President Donald Trump and his allies are normalizing the potential for violence on Election Day with incendiary rhetoric.
Trump has repeatedly suggested — without evidence — that if he loses the 2020 election, it will be because it was rigged by the Democrats.
Meanwhile, Trump and his allies have expressed support for violent crackdowns on dissent.
Trump has consistently pushed a conspiracy theory that a group he refers to as “ANTIFA THUGS” will invade the suburbs if former Vice President Joe Biden wins.
Experts have expressed serious concerns about the potential for violence on and after Election Day because of Trump’s divisive and provocative rhetoric, as well as his promotion of conspiracy theories.
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Hundreds of armed right-wingers, including skinheads and self-proclaimed militias, traveled to the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 4 to confront antifa protesters burning American flags.
But when they got to the historic battlefield, there were no antifa members to be found. The gun-toting counterprotesters who descended upon Gettysburg to confront antifa, and use force if necessary, had been duped by an online hoax.
What happened on Independence Day showed how easy it is to leverage fear of antifa — a loosely affiliated group of left-wing anti-fascist activists with no leader — and create the potential for violence in the process.
Now, months later, President Donald Trump and his allies are tapping into the same angry, fearful sentiments ahead of Election Day and normalizing the possibility of violence surrounding the 2020 election.
In an interview with the Fox News host Jeanine Pirro on Saturday, Trump even hinted he would invoke the Insurrection Act to violently crack down on any post-election rioting and suggested to Pirro he would deploy federal forces “very quickly” if necessary. It’s part of a concerted strategy from Trump to build up the narrative that the nation will break down in factional violence if he isn’t reelected.
For months, Trump has been hitting his supporters with a constant barrage of unfounded racist warnings about a group he terms “ANTIFA THUGS” invading suburbs across the US if former Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidential election.
Despite Trump’s efforts to paint antifa as a major threat, there’s scant evidence to back that up. Antifa is not an organized group and has not been designated a terrorist organization by the federal government.
But painting antifa as a visceral threat has become a central piece of Trump’s “law-and-order” messaging. Trump has attempted to turn the Black Lives Matter movement and its affiliated groups into a monolith, portraying them as anti-American anarchists determined to tear the country apart.
Trump is defending right-wing violence and inflating the threat of the left in an effort to bolster his reelection
Last month, a caravan of Trump supporters drove into Portland, Oregon, to confront Black Lives Matter protesters who’ve been engaged in perhaps the most sustained demonstrations the country has seen this year.
There were reports of caravan members firing paintballs and using pepper spray on the protesters. Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who was affiliated with the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, was ultimately shot and killed amid the clashes.
It was evident that the presence of the Trump supporters in the city exacerbated the situation. But instead of calling for calm and condemning violence on all sides, Trump praised his supporters as “GREAT PATRIOTS,” while decrying the anti-racism protesters.
More recently, the president appeared to condone extrajudicial killings of left-wing activists.
During his interview with Pirro over the weekend, Trump applauded police for fatally shooting Michael Forest Reinoehl, an antifa supporter who was suspected of killing Danielson. Police shot Reinoehl without warning or attempting to arrest him first, according to a witness, and he did not appear to be armed.
But Trump praised the actions of the officers.
“This guy was a violent criminal, and the US Marshals killed him. And I’ll tell you something — that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution,” Trump said to Pirro.
Trump was widely criticized in June, including by former Defense Secretary James Mattis, after law enforcement tear-gassed peaceful protesters outside the White House to clear a path for the president to take a photo at a nearby church.
Last month, Trump defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of shooting three people at a Black Lives Matter protest last month in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Two of the people shot died, and Rittenhouse has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide.
Conservative pundits have embraced Rittenhouse, who went to Kenosha wielding a firearm as a self-styled militia member, as a paragon of self-defense. Adopting this dubious narrative, the president in late August suggested Rittenhouse would’ve been “killed” had he not opened fire.
“He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like,” Trump said of Rittenhouse. “I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”
Trump is undermining the legitimacy of the election and stoking violence in the process
Amid all this, Trump has perpetuated the unfounded assertion that mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud. In Washington, Democrats have repeatedly called for expanded access to mail-in voting because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump, who is behind Biden in the national polls, has repeatedly suggested without evidence this would lead to a rigged election. The president is actively attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the election and setting the stage to reject the results if he ultimately loses.
“The Democrats are trying to rig this election because it’s the only way they are going to win,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Nevada on Saturday.
Voter fraud in the US is extremely rare, and voting experts have maintained that mail-in voting is extremely safe and secure. Not to mention, Trump has voted by mail in recent elections and will vote as an absentee (virtually the same thing) in November.
But as Trump pushes this unsubstantiated narrative about mail-in voting, his allies are urging him to take extreme measures if things don’t go the president’s way on November 3.
Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime friend and adviser, last week called into the conspiracy-theory site InfoWars and condoned Trump employing “martial law” to stay in office and detain prominent Democratic figures, including the Clintons, if he loses.
The paranoid rhetoric and conspiracy theories regarding the election are also coming from other members of the Trump administration.
In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Vice President Mike Pence said to voters: “You will not be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
And Michael Caputo, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson, recently went on a 26-minute rant on Facebook in which he issued warnings of an armed insurrection by left-wing groups after the election.
“There are hit squads being trained all over this country,” Caputo said in his rant, first reported by The New York Times.
“When Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he added. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”
Caputo, who also worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, on Wednesday announced he was taking 60 days of medical leave.
‘The potential for violent conflict is high’
For months, experts have expressed serious concern that Trump’s relentless disinformation campaign has fostered a tumultuous political climate that could easily spark violence on and after Election Day.
“There is already significant chatter about the possibility for a Civil War and armed civil unrest in the event Trump loses his reelection bid, but single-actor and small-cell violent acts would be more likely,” J.J. MacNab, a fellow at the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, told members of the US House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism in July.
The Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan organization founded last year, brought together a group of more than 100 experts in June to simulate what might transpire after November 3.
In a report summarizing the conclusions drawn from the exercises, the group said: “Voting fraud is virtually non-existent, but Trump lies about it to create a narrative designed to politically mobilize his base and to create the basis for contesting the results should he lose. The potential for violent conflict is high, particularly since Trump encourages his supporters to take up arms.”
The report also stressed that Trump would likely put his self-preservation ahead of a peaceful transfer of power, should Biden win in November.
“A landslide for Joe Biden resulted in a relatively orderly transfer of power. Every other scenario we looked at involved street-level violence and political crisis,” Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University and cofounder of the Transition Integrity Project, said of the group’s findings in The Washington Post.
The former UK ambassador in Washington Kim Darroch told The Guardian the US felt “very volatile” and that there appeared to be a “genuine risk” of post-election violence.
“All of us have watched Portland and Kenosha, and it feels like a genuine risk. That 17-year-old who shot the demonstrators and the reaction in alt-right circles is really scary,” Darroch said. “Whoever wins, you just hope that people will accept the result and take it calmly, though I couldn’t say I’m certain that will be the case.”
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Voter purge case before Wisconsin Supreme Court
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in a case that could result in the purging of about 130,000 people from voter rolls in the hotly contested battleground state.
However, it wasn’t clear if the court would rule in time to affect the Nov. 3 election that was just five weeks away. Attorneys for both sides didn’t expect a decision until after the election.
The arguments come in one of several closely watched lawsuits in Wisconsin. On Sunday, a federal appeals court temporarily put on hold a ruling that would expand the time that absentee ballots can be counted.
President Donald Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016, making the fight over any change to the process of voting and who is able to vote all the more significant.
A conservative law firm was asking the Supreme Court to overturn a state appeals court’s ruling earlier in February that stopped the purging of the voters who had been identified as potentially having moved. A circuit court judge had ruled that the voters must be removed immediately, but the appeals court overturned that.
Because voters who moved were concentrated in more Democratic areas of the state, liberals argued that the lawsuit was meant to lower turnout on their side. Republicans countered that it was about reducing the likelihood of voter fraud and making sure that people who moved are not able to vote from their previous addresses.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of three voters, had asked the Supreme Court to decide the case before the November election. But the court slated it for its regular argument schedule, not a faster track, making it unlikely to rule in time to affect voters this year.
The Wisconsin case is among several nationwide asking state or local elections officials to purge voters from the rolls. On Monday, a judge in Georgia dismissed a similar lawsuit filed by two voters in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta. The lawsuit sought to force election officials to hold hearings that could have resulted in 14,000 voters being removed from the county’s voter rolls before the November general election.
Absentee voting is underway in Wisconsin with more than 238,00 ballots returned already.
The Supreme Court is controlled 4-3 by conservatives. But Justice Brian Hagedorn, who worked as former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s attorney and was backed by conservatives in his run for the court, has repeatedly sided with more liberal justices in high profile cases. Hagedorn in September sided with the three liberal justices in ruling it was too late for a Green Party presidential candidate to force his way onto the ballot after the elections commission determined he was ineligible.
In the voter purge lawsuit, conservatives argue that the state elections commission broke the law when it did not remove voters from the rolls who did not respond within 30 days to a mailing last year indicating they may have moved. The commission wanted to wait until after the presidential election before removing anyone because of inaccuracies found while previously attempting to identify voters who may have moved.
The appeals court said in its unanimous decision in February that the law in question does not refer to the Elections Commission or give any duties to it related to deactivating voters. The commission argued that the power to do that rests with local election clerks. The appeals court agreed.
No voters have been deactivated while the legal fight continues. Even if a voter has their registration deactivated, they can register again later or on Election Day when they show up at the polls, assuming they have the required documentation proving where they live, such as a driver’s license, paycheck stub or utility bill.
In another case being heard Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider when a voter should be considered indefinitely confined. Those voters are able to receive absentee ballots without first showing a photo ID. Republicans sued in March after Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell posted online ahead of the April election that voters could call themselves indefinitely confined if they were staying home because of the pandemic.
A ruling in that case is also unlikely before the November election.
Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbauerAP
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3 Stocks Flashing Signs of Strong Insider Buying
If you really want to know which stocks the experts – and those in the know – are buying, pay attention to what they’re doing. Stock reports, company reviews, and press statements are helpful, but you’ll get significant information from watching what the insiders are up to.The insiders – the corporate officers and board members – have to disclose when they snap up shares to prevent any unfair advantages. Tracking their stock purchases can be a useful strategy because if an insider spends their own money on a stock, it could signal that they believe big gains are in store.So, investors looking for stocks that may be flying ‘under the radar,’ but with potential to climb fast, watching for insider purchases identify some sweet market plays. To make that search easier, the TipRanks Insiders’ Hot Stocks tool gets the footwork started – identifying stocks that have seen informative moves by insiders, highlighting several common strategies used by the insiders, and collecting the data all in one place.Fresh from that database, here are the details on three stocks showing ‘informative buys’ in recent days.TravelCenters of America (TA)We’ll start with a company that you probably don’t think about often, but that does provide an essential service. TravelCenters of America is the largest publicly traded owner, operator, and franchisor of full-service highway rest stops in the US. TA started out operating truck stops for rest, repair, and maintenance, and has since expanded to full-service fueling stations offering both gasoline and diesel, fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, and other rest stop amenities. Their network of rest stops is part of the infrastructure that makes long-distance motor transport, both private and commercial, possible in the USA.As can be imagined, the social lockdowns and travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic were not good for TA. The good news is, the worst of the pandemic hit during Q1, and the first quarter is normally TA’s slowest of the year. This year, the first quarter showed a net loss of $1.81 per share. In the second quarter, when warmer weather normally leads to increased driving, the pandemic restrictions were also – at least partially – lifted, and TA reported a sudden turnaround, with a 59 cent EPS profit. Even so, that missed the forecast by almost a dime. The outlook for Q3, normally TA’s strongest of the year, is for EPS of 73 cents.Turning to the insider trades, Adam Portnoy of the Board of Directors has the most recent informative buys. Earlier this month, he purchased over 323,000 shares, laying out more than $5.32 million for the stock. Analyst James Sullivan, of BTIG makes two observations about TravelCenters. First, he points out, “The long-haul trucking industry has an approximate 71% share of total primary tonnage in the U.S. freight industry, making it the primary mode of freight transportation.” Sullivan then adds that this opens up opportunity for TA going forward: “The increasing demands of the nation’s large trucking fleets for consolidated service providers that can provide fuel and truck service on a national basis appear likely to drive additional consolidation in the industry.”Sullivan rates TA shares a Buy, and his $34 price target suggests the stock has an impressive 82% upside potential for the coming year. (To watch Sullivan’s track record, click here)Overall, shares in TA are rated a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus, based on 5 recent reviews including 4 Buys and 1 Hold. The shares are selling for $19.24, and the $22.70 average price target implies room for 18% upside growth. (See TA stock analysis on TipRanks)Highwoods Properties (HIW)The next stock is a real estate investment trust. Highwood operates mostly in the Southeast US, but also in Pittsburgh, where it acquires, develops, leases, and manages a portfolio of suburban office and light industrial properties.Where most companies reported heavy losses during the corona crisis, HIW saw revenues in 1H20 remain stable. EPS has grown sequentially into Q1 and remained flat in Q2 at 93 cents. Both quarter beat EPS expectations.Despite the solid financial results, HIW shares have still not recovered from the market collapse of midwinter. The stock is down 27% year-to-date.Through all of this, Highwoods has maintained its dividend, as is common among REITs. The company has a 17-year history of dividend growth and reliability, and the current payment of 48 cents per common share has been stable for the past 7 quarters. At this level, it annualizes to $1.92 and gives a yield of 5.8%.Highwoods’ insider trading has come from Board member Carlos Evans, who purchased 10,000 shares for $337,000 dollars last week. His move was the first informative buy on HIW in the last 6 months.Truist analyst Michael Lewis is impressed by the quality of HIW’s portfolio. He writes, “We continue to believe that HIW’s portfolio is one of the best-positioned among traditional office REITs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rent collections have been excellent and there are no large near-term lease expirations. More broadly, the portfolio should benefit from being focused in drivable, close-in Sunbelt suburbs.”In line with these comments, Lewis rates the stock a Buy. His price target, $45, indicates a 31% potential upside from current levels. (To watch Lewis’ track record, click here)Overall, HIW has a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy consensus rating from the Street. This breaks down into 2 Buy ratings and 1 Hold. We can also see from TipRanks that the average analyst price target is $43, which implies a ~25% upside from the current share price. (See HIW stock analysis on TipRanks)VEREIT (VER)The last stock on our insider trading list is another REIT. VEREIT is major owner and manager of retail, restaurant, and commercial real estate, with a portfolio that includes over 3,800 properties worth a collective $14.7 billion. The company’s assets are 45% retail and 20% restaurants; the rest is mainly office and light industrial sites. The total leasable square footage is 88.9 million square feet.So VEREIT is a giant in the REIT sector – but size didn’t protect it from the general downturn this year. Share performance has been lackluster, and revenues have been falling off gradually since Q4 of last year. The second quarter results showed $279 million on the top line, the lowest in a year – but the quarter also saw earnings turn back upwards, reaching 17 cents per share.VER cut back on its dividend earlier this year, reducing the payment to 8 cents per share to keep it in line with earnings. That dividend has been maintained, and the next payment is set for mid-October. The current dividend yield is 4.5%, well over double the average found among S&P stocks.The big insider trade on VER comes from Board member and CEO Glenn Rufrano. He spent over $252K on a block of 40,000 shares, pushing the insider sentiment on this stock into positive territory.Covering the stock for JPMorgan, 5-star analyst Anthony Paolone sees an important strength in VER, noting that the company has been successful in collecting rents during the crisis period. “[Its] collections showed good improvement going into July, with 85% collections in 2Q and 91% in July; when considering all the abatements and deferrals, it appears that at this point about 94% of pre-COVID contractual rental revenue has been addressed, and it seems to us that a normalized run rate for this vast majority of the portfolio should take hold in early 2021; the company is making progress in working through the remaining 5-6% of non-collections,” Paolone noted.Paolone gives VER an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and his $8 price target implies a 22% upside for the next 12 months. (To watch Paolone’s track record, click here)All in all, VER has drawn optimism mixed with caution when it comes to consensus opinion among sell-side analysts. Out of 5 analysts polled in the last 3 months, 3 are bullish on the stock, while 2 remain sidelined. With an 11% upside potential, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $7.25. (See VEREIT’s stock analysis at TipRanks)To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
South Africa anti-graft inquiry is biased against me
South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has requested the head of a commission investigating corruption during his presidency to step aside over alleged “bias”, his lawyers said.
Mr Zuma has repeatedly refused to testify at the commission.
But Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has set a “non-negotiable” date for him to appear.
Allegations of corruption dogged Mr Zuma’s presidency and led him to resign in February 2018.
The former president’s lawyer has said that he would not take part until Mr Zondo is replaced.
In a letter to the commission, Eric Mabuza said: “We are instructed to seek your recusal as chairperson of the commission on the ground that our client reasonably apprehends that you have already adopted a biased disposition towards him.”
He said that Mr Zondo was no longer capable of “exercising an independent and impartial mind”.
“President Zuma has always expressed his willingness to cooperate with the commission. This is in spite of his reservations about the legality of the commission and in particular, your suitability as chairperson, given your personal relations with him”.
The inquiry, known as the Zondo Commission, was established to investigate the “state capture” scandal during Mr Zuma’s tenure as president.
This centred around allegations about an Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative contracts with state companies.
The family has also been accused of trying to influence political decisions, including the naming of ministers.
The Guptas have said that there were no cases to answer and that they were in the process of clearing their name “in the face of unfounded media allegations”.
Mr Zondo has chaired the commission for more than two years and it has heard testimony from ministers, ex-ministers, government officials, politicians and business executives.
Last week Mr Zuma said he was too ill to testify.
As a result, Mr Zondo held a televised media briefing where he ordered Mr Zuma to testify in November.
Making a televised announcement “attests to the fact that he seeks to portray him as uncooperative and belligerent in the eyes of the public”, Mr Zuma’s lawyer argued in the letter.
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