US Public Might Not Be Told About Foreign Efforts to Alter Next Election

Senior U.S. officials say they are already busy buttressing the nation’s defenses against foreign interference for the 2020 presidential election. Only they admit the public may be kept in the dark about attacks and intrusions.

Intelligence and election security officials have warned repeatedly that Russia, among other state and nonstate actors, remains intent on disrupting the upcoming elections and that the Kremlin may even have gone easy on the U.S. during the 2016 midterm elections, seeing the ability to impact the 2020 presidential race as the bigger prize.

At the same time, election and security officials have come under increased scrutiny for failing to reveal the size and scope of Russia’s efforts to hack into voter databases and other critical systems.

In April, special counsel Robert Mueller released his report into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as well as allegations of obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Florida representatives

In May, two U.S. representatives from Florida, Republican Michael Waltz and Democrat Stephanie Murphy, wrote to the FBI and Justice Department, demanding a classified briefing on the extent of Russia’s exploits after the Mueller report indicated Moscow managed to infiltrate critical systems in at least one county during the 2016 presidential election.

“Florida voters have the right to know the extent to which foreign actors may have breached our state’s election security systems, and what the federal government is doing to prevent it from happening again,” Murphy said in a statement.

Senior Trump administration officials, however, cautioned Monday they may decide to keep information like that from the public.

“There are hard choices to be made,” one official told reporters while briefing them on efforts to protect the 2020 election from foreign interference.

“The ultimate question is going to be whether the federal or national interests in doing so — publicly disclosing it — outweigh any counter veiling consideration,” the official added.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials said the ability to disclose information can often be limited by the need to protect the sources and methods that discovered the attacks or intrusions in the first place.

Impact on victims

There are also concerns about the impact on the victims.

“Victims who work with the FBI do so because they trust that we’ll protect and handle their information appropriately,” a senior law enforcement official said. “For example, the majority of technical information that we were able to give election officials during the 2016 time frame was initiated from this type of trusted outreach.”

In cases involving foreign influence campaigns, the decision to make them public can be even more difficult.

“Disclosing a foreign influence operation might do more harm than good because it might draw more attention to an operation that would otherwise go unnoticed,” the senior administration official said.

A senior intelligence official agreed that in some cases, the less said, the better.

“It’s less about highlighting for the public that there might be a problem,” the official said. “We actually want to stop it from happening, whether we do that through cyber channels or diplomatic channels or other operations.”

2020 campaign

With the 2020 presidential campaign getting under way, intelligence agencies, along with the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, have set about briefing the candidates and making them aware of the resources available should their campaign come under attack.

There are also increased efforts to reach out to U.S. state and local officials to make sure they have the information they need to protect their voter databases and election systems from attacks.

Officials said there have even been ongoing discussions with the private sector, both those that provide voting machines and other election infrastructure, as well as with social media companies.

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US Treasury Inspector to Look Into Delay of New Tubman $20 Bill

The U.S. Treasury inspector general says he will look into why the Trump administration decided to scrap plans to put escaped slave turned abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the move last month, saying the change is because of “counterfeiting issues.”

But Democratic Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer said he is not satisfied with Mnuchin’s vague explanation, saying it lacked credibility.

He asked the Treasury’s watchdog to investigate the circumstances “including any involvement by the White House.”

“There are no women, there are no people of color on our paper currency today even though they make up a significant majority of our population,” Schumer said.

The redesigned bill was to have entered circulation next year, but Mnuchin said it will be put off until 2028. It is also unclear whether Tubman will still be on the new bill when it is finally rolled out.

He said the “imagery feature” (who will appear on the bill) will not be a matter until long after he and U.S. President Donald Trump are out of office.

The $20 bill currently features a picture of 19th century U.S. President Andrew Jackson. Jackson owned slaves and forced Native Americans out of their ancestral lands in the southeastern U.S. leading to the deaths of thousands of Indians. 

The move to replace Jackson, preferably with a historically-important woman, was announced during the Obama administration. 

Tubman was chosen from an online poll of Americans.

President Trump is said to be an admirer of Andrew Jackson — not because of Jackson’s racism — but because Trump regards him as a populist and anti-establishment. 

Trump called replacing Jackson with Tubman “pure political correctness” and proposed putting Tubman on the $2 bill, which is rarely printed. 

Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in Maryland as a young woman and returned to the southern U.S. to help other slaves escape and to work as a union government spy during the Civil War.

She was thought to be in her early 90s when she died in 1913.

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro to Meet China’s Xi for First Time at G-20

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who criticized China last year for “buying” up his country, will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time on the sidelines of this week’s G-20 meeting in Japan, his office said on Monday.

Bolsonaro, a far-right firebrand, has softened his stance on Brazil’s largest trading partner since taking office in January and will meet with Xi for 40 minutes on Friday morning before the summit of leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies kicks off in Osaka, according to the schedule released by his office.

A representative of China’s embassy in Brazil said the two countries were discussing a bilateral meeting, although the details had yet to be agreed to. Given the packed schedule at the G-20, any bilateral meeting would likely be informal and brief, the diplomat said, speaking on background.

China is by far the largest buyer of Brazilian soybeans and iron ore, and Brazil hopes to upgrade its commodities exports to include products with greater added value.

Bolsonaro expressed concern about Chinese domination during his election campaign. Citing the purchase of electrical assets by Chinese companies, he complained that “China isn’t buying in Brazil, China is buying Brazil.”

But he has dropped his criticisms as the reality of Brazil’s dependence on the Chinese market set in.

His vice president, retired general Hamilton Mourao, visited Beijing in May to resume high-level talks that had stalled under the previous government. Mourao’s visit followed Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina’s mission to China seeking to widen food sales to China.

Mourao met in Beijing with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Chief Executive Ren Zhengfei and later told journalists that Brazil had no plans to follow the United States in barring the Chinese telecom company’s participation when Latin America’s largest country launches its 5G network next year.

Washington has asked countries to reject Huawei technology in the development of new mobile phone networks due to security concerns.

Bolsonaro and Xi are expected to discuss a date for the Brazilian leader’s planned visit to Beijing later this year, before Xi visits Brazil in November for the summit of the BRICS leading emerging economies.

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Ethiopia Hunts for Plotter of Failed Coup in Amhara Region

Ethiopian security is hunting for the leader of the failed coup in the northern Amhara region where security is tight, as well as in the capital, Addis Ababa.
An internet shutdown remains in force across the country, following the assassinations of Amhara’s governor and an adviser in the regional capital, Bahir Dar, Saturday. Later in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s military chief was shot dead by his own bodyguard who also killed a visiting retired general.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that Brig. Gen. Asamnew Tsige masterminded the plot. Ethiopian officials said that Asamnew has not yet been arrested.
Ethiopian military have set up checkpoints in the capital and in the Amhara region.
Flags are flying at half-mast Monday which has been declared a day of national mourning following the four killings.



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Domestic Quarrel Disrupts Boris Johnson’s Britain Leadership Bid

A plate-hurling, screaming quarrel with his latest girlfriend has turned the spotlight fully on where Boris Johnson’s advisers didn’t want it — on his character and chaotic private life, which even his friends have described as “unruly.”

The altercation, recorded by neighbors in south London who phoned the police, has thrown a wrench into Johnson’s smooth-running campaign to succeed Theresa May as Britain’s prime minister, which commentators say is his race to lose.

His bid to win a leadership contest, which is now in its final stages after lawmakers whittled down in knockout ballots the succession choice to two candidates for the party’s 160,000 members to vote on by mail, has been built on avoiding television debates and dodging journalists.

Johnson has refused to answer questions about the screaming match in the apartment of his girlfriend, 31-year-old Carrie Symonds, but calls are mounting on the 55-year-old to address questions about the altercation on Friday.

Johnson ended a 25-year-long marriage, his second divorce, to move in last year with the younger Symonds, but his unruly private life has been marked by serial relationships, children fathered out of wedlock and terminated pregnancies.

The quarrel has allowed his remaining opponent in the leadership race, the country’s current and normally mild-mannered foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, to pile on the pressure and to launch Monday an uncharacteristically personal attack on his rival, accusing him of being a “coward” by trying to avoid public scrutiny and “slink through the back door” of Downing Street.

Johnson, who was finally backed by more than half of Conservative lawmakers to be the new party leader has appeared on only one TV debate and granted a single short broadcast interview and one newspaper interview. Hunt says the public want a “fair and open contest, not one that one side is trying to rig to avoid scrutiny.”

He added: “One of the strengths of our system is that we scrutinize our politicians with more intelligent ferocity than anywhere else in the World. But in this case it just isn’t happening. Nothing could be worse for a new prime minister in these challenging times than to come to power with a fake contest.”

FILE – Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street, London, Britain, Nov. 13, 2018.

Hunt’s aides say it is especially important for May’s successor to be scrutinized closely as they will be entering Downing Street not via a general election but through a party vote with their democratic legitimacy questioned because the country as a whole would not have had any say in their selection.

Hunt says he doesn’t want to quiz Johnson, a former two-term London mayor and short-lived foreign minister, about his private life, but about his claim that he can “guarantee” Britain will leave the European Union by October 31, the latest deadline for the country’s exit from the bloc.

But while Hunt is avoiding focusing directly on Johnson’s character, some of his aides are happily fanning the flames and briefing reporters behind the scenes that the frontrunner’s highly colorful private life represents a security risk.  It could leave him vulnerable to leaks about past behavior and even open to blackmail by foreign powers, they charge.

The accusation has infuriated Johnson supporters, who say the explosive argument between Symonds and Johnson was just a normal domestic “tiff” apparently provoked by Johnson spilling red wine on a sofa. They maintain the quarrel was blown out of proportion by neighbors who are politically motivated. The police left without charging anyone.

Nonetheless, the dispute, which is depressing Johnson’s poll numbers, is contributing to a picture of a Conservative party in disarray and fearful that it is facing an existential crisis because of Brexit. It comes as pro-European Union Conservatives have started to plot a strategy to wreck a Johnson-led government, if he seeks to take Britain out of the European bloc without an exit deal approved by Brussels.

Sharp divisions between Brexiters and pro-EU lawmakers wrecked Theresa May’s prime ministership and there are growing signs that it might quickly upend Johnson’s, too, if he wins the leadership race.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media outside her official residence of 10 Downing Street in London, April 18, 2017.

May’s fate was sealed when the British House of Commons declined three times to approve a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement she negotiated with Brussels — a deal vehemently opposed by a third of her own parliamentary party on the grounds it would keep Britain subservient to EU regulations and rules and prevent it from negotiating trade deals bilaterally with non-EU countries.
Europhiles are also opposed to the deal. Several top Conservatives who want to retain close ties with the EU have warned they could join opposition parties in a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons and bring down a Johnson government.

A former Conservative attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, said: “If the new prime minister announces that he is taking the country on a magical mystery tour towards an October 31 crash-out, I don’t think that prime minister is going to survive very long.”

Even Britain’s current top finance minister, Philip Hammond, has warned the next prime minister “will not survive,” if they seek to leave the EU without a deal. He has declined publicly to rule out that he would vote with opposition parties against Johnson, if he sought a no-deal Brexit.

Britain’s fractious Conservatives are ruling as a minority government, and they rely on the support of a Northern Irish party to give them a working majority of just three in the House of Commons. A handful of Conservative standouts could trigger a chain of events leading to an early election the Conservatives are unlikely to win.

Johnson’s supporters say he remains the favorite of party activists because he has the star quality the party needs to win elections and curb both the populist threat from Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party and combat Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

They also claim he has the political inventiveness to break the Brexit deadlock that has turned traditional British politics upside down and might even have the ability to persuade hardline Brexiters to accept a compromise and something short of their objective to break completely with the EU.

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UN: Hong Kong Should Consult Broadly on Extradition Bill

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is urging Hong Kong authorities to “consult broadly before passing or amending” an extradition bill or “any other legislation,” as protests in the autonomous territory continue.

Speaking at the opening of a three-week session of Human Right Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Michelle Bachelet also said that she continues to discuss with China issues related to Xinjiang, including allowing “unfettered access” to the western region, and other matters.

U.N. observers and activists say that about one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centers in Xinjiang. The international community has condemned China for setting up such complexes which Beijing describes as “education training centers” helping to eradicate extremism and give people new skills.

Hong Kong protesters blocked access to a Hong Kong government office building for about two hours Monday and plan another demonstration Wednesday to raise awareness among leaders attending the G-20 summit this week in Japan.

Thousands of student protesters dressed in black have been marching in Hong Kong for weeks, demanding the full withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill and the resignation of the territory’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam.

Last week, Lam offered an apology for the political crisis and unrest sparked by the proposed law.

The Hong Kong protests pose the greatest challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took office in 2012. The Chinese government had supported the extradition proposal, and accused protest organizers of colluding with Western governments.

The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said President Donald Trump plans to discuss the Hong Kong issue with Xi at the upcoming G-20 summit.


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Trump: ‘Not Looking for War’ With Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump says he is “not looking for war” with Iran and willing to negotiate with its leaders without preconditions, but that under no circumstances can the Islamic Republic be allowed to mass a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Trump told NBC’s Meet the Press show that if the U.S. went to war with Iran, “It’ll be obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

“But,” he added, “I’m not looking to do that.”

The U.S. leader said, “Here it is. Look, you can’t have nuclear weapons. And if you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise, you can live in a shattered economy for a long time.”

Trump’s comments, taped Friday, were aired after he announced Saturday, without providing any details, that he plans to impose “major” new sanctions on Iran on Monday. He said the sanctions would be dropped as soon as the country becomes “a productive and prosperous nation again.”

Iran cannot have Nuclear Weapons! Under the terrible Obama plan, they would have been on their way to Nuclear in a short number of years, and existing verification is not acceptable. We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday. I look forward to the day that…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019

Two other key U.S. officials, national security adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence, issued new warnings to Iran that Trump’s last-minute decision to not militarily retaliate for Tehran’s Thursday shoot-down of an unmanned U.S. drone near the Strait of Hormuz should not be viewed as a sign of “weakness.”

National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters about Venezuela, outside the White House, May 1, 2019, in Washington.

“Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness,” Bolton said in Jerusalem ahead of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” Bolton said of Iran. “Our military is rebuilt new and ready to go.”

Pence told the CNN television network, “Iran must not take restraint for a lack of resolve. This is a president who hopes for the best for the Iranian people…but we will stand up to their provocations.”

Bolton said existing sanctions against Tehran already are having a sharp effect on the Tehran economy.

“Sanctions are biting,” he said. “Iran can never have nuclear weapons — not against the U.S.A. and not against the world.”

Trump spoke with reporters Saturday at the White House before leaving for the presidential retreat at Camp David outside Washington for a meeting with top administration officials, at one point saying as soon as Tehran agreed to renounce nuclear weapons, “I’m going to be their best friend.”

Trump’s tone was much softer on Saturday after a week of intense actions between the U.S. and Iran.

Concern about a potential armed confrontation between the U.S. and Iran has been growing since U.S. officials recently blamed Tehran for mine attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, allegations Tehran denies, and Iran’s downing of the drone.

On Friday, Trump said that he had canceled late Thursday a retaliatory strike against several Iranian targets.

He tweeted that the United States was “cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,” Trump tweeted, saying the action would have been disproportionate.

Pence said the U.S. was “not convinced” the downing of the drone “was authorized at the highest level” of the Iranian government. As Trump weighed how to respond last week, he said the shoot-down might have been launched on orders of a “loose and stupid” Iranian officer.

World powers have called for calm after the incidents.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged for a political resolution of the crisis. “That is what we are working on,” she told Reuters.

On Sunday, Britain’s Middle East minister, Andrew Murrison, will travel to Tehran for talks with Iranian officials.

Britain’s Foreign Office said Murrison would call for “urgent de-escalation in the region.” He will also discuss Iran’s threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal that the United States pulled out of last year.  

James Phillips, a senior researcher at the conservative Washington-based Heritage Foundation, said he believes the immediate risk of a U.S.-Iran conflict has passed.

“It’s probably over as far as the incident goes with the shoot down of the drone. But, I think if there are further provocations, the president will respond in a strong and effective manner,” he said.

Phillips also said he does not expect Tehran to accept U.S. calls for negotiations while Trump continues a “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions on Iran. “I doubt that Tehran will be serious until it sees who wins the next presidential election,” he said.

The U.S. announced this week it was authorizing another 1,000 troops — including a Patriot missile battery and additional manned and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft to bolster defenses at U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria.


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Ruling Party Candidate Concedes Defeat in Istanbul Re-Vote

The ruling party candidate in the re-run of Istanbul’s mayoral election, Binali Yildirim, has conceded defeat to opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu.

Sunday’s vote was held because election authorities controversially annulled Imamoglu’s initial historic election victory in March on a technicality after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan disputed the defeat of his candidate.

Electoral authorities rejected Erdogan’s AKP Party’s claims of voting fraud, but ordered a revote on the grounds a number election officials were ineligible. The opposition condemned the decision and claimed the Sunday vote is now more than just about who runs the city.

In a sign of the importance of Sunday’s election, voting was brisk from the moment the Kadikoy district ballot station opened, in a city where people traditionally vote late.  Early heavy voting  was reported across the city.

“The election is very important for Turkey, this will change the face of Turkey,” said retiree Cengiz Demir, one of the first to vote in Kadikoy district. “We have to return to democratic settings. Maybe more than a majority have had enough of one man rule,” he added.

One man rule is a reference to President Erdogan who many of his opponents accuse of undermining democracy and turning Turkey into an authoritarian state.

“In the name of our Turkey, in the name of our Istanbul, we are going through a very important election,” Imamoglu said to hundreds of supporters after voting. “This is not only about the Istanbul metropolitan, municipal election but at the same time a day for the repair the damage of this unlawful process imposed on our nation for the sake of democracy in Turkey.”

Observers say Imamoglu’s strategy of avoiding polarizing politics and pledging inclusivity has been key to turning his CHP party’s fortunes around in the city.

“I have so many hopes for Turkey,” said Ayse, a teacher who only wanted to be identified by her first name, “Imamoglu is the only person who can make the change. Before I was so pessimistic.”

The importance of Sunday’s election has seen hundreds of thousands of people cut short their vacations to vote. The city’s airports and roads were full the night before the polls opened.

“This is so important,” said Deniz Tas speaking after voting, “I have traveled 12 hours on the road to vote and to right this injustice that has been done.”

Istanbul is Erdogan’s home city and has been his power-base for 25 years, since his rise to power started as the city’s mayor. The city accounts for a third of Turkey’s economy and nearly half the taxation, and the mayorship is widely seen as Turkey’s most important political prize after the presidency.

Underscoring the importance of the vote,  Erdogan has again put his political prestige on the line, campaigning heavily for Yildirm in the run-up to the election.  Erdogan too claims democracy is at stake, repeatedly accusing the opposition of voter manipulation. Observers say a second defeat for Erdogan could have significant consequences, damaging his reputation of electoral invincibility empowering opponents both in and outside his party.

In what was a bitter campaign Yildirim appeared conciliatory. “If we’ve ever made any wrongdoing to any rival or brother in Istanbul, I would like to ask for their forgiveness and blessing,” he said after casting his vote.

 Some AKP supporters expressed similar sentiments. “Re-vote happens in other countries, too, the voting can be repeated,” said a woman who didn’t want to be named.  “It is very normal that we have a repeat as well. The candidate who deserves it should win. The person with experience will win. Also, for us, Binali Yildirim has the experience to run Istanbul.”

 Both the leading candidates mobilizing thousands of lawyers and monitors to scrutinize the vote, claiming to defend democracy, Istanbul is bracing itself for a tense election.


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India Dismisses US Religious Freedom Report

India says it is proud of its secular credentials as it rejected a U.S. report that said that religious freedom in the country has come under attack in recent years.

The latest U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedom released Friday said that right wing Hindu-groups claiming to protect cows that Hindus consider holy had used “violence, intimidation, and harassment” against Muslims and low-castes. It also noted that Christians have been targeted for proselytizing.

In a statement, the Indian Foreign Ministry said that no foreign government had the right to criticize its record. “We see no locus standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.” It said that India is proud of “its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion.”

New Delhi’s sharply worded statement comes ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to India starting Tuesday. His talks in New Delhi are expected to lay the ground for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Japan later next week.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party also rejected the U.S. report on religious freedom saying that the presumption that “there is some grand design behind anti-minority violence is simply false.”

In a statement, party media head Anil Baluni said that Prime Minister Modi and other BJP leaders have strongly deplored violence against minorities and weaker sections of the society.

The U.S. report had said that senior BJP officials had last year made “inflammatory speeches” against religious minorities and that despite Indian government statistics indicating that communal violence has increased sharply over the past two years, the Modi administration has not addressed the problem.


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Trump Delays Planned Raids, Gives Congress 2 Weeks to Sort Immigration Deal

In a surprise move, President Donald Trump said he would push back by a couple of weeks the raids planned for Sunday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border,” Trump wrote in a tweet Saturday afternoon from the presidential retreat in Camp David in Maryland.

At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019

The reports that ICE planned to conduct large-scale enforcement actions sparked an outcry from Democratic leaders in many major cities, who condemned the plan and initiated efforts to help affected residents.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had spoken with Trump Friday night, urging the delay, the Associated Press reported, citing a person familiar with the situation and not authorized to discuss it.

Pelosi asked him to call off the raids during the call. She also released a statement Saturday, before Trump’s tweet announcing the delay, and asked the president to show the same compassion he had on Friday, when he called off a strike on Iran.

“The president spoke about the importance of avoiding the collateral damage of 150 lives in Iran. I would hope he would apply that same value to avoiding the collateral damage to tens of thousands of children who are frightened by his actions,” she said in the statement, in which she called the raids “heartless.”

Pelosi responded later Saturday to Trump’s announcement to delay the raids, tweeting,  “Mr. President, delay is welcome. Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together.”

Mr. President, delay is welcome. Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together.

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) June 22, 2019

Just hours before his tweet that announced the postponement of the raids, as he departed the White House Saturday for Camp David, Trump said migrants who were to be targeted in a nationwide roundup should return to their native countries.

ICE Acting Director Mark Morgan told reporters days earlier the agency would round up and deport families who have received a removal order from a U.S. immigration court.

The operation, first reported by The Washington Post, had been expected to begin on Sunday, targeting up to 2,000 families in large cities that are major immigration destinations, including Houston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.

Trump tweeted Saturday morning that ICE agents will pursue those who “have run from the law and run from the courts.”

He added, “These are people that are supposed to go back to their home country. They broke the law by coming into the country, & now by staying.”

The Miami Herald reports the other cities to be targeted are Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.

Announced earlier this week

On Monday, Trump had tweeted the U.S. would start deporting “millions of illegal aliens” from the country next week, but the announcement appeared to catch the country’s immigration officials by surprise.

Administration officials said the deportation plans have been under consideration for months, but immigration officials said earlier this week that raids on migrant families were not imminent.

The Post said discussions about the scope of the operation continued Friday at the White House, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE.

Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan has warned that an operation to arrest migrants in their homes and at work sites risks separating children from their parents.

Acting ICE Director Morgan told reporters this week the operation is necessary for the integrity of the immigration system.

He said families cannot be exempted from immigration law and said the law “must be applied fairly and equally.” He urged families with deportation orders to turn themselves in to immigration officials.

The Post said ICE is planning to “use hotel rooms as temporary staging areas to detain parents and children until all the members of a family are together and ready for deportation.”

Some officials refuse to help

The mayors of Los Angeles and Chicago said city police would not participate in the raids.

In a statement Friday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she had directed the Chicago Police Department to prevent ICE access to its databases related to federal immigration enforcement.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement that L.A. law enforcement officers “will never participate” in such raids.

Trump administration officials said the 1 million migrants who had been issued final deportation orders but were still living in the U.S. would be targeted first in the operation. However, the most the U.S. has ever deported in a single year was in 2013, when about 435,000 were sent home.

It is unusual for public officials to disclose law enforcement raids in advance, for fear of alerting the targets of the raids, and possibly endangering police and other law enforcement personnel.

Immigration activists say the president is using the operation for political purposes and warn it is causing fear in the immigrant community, leading migrants to miss work and school.

Sarah Pierce, an immigration policy analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said in an interview with USA Today the threat to deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants was “wildly unrealistic” and logistically not possible.

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Iranian Hackers Wage Cyber Campaign Amid Tensions With US 

Iran has increased its offensive cyberattacks against the U.S. government and critical infrastructure as tensions have grown between the two nations, cybersecurity firms say. 

In recent weeks, hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have targeted U.S. government agencies, as well as sectors of the economy, including oil and gas, sending waves of spear-phishing emails, according to representatives of cybersecurity companies CrowdStrike and FireEye, which regularly track such activity.

It was not known if any of the hackers managed to gain access to the targeted networks with the emails, which typically mimic legitimate emails but contain malicious software.

U.S. sanctions

The cyber offensive is the latest chapter in U.S.-Iran cyber operations battle, with this recent sharp increase in attacks occurring after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector this month. 

Tensions have escalated since the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and began a policy of “maximum pressure.” Iran has since been hit by multiple rounds of sanctions. Tensions spiked this past week after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone,  an incident that nearly led to a U.S. military strike against Iran on Thursday evening. 

FILE – Security firm FireEye’s logo is seen outside the company’s offices in Milpitas, Calif.

“Both sides are desperate to know what the other side is thinking,” said John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at FireEye. “You can absolutely expect the regime to be leveraging every tool they have available to reduce the uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, about what the U.S.’s next move will be.”

CrowdStrike shared images of the spear-phishing emails with AP.

One such email that was confirmed by FireEye appeared to come from the Executive Office of the President and seemed to be trying to recruit people for an economic adviser position. Another email was more generic and appeared to include details on updating Microsoft Outlook’s global address book.

The Iranian actor involved in the cyberattack, dubbed “Refined Kitten” by CrowdStrike, has for years targeted the U.S. energy and defense sectors, as well as allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, said Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike.

The National Security Agency would not discuss Iranian cyber actions specifically but said in a statement to AP on Friday that “there have been serious issues with malicious Iranian cyber actions in the past.”

“In these times of heightened tensions, it is appropriate for everyone to be alert to signs of Iranian aggression in cyberspace and ensure appropriate defenses are in place,” the NSA said.

Fuel sectors, infrastructure

Iran has long targeted the U.S. oil and gas sectors and other critical infrastructure, but those efforts dropped significantly after the nuclear agreement was signed. Cyber experts said that after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in May 2018, they saw an increase in Iranian hacking efforts.

“This is not a remote war [anymore],” said Sergio Caltagirone, vice president of threat intelligence at Dragos Inc. “This is one where Iranians could ‘bring the war home’ to the United States.”

Caltagirone said as nations increase their abilities to engage offensively in cyberspace, the ability of the United States to pick a fight internationally and have that fight stay out of the United States physically is increasingly reduced.

FILE – In 2010, the Stuxnet virus disrupted operation of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran.

The U.S. has had a contentious cyber history with Iran.

In 2010, the so-called Stuxnet virus disrupted the operation of thousands of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran. Iran accused the U.S. and Israel of trying to undermine its nuclear program through covert operations. 

Iran has also shown a willingness to conduct destructive campaigns. Iranian hackers in 2012 launched an attack against state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, releasing a virus that erased data on 30,000 computers and left an image of a burning American flag on screens.

Banks, dam

In 2016, the U.S. indicted Iranian hackers for a series of punishing cyberattacks on U.S. banks and a small dam outside New York City.

U.S. Cyber Command refused to comment on the latest Iranian activity. “As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence or planning,” Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said in a statement. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Despite the apparent cyber campaign, experts say the Iranians would not necessarily immediately exploit any access they gain into computer systems and may seek to maintain future capabilities should their relationship with the U.S. further deteriorate.

“It’s important to remember that cyber is not some magic offensive nuke you can fly over and drop one day,” said Oren Falkowitz, a former National Security Agency analyst. It takes years of planning, he said, but as tensions increase, “cyber impact is going to be one of the tools they use and one of the hardest things to defend against.”

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Oregon Republicans Flee in Face of Climate Change Bill

Oregon state Republicans would rather go AWOL than let a climate bill pass that they say would raise costs for rural Oregonians. 

A bill requiring polluters to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions seemed poised to clear the state’s Democrat-controlled Legislature this week. But as the measure headed to a vote in the northwest U.S. state’s Senate, Republican members left the state, leaving the chamber short of a quorum and grinding legislative business to a halt. 
Putting a price on carbon pollution, as Oregon’s plan would do, is the climate change strategy economists swear by. Even Republican elder statesmen back it.
But the Oregon walkout is the latest demonstration that it can still be a tough sell politically. 
Pay to pollute 
After roughly two centuries of polluting for free, economists say fossil fuel industries should pay for the damage their greenhouse gases cause to the climate. And making carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions more expensive, they say, is the most efficient way to reduce them. 
Oregon’s cap-and-trade proposal is one way to accomplish that. 
The state would set a limit, or cap, on total CO2 emissions. Power plants, factories, refineries and other industries would have to buy allowances for each ton they produce. 
That provides an incentive to emit less. And companies with allowances left over can trade them with those having a harder time reducing pollution. 

The truck of a logger and cap-and-trade opponent is parked in Salem, Ore., June 20, 2019.

Who pays? 
Industries that have to buy carbon allowances would most likely pass the cost on to consumers. 
One place consumers would most likely see that cost is at the gas pump. By some estimates, the program would raise fuel prices at least 16 cents per gallon in the first year and go up from there. 
Critics say the cost would fall harder on rural residents, who tend to drive farther than city dwellers. And farmers would pay more to drive planting and harvesting equipment. 
“We are against job-killing bills that will decimate rural Oregon, who many of my caucus members represent,” Senate Republican leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. said in a statement after the bill cleared the Oregon state House. 
But studies have shown that rural areas fare better under cap-and-trade programs than urban areas do. One study found the relatively small losses fell more heavily on urban areas. Another found net gains from increased energy efficiency, with bigger benefits to rural residents.  
Supporters say the bill’s writers were careful. 
“There are tons of details that really speak to how tailored the policy became for specifics of Oregonians,” said Pam Kiely with the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s not cut-and-paste.” 
The bill includes measures to cushion the blow for some industries and residents. 
A tax credit would help low-income people defray higher fuel costs. Part of the revenue from selling pollution allowances would be used to help them weatherize their homes, reducing their heating and cooling bills. 
“We want to make sure this program doesn’t create an overall burden on low-income people,” said state Sen. Michael Dembrow, one of the bill’s Democratic backers. 
Also, heavy-polluting industries that might leave the state and set up shop elsewhere would get a break on their emissions allowances. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks at the National Governors Association 2019 winter meeting in Washington, Feb. 23, 2019.

‘Come armed’ 
Oregon’s state Senate Republicans are not sold. 
When Democratic Gov. Kate Brown sent the state police to find the missing lawmakers and return them to the capital, Republican Sen. Brian Boquist responded, “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.” 
Oregon is not the first state to struggle with the politics of pricing carbon. 
New Jersey withdrew from the nation’s first cap-and-trade program under Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2011. The state is now returning to the nine-state program under Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. 
This year, Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration issued rules to join the program, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. But the state’s Republican legislature blocked them. 
It’s a global phenomenon. 
Australia’s Labor government launched a carbon-pricing program in 2012. Two years later, a new conservative government repealed it.  
Canada imposed a nationwide carbon tax this year under Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Several Canadian provinces led by Conservatives are fighting it in court. 
Meanwhile, in Oregon, legislative business is piling up as the June 30 end of the session nears. Brown has threatened to fine absent lawmakers $500 per day. 

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