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Suspect in synagogue massacre pleads not guilty to new charges

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The man accused of massacring 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year in the deadliest attack on a U.S. Jewish institution pleaded not guilty on Monday in federal court to a dozen additional charges including hate crimes.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, is accused of bursting into the Tree of Life synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Oct. 27 armed with three handguns and a semi-automatic rifle, and firing on congregants as he shouted “All Jews must die.”

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Bowers, 46, pleaded not guilty to 19 fresh charges, which bring the total number of criminal counts he is facing to 63, including use of a firearm to commit murder and obstruction of religious exercise resulting in death.

Federal prosecutor Tony Rivetti said it will take up to three weeks to determine if the government will seek the death penalty.

One of Bowers’ attorneys, Judith Clarke, a death penalty specialist, said the defense hoped to settle without trial. A negotiated plea deal could allow Bowers to avoid facing the risk of execution.

Bowers, who had frequently posted anti-Semitic slurs and conspiracy theories online, sat quietly through the hearing, dressed in a short-sleeved red jumpsuit and shackled at the ankles. He replied “yes” when U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose asked if he understood the charges, and he said he wanted to be tried by a jury.

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A member of the congregation in attendance at the hearing, Jon Pushinsky, said “We are here to bear witness. We are here to show that this act of violence will not deter us from serving our community.”

The victims of the attack included a 97-year-old woman, two brothers in their 50s and a married couple in their 80s. Two civilians and five police officers were wounded before the suspect was shot by police and surrendered.

On the day of the attack, Bowers, a Pittsburgh resident, said online, “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

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The attack followed a wave of politically motivated pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats and heightened national tensions ahead of November’s midterm congressional elections.

It also fueled a national debate over the rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump, who critics say contributed to a surge in white nationalist and neo-Nazi activity. The Trump administration has rejected the notion he has encouraged far-right extremists who have embraced him.

Reporting by Chriss Swaney; Additional reporting and writing by Jackie Botts and Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Trump’s ‘indefensible’ comments just made it ‘much much harder’ for GOP to win in 2020: Ex-RNC Chair

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President Donald Trump's latest anti-Semitic trope is going to make it "much much harder" for Republicans to hold control of the White House in 2020, the former chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) explained on MSNBC on Tuesday.

Michael Steele was interviewed by MSNBC's Chris Matthews on "Hardball."

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Washington Post editorial board calls Trump too cowardly to pass background checks in scathing editorial

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Trump’s tumbling support among ‘the poorly educated’ may crush his 2020 prospects: report

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When Donald Trump famously declared, “I love the poorly educated” during his 2016 campaign, it was obvious that he was taking a much more populist (or rather, pseudo-populist) approach than Republican presidential candidates were typically known for. And white males without college degrees continue to be a key part of the president’s base. But Washington Post columnist Aaron Blake, analyzing an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday, stresses that when Trump is up against a “generic 2020 Democrat,” he finds himself struggling with non-college educated white women.

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