Tag Archives: Fake

No evidence Antifa or ‘fake’ Trump supporters spurred Capitol riot, FBI’s Wray testifies

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday sought to beat back right-wing conspiracy theories suggesting that fake supporters of former U.S. president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

It was Wray’s first testimony in Congress since the attack — a failed bid to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s November election victory — was carried out by supporters of Trump who, in a speech near the White House, exhorted them to march to the Capitol in protest.

“I was appalled that you, our country’s elected leaders, were victimized right here in these very halls,” Wray testified before the Senate’s judiciary committee.

“That siege was criminal behaviour, pure and simple. It’s behaviour that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism.”

Early on, Republicans on the panel sought to equate the Jan. 6 riot to the occasional violence that ensued in months of racial justice protests in dozens of U.S. cities last year.

The senior Republican on the panel, Chuck Grassley, made repeated references to Antifa and violence committed by those who might be described as being left on the political spectrum, including a fatal shooting incident in Portland last year and the near-fatal shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise in 2017 by a suspect who posted a photo of Bernie Sanders on his Facebook profile.

But Wray was unequivocal in terms of what the agency has learned so far about the events of Jan. 6.

“We have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to Antifa in connection with the 6th,” he said.

Last month in another Senate hearing, Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin brought up the possibility that “agent provocateurs” and “fake Trump protesters” had circulated among the crowd on Jan. 6, citing an article by a right-wing think-tank.

Wray said there had been no evidence presented yet of fake Trump protesters crashing the event, which appears to have been planned for weeks according to previous testimony, and he reiterated his assertion from 2020 hearings that white supremacists “have been responsible for the most lethal attacks over the last decade” in terms of domestic terrorism.

Hundreds charged so far

The U.S. Justice Department has charged more than 300 people on criminal counts ranging from conspiracy to attacking police and obstructing Congress.

Five people in attendance died that day, including a Trump supporter who was fatally shot and a Capitol police officer who was killed in circumstances that are still unclear. Three others suffered fatal medical episodes, according to reports.

At least 18 people associated with the far-right Proud Boys — which Canada labelled a terrorist group last month — have been charged and nine people tied to the anti-government militia known as the Oath Keepers are facing charges they conspired as far back as November to storm the Capitol to prevent Biden from becoming president.

Biden took office on Jan. 20.

Federal investigators including the FBI have come under scrutiny since Jan. 6 over why more was not done to protect the Capitol ahead of the attack.

On Jan. 5, the FBI’s Norfolk, Va., office distributed a raw, unverified intelligence report which warned that violent extremists intended to disrupt Congress.

Still unclear how Capitol Police officer was killed

Wray told lawmakers on Tuesday the intelligence was shared with other law enforcement agencies three different ways, but acknowledged he personally did not see the report until a few days later.

As to why other top law enforcement officials did not see it, Wray said: “I don’t have a good answer to that.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said to Wray: “What I don’t understand is why this … raw intelligence didn’t prompt a stronger warning and alarm.”

The FBI has yet to arrest any suspects in the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, or for pipe bombs that were discovered outside the headquarters of both the Republican and Democratic national committees.

The FBI has obtained a video that shows a suspect spraying bear spray on police officers, including Sicknick, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation.

Citing an ongoing investigation, Wray said he couldn’t yet disclose a cause of death for Sicknick.

Democrats and some Republicans condemned Trump for his weeks of false claims leading up to Jan. 6, that the election was stolen. He repeated that claim in his first significant speech since leaving the presidency last week.

But Wray said he stood by comments made by former attorney general Bill Barr, who had infuriated Trump after the election when he said the Justice Department did not have evidence of any widespread election fraud.

“We are not aware of any widespread evidence of voter fraud, much less that would have affected the outcome of the presidential election,” Wray told lawmakers.

We are not aware of any widespread evidence of voter fraud, much less that would have affected the outcome of the presidential election,” Wray told lawmakers.

In a newly unsealed search warrant, investigators say rioters carried weapons inside the Capitol including tire irons, sledge hammers, stun guns, bear spray and, in at least one case, a handgun with an extended magazine.

“Everyone involved must take responsibility for their actions that day, including our former president,” said Grassley, who was among those who voted to acquit Trump on a count of incitement of insurrection in a Senate impeachment trial last month.

WATCH | Former FBI agent Jack Cloonan on the domestic terrorism threat:

Given the events of Jan. 6, the likelihood of someone attempting an attack around the presidential inauguration is ‘extremely high,’ says former FBI special agent Jack Cloonan. 7:46

Senate judiciary committee chair Dick Durbin, a Democrat, said the government has not done enough to protect against threats from far-right extremists and white supremacists, and accused the Trump administration of playing down those threats.

He said the Trump administration “never set up a task force to combat the numerous incidents” from the far-right, and instead focused on Black Lives Matter activists.

With respect to other issues, Wray said he was concerned about violent attacks against Asian Americans during the past year. But he stopped short of condemning  what he called “rhetoric” — offensive language used by Trump and other legislators regarding the pandemic that Democrats have characterized as pejorative or racist.

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Iran claims secret recording about Flight PS752’s destruction is fake

Iran is pushing back at what it calls “fruitless sensationalization” of the Flight PS752 tragedy in the wake of a CBC News report about a secretly-recorded conversation that suggests the world may never know the truth of what happened.

As the regime celebrates the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that overthrew the country’s monarchy, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif and his spokesperson today responded to CBC’s story by claiming the recording is a fake.

“The allegations made in this article are incorrect and baseless and many of the statements attributed to Dr. Zarif are fundamentally not compatible with the language that he commonly uses and the claim of the existence of such a tape is not true,” ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement in Farsi posted on the ministry’s webpage and translated by CBC News.

“We advise the Government of Canada to act professionally instead of its own fruitless sensationalism and to submit an expert report on the accident if it has an opinion.”


Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (Associated Press)

CBC News has confirmed the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment have had the recording of the private conversation in their custody for weeks. The security services are analyzing the recording’s authenticity and treating it with the “gravity it deserves,” said Ralph Goodale, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special advisor on the Flight PS752 file. 

Truth may never be exposed, according to recording

CBC News listened to the recording and had three people translate it from Farsi to English to capture nuances in the language.

Sources identified the voice on the audio as belonging to Zarif. The individual is heard saying on the recording that there are a “thousand possibilities” to explain the downing of the jet, including a deliberate attack involving two or three “infiltrators” — a scenario he said was “not at all unlikely.”

He is also heard saying in Farsi that the truth about the aircraft’s destruction likely will never be revealed by the highest levels of Iran’s government and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps — an elite wing of the country’s military overseen by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader and commander-in-chief. The IRGC is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“There are reasons that they will never be revealed,” he says in Farsi. “They won’t tell us, nor anyone else, because if they do it will open some doors into the defence systems of the country that will not be in the interest of the nation to publicly say.”

CBC News has obtained a recording of a man sources have identified as Iran’s foreign minister acknowledging that the downing of Flight 752 could have been intentional. The Canadian government and security agencies are reviewing the recording. 2:49

According to sources, the audio of the private conversation was captured in the months after the aircraft was destroyed on Jan. 8, 2020, shortly after takeoff in Tehran. All 176 people aboard were killed, including 138 people with ties to Canada.

After three days of denial, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani stated publicly that human error was to blame. He said the military mistook the jetliner for a hostile target in the aftermath of an American drone strike that killed a high-ranking Iranian military general in Iraq.

Zarif tweeted Wednesday morning in response to CBC’s story, insisting Iran always believed there were many possible explanations for the downing but concluded human error was to blame.

“Following Flight #PS72 tragedy, I & many others insisted that ALL possibilities — including foreign infiltration or electronic interference — must be investigated (fake audio notwithstanding). Human error was finally judged as cause. Iran is committed to full justice for victims,” the minister wrote.


Zarif’s tweet and his spokesperson’s comments today are believed to be their first public confirmation that Iran looked into foreign infiltration or electronic interference as possible explanations for Flight PS752’s destruction.

In his statement, Khatibzadeh said “everyone knows” that Zarif stressed “the need to examine all possibilities” during official meetings in the weeks following the crash. He specifically cited “the meeting with the Foreign Minister of Canada” — an apparent reference to François-Philippe Champagne, the minister at the time.


Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh claims Canada is politicizing the destruction of Flight PS752. (CBC News)

Iranian official suggests Canada is spreading ‘rumours’

Khatibzadeh also accused Canada of politicizing Flight PS752 and upsetting families.

“Families who have lost loved ones in this unfortunate tragedy are enduring great grief that is not easy to alleviate,” he wrote.

“We call on Canada not to add to the grief of bereaved families every day with such actions and rumours.”

Hamed Esmaeilion, spokesperson for the association representing victims’ families in Canada, says Zarif is the one causing grief for survivors.

“Javad Zarif, his actions and the whole Iranian regime is adding to the grief of the families,” said Esmaeilion. “Nothing is more valuable than human life. He says finding the truth can open doors to our defence system. What about human lives?”


Hamed Esmaeilion, his wife Parisa Eghbalian and daughter Reera Esmaeilion in happier times. Both Parisa and Reera died aboard Flight PS752. (Submitted)

Thomas Juneau is an associate professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa who studies intelligence analysis and Canadian foreign policy. He said that while the public emergence of the recording is a “bad surprise” and  “embarassing” for Zarif, the aftermath of PS752 “has fallen lower on the list of priorities of the government of Iran right now.”

“Ultimately, I think what the spokesperson and the foreign minister were trying to do with the response was to try and bat it away, basically,” he said.

Multiple countries — including Ukraine, where the airline that operated PS752 is based — have until the end of the month to review Iran’s final report on the safety investigation. It’s not clear when that document will be released publicly.

The past four interim reports suggested that a long list of human errors and other issues resulted in the IRGC mistakenly firing the missile at the commercial plane.

Khatibzadeh said Iran’s final safety report will be written by “impartial and competent experts.”

“Investigation into air accidents is a completely specialized and technical issue, and by spreading rumours and politicizing work, it is not possible to impose a result on the public opinion in line with the poisonous political goals,” he said.

Goodale has said a forensic examination and analysis team is working independently to piece together what led to the catastrophe.

“What we want to do at the end of the day for the families is to put all of this together in a coherent statement, as strong and clear as we can make it, about what happened and why it happened,” said Goodale.

In a media statement, Global Affairs Canada said the federal government is committed to obtaining justice for the victims and the bereaved by holding Iran to account.

“Canada’s police and security agencies are examining the reported audio tape with great care to determine its authenticity and full meaning. We cannot comment on its content at this time because lives may be put at risk,” said Global Affairs spokesperson Christelle Chartrand.

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CBC | World News

The Supposed ‘AMD Radeon 6900 XT’ Slides Are Completely Fake

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There’s a new set of slides being passed around that supposedly showcase AMD’s upcoming Radeon 6900 XT. They’re completely fake. Here’s how you can tell:

Radeaint-1

In the first slide, the branding has been updated at the upper right, but the branding on the actual GPU hasn’t been. Also, that’s a Radeon 5700 cooler with a Vega water-cooler next to it, and there’s a clear flaw in the image where the radiator attaches to the card.

The specs themselves are pretty reasonable. I’m not saying how accurate I think they are, but the specs are the only part of the slide that isn’t instantly fake. At the very least, I’d have to get out a calculator and run some numbers first.

The fact that there’s a price on the card is another way you know this slide is fake. Price is always the last thing a company decides on.

Radeaint-3

This slide made me laugh out loud when I saw it. Whoever created this work of art has never, ever, talked to anyone in marketing.

Marketing, my friends, is all about optimism. You might note, for example, that when AMD declared Ryzen would have an IPC 1.4x higher than Excavator, they did not do so with a giant slide labeled NO MORE BULLDOZENT

AMD-Zen-02

If AMD was ever going to whip out the “No More Compromises” play, you’d think they’d do it here.

There’s no way in hell AMD would ever advertise RDNA2 in a manner that implied RDNA or any previous GPU was “compromised.” AMD is still shipping Vega silicon in its APUs and as part of its compute business.

AMD is unlikely to call its ray tracing implementation “RXRT,” and the estimated performance impact of enabling the feature is hilarious, to put it lightly.

I was not particularly thrilled with Turing when it came out and I expect both Ampere and RDNA2 to offer superior performance in ray tracing workloads, but there’s no chance whatsoever that AMD takes a 5-9 percent penalty for enabling ray-tracing effects. If real-time ray tracing only carried a 5-10 percent performance penalty relative to rasterization, we’d have integrated RTRT a long time ago.

The typical performance hit for using ray tracing is more along the lines of 50-80 percent. Because we only have one generation of hardware from one company, we don’t know how much that number can be improved — but it beggars belief to think AMD has cut it by nearly an order of magnitude. It’s not even clear which RTX games will support RDNA2 ray tracing out of the gate.

Radeaint-2

The “Ultimate 4K Gaming Experience” is spot-on for a marketing slide, but AMD doesn’t give you game detail settings in the bars of its slides, and they don’t label up the y-axis to the point that you have to twist your neck like an owl in order to read it.

Also, good to see top-notch performance in Red Dead Redemption, a game that never received a PC release. Never heard of “Witcher 3,” either, since the actual name of the series is “The Witcher.”

This is what it looks like when people with more aspiration than Photoshop try to troll AMD fans. There’s a consistent design language to AMD’s slide decks and a consistent way that companies communicate about their products. These slides fail at both.

I declare this GPU a new and different product under the sun. Presenting the AMD Radeaint 6900 XT, launching September 2020.

Feature image is the AMD Radeon 5700 XT.

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Mark Consuelos Tried and Failed to ‘Catch’ Kelly Ripa Cheating With a Fake Flower Delivery

Mark Consuelos Tried and Failed to ‘Catch’ Kelly Ripa Cheating With a Fake Flower Delivery | Entertainment Tonight

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Jake Paul Admits Tana Mongeau Marriage Was Fake, Gives Julia Rose Relationship Update (Exclusive)

Jake Paul Admits Tana Mongeau Marriage Was Fake, Gives Julia Rose Relationship Update (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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Epic Games CEO Says Android Is ‘Fake Open’ but Apple Is Even Worse

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Epic has been a big name in the games industry for years, but the incredible success of Fortnite has catapulted it to the head of the pack. It’s also given the firm enough clout to try and change the way game distribution works. At the DICE Summit, Epic Games CEO Time Sweeny took the stage to criticize the leading mobile platforms. He said Android is a “fake open system,” and Apple is even worse. 

Fortnite began its run as a desktop game, following in the footsteps of other battle royale titles like PUBG. Fortnite successfully left the more “realistic” PUBG in the dust, earning billions of dollars for Epic Games. Like PUBG, the free mobile version of Fortnite has become just as popular as the desktop version. However, Sweeny says the roadblocks put up by Google and Apple are an ongoing issue. 

Whereas Epic can handle the desktop hosting and distribution on its own, Android and iOS have built-in systems for that. Both companies take a 30 percent cut of sales as compensation for using the platform, but most developers have learned to live with that. They don’t have the staff or infrastructure to distribute content themselves, and using the App Store and Google Play provides access to a much larger audience. Epic, however, does have the capacity to do that. 

Epic Games had no choice but to launch Fortnite in the App Store — there’s no way to sideload content on the iPhone without complex Jailbreaking hacks. On Android, Epic chose to release the game independently because Android does allow sideloading. However, the operating system quite reasonably warns users before they sideload apps. Sweeny bashed these “scary” pop-ups in his speech. Although, Google is treating Fortnite just like it would any other app. The “unknown sources” toggle is there for a good reason. Let’s not forget Epic launched Fortnite with a serious security hole on Android

Epic-Game-Store

Sweeny also drew a comparison between mobile platforms and credit card processors. Visa, for example, charges a few percentage points while Apple and Google take 30 percent. While the two businesses are vastly different, Sweeny proposes Apple and Google could still be highly profitable shaving just a few percent off the top. 

Sweeny’s criticism of Google and Apple is aimed pretty squarely at making Epic more money, but some of his other points will resonate with gamers. He called out Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo for their resistance to cross-platform gameplay in Fortnite. He also sees politics as an important part of gaming culture, criticizing Blizzard for trying to muzzle players who supported theHong Kong protests. Although, he also said players and vendors should be “free of lockdown,” apparently forgetting that the Epic Games store routinely makes deals for exclusive titles.

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OpenAI Releases Fake News Bot It Previously Deemed Too Dangerous

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In February of this year, the nonprofit artificial intelligence research lab OpenAI announced its new algorithm called GPT-2 could write believable fake news in mere seconds. Rather than release the bot to the world, OpenAI deemed it too dangerous for public consumption. The firm spent months opening up pieces of the underlying technology so it could evaluate how it was used. Citing no “strong evidence of misuse,” OpenAI has now made the full GPT-2 bot available to all

OpenAI designed GPT-2 to consume text and produce summaries and translations. However, the researchers became concerned when they fed the algorithm plainly fraudulent statements. GPT-2 could take a kernel of nonsense and build a believable narrative around it, going so far as to invent studies, expert quotes, and even statistics to back up the false information. You can see an example of GTP-2’s text generation abilities below. 

You can play around with GPT-2 online on the Talk to Transformer page. The site has already been updated with the full version of GPT-2. Just add some text, and the AI will continue the story. 

The deluge of fake news was first called out in the wake of the 2016 election when shady websites run by foreign interests spread misinformation, much of which gained a foothold on Facebook. OpenAI worried releasing a bot that could pump out fake news in large quantities would be dangerous for society. Although, some AI researchers felt the firm was just looking for attention. This technology or something like it would be available eventually, they said, so why not release the bot so other teams could develop ways to detect its output. 

An example of GPT-2 making up facts to support the initial input.

Now here we are nine months later, and you can download the full model. OpenAI says it hopes that researchers can better understand how to spot fake news written by the AI. However, it cautions that its research shows GPT-2 can be tweaked to take extreme ideological positions that could make it even more dangerous. 

OpenAI also says that its testing shows detecting GPT-2 material can be challenging. Its best in-house methods can identify 95 percent of GPT-2 text, which it believes is not high enough for a completely automated process. The worrying thing here is not that GPT-2 can produce fake news, but that it can potentially do it extremely fast and with a particular bias. It takes people time to write things, even if it’s all made up. If GPT-2 is going to be a problem, we’ll probably find out in the upcoming US election cycle.

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Tana Mongeau Responds to Those Who Think Her Upcoming Wedding to Jake Paul Is Fake

Tana Mongeau Responds to Those Who Think Her Upcoming Wedding to Jake Paul Is Fake | Entertainment Tonight

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‘Saturday Night Live’ Mocks Jussie Smollett With New Fake Attack Story in Brutal Sketch

‘Saturday Night Live’ Mocks Jussie Smollett With New Fake Attack Story in Brutal Sketch | Entertainment Tonight

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EU attacks anti-immigrant 'misinformation, untruths and fake news' from far-right

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

TODAY:

  • Europe's migration crisis has come to an end, according to a new European Commission report which decries the "misinformation, untruths and fake news" still being spread by anti-immigrant politicians.
  • Gerald Butts' testimony in Ottawa today about the SNC-Lavalin affair revolved largely around issues of perspective.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Immigration backlash

Europe's migration crisis has come to an end, according to a new European Commission report which decries the "misinformation, untruths and fake news" still being spread by anti-immigrant politicians.

The migration "progress report," released this morning in Brussels, says that just under 150,000 people arrived in Europe by "irregular" means in 2018. That's a 25 per cent drop from the year before, and 90 per cent below the 2015 peak when more than a million arrivals were counted.

So far in 2019, the UN's International Organization for Migration says that 10,707 migrants have made their way to European nations — 9,286 by sea and 1,421 by land. At least 225 people are known or presumed to have died during their journeys.

The ship Luz de Mar arrives at the Algeciras port with 232 immigrants who were rescued by Spanish Maritime Rescue from small boats in the Strait of Gibraltar on Aug. 29, 2018. So far in 2019, the UN says 10,707 migrants have made their way to European nations, the vast majority by sea. (A.Carrasco Ragel/EPA-EFE)

Faced with rising anti-immigrant sentiment stoked by Europe's far-right populists, the Commission is going on the attack, also issuing a new fact sheet that tackles 14 "myths" about migrants, including the idea that they spread disease or create an economic burden.

"From alarming rhetoric painting all migrants as terrorists and criminals, to inaccuracies and distortions about what the EU is doing, the debate is highly politicized," the document notes. "Fiction spreads like wildfire on social media and more often than not, facts get lost in all the noise."

Frans Timmermans, the Dutch politician who serves as the first vice-president of the Commission, told reporters that the EU has made "significant progress with tangible results" over the past four years, and that "Europe is no longer experiencing the migration crisis we lived in 2015."

The report comes amidst an ongoing battle between Brussels and anti-immigrant populists in Hungary and Italy.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party is facing expulsion from the EU's biggest political bloc, the centre-right European People's Party, over his repeated claims that Europe's "useful idiots" are too lax migrants. A billboard campaign featuring Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros has "crossed red lines," Manfred Weber, the bloc's candidate for European Commission president, said yesterday.

Dimitrios Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, holds a press conference on Progress under the European Agenda on Migration at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday. (Stephanie Lecocq/EPA-EFE)

And simmering tensions between Brussels and the deeply indebted Italian government over a proposed budget that fails to meet austerity targets seem to have emboldened Matteo Salvini, the country's fiercely anti-migrant interior minister. Today, he was gloating as paramilitary police moved in to dismantle a shantytown in southern Italy that has become home to 1,500 migrants.

"As promised … we went from words to actions," Salvini told reporters.  

Most migrants to Europe now travel via the Western Mediterranean route, landing in Spain. Italy, which has refused to allow rescue boats to dock at its ports, saw an 80 per cent drop in migrant arrivals last year.

Greece, which was the focal point of the crisis in 2015, saw a 30 per cent uptick in arrivals last year after Turkish authorities relaxed their crackdown on smugglers. Anti-migrant sentiment is rising there, too.

On Sunday, police arrested dozens of protestors on the island of Lesbos after they erected a large metal cross that was meant to serve as a "foreigners go home" message. And a public prosecutor has launched an investigation into reports that Greek authorities have been conspiring with paramilitary groups to physically push boatloads of asylum seekers back across the dangerous Evros River to Turkey.

The declared end to Europe's crisis comes as efforts ramp up to overturn the national emergency that President Donald Trump has proclaimed over America's southern border.

Members of the U.S. Border Patrol check barbed-wire barriers installed ahead of the possible massive arrival of migrants at the Zaragoza International Bridge on the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 22. (Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. House of Representatives has already condemned Trump's end-run efforts to fund his border wall, and there are indications that several Republicans may break ranks and censure the president when the resolution comes to a vote in the Senate next week.

But the White House has received a big boost from the latest figures released by the Department of Homeland Security, showing that 76,000 migrants crossed from Mexico last month, double the number in February 2018. Most were families and travelling in large groups seeking asylum from violence-ravaged Central American nations.

Irregular crossings and detentions along the southern frontier are on pace to reach their highest point in a decade, but remain well below the year 2000 peak when 1 million migrants arrived from Mexico and no emergency declaration was in place.


Differing points of view

Gerry Butts' testimony in Ottawa today about the SNC-Lavalin affair revolved largely around issues of perspective, writes The National co-host Rosemary Barton.

Gerry Butts is not someone who takes centre stage. He doesn't even seem to like it, frankly.

But today, the Prime Minister's former principal secretary did just that.

Gerald Butts, who quit last month as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief aide, testifying before the House of Commons justice committee in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

For more than two hours in front of the Justice Committee in Ottawa, Butts calmly tried to take apart what Jody Wilson-Raybould had told the same committee last week.

He did it while carefully avoiding calling the former AG names, without disparaging her, and very particularly, without calling her a liar.

Instead, he admits it is possible in this instance that two different people have two different views of what happened.

Contrary to what Wilson-Raybould has stated, Butts says no pressure was applied to the former AG to consider a deferred prosecution agreement for the Quebec company SNC-Lavalin.

He says there were, however, conversations about how to use the new law, whether everything had been considered, and whether outside legal advice was needed.

But it is clear Butts does not deem the communications to be what Wilson-Raybould called a "sustained effort' with "political interference."

In fact, to emphasize that he does not view it as pressure, Butts told the committee today that, "11 people made 20 points of contact with her or her office over a period of close to four months. Four of these people never met with the Attorney General in person. That's two meetings and two phone calls per month for the Minister and her office, on an issue that could cost a minimum of 9,000 jobs."

Butts adds that he hadn't heard that Wilson-Raybould had made a final decision on the deferred prosecution agreement until she testified last week (something the former minister says she articulated very clearly to other staff inside the Prime Minister's office). Under those circumstances, Butts suggests the ongoing conversations were understandable.

Butts told the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Parliament Hill on Wednesday that communications with Jody Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin case, 'was not about second-guessing the decision. It was about ensuring that the attorney general was making her decision with the absolute best evidence possible.' (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Moreover, Butts says the former Justice Minister never once raised anything with him as being improper. "Why are we having this discussion now and not in the middle of September, or October, or December?"

The first time the issue of SNC-Lavalin was raised as being somehow related to the cabinet shuffle that saw Wilson-Raybould moved to Veterans Affairs, Butts says, was during a discussion with Jane Philpott, when she told him it was suggested by her former colleague that it might be interpreted as a demotion.

These are just some of the contradictions between the testimonies delivered by Butts and Wilson-Raybould, and there are more questions to be answered. It is quite possible Wilson-Raybould will be called back before the committee to try and compare and contrast the two testimonies.

In the meantime, we are calling in our second At Issue panel of the week tonight to sort through things — and perhaps more fundamentally, to answer the question about whether today's testimony has helped the Prime Minister and stanched the bleeding of this political crisis.

The committee continues this afternoon with a return of the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Deputy Minister of Justice. I'll be watching that, too.

I'll see you from the West Block tonight for At Issue, while Chantal Hebert, Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells will be in their regular locations to dig into what they have heard today.

– Rosemary Barton


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A few words on … 

How a cabinet shuffle went awry.



Quote of the moment

"When you boil this all down, the only thing we ever asked the Attorney General to do was to get a second opinion. And we also made it clear that she was free to accept that opinion, or not."

Gerald Butts, the prime minister's former principal secretary, provides the House of Commons Justice Committee with a very different take on the SNC-Lavalin affair.


What The National is reading

  • China says pest concerns justify ban on Canadian canola (CBC)
  • U.S. trade deficit soars to record $ 891 billion (NY Times)
  • British government plans summit on rising knife crime (CBC)
  • Dead gardener may have taken revenge from beyond the grave (CNN)
  • Andy Murray considers Wimbledon return after successful surgery (Sky News)
  • Manila is now the world's hottest luxury property market (South China Morning Post)
  • Ocean floor listening posts reveal secrets of blue whales (CBC)
  • The Russian science keeping North Korea's dead leaders fresh (Reuters)

Today in history

March 6, 1978: Joan Rivers, comedian and film director  

The comedian visits Peter Gzowski on his 90 Minutes Live talk show to promote "the funniest movie ever made." Rabbit Test, which Rivers wrote and directed, featured Billy Crystal as the world's first pregnant man. But it also boasted an only-in-the-70s cast that included Paul Lynde, Jimmy Walker, Charlotte Rae, Billy Barty and Roddy McDowall in drag. Somehow, it ended up being a commercial failure.

The comedian appears on CBC-TV's 90 Minutes Live to promote her film Rabbit Test in 1978. 16:14

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