Tag Archives: election

Trump hints at 2024 run, repeats election falsehoods at conservative conference

Former U.S. president Donald Trump on Sunday hinted at a possible run for president in 2024, attacked President Joe Biden and repeated his fraudulent claims that he won the 2020 election in his first major appearance since leaving the White House nearly six weeks ago.

“Our movement of proud, hard-working American patriots is just getting started, and in the end we will win. We will win,” Trump said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Refusing to admit he lost the Nov. 3 presidential election to Biden, Trump offered a withering critique of his Democratic successor’s first weeks in office and suggested he might run again. “They just lost the White House,” the former Republican president said after criticizing Biden’s handling of border security. “But who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time.”

Trump’s tumultuous final weeks in office saw his supporters launch a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to block Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory, a win that Trump falsely claimed was tainted by widespread fraud.

A civil war has erupted within the Republican Party, with establishment figures such as Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell eager to put Trump in the rearview mirror, and others, such as Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, believing the party’s future depends on the energy of the pro-Trump conservative base.

Trump supporters are seen outside CPAC on Sunday. (John Raoux/The Associated Press)

Trump declared that the Republican Party is united and said he had no plans to try to launch a third party — an idea he has discussed with advisers in the last couple of months.

“We’re not starting new parties. We have the Republican Party. It’s going to be united and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party,” he said.

The results of a straw poll of CPAC conference participants gave Trump a strong show of support, with 55 per cent saying they would vote for him in the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came in second place with 21 per cent.

Without Trump, DeSantis led the field with 43 per cent, while other potential Republican candidates had single digits.

Supporters cheer and wave as Trump is introduced at CPAC on Sunday. (John Raoux/The Associated Press)

But not everyone supported Trump. A separate question on the poll asked whether Trump should run again in 2024, and it led to a mixed result — with 68 per cent saying he should run and 32 per cent saying they were opposed or had no opinion.

“It’s tough to get seven out of 10 to agree on anything,” pollster Jim McLaughlin told CPAC in explaining away the results.

Still, Trump fervour at the four-day CPAC event has been so strong that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., declared it “T-PAC,” and participants rolled out a golden statue of the former president.

A golden Trump statue is seen across the street from CPAC on Sunday. (Sam Thomas/Orlando Sentinel via The Associated Press)

“Hello CPAC, do you miss me?” Trump said.

Trump’s flirtation with another run could freeze the Republican field for 2024 as other potential candidates try to decide whether they will have to compete against him. Many of those 2024 possible candidates spoke during the CPAC event.

An hour into his speech, Trump dove deeply into his unfounded claims of election fraud, going against the advice of confidants who believe he needs to look to the future.

“We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process that has to be fixed immediately. This election was rigged,” Trump said. “And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”

“You won! You won!” the crowd shouted. Trump’s campaign and his supporters brought dozens of failed lawsuits attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which Biden won by more than seven million votes.

In the short term, Trump is making plans to set up a super PAC political organization to support candidates who mirror his policies, an adviser said.

Starting his speech more than an hour late, Trump said he wanted to save the culture and identity of the United States.

He sought to position himself as the lead critic of the new president, including on immigration and security along the U.S. border with Mexico and the slow reopening of schools closed due to the pandemic.

“Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” Trump said.

Recent polls have given Biden a job approval rating well past 50 per cent, a strong showing from Americans.

The Biden White House has made it clear it plans to ignore Trump’s speech.

“Our focus is certainly not on what president Trump is saying” at CPAC, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters last week.

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Coronavirus variant puts N.L. back in lockdown; in-person voting in provincial election suspended

Newfoundland and Labrador is under lockdown, and Saturday’s provincial election will continue with only mail-in voting, officials said Friday, as the province battles the B117 variant of the coronavirus.

In an emergency briefing Friday evening — the second time officials addressed the province in one day — Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officer of health, said tests had confirmed the widespread presence of B117  for the first time.

The “variant of concern” is responsible for this week’s mass outbreak in the capital.

Confirmation of the variant’s arrival prompted lockdown measures across the province Friday and has suspended in-person voting in the election, delaying the ballot count by at least two weeks. 

B117 was first discovered in the United Kingdom. It’s believed to be more contagious than the original coronavirus strain.

“We know that if not controlled, it becomes a predominant strain within weeks of first appearance,” Fitzgerald said. “This is concerning and serious. But we have the ability to overcome it.”

Effective immediately, the entire province is at Alert Level 5, with all but essential businesses closed, Fitzgerald announced.

The decision expands previous measures implemented in the St. John’s area this week, returning Newfoundland and Labrador to the same rules it followed for weeks last spring.

COVID-19 testing has spiked this week as Newfoundland and Labrador reports record daily cases. (Submitted by Lisa Warren)

Nine more cases have been added to the active total since the afternoon briefing, Fitzgerald said. Many of them are teenagers with mild or no symptoms.

There are now 269 active cases in the province, with 253 of them reported in the past five days. 

The outbreak has come as a rude awakening for a province that regularly reported active total caseloads in the single digits, and over the summer survived a 42-day stretch without a single active infection.

Most cases, until now, have been linked to travel outside the province.

The province had 390 total cases of COVID-19 in all of 2020.    

Level 5 rules

Fitzgerald said the discovery of the variant answered questions she had about the speed and scope of the virus’s spread. Other provinces are battling the mutation, with experts in Ontario warning B117 could become the dominant strain there before April.

Due to the variant’s contagious nature, Fitzgerald said the speed of isolation measures is critical to contain it.

Residents are now expected to remain inside their own homes as much as possible and restrict gatherings to no more than five people.

All non-essential businesses and facilities, including playgrounds, gyms, salons, cinemas, restaurants, bars, private health-care clinics, and retail stores that do not provide the essentials of life, are now closed.

Elective surgery and non-emergent medical treatments are also suspended.

Watch the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador briefing:

“At this point, stay in your bubble,” Fitzgerald said, simplifying the strict public health directions that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians haven’t faced since last May.

“We’re back here for a little while. I’m hopeful that we won’t have to lock down like we did previously.”

Health Minister John Haggie said vaccine rollout will continue as promptly as possible, but the timeline largely depends on delivery schedules, which have proved spotty throughout the country.

Election day battered by outbreak

Bruce Chaulk, the province’s chief electoral officer, issued a media release immediately after the briefing that he had suspended in-person voting in all 40 districts across the province.

“In-person voting will not be rescheduled,” said Bruce Chaulk in a statement. “The election will now shift exclusively to voting by mail.”

The deadline to apply for mail-in special ballots has been extended to Feb. 15. Voting packages must be received by Elections NL by March 1.

Premier Andrew Furey triggered the Feb. 13 election last month, and has faced rising criticism over his choice of timing. (Paul Daly)

The embattled election hasn’t weathered the outbreak well, with poll workers resigning en masse, delaying election day for the province’s most populated region.

Liberal Leader Andrew Furey, campaigning to reinstate himself in the premier’s chair, has repeatedly come under fire for triggering an election prior to widespread vaccine availability. 

Furey was compelled by law to call an election within a year of taking over as the head of the Liberal Party, with his deadline in August. When he dropped the writ in January, the province had a steadily low caseload.

As the outbreak worsened this week, Furey repeatedly defended his election timing.

“I haven’t given much thought to the election,” Premier Andrew Furey said Friday evening, prior to Chaulk’s announcement and just as news broke of B117’s arrival. “I understand there are questions about the election … but we don’t have the answers.”

Accountability ahead: opponents

Fitzgerald said she has spoken with the province’s chief electoral officer but would not disclose the advice she gave him when pressed during the briefing, saying it’s not her jurisdiction.

Furey’s opponents had been calling for an election delay this week and applauded the decision to move to special ballots. NDP Leader Alison Coffin expressed concern, however, that some people may face barriers in registering for mail-in voting by Monday.

“We may see some court challenges come from this,” Coffin said. “What I’m more concerned about is how irresponsible Andrew Furey’s actions were.”

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie declined an interview but said in a statement his party would discuss Furey’s election timing “another day,” saying the public health emergency is the priority.

“Our province deserves a thoughtful conversation about why it took so long for us to reach the right decision
in postponing this election and how we hold our political leaders accountable,” the statement read.

Earlier on Friday, officials reported 50 new cases of COVID-19, with the vast majority in the St. John’s metro region. The province has reported higher-than-average new cases since Monday, when rampant community spread was first identified.

Thousands of people are now in isolation, including 300 health-care workers.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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CBC | Health News

U.S. warns of heightened domestic terrorism threat after election, Capitol riot

The United States could face a heightened threat of domestic extremist violence for weeks from people angry at Donald Trump’s election defeat and inspired by the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol, the Department of Homeland Security warned on Wednesday.

The advisory — which said there was no specific and credible threat at this time — comes as Washington remains on high alert after hundreds of Trump supporters charged into the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was formally certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory. Five died in the violence.

“Information suggests that some ideologically motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fuelled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the department said in a national terrorism advisory.

Biden’s inauguration last week occurred under heavy security, with more than 20,000 National Guard troops on duty. Officials have said about 5,000 troops will remain in Washington for the next few weeks, when Trump will face his second impeachment trial in the Senate on a charge of inciting insurrection.

Trump spent two months peddling the false narrative that his defeat in November’s presidential election was the result of widespread voter fraud. He urged a crowd of thousands of his followers to “fight” in a fiery speech before the Jan. 6 violence.

The DHS advisory said so-called domestic violent extremists were motivated by issues including anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force.

It also cited “long-standing racial and ethnic tension — including opposition to immigration” as drivers of domestic violence attacks.

White supremacist groups have posed “the most persistent and lethal threat” of violent extremism in the United States in recent years, Trump’s acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf told a congressional hearing in September.

‘Wildly overdue’

DHS warned that the attack on the Capitol could inspire domestic extremists to attack other elected officials or government buildings.

“This step is wildly overdue, and I applaud the Biden administration for taking it,” Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Reuters.

DHS typically issues only one or two advisory bulletins in a year. The bulletins have mostly warned of threats from foreign terrorist groups.

The last one, issued by the Trump administration in January 2020, declared Iran a state sponsor of terrorism and designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

Biden last week directed his administration to conduct a full assessment of the risk of domestic terrorism. The assessment will be carried out by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in co-ordination with the FBI and DHS, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.

“The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we have long known: the rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat. The Biden administration will confront this threat with the necessary resources and resolve,” Psaki said.

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U.S. watchdog probing whether Justice Department officials tried to overturn election

The U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general is launching an investigation to examine whether any former or current department officials “engaged in an improper attempt” to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Monday that the investigation will investigate allegations concerning the conduct of former and current Justice Department officials but will not extend to other government officials.

The Justice Department watchdog investigation follows a report in The New York Times that a former assistant attorney general, Jeffrey Clark, had been discussing a plan with then-president Donald Trump to oust the acting attorney general and try to challenge the results of the 2020 race by falsely saying there had been widespread election fraud.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded the inspector general launch a probe “into this attempted sedition.” The New York Democrat said it was “unconscionable a Trump Justice Department leader would conspire to subvert the people’s will.”

The watchdog’s probe is part of a growing number of efforts underway to investigate the attempts by Trump and his allies to subvert the election results. The moves culminated in a deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and a second impeachment of Trump, this time for inciting an insurrection. Also on Monday, the voting machine company Dominion Systems filed a defamation suit against Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani for his repeatedly false claims about widespread voting fraud in the election.

Dominion Systems is suing Rudy Giuliani for repeatedly making false claims about widespread voting fraud in the election. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Election officials across the country, along with Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed there was no widespread fraud in the election. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states won by Democrat Joe Biden, also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Under house arrest after contested election, Uganda’s Bobi Wine still hopes to inspire country’s youth

Uganda’s Bobi Wine is a pied piper of a figure who dared raise the hopes of the country’s youth, only to be beaten in an election with the odds tipped against him by a man who has had his hands on the levers of power for 35 years. 

So what now for the self-styled “ghetto president”?

Two days after Uganda’s electoral commission announced that President Yoweri Museveni had decisively won last week’s ballot, Wine and his wife, Barbara, remained under house arrest at their home in Magere, just north of the capital, Kampala.

“Nobody is allowed in, nobody is allowed out. We are stuck,” Wine said in a telephone interview with CBC News on Monday morning, adding that government security forces had not only surrounded his house but “jumped over the fence and taken control of my compound.” 

“We demand that they release me and they release all the political prisoners so we can be able to assemble freely, like is provided for by the law, and discuss the way forward.”

Wine said it was clear Museveni was trying to prevent him from speaking to his supporters.

“[The government is] worried I will make a statement that will make the people go active. We’ve been telling the people of Uganda and we continue to tell them that they must be non-violent, but that they must be assertive.”  

Wine said his National Unity Platform (NUP) plans to launch a legal challenge to the results, which accorded him 35 per cent of the vote, and to present proof of electoral tampering once internet access is restored to the country.

Museveni ‘looking beyond this election’

The government shut internet providers down just a day before the vote on Jan. 14 and one day after military tanks and security forces paraded through opposition neighbourhoods in Kampala, in a show critics say was intended to intimidate opposition supporters already hurting from weeks of violence and arrests by government security forces.  

Few analysts thought Wine stood a chance of winning the elections, given Museveni’s determination to hold on to power and the tools available to him. But they say Wine nonetheless remains a threat to Museveni’s hold on power, and that it’s clear Museveni sees him as such.  

Although not necessarily from the ballot box.

“People are right to say Mr. Museveni is looking beyond this election,” said Fred Muhumuza, a lecturer in economics at the University of Makerere in Kampala. 

Yoweri Museveni has been Uganda’s president for more than three decades and still enjoys support among older and rural voters. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

“His biggest worry is the ideology that has started, this thinking that is beginning to come. We’ve seen it in the Arab Spring: Once citizens feel they are not being well provided for by services that have been given by government, it becomes very hard to govern them. So I think there are concerns about the governability of the country going forward.”  

In a speech on Saturday, Museveni claimed the election to be the fairest in Uganda’s history.

His support and that of his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), comes in large part from rural voters and those old enough to remember the stability he brought to the country after the bloody legacies of Idi Amin and Milton Obote in the 1970s and ’80s.  

“For the older generation, the Museveni [appeal] has to do with security,” said Muhumuza. “There are people who think [support for Wine] might have to do with other governments or foreign interests trying to take advantage of the youth and cause some kind of insecurity in the country.”  

Wine appeals to younger Ugandans

But two-thirds of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, offering up a powerful constituency for Wine in a country where jobs are scarce and many voters will have known no other president than Museveni. 

“They need to get opportunities to work and for the first time they have a younger person representing them who is in their age bracket,” said Muhumuza. 

Now 38, Wine grew up in a Kampala slum, which earned him the moniker of the “ghetto president.” He grew first to be a successful musician, changing his name from Robert Kyyagulanyi to Bobi Wine and writing songs about social injustice. In 2017, he stood for the national parliament and won.

Bobi Wine is seen taking an injured supporter into a medical centre on Dec. 1, 2020 in Jinja, Uganda. This election season was marred by violence. (Getty Images)

“He’s been a public commentator. Every time in Uganda we had a very sensitive issue, Bobi Wine had a song, [and was] making an intervention. The music that made him a star was music about HIV/AIDS,” said Yusuf Serunkuma, a social researcher at Makerere University.

Serunkuma also thinks Museveni is worried about Wine’s ability to mobilize the street. The 2018 protests in nearby Sudan, which led to the ousting of president Omar al-Bashir after 30 years in power, offer a fresh reminder of what public demonstrations can do.  

Serunkuma also said opposition activists understand that it’s almost impossible to win an election in a dictatorship that disguises itself as a democracy. 

“So what happens is that you mobilize the constituents that make it difficult for [the government] to continue. And I think that this is what Bobi Wine is doing.” 

Serunkuma said it’s that possibility that Museveni has been preparing for, rather than the election.

Election observers kept away 

The president’s supporters say he has every right to order security forces onto the streets to prevent what they say could be a potential insurrection.  

Andrew Mwenda, a journalist with close ties to Museveni and his inner circle, said he knows Bobi Wine “very well.”

“I don’t have a problem with him, even though I think he is intellectually handicapped to understand the complexities of government,” said Mwenda, the founder and managing editor of a newsmagazine called the Independent.

He dismisses Wine’s supporters as thugs and hooligans. “They are incapable of tolerating dissent. It’s not in their DNA. They make Trump’s supporters look like the most liberal democrats the world has ever seen.”

On the other hand, Mwenda describes Museveni as a “very tolerant man” — even though the editor almost boasts that he himself was once jailed by Museveni, presumably for criticizing the government. 

He said recent attacks by security forces against reporters covering the Bobi Wine campaign — or trying to — were “regrettable,” but not a “reflection of the freedom that exists” in Uganda.

WATCH | CBC news crew deported from Uganda ahead of election:

A CBC News crew was deported from Uganda despite having media credentials, as a contentious election approaches. It has already been marred by violent crackdowns on protesters. 2:31

Canada joined several European Union countries, the United Kingdom and the United States in expressing concern over the harassment of journalists and media freedom ahead of the election.  

Election observers from the U.S. were refused permission to monitor the vote while the European Union pulled out its own team late last year, citing Uganda’s failure to implement previous recommendations on electoral reform.

A coalition of civil society groups making up Africa Elections Watch issued a statement saying their observers found that the vote did not “meet the threshold of a democratic, free, fair and transparent credible electoral process.”  

Wine happy to ‘inspire young people’

Wine’s challenge to Museveni is the story of this election and is potentially a defining moment for the country. But it makes it no easier to predict his future.

On the phone on Monday, Wine was endlessly gracious, but the fatigue in his voice came through. 

Serunkuma has described Wine’s popularity as contagious. He acknowledged that Wine has “really been successful, but I’m not sure whether what he’s done is sustainable. Ugandans do not take to the streets.” 

Wine, centre, is escorted by a police officer in 2020 as he is arrested on charges of unlawful assembly before his first public meeting ahead of the 2021 election season. (Stringer/AFP via Getty Images)

When they did in November, it came with a heavy price — at least 54 people were killed by security forces when protests erupted after one of Wine’s arrests, allegedly for breaking COVID-19 restrictions. 

“I don’t think anything is going to happen because the president has done so much to prepare for the moment after the election,” said Serunkuma. “It started way, way back.”

Muhuzuma said “there are people who think the election will simply be an event in a long process of what will eventually remove Mr. Museveni.”

The question is, will his regime crack down even harder on civil liberties or will some of those in power be rattled enough to try and change something from within?

“A lot of [Museveni’s] supporters have, I think, picked up that signal, to say we can’t just keep growth that is not inclusive, that is not creating opportunities for youth,” said Muhuzuma.

For his part, Wine said he is determined to see Uganda through to a new chapter. If that means merely serving as an inspiration for real change, it will be enough.

“I came in not saying that I am the alpha and the omega, but I wanted to spark the mind that would change the world, to influence and inspire young people, and I am very glad to see that happening,” he said.  

Wine also said he continues to fear for his safety and that of his wife.  

“We hope the world continues to put the focus on Uganda and to hold General Museveni accountable for our lives.”

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Trump finally concedes election, condemns attack on U.S. Capitol by supporters he incited yesterday

U.S. President Donald Trump has finally conceded the 2020 election to president-elect Joe Biden in a new video condemning his violent supporters who stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday.

In the statement posted to Twitter, Trump declined to mention Biden by name or explicitly admit he’d lost the election, instead saying now that Congress has certified the election results, the “new administration will be inaugurated on January 20” and his focus now turns to “ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

He called the riot in the Capitol a “heinous attack” that left him “outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.” However, in a video to the pro-Trump rioters on Capitol Hill Wednesday, he told them to go home, but also that he loved them, that they were special people and that he felt their pain. Twitter removed that video. 

In the new statement, Trump did not address what Democrats and even some Republicans say was his role in inciting the violence. He did say he “immediately deployed the National Guard,” although it took a long time for order to be restored on Capitol Hill and CNN has reported that it was Vice-President Mike Pence who co-ordinated bringing in the troops. 

In the short message, Trump told his supporters that while he knows they are “disappointed,” their “incredible journey is only just beginning.”

WATCH | Trump’s statement about the attack on the U.S. Capitol: 

U.S. President Donald Trump has posted a new video on Twitter, more than 24 hours after an angry mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building, saying he was outraged by the “heinous attack.” He also conceded to president-elect Joe Biden and promised a “smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.” 2:41

‘We will stop the steal,’ Trump told supporters

The address came at the end of a day where the president stayed out of sight in the White House. Silenced on some of his favourite social media lines of communication, he didn’t comment as several of his top aides, including a cabinet secretary, announced their resignations.

The statement was also a stark reversal for Trump, who has spent months insisting widespread voter fraud cost him the Nov. 3 presidential election despite providing no evidence.

During a rally in Washington on Wednesday, he encouraged his thousands of supporters to march to the Capitol to protest the certification of the electoral college vote.

“We will stop the steal,” he told the crowd, using the rallying cry of protests against the election results.

A large mob of rioters later overran police officers and invaded the Capitol building, forcing members of Congress into hiding for their own safety.

As recently as Thursday morning, Trump was still maintaining the election was stolen from him.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, seen here in August 2020, have called on Vice-President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to oust Trump from office. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

Before Trump released his video message on Thursday, the top Democrats in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, called on Vice-President Mike Pence and Trump’s cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, a provision of the U.S. Constitution that allows a cabinet majority to remove the president from power if he is unable to discharge the duties of the office.

But a Pence adviser says the vice-president, who would have to lead any such effort, is opposed to using the amendment to oust Trump from the White House.

Barring that, Pelosi has said she would likely reconvene the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump for his role in Wednesday’s violence, which claimed five lives, including that of a Capitol Police officer.

A day later, Republicans and Democrats alike struggled with how best to contain the impulses of a president deemed too dangerous to control his own social media accounts but who remains commander-in-chief of the world’s largest military.

“I’m not worried about the next election, I’m worried about getting through the next 14 days,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s staunchest allies. He condemned the president’s role in Wednesday’s riots and said, “If something else happens, all options would be on the table.”

In Pelosi’s words, “the president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America.” She called him “a very dangerous person who should not continue in office. This is urgent, an emergency of the highest magnitude.”

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Democrat Raphael Warnock wins U.S. Senate run-off election in Georgia

Democrat Raphael Warnock won one of Georgia’s two Senate run-offs Wednesday, becoming the first Black senator in his state’s history and putting the Senate majority within the party’s reach.

A pastor who spent the past 15 years leading the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. It was a stinging rebuke of outgoing President Donald Trump, who made one of his final trips in office to Georgia to rally his loyal base behind Loeffler and the Republican running for the other seat, David Perdue.

The focus now shifts to the second race between Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. That contest was too early to call as votes were still being counted. If Ossoff wins, Democrats will have complete control of Congress, strengthening president-elect Joe Biden’s standing as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20.

Warnock’s victory is a symbol of a striking shift in Georgia’s politics as the swelling number of diverse, college-educated voters flex their power in the heart of the Deep South. It follows Biden’s victory in November, when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.

Warnock, 51, acknowledged his improbable victory in a message to supporters early Wednesday, citing his family’s experience with poverty. His mother, he said, used to pick “somebody else’s cotton” as a teenager.

“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” he said. “Tonight, we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”

A pastor who spent the past 15 years leading the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Raphael Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. (Stephen Morton/The Associated Press)

Loeffler refused to concede in a brief message to supporters shortly after midnight.

“We’ve got some work to do here. This is a game of inches. We’re going to win this election,” insisted Loeffler, a 50-year-old former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago by the state’s governor.

Loeffler, who remains a Georgia senator until the results of Tuesday’s election are finalized, said she would return to Washington on Wednesday morning to join a small group of senators planning to challenge Congress’s vote to certify Biden’s victory.

“We are going to keep fighting for you,” Loeffler said. “This is about protecting the American dream.”

Georgia’s other run-off election pitted Perdue, a 71-year-old former business executive who held his Senate seat until his term expired on Sunday, against Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist. At just 33 years old, Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member.

Trump’s false claims of voter fraud cast a dark shadow over the run-off elections, which were held only because no candidate hit the 50 per cent threshold in the general election. He attacked the state’s election chief on the eve of the election and raised the prospect that some votes might not be counted even as votes were being cast Tuesday afternoon.

Republican state officials on the ground reported no significant problems.

Run-offs bring end to turbulent election

This week’s elections mark the formal finale to the turbulent 2020 election season more than two months after the rest of the nation finished voting. The unusually high stakes transformed Georgia, once a solidly Republican state, into one of the nation’s premier battlegrounds for the final days of Trump’s presidency — and likely beyond.

Both contests tested whether the political coalition that fuelled Biden’s November victory was an anti-Trump anomaly or part of a new electoral landscape. To win in Tuesday’s elections — and in the future — Democrats needed strong African American support.

Drawing on his popularity with Black voters, among other groups, Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of five million cast in November.

Trump’s claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, while meritless, resonated with Republican voters in Georgia. About seven in 10 agreed with his false assertion that Biden was not the legitimately elected president, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3,600 voters in the run-off elections.

Turnout record shattered

Election officials across the country, including the Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, as well as Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed that there was no widespread fraud in the November election. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, where three Trump-nominated justices preside.

Even with Trump’s claims, voters in both parties were drawn to the polls because of the high stakes. AP VoteCast found that six in 10 Georgia voters say Senate party control was the most important factor in their vote.

WATCH | Democrats hold early lead in Georgia Senate run-off:

The Democrats held an early lead after Georgia voters cast their ballots in a run-off election for two seats that could shift the balance of power in the U.S. Senate from the Republicans to the Democrats. The race was expected to be close with results likely not known for a couple of days. 2:41

Even before Tuesday, Georgia had shattered its turnout record for a run-off with more than three million votes by mail or during in-person advance voting in December. Including Tuesday’s vote, more people ultimately cast ballots in the run-offs than voted in Georgia’s 2016 presidential election.

In Atlanta’s Buckhead neighbourhood, 37-year-old Kari Callaghan said she voted “all Democrat” on Tuesday, an experience that was new for her.

“I’ve always been Republican, but I’ve been pretty disgusted by Trump and just the way the Republicans are working,” she said. “I feel like for the Republican candidates to still stand there with Trump and campaign with Trump feels pretty rotten. This isn’t the conservative values that I grew up with.”

But 56-year-old Will James said he voted “straight GOP.”

He said he was concerned by the Republican candidates’ recent support of Trump’s challenges of the presidential election results in Georgia, “but it didn’t really change the reasons I voted.”

“I believe in balance of power, and I don’t want either party to have a referendum, basically,” he said.

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In recorded phone call, Trump pressed Georgia election chief to ‘find’ votes for him

U.S. President Donald Trump badgered and pleaded with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, suggesting in a telephone call that the official “find” enough votes to hand Trump the victory.

The conversation Saturday was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting president to pressure a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost. The renewed intervention and the persistent and unfounded claims of fraud by the first president to lose reelection in almost 30 years come nearly two weeks before Trump leaves office and two days before twin runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.

Trump confirmed in a tweet Sunday that he had spoken with Georgia’s secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, who tweeted that claims Trump made during the call were untrue.

Audio snippets of the conversation were posted online by The Washington Post. A recording of the call was later obtained by The Associated Press from a person who was on the call.

LISTEN | Trump demands Georgia officials ‘find’ votes in recoded phone call:

The U.S. president is heard pleading with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, according to audio clips obtained by The Washington Post. 1:30

The president, who has refused to accept his loss to the Democratic president-elect, is heard telling Raffensperger at one point: “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

Georgia certified election results showing that Biden won the state’s Nov. 3 election by 11,779 votes.

The White House referred questions to Trump’s re-election campaign, which did not respond Sunday to an emailed request for comment. Raffensperger’s office did not respond to a text message seeking comment.

Biden senior adviser Bob Bauer said the recording was “irrefutable proof” of Trump pressuring and threatening an official in his own party to “rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place.”

“It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy,” Bauer said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Dec. 14 in Atlanta. (John Bazemore/The Associated Press)

At another point in the conversation, Trump appeared to threaten Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s legal counsel, by suggesting both could be criminally liable if they failed to find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County had been illegally destroyed. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

“That’s a criminal offence,” Trump says. “And you can’t let that happen.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked how Raffensperger ran Georgia’s elections, claiming without evidence that the state’s 16 electoral votes were wrongly given to Biden.

“He has no clue!” Trump tweeted of Raffensperger, saying the state official “was unwilling, or unable” to answer questions about a series of claims about ballot handling and voters that have been debunked or shot down by judges and election authorities.

Raffensperger’s Twitter response: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”

Senate runoffs

There was no widespread fraud in the election, which a range of election officials across the country, as well as Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, have also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.

The Senate runoffs pit Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democrat Raphael Warnock and Sen. David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff. With the Senate up for grabs, the candidates and outside groups supporting them have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the contests, deluging Georgia with television ads, mail, phone calls and door-knocking efforts.

Republican Sen. Kelly Loefflerspeaks during a campaign event in McDonough, Ga., on Sunday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Loeffler said she had not decided whether to join Republican colleagues in challenging the legitimacy of Biden’s victory over Trump. The Democratic candidates whose wins Tuesday would help clear roadblocks for the new administration’s agenda awaited a campaign visit from vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.

Trump has persisted in attacking top Georgia Republicans over his election loss in the state, raising fears that his words could cause some Republicans to stay away from the polls.

“I believe that we will win on Tuesday because of the grassroots momentum, the unprecedented movement energy in Georgia right now,” Ossoff told CNN’s State of the Union. He said “it feels in Georgia like we are on the cusp of a historic victory.”

Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff speaks at a campaign event in Savannah, Ga., on Sunday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Loeffler, when asked about siding with the growing group of Senate Republicans seeking to contest the Electoral College count, said she was “looking very closely at it, and I’ve been one of the first to say, everything’s on the table.” She told Fox News Sunday that “I’m fighting for this president because he’s fought for us. He’s our president and we’re going to keep making sure that this is a fair election.”

Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta who has continued to preach as he campaigns for office, seemed to allude to the runoff in a message delivered Sunday. He told viewers watching remotely due to the pandemic that they are “on the verge of victory” in their lives if they accept that God has already equipped them with the ability to overcome their adversaries.

“When God is with you, you can defeat giants,” said Warnock, who ended the early morning service by also encouraging Georgians to vote on Tuesday. “It’s so very important that your voice be heard in this defining moment in our country,” he said. “I would not be so presumptuous as to tell you who to vote for.”

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock gestures at a campaign event in Savannah on Sunday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Loeffler was appointed to fill a vacancy when Republican Johnny Isakson resigned his seat, and she will be in the Senate, win or lose this coming week, until the election is certified. Perdue’s seat will temporarily be vacant after his term expires Sunday at the end of six years.

Harris was scheduled to be in Savannah on Sunday afternoon. Trump and Biden plan to campaign in the state Monday, in last-minute efforts to mobilize voters after more than 3 million people cast ballots early.

The president continues to create turbulence for Loeffler and Perdue by questioning Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia and the reliability of the state’s election systems.

Trump also tweeted that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, also Republicans, “have done less than nothing. They are a disgrace to the great people of Georgia!” The president last week called on Kemp to resign; the governor dismissed it as a “distraction.”

Gov. Brian Kemp, left, greets Trump in Marietta, Ga., in March 2020. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Despite the attacks, Loeffler said she believed voters would heed Trump’s expected plea during his upcoming visit that they should turn out.

“He’s going to tell voters the same thing: You have to get out and vote Georgia, because this is too important,” Loeffler said.

Perdue, who is in quarantine because he was exposed to a staff member with the coronavirus and won’t appear with Trump at the Monday rally, said he would have joined the electoral challenge in the Senate if he had been in Washington. “I’m encouraging my colleagues to object. This is something that the American people demand right now,” he told Fox News Channel’s Sunday Morning Futures.

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Israel to hold snap election, the country’s 4th in 2 years

Israel will hold a snap election in March after its parliament failed on Tuesday to meet a deadline to pass a budget, triggering a ballot presenting new challenges for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Campaigning in Israel’s fourth parliamentary election in two years gets underway with Netanyanu facing public anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and while he is engaged in a corruption trial, the first against an Israeli prime minister.

Israel’s longest-serving leader will also have to contend with a new rival from the right, Gideon Saar, a defector from Netanyahu’s Likud party who an opinion poll on Israel’s Kan public TV on Tuesday showed was drawing even with him. The election is scheduled for March 23.

Netanyahu, who has denied any criminal wrongdoing, and the current defence minister, centrist politician Benny Gantz, established a unity government in May after three inconclusive elections held since April 2019.

But they have been locked in a dispute over passage of a national budget key to implementing a deal in which Gantz was to have taken over from Netanyahu in November 2021.

The Speaker of the Knesset declared its dissolution late on Tuesday in a session broadcast on live television, saying a snap election was automatically triggered by its failure to approve a budget.

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Tensions flare in Washington as Trump supporters rally against election results

Conservative groups alleging without evidence that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden stole the U.S. election gathered for protests across the country on Saturday, including one in Washington, D.C., that turned violent at times as police broke up sporadic clashes after dark.

Organizers with Stop the Steal, linked to pro-Trump operative Roger Stone, and church groups urged supporters to participate in “Jericho Marches” and prayer rallies.

But groups of pro-Trump Proud Boys protesters and Antifa counter-protesters brawled in downtown Washington on Saturday night. Police moved in quickly to separate them, using pepper spray on members of both sides, Reuters witnesses said.

About 200 members of Proud Boys, a violent far-right group, joined the march near the Trump Hotel. Many wore combat fatigues black and yellow shirts and ballistic vests, carried helmets and flashed hand signals used by white nationalists.

A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump argues with a police officer during a confrontation with counter-protesters in Washington on Saturday. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Earlier, police in riot gear and on bicycles kept the opposing demonstrators apart by blocking streets. After dark fell, the protesters splintered into smaller groups to roam the streets in search of their rivals.

Protests were also held in other communities around the country, including Atlanta — the capital of Georgia, a state where Trump’s campaign has sought to overturn Biden’s election victory — and Mobile, Ala., according to local news coverage.

Local media in Olympia, Wash., reported that one person was shot and three arrested after clashes between pro- and anti-Trump protest groups.

Flynn speaks to supporters

More than 50 federal and state court rulings have upheld Biden’s victory over Trump. The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected a long-shot lawsuit filed by Texas and backed by Trump seeking to throw out voting results in four states.

“Whatever the ruling was yesterday, everybody take a deep deep breath,” retired army general Mike Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, told protesters in front of the Supreme Court, referring to the court’s refusal to hear the Texas case.

Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with the former Russian ambassador, spoke in his first public address since Trump pardoned him on Nov. 24.

Trump supporters demonstrate outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Saturday. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

“My charge to you is to go back to where you are from” and make demands, Flynn told the small crowd, without being more specific. The U.S. Constitution is “not about collective liberty, it is about individual liberties, and they designed it that way.”

Trump has refused to concede defeat, alleging that he was denied victory by massive fraud.

On his way to Andrews Air Force Base and then the Army-Navy football game in New York, Trump made three passes in the Marine One helicopter over the cheering protesters.

‘Trump is being railroaded’

Trump’s supporters carrying flags and signs made their way in small knots toward Congress and the Supreme Court through Washington’s city centre, which was shut off to traffic by police vehicles and dump trucks.

Few of the protesters wore masks, despite soaring COVID-19 deaths and cases, defying a mayoral directive for them to be worn outside. Several thousand people rallied in Washington, fewer than during a similar protest last month.

As some in the crowd echoed far right conspiracy theories about the election, a truck-pulled trailer flew Trump 2020 flags and a sign reading “Trump Unity” while blaring the country song God Bless the U.S.A.

Retired army general Mike Flynn, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, speaks to supporters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington on Saturday. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s clear the election has been stolen,” said Mark Paul Jones, of Delaware Water Gap, Pa., who sported a tricorn, a hat associated with the American Revolution, as he walked toward the Supreme Court with his wife.

“Trump is being railroaded out of office,” he said, adding that Biden won with the collaboration of the Supreme Court, the FBI, Department of Justice and the CIA. The Supreme Court “didn’t even take the time to hear the case,” Jones said.

Eddy Miller of Philadelphia, who was selling Trump campaign T-shirts, said he was sure “there was fraud despite what I see on the news” about court rulings striking down fraud allegations.

A supporter sits on a bench with a Trump flag at the National Mall in Washington on Saturday. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Some protesters referred to the biblical miracle of the battle of Jericho, in which the walls of the city crumbled after soldiers and priests blowing horns marched around it.

In his speech, Flynn told the protesters they were all standing inside Jericho after breaching its walls.

Ron Hazard of Morristown, N.J., was one of five people who stopped at the Justice Department to blow shofars to bring down “the spiritual” walls “of corruption.”

“We believe what is going on in this county is an important thing. It’s a balance between biblical values and anti-biblical values,” he said.

His small group, including one member who wore a Jewish prayer shawl known as a tallit, are Christians “who love the Jewish people. We love Israel,” he said.

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