By Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron swept to a stunning election victory on Friday, confounding forecasts that the vote would be the closest in decades and winning a clear majority that left his Labour opponents in tatters. The sterling currency, bonds and shares surged on a result that reversed near-universal expectations of an inconclusive "hung parliament", in which Cameron would have had to jockey for power with Labour rival Ed Miliband. Instead, Cameron met Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace to accept a mandate to form the first majority Conservative government since John Major's surprise victory in 1992. Despite the unexpectedly decisive outcome, longer-term uncertainty looms over whether Britain will stay in the European Union - and even hold together as a country. Secessionists swept the board in Scotland, and Cameron repeated a promise to hold a referendum on EU membership. The scale of his triumph surpassed his party's most optimistic projections. "This is the sweetest victory of all," Cameron, 48, told enthusiastic supporters at party headquarters. Smiling beside his wife Samantha, he returned to the prime minister's office in Downing Street after meeting the queen. Staff lined up to applaud when he entered the residence. Cameron's pitch to voters was that he had rescued Britain from economic crisis to deliver the fastest growth among major economies. He had warned that Labour's Miliband would cripple the United Kingdom by giving Scottish nationalists the keys to England's treasure. In early appointments to his cabinet, he retained George Osborne as finance minister, sticking with the man credited with overseeing recovery from the economic crash, and reappointed his foreign, interior and defense ministers. Miliband, a self-confessed socialist "geek", had argued that the recovery was benefiting the rich and most people were still worse off. But he failed to connect with working class voters or convince the public he could be trusted with the world's fifth largest economy. He phoned Cameron to concede and then resigned as party leader. With all results declared in the 650-seat house, the Conservatives held 331 and Labour 232. The center-left Liberal Democrats, who supported Cameron in government since 2010, were all but wiped out, reduced to eight seats from 57. Scottish nationalists won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats, up from just six five years ago. The anti-EU, populist UK Independence Party (UKIP) surged into third place in the overall vote tally, but disappointed its followers by managing to place first in only one district to win just a single seat. Like Labour's Miliband, Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg and UKIP leader Nigel Farage resigned as party leaders. Sterling gained more than 2 cents against the dollar to rise above $1.55 for the first time since late February, though it later eased back to around 1.5450. The FTSE 100 stock index <.FTSE> closed 2.3 percent stronger, approaching a record high set last month. The price of British government bonds also rose. "DISUNITED KINGDOM"? Cameron's victory means Britain will face a vote which he has promised by the end of 2017 on continued EU membership. Many Britons, including lawmakers in his own party, are frustrated by EU bureaucracy, high levels of immigration from the bloc and the precedence of laws made in Brussels over those passed in the Westminster parliament. Cameron says he wants to stay in Europe, but only if he can renegotiate Britain's relationship with Brussels to strike a better deal. European leaders lost no time in offering him talks on reform, with French President Francois Hollande inviting him to Paris. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU Commission, told Cameron: "I stand ready to work with you to strike a fair deal for the United Kingdom in the EU." But the EU executive again stressed there could be no renegotiation of the bloc's basic treaties. In Scotland, the extraordinary scale of the nationalist landslide victory reopened the question of the future of the United Kingdom less than a year after Scots voted in a referendum to remain inside it. Scotland will send just three representatives of traditional British parties to the UK parliament in London and its dominant nationalists will be locked out of the British cabinet, arguments separatists could use to seek a new vote to leave. Cameron sounded a conciliatory note towards Scotland, likely to be his first immediate headache, promising further devolution of powers to the Scottish government. "In Scotland, our plans are to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world with important powers over taxation and no constitutional settlement will be complete if it did not offer also fairness to England," Cameron said. Alex Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish nationalists, now elected to represent them in parliament in London, called the SNP's victory an "electoral tsunami". The United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, with England accounting for 85 percent of the population. Scottish politicians elected to parliament in London have held major cabinet posts, which could now be impossible with nearly all Scottish seats in nationalist hands. In a blow to Labour that set the pattern for the night, Douglas Alexander, the party's campaign chief and foreign policy spokesman, lost his seat to a 20-year-old Scottish nationalist student, the youngest member of the House of Commons since 1667. Labour also faced traumatic losses in England. Ed Balls, in line to be finance minister if Labour had won, lost his seat. He fought back tears as he expressed sorrow at Labour's defeat. RIVALS QUIT Miliband, an Oxford-educated son of a Marxist intellectual, never quite connected with working-class voters or cast off Labour's reputation for profligacy. He ran a campaign widely seen as better than expected, but was always far behind Cameron in polls asking voters who they saw as a more credible leader. "Britain needs a Labour Party that can rebuild after this defeat so we can have a government that stands up for working people again," he said as he announced his resignation. "Now it's time for someone else to take forward the leadership of this party." The Liberal Democrats were punished for Clegg's decision to join Cameron in government five years ago, which meant abandoning campaign pledges and which party members considered treachery. Two-thirds of the party's voters deserted it. "It is simply heartbreaking," Clegg said of the losses. "Clearly the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared." UKIP's surge into third place in the overall vote tally mirrored the rise of similar populist, anti-immigrant groups elsewhere in Europe. It racked up dozens of second place finishes across the country, picking up votes from both Labour and the Conservative, but it failed to yield a strong presence in parliament under Britain's system in which candidates must place first in districts to win seats. Its leader Farage, a charismatic former commodities trader credited with making a fringe party into a major force, resigned over his failure to win a seat for himself, but said he might seek the party leadership again later this year. One other loser is the opinion polling industry, which is facing an inquiry over its failure to predict the outcome. Before the election, virtually all opinion polls had shown the Conservatives and Labour neck-and-neck. (Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan, William James, Paul Sandle, Ahmed Aboulenein, Kate Holton, Andrew Osborn, David Milliken, Maytaal Angel, Angus MacSwan, Alistair Smout, Andy Bruce and Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Alison Williams)
- Yahoo News
If it takes a miracle for Trump to stay in office, evangelicals like Michele Bachmann are fine with that
As the inevitability of President Trump’s loss became apparent even to his acolyte Kellyanne Conway in recent days, his supporters increasingly pinned their hopes for a second term on a last-ditch appeal, not to the Supreme Court, but to the one power that can outvote it: God.
- Yahoo News
Dr. Jill Biden has devoted her life to the field of education, and that won’t change when she becomes first lady next month. According to a source close to her, Biden will advocate for debt-free community college.
- Yahoo News
Rep. Ilhan Omar proposed the legislation in April but concerns about an impending wave of evictions has continued to grow.
Tokyo prosecutors are considering a summary indictment of two officials in former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office for alleged violation of political funding laws, the daily Asahi reported on Friday. Prosecutors believe the officials failed to report income and expenditures totalling some 30 million yen ($289,000) related to cherry blossom viewing parties held for Abe supporters when he was in office, the Asahi report said. Under Japanese law, a summary indictment would mean the officials avoid a full court trial process.
- Business Insider
A 20-year-old campaign staffer for Sen. Kelly Loeffler died in a car crash before Pence held a campaign event in Georgia
Mike Pence announced the death of Harrison Deal in a car crash during his speech in Savannah, calling the aide "a truly wonderful young man."
- Associated Press
Surveillance footage of ballot processing on election night in Atlanta is fueling a false social media narrative of “suitcases filled with ballots” hidden under a cloth-covered table and tallied without supervision, even as top state officials confirm election workers followed standard procedure. The video showed regular ballot containers on wheels — not suitcases — and both a state investigator and an independent monitor observed counting until it was done for the night, finding no evidence of improper ballots, state and county officials said on Friday.
- The Telegraph
Michel Barnier is accustomed to being universally praised on his regular tours of the EU's capitals to preach the gospel against Brexit. On Tuesday, he was in the unfamiliar position of coming under friendly fire for the first time in three years as the EU's chief negotiator. It was an uncomfortable moment for Mr Barnier, who was headquartered at the Hotel Conrad in Westminster and is enmeshed in intensive Brexit negotiations with his UK counterpart David Frost. Expectation had been building that a trade agreement with Britain was close and a damaging no deal avoided. A fitting legacy for a politician who had dedicated decades of service to the EU was in Mr Barnier's grasp. He was far from the poisonous briefings in Brussels that were going on behind his back – but bad news travels fast. The chief negotiator was going soft on Britain, EU diplomats in the Belgian capital sniped. He risked giving too much away.
Russia protested on Friday after Latvia charged several journalists from the Rossiya Segodnya news agency with violating European Union sanctions. The journalists were charged because of their association with Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads Rossiya Segodnya, said Sputnik Latvia, a subsidiary of Rossiya Segodnya. The Kremlin media mogul was sanctioned by the EU for his role in Russia's seizure of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
- The Daily Beast
While Kyle Rittenhouse awaits trial for killing two people at a Kenosha, Wisconsin, Black Lives Matter protest this summer, his lawyers are in prosecutors’ crosshairs.From the start of the high-profile case, Rittenhouse’s lawyers have attracted nearly as much attention as he has. Now, the 17-year-old’s main lawyer, John Pierce, is off the case, after prosecutors argued that fundraisers for Rittenhouse could act as a “slush fund” for the embattled attorney. Another prominent attorney who has associated himself with Rittenhouse, Lin Wood, also appears to have pivoted away from the case in order to focus his efforts on overturning President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss.Rittenhouse was charged with reckless homicide after he fatally shot two people and wounded a third person at the August protest. He has pleaded not guilty and says he acted in self-defense.The Lawyer Raising Money for Kyle Rittenhouse Nearly Sank His Own Law FirmPierce and Wood emerged as Rittenhouse champions shortly after his arrest. Earlier this year, the pair had banded together to launch the “FightBack” foundation, an organization with a nebulous set of missions, many of them apparently litigating right-wing grievances with the media. Some of the foundation’s funds were redirected to Pierce’s own law firm.FightBack’s launch came at a fortunate moment for Pierce. The law firm he leads has been sued by at least four payday lenders and one legal services company this year, all of them alleging unpaid bills, The Daily Beast previously reported. In April, another lender accused the firm of owing them $65 million. The debts, plus an unspecified rehab stint for Pierce earlier this year, aligned with a recent exodus of more than 60 lawyers from Pierce’s firm.Pierce and Wood advertised the FightBack foundation as a way for Rittenhouse’s fans—of which there are many on the right—to donate money to his defense. But in a Thursday court appearance, prosecutors argued that the money stream could act as a “slush fund” to pay off Pierce’s debts.Pierce had no income and monthly expenses of $49,481, prosecutors alleged in a motion. He was also approximately $1.2 million in debt and was being sued for allegedly violating the rental agreement on his $1.3 million home.“This creates a potential conflict of interest for attorney Pierce,” the motion read, as reported by The Chicago Tribune. “Given his own substantial personal debts, his involvement with an unregulated and opaque ‘slush fund’ provides ample opportunity for self-dealing and fraud. The more that the Foundation raises in donations, the more he may personally benefit. Money that should be held in trust for the defendant may instead be used to repay attorney Pierce’s numerous creditors.”Pierce denied those allegations in an email to The Daily Beast. “The allegations you reference are ludicrous,” he wrote. “All of the funds are controlled by Kyle’s mother Wendy. In addition, I have no affiliation whatsoever with that foundation.” (In fact, Pierce was affiliated with FightBack until September, when he stepped down the day after a Daily Beast report revealing its contributions to his law firm.)Prosecutors also claimed Pierce had broken rules about attorney conduct, accusing him of potentially influencing future jurors with complaints about the district attorney overseeing the case. On Twitter, Pierce stoked ire against District Attorney Michael Graveley, claiming he was “in active (and weirdly familiar) texting communication with main BLM activist for six weeks prior to, during and after the riots.”This Gun Coffee Brand Was MAGA Royalty. Then It Turned on Kyle Rittenhouse. Pierce and another Rittenhouse defense attorney, Andrew Calderon, announced Thursday that they would withdraw from the case, shortly after prosecutors filed motions to disqualify them.Pierce told The Daily Beast that the withdrawal “was always the plan.”“Now that we have successfully gotten Kyle bailed out and have built an amazing criminal defense team in Wisconsin,” he said, “I am turning my attention to the massive tasks of preparing Kyle’s defamation and other civil claims as well as orchestrating our new fundraising efforts to ensure we have the resources to get through trial.”Those fundraising efforts might be in flux, however, as the FightBack foundation turns its attention from Rittenhouse and toward overturning Trump’s 2020 loss.“For the foreseeable future, FightBack will be focusing on exposing fraud in the November 3 election,” Wood tweeted last week. (He is currently involved in long-shot lawsuits challenging the election results, and peddled false voter fraud theories in a press conference this week.) “Going forward, anyone who wishes to make donations for Kyle should contact his criminal defense attorney, John Pierce.”Neither Wood nor Pierce answered questions on Friday about Pierce’s relationship with fundraising now that he is no longer Rittenhouse’s attorney.Wood’s tweet also signaled that he was pulling away from Rittenhouse’s case. “Lin has withdrawn from representing Kyle,” Pierce confirmed to The Daily Beast.Because Wood, who mostly handles defamation cases, was never officially Rittenhouse’s criminal attorney, his exact relationship with Rittenhouse’s legal team is unclear.“I am not and have never been a criminal lawyer for Kyle. I am a civil trial lawyer,” Wood told The Daily Beast. He added that Pierce was no longer associated with FightBack, which prosecutors had argued was a potential Pierce slush fund.“John Pierce is not affiliated with my foundation,” Wood said. “I understand Mark Richards is the criminal lawyer for Kyle in Wisconsin.”Richards, a Racine, Wisconsin, defense attorney confirmed that neither of the other two lawyers was representing Rittenhouse in the homicide case.“I am representing Kyle in th criminal matter atty’s pierce & wood are not,” he wrote The Daily Beast in an email. “We are very thankful for all the support from both individuals, the foundation & the prople who have donated.” [sic]Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Week
President-elect Joe Biden said when it comes to the Department of Justice, he is "not going to be telling them what they have to do and don't have to do."Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday, and the discussion turned to reports that President Trump is contemplating preemptively pardoning his adult children, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Biden said this "concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks [at] us as a nation of laws and justice."Biden promised that he is "not going to be saying, 'Go prosecute A, B, or C,' I'm not going to be telling them. That's not the role, it's not my Justice Department, it's the people's Justice Department. So the persons or person I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted, who doesn't."Harris, who once served as California's attorney general, added that the administration will assume that "any decision coming out of the Justice Department ... should be based on the law, it should not be influence by politics, period."More stories from theweek.com 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims 5 scathingly funny cartoons about the NFL's COVID problem What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse.
- Associated Press
The European Union’s aviation safety agency has extended a ban imposed on Pakistan's state-run airline this year barring it from flying to Europe after a plane crash that killed 97 people in the port city of Karachi, a spokesman said Friday. At the time — and while the probe into the May 22 Airbus A320 crash was still underway — authorities acknowledged that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots, 260 out of 860, had cheated on their pilot’s exams. Pakistan International Airlines subsequently grounded 150 of its pilots while a probe by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority into the other pilots is still ongoing.
Iran plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant in breach of its deal with major powers, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Friday, a move that will raise pressure on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters said Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz, which was apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.
- Reuters Videos
Thousands of people had began marching peacefully in Paris when the clashes erupted between police and pockets of protesters, most dressed in black and their faces covered. Some used hammers to break up paving stones. The protesters were denouncing police brutality and President Emmanuel Macron's security policy plans which the demonstrators say would restrict civil liberties. In one incident, police charged after fireworks were launched at their lines. Hooded youths smashed one store window. There were violent clashes between protesters and police in a similar protest last week.
- The Week
There appears to be growing support among Senate Republicans for a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill introduced earlier this week, reports The Washington Post.The $908 billion package — championed by moderate Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (D-Maine), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) — is in between what Democratic leadership is pushing for and what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has suggested. The moderates suggested an unemployment boost and money for state governments, but no stimulus checks.While McConnell on Thursday continued to resist the bipartisan bill, pushing instead for his version, which the White House has endorsed, other Republican senators got on board with the package. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) signaled they were open to the bipartisan bill.Democratic leaders said they believed the $908 billion package should be the basis for negotiations. Several Republicans echoed that, saying it wasn't exactly what they wanted but it made for a good starting point.McConnell didn't comment directly on the bipartisan proposal, but instead urged lawmakers to pull the trigger on his version, which he called "a serious and highly targeted relief proposal including elements which we know the president is ready and willing to sign into law."More stories from theweek.com 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims 5 scathingly funny cartoons about the NFL's COVID problem What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse.
- Associated Press
A cargo ship traveling past Yemen in the Gulf of Aden came under attack in unclear circumstances, maritime authorities said Saturday. The Gulf of Aden is a crucial route for global trade and has seen attacks attributed to Yemen’s Houthi rebels as its civil war rages on. The ship ended up off the small port city of Nishtun in Yemen's far east after coming under attack early Saturday morning, according to an alert from the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization that is overseen by Britain's Royal Navy.
- The Telegraph
China is conducting "human testing" to create "biologically enhanced soldiers," the head of US intelligence has claimed as he warned that Beijing poses the biggest threat to America's national security. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, warned that the US must be prepared for an "open-ended" confrontation with China which he likened to the Cold War. Mr Ratcliffe, who oversees America's intelligence agencies, said he believed China's intention was to "dominate" the planet in every sense: economically, militarily and technologically. He claimed that US intelligence showed China has "conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities". "There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power," he said. Mr Ratcliffe said his unique vantage point on the current security threats facing the US had led him to conclude that "the People’s Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom world-wide since World War II". He went on to outline in granular detail China's strategy of economic espionage, which he framed as: “rob, replicate and replace.” “China robs US companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology, and then replaces the US firms in the global marketplace,” he said.
Violence in Afghanistan is "unacceptably high" as delayed peace negotiations get underway, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday, adding that Washington has asked the warring parties to "stand back and indeed stand down." Pompeo's comments, made in a virtual address to the IISS Manama Dialogue, an annual security conference, came two days after Kabul-backed and Taliban negotiators reached a deal in Doha to proceed with talks on a political settlement to decades of strife. Pompeo noted that he met with the negotiating teams during a Nov. 21 visit to Doha and he said he told both sides that the strife must be reduced.
- Business Insider
Attorney for Jared Kushner and a Trump fundraiser investigated by DOJ in alleged bribery-for-pardon scheme
The New York Times reported that a lawyer for President Trump's son-in-law was investigated by the Justice Department this summer.
- Associated Press
The United Nations' human rights chief lamented a deteriorating situation in Belarus and said Friday that reported beatings of protesters by security forces may in some cases amount to torture. Michelle Bachelet, the high commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. Human Rights Council there has been no improvement since a September debate about Belarus and “recent weeks have seen continued deterioration, particularly with respect to the right of peaceful assembly.”
- The Telegraph
Former Hong Kong politician Ted Hui has announced he has chosen to go into exile as Beijing intensifies its crackdown on high-profile figures of the former British colony’s pro-democracy movement. Mr Hui, 38, initially fled to Denmark this week where he was joined by his family, but he said he would make his way to the UK to continue his pro-democratic activities. He joins Nathan Law, a prominent Hong Kong human rights activist now based in London, and a growing diaspora of dissidents who are continuing to advocate for more international pressure on China to allow greater rights and freedoms in the Asian financial hub. “My personal determination is that my exile will not be a migration. My only home is Hong Kong which is why I will not apply for asylum in any country,” said Mr Hui, adding that he would make it his “life mission” to fight for the city’s freedom. “There is no word to explain my pain and it’s hard to hold back tears,” he said as he announced his decision via Facebook. Mr Hui also revealed he had resigned from the opposition Democratic Party of Hong Kong. Last month he was one of 15 legislators who quit the city’s legislative council in protest at Beijing’s decision to oust four colleagues over their political views.