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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

CAIRO, Egypt (AFP) – Egypt’s interior ministry promised Mohamed Morsi’s supporters “safe exit” Thursday if they quickly leave their Cairo protest camps, as police prepared to disperse them amid international appeals for restraint.

The call to disperse came after an early Thursday meeting in which police commanders discussed how to carry out orders from the military-installed interim government to end the protests, the ministry said in a statement.

Diplomatic efforts to avoid further bloodshed meanwhile picked up pace, with EU Middle East envoy Bernardino Leon and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle both arriving in Cairo to urge the rival camps to find common ground.

The interior ministry “calls on those in Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares to let reason and the national interest prevail, and to quicky leave,” it said in a statement.

The ministry “pledges a safe exit and full protection to whoever responds to this appeal,” the statement added.

Morsi’s supporters had vowed to defy the crackdown ordered by the interim government on Wednesday, and called for a mass rally on Friday.

Ministers had ordered police to end sit-ins and marches by Morsi’s Islamist supporters, saying they amounted to a “national security threat.”

The orders raised fears of new violence, less than a week after 82 people were killed in clashes at a pro-Morsi rally in Cairo.

The international community, which has expressed mounting concern over the violence since Morsi’s July 3 ouster, warned against further bloodshed.

The German foreign minister, who arrived in Cairo on Wednesday, urged both sides to remain peaceful and seek an inclusive solution.

“I am here to encourage all political forces to engage in dialogue,” he said at a press conference Thursday with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy.

Later, Westerwelle was scheduled to meet Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour and representatives of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and other political parties.

EU envoy Leon also landed in Cairo on Wednesday, to follow up on three days of intensive diplomacy by the bloc’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The U.S. State Department called on the interim authorities to “respect the right of peaceful assemblies.”

“That obviously includes sit-ins,” spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for “an urgent end to the current bloodshed” and the release of Morsi, in a phone call to Egypt’s interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei, Britain’s Foreign Office said.

Amnesty International condemned the cabinet order as a “recipe for further bloodshed”.

In Rabaa al-Adawiya, the mood was calm after the cabinet’s announcement. Thousands of protesters have been camped out in a tent city at the square.

The interior ministry had already warned that the demonstrations would be dispersed “soon,” but without saying when or how.

Foreign trade minister Munir Fakhry Abdel Nur said Wednesday’s statement did not “give room for interpretation”.

Accusing Morsi supporters of bearing arms, he told AFP: “It is clear the interior ministry has been given the green light to take the necessary measures within legal bounds.”

Much of the Egyptian media expressed support for the government’s decision, with some saying that the interim administration had received “the people’s mandate” in demonstrations last Friday backing Morsi’s overthrow.

More than 250 people have been killed since the army ousted him following nationwide protests against his single year in power.

Further raising tensions on Wednesday, judicial sources said several top Brotherhood leaders would be referred to trial for incitement to murder.

Supreme guide Mohamed Badie, who is in hiding, and his jailed deputies Khairat al-Shater and Rashad Bayoumi, stand accused of inciting the killing of demonstrators outside Brotherhood headquarters on the night of June 30.

Morsi himself has been formally remanded in custody on suspicion of offences when he broke out of prison during the 2011 revolt that toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

He was detained hours after the coup and is being held at an undisclosed location, where the EU foreign policy chief met him on Tuesday, later telling reporters that he was “well.”

Photo Credit: AFP/Fayez Nureldine

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]