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Nevada case pitting US against Bundy Ranch and supporters goes to jury

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A Nevada jury on Thursday began deliberating the fate of six armed supporters of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy in a tense 2014 standoff with federal agents that drew hundreds of protesters and made headlines worldwide.

The six defendants are the first of 17 people to go on trial charges related to the standoff at Bundy’s property near Bunkerville, 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Las Vegas, in a case that has come to symbolize tensions in the U.S. West over the federal ownership of land that ranchers use to graze cattle.

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“These people took the law into their own hands and used guns,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre said in federal district court in Las Vegas on Thursday. He said the men threatened federal officers and that the standoff, during which no shots were fired, could have resulted in a bloodbath.

The men, who prosecutors have said were associated with or had been in contact with militia groups, were among hundreds who traveled to the ranch on April 12, 2014, to stand up for Bundy, whose refusal to pay $1 million in grazing fees for running his cattle on federal land became a cause celebre on the political right.

The prosecution described the defendants as armed, dangerous and intimidating to Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service officers who were present to provide security during a court-ordered impoundment of Bundy’s cattle. Outgunned, authorities released the cattle and left the area.

Bundy and two of his sons are defendants in the second of three scheduled federal trials later this year.

Lawyers for the defendants said the men posed no threat but were simply backing Bundy amid government overreach in a dispute over land-use policy.

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During his closing argument Thursday morning, defense attorney Shawn Perez cast defendant Ricky Lovelien as a proud patriot whose participation was a form of community service.

Attorney Todd Leventhal, who represents defendant O. Scott Drexler, accused the government of deception.

“Just because he goes to a protest rally does not put him in a conspiracy,” Leventhal said.

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Gregory Burleson, Drexler, Todd Engel, Lovelien, Eric Parker and Steven Stewart are charged with conspiracy against the government, conspiracy to impede a federal officer, assault, threatening and obstruction of justice.

They are also charged with extortion, interstate travel in aid of extortion and using a firearm during a crime of violence.

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(Reporting by John L. Smith in Las Vegas; editing by Tom Heneghan and Sharon Bernstein)


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Colbert names Trump’s siege on DC the ‘Tinyman Square’ incident

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It wasn't quite Tiananmen Square, where a still-unknown number of Chinese protesters were murdered by the government in 1989, but it was the closest thing President Donald Trump managed to score this week.

After watching the footage of the military tear gas, beat and shoot at protesters so Trump could march from the presidential bunker to St. John's Church for the cameras.

"It was like Tiananmen Square," Colbert deemed. "Except, in Trump's case, Tinyman Square."

Trump claimed on "The Fox & Friends" that no one was tear-gassed, so it's unclear what was stinging people's eyes and making them cough, choke and tear up. The Park Police released a statement saying it wasn't tear gas. While the moment was captured on video from dozens of different camera angles, one protester actually grabbed a canister of Oleoresins Capiscum, or "OC," the gas that was used.

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Vladimir Putin must love watching the US fall apart: columnist

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New Yorker columnist Susan Glasser made the astute observation that if Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to destabilize the United States with the election of President Donald Trump, he's clearly achieved his objective.

It was reported in March that Russian intelligence services are working to incite violence using white supremacist groups to try and sow racial chaos in the United States ahead of the November election.

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Conservative columnist links all Republicans to the attack on Lafayette Square

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Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump decided to walk across Lafayette Square for a photo-op. To get there, however, it took an outright battle with mounted park police, police covered in body armor and rattled Secret Service members who had just rushed the president to the bunker several nights before. Armed with semi-automatic weapons and military gear, they staged a siege on Lafayette Square against unarmed hippies, woke whites and people of color, again, forced to fight for justice.

Writing for the Washington Post Wednesday, conservative columnist Max Boot attacked Attorney General Bill Barr, who accepted responsibility for demanding that demonstrators be tear-gassed, beaten and shot with rubber bullets. Like Bull Conor ordering fire hoses on students marching in Birmingham, Alabama, Barr's attack on Lafayette Square for a photo-op proved he is willing to do what it takes to stroke the fractured ego of a president forced to cower in a bunker.

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