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

By Pat Pheifer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

MINNEAPOLIS — A Waseca, Minn., teenager who idolized the Columbine High School shooters plotted to murder his parents and sister, then go on a rampage through Waseca’s junior high and high school, setting off pressure cooker bombs, throwing Molotov cocktails and gunning down fleeing students, according to criminal charges filed Thursday.

John David LaDue, 17, allegedly detailed his plans in a 180-page notebook, police say. He’d been amassing a stockpile of handguns, automatic weapons and bomb-making equipment in his bedroom and in a storage unit, the charges claim.

He intended to carry out his attack on April 20, the 15-year anniversary of the Columbine shootings in Littleton, Colo., that killed 13 people. But he scrapped that plan when he realized April 20 was Easter Sunday, police said, and authorities believe he was instead planning the attack for the next few weeks.

“I think he had put enough preparation and forethought into this … that he was well on his way to carrying it out,” said Capt. Kris Markeson of the Waseca Police Department.

After his arrest, LaDue told police he intended to kill “as many students as he could,” the criminal complaint said.

LaDue was caught when a witness saw him enter the storage unit at Mini Max storage in Waseca on Tuesday evening and close the door behind him. Thinking it suspicious, the bystander called police, who found LaDue inside with his stockpile of equipment, which included “numerous materials commonly used for making explosive devices,” the complaint said.

They discovered evidence including ammo boxes, a scale, a pressure cooker box and packing material for red iron oxide, the complaint said. It appears that LaDue obtained many of his bomb-making materials and instructions over the Internet, Markeson said.

LaDue apparently didn’t expect to survive his attack, figuring that he’d be shot by a SWAT team during his attack, the complaint said.

Police say LaDue admitted to setting off small bombs at the playground at Hartley Elementary School in March, as well as at other locations around town, to practice for his plot.

Neighbors said LaDue, a junior at the high school, is quiet. Many remarked that he was often seen in his family’s yard, throwing knives and axes at a tree.

“This little boy was shy,” said Bailey Root, 19, a neighbor who said she grew up with LaDue. “He never talked. He always followed the leader. He was never one to step up and do anything.”

LaDue never got into trouble at school and was on the B honor roll, said Waseca Schools Superintendent Tom Lee.

LaDue appeared in court Thursday morning and was sent to a juvenile detention center in Red Wing. He’d been detained at such a center in Rochester after his arrest, but that facility refused to take him back after he made “homicidal threats” against staff members, said Assistant Waseca County Attorney Brenda Miller.

LaDue is charged with four counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree damage to property and six counts of possession of a bomb by someone under 18. His next court hearing is set for May 12.

Waseca is about 80 miles south of Minneapolis, about 15 miles west of Owatonna.

Photo: Mike Saechang via Flickr

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.]