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Despite Concerns About Blackmail, Flynn Heard C.I.A. Secrets

WASHINGTON — Senior officials across the government became convinced in January that the incoming national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, had become vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

At the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — agencies responsible for keeping American secrets safe from foreign spies — career officials agreed that Mr. Flynn represented an urgent problem.

Yet nearly every day for three weeks, the new C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, sat in the Oval Office and briefed President Trump on the nation’s most sensitive intelligence — with Mr. Flynn listening. Mr. Pompeo has not said whether C.I.A. officials left him in the dark about their views of Mr. Flynn, but one administration official said Mr. Pompeo did not share any concerns about Mr. Flynn with the president.

The episode highlights a remarkable aspect of Mr. Flynn’s tumultuous, 25-day tenure in the White House: He sat atop a national security apparatus that churned ahead despite its own conclusion that he was at risk of being compromised by a hostile foreign power.

The concerns about Mr. Flynn’s vulnerabilities, born from misleading statements he made to White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, are at the heart of a legal and political storm that has engulfed the Trump administration. Many of Mr. Trump’s political problems, including the appointment of a special counsel and the controversy over the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, can ultimately be traced to Mr. Flynn’s stormy tenure.

Time and again, the Trump administration looked the other way in the face of warning signs about Mr. Flynn. Mr. Trump entrusted him with the nation’s secrets despite knowing that he faced a Justice Department investigation over his undisclosed foreign lobbying. Even a personal warning from President Barack Obama did not dissuade him.

Mr. Pompeo sidestepped questions from senators last month about his handling of the information about Mr. Flynn, declining to say whether he knew about his own agency’s concerns. “I can’t answer yes or no,” he said. “I regret that I’m unable to do so.” His words frustrated Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Either Director Pompeo had no idea what people in the C.I.A. reportedly knew about Michael Flynn, or he knew about the Justice Department’s concerns and continued to discuss America’s secrets with a man vulnerable to blackmail,” Mr. Wyden said in a statement. “I believe Director Pompeo owes the public an explanation.”

After Mr. Pompeo’s Senate testimony, The New York Times asked officials at several agencies whether Mr. Pompeo had raised concerns about Mr. Flynn to the president and, if so, whether the president had ignored him. One administration official responded on the condition of anonymity that Mr. Pompeo, whether he knew of the concerns or not, had not told the president about them.

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to discuss any interactions between the president and Mr. Pompeo.

“Whether the C.I.A. director briefed the president on a specific intelligence issue during a specific time frame is not something we publicly comment on, and we’re not about to start today,” said the spokesman, Dean Boyd.

Concerns across the government about Mr. Flynn were so great after Mr. Trump took office that six days after the inauguration, on Jan. 26, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, warned the White House that Mr. Flynn had been “compromised.”

Ms. Yates’s concerns focused on phone calls that Mr. Flynn had in late December with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. When the White House faced questions about whether the two men had discussed lifting American sanctions on Russia, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that Mr. Flynn had assured him that sanctions were not discussed. Intelligence officials knew otherwise, based on routine intercepts of Mr. Kislyak’s conversations.

“That created a compromise situation,” Ms. Yates later told Congress, “a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”

Mr. Trump waited 18 days from that warning before firing Mr. Flynn, a period in which Mr. Pompeo continued to brief Mr. Flynn and the president. The White House has offered changing explanations for why the president waited until Feb. 13 — soon after Ms. Yates’s warning made national news — before firing Mr. Flynn.

White House officials have said they moved deliberately both out of respect for Mr. Flynn and because they were not sure how seriously they should take the concerns. They also said the president believed that Ms. Yates, an Obama administration holdover, had a political agenda. She was fired days later over her refusal to defend in court Mr. Trump’s ban on travel for people from several predominantly Muslim countries.

A warning from Mr. Pompeo might have persuaded the White House to take Ms. Yates’s concerns more seriously. Mr. Pompeo, a former congressman, is a Republican stalwart whom Mr. Trump has described as “brilliant and unrelenting.”

Mr. Pompeo was sworn in three days before Ms. Yates went to the White House. He testified last month that he did not know what was said in that meeting. By that time, C.I.A. officials had attended meetings with F.B.I. agents about Mr. Flynn and reviewed the transcripts of his conversations with the Russian ambassador, according to several current and former American security officials. Separately, intelligence agencies were aware that Russian operatives had discussed ways to use their relationship with Mr. Flynn to influence Mr. Trump.

Mr. Pompeo, who briefs the president nearly every day, had frequent opportunities to raise the issue with Mr. Trump.

The President’s Daily Brief is a rundown of what America’s spies consider the most pressing issues facing the United States. On any given day, it can include details of a terrorist plot being hatched overseas, an analysis of a foreign political crisis that threatens American interests or a look at foreign hackers who are trying to breach American government computer systems.

Each president takes the briefing differently. Mr. Obama was said to prefer reading it on a secure tablet. President George W. Bush liked his briefers to talk through the document they were presenting. Mr. Pompeo has described Mr. Trump as a voracious consumer of the briefing who likes maps, charts, pictures, videos and “killer graphics.

At an event last month at Westwood Country Club in Northern Virginia, Mr. Pompeo told retired C.I.A. officials that his briefings often ran past their scheduled 30 minutes, according to one retired official in attendance. Mr. Pompeo said Mr. Trump was eager for information and asked many questions.

At his confirmation hearing, Mr. Pompeo assured senators that he would provide the president with unvarnished information, even when it would be viewed as unpleasant. “I can tell you that I have assured the president-elect that I’ll do that,” Mr. Pompeo said.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Wyden questioned why Mr. Pompeo continued having discussions with Mr. Flynn despite the concerns of intelligence officials. “He was the national security adviser,” Mr. Pompeo said. “He was present for the daily brief on many occasions.”

Mr. Flynn had no love for the C.I.A., and the feeling was mutual. An Army general who had risen to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency, Mr. Flynn emerged in retirement as a C.I.A. critic, blaming the agency for his firing and what he called its failure to foresee the rise of the Islamic State. He insisted the Obama administration had politicized the agency, an assertion Mr. Pompeo later said he saw no evidence to support.

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Norwegian Officials Deny “No Go Zones” in Migrant Suburb Despite Weeks of Arson, Attacks on Police

Oslo city representatives have blamed three weeks of arson and violence against police by “youths” in the migrant-dominated Norwegian suburb of Stovner on young people feeling “rootless and restless”.

(Breitbart)

District Director Elf Humborstad Sørland told Norwegian broadcaster NRK: “There is a general problem that many young people are out too late in the evenings.”

The district of Stovner, which according to Statistics Norway has one the highest immigrant populations in the country at over 50 per cent, has seen three weeks of youths setting cars on fire and throwing stones at police, ambulance personnel, and the fire brigade responding to the fires.

Lars Norbom, general secretary of Oslo’s ‘Ravens’ neighbourhood watch organisation, acknowledged the high proportion of migrants involved in the violence. Speculating the youth gangs, who live in low socio-economic conditions, feel “excluded”, “rootless and restless”, he urged the engagement of mosques and NGOs to improve the conditions of young migrants.

Despite the reports of violence against police and there being 20 reported cases of arson from January to March alone, Stovner Police Chief John Roger Lund has denied the Oslo suburb is suffering from “Swedish conditions” where police “run when attacked” in migrant no-go zones, stating: “Here, the youngsters run when we arrive.”

Police Inspector Lund believes there are only a “small number of youngsters” aged 17 to 19 behind the attacks and arson, and have detained and let go several young men.

Speaking to Aftenposten, the chief would not state whether the youths were part of a “gang environment”, but confirmed suspects are “known to police”. Police said they could not provide information about the ethnicity of the gang members.

However, Norway’s Human Rights Service, an organisation praised by ex-Muslim and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has accused the media and Norwegian authorities of “hushing up” the reports of crimes and violence in migrant-heavy neighbourhoods.

“As we know, media and politicians have tried to tell us over time that we do not have ‘Swedish conditions’ – conditions that Swedish media and politicians will not recognise even though the awakening in neighbouring countries has begun,” organiser Rita Karlsen wrote.

U.S. President Donald Trump was chastised by media and political figures in February for linking mass migration and rising violence in Sweden. Hours later, a riot in the migrant no-go zone of Rinkeby broke out with cars set ablaze and shops looted in what a journalist on the scene described as being “like a warzone”. Police were pushed back after a group of 30 rioters pelted them with stones.

Frequent arson attacks also occur in high-immigrant districts of France, with French authorities being accused of a cover-up after claiming New Year’s Eve 2016/2017 “went off without any major incident” despite more than 1,000 cars being torched.

White Americans have Remained “Shockingly European” Despite Decades of Race Mixing Propaganda

One of the largest ever US population genetic study has revealed that European Americans have remained “shockingly European to an incredibly high degree” despite decades of racemixing propaganda.

Furthermore, the study found that only some six million individuals who identify as white, actually have between 1 and 3.5 percent non-European ancestry—and that the vast majority of this admixture occurred five or ten generations ago, making most of these individuals unaware of their ancestry—consciously and in physical appearance (or phenotype).

The study, titled “The Genetic Ancestry of African Americans, Latinos, and European Americans across the United States”, and published in the January 8, 2015 edition of American Journal of Human Genetics, was drawn from data provided by persons requesting personal DNA analysis from the 23andMe company. When requesting DNA analysis, individuals can choose whether to make their anonymized data available for research or not.

More than 80 percent of the customers—150,000 subjects—gave their consent, making the data set used for the study “an order of magnitude bigger” than those usually used to examine population mixing, according to Katarzyna Bryc, a population geneticist at 23andMe and lead author of the new paper. Normally, data sets used to compile such statistics are at most in the hundreds, and often only in the dozens, large.

The study subjects were overwhelmingly of self-identified European ancestry—148,789 of them. There were only 5,269 self-described African Americans and 8,663 Latinos.

According to the research, the essential conclusions are as follows:

* All three study groups in the data set—African Americans, European Americans and Latinos—have ancestry from Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

* Approximately 3.5 percent of European Americans have 1 percent or more African ancestry. Many of these European Americans who describe themselves as “white” may be unaware of their African ancestry since the African ancestor may be 5–10 generations in the past.

* European Americans with African ancestry are found at much higher frequencies in southern states than in other parts of the US.

* The highest levels of African ancestry among self-reported African Americans are found in southern states, especially South Carolina and Georgia—although that was on average less than 75 percent.

* One in every 20 African Americans carries Native American ancestry.

* More than 14 percent of African Americans from Oklahoma carry at least 2 percent Native American ancestry.

* Among self-reported Latinos in the US, those from states in the southwest, especially from states bordering Mexico, have the highest levels of Native American ancestry.

* Latinos, on average, possess 18 percent Native American ancestry, with about 65 percent European DNA and a little over 6 percent of DNA originating in Africa.

* Most Americans with less than 28 percent African-American ancestry say they are white, the researchers found. Anything above that threshold, and people tended to describe themselves as “African-American.”

* Inferred British/Irish ancestry is found in European Americans from all states at mean proportions of more than 20 percent, and represents a majority of ancestry (more than 50 percent mean proportion) in states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

* Inferred Eastern European ancestry is found at its highest levels in Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, stemming from immigration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, settling in metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest.

* Inferred Iberian ancestry, found overall at lower mean proportions, still represents a measurable ancestry component in Florida, Louisiana, California, and Nevada, and might point to the early Spanish rule and colonization of the Americas.

* Scandinavian ancestry in European Americans is highly localized; most states show only trace mean proportions of Scandinavian ancestry, but it comprises a significant proportion, upward of 10 percent, of ancestry in European Americans from Minnesota and the Dakotas.

* Individuals with more than 5 percent Native American ancestry are most likely to self-identify as Latino, suggesting differences in sociological or historical factors associated with identifying with these groups.

Statistically significant admixture has therefore only occurred in historical times among white Americans.

This means that in more recent times, this admixture rate has slowed considerably, despite a marked increase in pro-racial-mixing propaganda put out by the controlled mass media.

As well-known geneticist blogger Razib Khan pointed out in an article on The Unz Review,although some controlled media articles have presented the new data as “evidence” of the American “melting pot,” the study in fact shows the direct opposite.

As Khan wrote: “What genetics is showing is that in fact white Americans are shockingly European to an incredibly high degree for a population with roots on this continent for 400 years.”

According to Khan, geneticists have long known that “the vast majority of white Americans who are not Hispanic do not have detectable non-European ancestry.”

Furthermore, Khan continued, “we’d be amazed that the indigenous peoples had so little demographic impact, and, that the larger numbers of people of partial African ancestry did not move into the general ‘white’ population,” in contrast to Latin America where, he says, this process did occur.

What Khan calls the “peculiar nature” of white Americans is evident in the illustration to the left. The racial spread for each population group is made up as a triangle, with each corner representing one of the three selected groups (“Native American,” “European,” and “African”).

As to be expected, blacks in America run “the gamut from being mostly African to mostly European,” and the Latino populations show admixture with both Africans and Native Americans.

Khan goes on to point out that while “typical Mexican people are presumed to be mixed between European and Native American, most Mexicans seem to have low, but detectable, levels of African ancestry.” This he ascribes “due to the attested slave population across the Spanish colonies.”

This is a critically important differentiation, Khan said, with the “Old Stock Anglo-American” Europeans, whose “ancestors have been coexistent with people of African origin for at least 250 years by and large” but who did not mix to any significant extent with the nonwhites.

(New Observer Online)

5 reasons some British Jews support Labour, despite charges of anti-Semitism

JTA — Relations between British Jewry and the country’s Labour Party, which used to be their political home, appear to be at a historic lowpoint.

Ahead of the June 8 general elections in the United Kingdom, a Jewish Chronicle poll from last week put support for the center-left party — which has seen repeated scandals involving anti-Semitic rhetoric in recent months — at 13 percent, compared to 77% support for the Conservative Party.

Despite the dismal results for Labour among the British Jewish community, that’s up from 8.5% in a similar poll from last month.

By comparison, 35% of the general population supports Labour and 44% of Britons said they would vote Conservative in a June 1 poll commissioned by The Independent.

The Jewish vote is of little consequence in electoral terms — Jews are a minority of 300,000 people in Great Britain — but it is widely seen as proof of the change that has gripped Labour since Jeremy Corbyn won the party’s 2015 leadership election. Corbyn is a far-left politician with pro-Palestinian sympathies who, critics say, has failed to address hate speech against Jews by his supporters.

Yet some prominent Jews, including Labour lawmakers Ruth Smeeth and Luciana Berger, remain loyal to the party under Corbyn — who was accused of being soft on anti-Semitism last year by an inter-parliamentary committee of inquiry on the problem.

For example, Corbyn did not kick out former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was merely suspended for repeatedly suggesting that Adolf Hitler was in cahoots with Zionists. And then there was the suspension, readmission and re-suspension of Labour activist Jackie Walker, who said Jews led the slave trade and, later, said that there was no reason to offer special protection to Jewish schools. (Corbyn has refused to kick her out of the party as well, and she remains a member.)

Throughout these and other scandals, some Jews have remained loyal to Labour. Here are five reasons why.

1. Singled out for criticism?

Some of Corbyn’s supporters, including Jewish ones, believe Labour is being singled out for criticism on anti-Semitism, which they say occurs on the fringes of all political parties — including the ruling Conservative Party.

A case in point is Michael Segalov, the News Editor at Huck Magazine, a publication about art and politics.

“Since Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, unsupportive MPs, campaigning groups and journalists have been desperate to paint him and the movement who support him as anti-Semitic fanatics, despite knowing it’s really not the case,” Segalov, who is Jewish, wrote in September in a column published by The Independent.

Labour is certainly not the only British party with senior members who employ vitriol against Jews and Israel.

David Ward, a lawmaker for the Liberal Democrats party, was sacked last month for expressing a desire to see rockets hitting Tel Aviv and accusing “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians”.

But the Liberal Democrats have taken “strong and decisive action” against such politicians, Leslie Bergman, the London-based former president of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, told JTA.

“It is irrefutable that Corbyn has not taken the decisive action that a party in a Democratic Western country would take when there is manifest anti-Semitism in its ranks,” he added.

2. This goes a long way back

The Jewish Labour Movement, a group within the party, was registered officially in 1920 — 20 years after the party’s establishment. It was the first non-Christian minority group within Labour, according to Christine Collette and Stephen Bird, the authors of the 2000 book “Jews, Labour and the Left, 1918–48.”

Once the party of choice for Jews, including impoverished immigrants from Eastern Europe, it lost some ground to the Conservative Party as Labour adopted an increasingly critical attitude towards Israel — part of a larger shift in the West of sympathy toward Israel from the center-left parties to ones on the right.

But in 2010, when the party was headed by Ed Miliband, who is Jewish, Labour was still slightly ahead of the Conservative Party among Jewish voters (31 percent to 30 percent), according to a poll.

3. Jewish values

Even Labour’s Jewish critics concede its mission aligns better with Jewish values than the policies favored by the Conservative Party, with its repeated cuts to welfare budgets and free-market economics.

Bergman, who does not support Labour under Corbyn because he believes Corbyn has failed to address hate speech in the party’s ranks, said he “can understand” Jews who vote for the party despite its problems. They “view Labour as more conscious of social issues, the need to support the less privileged in society. And that is a Jewish value,” Bergman said.

This is also one of the main reasons that Berger, a 36-year-old Labour lawmaker from Liverpool, who has come under pressure from the Jewish community to leave the party, has decided to stay, she told The Jewish Chronicle last week.

“On every level the Conservatives have failed because of the savage cuts they have dished out,” said Berger, an advocate of mental health issues who has cut short her maternity leave to campaign for Labour ahead of the election.

4. Not big on Israel? Not a problem!

Though they generally support Israel’s right to exist, British Jews are growing uneasy over its settlement policy and perceived occupation of Palestinian land – issues that are also key to criticism of Israel within Labour.

In a 2015 poll conducted among 1,131 Jewish respondents by the dovish Jewish Yachad group, 47 percent of respondents said the Israeli government was “constantly creating obstacles to avoid engaging in the peace process.” Three quarters of participants in that poll agreed that “the expansion of settlements on the West Bank is a major obstacle to peace,” and two-thirds reported having a “sense of despair” whenever new expansion is approved.

Indeed, a Jewish anti-Israel lawmaker, the late Gerald Kaufman, who died in February, was among the Labour politicians accused of promoting anti-Semitic rhetoric. In 2015 he was recorded saying that the British government had become more pro-Israel in recent years due to “Jewish money, Jewish donations to the Conservative Party.”

5. It’s a local thing

In the United Kingdom, which is a parliamentary democracy, voters elect a local representative from their constituency to represent them in parliament.

Some Jewish voters who may be uneasy about Corbyn are happy to vote for another Labour Party member whom they do trust.

This certainly applies to Linda Grant, a Jewish Labour volunteer from London who said that, while she believes Corbyn is not the right man to lead Labour, she nonetheless plans to vote for a party candidate who she says has an impeccable record on fighting anti-Semitism.

“If I was a few streets away, in Islington North, Corbyn’s constituency, I can’t say how I would vote. Probably not Labour,” Grant wrote in a column that appeared last week in the Chronicle. “But I will have no difficulty voting for Catherine West and delivering even more leaflets on her behalf.”

Despite PA demands, Israel continues electricity supply to Gaza

Israel was continuing to supply the Gaza Strip with electricity on Thursday despite a demand from the Palestinian Authority to reduce the power it supplies as the PA steps up its confrontation with the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers.

The PA has been paying 40 million shekels ($11.3 million) a month for 125 megawatts, but recently said it was now only prepared to pay for 20-25 million shekels ($7 million) a month for electricity to Gaza.

If Israel had gone ahead with the electricity cuts, the hours of electricity supply in Gaza would have been reduced to about two to four hours a day instead of the current six.

Following the Palestinian decision, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav Mordechai had said he would cut the Gaza supply. But Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz’s stepped in to say that Israel would make the decision based on its own priorities and does not take orders from the PA.

Steinitz was set to meet with Mordechai in order to formulate a permanent position. Israel is concerned that further cutting electricity would further destabilize Gaza.

It is likely that Israel will continue to deduct the funds to pay for the electricity from tax revenues that Israel collects for the Palestinians.

It also comes amid an escalating struggle for dominance between the Islamic terrorist group Hamas and its West Bank-based rival, the PA of internationally backed President Mahmoud Abbas.

A power plant in Gaza City is pictured from behind a fence on April 16, 2017. The Gaza Strip's only functioning power plant was out of action after running out of fuel, the head of the territory's electricity provider told AFP. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Abbas, whose government pays Israel for the electricity, has stepped up financial pressure on Hamas in recent weeks by by withholding funds to loosen the Islamists’ grip on power.

Gaza residents have adapted to worsening hardships with ingenuity and stoicism.

In some apartment buildings, residents have pooled resources to buy communal generators. Most Gazans buy food daily because they can no longer use refrigerators. Formerly routine activities such as showering or running a washing machine are done at odd hours, when power is on.

Gaza hasn’t had full-time electricity in more than a decade, largely because of the international isolation of Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel. Israel and Egypt, which border the coastal strip, imposed a blockade on the territory after Hamas’s takeover in 2007, to prevent Hamas from importing weaponry. Since 2008, Israel and Hamas have fought three cross-border wars.

Since April, Gaza’s power crisis worsened, in part because of Abbas’s new aggressive strategy. After years of failed reconciliation efforts, he began cutting back Gaza support payments to pressure Hamas. The group says it will not yield.

Gaza’s sole power plant stopped working in April, after it ran out of fuel that had partially been paid for by Qatar and Turkey, one-time regional backers whose support appears to have cooled off.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz attends the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hamas said it could not afford to buy new fuel, leaving Gaza with 10 power lines from Israel as the main source of electricity — about 30 percent of the territory’s needs.

Dov Lieber and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

Greg Gianforte, Montana Republican, Captures House Seat Despite Assault Charge

BOZEMAN, Mont. — Greg Gianforte, a wealthy Montana Republican who was charged with assaulting a reporter on Wednesday, nonetheless won the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives on Thursday, according to The Associated Press, in a special election held up as a test of the country’s political climate.

Mr. Gianforte, 56, was widely seen as a favorite to win against Rob Quist, a Democrat and country music singer. But he seemed to imperil his own candidacy in the final hours of the race after he manhandled a journalist for The Guardian.

Addressing the altercation for the first time late Thursday night, Mr. Gianforte apologized to the Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, by name, acknowledged he “made a mistake” and vowed to the state’s voters that he would not embarrass them again.

“You deserve a congressman who stays out of the limelight and just gets the job done,” he said to a group of supporters at a hotel in Bozeman, who repeatedly yelled out that they forgave him.

Voters here shrugged off the episode and handed Republicans a convincing victory. Mr. Gianforte took slightly more than 50 percent of the vote to about 44 percent for Mr. Quist. (President Trump won Montana by about 20 percentage points.) Mr. Gianforte’s success underscored the limitations of the Democrats’ strategy of highlighting the House’s health insurance overhaul and relying on liberal anger toward the president, at least in red-leaning states.

 

“Montana sent a strong message tonight that we want a congressman who will work with President Trump to make America and Montana great again,” Mr. Gianforte said in remarks shortly after he was declared the winner.
Mr. Gianforte’s capture of the seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spares his party the short-term pain of losing a reliably Republican seat in Congress, but at the cost of having the newest member of the House majority arrive in Washington under a serious legal cloud.

Mr. Gianforte still faces a misdemeanor assault charge that will require him to appear in a Montana courtroom next month. Republicans in Washington indicated that they were unlikely to block him from taking office, despite the possibility of a criminal conviction in the coming weeks.

According to an audio recording and the account of a Fox News reporter, Mr. Gianforte flew into a rage and battered Mr. Jacobs after Mr. Jacobs asked him a straightforward question about the health care bill passed by House Republicans this month.

Mr. Gianforte faced mounting public demands on Thursday from Republican leaders, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senator Steve Daines of Montana, to apologize.

For Democrats, their failure to notch a win, or even come close, raises pressure on their nominee to score a victory in a special House election next month in Georgia, where the party has spent heavily in hopes of capturing a Republican-held seat.

Even before its ugly conclusion, the race in Montana, a state that has long mixed conservatism with populism, had evolved into an early referendum on Mr. Trump and the Republican health care bill.

Republican groups, concerned about the growing backlash to Mr. Trump, poured more than twice as much money into the race as Democrats. The spending was initially a precaution. But Republican officials grew nervous after Mr. Quist, 69, caught fire with progressive activists, who eventually helped him raise over $6 million, narrowing the funding disparity in the race.
While Mr. Gianforte vowed to work with the Trump administration and campaigned with both Vice President Mike Pence and the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Quist focused his campaign in its final weeks on the unpopular House health care bill. He hammered Mr. Gianforte for telling a group of Washington lobbyists he was “thankful” the bill had passed while suggesting to Montana voters that he would have opposed it.

But while backlash against the bill may have helped Mr. Quist modestly narrow the gap against Mr. Gianforte, it was not a cure-all for a candidate with a messy financial history running in a state Mr. Trump had won by more than 20 points.

National Democrats were pessimistic about Mr. Quist’s prospects from the start and privately said their polling never indicated that he was making significant progress against Mr. Gianforte.

In the end, Mr. Gianforte’s attack on the reporter did little more than inject a measure of 11th-hour drama into the race.

In ads rushed into production late Wednesday night, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused Mr. Gianforte of being “unhinged.” Accompanied by the jarring sounds of the altercation, which sent Mr. Jacobs to the hospital, the spots captured Mr. Gianforte screaming, “I’m sick and tired of you guys!”

But prospects that the incident would tip the race to Mr. Quist were complicated by Montana’s early-voting tradition: More than half the estimated total ballots had already been returned.

Regardless of the winner, the specter of a June court date for Mr. Gianforte on a misdemeanor assault charge was an unwelcome coda for Republicans at a difficult moment. The party had already been forced to spend millions of dollars to prop up its nominee in a race being pored over for clues about the national political environment in the tumultuous first months of Mr. Trump’s presidency.
On Thursday, some of his Republican supporters vented publicly at their candidate even before the polls closed.

“He’s the problem,” Corry Bliss, who runs a “super PAC” aligned with House Republicans, said of Mr. Gianforte. When the contest began, Mr. Bliss said, private polling showed that Mr. Gianforte was as unpopular as he was popular, a leftover result of his failed campaign for governor last year.

“This race was essentially an unpopular incumbent trying to get re-elected,” said Mr. Bliss, whose Congressional Leadership Fund spent nearly $2.7 million on Mr. Gianforte’s behalf. “And in this environment, C-minus candidates aren’t going to cut it.”

Elected Republicans in Washington also expressed frustration, publicly scolding Mr. Gianforte.

“Should the gentleman apologize? Yeah, I think he should apologize,” said Mr. Ryan, the House speaker. “I know he has his own version, and I’m sure he’s going to have more to say, but there’s no call for this, no matter what — on any circumstance.”

Mr. Gianforte kept silent while the polls were open on Thursday, and his campaign aides did not respond to messages.

His outburst placed Republicans in a distinctly awkward position as ballots were being cast, with victory in the race suddenly looking as uncomfortable as defeat.

A loss would have been an embarrassing setback and encouraged Democratic hopes for taking control of the House next year. But his victory forces Republicans in Congress to interact with, and address the behavior of, a man summoned to the Gallatin County Courthouse on June 7 to answer an accusation that he “purposely or knowingly” caused “bodily injury to another.”
While private polling consistently showed him ahead of Mr. Quist, Republicans fumed that Mr. Gianforte seemed unable to establish a dominant lead.

But a monthslong advertising onslaught assailing Mr. Quist on issues ranging from his troubled personal finances to his suggestion of a gun registry ultimately paid dividends.

In Montana, the news of the altercation spread like a Big Sky wildfire, dominating newspaper front pages and local television news in Bozeman, Mr. Gianforte’s adopted hometown, and across the sprawling state. Three of the largest daily papers in the state rescinded their endorsements of him.

Democrats here were newly buoyant about their chances but stopped short of predicting victory, given that more than 250,000 votes had been cast by Wednesday. There are some 700,000 voters in the state, and few political veterans expected turnout to reach much higher than 60 percent.

In downtown Bozeman on Thursday, many said they had already voted or were unmoved.

“I was already going to vote for Rob Quist,” said Ariel Lusty, a 22-year-old graduate student at Montana State, who sported an “I Voted” sticker as she sat inside Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot.

Richard Shanahan, a 75-year-old architect in Bozeman, said he had already voted by mail for Mr. Gianforte and was largely unbothered by the ugly end to the campaign.

“It doesn’t change my mind at all,” said Mr. Shanahan, who remarked on how ubiquitous the news had become overnight. “I think it’s being blown out of proportion.”

Trump and Erdogan hail ties despite US arming of Kurds

WASHINGTON (AP) — The presidents of the United States and Turkey vowed Tuesday to repair a relationship battered by years of disputes over Syria’s civil war and its various fighting groups, even as they broached a new disagreement over US plans to arm Kurdish fighters.

Delivering a statement alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Donald Trump said the US would re-establish its military and economic partnership with Turkey. He committed to backing Turkey’s fight against the Islamic State group and a Kurdish insurgency known as the PKK, which the US, the European Union and Turkey all consider a terrorist organization.

Such groups will “have no safe quarter,” Trump said in the White House’s historic Roosevelt Room, where he also commended Turkey’s “leadership in seeking an end to the horrific killing in Syria.”

Erdogan issued a statement afterward, congratulated Trump for his presidential election victory. While Erdogan called for the extradition of a Pennsylvania-based cleric he blames for a failed coup in Turkey last summer, there was little tension.

US President Donald Trump meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Oval Office of the White House on May 16, 2017. (AFP Photo/Olivier Douliery)

The biggest dispute between the two NATO allies in recent days has been US plans to arm Kurdish Syrian militants to help them fight IS. Turkey has been pressuring the US to drop support for the militants and doesn’t want them spearheading an operation to retake IS’ self-declared capital of Raqqa.

Turkey believes the Kurds in Syria are linked to the PKK. The US sees the Syrian Kurds as their best battlefield partner on the ground in northern Syria.

Last month, the Turkish military bombed Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, in one case with American forces only about six miles (10 kilometers) away. Erdogan’s government also has insisted it may attack Syrian Kurdish fighters again. The US, whose forces are sometimes embedded with the Kurds, has much to fear.

In his statement to reporters, Trump did not directly address his decision to arm the Kurds. But he asserted the US and Turkey’s mutual commitment to ending Syria’s conflict.

This April 30, 2017 photo shows a fighter from the SDF carrying weapons as he looks toward the northern town of Tabqa, Syria. (Syrian Democratic Forces, via AP)

The meeting took place with a White House still responding to what a senior US official said was Trump’s disclosure of classified information about an Islamic State terror threat involving laptop computers on aircraft.

Trump shared the threat in a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office last week, according to the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

The US is relying on regional allies including Turkey for intelligence-sharing and military assistance as it crafts a Syria policy, particularly as Iran and Russia work to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

Trump launched cruise missiles last month at a Syrian air base after accusing Assad of using chemical weapons. But the president hasn’t outlined a strategy to quell the six-year civil war or usher Assad out of power, which his administration says will be needed to stabilize the Arab country.

Trump has gone out of his way to foster a good relationship with Erdogan. After a national referendum last month that strengthened Erdogan’s presidential powers, European leaders and rights advocates criticized Turkey for moving closer toward autocratic rule. Trump congratulated Erdogan.

Republican Unity on Health Care Is Elusive, Despite Trump’s Support

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night buoyed House Republican leaders who were hopeful that his leadership would unite fractious lawmakers around a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. But fundamental disagreements still divide Republicans on one of the central promises of their 2016 campaigns: repealing the health law.

While Mr. Trump appeared to back a health plan being drawn up by Republican leaders, it became clear Wednesday that lawmakers were continuing to argue over its details. Republican senators emerged from a closed-door meeting on health care tight-lipped.

Some have balked at a proposal to require workers to pay taxes on particularly generous employer-provided health benefits. Some are worried about the future of Medicaid.

But the central dividing line appears to be over how the federal government would help people purchase health insurance.

House Republican leaders would offer to help people buy insurance on the free market with a tax credit that, for some low-income households, could exceed the amount they owe in federal income taxes.

Some of the most conservative Republicans say the tax credit should not be more than the amount of taxes consumers owe. If the government makes payments to people with little or no tax liability, they say, that would amount to a new entitlement program, replacing one kind of government largess from President Barack Obama with another from Mr. Trump.

“Coming in as a Republican president with a new federal entitlement program?” asked Representative Dave Brat, a conservative Republican from Virginia. “That’s your first big move? You would have politicians bidding up the cost, adding to the financial problems of other entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.”

After the president’s speech, aides to the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, crowed that they had the full backing of Mr. Trump for their health care plan.

But Mr. Trump was decidedly vague. He backed tax credits to buy insurance, but he did not clearly resolve the disagreement between Mr. Ryan and the most conservative Republicans.

“We should help Americans purchase their own coverage through the use of tax credits and expanded health savings accounts,” Mr. Trump told a joint session of Congress.

The details of the tax credit could make a substantial difference to consumers. If a family is eligible for a $3,000 tax credit to buy insurance and owes $1,000 in federal income taxes, should it get only $1,000? Or should it get the full $3,000?

Most tax breaks reduce the amount owed to the government. A refundable tax credit can also result in payments from the government: If the credit exceeds a person’s tax liability, the government pays him or her the excess.

“I think refundable tax credits are just another word for subsidies,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky.

Defenders of refundable tax credits say they are needed to make insurance affordable to people who pay little or no taxes.

“Otherwise, they’re useless,” said Representative Chris Collins of New York, one of Mr. Trump’s top supporters in Congress. “What good’s a tax credit for folks who don’t pay taxes?”

In fact, for those who cannot pitch in much of their own income, even a refundable tax credit is not likely to be enough to pay for a health insurance policy, Democrats say. That is one reason the Republican alternative is not likely to cover as many people as the Affordable Care Act.

At the meeting on Wednesday, several Republican senators expressed concern that the tax credit proposed by House leaders would be available even to people with high incomes who did not need federal assistance.

Earlier, Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas and head of the Ways and Means Committee, said the credit would be a way to provide more equity in the tax code by creating a tax break for people who buy insurance on their own, similar to the break already available to people who get insurance through the workplace.

He predicted that Republicans would overcome their divisions.

“Rather than using his speech to divide Republicans,” Mr. Brady said, “it’s really an opportunity for us to sit down and work through what remaining differences there are, and I’m confident we can.”

Mr. Brady and another architect of the House plan, Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, huddled with Republican senators on Wednesday. But lawmakers left the meeting with many unanswered questions and were not ready to endorse the House plan.

The fractures among Republicans have been on display in the past few days. On Monday night, three senators — Mr. Paul, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas — posted on Twitter in support of what they called #FullRepeal.

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From left, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Dave Brat of Virginia oppose a refundable tax credit for health care. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

“If we fail to honor our commitment to repeal Obamacare, I believe the consequences would be, quite rightly, catastrophic,” Mr. Cruz said on Wednesday.

The leaders of two groups of House conservatives, the Republican Study Committee and the House Freedom Caucus, also came out against a draft of the health care legislation that became public during last week’s congressional recess. The groups have more than enough members to thwart House leaders’ plan if they are determined to do so.

Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, likened the leadership’s tax-credit proposal to the earned-income tax credit, which supplements the wages of low-income workers. There has been “a tremendous amount of improper payments” in that program, he said.

Other Republican skeptics include Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “There are other ways you can address that segment of the population,” Mr. Tillis said of the working poor with little or no income tax liability.

Some Republicans are also concerned about the possibility of requiring workers to pay taxes on the value of employer-sponsored coverage exceeding certain thresholds. Employers and labor unions strenuously oppose such a move, which would affect people in the most expensive health plans and is similar in purpose to a provision of the existing law. Both measures are designed to curb overuse of health care and to help pay for the broader measures.

“I don’t think it’d go over very good in the Senate,” Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said last week.

Then there is the issue of Medicaid. Lawmakers from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act face pressure back home — in some cases, from Republican governors — to oppose sharp cuts to the generous federal funding that those states are receiving.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, which has expanded eligibility for Medicaid under the health care law, said she wanted to be sure that her state could retain the expansion if its legislature wanted to do so.

Despite détente with Israel, Turkey to host Hamas confab

Despite the recent thawing of ties between Israel and Turkey, Istanbul is set to play host this weekend to a well-attended conference whose speakers and organizers are either affiliated with Hamas or once held senior posts in the Palestinian terror group.

The Conference for Palestinians Abroad is named for the group organizing the event. It has faced vociferous criticism from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization, who accuse the organizers of undermining the PLO’s position as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Hamas’s military wing is one of the bodies publicizing the event, slated for Saturday and Sunday, which is also hosting among its speakers members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the leaders of the organizing group is Issam Moustafa Youssef, who the US Treasury Department has said was the head of Hamas’s political bureau at least until mid-2008.

Yousef, originally from Nablus in the northern West Bank, is currently a leader in the Interpal group, named a terror group by the US in 2003.

The event’s website presents a map of Israel with arrows pointing at the country and the caption “Our national plan — the path of our return.”

Other speakers include Majed a-Zir, who has been described in Egyptian media as “the regional director of Hamas in Europe.” He is officially a member of the “Palestinian Return Centre” in London, which Israel, at least, considers an illegal group.

Also on the list of speakers are media personalities such as Qatar-based Al-Jazeera anchor Jamal Rayyan and columnist Bashir Nafi, as well as Zaher Birawi, Rowan a-Damen, Ziad Aloul and others.

Hamas has held similar events not just in Turkey, but throughout Africa and Latin America. It uses the Muslim Brotherhood organizational infrastructures in those countries to organize the events, connect to activists, raise funds and engage in public relations worldwide.

Neo-Nazi rally held in Bulgarian capital despite municipal ban

Sofia

A metro sign in Sofia, Bulgaria, Jan. 31, 2016. (Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

(JTA) —  An annual neo-Nazi rally was held in the capital of Bulgaria despite a municipal ban.

The Lukov March, which celebrates the Bulgarian alliance with Nazi Germany, went off as scheduled on Saturday night in Sofia despite the ban issued by Mayor Yordanka Fandakova.

The rally honoring the then-Bulgarian war minister Hristo Lukov, who was head of the pro-Nazi Union of the Bulgarian National Legions, has been held each year since 2003. For the past three years, restrictions have been placed on the march.

“The very existence of this rally is a disgrace for a European capital which in less than a year will be hosting the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU,” said Alexander Oscar, president of the Shalom Organization of Jews in Bulgaria.

The World Jewish Congress said Shalom over the 14 years of the march “has done everything in its power to sound the alarm against this dangerous manifestation of the same anti-Semitic expressions that brought about the near destruction of European Jewry.”

“And for 14 years, this march has been sanctioned despite all efforts to stop it, on the grounds that the marchers were careful not to exhibit overt Nazi, anti-Semitic or fascist symbols,” World Jewish Congress CEO, Robert Singer said in a statement.

“Regardless of what symbols are exhibited during rallies of these kinds, the intentions are clear, and the dangers ever-present,” he said, adding: “Let us not forget that when hate speech is sanctioned, hateful actions become all the harder to prevent.”