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Accused Washington ‘fake news’ gunman pleads not guilty

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A North Carolina man pleaded not guilty on Friday to weapons and assault charges after he allegedly fired an assault rifle in a crowded Washington pizzeria that fake news stories on the internet claimed was a front for a child sex ring.

Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, entered the plea during a brief preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court. He is suspected of firing an AR-15 assault rifle inside the Comet Ping Pong restaurant on Dec. 4. No one was injured.

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Welch had planned his raid for days and tried to recruit an accomplice to come along on his ad-hoc investigation of the nonexistent pedophilia ring, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Bogus news stories had claimed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ran such an operation out of the restaurant.

Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey admonished Welch over reports that he was talking about the incident inside the jail. Welch, the father of two children, said he would heed Harvey’s warning.

He is charged with interstate transportation of a firearm with intent to commit an offense, assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. Welch is being held without bond.

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The fake news stories were an example of a proliferation of false reports during the U.S. election campaign, often disseminated through websites purporting to be news outlets and quoting bogus sources.

The firearm transportation and assault charges each carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The maximum sentence for firearm possession is 15 years.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Tom Ramstack; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andrea Ricci)

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Elections 2016

Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson send anti-trans signals to Trump’s evangelical base

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While Trump grabs headlines, his Cabinet members quietly use transphobia to shore up white evangelical support

The white evangelical vote is almost certainly a lock for Donald Trump in 2020, but it appears the president is taking no chances of losing this critical voting block. One major part of that strategy appears to be quietly deploying his Cabinet members, especially those associated with the Christian right, to generate stories highlighting the Trump administration's overt bigotry toward trans people, and its eagerness to deprive trans Americans of basic rights.

Just this week, both Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson snagged coverage by making community visits that were ostensibly for noble purposes, but were clearly meant to signal to Christian right voters their hostility to trans rights.

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Elections 2016

Intelligence official directly contradicts Trump administration’s excuses for suppressing whistleblower

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A top official in the intelligence community has disputed the factual basis for the Trump administration’s suppression of a whistleblower complaint believed to regard the potential misconduct of the president himself, a new letter released Thursday revealed.

The letter was made public by House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA). He is locked into a fierce and potentially explosive dispute with an array of forces within the administration to obtain the complaint, which was made through proper channels by an intelligence official last month to the community’s inspector general. Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was “credible” and “urgent,” and subsequent reporting from the Washington Post found that it concerns a “promise” made by Trump in communication with a foreign leader.

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Longtime GOP strategist explains why his party is getting crushed in the war of ideas

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Republican strategist Stuart Stevens on Wednesday warned the GOP that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) might not be a pushover candidate against President Donald Trump in 2020.

Writing on Twitter, Stevens admitted that he had "no idea" if Warren would beat Trump next year, but he did say that "Trump and supporters are destroying [the] credibility of any center-right argument" thanks to Trump's "corrupt and unstable" governance.

When one of Stevens' followers said that Warren would not be able to fulfill her promises just by taxing the wealthy, he countered that this idea is still more popular than anything Republicans are championing.

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