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Trump’s New Lawyers Should Not Focus On Fake Election Claims In His Defense

The new legal team former President Donald J. Trump called for his impeachment trial next week is unlikely to focus its defense on his baseless allegations of widespread electoral fraud and instead question whether the trial is even constitutional since he is no longer president, people close to the team said on Monday.

Several Trump advisers told the former president that using his election demands as a defense for his role in the mob attack on the Capitol last month was unwise, according to a person close to the new lawyers, David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr. The person said the former president’s advisers did not expect this to be part of the arguments they are making in the Senate.

Mr. Schoen, an Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney, and Mr. Castor, a former Pennsylvania district attorney, replaced Butch Bowers and four other attorneys working with him after separating from the former president.

A person close to Mr Trump said there was a disagreement over the strategy’s approach and that the former president had no “chemistry” with Mr Bowers, a South Carolina lawyer who had him recommended by Senator Lindsey Graham, one of his most loyal supporters. A second person close to Mr Trump said Mr Bowers appeared “overwhelmed” by the case.

The new team is due to file a brief with the Senate on Tuesday that will give a first glimpse of how they plan to defend the former president. Mr. Trump never had a chance to offer a defense in his House impeachment trial because of the speed with which it was conducted.

Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn on Monday warned Mr. Trump’s team not to rehash his inflated grievances and debunked the theories of voter fraud. Better, he said, to focus on refuting the details of the House’s “incitement to insurgency” charge.

“It’s really not material,” Cornyn told reporters on Capitol Hill of repeated statements by Mr. Trump. “As much as there might be a temptation to raise other issues, I think it would be a disservice to the president’s own defense to get bogged down in things that are not really before the Senate.

Many Republicans on Capitol Hill expect the defense team to at least partially rely on their argument that holding a trial of a former president is unconstitutional. People close to Trump’s legal team have said it will be a main line of defense.

The constitutional debate around this issue – many researchers disagree, citing that the Senate has tried a former public servant in the past – will feature significantly in the lawsuit. In preparation, the Senate explicitly asked both parties to indicate in their written submissions “whether Donald John Trump is subject to the jurisdiction of an impeachment court for acts committed as President of the United States, notwithstanding the expiry of his term in said function. . “

House managers are expected to file their own more detailed legal brief on Tuesday. The document is expected to offer the first full roadmap of their argument that Mr. Trump sowed baseless allegations of election fraud, summoned his supporters to Washington, and then directly urged them to confront Congress as he met in the Capitol to certify his electoral loss.

The brief will also include an argument for holding the trial, with managers prepared to argue that the framers of the Constitution intended the impeachment to apply to officials who committed offenses during their tenure.

A similar document from Mr. Trump’s team to develop their initial argument is expected next week before the trial begins on February 9.

Some around the former president have suggested arguing against the central prosecution in the impeachment article – which he instigated an insurgency – and instead focus more narrowly on process issues like the constitutionality of the ‘case.

While the lawyers have just been appointed, Mr Schoen spoke with Mr Trump and others around him informally for several days, relatives of the former president said. Mr. Schoen has represented a range of clients, including mobsters and Mr. Trump’s longtime advisor Roger J. Stone Jr.

Mr. Castor is best known for making a deal not to prosecute Bill Cosby for sexual assault while he was a district attorney for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He was also briefly acting state attorney general.

Mr. Castor’s cousin is Stephen R. Castor, the Congressional investigator who fought Democrats against Mr. Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joseph R. Biden Jr. while ‘he was preparing to run against him. A person familiar with the talks said Stephen Castor recommended his cousin to the former president.

It is not known how close the Castor cousins ​​are. Stephen Castor is a veteran of some of Capitol Hill’s most fiercely partisan watchdog disputes of the past decade. He has worked on investigations into the Obama administration’s handling of an attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and on an arms trafficking program known as Operation Fast and Furious.

Meanwhile, the nine House impeachment officials have gone largely underground in recent days, prioritizing preparations for private trials over the type of television interviews and other public appearances often used in Washington in an attempt to change public opinion.

Democratic leaders are trying to get through both the president’s long legislative agenda and a major impeachment trial for his predecessor more or less simultaneously. The decision to keep a low profile was apparently motivated by a desire to distract as little attention as possible from Mr Biden’s push for coronavirus relief legislation, the priority issue on his agenda.

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California sheriff’s deputy charged with fake attack

Sukhdeep Gill, Deputy Sheriff of Santa Clara County, Calif., Said he returned to his patrol car on a dark road near a tank when a silver sedan pulled up and turned off its lights and someone inside shot him from the passenger. – side window.

“Gunshots! Gunshots! He shouted over the radio broadcast by his department.

When other police arrived, invading the area, Deputy Gill appeared to have been shot in the chest, where the bullet had been stopped by his body camera. Several more bullets hit his patrol car, and Deputy Gill said he fired two shots at the sedan before it started.

At a press conference last February, law enforcement officials praised MP Gill on his bravery and vowed to find the shooter.

“It’s kind of one of those miraculous stories, isn’t it?” Jason Malinsky, an assistant district attorney for Santa Clara, said Saturday. “An officer saved by his body-worn camera: it’s one of those shots in a million.

But that was not true, Mr Malinsky said.

An investigation that examined the ballistic evidence found Deputy Gill faked the attack, prosecutors said. The 27-year-old MP was arrested on Friday and charged with organizing the ambush on January 31, 2020, just after 10:30 p.m.

Mr Malinsky declined to discuss a motive or explain how Deputy Gill could have organized the shooting, saying the crime was still under investigation. The deputy’s body camera, he said, was too damaged to recover footage.

“As the investigation progressed there were more and more inconsistencies with Deputy Gill’s story, and it got to a point that the story didn’t square,” said Mr. Malinsky. “The evidence increasingly showed that Deputy Gill had fabricated this incident.”

Deputy Gill has been charged with vandalism, for damage to his patrol car and body camera, and for falsely reporting a felony, misdemeanor, Malinsky said. If found guilty, he faces three years in state prison and one year in county jail.

“This case is baffling and deeply disappointing,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “Deputy Gill’s actions abused the trust of his fellow officers and diverted public safety resources from community protection to investigate a fabricated crime.

Deputy Gill, who has been on leave, will not be able to plead until he is arraigned next month, his lawyer, Nicole Pifari, said.

“Unfortunately at this point in the process I don’t have a lot of information,” she said. “I can tell you that we look forward to seeing the investigation and related evidence to understand why these charges are being pursued.”

Credit…Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press

The Santa Clara County Association of Deputy Sheriffs, which represents county deputies, said it was “deeply disappointed” by the accusations, which “can have a huge impact on community confidence” but “do not. not reflect the vast majority of the law. enforcement agents and assistants. “

The association added that Deputy Gill was entitled to due process and the opportunity to defend himself against the allegations.

Deputy Gill, who was not seriously injured, told the first officer at the scene that he parked on the dirt shoulder of a rural road near Morgan Hill, Calif., To urinating during a routine patrol, prosecutors said.

He said he returned to his car when he was attacked. Officers responded from the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office as well as the San Jose, Morgan Hill and Gilroy Police Departments, but were unable to locate the silver sedan deputy Gill described, prosecutors said. .

At the press conference last February, law enforcement officials expressed relief that Deputy Gill was shot in his body camera and said they believed he was the victim of a “Unprovoked sneak attack”.

The sheriff’s office said on Friday that evidence showed the shooting was fabricated.

“If the allegations are true,” said the Sheriff’s Office, “Deputy Gill’s actions are not representative of the honest men and women in the Sheriff’s Office, who risk their lives every day to serve and protect our community. with honesty and integrity. “

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No, a doctor’s selfie doesn’t show a “ fake hospital ” in Nevada.

In the latest example of coronavirus misinformation ricocheting off social media, a Nevada doctor’s selfie has been used to spread false claims that downplay the severity of the pandemic.

On the picture Posted on Twitter Sunday, doctor Jacob Keeperman stands at the alternative care site at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada. In the background, empty plastic-covered hospital beds lie in a vacant parking lot. The photo was taken on Nov. 12, the day the site opened, so patients had yet to arrive, Renown Health said.

“I want to thank all of the amazing staff who are fighting the good fight to help all of those suffering from COVID-19,” wrote Dr. Keeperman, medical director of the Renown Transfer and Operations Center. “With 5 deaths in the past 32 hours, everyone is struggling to hold their heads up. Stay strong.”

Her photograph was then used by the @Networkinvegas account to falsely claim that it showed a ‘fake hospital’ that had ‘never seen a single patient’.

President Trump took the lie to a wider audience on Tuesday, retweeting the post @Networkinvegas with the comment: “Fake election results in Nevada too! Twitter reported on the president’s tweet, noting that the election fraud allegation was “disputed.”

In fact, the Reno alternative care site supported a total of 219 Covid patients in the three weeks it was opened. And across Nevada, hospitalizations have increased 43% in the past 14 days, with a 55% increase in deaths, according to a New York Times database.

Dr Keeperman said in an interview Wednesday that he was “sad and disappointed” to see the attacks surrounding his social media post. “I sent this tweet to recognize and thank all of our healthcare teammates who often go unrecognized,” he said. “My greatest wish is never to have to tell another family that their loved one will not be coming home.”

He received a wave of support from local, state and national leaders, colleagues in the health sector and many members of the general public – but he also received “less than tasty messages,” he said. he declares. “I chose to ignore them and keep hope.”

In response to the President’s tweet, Governor Steve Sisolak of Nevada, a Democrat, said: “Its constant misleading rhetoric on Covid-19 is dangerous and reckless, and today’s implication that the Renown alternative care site is a ‘bogus hospital’ is one of the worst examples we’ve seen.

Addressing those who argue that the pandemic is some sort of hoax, Dr Keeperman said in the interview: “Covid is real. I hope you don’t get sick, but when you do, we’ll be there to take care of you. And we’re going to have a bed for you, and we’re going to do our best. And then you will know how real it is.

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Fake news targeting Latinos follows election

MIAMI – Messages proliferated on election night before anything definitive from a distance was known about the results of the presidential race. “Robado,” they falsely repeated over and over in Spanish: President Trump was deprived of a victory. He had won Arizona. George Soros was funding violent “anti-fa riots”.

Unfounded messages to Latinos trying to delegitimize the election and the results of Joseph R. Biden Jr. circulated online Tuesday night and Wednesday, as part of a disinformation campaign aimed at undermining Latino confidence in the government. vote as it unfolds.

Ahead of election day, fake news in Spanish attempted to turn Latinos against Black Lives Matter and tie Mr. Biden to socialism, tactics which experts believe could depress the Hispanic vote. Now that the vote is over, the rampant lies have attracted only a wider audience – including among immigrants less familiar with the institutions of American democracy. The gist of the lies is that the election is “rigged” against Mr. Trump.

“These stories of disinformation are helping to plunge the country further into chaos and confusion,” said Fadi Quran, director at Avaaz, a nonprofit that tracks disinformation. He called the disinformation campaigns a “democratic emergency”. “The country’s most vulnerable communities pay the highest price,” he said.

For weeks, election security officials and experts braced for what was widely believed to be an election marred by hacking and disinformation. They focused on familiar adversaries in Russia, who weeks earlier had been caught hiring people in Mexico and Venezuela to spread Instagram and Facebook content.

Officials and researchers have expressed concern over Iranian interference after Iranians posing as members of the far-right group Proud Boys threatened Democrats not to vote. The Justice Department announced on Wednesday the withdrawal of dozens of Iranian propaganda sites targeting Americans. And Microsoft and United States Cyber ​​Command have separately targeted Russian cybercriminals’ hacking infrastructure in an attempt to stave off the kinds of ransomware attacks that could freeze electoral systems.

But on Tuesday, they breathed a sigh of relief as Election Day passed relatively unscathed. It was, an administration official said, just another Tuesday on the internet.

Yet 24 hours later, it emerged that Facebook and Twitter may have overlooked the deluge of disinformation targeting Spanish-speaking Americans. Highly-followed Spanish-language accounts falsely claimed that Mr. Trump got a quick victory, that social media was censoring his victory, and that Mr. Biden was cheating.

Highly-followed Twitter accounts pushed a debunked conspiracy theory, adopted by some prominent US conservatives, that election workers in Maricopa County, Arizona, gave Trump voters pens that could not be detected by scanners of ballots. Others have claimed that armed protesters funded by billionaire Soros were taking control of the U.S. Capitol.

On Wednesday, disinformation experts like Mr Quran compared the flood of disinformation in Spanish to an emergency and called on social media platforms to retroactively notify anyone interested in the content that the claims were false.

The scope of disinformation is vast. In just 24 hours, Spanish-language disinformation generated traffic that even eclipsed the interference campaign conducted by the Kremlin-backed Russian Internet Research Agency four years ago.

On Facebook, a video posted to a seven-month-old Colombian account called Mr. Capacho en Vivo, with 40,000 followers, accused Twitter of censoring Mr. Trump’s victory and had already been viewed more than 500,000 times – far more traffic than the Russian trolls. generated with fake Black Lives Matter ads prior to the 2016 election.

Marketed as a global financial and political news page, the Colombian account pushed for QAnon conspiracies, such as the baseless belief that the main Democrats are part of a global cabal of Satanist child molesters. On Monday, the same account posted an edited and deceptive video of Mr. Biden touching children, falsely claiming he was a “superpredator.” As of Wednesday, the video had been viewed approximately 45,000 times.

Another Spanish-speaking influencer, Ciro Gómez Leyva, who has more than two million YouTube subscribers, posted a video Tuesday night in which he claimed that 150 antifa members were descending on Washington with “gas masks, weapons and shields ”. As protesters marched outside the White House, there was no evidence that any weapons were involved.

On the Spanish-language Campechaneando YouTube channel, a host warned viewers not to believe news that Mr. Biden had passed Mr. Trump in the Electoral College tally. Some 160,000 people watched the video on Wednesday.

On another Spanish-language channel, Informativo G24, with more than 500,000 subscribers, hosts on Tuesday compared the Democrats to the Nazis. The video has been viewed some 350,000 times.

In Miami, a Spanish-language radio show, “Cada Tarde con Carinés Moncada y Agustín Acosta,” on Tuesday night made denied claims that Republican poll observers were not allowed to observe polling places in Pennsylvania. .

In September, one of the show’s co-hosts, Carinés A. Moncada, advanced a conspiracy theory that a Black Lives Matter co-founder was involved in devil worship.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to know how much misrepresentation influenced Latino voters before election day. But the center of much of this misinformation was South Florida, home to a diverse community of Latinos, many of whom have fled authoritarian leftist regimes and are receptive to messages about socialism.

When the Miami-Dade County results arrived on Tuesday, Mr. Trump exceeded expectations. Strong support from Hispanic voters helped him easily win Florida and allowed Republicans to overthrow two congressional seats in the state.

Juan Pablo Salas, a Colombian political analyst in Sarasota, Florida, said he feared that disinformation involving Bogotá, Miami and Washington was a coordinated effort between right-wing interests in Colombia and the United States, “to transform essentially our Colombian-American. community in the tip of the spear of the offense played by the far right.

“They have invested a lot of money to make South Florida a campaign stronghold,” Salas said of the Republican Party and the party of former President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, which is close to many Republicans from Miami.

On Tuesday evening, Eduardo A. Gamarra, professor of political science at the International University of Florida, agreed to analyze the election on NTN24, a television news channel based in Colombia. He found himself on the air arguing with Omar Bula Escobar, a former United Nations official known for, among other false statements, claiming that Mr Soros controls the Democratic Party, an anti-Semitic trope adopted by QAnon.

Dr Gamarra said he dismissed Mr Bula Escobar’s unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud and then phoned the network after the interview ended.

“I said, ‘Don’t ever do that to me again. Research your guests, ”he said. “It’s irresponsible.”

A producer on the show did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Evelyn Pérez-Verdía, a Latin American Democratic strategist in South Florida, said she spent four hours on Tuesday trying to debunk false claims on Spanish-language radio that Mr Biden, a moderate, was a radical on the left.

“The Republicans called him a socialist, during those four hours, 20 times,” she said. “And a radical five times, and a Castro-Chavist” – a reference to Fidel Castro from Cuba and Hugo Chávez from Venezuela – “three times. Repeat a lie and repeat it until it becomes the truth.

Patricia Mazzei reported from Miami and Nicole Perlroth from San Francisco.