Under-fire postmaster general says he has no intention of returning mail sorting machines as Mike Pence insists Covid miracle imminent

Donald Trump said he would send law enforcement officers to polling locations for this November’s presidential election in comments branded “an attack on America” by a former White House ethics chief.

“We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have hopefully US attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorney generals (sic),” Mr Trump told Fox News after host Sean Hannity asked if he would have “poll watchers”.

Meanwhile, his Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said on Friday there was “no intention” to return mail sorting machines that were removed in recent weeks, after it was reported that at least 671 machines were removed in critical voting states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and Georgia, among others. The postmaster general said those machines were “not needed”, while adding that he supports vote-by-mail efforts amid the pandemic.

Bannon back on air after not guilty plea in alleged border wall fraud scheme

Steve Bannon has dismissed federal charges against him as a “political hit job” following his arrest for allegedly defrauding donors to a crowdfunded US-Mexico border wall project and laundering the proceeds.

He pleaded not guilty to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering on Thursday and was released on a $5m bond following a brief court appearance in US District Court in New York.
On Friday, he returned to his radio programme and podcast War Room Pandemic to announce he is “not going to back down.”

“This is a political hit job,” he said. “Everybody knows I love a fight. I was called ‘honey badger’ for many years. You know, ‘Honey badger doesn’t give.’ … I’m in this for the long haul. I’m in this for the fight. I’m going to continue to fight.”

Bannon jokes about financial fraud in resurfaced video

James Crump writes: Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Steve Bannon joked about fraud at a We Build the Wall fundraising event, in a clip that has resurfaced the day after his arrest.

Mr Bannon was indicted on Thursday, alongside three others, for allegedly funnelling “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from the We Build the Wall online fundraising campaign to the founder of the organisation, Brian Kolfage, who was among those charged.

We Build the Wall started as a GoFundMe campaign in 2018, and was created to help raise money from public funding to go directly towards building the the US-Mexico border wall at a time when the president was struggling with Congress.

Acting US attorney Audrey Strauss confirmed on Thursday that Mr Bannon was arrested while aboard a 150-foot yacht in the Long Island Sound, with assistance from the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

In a clip that was uploaded to Twitter on Friday by Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Mac, Mr Bannon can be seen joking about Mr Kolfage taking money from the campaign during a fundraising “WALL-A-THON”.

Syrians face calamity as Trump’s new sanctions combine with surging coronavirus

Patrick Cockburn writes: “If I don’t buy masks or medicine, I may die or survive, but if I don’t buy bread for the family, we will all die of starvation,” says a retired 68-year-old teacher in Damascus, explaining why he does not have masks, sterilisers or medicines. “We need two bundles of loaves every day which costs us at least 600 Syrian pounds (24 US cents), but if we buy masks, they will cost us about 1000 SP (40 cents). The choice is between bread and masks.”

Millions of ordinary Syrians are having to choose between buying food to eat and taking precautionary measures against coronavirus, which local witnesses say is much more widespread than the Syrian government admits.

Poverty and deprivation have worsened dramatically since the US introduced all-embracing sanctions on Syria on 17 June under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which Donald Trump signed into law late last year. Named after the individual who documented the murder of thousands of Syrians by the Syrian government (Syrian officials deny the allegations), the legislation is supposedly intended to restrain it from carrying out further acts of repression.

In practice the Caesar Act does little to weaken President Bashar al-Assad and his regime, but it does impose a devastating economic siege on a country where civilians are already ground down by nine years of war and economic embargo. The eight in 10 Syrians who are listed by the UN as falling below the poverty line must now cope with a sudden upsurge in the coronavirus pandemic.

As with UN sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s, the Syrian leadership will be least affected by the new American measures because it controls resources. The real victims are the poor and the powerless who suffer since the price of foodstuffs has risen by 209 per cent in the last year. The cost of a basic food basket is 23.5 times what it was before the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011 according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

Trump campaign plasters The Washington Post with ads linking to claims debunked by paper’s fact checkers

Kate NG writes: The Trump campaign has plastered The Washington Post ‘s website with a series of huge adverts, including full-screen video promotions, sparking criticism of the influential newspaper.

The ad campaign was launched amid the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which culminated on Thursday evening in Joe Biden formally accepting his party’s presidential nomination.

In anticipation of the DNC, President Donald Trump’s campaign reportedly threw approximately $10 million into ad buys, which include homepage takeovers of the Wall Street Journal and Daily Caller, as well as The Washington Post.

The Trump campaign’s communications director ,Tim Murtaugh, said last week the digital ad buy also took over the YouTube masthead for 96 hours, from Tuesday through to Friday, according to Axios.

He said: “The total of the online buy is high seven figures. Some of the ads are performance-based, so the total could push to over $10 million.

Opinion: Louis DeJoy’s testimony to Congress has made Trump’s motives over the Postal Service crystal clear

Ahmed Baba writes: We’ve spent years discussing foreign election interference in US democracy, but now the interference is coming from inside the White House. Donald Trump welcomed Russia’s help in 2016, allegedly extorted Ukraine and publicly solicited help from China.

In his desperate attempts to cling onto power, he’s proven no institution is beyond the reach of his grip, and now, he’s set his authoritarian sights on the US Postal Service (USPS).

The theory that President Trump is sabotaging the USPS in order to suppress the vote was given credence by his own words. While many have pointed to President Trump’s interview on Fox News last week where he openly admitted to blocking more than $25 billion in USPS funding to sabotage mail-in voting, there’s another Fox interview that further highlights his motives. In a March appearance on Fox & Friends, Trump condemned the election funding in the coronavirus relief bill at the time:

“The things they had in there were crazy. They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

As usual, President Trump said the quiet part out loud and clearly asserted a key to his re-election strategy is keeping the levels of voting low, as it has always been for the modern GOP. Then came Postmaster General (PMG) Louis DeJoy’s appointment by a Trump-appointed USPS Board of governors that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin reportedly met with prior to DeJoy’s selection.

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