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Discord bans subreddit accused of manipulating GameStop stock price to ruin hedge funds: report

On Wednesday, The Verge reported that the networking platform Discord has banned the server for r/WallStreetBets, the community on Reddit that has bragged about manipulating the stock market.

r/WallStreetBets gained national attention this week after a campaign to aggressively buy up shares in GameStop, the nationwide video game retailer, after learning that several large Wall Street hedge funds were short-selling the stock due to the chain's financial struggles. The campaign dramatically drove up the price of GameStop shares, wiping out millions of dollars in value at these hedge funds at a stroke.

According to Discord, the ban has nothing to do with the efforts to hurt hedge funds, but rather ongoing violations of hate speech policies.

"The server has been on our Trust & Safety team's radar for some time due to occasional content that violates our Community Guidelines, including hate speech, glorifying violence, and spreading misinformation. Over the past few months, we have issued multiple warnings to the server admin," said Discord in a statement. "To be clear, we did not ban this server due to financial fraud related to GameStop or other stocks. Discord welcomes a broad variety of personal finance discussions, from investment clubs and day traders to college students and professional financial advisors."

Feds indict three Oath Keepers on 'conspiracy to obstruct Congress': report

On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced the indictment of three militia figures affiliated with the far-right Oath Keepers group, on charges of conspiracy to obstruct Congress.

The three defendants are Jessica Marie Watkins and Donovan Ray Crowl of Champaign County, Ohio, and Thomas Caldwell of Clarke County, Virginia. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

"According to the indictment, the three defendants initiated their communications and coordination in November 2020 and continued through on or about Jan. 19, 2021, when Caldwell was arrested," said the DOJ announcement. "The exchanges vary in topics from a call to action to logistics, including lodging options, coordinating calls to discuss the plan, and joining forces with other Oath Keeper chapters. On Dec. 31, 2020, Caldwell posted, 'THIS IS OUR CALL TO ACTION, FREINDS! SEE YOU ON THE 6TH IN WASHINGTON, D.C. ALONG WITH 2 MILLION OTHER LIKE-MINDED PATRIOTS.' In a subsequent post on Jan. 2, 2021, Caldwell stated, 'It begins for real Jan 5 and 6 on Washington D.C. when we mobilize in the streets. Let them try to certify some crud on capitol hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is set to boil…'"

Allegations about Crowl released by federal officials last week following his arrest suggested he was preparing for "literal war."

The Oath Keepers are a nationwide paramilitary organization, including many retired and active military and law enforcement, which has broadly been implicated in the assault on the Capitol that left five dead.

'Radioactive' Trump properties plummet in price as New Yorkers reject his brand: report

On Wednesday, Business Insider reported that Donald Trump's properties in New York City are plummeting in value, as locals reject any association with the former president.

"UrbanDigs — which looked at the seven luxury buildings in Manhattan that still bear the Trump moniker, and three that used to — found that even properties that formerly had Trump in their names lost 17% of their value since 2016. By comparison, the overall price per square foot decline in Manhattan over the same period was just 9%," reported Juliana Kaplan. "In 2016, the average price per square foot in seven NYC properties run by his real-estate behemoth, the Trump Organization, was $3,346, according to the report. In 2017, following Trump's election and inauguration, that figure sunk to $1,903; by 2020, it was at $1,619. That's a drop of 51% from its 2016 price."

According to the report, the decline accelerated in earnest after the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, which Trump stands accused of inciting in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

"Groups began to cut ties with the Trump Organization, including the Girl Scouts and the city of New York," noted the report. One real estate broker with ties to Trump Tower, Mark Cohen, "said that, in the weeks before the insurrection, he had fielded some phone inquiries from prospective buyers about the Trump apartments he was representing — but it felt like they were searching for deals."

Trump himself no longer lives in the penthouse of Trump Tower, having taken up residence at his country club in Palm Beach, Florida, over the objections of locals — though his family still owns the Manhattan property.

Trump mega-donor Rebekah Mercer warned of 'armed conflict' before funding Capitol rioters: report

On Wednesday, The Intercept reported that Trump mega-donor and billionaire heiress Rebekah Mercer suggested America could be on the brink of "armed conflict" in a 2019 book — before she went on to give money to groups involved in the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

"'[W]hat is the state of [the American] experiment today?' Mercer asked. ''Now we are engaged in a great civil war,' said Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg in 1863. One hundred and fifty-five years later, it is barely hyperbolic to echo the Great Emancipator,'" wrote Matthew Cunningham-Cook. "Raising the specter of violence, Mercer writes, 'We are not yet in armed conflict, but we are facing an ever more belligerent, frantic, and absurd group of radicals in a struggle for the soul of our country,' referring to antifa specifically and casting her opposition to progressives more broadly in existential terms."

"Mercer has been financing a host of right-wing individuals and groups involved in the storming of the Capitol, The Intercept reported earlier this month, from Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward to 'Stop the Steal' organizer Ali Alexander, in addition to her role as a financier of news website Breitbart and the social network Parler," continued the report. "In 2020, Mercer's father, Robert Mercer, donated $1.5 million to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, and the Mercers donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican National Committee."

The Mercers, who made their fortune in big-data analysis and built the controversial Cambridge Analytica firm, were early supporters of Trump's rise. Robert Mercer holds a number of extreme views, including that giving Black people the right to vote sent America in the "wrong direction," and that human beings "have no inherent value beyond how much money they make."

'Behead 'em all': QAnon chatroom audio reveals Trump supporters' aspirations for January 6 rally

On Wednesday, writing for The New York Times, Stuart Thompson detailed his experiences in a chatroom for followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory — and their disturbing celebration of the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol.

"I spent the past three weeks listening to the channel — from before the Jan. 6 Washington protest to after Mr. Biden's inauguration," wrote Thompson. "It became an obsession, something I'd check first thing every morning and listen to as I fell asleep at night. Participants tend to revere Mr. Trump and believe he'll end the crisis outlined by Q: that the world is run by a cabal of pedophiles who operate a sex-trafficking ring, among other crimes. While the chat room group is relatively small, with only about 900 subscribers, it offers a glimpse into a worrying sect of Trump supporters. Some conspiracists like them have turned to violent language in the wake of Mr. Trump's electoral loss."

In addition to fevered conspiracy theories, including that President Joe Biden has lowered the age of consent to 8 and that Biggie and Tupac were murdered by the "deep state," a common thread Thompson found was support for the Capitol violence.

"I wish they'd storm the Congress and the Senate and pull all them treasonous guys out of there," said one person. "Honestly, I think the patriots should have been allowed to go in there, grab those S.O.B.s and pull them out of the building and, you know, have an execution right there," said another.

"They're guilty. Treason. Behead 'em all," a woman remarked.

And while the question of whether Trump is responsible for inciting the violence is the pivotal question behind the upcoming Senate impeachment trial, it wasn't a question at all for the QAnon supporters. When Biden went on TV to call for an end to violence, one person in the chatroom wrote, "Does he not realize President Trump called us to siege the place?"

"There's a persistent belief that the online world is somehow not real. Extreme views are too easily dismissed if they're on the internet," warned Thompson. "While people might say things online they would never do in person, all it takes is one person for digital conspiracies to take a deadly turn. That should be clear after the Capitol riot, which was largely organized online and resulted in five deaths."

You can read more (and listen to audio) here.

Former Bush AG: I 'worry' people like me would be unelectable in the modern GOP

On CNN Wednesday, former George W. Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that he "worries" about the future of the GOP — and even whether someone like himself would be capable of winning an election in it.

"I do want to ask you one final thing," said anchor John Berman. "The Oregon Republican Party passed a resolution calling the invasion of the U.S. capitol a false flag, saying it was fake somehow to make Donald Trump look bad. And that's a state party passing that resolution. I've heard you talk about this before. You were elected, finally, for a second, just before you ended up joining the Bush administration, statewide in Texas. Do you think that you could be elected right now as a Republican or win a Republican primary right now in the state of Texas?"

"You know, John, I would worry about that, quite frankly," said Gonzales. "And I sometimes have wondered to myself whether someone like George W. Bush could be elected statewide, if he had a different last name. Based solely upon his principles and his policies, could someone like George W. Bush be elected in Texas? I would like to think he would, irrespective of what his last name is. But I do worry about that."

Watch below:

Arizona state Republicans in Washington during Capitol invasion refuse to turn over phone records: report

On Tuesday, The Arizona Republic reported that two Arizona state lawmakers who were in Washington, D.C. during the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol are refusing to hand over phone records.

"The Arizona Republic asked the state House of Representatives to provide any such messages from Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and then-Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, under public records laws," reported Andrew Oxford. "But responding through a private attorney, and not the House, the duo said they would not turn over any records that are on their 'personal devices,' arguing that these are not public records."

However, as the report noted, "Arizona courts have ruled that records on a public official's private device can be considered a public record if those records relate to public business and the phone was used for a public purpose."

Finchem and Kern are among a number of Republicans who have argued for overturning the results of the election, including in their own state. Finchem, according to the report, said that while he was in Washington, "he had planned to deliver a letter to then-Vice President Mike Pence and meet with members of Congress, as well as speak at a protest that was also to include legislators from several states."

You can read more here.

MyPillow CEO: Dominion Voting Systems 'hired hit groups' to 'cancel me out'

In an interview on Tucker Carlson's Fox News program, pro-Trump MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell baselessly claimed that his business is being ruined by a coordinated attack of "hit groups" hired by election vendor Dominion Voting Systems.

"Dominion went on live TV and said they were going to go after Mike Lindell," said Lindell. "Well, they did. They hired hit groups and bots and trolls, went after all my vendors, all these box stores to cancel me out ... it's just a shame. If they can do it to me, Tucker, they can do it to anyone out there."

Lindell, one of the most dedicated Fox News advertisers, has been an enthusiastic proponent of election conspiracy theories. In the midst of the controversy, major chains like Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohls have stopped carrying MyPillow products. Lindell previously told Fox that this is due to "fake people."

Dominion has been a repeated target of attacks from pro-Trump figures, who have claimed with no evidence that their election machines flipped votes away from Republicans. The company is moving forward with a $1.3 billion defamation suit against Rudy Giuliani.

Watch below:

Lawmakers ‘perturbed’ when House Sergeant-at-Arms told them at least none of them died in Capitol attack: report

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that the private briefing of House lawmakers on the violent Capitol invasion left many members shocked and unsatisfied as to the failures of law enforcement to restrain the rioters.

"Multiple participants in the briefing, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door sessions, said law enforcement officials appeared to still be grappling with the extent of the peril that faced lawmakers that day," reported Karoun Demirjian, Aaron Davis, and Peter Hermann. "Among the new details discussed in the meeting: that a group of lawmakers being evacuated from the House chamber were mistakenly first directed to the wrong room on Capitol grounds, instead of to the secure room where members were gathering, according to a person familiar with the briefing."

"Lawmakers were particularly perturbed by the testimony of acting House sergeant at arms Timothy P. Blodgett, who touted the fact that 'every Member and House staff went home without death or serious injury,' crediting that to the performance of both his office and the Capitol Police," continued the report. "Following the briefing, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a committee member, said in an interview that no dead or maimed lawmakers was 'a pretty low bar,' adding, 'I firmly believe that is due to the courage of Capitol Police officers and blind luck.'"

The briefing also featured the testimony of former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, acting chief of D.C. police Robert Contee, D.C. National Guard Maj. Gen. William Walker, and "representatives from the Secret Service, FBI, Justice Department, the D.C. U.S. attorney's office and the Park Police." It is the first of what is expected to be several hearings on the attack.

The invasion ultimately was a major factor in the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump, which will move forward in the Senate after a motion from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to declare the trial unconstitutional was defeated.

Mike Pence is 'homeless' and bouncing between couches of Indiana politicians: report

On Tuesday, Business Insider reported that former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen do not have a permanent residence since leaving the vice president's mansion — and though Republicans close to the couple aren't exactly sure of their current living arrangements, they believe the former second couple is "couch-surfing" at the residences of various Indiana officials.

"According to one source, the Pences are staying at the dolled-up cabin nearby that the Indiana governor uses as a retreat. If so, they'd need permission to spend the night from Pence's former lieutenant governor, who now serves as governor, Eric Holcomb," reported Tom LoBianco. "Two Republicans close to the Pences said they heard that the former second couple was staying at Pence's brother's place in Columbus. The one thing everyone is certain of is that when the Pences moved out of the vice president's residence at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, they had nowhere to go. The former second couple doesn't actually own a house."

Per the report, the Pences are in a precarious position since leaving office.

"Republicans who spoke with Insider also said they wondered whether Pence and his team are closely guarding their new domicile because of the wave of death threats he faced just three weeks ago," said the report. "The Trump-incited mob that stormed the Capitol earlier this month shouted that they wanted to hang Pence, and some of the people came within about 100 feet of confronting him and his family as they were hurried to a secure location in the Capitol."

Furthermore, the report noted, Pence has essentially been cut off from all contact with former President Donald Trump, who was enraged by his refusal to try to overturn the election results during congressional certification. Pence, for his part, is reportedly resentful that Trump put his life in danger.

'We are armed and nearby your house': Ex-sheriff's sergeant arrested after threatening congressman's family

On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported that federal authorities have arrested Robert Lemke, a former Air Force captain and sheriff's sergeant who allegedly sent threatening messages to the family of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the fourth-ranking member of the House Democratic leadership.

"Your brother is putting your entire family at risk with his lies and other words," said Lemke in a text message, according to federal prosecutors. "We are armed and nearby your house ... we are not white supremacists. Most of us are active/retired law enforcement or military." According to the report, Lemke also sent threats to a relative of ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, saying, "We are nearby armed and ready."

The criminal complaint also notes that Lemke's Facebook cover photo was a picture of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who brandished guns at George Floyd protesters and went on to speak at the 2020 Republican National Convention. The McCloskeys were later indicted for unlawful use of a weapon and tampering with evidence.

Threats to federal politicians lives have exploded in recent weeks, with the most prominent example being the deadly invasion of the U.S. Capitol, where armed supporters of former President Donald Trump tried to hunt down members of Congress and chanted "Hang Mike Pence!"

Republicans are too afraid of the mob they created to vote their conscience on impeachment: Senator

On Tuesday, 45 Republicans voted to dismiss the entire Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump as unconstitutional — a blow to Democratic chances of gaining the 67 votes necessary to convict him.

On MSNBC, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) suggested far more Republicans would be on board with trial and conviction — if not for fear of their own voters.

"I saw that vote today, and I have zero expectations that there are any Republicans left ... who put the country ahead of not even their party, because Donald Trump's not a Republican, he's about Donald Trump, but it's their fear of a tweet that at the moment he can't even send has now taken priority over any sort of duty to their job, to serving as United States senators, to their constitutional duty to serve as jurors," said anchor Nicolle Wallace. "They don't even believe in the legitimacy of the trial. How do you govern with members like that?"

"You know, we're in a situation where they participated in the creation of a mob, and then suddenly, they go, well, if I stand in front of that mob, that mob's going to run right over the top of me, and I'm afraid of that mob," said Merkley. "That's the way they feel about their Trump base. They essentially participated in the lies by not calling them out, day after day, year after year for four years, and Trump has Trump media, and so their base is listening to that Trump media on radio, on television, on cable, on every other direction that social media can reach them."

"The base is absolutely convinced that Trump is some kind of important hero and they will take it out on anyone who disagrees," continued Merkley. "And so they're afraid of their next election. They're afraid for their safety — their safety, their family's safety. And they're not standing up for our nation and for their oath to the Constitution."

Watch below:

CIA warns of 'detrimental trend' of foreign governments hiring ex-officers: report

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Central Intelligence Agency is warning former officers not to seek employment with foreign governments, citing a "detrimental trend" of agency alumni being hired for these kinds of positions.

"I can't mince words — former C.I.A. officers who pursue this type of employment are engaging in activity that may undermine the agency's mission to the benefit of U.S. competitors and foreign adversaries," wrote CIA counterintelligence assistant director Sheetal T. Patel in an unusual email, reported Julian Barnes and Maggie Haberman.

According to the report, the agency is also warning officers to exercise caution when speaking on TV, podcasts, or social media — something that has become more common as a result of the pandemic.

"In more normal times, former officials are brought back to the C.I.A.'s Langley, Va., headquarters for ceremonies, briefings or social gatherings, all of which offer senior officials a chance to remind them of the adage that 'loose lips sink ships,'" said the report. "In her note, Ms. Patel suggests that she plans to issue annual updates."

This is a problem that extends even beyond the CIA, noted the report.

"Across the intelligence community, not just at the C.I.A., there have been issues surrounding the decision of some former officials, both senior and junior, to work with foreign governments that have questionable human rights records or difficult relations with the United States," said the report. "Former employees of the National Security Agency went to work for firms in the United Arab Emirates creating high-level hacking and spying tools, prompting an F.B.I. investigation. Some former C.I.A. officers were involved in an effort by a subsidiary of DynCorp, a defense contractor, to help build up the intelligence capabilities of Saudi Arabia. The project was shelved only after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist."

You can read more here.

'Attention-starved' Trump brutally mocked for 'pathetic' Office of Former President announcement

On Monday evening, Donald Trump announced he was creating the "Office of the Former President" in Palm Beach, Florida.

According to CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins, the new office, which is to be run by former aides in the Trump White House, "will be responsible for managing President Trump's correspondence, public statements, appearances, and official activities," and will "carry on the agenda of the Trump administration through advocacy."

Although it is common for ex-presidents to have an ongoing public presence, Trump's announcement swiftly drew mockery from commenters on social media. Many ridiculed it as a last-ditch attempt for Trump to remain culturally relevant and influential.

Josh Hawley busted for lying that he was never really trying to overturn the election

On Tuesday, CNN issued a fact-check of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who is now trying to claim that his objection to the certification of Joe Biden's electoral victory wasn't really efforts to overturn the result of the presidential election.

Hawley attempted to rewrite history when challenged by CNN congressional reporter Manu Raju on Friday, saying, "I was very clear from the beginning that I was never attempting to overturn the election."

"This is very misleading," wrote Holmes Lybrand. "In the nine weeks between the election and his votes to object to the certification of the electoral college votes, Hawley made numerous statements suggesting that then-President Donald Trump could possibly remain in office and that then-President elect Joe Biden being inaugurated on January 20 was not a sure thing. If he was not 'attempting to overturn the election' Hawley, at the very least, suggested it might be a by-product of Republican efforts."

For example, on Fox News January 4th, anchor Bret Baier asked Hawley directly if his efforts would overturn the election, and he replied, "that depends on what happens on Wednesday." In another instance, on December 1st, Hawley made clear he didn't believe it was guaranteed Biden would become president, saying, "[I]f Joe Biden ends up being sworn in as president."

Hawley has become the focus of national outrage after the GOP attacks on the election he spearheaded turned into a violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead. He has faced a sharp polling backlash in his home state of Missouri and widespread calls to resign or face expulsion from the Senate.