Source: Reuters/ Jay Paul
- In court Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask alleged that the militia group that planned to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also discussed targeting Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
- Like Whitmer, Northam was potentially targeted because of his aggressive coronavirus lockdown orders earlier this year.
- Northam has directly blamed President Donald Trump for emboldening the group, though White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president and denounced this claim.
- One Michigan sheriff, Dar Leaf, is facing resignation calls after people also criticized him for emboldening similar groups after he seemingly suggested that the plot against Whitmer wasn’t a “serious thing” or that the plotters were simply making a citizen’s arrest.
Gov. Northam Was Targeted
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) was discussed as a potential target by the same militia group that is accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), according to the FBI.
That claim is just one of several shocking claims that were laid out in court by FBI special agent Richard Trask on Tuesday.
State and federal agencies have arrested 13 men in connection to the plot against Whimter.
They face a slew charges, including terrorism, conspiracy, and weapons possession. According to prosecutors, their plan involved storming the Michigan State Capitol, trying Whitmer for “treason” in a mock court, and instigating a civil war.
Like Whitmer, Northam was potentially targeted because of the aggressive coronavirus lockdown orders he imposed in his state earlier this year. In both states, those orders restricted much of the economy.
Northam’s restrictions were heavily criticized in April by many conservative groups, including by President Donald Trump, who tweeted, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
The same day, Trump also tweeted both “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”
Northam’s press secretary, Alena Yarmosky, directly referenced those tweets Tuesday in a statement regarding the news that Northam had been potentially targeted.
“The president regularly encourages violence against those who disagree with him,” she said. “The rhetoric coming out of this White House has serious and potentially dangerous consequences. It must stop.”
However, in a statement to CNN, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump.
“President Trump has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate. Governor Whitmer, and now Governor Northam, are sowing division by making these outlandish allegations,” she said. “America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot.”
Nonetheless, Wednesday morning, Northam directly launched more criticism against Trump, saying that “these people take their marching orders from individuals like the President.”
“It’s unfortunate and it needs to stop,” he added.
The Plan for Whitmer Potentially Included Murder
Among other allegations laid out by Trask on Tuesday, some members discussed murdering people they described as “tyrants.”
It’s highly likely that the reference was meant to include Whitmer. In fact, during one plotting exercise, the militia group allegedly discussed mugging a pizza delivery worker, stealing their identity, and posing as that delivery person in an attempt to shoot Whitmer.
Another plan included taking Whitmer out on a boat into the middle of Lake Michigan and leaving her stranded by disabling the engine so someone would have to “come rescue” her.
Trask alleged that the men planned to execute their attack on Election Day.
Calls for Michigan Sheriff to Resign
Connected to the militia plot, many are also calling for Dar Leaf, a sheriff in Barry County, Michigan, to resign, with some calling him a protector of terrorists.
Leaf is in hot water over a few different controversies, but most notably, the calls for his resignation came after it was discovered that he once shared a stage with one of the plotters at an anti-lockdown rally on May 18.
For months, Leaf has been outspokenly critical of Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders, even likening them to an unlawful arrest.
Calls for his resignation also come following comments he made defending the militia group.
After it was revealed that these militia members had allegedly planned to kidnap Whitmer and engage in mock court, Leaf told a local TV station: “Well, it’s just a charge. And they say a plot to kidnap, and you got to remember that, are they trying to kidnap? Cause a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested, so are they trying to arrest her or was it a kidnap attempt? Cause you can still, in Michigan, if it’s a felony, you can make a felony arrest.”
“I’m hoping that’s more of what it is,” he added. “In fact, these guys are innocent till proven guilty, so I’m not even sure if they had any part of it.”
While Leaf has said that Whitmer deserves the right to be safe, he has openly questioned if the plotters were actually serious in carrying out their plan.
Collectively, those comments have results in fierce backlash.
“As Michigan’s top law enforcement official, let me make this abundantly clear-Persons who are not sworn, licensed members of a law enforcement agency cannot and should not “arrest” government offficials with whom they have disagreements,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “These comments are dangerous.”
Leaf later walked back his comments, saying that he wasn’t trying to suggest the militia group was planning to make a lawful citizen’s arrest.
“I have a hard time swallowing this was a serious thing,” he still said.
Leaf said Tuesday that he has no plans to resign and argued against the point that he and Trump are enabling terrorists.
He also stated that the militia movement “has been brewing for quite some time,” claiming it is growing because of a gradual loss of rights.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (MLive)
Voters in 4 States Received Emails Threatening Them To “Vote for Trump or Else!”
- Democratic voters in Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania received threatening emails telling them to vote for Trump or else the Proud Boys would “come after” them.
- The email came from a domain associated with the Proud Boys, but the group denied that it had any involvement and said that the website in question was no longer in use because it had been dropped by Google Cloud services.
- According to The Washington Post, when the hosting service dropped the domain, it left it unsecured, meaning anyone online could take control of it.
- Multiple outlets that reviewed the emails also reported that the messages did not come from the email address listed, but rather from foreign internet servers.
Registered Democrats in four different states — including three hotly contested swing states — were sent threatening emails Tuesday from an address that appeared to be affiliated with the far-right group the Proud Boys. The message warned recipients that if they did not vote for President Donald Trump, the group would “come after” them.
According to a screenshot of the email obtained by CBS News, the subject line of the message reads “Vote for Trump or else!”
“We are in possession of all your information (email, address, telephone… everything),” the body of the email said. The sender went on to claim they know the recipient of the email is a Democrat because they “gained access into the entire voting infrastructure.”
“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the email continued. “Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you.”
Outlets that obtained copies of the email also reported that it concluded with the home address of the recipients they were sent to. Currently, voters in Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania have reported receiving the threatening messages.
It remains unclear how many went out in total, but it does appear that most of them were sent to people in Florida and Alaska. In Alaska, local news outlets reported that the emails went out to over a dozen people. In Florida, a University of Florida spokesperson said that they knew of at least 183 Floridians who got the messages.
Officials in both states also announced that they have launched investigations, and the FBI was also looking into the matter.
Proud Boys Deny Involvement
While the sender’s address is listed email@example.com, a domain associated with the Proud Boys, the group’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, immediately denied that they had any involvement.
“We don’t send emails. This is someone spoofing our emails and website,” he told reporters. “We have spoken to the FBI and are working with them. I hope whoever did this is arrested for voter intimidation and for maliciously impersonating our group.”
Tarrio also told The Washington Post that the group has been in the process of migrating from officialproudboys.com to another site. In fact, they said officialproudboys.com has not been used for weeks because that domain was recently dropped by a hosting company that uses Google Cloud services after concerns were raised about the group.
According to The Post, when the hosting service dropped the domain, it appeared to just be left unsecured, and thus “allowing anyone on the Internet to take control of it and use it to send out the menacing messages.”
Numerous outlets that reviewed the emails also said that they did not come from the email address that was displayed, but rather from foreign internet servers. According to CBS, the metadata from the emails they analyzed showed that the messages originated from IP addresses connected to servers in Estonian, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
While experts noted that the IP addresses do not necessarily mean that the senders were based in those countries because they could have routed the emails from almost anywhere, some cybersecurity experts have pointed to the possibility of foreign interference to sow chaos in the election.
“We’re 2 weeks from the last day to vote! This is also the perfect time for adversaries to create chaos by spreading bogus claims or overstating activity,” Chris Krebs, the director of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency tweeting, noting that his office was aware of the emails.
“Ballot secrecy is guaranteed by law in all states,” he continued. “These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CBS News) (The New York Times)
Exxon Clarifies That Quid Pro Quo Call With Trump “Never Happened”
- During a rally Monday, President Trump said he would outraise Biden in campaign donations if he asked corporations to donate money to his campaign in return for granting political favors.
- He used an example of asking the CEO of Exxon to give his campaign $25 million in exchange for permits and licenses.
- The scenario the president described is a federal crime punishable by prison time, and in a statement shortly after, Exxon said that the call “never happened.”
- Trump clarified that he would not ask for those donations because it would make him “compromised” and implied soliciting money from large companies would compel him to grant them political favors in return because he is “loyal.”
- Many still condemned the president, arguing that even if it was a hypothetical, the kind of quid pro quo he detailed is almost exactly what he was impeached for, and given his track record, some believe it is possible that this is something he would do again.
Exxon Refutes Call
After President Donald Trump told a crowd of rallygoers Monday that he could, in theory, call up the CEO of Exxon Mobil and ask him to donate to his campaign in exchange for political favors, the energy giant clarified that no such call had taken place.
“We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO,” the company said in a tweet. “And just so we’re all clear, it never happened.”
While speaking to the crowd in Prescott, Arizona, Trump addressed the fact that he is currently being handily out-raised by former Vice President Joe Biden by claiming that he would be “the greatest fund-raiser in history” if he collected bribes from companies in exchange for political favors.
“All I have to do is call up the head of every Wall Street firm, the head of every major company, the head of every major energy company. ‘Do me a favor, send $10 million for my campaign,’” Trump said, adding that he could not take the money because it would make him “totally compromised.”
“Because when they call me, you know, you’re a loyal person, and what happens is hey, you know, you’ll do things that are a lot more money,” he added, before going on to provide an example.
“So I call some guy, the head of Exxon. I call the head of Exxon, I don’t know, you know. I’ll use a company,” the president said. “‘Hi, how are you doing? How’s energy coming? when are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh? Okay.’ But I call the head of Exxon, I say, ‘You know, I’d love you to send me $25 million dollars for the campaign.’ ‘Absolutely, sir, why didn’t you ask?’”
Beyond making him “compromised,” the situation that the president described is also illegal. Under federal law, soliciting for donations in exchange for a favor or advantage — like a specific policy outcome or permits and licenses — is punishable by fines, removal from office, and up to 15 years in prison.
Trump’s remarks quickly began trending on Twitter, with many users condemning him. Despite the fact that the example the president provided appeared to be entirely hypothetical, some people still found it alarming, especially because he did not outright acknowledge it was illegal.
Some noted that the scenario he described almost exactly the kind of quid pro quo that Trump was impeached for after he withheld aid from Ukraine in order to coerce the country’s president to dig up political dirt on Biden.
“It’s basically what he was impeached for: trading presidential act for political favor,” one user wrote. “Just substitute ‘Exxon’ for ‘Ukraine.’ ‘Exxon, I need you to do me a favor, though.’”
Other users also pointed out that Trump repeatedly defended himself during the impeachment proceedings by claiming his actions did not constitute a quid pro quo. If he believed he did not commit any wrongdoing, they argued, it is possible that he would engage in this kind of behavior again.
“If he was willing to do this with Ukraine, I have no doubt he’s done it with US corporations,” one user wrote.
Some also cast doubt on the fact that it was a hypothetical at all.
“Trumps the kind of guy who jokes about doing something illegal but says ‘I’m just kidding’ but he’s actually done it,” one person tweeted. “He made the old Exxon CEO the Secretary of State. How much has Exxon given Trump & how has the Trump administration helped them w/ regulations.”
It is true that the oil and gas industry has been a large contributor to Trump, who has spent his time in office denying scientific facts about climate change and rolling back decades of environmental regulations.
According to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics, Trump and outside groups associated with him have raised nearly $13 million from people at oil-and-gas companies in this election cycle.
Not only is that nearly 13 times the $976,000 the industry has donated to Biden, it is also more than people in the industry have given Republicans in all of the last three presidential races.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
AOC Will Play “Among Us” With Pokimane and Others To “Get Out the Vote”
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked if anyone wanted to play “Among Us” with her on Twitch in an effort to encourage voting.
- She’s already publicly agreed to play with Pokimane, Hasan Pike, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, but no other players have been confirmed yet.
- Internet stars who showed interest included James Charles, Gus Johnson, Jacksepticeye, Dr Lupo, and several others.
- The congresswoman has created a Twitch channel in preparation for the stream, which she said could happen Tuesday night.
- AOC isn’t the only Democrat using video games to reach young voters. The Biden-Harris campaign has made headlines for releasing 2020 yard signs and creating its own headquarters in “Animal Crossing.”
AOC Issues a Call for “Among Us” Players
Internet stars are jumping at the chance to stream a game of “Among Us” with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Twitch this week.
“Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?” the Democratic congresswoman from New York tweeted out Monday.
“I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun,” she added before asking, “Who would you want to watch in a game together? ⬇️”
“Among Us” is a multiplayer murder mystery game that was released in 2018, but it recently became wildly popular thanks to various streamers and people trying to have fun with friends in this age of social distancing.
While many streamers were quick to reply to AOC’s question, one of the biggest names catching attention was Pokimane, who has over 6 million Twitch followers.
“It’d be an honor,” she tweeted back.
“Let’s do it!” Ocasio-Cortez replied, saying she’ll set up her account and get equipment together.
Other Creators Show Interest
Aside from Pokimane, AOC also publicly agreed to play with streamer and political commentator Hasan Piker, as well as Rep. Ilhan Omar.
It’s unclear how many people she’s looking to bring together, but a game of “Among Us” can have up to 10 players.
Other huge creators throwing their names into the hat include James Charles, Gus Johnson, Jacksepticeye, Lazarbeam, and Dr Lupo.
YES— James Charles (@jamescharles) October 19, 2020
I’d love to if you’re down!— Gus Danger Johnson (@Gusbuckets) October 19, 2020
If you need a diversity of accents hit me up— Jacksepticeye (@Jack_Septic_Eye) October 19, 2020
I offer myself as tribute. 😁— DrLupo (@DrLupo) October 19, 2020
However, as of now, no other players have been publicly confirmed. AOC set up her Twitch channel last night, which already has nearly 200,000 followers.
She said she spent time setting up mods and doing run-throughs but plans to go live sometime Tuesday night.
Democrats Using Video Games To Reach Young Voters
It will be interesting to see who participates and what kind of viewership this event brings in. Many agree that the steam could prove to be a smart way to reach younger Americans before the election, a base AOC is especially good at communicating with.
Although she admittedly hasn’t played this particular game before, video games aren’t exactly outside her realm of interests. In fact, she previously opened up about loving to play “League of Legends.”
Ocasio-Cortez is also far from the only Democrat-leaning into video games as a way to reach young voters. The Biden-Harris campaign has taken a similar approach with the “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”
Last month, they released official yard signs through the game, and just this month, the campaign launched Joe Biden’s virtual headquarters– an entire island where users could connect with his campaign,
According to Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden-Harris campaign: “The island includes plenty of ice cream, trains, aviators, chucks, swag, and more weaved throughout the entire island — but there are also features that encourage players to organize and mobilize.”
For example, it included ads for the DNC’s “I Will Vote” website as well as an election day checklist, among other features. Biden’s character even walks across the island so players can take virtual selfies with him.