SHOTLIST VENICE, VENETO, ITALYSEPTEMBER 3, 2020SOURCE: AFPTV 1. Tracking shot Spanish director Pedro Almodovar arrives on the red carpet2. Tracking shot Spanish director Pedro Almodovar walks on the red carpet3. Close-up Pedro Almodovar removes mask from his face 4. Tracking shot British actress Tilda Swinton arrives on the red carpet5. Close-up Tilda Swinton on the red carpet with a golden carnival mask 6. Tracking shot 'Quo vadis, Aida?' cast walks on the red carpet7. Wide shot 'Quo vadis, Aida?' cast on the red carpet8. Mid shot Georgina Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo's wife, arrives on the red carpet9. Wide shot Georgina Rodriguez on the red carpet10. Close-up Georgina Rodriguez with a mask on her face11. Tracking shot Georgina Rodriguez on the red carpet12. Mid shot Georgina Rodriguez puts a mask on her face ///-----------------------------------------------------------3 DEPECHES DE CONTEXTE: Venice Film Festival opens despite pandemic =(Picture+Video)= ATTENTION - REFILE for technical reasons ///Venice, Sept 2, 2020 (AFP) - The Venice Film Festival opens on Wednesday with strict safety measures in place for the industry's first international competition since the coronavirus hit, with 18 films vying to grab the top prize and help movie buffs forget the pandemic for a while.At Wednesday's opening film, "Lacci" by Italian director Daniele Luchetti, the theatre was just half full with journalists, whose temperatures were taken before being allowed inside.On the eve of the annual high-profile competition on the Lido, dozens of red safety signs were unloaded and installed throughout the venue attested to the peculiarity of this year's event. "Anti-Covid-19 rules of conduct," read the bright, vertical signs. "Wear a face mask. Keep a safe distance. Wash your hands."The sound of drills pierced the warm beach-front air as workers went about their last-minute preparations and journalists -- all in masks -- wandered the freshly laid red carpet, their festival badges suspended from their necks."This year in Venice, they've confused the festival with the Carnival. We're at a masked ball," one Italian journalist quipped to his colleagues. One exception was Festival Director Alberto Barbera, tanned and mask-free, as he gave interviews on the red carpet about the importance of this year's festival."I'm excited and I'm a little bit anxious," acknowledged Barbera, neatly turned out in a pressed blue suit despite the heat.In May, Barbera made the high-stakes decision to go ahead with "La Mostra" -- now in its 77th year -- despite film festivals around the world opting to cancel, including Venice's French rival, the Cannes Film Festival."We feel a responsibility to be the first. We knew Venice will be sort of a test for everyone," he said. For the past few months across the globe, most film production remained on hold and movie theatres dark due to the coronavirus. - Fewer stars, less glitz - About 6,000 people are expected to turn out this year -- about half the festival's usual number -- as border restrictions around the globe have limited the ability of many to travel. Most of Hollywood's A-list will be no-shows, with Australian actress Cate Blanchett supplying this year's star power as president of the jury."It's a festival without stars because Hollywood is still in lockdown," Barbera told AFP. "Will there be less glamour? Yes. Will there be fewer stars on the red carpet? Certainly."But there will be so many good films, 65 from 50 different countries, a sign of the richness and variety of contemporary cinema." Eighteen films in the main competition will vie for the festival's top prize, the prestigious Golden Lion.Provided it was done safely, it was now time for film lovers to be back in theatre seats, Barbera said."We're tired of seeing films in streaming," he said.Organisers are hoping they can safely run the festival -- due to go on until September 12 -- despite coronavirus cases on the rise in Italy and neighbouring European countries.In one of the most radical changes, fans will no longer be allowed on the red carpet, where in past years they've pressed behind barriers hoping to get a photo or autograph from their favourite celebrities. ams/wdb/txw ------------------------------------------------------------- Srebrenica film skewers UN failure to stop massacre By Alexandria SAGE =(Picture+Video)= Venice, Sept 3, 2020 (AFP) - A powerful film about the 1995 Srebrenica massacre skewers the UN for handing over more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys to be murdered by Serb forces."Quo Vadis, Aida?" by Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic left many critics in tears Thursday as it premiered at the Venice film festival.It came as Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic -- dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia" -- who lead the assault on the town, appeals his genocide conviction for the massacre at a war crimes tribunal in The Hague. "A whole generation was wiped out," Zbanic told reporters after the screening.The director -- who survived the siege in Sarajevo herself -- said she dedicated the film to the women left behind at Srebrenica, whose sons, husbands and brothers were torn from them. Some families, she said, lost 60 members. - 'Safe area' - Although Zbanic's story is told through the eyes of a fictional translator working for the UN called "Aida" who fights to save her husband and sons, the film is anchored in meticulous historical fact.Despite Srebrenica's designation by the UN as a "safe area, the Bosnian Serb army invaded the town, sending its panicked residents to a UN camp operated by Dutch forces where they hoped to be safe. The film is a searing indictment of the impotence of the Dutch peacekeepers, who had waited in vain for promised NATO air support, and found themselves powerless to defend the camp against Mladic's army.Zbanic interviewed former UN peacekeepers during her research for the film. "There was a guy who told me he was crying because he felt he couldn't do anything," she said.After the camp's evacuation, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed in the ensuing series of massacres by Mladic's soldiers. - 'No political will' - The Dutch peacekeepers "had a mission to protect people even with weapons and they didn't fire a single shot," Zbanic told journalists. "This film is not against the UN. I wish that the UN improves. We need this kind of organisation for our security," Zbanic said, adding that there seemed little "political will" in the world today for such international institutions. "Unfortunately in 1990s Bosnia it didn't work because it was too much under the influence of political decisions," she said. The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled the July 1995 killings were genocide. Mladic's appeal began last month, with his lawyers claiming their client, now 78, is not mentally fit to stand trial. In the film, his swagger and imposing physical presence are captured by actor Boris Isakovic who said he struggled to fight against a "one-dimensional" portrayal of the war criminal. Some of the Mladic's dialogue in the film is taken word-for-word from video footage of the general filmed at the time in Srebrenica.ams/fg/har ------------------------------------------------------------- leadSpanish director Almodovar to make western =(Picture)= ATTENTION - ADDS quotes ///Venice, Sept 3, 2020 (AFP) - We have had spaghetti westerns, now the world must brace itself for an Almodovar paella western.Legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodovar said Thursday that he is working on a western, a surprising career turn for the master of female-friendly melodrama who made his name with "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown".The Oscar winner told reporters at the Venice film festival that he has written the cowboy flick, but that it was "a different kind of western, which will be very colourful... very theatrical."Spaghetti westerns made by Italian directors like the late Sergio Leone became a phenomenon in the 1960s, with many shot in Spain's dry southeastern Almeria region.Almodovar premiered his latest film, "The Human Voice" at Venice Thursday, with British actress Tilda Swinton in the lead as a desperate and vengeful woman waiting for her estranged lover to ring her.Shot last month, the 30-minute film is his first shot in English and is very freely adapted from Jean Cocteau's classic play.The 70-year-old director admitted that the play and its theme of the jilted lover waiting on a "call that will never come" was close to his heart."It is happened to me," he told a press conference, and said that characters hanging on a telephone call was a thread that ran through a lot of his own work.Almodovar also claimed that he has started moving in a new more austere direction since his 2016 film "Julieta". "I am working towards a leaner narrative with fewer elements, which I analyse very deeply," insisted the director once famous for his visual and emotional flamboyance."The experience of sobriety and austerity accompanied me also in 'Pain And Glory'," his last and hugely autobiographical film, where Antonio Banderas played a film director suffering from chronic back pain, as Almodovar also does.He said he is hoping to start his next feature, "Madres Paralelas" in October and then make the western and another film called "A Manual for Cleaning Women".fg/pvh -------------------------------------------------------------
- The Telegraph
Joe Biden’s second son was a primary target for attacks by Donald Trump during the bitter 2020 presidential campaign. Indeed, it was Trump’s accusations of impropriety on behalf of Hunter Biden that led him to threaten to withhold $391 million (£289 million) in military aid to Ukraine unless they investigated the Biden family’s business dealings. That threat led to the first impeachment of Trump. Born in 1970 to Joe and his first wife Neilia, Hunter’s early life was marred by tragedy. When he was just two years old, he was seriously injured in a car crash that killed his mother and younger sister, Naomi. Family tragedy would strike again in 2015, when his older brother Beau, who served as the Attorney General for the state of Delaware, died of brain cancer aged just 46. Unlike his father and brother, Hunter Biden has attempted to stay away from front-line politics. After graduating from Yale Law School, he joined MBNA Bank, which provided significant contributions to his father’s political campaigns. After a brief stint as a lobbyist, he was appointed by George W Bush to the board of directors of Amtrak, the state-owned railway network company. Live US news updates as Trump leaves office and Biden prepares to be sworn in
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
The officer who may have saved the life of Vice President Mike Pence could now be giving him the side-eye. The cop hailed as a hero for leading a crowd of insurrectionists away from the Senate floor and potentially saving hundreds of lawmakers’ lives has, perhaps, left the vice president on read. Vice President Mike Pence has reportedly reached out to thank Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman for his heroism on Jan. 6, but they have yet to connect.
- The Week
The FBI on Monday shared with law enforcement agencies an intelligence report warning that far-right extremists have talked about going to D.C. for the inauguration and posing as National Guard members, The Washington Post reports.The Post obtained a copy of the document, which said "lone wolves" and QAnon followers — including some who participated in the mob that stormed the Capitol earlier this month — have indicated they intend on traveling to Washington for the inauguration. The report also said people have been observed downloading and distributing maps of sensitive locations in D.C.The briefing did not include any specific plots, the Post reports, and noted that "numerous" extremist groups and militias have publicly stated they don't want to see any violence targeting the transition of power. At the request of the FBI, the Post did not share all of the details inside the intelligence report, in order to protect intelligence-gathering methods and avoid publicizing security vulnerabilities.The Secret Service coordinates all security for the inauguration, while the FBI gathers intelligence on threats made against the event. Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said agents are monitoring an "extensive amount of concerning online chatter" and it can be difficult to "distinguish what's aspirational versus what's intentional."More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Anthony Scaramucci says even he got an invite to Trump's D.C. sendoff Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico only needs 50 votes
- Associated Press
A court in Thailand on Tuesday sentenced a former civil servant to a record prison term of 43 years and six months for breaching the country's strict law on insulting or defaming the monarchy, lawyers said. The Bangkok Criminal Court found the woman guilty on 29 counts of violating the country’s lese majeste law for posting audio clips to Facebook and YouTube with comments deemed critical of the monarchy, the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said. “Today’s court verdict is shocking and sends a spine-chilling signal that not only criticisms of the monarchy won’t be tolerated, but they will also be severely punished,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the group Human Rights Watch.
Uganda's government spokesman accused the United States on Tuesday of trying to subvert last week's presidential elections after the U.S. ambassador attempted to visit an opposition leader being held under house arrest. The military surrounded the home of popstar-turned-legislator Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, shortly after he cast his ballot in Thursday's presidential elections. Incumbent Yoweri Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986, was declared winner of the poll with 59% of the vote against Wine's 35%.
- The Independent
The latest updates from the White House and beyond on 17 January 2021
Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sydney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * The letter also orders Lindell to "preserve and retain all documents relating to Dominion and your smear campaign against the company." * Lindell also must preserve all communications with any member of the Trump campaign, in addition to communications with Rudy Giuliani, Powell, Jenna Ellis and Lin Wood. The big picture: Lindell met with Trump last week and was caught by photographers with notes referencing martial law and Sidney Powell. The CEO has become known for pedaling election-overturning conspiracies and last year promoted a fake cure to the coronavirus. What they're saying: Dominion's letter reads... "Despite knowing your implausible attacks against Dominion have no basis in reality, you have participated in the vast and concerted misinformation campaign to slander Dominion ... Litigation regarding these issues is imminent."A spokesperson for My Pillow did not immediately return a request for comment. Read the full letter here: Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- National Review
A caravan of thousands of migrants from Honduras headed to the U.S. southern border clashed with Guatemalan authorities on Sunday after they crossed the countries’ common border on their journey north. An estimated 7,000 migrants have entered Guatemala in recent days hoping to make their way to the U.S. border. The caravan clashed with only about 3,000 Guatemalan officers near the village of Vado Hondo, about 34 miles from the border of Honduras, Reuters reported. Security forces attempted to block their way by using tear gas and beating the migrants back with sticks. Several were injured in the confrontation Sunday morning. “Guatemala’s message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighboring nations to address this as a regional issue,” the Guatemalan president’s office said of the influx of traveling migrants. Meanwhile, a senior Biden transition official is warning migrants hoping to cross the southern border into the U.S. during the early days of the new administration that “now is not the time” to come. “The situation at the border isn’t going to be transformed overnight,” the official told NBC News, and migrants seeking to gain asylum right away “need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately.” The Biden administration plans to loosen the Trump administration’s more stringent restrictions on who is eligible for asylum. However, any immigration legislation proposed by the Biden administration is expected to focus on the status of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. rather than new migrants arriving at the border. The migrant caravan may have been encouraged to make the trek by the incoming Biden administration’s rhetoric promising to roll back some of the stricter Trump administration immigration policies. Caravans of migrants set out every year from Central America hoping to make the dangerous journey north and ultimately gain entry to the U.S.
The United States called on China on Monday to allow an expert team from the World Health Organization (WHO) to interview "care givers, former patients and lab workers" in the central city of Wuhan, drawing a rebuke from Beijing. The team of WHO-led independent experts trying to determine the origins of the new coronavirus arrived on Jan. 14 in Wuhan where they are holding teleconferences with Chinese counterparts during a two-week quarantine before starting work on the ground. The United States, which has accused China of hiding the extent of its initial outbreak, has called for a "transparent" WHO-led investigation and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts have done the first phase of research.
- The Week
Organizers for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday finished setting up about 200,000 flags on Monday, representing the American people who cannot travel to the inauguration amid a worsening coronavirus pandemic and extraordinary security precautions. The flags represent all of the states and U.S. territories, and they also are meant to honor the 400,000 Americans who will have officially died from COVID-19 by the time Biden is sworn in.Embed from Getty ImagesEmbed from Getty ImagesEmbed from Getty ImagesThe Presidential Inaugural Committee highlighted the "Field of Flags" on Monday night, with 56 pillars of light — one for each of the 50 states and six U.S. territories — beamed into the air for 46 second, a reference to Biden becoming the 46th U.S. president.Embed from Getty ImagesBiden arrives in Washington for his inauguration on Tuesday, and he and incoming first lady Jill Biden will spend Tuesday night at Blair House, near the White House. Outgoing President Trump plans to leave the White House on Wednesday morning, making him the first president since Andrew Johnson — the first impeached president — to skip the inauguration of his successor. Trump has made no public appearances in six days.Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who resigned as a U.S. senator on Monday, volunteered in service events to honor Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. They will take part in a memorial at the reflecting pool near the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday to honor the Americans who lost their lives to COVID-19.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Anthony Scaramucci says even he got an invite to Trump's D.C. sendoff Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico only needs 50 votes
- Associated Press
Pakistan’s prime minister reacted angrily Monday to media reports of a text exchange between an Indian TV anchor and a former media industry executive that suggests a 2019 Indian airstrike inside Pakistan was designed to boost Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances for reelection. Imran Khan took to Twitter to respond to Indian media reports of an exchange on the WhatsApp messaging service between popular Indian TV anchor Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, the former head of a TV rating company.
- Yahoo News Video
The spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has quit less than two weeks after she was sworn into office, saying he felt like he need to due to the insurrection at the nation's Capitol.
- National Review
Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) on Sunday advised the president not to grant presidential pardons to the rioters who stormed the Capitol this month, warning that doing so would “destroy” Trump. “Mr. President, your policies will stand the test of time. You’re the most important figure in the Republican party. You can shape the direction of the party. Keep your movement alive,” Graham said on Fox News. “There are a lot of people urging the president to pardon folks who participated in defiling the Capitol, the rioters,” Graham continued. “I don’t care if you went there and spread flowers on the floor, you breached the security of the Capitol, you interrupted a joint session of Congress, you tried to intimidate us all, you should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and to seek a pardon of these people would be wrong. I think it would destroy President Trump and I hope we don’t go down that road.” On Wednesday, a large group of Trump supporters overpowered Capitol Police and forced their way into the halls of Congress. Pence and the assembled lawmakers evacuated the Senate floor, where a joint session of Congress was being held to certify the presidential election results. The violence followed a rally outside the White House earlier in the day where President Trump addressed the “Save America March” and repeated his claims that November’s election was rife with voter fraud that threatened to deprive him of his rightful second term. The violence on January 6 resulted in five dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Since then, dozens of criminal cases have been brought in connection with the riot. Graham defended Trump’s rhetoric at the rally, which received bipartisan condemnation and sparked a second impeachment against the president by House Democrats. “President Trump never said, ‘Go into the capitol and try to interrupt a joint session of Congress.’ That was the choice they made and they need to live with that choice,” Graham said. Graham added that there were “irregularities in mail-in voting,” but said “the election is over,” noting that the electoral votes have been certified.” “It is now time to move on,” the South Carolina Republican said. Graham also had a message for incoming president Joe Biden, calling on him to stand up against the second impeachment of Trump, which the Senate is expected to take up after he leaves office.
Yosemite National Park officials are asking the public’s help for any information regarding a 41-year-old Asian woman who went missing after going on a day hike to the Upper Yosemite Fall last week. The woman was identified as "Alice" Yu Xie, a Chinese national living in the United States, according to a post shared by the park on Saturday. “If you were on the trail to the top of Yosemite Falls on January 14 or 15, 2021, even if you did not see this individual, or have any information regarding this individual, please call 209/372-0216 during business hours, or Yosemite Emergency Communications Center at 209/379-1992 after hours,” the park said.
- The Independent
‘I really can’t keep the ARs on the wall’ gun store manager says as enthusiasts stock up over fears new administration will enact gun-control laws
- The Week
Israel has vaccinated at least 25 percent of its population against the coronavirus so far, which leads the world and makes it "the country to watch for herd effects from" the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, says infectious disease expert David Fishman. Recently, the case rate in Israel appears to have declined sharply, and while there could be a few reasons for that, it's possible the vaccination effort is beginning to play a role.> Israel's reproduction number appears to have declined rather sharply in recent days, with around 25% of the country vaccinated, and some additional percentage having at least partial immunity via prior infection. pic.twitter.com/sVyCYYd9dj> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021One study from Clalit that was published last week reports that 14 days after receiving the first Pfizer-BioNTech shot, infection rates among 200,000 Israelis older than 60 fell 33 percent among those vaccinated compared to 200,000 from the same demographic who hadn't received a jab.At first glance, Fishman writes, that might seem disappointing since clinical trials suggested the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. But he actually believes the 33 percent figure is "auspicious." Because vaccinated and non-vaccinated people are mingling, there could be "herd effects of immunization." In other words, when inoculated people interact with people who haven't had their shot, the latter individual may still be protected because the other person is. On a larger scale, that would drive down the number of infections among non-vaccinated people, thus shrinking the gap between the two groups' infection rates.> Estimated vaccine efficacy is a function of relative risk of infection in the vaccinated...when there is indirect protection via herd effects, we expect efficacy estimates to decrease because the risk among unvaccinated individuals declines.> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021More data needs to come in, and Fishman thinks "we'll know more" this week, but he's cautiously optimistic about how things are going.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Anthony Scaramucci says even he got an invite to Trump's D.C. sendoff Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico only needs 50 votes
"This is also a desire that's shared by other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries," he told Bloomberg TV https://bloom.bg/369WLz9 in an interview. The Qatari foreign minister added that his government was supporting ongoing discussions between Iran and South Korea to secure the release of an oil tanker seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard early this month.
Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president. Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.He put the call on speakerphone for the benefit of his audience. Powell was raving about a national security crisis involving the Iranians flipping votes in battleground states. Trump pressed mute and laughed mockingly."So what are we gonna do about it, Sidney?" Trump would say every few seconds, whipping Powell more and more into a frenzy. He was having fun with it. "She really is crazy, huh?" he said, again with his finger on the mute button.It was clear that Trump recognized how unhinged his outside legal advisers were. But he was becoming increasingly desperate about losing to Joe Biden, and Powell and her crew were willing to keep feeding the grand lie that the election could be overturned. They were selling Trump a seductive but delusional vision: a clear and achievable path to victory. The only catch: He'd have to stop listening to his government and campaign staffs, to cross the Rubicon and view them as liars, quitters and traitors.Trump's new gang of advisers shared some common traits. They were sycophants who craved an audience with the president. They were hardcore conspiracy theorists. The other striking commonality within this crew was that all of them had, at one point in their lives, done impressive, professional, mainstream work.Rudy Giuliani once was "America's Mayor," hailed for his handling of 9/11. Powell was a successful attorney who defended Enron. Michael Flynn was a decorated three-star general whom Obama fired and then Trump brought back as his national security adviser, before firing him and ultimately pardoning him. Lin Wood was a nationally known defamation lawyer. Patrick Byrne made a small fortune launching the internet retailer Overstock.com.One exception was Jenna Ellis. She had a thin legal resume, and had in the 2016 campaign season used adjectives like "idiot," "boorish," "arrogant," "bully," and "disgusting" to characterize Trump and his behavior. But during Trump's presidency, she pushed her way into his inner circle, powered by levels of televised obsequiousness remarkable even for Trumpworld.Powell and Wood distinguished themselves with their extremism. Even Giuliani began distancing himself, telling anyone who'd listen that Powell didn't represent the president. But Trump promoted Powell as part of his team, and even though he had privately admitted to aides that he thought she was "crazy," he still wanted to hear what she had to say."Sometimes you need a little crazy," Trump told one official.While Trump's campaign team — experienced attorneys such as Justin Clark and Matt Morgan — were scrutinizing issues such as signature verification and access to room monitoring for vote counting, Powell was appealing to Trump's personal mantra to "Think Big!"She presented the president with a sweeping, multinational conspiracy of foreign interference at a scale never seen before in American history. The fact that she had no evidence that could hold up in court was a minor detail.Powell and Flynn told Trump he couldn't trust his team. That appealed to a paranoid mentality that always lurked beneath his surface: The FBI was corrupt. His CIA was working against him, and his intelligence community was, too. Why else weren't they showing him the evidence that China, Venezuela, Iran and various other communists had stolen his election win?To help him bypass these obstacles, they'd need Trump to give them top-level security clearances so they could get to the bottom of the "stolen" election. Trump liked this idea. Why not make Powell a special counsel in charge of election fraud? Why not give her and Flynn the clearances?Trump's professional staff had learned over time that they had to pick their moments to fight back. On the question of Powell, chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone were of one mind: No way was she getting a top secret clearance.Powell and Flynn sent Trump advisers documents they said contained the evidence of this far-reaching conspiracy. To the White House staff, it was gibberish — the rantings of a QAnon devotee. But these documents — perhaps the most deranged materials to reach a modern U.S. president — found their way to the West Wing.According to documents obtained by Axios, Powell and her crew advised Trump that a foreign conspiracy to steal the election involved a coordinated cyberwarfare attack from China, Russia, Iran, Iraq and North Korea.In arguments in front of Trump in the Oval Office, White House officials pushed back aggressively.What Powell was claiming to have uncovered would have been the greatest foreign attack in American history. Yet the U.S. intelligence community had seen no evidence of it.But Powell had an answer for that too: The reason Trump hadn't heard about this from his intelligence officials was because they were actively subverting him and hiding crucial information from him.His dog whistle to QAnon conspiracy theorists — a curiosity prompted once he learned they "love Trump" — dated back to at least the summer. On July 1, 2020, Trump met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Todd Young of Indiana and top political aides in the Oval Office for an update on Senate races. Trump was holding a printed slide deck showing the latest key data points, like polling and cash on hand, for the closely watched Colorado Senate race between Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat John Hickenlooper.Trump looked at the deck and immediately said, "How about that primary last night?" QAnon-enthusiast Lauren Boebert had won the Republican primary for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District. Consensus in the room was that Boebert's victory was a stunner. The president then addressed McConnell. "You know she’s a believer in that QAnon," he said. "Are you familiar with that, Mitch?" McConnell sat there stone-faced. He didn't move a muscle."You know, people say they're into all kinds of bad things and say all kinds of terrible things about them," Trump added. "But, you know, my understanding is they basically are just people who want good government."The room fell silent. Nobody knew how to respond. Then all of a sudden Meadows burst out laughing. "I have heard them described a lot of ways, but never quite like that," he said. The meeting participants broke down laughing. "In terror, quite candidly," said a source in the room.Powell filled the Trumpian Venn diagram between conspiracy theorists and sycophants. She offered the comforting deceptions that Trump was craving in his desperate post-election days and that the people on his team who had actual experience in election law refused to serve him.In the false and baseless theory she crafted, America's enemies had used two CIA programs — a foreign surveillance program called the "Hammer" and a cyberwarfare weapon called "Scorecard" — to steal U.S. elections. Her evidence was based on claims from a California computer programmer with a long track record of hawking fantastic-sounding technology. Powell and Flynn claimed that the CIA had been using these programs nefariously since 2009. Documents her team shared with Trump advisers falsely claimed that top Obama administration intelligence officials John Brennan and Jim Clapper — both enemies of Trump's — had illegally commandeered Hammer to advance Obama's supposed ambition of turning America into a communist client state. They further claimed that Brennan and Clapper had taken the program's source code with them when they left office. China had now mysteriously acquired Hammer, Powell argued.They described this as an act of war during in an Oval Office appearance on Dec. 18. No response should be considered too bold, they said. Trump needed to use the full force of the U.S. government to seize Dominion voting machines and catch the "traitors."That an American president was even entertaining any of this, raised questions about the state of his mind and his capacity to fulfill his duties.The evening before that meeting, Giuliani had phoned his old friend, Ken Cuccinelli, second in command at the Department of Homeland Security, asking him whether DHS could seize voting machines. "No," Cuccinelli told Giuliani, politely but firmly. His department did not have that legal authority.By this point, Trump was mainlining conspiracies. Many of his longest-serving advisers had all but given up trying to reason with him.His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, billed once by Newsweek as the most influential presidential relative since Bobby Kennedy, receded from the discussions when it came to countering the crazies. Once Giuliani took over, Kushner subsided from view, trying to cut last minute deals in the Middle East and burnish his foreign policy legacy. This frustrated some of his colleagues. Serious intervention was required on the domestic front.Whether Trump himself was still in charge, or had ceded decision-making to the bottom feeders, was at least an open question.🎧 Listen to Jonathan Swan on Axios' new investigative podcast series, called "How it happened: Trump's last stand."About this series: Our reporting is based on interviews with current and former White House, campaign, government and congressional officials as well as eyewitnesses and people close to the president. Sources have been granted anonymity to share sensitive observations or details they would not be authorized to disclose. President Trump and other officials to whom quotes and actions have been attributed by others were provided the opportunity to confirm, deny or respond to reporting elements prior to publication. "Off the rails" is reported by White House reporter Jonathan Swan, with reporting and research assistance by Zach Basu. It was edited by Margaret Talev and Mike Allen. Illustrations by Sarah Grillo, Aïda Amer and Eniola Odetunde.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Independent
‘If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors...traitors get shot,' he told his children