Russia working to help reelect President Trump, FBI chief says

Russia is mounting “very active efforts” to interfere with the U.S. election to benefit President Trump, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday.

Unlike their activities during the 2016 presidential election, the Russians do not seem to be using their cyber capabilities to target the U.S. election infrastructure, according to Wray. Instead, the Kremlin’s approach is one of “malign foreign influence,” with Russia utilizing “social media, use of proxies, state media, online journals, etc.,” he told a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Without mentioning Trump by name, the FBI director said Russia’s actions represent “an effort to both sow divisiveness and discord and … to denigrate Vice President [Joe] Biden and what the Russians see as kind of an anti-Russian establishment.”

Biden is Trump’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming election.

Among numerous concerns regarding election security, Wray said his biggest was that “the steady drumbeat of misinformation” as well as the “amplification of smaller cyber intrusions” would lead Americans to lose confidence “in the validity of their vote.” If that were to happen, “that would be a perception, not a reality,” he added. “Americans can and should have confidence in our election system.”

Christopher Wray

During the hearing, Wray also addressed continuing concerns about domestic terrorism.

He said the number of domestic terrorism investigations the FBI is conducting this year is “a good bit” higher than the usual figure of about 1,000. 

While those figures include everything from “racially motivated violent extremists to violent anarchist extremists [and] militia types,” in recent years white supremacists had been responsible for more lethal domestic violence than any other single category of extremist, he said.

As a result, in 2019 the FBI “elevated racially motivated violent extremism” to the same threat priority level as homegrown jihadist extremism and the Islamic State, Wray said.

However, so far this year, “the domestic terrorism lethal attacks we’ve had have all fit in the category of ‘antigovernment, anti-authority,’ which covers everything from anarchist violent extremists to militia types,” he said.

White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the KKK and members of the "alt-right"

Much of the hearing was dominated by discussions about which domestic threat was greater — that posed by white supremacists or that posed by followers of Black Lives Matter and the antifascist movement known as antifa.

Wray resisted Republicans’ repeated efforts to persuade him to adopt their characterization of antifa as an organization, rather than his preferred choice of words. “It’s not a group or an organization,” he said. “It’s a movement or an ideology.”

But Wray sought to balance his comments, noting that the FBI is currently investigating numerous “violent anarchist extremists” who self-identify with antifa. “Antifa is a real thing,” he said. “It’s not a fiction.” Indeed, the FBI is “actively investigating the potential for violence” from such individuals who have coalesced into “regional nodes” associated with antifa, he said.

By contrast, when asked whether he was aware of “any excessive violence” that could be attributed to Black Lives Matter, Wray said he could not think of a single example. 

He added that the FBI has seen cases of “racially motivated” Black defendants who targeted law enforcement, but “whether any of those cases involved some reference to Black Lives Matter, sitting here right now I can’t recall one.”



Latino Voters Are Joe Biden's Problem – and Maybe His Solution

Democrats are nervous over recent polling showing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris trailing Donald Trump in Florida.

The Associated Press

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Hispanic Heritage Month event, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla. 

JOE BIDEN IS IN BIG trouble with Latino voters.

Or is he?

Some recent polling in Florida sent Democrats into frantic hand-wringing over what appears to be tepid support for the Democratic nominee in a battleground state and with a voter group that has been reliably Democratic in previous election cycles. An NBC/Marist poll showed President Donald Trump ahead of Biden among Latinos in the Sunshine State, 50%-46%; the same poll had Democrat Hillary Clinton beating Trump by 23 percentage points among Florida Hispanics in 2016. A separate poll had Trump slightly ahead of Biden among Hispanics in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade County.

Biden up two-thirds over Trump among Jewish voters, survey reveals.
Biden was in Kissimmee, Florida Tuesday night to make an appeal to Latinos and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

"Donald Trump has done nothing but assault the dignity of Hispanic families, over and over and over again," Biden said, referencing the separation of immigrant families at the border and Trump's paper towel-throwing display to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Biden pledged to help Puerto Rico with its crumbling infrastructure and crippling debt.

"The Hispanic community holds in their hand the destiny of this country," Biden said. "It's true – you can decide the direction of this country," he said. "Look me over, again," he added, an indication of Democratic concerns of the former vice president's showing among Latinos with less than two months to go before the election.

The numbers alarmed Democrats, who took notice of Biden's poor showing among Hispanics in the Democratic primaries (when Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was still running) and fear a lackluster showing in the general election could cost Biden Florida and endanger his lead in other states as well.

But a closer look at the numbers indicates Biden's Latino problem is Florida-specific. In other states with substantial Hispanic populations, Biden is faring well and could flip at least one state blue because of Hispanic voters.

Colorado, where the Republican presidential nominee has won every year from 1972-2004, except in 1992, is now not even considered a battleground state – largely because Hispanic voters have trended towards Democrats, experts on Latinos voters say. A Public Policy Polling survey in July showed Biden with three-to-one support (66% to 22%) among Latinos, compared to Trump.

New Mexico, which voted for the Republican for president as recently as 2004, is also considered firmly in Biden's corner, largely because of the growth of the Hispanic population. The demographic now accounts for nearly half of New Mexico's population, according to the nonpartisan group USA Facts.

Nevada is still in play, but Biden is favored in the Silver State, where a growing Latino population (29%, according to USAFacts) tends to vote more Dem

Meanwhile, Democrats are eyeing two possible pickups – Arizona and Texas – where Hispanic voters heavily favor Biden and could make a definitive difference in the states. In Arizona, where a Democratic presidential nominee has won only once (in 1996) since 1972, Biden is leading Trump overall in most polls and is ahead among Latinos, 62% to 29%, according to a recent poll by Equis Research. That's one percentage point better than Hillary Clinton did in the state in 2016.

Texas, where Biden and Trump are virtually tied in many polls, is considered a longer shot for Biden; while the state's changing demographics offer an opportunity, it's a big and expensive state in which to invest. But Lone Star State Democrats are bullish – and they credit their high hopes to a Latino population overwhelmingly favoring Biden in polls. A Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month has Biden ahead of Trump among Latinos, 71% to 23%.

"We're seeing Latinos in droves going against Donald Trump," says Abhi Rahman, spokesman for the state Democratic party. "Joe Biden is a man of faith, and a man of character, and that's resonating" among Latinos, many of whom are Catholic, he adds.

Texas Latinos, who make up 40% of the state population, are mostly Mexican-American, and were insulted by Trump's characterization of them in 2016 as "criminals" and "rapists," Rahman says. The president's border wall plans are unpopular with Texas Latinos, he adds, noting that Mexico is Texas's biggest trading partner.

The state party is doing a "massive Latino outreach" program to register Hispanics, he says. "We feel very good about where we're at."

Perennial battleground Florida is a more gettable state for Democrats than Texas, but it's also a more complicated strategic equation, when it comes to winning over Hispanic voters.

The state has a diverse group of Latinos, including Cuban-Americans (who tend to be more conservative and GOP-leaning), Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and other Latin Americans.

The Trump campaign has sought to cast Biden as a tool of "socialists," a message that could damage the Democrat among Latinos whose families fled socialist or communist regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela. Puerto Ricans are a more reliably Democratic voter group, but they do not have the same history with the party as, for example, African Americans.

In Florida, it's critical to make separate appeals to different Hispanic populations, says Simon Rosenberg, who helped develop the Democrats' national Hispanic policy when he worked on Bill Clinton's campaign. The campaign spent $3 million on ads targeting Hispanic voters, with three separate audiences – Puerto Rican, Cuban and Venezuelan – with different Spanish accents narrating them, he says.

While Biden does not need Florida to secure the presidency, a Democratic win in the state would virtually ensure a Biden presidency. Further, since the state is expected to report all its ballots on Election Night, a Biden win in the state would, elections analysts believe, result in the race being called for the former vice president, even if other states are still counting absentee ballots.

Even if Biden wins the Hispanic vote overall – as he is expected to do – a swing of just a few percentage points toward Trump could flip a state, and with it, the election, notes Chuck Rocha, a Democratic consultant and former Sanders campaign strategist whose book, "Tio Bernie," lays out how Sanders won the Latino vote in the primaries.

"We never learn from our mistakes," Rocha says, referring to what many Democrats see as lost opportunities to persuade and turn out Hispanic voters. Biden will probably spend more than either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton on Latino outreach, but "it needs to be ten times that" to achieve an overwhelming Biden win, Rocha says.

For example, one recent poll has Biden faring better than the surveys done by Marist and by the Miami Herald of Miami-Dade voters. The survey, released Tuesday by Monmouth University, has Biden getting 58% support among Florida Latinos, with 32% choosing Trump – a healthy lead, and a single percentage point worse than the 2016 spread between Trump and Clinton. But that year, Clinton lost Florida by 1.2 percentage points, ensuring Trump's ascension to the White House. Small margins, Hispanic vote analysts warn, have big consequences.



Fed-Up Ex-RNC Chair Absolutely Loses It Over Trump’s ‘I’m With Stupid’ Backers

“We have to literally beg people to wear a mask to save their own dumb ass from getting sick,” Michael Steele said.

Michael Steele, former chair of the Republican National Committee, reached new levels of exasperation after President Donald Trump’s wild news conference on Wednesday. 

Trump claimed he’d done a “great job” with the coronavirus pandemic despite the U.S. having the world’s highest death toll and one of the highest per-capita death rates of the industrialized nations. 

But Steele said on MSNBC that Trump’s supporters just don’t care. 

“I’ve talked to enough of them over the last few days. I’m exhausted, I’m exasperated. You know, at this point, it’s like, save who you can save because there’s only so much you can do. There’s only so much you can say. The fact that we have to literally beg people to wear a mask to save their own dumb ass from getting sick, I’m sorry. To me, it is beyond the imagination.”  

Steele also complained about Trump contradicting his own CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, who earlier in the day said a possible coronavirus vaccine would not be available to the general public until the second or third quarter of next year, and urged Americans to wear a mask to stop the spread of the infection.

“The CDC director is telling us the truth and Donald Trump is literally lying to us,” Steele said. “And yet, 40 percent of the country looks at it and goes: ‘Yeah, I’m with stupid.’”

Steele said the nation is facing a stark choice in the coming election. 

“I don’t know what more you can take before you say you’ve had enough,” he said. “Because, my heavens, this is too much for a country to go through.”



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