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Bundy militants harassed locals for weeks ahead of standoff: ‘They’re not patriots — they’re thugs’

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Anti-government extremists are awaiting trial for their armed takeover of an Oregon nature preserve — but the local sheriff said the gun-toting outsiders started causing trouble from the moment they arrived, about two months earlier.

Sheriff David Ward took over law enforcement duties in Harney County on Jan. 2, 2015 — one year to the day when armed militants led by Ammon Bundy began occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve as part of a broader campaign to roll back federal control of public lands.

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Ward recounted his experience with the militants, many of whom are now jailed on a variety of felony counts in connection with the 41-day standoff, during a podcast interview with an eastern Washington sheriff, reported The Spokesman-Review.

“I’m sorry, folks — they’re not patriots, they’re thugs,” said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. “They are, in fact, the true tyranny.”

Ward knew little about Bundy, who’s now charged along with other family members in connection with an armed standoff in 2014 at his father’s Nevada ranch, until the Utah mechanic and other militants showed up in Burns and demanded a meeting Nov. 5 with the sheriff.

“It made me a little nervous about why these guys were in my community,” Ward said.

Bundy and Ryan Payne, an Army veteran from Montana, said they’d come to protest the prison sentencing of two local ranchers who set fire on public land as part of their own ongoing dispute with federal authorities.

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Ward said the out-of-staters demanded that the sheriff go along with their plans to challenge the feds — or else.

Bundy came back Nov. 19 with 10 other men, most of them armed, and the militants posted other armed men outside Ward’s office.

The sheriff again told the militants that he would not support their plans because he said his duties included enforcement of court orders — which called for ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond to return to prison to finish serving their sentences.

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Ward said the militants and their supporters then flooded his emergency dispatch center with so many complaints that dispatchers were unable to take 911 calls from locals, and he said the harassment didn’t stop there.

More and more militants and their supporters started arriving after Thanksgiving — including Blaine Cooper and Jon Ritzheimer.

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They followed Ward, his deputies and their family members around and drove slowly past their homes, and they bothered residents who put up signs or social media posts criticizing the outsiders.

Bundy and some local supporters set up a “committee of safety,” which was apparently intended to serve as a shadow government, and talked about arresting public officials who failed to support their armed demonstration.

Ward said Cooper, who carried a lengthy felon record from Arizona, and Ritzheimer, a retired Marine who organized anti-Muslim rallies, stalked him and his family as they went Christmas shopping.

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Ward, who served as an Army medic during combat overseas, said he didn’t like that so many of the militants lied about their military service, and he’s still upset that they put innocent civilians in danger.

“It was a very trying time,” Ward said. “I looked over my shoulder during that time more than I did in Afghanistan and Somalia.”

Knezovich said the anti-government militants’ actions were appalling.

“True patriots don’t do that to other Americans,” he said.

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Michael Avenatti says he has El Chapo’s former jail cell — which the drug dealer described as ‘torture’: report

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Attorney Michael Avenatti, the colorful attorney who came to prominence representing Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump, is unhappy with his jail conditions.

On Monday, his attorney wrote to the federal judge overseeing his trial to complain about the jail conditions Avenatti is experiencing during pre-trial detention.

Scott Srebnick, Avenatti's attorney, wrote to Judge Paul Gardephe to complain about the "notorious 10-South" section of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he is being held in the Special Housing Unit.

"He is in a cell reportedly once occupied by El Chapo, on a floor that houses individuals charged with terrorism offenses," Avenatti's attorney wrote.

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It is Greta Thunberg vs Donald Trump at climate-focused Davos gathering of economic elites: report

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The starkly opposed visions of US President Donald Trump and Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg on climate change will clash in Davos on Tuesday as the World Economic Forum tries to face up to the perils of global warming on its 50th meeting.

The four-day gathering of the world's top political and business leaders in the Swiss Alps gets under way seeking to meet head-on the dangers to both the environment and economy from the heating of the planet.

Trump, who has repeatedly expressed scepticism about climate change, is set to give the first keynote address of Davos 2020 on Tuesday morning, on the same day as his impeachment trial opens at the Senate in Washington.

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‘Which Senator up this year most deserves to lose?’: Preet Bharara flooded with replies to provocative question

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Former United States Attorney Preet Bharara asked his 1.2 million Twitter followers a provocative question on the eve of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

With worries that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is presiding over a sham trial, many analysts have suggested that the Senate itself will be on trial.

"Which Senator up this year most deserves to lose?" Bharara, who was fired by Trump, asked.

There are a number of potentially vulnerable Republicans facing voters in 2020, including McConnell himself, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

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