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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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Kremlin digs into ‘tool kit of intimidation’ to try to suppress Navalny supporters

Alexei Navalny would have known with near certainty that the chance he’d walk out of a Moscow jail as a free man after his latest appeal hearing was remote.   

So, instead, the Russian opposition leader used his appearance Thursday via video conference to go over the heads of his jailers — and the Putin government — to send a message of encouragement to his supporters ahead of rallies his team has called for Sunday.

“You won’t frighten us,” said Navalny, speaking directly to Russia’s leaders in the Kremlin and those in charge of its vast security apparatus.

“You won’t manage to frighten dozens of millions of people who were robbed by those in power. We won’t allow a bunch of villains to impose their rules on our country. “

More than 100,000 people took to the streets of more than 120 towns and cities last weekend in the most extensive protests Russia has seen in decades, with the crowds calling for Navalny to be freed. 


Hundreds of riot police were deployed in Moscow during a protest last weekend. Clashes with protesters were relatively isolated. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

The 44-year-old lawyer turned anti-corruption crusader turned politician was thrown in jail after he returned to Russia earlier this month after recovering in Germany following an attempt on his life last summer.   

He accuses the country’s security services of trying to kill him with a nerve agent, and Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering the hit.

Intimidation

However, Navalny’s defiant words from the jailhouse only served to underscore the lopsided nature of the collision between him and Putin.    

“The regime has barely started to unpack its vast tool kit of intimidation,” Carnegie Moscow Centre scholar Alexander Gabuev wrote in a thread on social media.

“And that’s why it’s wishful thinking to portray a 40k crowd in Moscow (with a population of nearly 13 million) or St. Petersburg (with more than 5 million) as a real danger to the regime.”

He said if Putin’s FSB, a security force and successor to the KGB, really did attempt to assassinate Navalny with a deadly nerve agent — as evidence gathered by the journalism collective Bellingcat suggests — then it’s hard to see how protests will be enough to convince authorities to let him go.

In the last week, Russia’s government has demonstrated some — but not all — of the countermeasures it is deploying to suppress the Navalny-inspired protests.

On Wednesday, police raided the homes of several of his allies, including his wife, Yulia, and his brother, Oleg, as well as the broadcast offices of his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK).

It was responsible for producing the video Putin’s Palace, a two-hour-long investigation into an opulent mansion on the edge of the Black Sea that Navalny claims was built for Russia’s president using $ 1.35 billion US in public funds that were siphoned off by corrupt business cronies.  

The video has racked up 100 million views on YouTube.

Some Navalny aides, including press secretary Kira Yarmysh, were given jail terms of a week or more.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has used a variety of tactics to try to discourage the protesters from taking to the streets. (Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters)

Russian authorities have also tried to leverage the education system to prevent young people from heeding the call to protest by threatening expulsion from schools or universities.

After thousands of Russian teenagers posted TikTok messages of support for Navalny, the Education Ministry organized meetings for parents to have their kids analyzed by a psychiatrist. 

Propaganda war

The government’s social media team has also been busy, pushing out hundreds of pro-Putin videos to try to suppress turnout for future demonstrations.  

Some videos feature young people professing their loyalty to Russia’s president while others contain apologies from protesters who express regret for taking part in protests.


People attend a rally in support of Navalny in Moscow last Saturday. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

The Kremlin has also tried to crack down on social media platforms that have posted anti-government messages.

Roskomnadzor, the country’s internet censor, announced it will fine companies such as TikTok and Facebook for not taking down posts that encouraged people to attend the protests last weekend.

After ignoring Navalny for years, Russian state TV programs have suddenly unleashed a barrage of anti-Navalny propaganda accusing him of everything from corruption to poisoning the minds of children to repeating a long-standing accusation that he works for the CIA.

The TV stations have also been playing pro-Kremlin messages, including an over-the-top promotional video made by Russian retailer Sima-Land. It features staff in uniforms dancing in unison, waving their hands and professing their love for Russia’s president.

It concludes with a dramatic musical flourish and the words: “Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], we are with you.”


Threat of force

Then there’s the outright threat of violence to try to deter people from taking to the streets.

At the big protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg last Saturday, police were largely restrained and the confrontations between riot squads and protesters were relatively mild — at least by Russian standards — although more than 4,000 people were arrested.

But the readiness to use brutal force by heavily armed and omnipresent security forces remains a potentially powerful deterrent. 


More than 4,000 people were arrested at anti-government protests across Russia last weekend. Many were issued expensive fines or short jail terms. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

Weaker hand?

Still, Navalny’s advocates say they believe the Kremlin’s hand isn’t as strong as it may appear.

In an interview with CBC News, Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition politician who promotes a stronger civil society in Russia, said Putin’s regime has relied on repression, propaganda and the passive acquiescence of society to remain in power.

“The two latter factors are no longer there. The propaganda is still [in place] but its effectiveness is no longer what it once was, and society is silent no longer,” he said.

“There is only so much time the Putin regime can win for itself by standing on force alone, and that is all they have left — they have lost this young generation in Russia.”

Kara-Murza said he believes the Kremlin is most worried about Navalny’s ability to mobilize people to vote against pro-government candidates in key parliamentary elections later this year.    

The so-called Smart Voting tactics call for voters to pick the opposition candidate who has the best chance of winning, regardless of their party label or ideology.

The measure has had some success at the local and regional level, but the elections in September are seen as a key test.

For years, pro-Kremlin commentators have vilified Navalny for being a traitor, arguing that he’s trying to provoke a “Maidan”-style uprising in Russia.  

That’s a reference to the wave of protests and unrest that led to the 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russia leader, Viktor Yanukovych, and the country’s subsequent attempt to pivot away from Russia to the West. More than 130 people were killed in violence associated with the uprising, a spectre the Kremlin often raises to try to convince Russians they are far better off sticking with the system and the president they have now. 


Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza says he believes the Kremlin has reason to be legitimately nervous about Navalny’s potential political influence. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)

Other Russia watchers remain unconvinced the rapidly changing political dynamic in Russia poses a significant threat to Putin’s reign.

“Mass protests, as such, rarely achieve political changes,” political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann said in a forum organized by the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University College London.

She said a more likely possibility is the protests gradually increase the strain on Russia’s political system to the point where elites within the Kremlin decide they have more to lose than gain by backing Putin. 

“Coups are more common than popular revolts in autocracies,” she said. 

While that might offer a partial victory for the pro-Navalny forces, it would also keep the existing power system — and its built-in biases against Navalny — intact.

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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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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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Trump supporters chant ‘Four more years!’ at Washington rally as he pushes false election claims

U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters began gathering in Washington on Saturday for a protest to back his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud as he pushes ahead with a flurry of long-shot legal challenges to overturn president-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Trump has made little headway in the courts with his lawsuits. He began to sound doubtful about his prospects for the first time on Friday, telling reporters “time will tell” who occupies the White House from Jan. 20.

There have been other pro-Trump protests around the country since Biden was projected the winner on Nov. 7, but they have been small and unfolded with few incidents.

The pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington and other cities will feature a mix of the president’s backers, including far-right personalities and members of the Oath Keepers militia and Proud Boys group in a public display of support for his effort to stay in power.

Trump’s motorcade drove by some of the protesters in downtown Washington on Saturday morning on his way to his golf course in nearby Sterling, Va. Flag-waving supporters chanted “USA!” and “Four more years!” as the cars rolled by. Outside the course, anti-Trump demonstrators waved signs including, “We voted — You’re Fired.”


Trump supporters participate in what some labelled as a ‘Stop the Steal’ protest in Washington after the U.S. presidential election was called for Democratic candidate Joe Biden. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Organizers have given the rallies various names, including the Million MAGA March, the March for Trump and Stop the Steal. MAGA is an acronym for the Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” Trump has tweeted his support.

Protesting against the marches, opponents on social media sought to create confusion by flooding the hashtags #MillionMAGAMarch and #MarchforTrump with photographs of pancakes.

Some left-wing groups planned counter-demonstrations in Washington and other cities.

Biden further solidified his victory on Friday as results from Edison Research showed him winning Georgia, giving him a final tally of 306 electoral college votes, far more than the 270 needed to be elected president and above Trump’s 232.


Members of the far-right group Proud Boys march in Washington to support Donald Trump in his fight against the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

The 306 votes was equal to Trump’s tally in his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, which at the time he called a “landslide.”

Trump briefly appeared close to acknowledging the likelihood he will be leaving the White House in January during remarks about the coronavirus response at a White House event on Friday.

“This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully the, uh, whatever happens in the future — who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell,” Trump said in his first public remarks since Biden was projected as the election’s winner.


A fight breaks out as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump and counter-protesters rally on Saturday in Washington, D.C. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

With the election outcome becoming clearer, Trump has discussed with advisers possible media ventures and appearances that would keep him in the spotlight ahead of a possible 2024 White House bid, aides said.

He is considering starting a television channel or social media company to compete with those he felt betrayed him and stifled his ability to communicate directly with Americans, according to several advisers.

In the near term, Trump is expected to campaign for Republican candidates in Georgia ahead of two Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Failing in court

Trump has refused to concede to Biden and claims without evidence that he was cheated by widespread election fraud. State election officials report no serious irregularities, and several of his legal challenges have failed in court.

WATCH | Trump campaign continues to challenge election results:

The Trump campaign has launched a lawsuit challenging election results in Michigan, while the White House continues to keep president-elect Joe Biden’s transition team in limbo. 1:50

A Michigan state court on Friday rejected a request by Trump’s supporters to block the certification of votes in Detroit, which went heavily in favour of Biden. And lawyers for Trump’s campaign dropped a lawsuit in Arizona after the final vote count there rendered it moot.

Federal election security officials have found no evidence that any voting system deleted, lost or changed votes, “or was in any way compromised,” two security groups said in a statement released on Thursday by the lead U.S. cyber-security agency.

Deadline to certify elections

To win a second term, Trump would need to overturn Biden’s lead in at least three states, but he has so far failed to produce evidence that he could do so in any of them.

States face a Dec. 8 deadline to certify their elections and choose electors for the electoral college, which will officially select the new president on Dec. 14.

Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has stalled the official transition. The federal agency that releases funding to an incoming president-elect, the General Services Administration, has yet to recognize Biden’s victory, denying him access to federal office space and resources.

But Biden, who will meet with advisers about the transition on Saturday in his home state of Delaware, has pressed ahead with the process, identifying legislative priorities, reviewing federal agency policies and preparing to fill thousands of jobs in the new administration.

“We’re charging ahead with the transition,” Jen Psaki, a senior adviser to Biden’s transition team, told reporters on Friday, while stressing Biden still needs “real-time information” from the Trump administration to deal with the resurgent coronavirus pandemic and national security threats.

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In Georgia, Trump supporters eye Biden term with anxiety, fear

Inside the large auditorium of the Free Chapel megachurch in Gainesville, Georgia, Pastor Jentezen Franklin, an evangelical adviser to Donald Trump, delivered a message that seemed tailored to the U.S. president’s supporters still smarting from the election results.

Speaking from on top of a wide stage to about 800 churchgoers a day after Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump, Franklin hedged on whether the former vice-president was actually the winner. Although he referred to Biden as the president-elect and insisted that whomever becomes the president “will be my president,” he also declared he wants “a good honest and certified count from every state.”

And there was one other point he wanted to make clear.

“Regardless of who becomes president,” he said, his voice slowly rising, “Free Chapel will always be a pro-life church, a pro-Israel church, a pro-religious freedom church, a pro-equality and justice church!”

Franklin, who was met with loud applause, certainly knows his audience and knows many Trump supporters fear these issues will not be supported by a Biden administration.

Nearly a week after the election, results in Georgia are still extremely close, with Biden leading by about 10,000 votes. While state officials have announced a recount, it appears Georgia is on the verge of tipping blue if Biden’s lead holds out.


Free Chapel Pastor Jentezen Franklin delivers a sermon to about 800 churchgoers in Gainesville, Georgia. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

But many Trump supporters say they’re skeptical of Biden’s progressive policies on the environment, the economy and abortion. They also fear a Biden administration might raise taxes and the economy could suffer.

Terry Olongo is a 54 year old manager of an IT company, a married father of three, and a strong Trump supporter who believes the president and his pro-business deregulation policies have boosted the U.S. economy.

Olongo, who attended Franklin’s Sunday service, said he’s nervous a Biden administration will bring in new business regulations and phase out fossil fuels.

‘Absolutely worried’

“I’m absolutely worried from the standpoint ‘how it’s going to effect our personal lives and our freedom in business and so forth,'” said Olongo, standing outside the chapel with his wife, daughter and soon to be son-in-law.

“It’s going to be an overreaching policy type of an agenda on his part.”

Olongo lives in Gainesville, a town of about 45,000 about an hour northeast of Atlanta, which is right in the heart of the politically Republican district of Hall.


Terry Olongo is a strong Trump supporter who believes the president and his pro-business deregulation policies have boosted the U.S. economy. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

It’s also home to Jaemer Farms, which offers everything from fresh produce to fresh kernel corn. On Sunday afternoon, Robert Seraphie and his wife dropped in from their home in Snellville, about 50 kilometres east of Atlanta.

“We just wanted to take a drive,” Seraphie said. “And we like farms. We like the farm stuff. We like the fresh vegetables.”

Seraphie, 61, is a retired police officer and Trump supporter and will be watching the results of the two runoff Senate elections in January very closely. 

With the Senate tied, he hopes the runoff Senate elections in Georgia will lead to two Republican victories, and Republican control of the upper chamber.  

Both scenarios could stymie some of Biden’s plans, which he believes include trying to claw back  gun rights, and placing limits of  freedom fo speech.

“I don’t like restricting people’s personal rights, the rights under our Constitution. I don’t like the Second Amendment being infringed upon,” Seraphie said.


Robert Seraphie, a retired police officer, is worried that Biden will limit gun rights and push the country too far to the left. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

He also is worried that both Biden and vice-president elect Kamala Harris will implement an economic policy that is too far left. 

“One of  the main concerns with him and Kamala Harris was the socialism and Marxist type agenda they been putting across.” 

Seraphie also believes Biden, for all his years in politics, had little to show. “He’s been in politics for 47 years now and I can’t think of anything.

“Now all of a sudden, the 48th year everybody thinks he’s going to cure everything and he’s going to do everything that he couldn’t do the last 47 years?”

The Democrats are looking to two run-off votes in Georgia to break the Republican domination of the U.S. Senate. If they’re successful in January, the chamber would be evenly matched, leaving the vice-president in the role of tie breaker. 2:01

In the nearby small town of Flowery Branch, also located in Hall County, Trump supporter Lori Whitfield was also disappointed by Biden’s win.

Whitfield sat on a wooden chair of the front porch of her bungalow where she’s lived since 1981. Her husband died about 10 years ago. From her porch, she can see the home of her 88-year-old father, a widower, and also a Trump supporter.

“In my younger days, I was a Democrat but I’ve changed as I got older,” says Whitfield, a retired saleswoman.

She too is also worried that once Biden is in office, the Democrats would ensure there are no restrictions on abortion. 

“I’m a devout Christian, but I see the Democrats are not what they used to be.”

Whitfield said she was also worried about what a Biden presidency will do to the economy, which she believes has thrived under Trump.

“I think he believes in handing out the money to the people that’s able to work that just won’t work. I think our economy will take a [hit].”


From left to right: Bob and Sandi Ferguson, Brad and Kathy Fairbairn are all Trump supporters. But they said they will all back Joe Biden as their president once he’s confirmed. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Cornelia, a town about a 30-minute drive northwest is in Habersham County, which has traditionally voted even more Republican than Hall County. Results show that more than 80 per cent of the county went to Trump, meaning, if you meet someone here of voting age, they are likely a Trump supporter.

Outside the home of Bob Ferguson, a pilot, he and his wife Sandi Ferguson and friends Brad and Kathy Fairbairn sat around a fire pit, happy to discuss their views on Trump, Biden and their fears of the future. 

Sandi Ferguson and Kathy Fairbairn said they’re still skeptical of the election results. They fear Biden will raise taxes, which will raise interest rates, and he will raise the minimum wage, all of which will negatively impact the economy.

All are Christians, and members of the Free Chapel church in Gainsville. They’re putting some of that faith into a Republican victory in the Georgia Senate race run offs.

“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris need a babysitter and that would be the Senate,” Sandi Ferguson said. So, yes, we’re very concerned that.”

“That’s going to be a very much needed balance,” Fairburn said.

But Sandi Ferguson said if Biden is confirmed, while they may not agree with his policies, they all agree with a sentiment Pastor Franklin expressed earlier that morning at church: He’s our president. We shall hold him up for four years.”

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Toronto FC falls short in bid for Supporters’ Shield in regular-season finale

Toronto FC heads into the MLS post-season with more than a little uncertainty, continuing the theme of its topsy-turvy, nomadic 2020 campaign.

Toronto will be doing it without the Supporters’ Shield, denied the trophy by its 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls and rival Philadelphia’s 2-0 win over New England on Decision Day Sunday. The Shield goes to the MLS team with the best regular-season record.

Under this year’s playoff format, second-seeded Toronto won’t know its first-round opponent until the Nov. 20 Eastern Conference play-in games.

No. 7 Nashville faces No. 10 Inter Miami and No. 8 New England takes on No. 9 Montreal. Philadelphia will meet the lower advancing seed while Toronto faces the higher advancing seed.

And TFC isn’t sure where it will be spending its time ahead of the playoffs.

WATCH | Red Bulls defeat Toronto FC:

New York Red Bulls defeat Toronto 2-1 in their regular-season finale. 1:10

The Toronto travelling party headed home after Sunday’s match in Harrison, N.J., hoping a deal can be struck with local authorities to allow the team some modified training north of the border.

If not, players and staff will spend a couple of days in quarantine with loved ones before returning to Hartford to practise although coach Greg Vanney said the team was looking at several options.

While others get to prepare at their training ground, TFC has been training at three different pitches in the Hartford area — one of which Vanney described as “basically like a beach.”

Toronto (13-5-5) needed to pick up more points than Philadelphia (14-4-5) on the day to claim the Shield given the two were tied on points and wins. The Union also held the edge in the relevant tiebreaker of goal differential per match.

“We’ve set out every year to try to be a team that can compete for the Supporters’ Shield,” said captain Michael Bradley. “But the reality is also that once the regular season ends, you have to quickly understand that everything starts over.

“And while the Supporters’ Shield means a lot and is certainly something that is important to us as a club, everybody also understands that the reality is still [that] the biggest prize is the MLS Cup. It’s the one that everyone remembers.”

Sunday’s result means Toronto goes into the playoffs having lost three of its last four games (1-3-0). The plus side is the club is getting healthier.

Altidore returns to action

Star striker Jozy Altidore, who had missed the last seven games, came on in the 57th minute. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who sat out the last three matches, saw 45 minutes of action.

But fullback Richie Laryea lasted just 41 minutes before limping off with a minor groin injury.

The Supporters’ Shield carries with it home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as well as a US$ 150,000 prize. For Philadelphia, in claiming its first-ever trophy after finishing runner-up in the U.S. Open Cup in 2014, ’15 and ’18, it also means a berth in the 2021 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.


A 5-0 defeat in Philadelphia on Oct. 24 and a 1-0 loss to New York City FC four days later in Hartford cost an injury-ravaged Toronto in the standings. The Union let Toronto back in the hunt by losing 2-1 in Columbus last weekend.

Still, Toronto delivered a fine showing to finish runner-up in the 26-team league over a pandemic-rejigged campaign that forced it to play all but four of its 23 regular-season games away from BMO Field, with six in East Hartford.

“As I said to them before the game, I’m extremely proud of the way they have handled the season,” Vanney said of his players. “It’s been a challenging year in many, many ways for everybody around the world.”

“Our guys, every single day, came out to training and didn’t complain, didn’t moan. They just got to work,” he added. “They found ways to support each other and to get on with it.”

The Red Bulls, who came into the game in seventh place in the East, attained their goal of moving up into sixth and thus avoiding the play-in round. Interim head coach Bradley Carnell praised his team’s efforts in the first half, calling it one of its best efforts of the season.

“Really good soccer, high-level soccer against the best team in the league,” said the former South African international.

Trailing 2-0 after 45 minutes, a different Toronto side came out to start the second half and pulled a goal back five minutes into the half. But the Red Bulls absorbed the pressure and kept their heads.

Tom Barlow and Brian White scored for the Red Bulls. Tsubasa Endoh replied for Toronto.

Barlow scored off a corner with White flicking the ball on to the far post. Barlow rose above Chris Mavinga and headed the ball in for his third of the season in the 24th minute. Toronto had six defenders inside the six-yard box at the time.


The Toronto defence was ripped apart again two minutes later when fullback Kyle Duncan was left uncovered as he headed towards the penalty box. He sent the ball across the goal for an unmarked White to tap it in. It was the fifth goal of the season for White and the fourth in his last five matches.

Endoh pulled one back for Toronto in the 50th, knocking in the rebound after Ryan Meara made a fine save off Nick DeLeon, who sidestepped a defender to make room for the shot.

Outshot 8-1 in the first half, Toronto had a 13-0 advantage in the second half.

For Vanney, it was a reminder to his players that at this time of the season “the game can’t always look as pretty as we want it to look.”

Impact clinch playoff berth

Romell Quioto played with a heavy heart Sunday, yet still did enough to put the Montreal Impact into the playoffs.

The Honduran forward had a hand in all three Impact goals Sunday, including a game-winning goal in the 88th minute, in a 3-2 victory over D.C. United at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

The win clinched a playoff berth for the Impact (8-13-2) and the team will enter the postseason as the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference. D.C. United (5-12-6) also needed a victory to make the playoffs, but the loss eliminated them from playoff contention.

“Today, we showed character,” Impact manager Thierry Henry said.

Quioto’s home country has been battered by Hurricane Eta. Local officials say the storm has led to 21 deaths in Honduras.

WATCH | Impact lock up playoff spot with win against D.C. United:

Romell Quioto’s goal in the 88th minute sends Montreal Impact to the playoffs as they defeat D.C. United 3-2. 1:23

After scoring the go-ahead goal, Quioto raced to the sidelined and celebrated with his teammates while holding a flag of Honduras. The 29-year-old also showed off the flag during his media availability after the match.

“I’m very sad with what’s currently happening in my country,” Quioto said. “I really trust that (through) God that all the people who are suffering can be better. I want to send my people all my love and support as well as my trust in God.”

“I’m really happy for him because he put this difficult thing on the side,” teammate Bojan said.

Montreal snapped a three-game losing streak with its first victory since a 2-1 win against Inter Miami on Oct. 17.

Following an opening goal from D.C. United’s Donovan Pines, Quioto assisted on Bojan’s opening goal of the game as he fought off numerous D.C. United defenders before passing the ball through the penalty area. Bojan was first to the ball and he equalized at the 13th minute.

Ola Kamara gave the home team a 2-1 lead 20 minutes later, but Montreal would eventually even the score in the 74th minute after a Victor Wanyama goal assisted by Quioto.

Quioto’s game-winner would eventually come moments from stoppage time after receiving a pass from Mason Toye, giving the Impact the lead for good.

Montreal will play New England in the Eastern Conference play-in round Nov. 20.

Whitecaps finish season strong with win over Galaxy

The Vancouver Whitecaps finished their season on a positive note Sunday, beating the L.A. Galaxy 3-0.

Lucas Cavallini opened the scoring in the 24th minute, and Fredy Montero added a brace with goals in the 48th minute and injury time.

The Galaxy went down a man before the half after L.A.’s Julian Araujo was sent off for a serious foul when his studs met the knee of Vancouver’s Cristian Gutierrez.

Evan Bush had six saves for the Whitecaps (9-14-0) and collected his first clean sheet for Vancouver. Galaxy (6-12-4) ‘keeper David Bingham stopped three of the six on-target shots he faced.

WATCH | Cavallini, Whitecaps close out season with win:

Lucas Cavallini of Mississauga, Ont., opens up the scoring as Vancouver goes on to defeat Los Angeles 3-0.  1:29

Sunday’s results didn’t change much for either side, as both teams were eliminated from playoff contention on Wednesday.

It had been a difficult year for the ‘Caps, but coach Marc Dos Santos said earlier in the week that his squad was determined to finish strong despite not earning a spot in the post-season.

Vancouver came out with energy on Sunday and Cavallini fired a shot at the Galaxy net just seven minutes in.

The Whitecaps got on the scoreboard in the 24th minute after Russell Teibert stormed through the midfield and got a pass off to Gutierrez. The Chilean-Canadian left back delivered the ball into Cavallini just outside the six-yard box, and the striker put away a header to put Vancouver up 1-0.

Gutierrez was taken out at the top of the penalty area in the 39th minute by a high boot from Araujo.

Referee Joseph Dickerson pulled out a yellow card for the play before it was sent to video review. After a second look, Dickerson showed Araujo the red and the Galaxy defender was ousted from the game.

The ‘Caps didn’t take long to capitalize on the man advantage.

Ali Adnan sent a long ball into the danger area in the 43rd minute and Montero used his chest to bounce it in past Bingham to put the Whitecaps up 2-0.

The Colombian forward added another strike in injury time, sending a rocket past Bingham and rippling the back of the net.

The goals were the fourth and fifth of the season for Montero, who was playing in his 200th regular-season Major League Soccer game.

Despite Sunday’s result, the Whitecaps will miss the playoffs for the third season in a row this year.

Vancouver finished the regular-season with more wins than the Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes, who took the last two post-season berths in the West. The ‘Caps didn’t see a single tie all year, however, which hurt the club when the MLS switched the playoff qualification criteria to points per game.

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Toronto FC in dead heat to win Supporters’ Shield ahead of MLS Decision Day

For the first time since 2016, the Colorado Rapids are in the MLS playoffs. And they made it to the post-season even after missing five games because of a coronavirus outbreak.

In a strange year, Major League Soccer heads into Decision Day on Sunday with some surprises. Like the Rapids.

“Everyone just feels relieved. It’s been a tough year, but to finally get over that hump and be in the playoffs is huge,” Colorado midfielder Kellyn Acosta said. “I know everyone’s excited. But I think for us, we know it’s just one box that we just checked off of our list.”

Decision Day is the last day of the Major League Soccer regular season. The games are all played at the same time in each of the two conferences.

In the East, the Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC are in a dead heat for the Supporters’ Shield going into the final weekend. Losses knocked the Columbus crew and the Portland Timbers out of the running for the annual award given to the team with the best regular-season record.

The Union can claim the Shield with a victory over New England, regardless of the result in the final game between Toronto and the Red Bulls. If Philadelphia draws with the Revolution and the Reds win, Toronto will win the Shield and, more importantly, home field advantage through the playoffs.

“Home” in this odd season for Toronto is Connecticut. Travel restrictions in place because of COVID-19 forced the league’s Canadian teams to play out a portion of the regular season in the United States.

Toronto played at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, the Montreal Impact were based at Red Bull Stadium in New Jersey and the Vancouver Whitecaps played at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.

WATCH | TFC downs Inter Miami to stay in hunt for top spot:

Alejandro Pozuelo delivers the winner on a penalty in the 84th minute as Toronto FC defeats Inter Miami 2-1. 0:47

Major League Soccer decided to use points per game this season to determine playoff position — something that helped the Rapids, who played fewer games. After a FIFA break for international play, the playoffs will start Nov. 20 with the MLS Cup title game set for Dec. 12.

In the Eastern Conference, eight of the playoff spots are already set, with five teams still in contention for the final two entering the last day. The bottom four will meet in play-in matches. Montreal, Chicago, Atlanta United, Inter Miami and DC United all still have a path to the post-season. FC Cincinnati is the only East team that was eliminated before Decision Day.

In the West, the field is already set with teams playing for position on Sunday. The Vancouver Whitecaps, the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake and the Houston Dynamo have been eliminated in the West.

The Timbers, Sporting Kansas City and the defending champion Seattle Sounders are all in play for the top spot in the West standings despite the oddity of having different total games because of cancellations.

Sporting announced Thursday that a first-team player had tested positive for COVID-19 and was isolating. Sunday’s match at Real Salt Lake is still on.

One of the surprises out West was the San Jose Earthquakes, who lost eight straight matches at one point in the coronavirus-shortened regular season. The Quakes have won their last two games heading into Sunday’s game against the Sounders.

San Jose clinched a berth with a 3-2 victory over LAFC on Wednesday. The league’s all-time top scorer, Chris Wondolowski, scored his 166th goal in the win.

“We joke, and I say this facetiously, that our team is made for 2020, 2020 is crazy. We’re mayhem. That’s what our team is made for,” Wondolowski said. “It’s why we love it. I wish we could be a little bit sharper and didn’t have to endure all the valleys. I love how high the mountains are.”

The Quakes’ victory eliminated the Whitecaps in a frustrating season. Playing home games in Portland was difficult, but the MLS decision to use points per game all but skewered Vancouver’s playoff hopes.

“Nothing’s fair this year,” Whitecaps coach coach Marc dos Santos said when the decision was handed down. “We just have to deal with it.”

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Toronto FC players, staff and supporters take stand against racism

Toronto FC and its supporters have combined forces in a stand against racism.

Fans from the south end of BMO Field, home to the MLS club supporters’ groups, made a giant banner showing a clenched fist below the words “Love Football, Hate Racism.”


After the tifo was delivered Tuesday to the club’s north Toronto training ground, 39 TFC players and staff formed a circle around the banner in the middle of one of the pitches.

The club tweeted “we stand together with our Southend supporters.”

The MLS franchise has mobilized in recent week in support of Black Lives Matter and the fight to end racism.

Toronto fullback Justin Morrow is executive director of the newly formed Black Players Coalition of MLS. Jozy Altidore, Ifunanyachi Achara, Richie Laryea and other TFC players have been vocal about the need for change, as have assistant coach Jason Bent and GM Ali Curtis.

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Iraqi supporters of Iran-backed militia attack U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Dozens of angry Iraqi Shia supporters of an Iran-backed militia broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire.

An Associated Press reporter saw flames rising from inside the compound and at least three U.S. soldiers on the roof of the main building inside the embassy. There was a fire at the reception area near the parking lot of the compound, but the cause was unclear. A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying: “The message was delivered.”

The embassy attack followed U.S. airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataib Hezbollah. The U.S. military said it was in retaliation for last week’s killing of a U.S. contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that it had blamed on the militia.

Dozens of protesters pushed into the compound after smashing the gate used by cars to enter the embassy. The protesters, many in militia uniform, stopped in a corridor after about five metres and were only about 200 metres away from the main building. Half a dozen U.S. soldiers were seen on the roof of the main building, their guns pointed at the protesters.

Watch as Iraqi protesters storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad:

Protesters breached the U.S. Embassy’s outer wall in Baghdad Tuesday following deadly U.S. airstrikes that killed 25 Kataib Hezbollah fighters on Sunday. 0:51

Smoke from the tear gas rose in the area, and at least three of the protesters appeared to have difficulties breathing. It wasn’t immediately known whether the embassy staff had remained inside the main building.

The protesters put up a poster on the wall: “America is an aggressor.”

U.S. President Donald Trump responded to the embassy attack, accusing Iran of orchestrating the attack and saying it will be “fully held responsible.”

“In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Later, U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. was sending additional forces to its embassy in Baghdad and called on the Iraqi government to help protect U.S. personnel.

“We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defence,” Esper said in a statement.

“As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the government of Iraq to fulfil its international responsibilities to do so,” he added.


Protesters breached the U.S. Embassy’s outer wall and chanted ‘Death to America’ on Tuesday. (Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images)

Yassine al-Yasseri, Iraq’s interior minister, appeared outside the embassy at one point and walked around to inspect the scene. He told the AP the prime minister had warned the U.S. strikes on the Shia militiamen would have serious consequences.

“This is one of the implications,” al-Yasseri said. “This is a problem and [it] is embarrassing to the government.”

No one was immediately reported hurt in the rampage and security staff had withdrawn to inside the embassy earlier, soon after protesters gathered outside.

Seven armoured vehicles with about 30 Iraqi soldiers arrived near the embassy hours after the violence erupted, deploying near the embassy walls but not close to the breached area.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and President Barham Salih by telephone from Washington and he said they had guaranteed the safety of U.S. personnel and property.

“The Secretary made clear the United States will protect and defend its people, who are there to support a sovereign and independent Iraq,” a State Department spokesperson said.

More than 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq supporting local forces, though Iraq has rejected any long-term presence of additional U.S. forces that crossed its border during an American withdrawal from northern Syria.

Escalation in U.S.-Iran proxy war

The U.S. airstrikes — the largest targeting an Iraqi state-sanctioned militia in recent years — and the subsequent calls by the militia for retaliation represent a new escalation in the proxy war between the U.S. and Iran playing out in the Middle East.

Tuesday’s attempted embassy storming took place after mourners and supporters held funerals for the militia fighters killed in a Baghdad neighbourhood, after which they marched on to the heavily fortified Green Zone and kept walking until they reached the sprawling U.S. Embassy there.

AP journalists then saw the crowd as they tried to scale the walls of the embassy, in what appeared to be an attempt to storm it, shouting “Down, down USA!” and “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”


Paramilitary fighters tried to enter the U.S. Embassy during Tuesday’s protest. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)

Pompeo said Sunday’s strikes send the message the U.S. will not tolerate actions by Iran that jeopardize American lives.

The Iranian-backed Iraqi militia had vowed Monday to retaliate for the U.S. military strikes. The attack and vows for revenge raised concerns of new attacks that could threaten American interests in the region.

The U.S. attack also outraged both the militias and the Iraqi government, which said it will reconsider its relationship with the U.S.-led coalition — the first time it has said it will do so since an agreement was struck to keep some U.S. troops in the country. It called the attack a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty.

In a partly televised meeting Monday, Abdul-Mahdi told cabinet members he had tried to stop the U.S. operation, “but there was insistence” from American officials.

The U.S. military said “precision defensive strikes” were conducted against five sites of Kataib Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq and Syria. The group, a separate force from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, operates under the umbrella of the state-sanctioned militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Many of them are supported by Iran.

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