgia’s 6th District designed Reagan’s “Open Society” platform for Reagan’s 1984 Presidential Campaign. He would go on to write 1994’s Contract with America and praise Trump’s 2016 Contract with the American Voter, which was noticeably similar. During his time in Congress, Gingrich practiced and refined his strategies to remove his Democratic colleagues from office. He was able to successfully unseat the Democratic Speaker of the House, Jim Wright. He led the Republicans to the first house majority since before the Civil Rights era. Gingrich became Speaker of the House, led two government shut downs, initiated the efforts to impeach Bill Clinton and was named 1995 Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. He unsuccessfully launched a presidential campaign in 2012, but has continued to influence federal elections through the Trump campaign.

Finally, Jeff Sessions rounds out Trump’s team of Reagan Administration veterans. Sessions is the Senator for Alabama, the same state that launched the Shelby County vs Holder case that resulted in the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and has been ranked as the US’s fifth most conservative senator. Sessions was originally nominated by the Reagan administration to serve on the United States District Court of Alabama; however, his nomination was not confirmed. Reagan then submitted his nomination for United States Attorney of Southern Alabama. Sessions was confirmed and held this position for twelve years. He earned the title of “amnesty’s worst enemy” by rejecting virtually every path to citizenship that has come across his desk. He has fought to restrict legal as well as illegal immigration as well. Sessions is a climate change skeptic, anti-marijuana, anti-LGBTQ rights, and voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. He has advised Trump on all his major policy platforms thus far and has been chosen to serve under his as the Attorney General should he be allowed to occupy the White House.

In addition to these strategists, two organizations associated with the Trump campaign would also emerge to assert their positions as far right political powerhouses. As described, the Heritage Foundation fueled by Robert Mercer, Ed Meese and Wiley Rein functioned to influence policy from within the political system. Robert Mercer, Charles Koch and David Koch would also combine forces to support the formation of a grassroots education and advocacy group that could apply political pressure from the outside called Citizens United. Citizens United would also produce another strategist for the Trump Campaign – David Bossie.

The far-right continued testing the boundaries of political behavior through the 1990s as the election of Democrat Bill Clinton put the Republicans on the defensive. Attack campaigns increased in prevalence and pundits that engaged in political attacks also increased their value in both the public eye and within the Republican party. Legal attacks against Democrats such as the Clintons also because a widely-used tactic to advance the right-wing agenda. Among those that gained prominence for their methods of attack were Kellyanne Fitzpatrick (Conway), George T. Conway III, Matt Drudge and Andrew Breitbart.

KellyAnne Conway, formerly KellyAnne Fitzpatrick, began her political career working in polling for the GOP’s Wirthlin Group. She gained a name for herself as a far-right television pundit along with other right wing colleagues such as Anne Coulter and Laura Ingraham. While engaged in this work, she caught the eye of George T. Conway III. Conway was a lawyer that had been involved in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against Bill Clinton. He was also part of the efforts to impeach him. It is said that the same month that George Conway fed Matt Drudge the information that allowed him to break the Monica Lewinski Story, he saw Fitzpatrick on the cover of a magazine and asked a mutual friend to set them up. They met a year later, married in 2001 and had four children.

Kellyanne went on to start her own polling group, The Polling Company Inc./Woman Trend and boasts a list of clients that includes the NRA, Freedomworks, Americans for Prosperity, The Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich and Mike Pence. Kellyanne Conway also served as the spokesperson for Robert Mercer. In the 1990’s, though, Kellyanne was part of a nework of political organizations, people, pundits and news outlets that specialized in attacking the Clintons.

One of the most prominent members of this network was Matt Drudge, creator of the Drudge Report. The Drudge Report gained notoriety in 1996 when it broke the news that Jack Kemp was chosen to be Bob Dole’s running mate in the presidential election. In addition to breaking this story and the Lewinski scandal, he is also credited with breaking a number of widely publicized, disparaging stories against leading Democrats. Drudge has consistently served as an important link between political insiders and their alt-right constituency. In the 1990’s, though, that he took on a protégé that would eventually join this network with his own alt-right media network – Andrew Breitbart.

Breitbart worked as an editor for Drudge until he left amicably to start Breitbart News Network with Larry Solov in 2007. Breitbart.com had just began making its presence known when Breitbart himself died of a massive heart attack in 2012. He would be replaced at the network by Trump’s current Chief Strategist, Stephen Bannon.

In the 1990s, Bannon was running a boutique investment bank that specialized in media production. Bannon and Co. would eventually be sold but Bannon would remain focused on the media. He moved to Hollywood and began producing films such as Occupy Unmasked, The Undefeated (a film about Sarah Palin), and a documentary about Ronald Reagan entitled In the Face of Evil. It was during the making of this film that he met Andrew Brietbart.

The two developed a strong working relationship and Bannon became a member of the board at Breitbart in 2007. When he became the executive chair, Bannon reshaped Breitbart and turned it to a media home and safe space for members of the alt-right. In 2016, the website Breitbart.com declared itself “the platform for the alt-right” and in August of that same year, Bannon brought that platform to the race for the White House when he became the chief executive for the Donald Trump campaign.

The alt-right political network, though, had been preparing for the 2016 election since long before Bannon joined the team. The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and Citizen’s United all continued to gather influence in the political field. Charles and David Koch’s organization Citizens for a Sound Economy split into two groups in 2004. One group, the Americans for Prosperity, would become the protest and media arm of the alt-right’s political movement. The other arm, Freedomworks, would serve as the ground team for state and local elections and a political lifeline for the Tea Party.

The Koch Brothers teamed up again with Bert Rein and American Enterprise Institute’s Ed Blum to push their alt-right agenda in the courts through the Project on Fair Representation (founded in 2005). The mission of this organization is to “is to facilitate pro bono legal representation to political subdivisions and individuals that wish to challenge government distinctions and preferences made on the basis of race and ethnicity.” Their primary target was the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Specifically, the Project on Fair Representation sought to remove the provision that required certain jurisdictions to gain approval of the federal government before making changes in their voting policies. The removal of this restriction would allow states to make adjustments to their voting policies that directly benefitted the Republican party and the alt-right agenda.

In 2011, the Charles and David Koch founded Freedom Partners in order to funnel grant money into activist organizations and ground level political actions. In 2013, the alt-right network was successful in their efforts to gut the Voting Rights Act when they won the case of Shelby County vs Holden (2013). In related practical efforts, Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity were taken to court for accusations of voter suppression efforts in states such as Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Michigan. Using characteristically aggressive tactics, including the strategic suppression of minority voters, the alt-right network was able to make dramatic waves in the 2010 and 2014 elections – and the Republican party was able to take control of Congress.

The Alt-right’s checklist to take control of the federal government without the use of military force was as follows:

– Infiltrate Congress – Achieved 2010

– Eliminate Funding Restrictions – Achieved 2010

– Take Control of the RNC – Achieved in 2011

– Kill Voting Protections – Achieved in 2013

– Take Control of Congress – Achieved in 2014

– Take Control of the Supreme Court – Achieved if 1) Obama administration doesn’t successfully counter efforts to delay appointment and 2) if the Republican candidate secures the Presidency

– Take Control of the Presidency – Goal:2016

By 2016, all that was left for the alt-right to achieve a full takeover of the government of the United States – without firing one shot – was gaining control of the Presidency.

In efforts to alter the course of the 2016 Presidential Election, the alt-right experimented with a number of candidates. The two most notable of these being Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. While the two candidates were competitors in the Republican presidential primaries, they were both being funded and directed by key players from the alt-right.

Ted Cruz’s dominant SuperPAC was Keep the Promise 1. This SuperPAC was funded by Robert Mercer and headed by KellyAnne Conway. Donald Trump’s campaign was a project of Charles Koch and David Koch.

Trumps original core group of handlers for the campaign included Roger Stone (of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly), Corey Lewandowski (of Americans for Prosperity), and Alan Cobb (a government affairs executive for Koch). Early supporters of Trump also included Jeff Sessions, Stephen Bannon, and Rudy Giuliani. It was Jeff Sessions that submitted Trumps name as the GOP presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention. In March of 2016, Paul Manafort formally joined the campaign. And after Ted Cruz was pulled out of the campaign, all resources shifted to Trump.

The Keep the Promise 1 SuperPAC was rebranded as Defeat Crooked Hillary by Citizen’s United’s David Bossie. Kellyanne Conway was moved from the Cruz campaign to the Trump campaign. The media campaign in support of Trump and attacking Clinton was re-launched by Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and the director of Project Alamo and the campaign acquired the open support of Reince Priebus and Mike Pence.

With full funding, a strategic team that spans from Nixon to Conway, a fully functioning alt-right media network, the social and tactical support of the Tea Party and the reluctant backing of the Republican party, the alt-right engaged in a full-scale attack for control of the White House. This attack included timely interference from the FBI director James Comey and Wikileaks, potential interference from Russian intelligence organizations, and widespread efforts to suppress the votes of target Democrats and people of color in key locations. These locations included states that Trump was able to turn from Red to Blue.

Without the suppression efforts that were reported in pivotal swing states, it is unlikely that Trump would have been able to secure the votes needed to win Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona. Without these votes, he and the alt-right would not have been able to win the 2016 presidential election. Without suppressing people of color’s Constitutional right to vote, the alt-right would not have been able to execute their strategy to take full control of the federal government.

In light of the information tying the Trump campaign to voting suppression tactics nationally and specifically in key swing states, and with consideration for the Safe Harbor deadline of December 13th – the Strategic Institute of Intersectional Policy is calling for an immediate cessation to all activities related to the transfer of power to the Republican Party. This call includes firm requests for President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Lorretta Lynch, and the Democratic members of Congress to exercise their full authority to stop the transfer of power; investigate the states, organizations and people involved in the strategic design and implementation of voter suppression efforts, and postpone the electoral college accordingly.

The Strategic Institute of Intersectional Policy is also calling for a Suppression Extension to be mobilized in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona. This extension would be granted to those that were prevented from exercising their Constitutional right to vote as a result of voter suppression efforts engaged in by the government and by private organizations and individuals. These states would then be allowed to add these votes to those already counted in the election. In this way, the voices of all those that are Constitutionally granted the right to vote are able to do so to choose the next president of the United States.

This effort needs your support. Please go to the Strategic Institute for Intersectional Policy’s website for more information: http://strategycampsite.org/strategy-to-stop-trump.html

Update: This article has been updated to reflect the Wiley and Rein are key white supremacist figures involved with the Heritage Foundation’s network. They did not found the Heritage Foundation.

Some voters, stung by election result, stirred to new action

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NEW YORK (AP) — Three weeks out from a presidential election result that left them deeply dejected, many liberals now say they’ve been roused to action in new ways, from making donations and volunteering to considering political runs themselves.

Around the country, even as protests have waned, Democrats say the sting of loss has left an impact unlike any past race, stirring previously passive citizens to push beyond their initial tears and angry Facebook posts following Donald Trump’s win. Though post-election fervor has spurred conservatives to action as well, the gut-punch of a presidential loss has particularly energized those on the left.

Brad Goar, a 56-year-old from Jupiter, Florida, made a flurry of moves he saw as constructive responses. He donated to Planned Parenthood and upped his monthly gift to Bernie Sanders’ organization; he joined the American Civil Liberties Union and began volunteering at an organization that helps undocumented immigrants. He even invited a couple who voted for Trump to join him and his husband at their home for drinks, appetizers and some airing of electoral differences, which was mostly cordial all around.

“I’ve never gotten my butt out of the chair before,” Goar said. “But I see this as a dangerous turning point.”

As some, like Goar, reached out to understand the political opposition, others have hoisted a sign in protest for the first time. Some have felt so rattled they say they’re making more life-altering changes.

Brooke Streech, a 44-year-old Phoenix woman, is in the latter camp, having told her boss two days after the election that she would be quitting her job in finance. Her last day is Jan. 3, and while she isn’t entirely sure what comes next, she’s just certain she wants to be doing something that feels more meaningful.

Streech has weathered a divorce, and both her parents are sick with cancer. She isn’t even a Democrat, but she found Trump’s candidacy revolting and his victory among the greatest tragedies of her life. Even as she struggles to find her footing on what to do now, she feels she’s been stirred like never before.

“It woke me up in a new way,” she said. “I can only describe it as a moment of clarity.”

Kerry Johnson, a 41-year-old New York woman, described it in almost identical terms. After getting over the shock and rage, she began a checklist of things she hopes serve as both a counter to Trump’s rise and a reaffirmation of goodness in the U.S. She scheduled a platelet donation and is planning to take part in a planned women’s march in Washington; she spent Thanksgiving helping at a shelter for women and children and is looking for longer-range volunteer opportunities. She says she’s always considered herself “good-intentioned” but has been motivated to act in new ways.

“There is definitely an opportunity to play your role and move us forward,” she said.

On the winning side, Republican dominance in state legislatures has some conservatives rallying for a constitutional convention to consider amendments on congressional term limits or a balanced federal budget. Trump’s victory is seen as possibly inspiring a new breed of candidates who ride populism to political office. And some conservative organizations including the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, and Californians for Population Stabilization, which seeks to curtail immigration, have seen spikes in donations since Election Day.

“The national talk is all of a sudden, people are becoming aware that immigration is maybe too high,” said John Milliken, a 71-year-old in Westlake Village, California, who was spurred to donate to CAPS, as the California immigration reform organization is known. The retired pilot said even though he had voted for Trump “with a clothespin over my nose,” he’s found the president-elect has roused him and fellow conservatives to action in a way previous Republicans haven’t.

For now, though, as Republicans revel in victory, it’s often Democrats like Jasmin Chavez who are stirred to action. Chavez, is a 20-year-old sophomore at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, who fell asleep on election night before the presidential vote had been called, and woke up to Trump taking the stage in his victory speech. She thought it was a nightmare. Now, the naturalized U.S. citizen from El Salvador, who voted for Clinton in her first presidential election, has seen more students become interested in the League of United Latin American Citizens chapter she leads on campus, and she feels emboldened in her dream to one day run for Congress.

“I’m feeling very optimistic,” Chavez said. “We’ve just got to be ready.”

After the election, Tim Hammill, a 36-year-old in Bridgeport, Connecticut, said he felt as if he didn’t recognize his country. He thought he didn’t know 10 people who would vote for Trump, but his Facebook feed began filling with celebratory posts from all sorts of friends and acquaintances. He launched a blog, “My Life in Trump’s America,” and vowed to have conversations with those on the other side in hopes of better understanding them.

“I want to do anything I can to make sure the feeling I felt on election night and the next day never happens again,” he said. “If we want to move forward and be less of a divided country we have to have these conversations. We have to talk to people who don’t agree with us on everything.”

Similar stories stream in across the U.S., often from younger Americans.

In Philadelphia, 25-year-old Keith Mui attended a forum on how to run for public office that drew so much post-election interest that the event ran up against fire-code restrictions and had to put people on a waitlist. In Los Angeles, 14-year-old Amellia Sones organized a Ventura Boulevard protest with a handful of high school classmates and others where she waved a “Stop the Hate” sign above her head. And in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Nicola Shackman-Ryden, a 22-year-old college senior, has begun organizing a community service campaign she hopes will bring students in touch with locals of differing political opinions.

“We’re trying to find a way to actually unify this country,” Shackman-Ryden said.


Sedensky can be reached at msedensky@ap.org or https://twitter.com/sedensky

CIA director says it would be ‘folly’ to scrap Iran deal

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LONDON (AP) — The CIA director says it would be an act of “folly” for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to scrap the nuclear deal with Iran.

John Brennan told the BBC in an interview broadcast Wednesday that it would be “disastrous” to end the deal designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Trump threatened during the campaign to scrap the deal. Brennan said doing so would strengthen hardliners in Iran and possibly spur other countries to pursue nuclear weaponry.

The CIA director also suggested Trump should be wary of promises made by Russia because of Russia’s past failure to deliver.

He said Russia and the Syrian regime are responsible for the horrendous humanitarian situation facing Syrian civilians.

Brennan plans to step down in January.

Syrian forces press on in Aleppo, as attacks kill civilians

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BEIRUT (AP) — A barrage of artillery fire struck a housing area for displaced residents in rebel-held eastern Aleppo Wednesday, killing at least 21 civilians, activists said, as another eight civilians were killed in shelling on the government-held western side of the city, according to state media.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which maintains a network of contacts in the war-torn country, said it was the second time the Jub al-Quba neighborhood in eastern Aleppo was struck in two days. An airstrike killed 25 civilians Tuesday. Thousands of east Aleppo residents have moved to Jub al-Quba and other such neighborhoods fleeing a government advance on the rebel-held east.

The Syrian Civil Defense search-and-rescue group operating in eastern Aleppo put the toll at 45 killed. Images published by the Civil Defense showed bodies strewn on a debris-filled road in an attack they It blamed on government forces.

Syrian Observatory chief Rami Abdurrahman said he predicts death tolls will spiral in east Aleppo as the internal displacement creates more residential density.

Syrian state media said two children were among the eight killed in shelling on the city’s western neighborhoods, which it blamed on the rebels.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Aleppo as pro-government Syrian forces press on with their campaign to reclaim the divided city.

The Observatory said more than 50,000 out of an estimated quarter-million inhabitants have been displaced by attacks on rebel-held eastern Aleppo over the past 4 days. Many of them fled to safer ground in areas under government or Kurdish control. The International Committee of the Red Cross says around 20,000 people have fled.

The Lebanese Al-Manar TV channel reported from the Aleppo countryside that pro-government forces were advancing in the southern portion of the city’s rebel enclave. The government has seized much of the northern half of the enclave in a swift advance that began Saturday.

Possible tornado kills 3 in Alabama as storms cross South / Wildfires spread in TN.

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ROSALIE, Ala. (AP) — A suspected tornado killed three people in Alabama as a line of severe storms moved across the South overnight, authorities said.

The three who died were all in a mobile home in the northeastern Alabama community of Rosalie, Jackson County Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen told The Associated Press early Wednesday. Another person in the home was critically injured, Harnen said.

Harnen also said there were a number of other injuries and estimated that 16 to 20 structures in the county have been destroyed. He could not give an exact number of injuries. The suspected tornado affected an area of homes and businesses that covered nearly half a mile, Harnen said.


Harnen also said authorities were searching door to door before dawn Wednesday for any other damage.

Possible tornadoes were reported across several counties in northern Alabama and southern Tennessee, National Weather Service meteorologist Lauren Nash said.

Tornadoes and hail were also reported Tuesday in Louisiana and Mississippi. In Mississippi, the National Weather Service in Jackson said late Tuesday that it had counted six confirmed tornadoes so far in the areas of the state it monitors.


GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — In the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, a Tennessee tourist mecca emerged from the smoke, charred and vacant after a swift-moving wildfire. Many buildings were burned to their foundations. Hotel fire alarms echoed through empty streets lined with burned-out cars.

The fire picked its spots as it tore through the Gatlinburg area Monday: It destroyed at least 150 buildings but left others intact. Three people were killed and more than a dozen were hospitalized.

By Tuesday evening, almost nothing remained of the Castle, perhaps the largest and most iconic home overlooking Gatlinburg. Entire churches disappeared. So did the Cupid’s Chapel of Love wedding venue, though its managers promised to move scheduled weddings to a sister venue, Chapel at the Park.

Officials surveying early damage said the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa, with more than 100 buildings, is likely entirely gone.

“I’m just astonished this is my town,” Marci Claude, a spokeswoman for the city and for Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, said as she saw the destruction for the first time on a media tour Tuesday.

Fanned by hurricane-force winds Monday night, the flames reached the doorstep of Dollywood, the theme park in nearby Pigeon Forge named after country music legend and local hero Dolly Parton. The park was spared any significant damage.

Local officials offered reassurance that the worst was over Tuesday. More rain was in the forecast overnight and through Wednesday, though high winds were expected Tuesday night.

Much remained uncertain for a region that serves as the gateway into the Great Smoky Mountains, the country’s most visited national park. Search and rescue efforts continued through the night in areas that had been unreachable because of downed power lines and trees.

A somber reality set in for Gatlinburg, a city of just 3,944 residents that draws more than 11 million visitors a year. But even Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner, who lost his home in the fire, remained steadfast that his city will recover.

“It’s a devastating time for us and for Gatlinburg,” Werner said at a news conference Tuesday. “As I said earlier this morning, we’re strong. We’re resilient. And we’re going to make it. We’re going to pull it together and continue to make Gatlinburg the premier resort that it is.”

In all, more than 14,000 residents and tourists were forced to evacuate the tourist city in the mountains, where some hotspots persisted and a curfew was in effect overnight Tuesday.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who flew in to see the damage caused by a fire he called the largest in the state in the past 100 years, said he was struck by how some buildings were burned to the ground while others — including most of the downtown entertainment cluster — were untouched.

“It just could have been so much worse,” he said.

The governor said work would begin quickly to repair the damage to what he called “a special place in the state of Tennessee.”

Though wildfires have been burning for several weeks across the drought-stricken South, Monday marked the first time any homes and businesses were destroyed on a large scale.

Rain forecast for Wednesday should help the area after weeks of punishing drought, but the bone-dry ground should soak up the moisture quickly, forecasters said. Rainfall amounts have been 10 to 15 inches below normal during the past three months in many parts of the South.

The Gatlinburg area wildfires spread when winds blew trees onto power lines, sparking new fires and shooting embers over long distances. Hundreds of homes and other buildings, including a 16-story hotel, were damaged or destroyed.

The fires spread quickly Monday night, when winds topping 87 mph whipped up the flames, catching residents and tourists in the area by surprise. Police banged on front doors and told people to get out immediately. Some trekked 20 minutes to catch lifesaving rides on trolleys usually reserved for tours and wedding parties.

“There was fire everywhere. It was like we were in hell,” said Linda Monholland, who was working at Park View Inn in Gatlinburg when she and five other people fled on foot. “Walking through hell, that’s what it was. I can’t believe it. I never want to see something like that again in my life, ever.”


Mattise reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press writers Steve Megargee, Kristin M. Hall and Erik Schelzig in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, contributed to this report.

S. Korea leader again buys time, but failure looms

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — She pulled off a deft bit of political maneuvering, probably born of desperation. Now South Korea’s president has a sliver of breathing space as impeachment closes in and millions throng the streets to clamor for her to just go away.

For Park Geun-hye, the next few days, perhaps the most crucial in her presidency, will determine what political price will she pay, and exactly how much time she has bought.

Park’s offer to shorten her term in office if a bickering parliament can set up a legal pathway to doing so has been widely criticized as a stalling ploy aimed at luring back members of her conservative party who supported impeachment. That support by former Park loyalists is crucial if a coalition of opposition parties is going to secure the necessary impeachment votes.

Park’s conditional resignation proposal, if it delays impeachment, could give her time to search for a way to exit with some sense of grace, rather than be impeached and stripped of power while a court reviews whether to drive her from office.

To some extent, she has already succeeded in wriggling some of the way out from what had very recently looked like an impossible political situation.

What had seemed to be an inexorable legislative march toward impeachment has slowed, though it’s not yet clear how much.

Some of Park’s former allies who’d turned against her now say that an impeachment vote originally planned for Friday should be pushed back a week. Some influential members of her ruling party also called Wednesday for impeachment efforts to pause while lawmakers examine how to set up a legal roadmap for Park’s resignation proposal.

Opposition parties agreed Wednesday to push for an impeachment vote Friday, but will regroup and try again Dec. 9 if they don’t have enough initial support to impeach Park over what state prosecutors say was collusion with Choi Soon-sil, a confidante who allegedly had a large say in government affairs. Choi held no official government position, and allegedly used her ties to the president to pressure companies into giving money to foundations and companies Choi controlled or established.

Park denies prosecutors’ claims.

While the politicians scramble to regroup, the president’s speech has angered many citizens. After all, they say, if Park really cared about what most South Koreans say they want, she would have simply resigned.

Instead, she appears to be looking to regain just enough of her former allies’ backing to at least delay the effort to get the necessary two-thirds support needed in parliament for impeachment.

This puts opposition lawmakers in something of a bind.

Where they once had a strong momentum for impeachment provided by huge protests each weekend, they now may face painful negotiations in a deeply divided parliament. This means navigating a splintered ruling party and the sometimes conflicting views of various opposition parties.

Although unlikely, legislative squabbling could even allow Park to limp across the finish line of her single, five-year term in early 2018.

All the while, everyone must gauge how this will play in December 2017 presidential elections, and the widely expected presidential campaign of Ban Ki-moon, who is finishing up his term as U.N. secretary general.

So Park may have bought herself some time. But she has done nothing to change the widespread feeling here that she must go.

If lawmakers fail to impeach her Friday, this may become especially clear on Saturday.

As has happened the last five Saturdays, hundreds of thousands of people are again expected to choke downtown Seoul’s streets in a party-like atmosphere of defiance. This could allow lawmakers to win back the energy they will need to unite disparate groups in parliament and push through an impeachment vote.

In the end, Park’s political machinations may only delay the inevitable.


Foster Klug is AP’s Seoul bureau chief. He has covered the Koreas since 2005. Follow him at www.twitter.com/apklug

Business: Global stocks gain ahead of OPEC meeting

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TOKYO (AP) — Global stocks were modestly higher Wednesday, as investors awaited the results of a key meeting of oil producing nations.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 gained 0.2 percent to 4,561.55. Germany’s DAX edged up 0.2 percent to 10,646.32. Britain’s FTSE 100 inched up 0.1 percent at 6,780.37. U.S. shares were set to drift higher with Dow and S&P 500 futures up about 0.1 percent.

OIL WATCH: Oil rebounded despite mounting skepticism that oil producers will reach agreement on curbing output, which could put a floor on prices. Benchmark U.S. crude added 73 cents to $45.96 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose $1.66 to $48.98 a barrel in London in volatile trading.

THE QUOTE: “All eyes will be on Vienna today with Iran and Iraq both digging their respective heels in on production caps. Failure to come up with a viable solution will see oil much lower tomorrow,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA.

JAPAN ECONOMY: Japan’s benchmark was flat after the government reported that industrial production rose 0.1 percent from the month before in October, down from 0.6 percent in September and 1.3 percent in August. Economists said the data showed growth was sustained, but below par.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 was flat, finishing at 18,308.48, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.3 percent to 5,440.50. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.3 percent at 1,983.48 and India’s Sensex gained 0.5 percent to 26,536.49. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.2 percent to 22,789.77, while the Shanghai Composite slipped 1 percent to 3,250.03 on talk regulators might crack down on overseas investments. Shares were higher in Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.79 yen from 112.20 yen. The euro rose to $1.0640 from $1.0592.

ISIS’s second-in-command hid in Syria for months. The day he stepped out, the U.S. was waiting.

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(PhatzNewsRoom / WP)    —    For a man given to fiery rhetoric and long-winded sermons, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani became oddly quiet during his last summer as the chief spokesman for the Islamic State.

The Syrian who exhorted thousands of young Muslims to don suicide belts appeared increasingly obsessed with his own safety, U.S. officials say. He banished cellphones, shunned large meetings and avoided going outdoors in the daytime. He began sleeping in crowded tenements in a northern Syrian town called al-Bab, betting on the presence of young children to shield him from the drones prowling the skies overhead.

But in late August, when a string of military defeats suffered by the Islamic State compelled Adnani to briefly leave his hiding place, the Americans were waiting for him. A joint surveillance operation by the CIA and the Pentagon tracked the 39-year-old as he left his al-Bab sanctuary and climbed into a car with a companion. They were headed north on a rural highway a few miles from town when a Hellfire missile struck the vehicle, killing both of them.

The Aug. 30 missile strike was the culmination of a months-long mission targeting one of the Islamic State’s most prominent — and, U.S. officials say, most dangerous — senior leaders. The Obama administration has said little publicly about the strike, other than to rebut Russia’s claims that one of its own warplanes dropped the bomb that ended Adnani’s life.

But while key operational details of the Adnani strike remain secret, U.S. officials are speaking more openly about what they describe as an increasingly successful campaign to track and kill the Islamic State’s senior commanders, including Adnani, the No. 2 leader and the biggest prize so far. At least six high-level Islamic State officials have died in U.S. airstrikes in the past four months, along with dozens of deputies and brigadiers, all but erasing entire branches of the group’s leadership chart.

Their deaths have left the group’s chieftain, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, increasingly isolated, deprived of his most capable lieutenants and limited in his ability to communicate with his embattled followers, U.S. officials say. Baghdadi has not made a public appearance in more than two years and released only a single audiotape — suggesting that the Islamic State’s figurehead is now in “deep, deep hiding,” said Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s special envoy to the global coalition seeking to destroy Baghdadi’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

“He is in deep hiding because we have eliminated nearly all of his deputies,” McGurk said at a meeting of coalition partners in Berlin this month. “We had their network mapped. If you look at all of his deputies and who he was relying on, they’re all gone.”

The loss of senior leaders does not mean that the Islamic State is about to collapse. U.S. officials and terrorism experts caution that the group’s decentralized structure and sprawling network of regional affiliates ensure that it would survive even the loss of Baghdadi himself. But they say the deaths point to the growing sophistication of a targeted killing campaign built by the CIA and the Defense Department over the past two years for the purpose of flushing out individual leaders who are working hard to stay hidden.

The effort is being aided, U.S. officials say, by new technology as well as new allies, including deserters and defectors who are shedding light on how the terrorists travel and communicate. At the same time, territorial losses and military defeats are forcing the group’s remaining leaders to take greater risks, traveling by car and communicating by cellphones and computers instead of couriers, the officials and analysts said.

“The bad guys have to communicate electronically because they have lost control of the roads,” said a veteran U.S. counterterrorism official who works closely with U.S. and Middle Eastern forces and who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operations. “Meanwhile our penetration is better because ISIS’s situation is getting more desperate and they are no longer vetting recruits,” the official said, using a common acronym for the terrorist group.

This image made from video posted on a militant website on July 5, 2014, shows the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq during his first public appearance. © AP This image made from video posted on a militant website on July 5, 2014, shows the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq during his first public appearance.

“We have a better picture inside ISIS now,” he said, “than we ever did against al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

The caliphate’s cheerleader

The first to go was “Abu Omar the Chechen.” The red-bearded Georgian Islamic militant, commonly known as Omar al-Shishani, fought in the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 and had been trained by U.S. Special Forces when he was in the Georgian military. He rose to become the Islamic State’s “minister of war” and was reported to have been killed on at least a half-dozen occasions since 2014, only to surface, apparently unharmed, to lead military campaigns in Iraq and Syria.

Shishani’s luck ran out on July 10 when a U.S. missile struck a gathering of militant leaders near the Iraqi city of Mosul. It was the beginning of a string of successful operations targeting key leaders of the Islamic State’s military, propaganda and “external operations” divisions, U.S. officials said in interviews.

On Sept. 6, a coalition airstrike killed Wa’il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad, the Islamic State’s “minister of information,” near Raqqa, Syria. On Sept. 30, a U.S. attack killed deputy military commander Abu Jannat, the top officer in charge of Mosul’s defenses and one of 13 senior Islamic State officials in Mosul who were killed in advance of the U.S.-assisted offensive to retake the city.

On Nov. 12, a U.S. missile targeted Abd al-Basit al-Iraqi, an Iraqi national described as the leader of the Islamic State’s Middle Eastern external-operations network, responsible for carrying out attacks against Western targets.

But it was Adnani’s death that delivered the single biggest blow, U.S. analysts say. The Syrian-born Islamist militant was regarded by experts as more than a mere spokesman. A longtime member of the Islamic State’s inner circle, he was a gifted propagandist and strategic thinker who played a role in many of the organization’s greatest successes, from its commandeering of social media to its most spectacular terrorist attacks overseas, including in Paris and Brussels.

His importance within the organization was also steadily rising. Last year, after the U.S.-led coalition began retaking cities across Iraq and Syria, it was Adnani who stepped into the role of cheerleader in chief, posting messages and sermons to boost morale while calling on sympathetic Muslims around the world to carry out terrorist attacks using any means available.

“He was the voice of the caliphate when its caliph was largely silent,” said Will McCants, an expert on militant extremism at the Brookings Institution and author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” a 2015 book on the Islamic State. “He was the one who called for a war on the West.”

The CIA and the Pentagon declined to comment on their specific roles in the Adnani operation. But other officials familiar with the effort said the task of finding the Islamic State’s No. 2 leader became a priority nearly on par with the search for Baghdadi. But like his boss, Adnani, a survivor of earlier wars between U.S. forces and Sunni insurgents in Iraq, proved to be remarkably skilled at keeping himself out of the path of U.S. missiles.

“His personal security was particularly good,” said the U.S. counterterrorism official involved in coordinating U.S. and Middle Eastern military efforts. “And as time went on, it got even better.”

But the quality of the intelligence coming from the region was improving as well. A U.S. official familiar with the campaign described a two-stage learning process: In the early months, the bombing campaign focused on the most visible targets, such as weapons depots and oil refineries. But by the middle of last year, analysts were sorting through torrents of data on the movements of individual leaders.

The information came from a growing network of human informants as well as from technological innovations, including improved surveillance drones and special manned aircraft equipped with the Pentagon’s Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System, or EMARSS, designed to identify and track individual targets on the ground.

“In the first year, the strikes were mostly against structures,” said a U.S. official familiar with the air campaign. “In the last year, they became much more targeted, leading to more successes.”

Watching and waiting

And yet, insights into the whereabouts of the top two leaders — Baghdadi and Adnani — remained sparse. After the Obama administration put a $5 million bounty on him, Adnani became increasingly cautious, U.S. officials say, avoiding not only cellphones but also buildings with satellite dishes. He used couriers to pass messages and stayed away from large gatherings.

Eventually, his role shifted to coordinating the defense of a string of towns and villages near the Turkish border. One of these was Manbij, a Syrian hub and transit point for Islamic State fighters traveling to and from Turkey. Another was Dabiq, a small burg mentioned in Islam’s prophetic texts as the future site of the end-times battle between the forces of good and evil.

Adnani picked for his headquarters the small town of al-Bab, about 30 miles northeast of Aleppo. There he hid in plain sight amid ordinary Syrians, conducting meetings in the same crowded apartment buildings where he slept. As was his custom, he used couriers to deliver messages — until suddenly it became nearly impossible to do so.

On Aug. 12, a U.S.-backed army of Syrian rebels captured Manbij in the first of a series of crushing defeats for the Islamic State along the Turkish frontier. Thousands of troops began massing for assaults on the key border town of Jarabulus, as well as Dabiq, just over 20 miles from Adnani’s base.

With many roads blocked by hostile forces, communication with front-line fighters became difficult. Adnani was compelled to venture from his sanctuary for meetings, and when he did so on Aug. 30, the CIA’s trackers finally had the clear shot they had been waiting for weeks to take.

Records generated by commercially available aircraft-tracking radar show a small plane flying multiple loops that day over a country road just northwest of al-Bab. The plane gave no call sign, generally an indication that it is a military aircraft on a clandestine mission. The profile and flight pattern were similar to ones generated in the past for the Pentagon’s EMARSS-equipped MC-12 prop planes, used for surveillance of targets on the ground.

The country road is the same one on which Adnani was traveling when a Hellfire missile hit his car, killing him and his companion.

The death was announced the same day by the Islamic State, in a bulletin mourning the loss of a leader who was “martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns against Aleppo.” But in Washington, the impact of his death was muted by a two-week delay as U.S. officials sought proof that it was indeed Adnani’s body that was pulled from the wreckage of the car.

The confirmation finally came Sept. 12 in a Pentagon statement asserting that a “U.S. precision airstrike” targeting Adnani had eliminated the terrorist group’s “chief propagandist, recruiter and architect of external terrorist operations.”

The Russian claims have persisted, exasperating the American analysts who know how long and difficult the search had been. Meanwhile, the ultimate impact of Adnani’s death is still being assessed.

Longtime terrorism experts argue that a diffuse, highly decentralized terrorist network such as the Islamic State tends to bounce back quickly from the loss of a leader, even one as prominent as Adnani. “Decapitation is one arm of a greater strategy, but it cannot defeat a terrorist group by itself,” said Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies and an author of multiple books on terrorism. Noting that the Islamic State’s military prowess derives from the “more anonymous Saddamist military officers” who make up the group’s professional core, Hoffman said the loss of a chief propagandist was likely to be “only a temporary derailment.”

Yet, as still more missiles find their targets, the Islamic State is inevitably losing its ability to command and inspire its embattled forces, other terrorism experts said. “The steady destruction of the leadership of the Islamic State, plus the loss of territory, is eroding the group’s appeal and potency,” said Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran and a terrorism expert at the Brookings Institution. “The Islamic State is facing a serious crisis.”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed to this report.

Veterans to Serve as ‘Human Shields’ for Dakota Pipeline Protesters

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(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT)   —-    As many as 2,000 veterans planned to gather next week at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as “human shields” for protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the construction of an oil pipeline, organizers said.

The effort, called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, is planned as a nonviolent intervention to defend the demonstrators from what the group calls “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force.”

Opponents of the 1,170-mile Dakota Access Pipeline have gathered for months at the Oceti Sakowin camp, about 40 miles south of Bismarck. The Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes fear the pipeline could pollute the Missouri River and harm sacred cultural lands and tribal burial grounds.

But amid the veterans’ plan, Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued an evacuation order on Monday for the area used to protest the pipeline, citing “anticipated harsh weather conditions.”

A winter storm on Monday dumped about six inches of snow and brought strong winds, making roads “roads nearly impassable at the camp sites,” according to Minnesota Public Radio.

According to the governor’s statement, “Any person who chooses to enter, re-enter or stay in the evacuation does so at their own risk.” The order was effective immediately and was to remain in place indefinitely.

Michael A. Wood Jr. is a founder of Veterans Stand for Standing Rock. © Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Siriusxm Michael A. Wood Jr. is a founder of Veterans Stand for Standing Rock.

The veterans’ effort also will coincide with a plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to close off access to the protesters’ campsite and create a “free speech zone.” Federal officials said anyone found on the land after Dec. 5 could be charged with trespassing.

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Michael A. Wood Jr., an founder of the veterans’ event, said in an interview.

Mr. Wood, who served in the Marine Corps, organized the event with Wesley Clark Jr., a screenwriter, activist and son of Wesley K. Clark, the retired Army general and onetime supreme allied commander in Europe for NATO.

Mr. Wood said he had initially hoped to attract about 500 veterans; he had to stop sign-ups when they reached 2,000. He said volunteers are from diverse backgrounds: “We have every age, we have every war.”

An online fund-raiser has drawn over $540,000 in pledges as of Tuesday morning to pay for food, transportation and supplies for the veterans’ “muster,” which was planned for Dec. 4-7.

One veteran, Loreal Black Shawl, said the mission to support the protesters was intensely personal.

Ms. Black Shawl, 39, of Rio Rancho, N.M., is a descendant of two Native American tribes, the Oglala Lakota and Northern Arapaho. She served in the Army for nearly eight years, finishing her career as a sergeant.

“O.K., are you going to treat us veterans who have served our country in the same way as you have those water protectors?” Ms. Black Shawl said, referring to the protesters. “We’re not there to create chaos. We are there because we are tired of seeing the water protectors being treated as non-humans.”

The authorities have used rubber bullets, pepper spray and water cannons against demonstrators, hundreds of whom have been injured, according to protest organizers. The clashes have been highly contentious, with the police and demonstrators leveling accusations of violence at each other.

One woman was injured and in danger of losing her arm after an explosion at the protest site earlier this month.

By spotlighting issues such as the use of force by the police, national energy policies and the treatment of Native Americans, the protests have garnered national headlines and widespread attention on social media.

Ms. Black Shawl acknowledged that the operation could prove problematic because the veterans and the police both have military or tactical training. She said she had a “huge, huge nervousness and anxiety” about possibly being injured and what could happen to other veterans.

An “operations order” for participants outlined the logistics with military precision and language, referring to opposing forces, friendly forces and supporting units. Organizers encouraged attendees to wear their old uniforms.

Mr. Wood said they were discouraging active-duty service members from attending. “There’s no reason for them to get into hot water,” he said.

In a break from military custom, the gathering will have a “chain of responsibility” instead of a chain of command, he said. There are no ranks, and participants will refer to one another by their given names.

Mr. Wood said the early stages of the event will be logistical: setting up tents and organizing food supplies. The first arrivals are expected on Wednesday.

The premise is for the veterans to be fully self-sufficient, he said. “There will be civilian and tribe members watching us from behind but nobody supporting us,” the operations order said. “We are the cavalry.”

A spokesman for the North Dakota State Highway Patrol, Lt. Thomas O. Iverson, said in an email on Monday, “Law enforcement is aware of the upcoming event planned for December 4-7.” He added, “If the group remains lawful and refrains from blocking the roadway, there will be no issues.”

Some officials expressed the hope that the demonstrators would move on.

“The well-being and property of ranchers, farmers and everyone else living in the region should not be threatened by protesters who are willing to commit acts of violence,” Senator John Hoeven, a Republican, said in a statement on Friday, The Associated Press reported.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault II, said in an email that he had no concerns that tensions could escalate.

“Everyone that comes knows our intent — to remain in peace and prayer,” he said.

Analysis: Trump opponents try to beat him at the Electoral College

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Grassroots campaigns have sprung up around the country to try to persuade members of the Electoral College to do something that has never been done in American history — deny the presidency to the clear Election Day winner.

Activists are circulating online petitions and using social media in hopes of influencing Republican electors to cast their ballots for someone other than President-elect Donald Trump and deprive him of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to become the next occupant of the White House.

“Yes, I think it’s a longshot, but I also think we’re living in strange times,” said Daniel Brezenoff, who created a petition in favor of Hillary Clinton and is asking signers to lobby electors by email or phone. “If it was ever plausible, it’s this year.”

Trump has won 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, with Michigan undecided, but Clinton is on pace to win the popular vote by at least 1 million ballots. Trump’s opponents are motivated by the outcome of the popular vote and by their contention that the businessman and reality TV star is unfit to serve as commander in chief.

Just one elector so far has wavered publicly on supporting Trump.

Texas Republican Art Sisneros says he has reservations about the president-elect, but not because of the national popular vote. He told The Associated Press he won’t vote for Clinton under any circumstance.

“As a Christian, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump is not biblically qualified for that office,” he said.

He said he has heard from ecstatic Clinton supporters and even supportive Republicans, but also from outraged Trump backers writing “threatening and vile things.”

Sisneros signed a state party pledge to support the GOP’s standard-bearer, but that was before Trump was the official nominee. He said one of his options is to resign, allowing the state party to choose another elector.

Electors are chosen by party officials and are typically the party’s most loyal members. Presidential electors are not required to vote for a particular candidate under the Constitution. Even so, the National Archives says more than 99 percent of electors have voted as pledged throughout the nation’s history.

Some state laws call for fines against “faithless electors,” while others open them to possible felony charges, although the National Archives says no elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged. In North Carolina, a faithless elector’s vote is canceled, and he or she must immediately resign and be replaced.

Layne Bangerter and Melinda Smyser, two of Idaho’s four Republican electors, said they have been flooded with emails, telephone calls and Facebook messages from strangers urging them to reconsider their vote.

“It’s just not going to work,” Bangerter said. “I hope it dies down, but I don’t see that happening.”

The volume and tone of the messages caught the attention of Idaho’s secretary of state, who urged the public to remain civil as electors prepare to cast their ballots on Dec. 19 while meeting in their states.

Republican Party officials in Georgia and Michigan said their electors also have been bombarded with messages, and Iowa reported increased public interest in obtaining contact information for electors.

Michael Banerian, 22, one of Michigan’s 16 Republican electors, said he has received death threats from people who do not want him to vote for Trump. But he said he is undeterred.

“It’s mostly just a lot of angry people who don’t completely understand how the process works,” said Banerian, a political science major at Oakland University.

P. Bret Chiafalo, a Democratic elector in Washington state, said he and a small group of other electors from the party are working to contact their Republican counterparts and ask them to vote for any GOP candidate besides Trump, preferably Mitt Romney or John Kasich.

Under the Constitution, the House — currently under Republican control — decides the presidency if no candidate reaches the required electoral vote majority. House members choose from the top three contenders.

This isn’t the first time electors have faced pressure to undo the results of Election Day.

Carole Jean Jordan, a GOP elector from Florida in 2000, recalled the “unbelievably ugly” aftermath of the recount battle between George W. Bush and then-vice president Al Gore, a dispute that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court leaving Bush’s slim margin intact and handing him the presidency.

Jordan said Florida’s electors were inundated with nasty letters from people saying they should not vote for Bush. Police kept watch over her home until the electors convened in Tallahassee to cast their votes. They stayed at the same hotel, guarded by security officers who also escorted them to cast their ballots at the state Capitol.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin election officials are preparing to begin a recount of the state’s presidential vote this week. Here are answers to the most significant questions about the pending recount:


Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 22,170 votes, or about 1 percent of the vote, based on unofficial results. Wisconsin Elections Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen, a Democrat, said he expected Trump to still be the winner after the recount.

“It may not be 22,170, but I don’t doubt that the president-elect is going to win that vote,” Thomsen said.


Both Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and Independent candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente requested the recount on Friday, although Stein is the only one who was actively raising money to pay for it. She alleged in a filing with the state that irregularities with the Wisconsin vote indicated potential tampering. That, combined with “well-documented and conclusive evidence of foreign interference in the presidential race before the election,” call into question Wisconsin’s results, Stein alleged.


University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman said in an affidavit attached to Stein’s recount request that hackers could spread malware into voting machines in battleground states and their work would be virtually undetectable. The only way to determine if an attack took place is to examine the paper trail to ensure votes cast match the results determined by the machines, he said.


There is no evidence that any voting machines were hacked, said Thomsen, the Elections Commission chairman. Wisconsin’s decentralized voting system — 1,854 municipal clerks who count votes — and the fact that the equipment in question is not connected to the internet makes a widespread attack “very unlikely,” said Wisconsin Election Commission administrator Mike Haas.

Halderman said whether the machines are connected to the internet is irrelevant since election workers typically copy ballot designs from a computer that’s connected online and transfer the designs to the machines using memory sticks.


The recount would include an examination of all ballots, poll lists, absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots and provisional ballots. At least 31 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties told the Elections Commission they planned to do a hand recount whether it’s ordered by a judge or not. Others will re-feed paper ballots into vote-tabulating machines. About 95 percent of ballots cast in Wisconsin are on paper and most are tabulated by optical scanners. About 5 percent are cast on touch-screen machines. Recounting those votes involves examining a paper audit that is created.


Stein filed a lawsuit Monday asking a judge to order a statewide hand recount, after the commission said it would allow Wisconsin’s 72 counties to determine how to proceed. The lawsuit argues a hand recount is the only way to know if the results were hacked. Wisconsin state law says in order for there to be a hand recount the person requesting it must present evidence electronic equipment tabulated the vote incorrectly, that a hand recount would be more accurate and that the result is likely to change by doing a hand recount. “That seems to be a high burden of proof for any candidate,” Haas said.


Stein and De La Fuente are on the hook for the $3.5 million cost of the recount since the election wasn’t close enough for taxpayers to pick up the bill. They faced a Tuesday deadline to pay in order for the recount to proceed.


Wisconsin’s last statewide recount was for a state Supreme Court race in 2011. The recount showed Justice David Prosser defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,004 votes, just 312 votes less than the unofficial results showed. That effort took more than a month and involved about half as many votes as the nearly 3 million votes cast in this year’s presidential election in Wisconsin.


The deadline for counties to report their recounted vote totals is 8 p.m. Dec. 12. The Elections Commission will review the totals before certifying the vote on Dec. 13, the federal deadline. Electors meet on Dec. 19 this year.


The state could lose control of how its electoral college voters cast their ballots. Congress would then step in and decide which candidate gets the state’s 10 votes.


Barrow reported from Atlanta.

AP FACT CHECK: Trump won presidency but lost popular vote

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s tweets can’t erase the reality that he lost the popular vote in this month’s election, according to The Associated Press’ vote-counting operation.

The president-elect tweeted Saturday that he’d have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He also alleged “serious voter fraud” in California, New Hampshire and Virginia and complained that the media aren’t covering it.

Not only did he present no evidence to back up those claims — there apparently isn’t any. Asked to provide supporting evidence on Monday, Trump’s transition team pointed only to past charges of irregularities in voter registration. There has been no evidence of widespread tampering or hacking that would change the results of the presidential contest, and for good reason, experts said.

For one, it would be highly impractical. The nation’s election system is decentralized, a patchwork of state laws whose differences would be nearly impossible to target on a large scale, said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice.

“You would need to have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people conspiring with insiders and with one another,” Weiser said. “To keep a conspiracy of that magnitude secret is just unthinkable.”

“The process is not rigged anywhere in America,” said R. Doug Lewis, who headed the nonprofit Election Center for more than two decades. Interest groups, bloggers and others across the political spectrum keep anecdotal lists of instances of election fraud, he said, but “when each side is forced to come up with factual examples where that has happened, where they have to name names … almost always the allegations go away.”

On Twitter, Trump has returned to two well-worn techniques: denying he’s lost anything and playing on public distrust.

The AP’s vote-counting operations in California, Virginia and New Hampshire used locally hired workers to gather vote totals from local jurisdictions. In some states, the news agency also collected votes from secretaries of state or state election boards.

The AP, which called Democrat Hillary Clinton the winner in all three states, said its vote count operation found no significant differences between the county-by-county vote totals and those released statewide on election night in California and Virginia. In New Hampshire, the AP’s vote totals were reported directly to the news agency by town clerks and were verified by AP in most towns before the count was completed. The totals also were certified by New Hampshire’s secretary of state.

Trump’s charge that he actually won the popular vote if the “millions of people who voted illegally” had not been counted mimics one posted on Infowars.com, a conservative website that traffics in conspiracy theories.

Trump’s win in Michigan, certified by state election officials on Monday, gave the Republican an additional 16 electoral votes, bringing his total to 306, to Clinton’s 232.

There is recount drama resulting from the 2016 election, but it’s not being initiated by Trump loyalists.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein had raised $6.3 million by Monday for the recount she’s seeking in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — places that Clinton, a Democrat, had thought were safely in her column. Instead, Trump won all three and with them the electoral votes needed to win the White House. Clinton’s campaign is supporting the Wisconsin recount.

Stein, too, hasn’t provided evidence of voting irregularities. She says “cyber hacking” affected the vote outcomes in those states. The Wisconsin Elections Commission voted Monday to proceed with a recount and will bill Stein and other interested campaigns for the cost, estimated to be around $1 million.

In Michigan, Stein’s lawyer notified election officials Monday that she will file a recount petition on Wednesday. Trump would have seven days to file objections to her request.


FILE – In this Nov. 8, 2016 file photo, a voter enters a booth at a polling place in Exeter, N.H. Tweets alone don’t make it true. Donald Trump won the presidency earlier this month even as he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to The Associated Press’s vote-counting operation and election experts. Trump nonetheless tweeted on Nov. 26 that he won the popular vote. and alleged there was “serious voter fraud” in California, New Hampshire and Virginia. There’s no evidence to back up those claims. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman

EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures

AP Interview: Iraqi leader predicts IS collapse in Mosul

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says Islamic State group fighters lack the courage to put up long-term resistance in Mosul, despite unleashing hundreds of car bombs that have killed and maimed Iraqi soldiers and civilians as the fight for Iraq’s second-largest city appears set to extend well into next year.

“We have seen the whole organization collapsing in terms of standing in the face of our own armed forces,” al-Abadi said. “The success of liberating a huge area indicates that Daesh does not have the gut now or the motivation to fight as they were doing before,” he added, using the Arabic acronym for the extremist group.

In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, al-Abadi said Mosul was now completely encircled and that the speed with which the area was secured surpassed his expectations. He declined to say how many Iraqi troops have been killed since the operation began six weeks ago but said the rate of battlefield losses was “sustainable.”

The prime minister said he expects the incoming Trump administration to grant Iraq a greater degree of logistical support in its war on terror, and dismissed suggestions by Donald Trump in the election campaign that he would seize some of Iraq’s oil production as a kind of “reimbursement” for U.S. efforts in Iraq.

Trump said in September that he would “take the oil” from Iraq, claiming that the Iranians would step in otherwise.

“I am not going to judge the man by his election statements,” al-Abadi said with a smile. “I am going to judge him by what he does later.”

He called Trump, who he spoke with by phone soon after his election victory, a “pragmatic man” who would reassess the situation once in office. But Iraqi oil, he said, belongs to Iraqis. “The Iraqi people will not allow any country to take possession of their own resources,” he said in the interview held at one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces inside the heavily-fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital.

Al-Abadi stood by previous pledges that Mosul would be retaken this year, despite increasingly slow progress on the ground. Iraqi forces control roughly a tenth of the city proper.

Iraqi commanders in eastern Mosul say IS resistance there has been fiercer than anything they have seen previously in the fight against the militants, who have targeted Iraqi troops with hundreds of car bombs.

Heavily armored and often packed with enough explosives to disable tanks, car bombs have long been the deadliest weapon the militants use against Iraqi forces. In past operations, U.S.-led coalition airstrikes were often called in to take out the bombs, but in the cramped fighting conditions in Mosul’s residential neighborhoods, the explosive-laden vehicles often appear with little warning and the presence of civilians thwarts the use of airstrikes.

Since al-Abadi took office two years ago, Iraqi forces have retaken more than half of the territory IS held at the height of its power, when the militants’ controlled a third of the country.

Pressing north from Baghdad, mostly Shiite militia fighters first pushed IS out of large parts of Diyala and Salaeddin provinces, including Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

In the north, Kurdish and Iraqi forces recaptured the strategic mountain town of Sinjar, blocking a road that was once a common transit point for militants and weapons. To the west, Iraqi forces under cover of coalition airstrikes retook the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar province.

Today Mosul is the last urban stronghold IS holds in Iraq and liberating it will lead to the extremist group’s eventual demise as its ability to recruit foreign fighters and attract financing dries up, al-Abadi said.

“This is like a snake, if you hit it in the middle or the tail, it’s no use. I have to hit it on the head,” he said. “And the head of this terrorist organization is Mosul. If I remove Mosul from them, this is a huge blow … to its efforts to recruit young people from different countries of the world.”

Unlike past operations, in the Mosul fight al-Abadi’s government has called on residents to stay inside their homes — a strategy that has slowed the military’s advance. But he said it was necessary to avoid creating a humanitarian disaster by fleeing residents overwhelming camps as winter approaches.

“This is the first time where we are liberating a city or a place where civilians are staying at home,” he said. “It’s tough, it’s difficult because the security forces tell me they are being fired at from places where there are civilians and they cannot reply in kind. So, this is a very tough thing.”

Al-Abadi said he expects to see even greater U.S. support for Iraq under a Trump administration.

“I think it is in the interest of the United States and Iraq to keep this relationship,” he said. “In my telephone call with President-elect Trump, he assured me that the U.S. support will not only continue, but it is going to be increased. So, I think I am going to be looking forward to more U.S. support.”

While the presence of U.S. troops has at times been controversial in the eyes of al-Abadi’s political opponents, U.S. involvement in Iraq has steadily increased on his watch. There are now some 6,000 U.S. troops in the country, including 100 special operations forces embedded with Iraqi troops for the Mosul operation, according to the Pentagon. Iraqi commanders have said U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have been essential in retaking territory.

But while Iraq has witnessed an impressive string of territorial victories against IS under al-Abadi, the country is in many ways more divided politically than ever. Iraq’s Kurds are laying claim to additional territory inside Nineveh province on the sidelines of the Mosul offensive and the country’s parliament continues to be dominated by powerful political blocs capable of gridlocking government.

“We have moved quite far in terms of reaching out to our own population,” al-Abadi said of progress toward greater reconciliation between the country’s religious and ethnic groups.

He said there had been “a huge reversal” in terms of communities now welcoming the Iraqi military in a way that would once have been inconceivable.

In the wake of the fall of Mosul to IS more than two years ago, Shiite militia forces have grown increasingly powerful under al-Abadi, a Shiite. The groups have proven to be some of the most capable ground forces against IS, but have also been accused of abuses against civilians. In the Mosul fight, Human Rights Watch accused the militia groups of beating and detaining villagers southeast of the city where they are operating.

Al-Abadi acknowledged that some militia fighters have been found guilty of committing abuses against civilians. He said many had been sentenced to death for crimes they have committed and that he would investigate any further reports of misconduct.

“Any time I hear there is a violation or abuse, I immediately start an investigation into it. My role is not to cover up for the crimes of others,” the Iraqi leader said. The Shiite militiamen “are mainly volunteers, Iraqi nationalists who rise up to defend their own country. They are prepared to sacrifice their own lives, their own families for the defense of Iraq.”


Associated Press writer Susannah George contributed to this report.

Rebels’ hold on eastern Aleppo collapses as troops move in

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BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces captured more than a third of opposition-held eastern Aleppo on Monday, touching off a wave of panic and flight from the besieged enclave as rebel defenses in the country’s largest city rapidly collapsed.

The dramatic gains marked an inflection point in Syria’s nearly 6-year-old conflict, threatening to dislodge armed opponents of President Bashar Assad from their last major urban stronghold.

Reclaiming all of Aleppo, Syria’s former commercial capital, would be the biggest prize of the war for Assad. It would put his forces in control of the country’s four largest cities as well as the coastal region, and cap a year of steady government advances.


It also would bolster his position and momentum just as a new U.S. administration is taking hold, freeing thousands of his troops and allied militiamen to move on to other battles around the country.

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said the opposition’s losses in Aleppo are the biggest since 2012.

“Aleppo city itself has also been a consistent base of moderate opposition activity, so its collapse spells what could be an existential blow to the moderate opposition from which it’ll likely struggle to recover,” he said.

Ever since it joined the uprising four years ago, eastern Aleppo tried to make itself a model for a Syria without Assad. It elected local leaders, ran its own education system and built an economy trading with the rebel-held countryside and neighboring Turkey.

Its residents kept life going amid ferocious fighting with the pro-government western districts, but four years of battles and airstrikes have reduced entire blocks in the territory to rubble.

Helped by massive Russian air power and thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militia fighters from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, Assad renewed his push for Aleppo this month. The besieged eastern districts came under intense airstrikes that killed hundreds in the past two weeks.

More than 250,000 people are believed trapped there with limited access to food, water and medical supplies. They include more than 100,000 children, the U.N. says.

“It is stinging cold, food is scarce and people are shaken in the streets,” Mohammad Zein Khandaqani, a member of the Medical Council in Aleppo, told The Associated Press in a text message from eastern Aleppo.

Some are taking refuge in mosques while others moved to homes of displaced people in safer areas, he added.

Thousands of civilians, many of whom had refused to leave despite the suffocating siege and bombardment that tested the limits of endurance, fled the enclave over the weekend and Monday.

“We’ve been under siege for the past three months,” said Alaeddine Hilal, a 45-year-old trader who lives between the Hulluk and Haidariyeh neighborhoods, speaking by phone. “I couldn’t find a tomato or potato, or even an egg to eat. There were no nutrients left.”

Pro-government forces began a push last week apparently aimed at slicing the territory in two. Over the weekend, rebel defenses buckled under simultaneous advances by the government and Kurdish-led forces, sending people fleeing inside the divided city.

Troops moved quickly Saturday into the Hanano neighborhood, the first time they had pushed that far into eastern Aleppo since 2012. On Monday, they moved into the Sakhour district, putting much of the northern part of the city’s besieged rebel-held areas under government control.

With the capture of Sakhour, the rebels are now boxed in mostly in central and southeastern Aleppo, encircled by government troops.

Ammar Sakkar, a spokesman for the Fastaqim brigade, said the rebels would continue to fight.

“The situation of the revolutionaries inside the city is good, from a military point of view,” he said. “We’ve redeployed and made fortifications. There will be an attempt to hold fast.”

Still, the collapse in Aleppo is a devastating blow to the morale of rebels in other parts of Syria. With Aleppo secure, Assad will be able to turn his attentions to the Damascus countryside and Idlib, the province next to Aleppo.

The northern province is a stronghold of the al-Qaida-linked Fateh al-Sham Front and other Islamic opposition factions, and the loss of Aleppo is expected to be a defeat for the people holed up there.

It also potentially would free up Assad’s forces to advance on the Islamic State group, including the northeastern city of Raqqa, the extremists’ de facto capital.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has said he will ramp up the war on Islamic State militants and suggested he would be willing to work with the strongmen who do so. He has made clear that defeating the Islamic State group is more important than removing Assad.

The war that has killed well over a quarter-million has its roots in a harsh government crackdown on dissent in 2011. It remains far from a political resolution.

“Assad’s survival does not promise stability in Syria,” said Lister, who predicts that the collapse of the more moderate rebel elements will embolden the extremists.

“The hunger to remove Assad is as strong as ever,” he said. “Islamists and jihadists are stronger, and that’s where we are headed today.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Syrian government forces in recent days captured 12 neighborhoods and over 3,000 buildings. The troops now control 40 percent of the rebel-held parts of Aleppo, and more than 100 rebels have laid down their arms and left the eastern suburbs, it added.

A report from east Aleppo’s Haidariyeh area by a correspondent for Al-Manar TV of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group showed bulldozers removing barriers to open roads as Syrian troops rode in armored personnel carriers. The neighborhood was captured Monday, with Hezbollah fighters taking part along with Syrian troops.

State TV said 3,000 people, half of them children, have fled in a few hours. It showed men, women and children in green buses heading for government-controlled areas.

Hilal, who has four children, said his family is scattered. “I stayed in the liberated area because I couldn’t move,” he said of maintaining his residence in eastern Aleppo. He has not seen one of his sons in two years and is yet to meet his first grandson.

“We’ve aged 200 years in these past two or three years. It was like judgment day. I wouldn’t wish this on my enemies,” he said.


Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut, Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

Ohio State attack: Terrorism eyed as police seek more info

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Investigators are looking into whether a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University that injured 11 people was an act of terror by a Somali-born student who had once criticized the media for its portrayal of Muslims.

The attacker, identified as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, plowed his car into a group of pedestrians on campus shortly before 10 a.m. Monday, and then got out and began stabbing people with a butcher knife before he was shot to death by a campus police officer, authorities said.

A motive was not immediately known, but police said they were investigating whether it was a terrorist attack.

Artan was born in Somalia and was a legal permanent U.S. resident, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The FBI joined the investigation.

Ohio State University police Chief Craig Stone said Artan deliberately drove his small gray Honda over a curb outside an engineering classroom building and then began knifing people. Officer Alan Horujko, 28, who was nearby because of a gas leak arrived on the scene and shot the driver in less than a minute, Stone said.

Angshuman Kapil, a graduate student, was outside Watts Hall when the car barreled onto the sidewalk.

“It just hit everybody who was in front,” he said. “After that everybody was shouting, ‘Run! Run! Run!'”

Eleven victims were taken to three Columbus hospitals. Most had been hurt by the car, and two had been stabbed, officials said. One had a fractured skull.

Several prayer vigils were held Monday night to support the victims and the community.

Classes at OSU were canceled after the attack, but were scheduled to resume Tuesday.

Students said they were nervous about returning and planned to take precautions such as not walking alone.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking going back to class right after it,” said Kaitlin Conner, 18, of Cleveland, who said she had a midterm exam to take Tuesday.

Rep. Adam Schiff, of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the act bore the hallmarks of an attack carried out by someone who may have been self-radicalized.

Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern, ran an interview in August with a student named Abdul Razak Artan, who identified himself as a Muslim and a third-year logistics management student who had just transferred from Columbus State in the fall.

He said he was looking for a place to pray openly and worried about how he would be received.

“I was kind of scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim, it’s not what media portrays me to be,” he told the newspaper. “If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads.”

In recent months, federal law enforcement officials have raised concerns about online extremist propaganda that encourages knife and car attacks, which are easier to pull off than bombings.

The Islamic State group has urged sympathizers online to carry out lone-wolf attacks in their home countries with whatever weapons are available to them.

Artan was not known to the FBI prior to Monday’s attack, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Dozens of FBI agents began searching Artan’s apartment Monday night.

Neighbors said he was always polite and attended daily prayer services at a mosque on the city’s west side.

Leaders of Muslim organizations and mosques in the Columbus area condemned the attacks while cautioning people against jumping to conclusions or blaming a religion or an ethnicity.

Surveillance photos showed Artan in the car by himself just before the attack, but investigators are looking into whether anyone else was involved, the campus police chief said.


Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell and Eric Tucker in Washington, Collin Binkley in Boston and Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed to this story.

S. Korean leader offers conditional resignation amid scandal

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that she’ll resign — if parliament arranges the technical details — in her latest attempt to fend off impeachment efforts and massive street protests amid prosecution claims that a corrupt confidante wielded government power from the shadows.

Opponents immediately called Park’s conditional resignation offer a stalling tactic, and analysts said her steadfast denial that she has done anything wrong could embolden her enemies. The country’s largest opposition party, the Minjoo Party, said it would not let Park’s “ploy to avoid impeachment” interfere with a planned vote on impeachment that could take place this Friday or the next.

Park, who did not take questions from reporters after her live address to the nation, said she will “leave the matters about my fate, including the shortening of my presidential term, to be decided by the National Assembly,” referring to parliament.

“If the ruling and opposition parties discuss and come up with a plan to reduce the confusion in state affairs and ensure a safe transfer of governments, I will step down from the presidential position under that schedule and by processes stated in law,” she said.

How exactly this might play out is still unclear. But some saw Park’s speech as a clear effort to avoid leaving office, despite the resignation language.

One clue that she was trying to buy time, said Yul Shin, a politics professor at Seoul’s Myongji University, was her comment on “shortening” the presidential term, which he said would require a time-consuming constitutional amendment. Park is to end her single five-year term in early 2018.

“There is no possibility that the opposition parties will accept her offer; not when the public is this angry,” Shin said. “She apparently wanted to buy more time, but in the end she might have hastened the end of her presidency.”

Others said lawmakers could shorten Park’s term just by securing a vote of two-thirds of the 300-member parliament — the same number of ballots needed to get Park’s impeachment motion passed.

Park’s speech came as opposition parties were closing in on an impeachment motion. Even some of her allies have called on her to “honorably” step down rather than face impeachment. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in Seoul each Saturday to demand her ouster.

The country’s two largest opposition parties said they will propose to the presidential office two former senior prosecutors as candidates for a special prosecutor to independently investigate the scandal. Under a law passed by parliament earlier this month, Park has three days to pick a special prosecutor among the two candidates.

Park, in her speech, continued to deny accusations by prosecutors that she colluded in the criminal activities of her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, who, despite having no official role in government, allegedly had a say in policy decisions and exploited her presidential ties to bully companies into giving large sums of money to businesses and foundations that Choi controlled.

“Not for one moment did I pursue my private gains, and I have so far lived without ever harboring the smallest selfish motive,” Park said. “The problems that have emerged are from projects that I thought were serving the public interest and benefiting the country. But since I failed to properly manage those around me, (everything that happened) is my large wrongdoing.”

Instead of buying her more time, Park’s conditional resignation offer may embolden street protesters and further fan the anger of her critics because she continues to deny wrongdoing over the scandal, said Choi Chang Ryul, a politics professor at South Korea’s Yongin University.

Chung Jinsuk, floor leader of Park’s Saenuri Party, defended her speech as showing a “determination to avoid confusion in state affairs,” and said that parliament should “overcome factions” to agree on the process and timeline for Park’s exit.

Opposition parties had first planned to put the impeachment motion to a vote on Friday, but it could be moved to Dec. 9 so that the parties can solidify a strategy.

South Korea’s first president, Syngman Rhee, quit and fled to Hawaii amid a popular uprising in 1960. The succeeding government was overthrown by a coup by Park’s late father, the military dictator Park Chung-hee, whose rule also abruptly ended after he was assassinated by his spy chief in 1979. Choi Kyu-hah then became acting president, but was forced out of office eight months later after a military coup led by Chun Doo-hwan, who would eventually become president.

At the heart of the scandal is Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a late cult leader and mentor who became close to Park after her mother’s assassination in 1974.

Prosecutors have so far indicted Choi, two ex-presidential officials and a music video director known as a Choi associate for extortion, leakage of confidential documents and other charges.

Park, who has immunity from prosecution while in office, has refused to meet with prosecutors. Her lawyer, Yoo Yeong-ha, has described prosecutors’ accusations as groundless.

Business: Global stocks mixed amid fears over oil, Italy’s referendum

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Global stock markets were mixed Tuesday as uneasy investors looked ahead to an OPEC meeting and Italy’s constitutional referendum.

KEEPING SCORE: London’s FTSE 100 index shed 0.4 percent to 6,770.16 in early trading while France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.8 percent to 4,546.45 and Germany’s DAX added 0.2 percent to 10,605.82. On Monday, the DAX lost 0.7 percent, the CAC 40 shed 0.5 percent and the FTSE ended 0.4 percent lower. On Wall Street, futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index both rose 0.2 percent. On Monday, the Dow lost 0.3 percent, the S&P fell 0.5 percent and the Nasdaq composite retreated 0.6 percent.

OPEC WATCH: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets Wednesday to discuss output cuts to boost prices. Member governments have issued mixed signals about whether they will agree. Iraq’s oil minister expressed support for an agreement but prices fell after his Iranian counterpart warned “politics may make an OPEC decision harder.”

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell another 66 cents to $46.42 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Monday, the contract gained $1.02 to close at $47.08 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, tumbled 78 cents to $48.43 in London. It lost $1.06 the previous session to $49.29.

ITALY VOTE: Italians vote on constitutional changes Dec. 4 that would limit the power of the upper house and make it easier for governments to pass legislation. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said he will resign in case of a “no” result. New elections, if they are held, could bring to power the Five Star Movement, which has said it wants to hold a referendum on euro membership.

ANALYST TAKE: Investors are focused on the OPEC meeting, said Mizuho Bank. “Oil prices are likely to remain choppy, fluctuating in tandem with news flow,” it said in a report. Worries over Italy’s referendum loom. “Apart from political instability, a negative referendum outcome could hurt Italian banks and renew financial stress in the European Union,” DBS Bank said in a report.

US DATA: U.S. stocks declined as November’s rally following the surprise election of Donald Trump as president fizzled. Investors were waiting for third-quarter economic data Tuesday that would set the tone for equities and currency.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.0600 from $1.0587 on Monday. The dollar strengthened to 112.56 yen from 111.89 yen.

Attacker plows into crowd, stabs people at Ohio State campus

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man plowed his car into a group of pedestrians at Ohio State University and then got out and began stabbing people with a butcher knife Monday morning before he was shot to death by a police officer, authorities said.

Nine people were hurt, one critically, and police said they were investigating the possibility it was a terrorist attack. The FBI and other agencies joined the investigation.

The details emerged after a morning of confusion and conflicting reports that began with the university issuing a series of tweets warning students that there was an “active shooter” on campus near the engineering building and that they should “run, hide, fight.” The warning was apparently prompted by what turned out to be police gunfire.

Numerous police vehicles and ambulances converged on the 60,000-student campus, and authorities blocked off roads. Students barricaded themselves inside offices and classrooms, piling chairs and desks in front of doors.

Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone said that the assailant deliberately drove over a curb outside a classroom building and that an officer who was nearby because of a gas leak arrived on the scene and shot the driver in less than a minute.

Angshuman Kapil, a graduate student, was outside the building when the car barreled onto the sidewalk.

“It just hit everybody who was in front,” he said. “After that everybody was shouting, ‘Run! Run! Run!'”

Student Martin Schneider said he heard the car’s engine revving.

“I thought it was an accident initially until I saw the guy come out with a knife,” Schneider said, adding that the man didn’t say anything when he got out.

The identity of the attacker was not immediately released.

Asked at a news conference whether authorities were considering the possibility it was a terrorist act, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said: “I think we have to consider that it is.”

In recent months, federal law enforcement officials have raised concerns about online extremist propaganda that encourages knife and car attacks, which are easier to pull off than bombings.

The Islamic State group has urged sympathizers online to carry out attacks in their home countries with whatever weapons are available to them.

In September, a 20-year-old Somali-American stabbed 10 people at a St. Cloud, Minnesota, shopping mall before being shot to death by an off-duty officer. Authorities said he asked some of his victims if they were Muslim. In the past few years, London and other cities abroad have seen knife attacks blamed on extremists.

The shelter-in-place warning was lifted and the campus declared secure after about an hour and a half, after police concluded there was no second attacker, as rumored.

At least two people were being treated for stab wounds, four were injured by the car and two others were being treated for cuts, university officials said.

The attack came as students were returning to classes following the Thanksgiving holiday break and Ohio State’s football victory over rival Michigan that brought more than 100,000 fans to campus on Saturday.

Rachel LeMaster, who works in the engineering college, said a fire alarm sounded on campus.

“There were several moments of chaos,” she said. “We barricaded ourselves like we’re supposed to since it was right outside our door and just hunkered down.”

LeMaster said she and others were eventually led outside the building and she saw a body on the ground.

Classes were canceled for the rest of the day.

The initial tweet from the university’s emergency management department went out around 10 a.m. and said: “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.”

Ohio State President Michael Drake said the active-shooter warning was issued after shots were heard on campus.

“Run, hide, fight” is standard protocol for active shooter situations. It means: Run, evacuate if possible; hide, get silently out of view; or fight, as a last resort, take action to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter if your life is in imminent danger.


This story has been corrected to show that the fire department said seven people have been sent to the hospital after a report of an active shooter at Ohio State University, not that it said seven people have been sent to the hospital after a shooting at Ohio State University.

Church shooting suspect allowed to act as his own attorney

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The white man accused of fatally shooting nine black parishioners at a church was allowed Monday to act as his own attorney, opening the door to courtroom spectacles at his death penalty trial, including Dylann Roof questioning survivors of the attack and relatives of the dead.

Roof’s decision to represent himself comes months after he offered to plead guilty in exchange for the promise of life in prison. But federal prosecutors have refused to take the death penalty off the table in the slayings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Until now, Roof has been represented by one of the nation’s most respected capital defenders.

He joins a long line of high-profile defendants who acted as their own attorneys, often with poor results. Serial killer Ted Bundy, Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammed and Army Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, ended up with death sentences.

After firing their lawyers, Long Island Rail Road shooter Colin Ferguson was sentenced to 200 years in prison, and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui was sent away for life.

Defendants who act as their own lawyers generally want to bring attention to their causes and publicize their actions. That almost always runs counter to the advice of lawyers, who urge them not to incriminate themselves.

“They think they have a message and that’s unfortunately what leads to these crimes in the first place,” said New York attorney Tiffany Frigenti, author of an article called “Flying Solo Without a License: The Right of Pro Se Defendants to Crash and Burn” for her law school journal.

Pro se representation can also lead to uncomfortable courtroom encounters between defendants and their victims or those victims’ families if they are questioned by the very person who is accused of shattering their lives.

“It can seem beneficial. Nobody believes in your cause and case more than you,” Frigenti said. “But it only works that way in very rare cases — usually appeals.”

With Roof acting in his own defense, there is plentiful opportunity for explosive or awkward courtroom moments. Just hours after his arrest, some of the victims’ relatives attended Roof’s initial court appearance and said they forgave him and would pray for him. If he continues as his own lawyer, Roof could end up questioning those same family members in court.

In approving Roof’s request to act as his own lawyer, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel also appointed his defense team to stay on as standby counsel, available for advice and assistance throughout the trial. That team includes celebrated death penalty attorney David Bruck, who slid down one seat and let Roof take the lead chair after the judge’s order Monday.

Known as a hard-charging lawyer with deep opposition to the death penalty, Bruck’s record is mixed. He kept Susan Smith off South Carolina’s death row for sending her car into a lake with her two children strapped inside, but he could not keep a federal jury from sentencing Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death last year.

Roof’s motion came the same day jury selection resumed in the case, a process halted Nov. 7 after lawyers for Roof questioned his ability to understand the case against him. After a hasty two-day competency hearing, Gergel last week ruled that Roof was competent to stand trial.

Roof has also been found competent in state court, where prosecutors plan a second death-penalty trial on nine counts of murder.

During the juror qualification, Roof sat at the defense table occasionally conferring with Bruck. He registered few objections to jurors, agreeing with Gergel about a man’s statements that the crime being in a church made it more worrisome to him and also saying a woman’s death penalty views made her a good juror. Otherwise, Roof sat in his chair, sometimes looking at papers spread out before him.

Beginning Monday, 20 potential jurors per day are reporting to the courthouse for individual questioning by the judge. When 70 qualified jurors are picked, attorneys can use strikes to dismiss those they don’t want, until 12 jurors and six alternates are seated.

According to police, Roof sat through nearly an hour of prayer and Bible study at the church with its pastor and 11 others before pulling a gun from his fanny pack and firing dozens of shots.

Roof shouted racial insults at the six women and three men he is charged with killing and at the survivors, authorities said. He said he left three people unharmed so they could tell the world the shootings were because he hated black people.


Collins reported from Columbia.

US investigating leak related to Petraeus case

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Defense Department is conducting a leaks investigation related to the sex scandal that led to the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus, The Associated Press confirmed Monday, the same day Petraeus was meeting with President-elect Donald Trump in New York.

Petraeus, who could be in line for a Cabinet nomination, arrived at Trump Tower in early afternoon. He walked in without taking any questions from reporters.

A U.S. official told the AP that investigators are trying to determine who leaked personal information about Paula Broadwell, the woman whose affair with Petraeus led to criminal charges against him and his resignation. The information concerned the status of her security clearance, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Disclosure of the Broadwell information without official permission would have been a violation of federal criminal law.

The latest twist in the case could complicate Petraeus’ prospects of obtaining a Cabinet position in the Trump administration, resurfacing details of the extramarital affair and FBI investigation that ended his career at the CIA and tarnished the reputation of the retired four-star general.

He pleaded guilty last year to one misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information relating to documents he had provided to Broadwell, his biographer. He was spared prison time under a plea agreement with the Justice Department. The Army in late 2012 suspended the security clearance of Broadwell, a former Army intelligence officer. Such a move is routine when a person is under investigation, particularly in a case of a possible security breach.

The investigation began after a Petraeus friend, Jill Kelley, complained to the FBI in 2012 about harassing emails from an unknown person who turned out to be Broadwell.

During his campaign, Trump repeatedly lambasted Hillary Clinton, who had come under federal investigation for her use of a private email server as secretary of state. He suggested her actions were worse than those by Petraeus.

FBI Director James Comey has drawn a distinction between the two cases, saying there was no evidence that Clinton or her aides had intended to break the law through careless handling of sensitive information. Federal prosecutors said Petraeus knew black binders he shared with Broadwell contained classified information, but he nonetheless provided them.

Broadwell did not immediately return a phone message or email seeking comment Monday.

Opinion: No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along

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(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT)    —   Donald Trump schlepped across town on Tuesday to meet with the publisher of The New York Times and some editors, columnists and reporters at the paper.

As The Times reported, Trump actually seemed to soften some of his positions:

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton. But he should never have said that he was going to do that in the first place.

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t encourage the military to use torture. But he should never have said that he would do that in the first place.

He said that he would have an “open mind” on climate change. But that should always have been his position.

You don’t get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid after exploiting that very radicalism to your advantage. Unrepentant opportunism belies a staggering lack of character and caring that can’t simply be vanquished from memory. You did real harm to this country and many of its citizens, and I will never — never — forget that.

As I read the transcript and then listened to the audio, the slime factor was overwhelming.

After a campaign of bashing The Times relentlessly, in the face of the actual journalists, he tempered his whining with flattery.

At one point he said:

“I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special.”

He ended the meeting by saying:

“I will say, The Times is, it’s a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along well.”

I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing. Let me tell you here where I stand on your “I hope we can all get along” plea: Never.

You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.

I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.

I also believe that much of your campaign was an act of psychological projection, as we are now learning that many of the things you slammed Clinton for are things of which you may actually be guilty.

You slammed Clinton for destroying emails, then Newsweek reported last month that your companies “destroyed emails in defiance of court orders.” You slammed Clinton and the Clinton Foundation for paid speeches and conflicts of interest, then it turned out that, as BuzzFeed reported, the Trump Foundation received a $150,000 donation in exchange for your giving a 2015 speech made by video to a conference in Ukraine. You slammed Clinton about conflicts of interest while she was secretary of state, and now your possible conflicts of interest are popping up like mushrooms in a marsh.

You are a fraud and a charlatan. Yes, you will be president, but you will not get any breaks just because one branch of your forked tongue is silver.

I am not easily duped by dopes.

I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but rather to speak up for truth and honor and inclusion. This isn’t just about you, but also about the moral compass of those who see you for who and what you are, and know the darkness you herald is only held at bay by the lights of truth.

It’s not that I don’t believe that people can change and grow. They can. But real growth comes from the accepting of responsibility and repenting of culpability. Expedient reversal isn’t growth; it’s gross.

So let me say this on Thanksgiving: I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.

I’m thankful that I have the endurance and can assume a posture that will never allow what you represent to ever be seen as everyday and ordinary.

No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn.

I know this in my bones, and for that I am thankful.


Breaking: 8 stabbed, hit by vehicle or otherwise hurt at Ohio State

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — At least eight people were stabbed, hit by a vehicle or otherwise injured in an attack Monday morning on the Ohio State University campus, and a suspect was shot, school and hospital officials said.

Police did not immediately release the suspect’s condition and gave no details on a possible motive. Hospital officials said the eight victims had non-life-threatening injuries.

The details started to emerge after a morning of confusion and conflicting reports that began with the university issuing a series of tweets warning students that there was an “active shooter” on campus near the engineering building and that they should “run, hide, fight.” Numerous police vehicles and ambulances converged on the 60,000-student campus, and authorities blocked off roads.


The shelter-in-place warning was lifted about an hour and half later, and university spokesman Ben Johnson issued a statement that made no mention of any gunfire other than the shooting of the suspect. The injured were stabbed, hit by a vehicle or suffered other injuries, Johnson said.

Rachel LeMaster, who works in the engineering college, said a fire alarm sounded before the attack.

“There were several moments of chaos,” she said. “We barricaded ourselves like we’re supposed to since it was right outside our door and just hunkered down.”

LeMaster said she and others were eventually led outside the building and she saw a body on the ground.

Cassidie Baker, an Ohio State senior, said she saw police or paramedics helping one person on the ground outside Watts Hall, a materials science and engineering building.

“No one really knows what is happening, other than there’s an active shooter,” she said.

After the active shooter warning was lifted and the university declared the scene secure, the school said all classes would be canceled for the rest of the day.

The initial tweet from the university’s emergency management department went out around 10 a.m. and said: “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.”

“Run, hide, fight” is standard protocol for active shooter situations. It means: Run, evacuate if possible; hide, get silently out of view; or fight, as a last resort, take action to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter if your life is in imminent danger.

The university followed up with another tweet: “Continue to shelter in place in north campus area. Follow directions of Police on scene.” The university asked anyone with information to call police.


This story has been corrected to show that the fire department said seven people have been sent to the hospital after a report of an active shooter at Ohio State University, not that it said seven people have been sent to the hospital after a shooting at Ohio State University.


Police respond to reports of an active shooter on campus at Ohio State University on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (Tom Dodge/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

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