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

By Peter Henderson

BURNS, Ore. (Reuters) — Four die-hard anti-government militants held their ground at an Oregon wildlife refuge on Friday, a day after the FBI released a video of the fatal shooting of one of the protesters at a traffic stop.

As the standoff with federal authorities neared the end of its fourth week, Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Portland office, said on Thursday night authorities were trying to negotiate with the four holdouts.

They are holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 30 miles (48 km) from Burns, a small ranging town in the state’s arid southeast.

The movement’s jailed leader, Ammon Bundy, has issued two separate messages through his attorney urging the few remaining protesters at to stand down, saying the group would continue their fight against federal land policy in court.

The occupation began on Jan. 2 when Bundy and at least a dozen followers occupied a small cluster of buildings at the refuge in a flare-up in the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over federal control of millions of acres in the West.

The FBI took the unusual step on Thursday of releasing video footage of the shooting of 54-year-old Robert LaVoy Finicum, a rancher from Arizona who had acted as a spokesman for the occupiers.

The video was released hours after a lawyer for Finicum’s family said other evidence may exist that shows the Arizona rancher was not threatening authorities.

On Tuesday, some of the group’s most recognizable members, including Bundy, were stopped by the FBI and Oregon State Police as they headed to a speaking event. Bundy and four others were taken into custody and Finicum was killed.

VIDEO OF SHOOTING

Authorities said Finicum was armed when he was killed. Aerial video taken from a law enforcement aircraft shows Finicum speeding away from authorities in a white truck and nearly striking a law officer, while trying to evade a police barricade before barreling into a snowbank and exiting the car.

The grainy footage shows Finicum raise his hands in the air and then turn and flail his arms, which lower down to his body before he is shot by Oregon State Police troopers, according to the FBI.

Bretzing, who narrated the video for reporters, said Finicum can be seen reaching for his jacket pocket, where law enforcement found a handgun. But the lack of focus in the video makes it difficult to discern Finicum’s precise movements before the shooting.

“Based on some things that I’ve seen, I think there is potentially a completely different side to the story compared to what is being represented,” Finicum family attorney Todd Macfarlane told Reuters. He could not be reached for reaction to the FBI video release.

Macfarlane said one of the sources for his view was the version of events from Victoria Sharp, who says she was at the scene and watched Finicum die.

Sharp said in an interview with Reuters that Finicum was shot with his gun in his holster and his hands in the air, shouting and walking toward police.

Neither state nor federal law enforcement would comment on whether Sharp was at the scene or on her own detailed description. Reuters was not able to independently confirm her version of the events.

The FBI’s Bretzing told reporters that the law enforcement’s video was released “in the interest of transparency.”

Following his initial court appearance in Portland on Wednesday, Ammon Bundy urged the holdouts to stand down, saying he would continue the fight in court.

Reactions to the takeover by Burns residents have ranged from sympathy for two imprisoned local ranchers whose plight began the protest, to dismay at the armed occupation by individuals seen as outsiders.

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Daniel Wallis in Denver, Victoria Cavaliere and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Curtis Skinner in San Francisco, and Julia Edwards in Washington; Editing by Frank McGurty and Frances Kerry)

Photo: Aerial video released by the FBI January 28, 2016 shows a law enforcement officer (L) pointing a weapon at a man who had just stepped out of the white pickup truck at a police roadblock January 26 near Burns, Oregon. REUTERS/FBI/Handout via Reuters

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.]