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Russian who was source in Trump’s dossier describes herself as a ‘palm reader’ who loves ‘nudity

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russian who was source in trumps dossier describes herself as a palm reader who loves nudity

A Russian woman identified as a key source in the dossier by British counterintelligence specialist Christopher Steele dossier is a former employee of Kremlin-owned state media.

Steele’s infamous report was leaked weeks before Trump’s inauguration, alleging Russian influence over him and contained salacious information about his reported conduct in a Moscow hotel room during the Miss Universe pageant.

Olga Galkina, 40, was linked to the dossier this week and was described by The Wall Street Journal as a ‘disgruntled PR executive’ living in Cyprus.

And while some people who know Galkina claim she’s maverick who was unlikely to have access to secrets, others suggested she was well-connected. 

Now, shown in exclusive pictures obtained by DailyMail.com, Galkina came forward on Friday to deny claims she was a key source in the Steele dossier. 

She used her former state-owned media employer RIA Novosti to say in a statement: ‘My mood is rather low because I did not expect this story at all and, of course, it complicated (my life) quite a lot.’

Olga Galkina, from Russia, was identified as a key source in the dossier by British counterintelligence specialist Christopher Steele

Olga Galkina, from Russia, was identified as a key source in the dossier by British counterintelligence specialist Christopher Steele

Olga Galkina, from Russia, was identified as a key source in the dossier by British counterintelligence specialist Christopher Steele

Olga Galkina, 40, was linked to the dossier this week and was described by The Wall Street Journal as a 'disgruntled PR executive' living in Cyprus

Olga Galkina, 40, was linked to the dossier this week and was described by The Wall Street Journal as a 'disgruntled PR executive' living in Cyprus

Olga Galkina, 40, was linked to the dossier this week and was described by The Wall Street Journal as a 'disgruntled PR executive' living in Cyprus

Olga Galkina, 40, was linked to the dossier this week and was described by The Wall Street Journal as a 'disgruntled PR executive' living in Cyprus

Olga Galkina, 40, was linked to the dossier this week and was described by The Wall Street Journal as a ‘disgruntled PR executive’ living in Cyprus

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Christopher Steele’s (pictured) infamous report was leaked weeks before Trump’s inauguration, alleging Russian influence over him

The infamous dossier also contained salacious information about Trump's alleged conduct in a Moscow hotel room during the Miss Universe pageant

The infamous dossier also contained salacious information about Trump's alleged conduct in a Moscow hotel room during the Miss Universe pageant

The infamous dossier also contained salacious information about Trump’s alleged conduct in a Moscow hotel room during the Miss Universe pageant

She claimed the allegations that she was a Steele source were ‘not true’, but gave little detail.

However, she did admit to knowing her former school friend Igor Danchenko, 42, who the WSJ claimed had recruited her into intelligence gathering for the former MI6 spy.

‘We studied at the same school, but the thing is that after that he went to work and study in America,’ she said.

‘And we haven’t seen each other for a long time. This is the thing… The story is that we were friends. And he was helping me.’

She worked as a journalist for state-funded RIA Novosti, working at the Russian parliament between 2003-05.

More than a decade ago she also worked for Rosbalt, a news outlet run by Natalya Cherkesova (Chaplina), wife of ex-security services high-ranking member Viktor Cherkesov, a Putin associate.

Galkina attracts startlingly different descriptions in her homeland.

In a varied career she was also a PR executive for Russia’s environmental and nuclear watchdog Rostekhnadzor, which she left in 2011, around the time she moved to Cyprus.

In Cyprus, DailyMail.com was told by her acquaintances she was ‘intelligent and professional’, a woman who always looked ‘well-polished’, although she is now believed to have moved back to Russia. 

However, she did admit to knowing her former school friend Igor Danchenko, 42, (pictured) who the WSJ claimed had recruited her into intelligence gathering for the former MI6 spy. 'We studied at the same school, but the thing is that after that he went to work and study in America,' she said

However, she did admit to knowing her former school friend Igor Danchenko, 42, (pictured) who the WSJ claimed had recruited her into intelligence gathering for the former MI6 spy. 'We studied at the same school, but the thing is that after that he went to work and study in America,' she said

However, she did admit to knowing her former school friend Igor Danchenko, 42, (pictured) who the WSJ claimed had recruited her into intelligence gathering for the former MI6 spy. ‘We studied at the same school, but the thing is that after that he went to work and study in America,’ she said

She worked as a journalist for state-funded RIA Novosti, working at the Russian parliament between 2003-05. More than a decade ago she also worked for Rosbalt, a news outlet run by Natalya Cherkesova (Chaplina), wife of ex-security services high-ranking member Viktor Cherkesov, a Putin associate

She worked as a journalist for state-funded RIA Novosti, working at the Russian parliament between 2003-05. More than a decade ago she also worked for Rosbalt, a news outlet run by Natalya Cherkesova (Chaplina), wife of ex-security services high-ranking member Viktor Cherkesov, a Putin associate

She worked as a journalist for state-funded RIA Novosti, working at the Russian parliament between 2003-05. More than a decade ago she also worked for Rosbalt, a news outlet run by Natalya Cherkesova (Chaplina), wife of ex-security services high-ranking member Viktor Cherkesov, a Putin associate

Galkina is seen as implicating the firm in a Russian secret services-sponsored bid hacking Democratic Party servers to collect damaging material on 2016 presidential election candidate Hillary Clinton

Galkina is seen as implicating the firm in a Russian secret services-sponsored bid hacking Democratic Party servers to collect damaging material on 2016 presidential election candidate Hillary Clinton

Galkina is seen as implicating the firm in a Russian secret services-sponsored bid hacking Democratic Party servers to collect damaging material on 2016 presidential election candidate Hillary Clinton

Russian businessman loses libel battle against Christopher Steele for claims in his Trump ‘dirty dossier’

Aleksej Gubarev

Aleksej Gubarev

Aleksej Gubarev

On Friday, Russian businessman  Aleksej Gubarev lost his libel battle against ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele whose ‘dirty dossier’ on Donald Trump implicated him in hacking the Democrats in 2016.  

Gubarev sued Steele for ‘seriously defamatory allegations’ that he had ‘knowing involvement’ in the DNC computer hack during the US election.

But a London judge ruled Gubarev did not prove Steele was responsible for the report’s publication and so could not be made to pay damages.

Central accusations made in the dossier, which was funded by the Democrats, have been roundly rubbished and were largely thrown out by the Mueller report. 

It was published by Buzzfeed News website in 2017 and contained outlandish claims of Trump hiring prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room as well as allegations of Russian collusion with the Republican candidate’s campaign.  

Gubarev and his company Webzilla took legal action against Steele and his intelligence company Orbis Business Intelligence after the dossier was published.

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But her former boss in the marketing department at XBT Holding, Alexey Trankov, claimed: ‘She (Olga Galkina) has long been in need of medical assistance….

‘Of course, I’m not a doctor to give diagnoses, but I just want to say that she needs a doctor.’

Around the time she allegedly helped Steele in 2016, she became locked in a dispute with Aleksej Gubarev, owner of XBT Holding SA web-services company behind the Webzilla internet hosting unit. 

It emerged that Galkina travelled to the US in spring 2016, the year of the last US president election. The purpose of her visit is unclear.

But after Donald Trump’s win, she posted: ‘I sincerely congratulate our (intelligent) ideological opponents on the victory of their candidate.

‘For our comrades, we are thinking of organising a democratic retreat here,.

‘It’s only four years to wait, palm trees, again, Jay Z on the tape recorder.’

Galkina is seen as implicating the firm in a Russian secret services-sponsored bid hacking Democratic Party servers to collect damaging material on 2016 presidential election candidate Hillary Clinton.

Webzilla and Russian-born Cyprus resident Gubarev have strongly denied any involvement in the DNC hacking and he has since sued Steele for defamation in Britain.

Some Russian sources scathingly attacked a woman who earlier moved from journalism to PR and at one time also served as deputy head of the administration of Saratov city.

Prominent journalist, scriptwriter and director Roman Volobuev posted : ‘Oh sh**, I KNOW the girl WSJ just named as the source of Steele dossier.

‘(And yeah, she’s probably made the whole thing up).’

He added, however, that she was ‘everyone’s acquaintance’ and ‘moderately shady’.

Others confirmed the mother-of-one had a wide circle of contacts. 

But newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda stated: ‘When she worked in Saratov, Olga was remembered by her frequent disappearances from the office when even her bosses couldn’t reach her.

‘Many believed that this was linked to alcohol.’

Yet when she lived in Limassol she was a member of an ‘intellectual’ Russian expat social club formed to discuss poetry.

Born in Perm, in the Urals, she has a degree in law and a further qualification in philology from the Peoples’ Friendship University in Moscow.

Both news outlet Newsru in Moscow and the Russian-language Cyprus Daily News said she was behind a colourful but confused personal blog - however there was no clear evidence that this was correct. In one entry, the writer stated: 'Since my childhood I have been into palm reading, and I know quite a lot about this'

Both news outlet Newsru in Moscow and the Russian-language Cyprus Daily News said she was behind a colourful but confused personal blog - however there was no clear evidence that this was correct. In one entry, the writer stated: 'Since my childhood I have been into palm reading, and I know quite a lot about this'

Both news outlet Newsru in Moscow and the Russian-language Cyprus Daily News said she was behind a colourful but confused personal blog – however there was no clear evidence that this was correct. In one entry, the writer stated: ‘Since my childhood I have been into palm reading, and I know quite a lot about this’

In a personal review 2010 - when Galkina worked for the Kremlin environmental and nuclear watchdog - the blog attributed to her stated: 'The year was quiet, although not without adventures. Pleasant... Too much bisexuality. Festivals, hitch-hiking, sea, celebrations, two weeks in Moscow, a lot of games, nudity, nature, alcohol - there was leisure'

In a personal review 2010 - when Galkina worked for the Kremlin environmental and nuclear watchdog - the blog attributed to her stated: 'The year was quiet, although not without adventures. Pleasant... Too much bisexuality. Festivals, hitch-hiking, sea, celebrations, two weeks in Moscow, a lot of games, nudity, nature, alcohol - there was leisure'

In a personal review 2010 - when Galkina worked for the Kremlin environmental and nuclear watchdog - the blog attributed to her stated: 'The year was quiet, although not without adventures. Pleasant... Too much bisexuality. Festivals, hitch-hiking, sea, celebrations, two weeks in Moscow, a lot of games, nudity, nature, alcohol - there was leisure'

In a personal review 2010 - when Galkina worked for the Kremlin environmental and nuclear watchdog - the blog attributed to her stated: 'The year was quiet, although not without adventures. Pleasant... Too much bisexuality. Festivals, hitch-hiking, sea, celebrations, two weeks in Moscow, a lot of games, nudity, nature, alcohol - there was leisure'

 In a personal review of 2010 – when Galkina worked for the Kremlin environmental and nuclear watchdog – the blog attributed to her stated: ‘The year was quiet, although not without adventures. Pleasant… Too much bisexuality. Festivals, hitch-hiking, sea, celebrations, two weeks in Moscow, a lot of games, nudity, nature, alcohol – there was leisure’

Galkina is portrayed by WSJ as the source of a claim that President Trump's (pictured in Moscow in 2013) ex-lawyer Michael Cohen secretly met Putin's intelligence officials in Prague to discuss payments for the hackers in the summer of 2016. The Russian woman was the 'most important contributor' to the Steele dossier, according to WSJ. She was 'Source 3' in the dossier, it was reported

Galkina is portrayed by WSJ as the source of a claim that President Trump's (pictured in Moscow in 2013) ex-lawyer Michael Cohen secretly met Putin's intelligence officials in Prague to discuss payments for the hackers in the summer of 2016. The Russian woman was the 'most important contributor' to the Steele dossier, according to WSJ. She was 'Source 3' in the dossier, it was reported

Galkina is portrayed by WSJ as the source of a claim that President Trump’s (pictured in Moscow in 2013) ex-lawyer Michael Cohen secretly met Putin’s intelligence officials in Prague to discuss payments for the hackers in the summer of 2016. The Russian woman was the ‘most important contributor’ to the Steele dossier, according to WSJ. She was ‘Source 3’ in the dossier, it was reported

Both news outlet Newsru in Moscow and the Russian-language Cyprus Daily News said she was behind a colourful but confused personal blog – however there was no clear evidence that this was correct.

In one entry, the writer stated: ‘Since my childhood I have been into palm reading, and I know quite a lot about this.’

In a personal review of the year 2010 – when Galkina worked for the Kremlin environmental and nuclear watchdog – the blog attributed to her stated: ‘The year was quiet, although not without adventures. Pleasant.

‘In general successful and cheerful. Too much bisexuality. Festivals, hitch-hiking, sea, celebrations, two weeks in Moscow, a lot of games, nudity, nature, alcohol – there was leisure. Though, I worked a lot too.’

Another blog is clearly hers and it refers to a difficult break up with the father of her child.

Galkina is portrayed by WSJ as the source of a claim that President Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen secretly met Putin’s intelligence officials in Prague to discuss payments for the hackers in the summer of 2016.

Cohen denied ever traveling there.

The Russian woman was the ‘most important contributor’ to the Steele dossier, according to WSJ.

She was ‘Source 3’ in the dossier, it was reported.

She was allegedly recruited to the Steele intelligence-gathering team by Danchenko, who now lives in the US.

Christopher Steele: The British ex-spy who authored the ‘dirty dossier’

Christopher Steele, 55, embarked on a well-trodden path when he was recruited from Cambridge straight into MI6.

After a stint in London, he was stationed in Moscow just after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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He returned to London and in 2006 was made head of MI6’s Russia desk, where he led the investigation into the poisoning of former Russian operative Alexander Litvinenko.

But he only became world-renowned after becoming a private intelligence consultant and writing the sensational Trump-Russia dossier in 2016.

His evidence was rubbished by Trump, but formed part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In an interview at Oxford University, Mr Steele said he had been questioned for ‘two whole days’ but was disappointed with Mueller’s final report.

‘I was surprised that very little of what I had discussed with them appeared in the final report.

He criticized the report for being ‘too narrow’ and failing to follow up on crucial evidence. 

‘There were many things about the report that were good… but other (aspects) that were not so good,’ he said. 

Mr Steele said the fact that ‘a number of witnesses—including for instance, Donald Trump Jr.’ had avoided being interviewed ‘wasn’t great.’ 

Dismissing longstanding allegations of political bias, he described himself as simply ‘an opponent of President Putin.’

He said that Trump is naturally hostile toward the intelligence community. 

‘Trump himself doesn’t like intelligence because its ground truth is inconvenient for him,’ he said.   

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This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

Australia

Donald Trump lets transition to Joe Biden begin, but doesn’t concede

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donald trump lets transition to joe biden begin but doesnt concede

Donald Trump may have finally allowed the transition to Joe Biden to begin, but the president has made clear he is not going down without a fight.

Trump made clear Monday evening that starting the transition, which will allow Biden to get daily security briefings and be able to communicate with the COVID taskforce, did not mean he was conceding the election.

In a furious tweet, that has been flagged as disputed by Twitter, the current president promised that he was ‘moving full speed ahead’ and swore he would ‘never concede’ to the election results.

‘What does GSA being allowed to preliminarily work with the Dems have to do with continuing to pursue our various cases on what will go down as the most corrupt election in American political history?’ he asked, referring to the General Services Administration (GSA). 

The agency is responsible for supporting the federal government’s functioning day to day. The GSA are also responsible for presidential transitions – which can only begin once the agency has recognized the ‘apparent successful candidate’. On Monday, the GSA told Biden they were ready to begin the transition.

Trump continued on Monday evening; ‘We are moving full speed ahead. Will never concede to fake ballots & ‘Dominion’.’ Dominion Voting Systems spoke out yesterday saying it is ‘not physically possible’ for its machines to change voter selections. 

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Get on with the job: Joe Biden had spent the day announcing a slate of top cabinet officials and meeting mayors virtually in Wilmington, DE. He can now access crucial government resources

Get on with the job: Joe Biden had spent the day announcing a slate of top cabinet officials and meeting mayors virtually in Wilmington, DE. He can now access crucial government resources

Get on with the job: Joe Biden had spent the day announcing a slate of top cabinet officials and meeting mayors virtually in Wilmington, DE. He can now access crucial government resources

General Services Administration Chief Emily Murphy told President-elect Biden in a letter that he can start accessing federal resources to begin the presidential transition process early Monday evening.

Murphy released a letter to Biden announcing the move, but dedicated a considerable portion to defending her own reputation and claiming she had been threatened and harassed.

Her letter, notably, does not go so far as ‘ascertain’ that Joe Biden is the winner of the election, despite networks calling the race 16 days ago, numerous states certifying their tallies, and Biden winning 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. She also called him ‘Mr.’ instead of president-elect or vice-president.

It came just over an hour after Michigan certified that Biden had won the state, putting another nail in the coffin of Trump’s bid to overturn the election result.

The move ends much of the controversy over Trump’s refusal to concede and means that a concession would be purely symbolic. 

It allows Biden to get the same intelligence briefing as Trump, order FBI background checks on his picks for office and talk to senior officials in key roles – most notably, Dr. Tony Fauci. 

The Biden-Harris transition team last night welcomed Murphy’s letter, saying it was a ‘needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation’. 

‘In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response’ as well as national security issues, said Biden aide Yohannes Abraham.  

But Trump tweeted later on Monday saying he had ordered Murphy to start the transition ‘for the sake of the country’ and claimed he was sure he would win ‘the good fight.’ 

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'Threatened.' Trump appointee Emily Murphy used her letter to Joe Biden to complain that she had been 'harassed' while refusing to start the transition and claim she acted on her own initiative in refusing to declare him the apparent winner

'Threatened.' Trump appointee Emily Murphy used her letter to Joe Biden to complain that she had been 'harassed' while refusing to start the transition and claim she acted on her own initiative in refusing to declare him the apparent winner

I can win this: Donald Trump claimed he would still be able to 'prevail' after a torrid series of legal defeats and his legal team losing one of its members, Sidney Powell, after she spouted bizarre conspiracy theories.

I can win this: Donald Trump claimed he would still be able to 'prevail' after a torrid series of legal defeats and his legal team losing one of its members, Sidney Powell, after she spouted bizarre conspiracy theories.

‘Threatened.’ Trump appointee Emily Murphy used her letter to Joe Biden to complain that she had been ‘harassed’ while refusing to start the transition and claim she acted on her own initiative in refusing to declare him the apparent winner

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HOW BIDEN’S STAFF CAN FINALLY GET WORKING 

The decision of GSA Administrator Emily Murphy to allow the transition to move forward allows Biden and his team to get access to money, space and personnel.

Biden will now have at his disposal $6.3 million in administrative costs, and another $1 million has been appropriated for appointee orientation sessions and a transition directory.

But the cash is not the point: the access is. 

Biden will now have access to the President’s Daily Brief, meaning he will be receiving the same national security briefings as Trump.

Additionally, the Biden-Harris team will be able to receive briefing books from other career civil servants.

The Biden-Harris transition has already announced landing teams at major agencies.

Those teams can now interact with their government counterparts at the agencies.

Crucially in this crisis, Biden will be able to communicate with Dr. Anthony Fauci and other members of the coronavirus taskforce.

Biden and his team will also have access to government office space.

So far, he’s been running the transition out of the Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, which has also been partly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the transition, more than 4,000 political appointments need to be made, including 1,200 that will need Senate confirmation.

With transition resources green-lit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will now be able to process background checks on the individuals Biden has picked. 

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Murphy wrote to Biden defending herself and said: ‘I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,’ she told him, after noting her ability to make resources available.

‘I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and have always strived to do what is right,’ she wrote, on a letter dated 16 days after TV networks called the race for Biden.

Murphy, a Trump appointee, claimed she did not receive any pressure to hold up the ascertainment – a word she never used. 

‘I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official – including those who work at the White House or GSA – with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,’ she added.

‘To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination. I did, however, receive threats online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely. Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law, she wrote. 

She said her decision was not made out of ‘fear or favoritism.’

Murphy had resisted sending the letter of ascertainment as Trump refused to concede the presidential election.

Her action comes after Michigan certified its election results and as Trump has lost most of his lawsuits as he sought to overturn the results of the vote, which gave Biden 306 electoral votes. 

Trump has seen his case for victory fade day by day. He has yet to win a major court case.

In Pennsylvania on Sunday, a judge ruled that state can go forward with certifying its 20 electoral votes be certified for Biden.

Georgia is in the process of certifying its 16 electoral votes for Biden after a hand recount confirmed his victory, making him the first Democrat to carry the state since 1992.

And, despite making numerous allegations of voter fraud – including funding from Communists to turn votes in Biden’s favor and alleging voting machines from Dominion Systems changed Trump votes to Biden ones – the president’s team has not shown any evidence.

Numerous state election officials said there was no evidence of voter fraud.

ABC News reported that the Secret Service was already asking agents if they wanted to transfer to Florida to guard the Trumps full-time there from January. 

As Trump remains huddled in the White House – he is rarely seen in public and his public schedule for Monday had no events on it – Biden has gone on with building his government.

On Monday he announced a slate of national security officials and more Cabinet announcements are expected. 

In another small but notable sign of the looming handover, the Biden transition website changed from a .com to a more secure .gov domain on Monday.   

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BIDEN TRANSITION WEBSITE GETS A .GOV DOMAIN  

The Biden-Harris transition website changed its URL from a .com to a .gov domain on Monday in another sign that the handover is officially underway.  

Biden shared the new link – BuildBackBetter.gov – on Twitter on Monday after the switch was made. 

The GSA, the agency which finally allowed the Biden transition to formally begin on Monday, manages the .gov domain and makes it available to government agencies. 

‘Using a .gov domain shows you’re an official government organization,’ it says. 

Biden shared the new URL on Twitter

Biden shared the new URL on Twitter

Biden shared the new URL on Twitter 

Security measures that come with .gov domains include a ban on using passwords that have ever been leaked in data breaches, which are collated by the website Have I Been Pwned?

The GSA also beefed up security in 2017 to stop ‘hostile networks’ from deploying malware or tracking beacons when people visit official websites. 

The president’s official @POTUS Twitter account will be handed over to the Biden administration on inauguration day in January, the company said on Saturday. 

Trump will still have his own account, but Twitter says he will be subject to the same rules as anyone else – meaning tweets that break the rules could be deleted rather than red-flagged with a warning as they currently are. 

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Trump praised Murphy’s action in a tweet and claimed she was the victim. 

‘I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country. She has been harassed, threatened, and abused – and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA. Our case STRONGLY continues,’ he tweeted shortly after she sent the letter.

‘We will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,’ he added.

Trump’s near-concession didn’t stop one of his current campaign lawyers, Jenna Ellis, from claiming on MSNBC that ‘the election was stolen’ and that ‘President Trump won by a landslide.’

That came despite another day of legal setbacks – which included Michigan’s supreme court denying an attempt to block certification; and the Trump campaign filing a brief in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals after a blistering lower court ruling that blasted ‘Frankenstein’ reasoning.

The brief claimed the Trump campaign was not seeking to disenfranchise 6.8 million Pennsylvania voters, just 1.5 million. 

‘The campaign is not seeking to disenfranchise 6.8 million Pennsylvanian voters. Instead, it only seeks to set aside the defective ballots among the 1.5 million cast in the defendant counties. 

‘The campaign seeks to examine a sample of the mail ballots to determine the defective percentage of ballots among the 1.5 million, which should then be deducted from Biden’s vote total,’ they wrote in their filing under expedited appeal. 

Murphy had faced heavy pressure from Biden and congressional Democrats because without her blessing the president-elect could not communicate with federal agencies or access federal funds allocated for the transition process. 

House Democrats were threatening to haul Murphy to Capitol Hill to explain the delay. They sent her a letter late last week demanding an in-person briefing from her on Monday. She tried to delay that until next week.

But they sent her another letter on Monday evening demanding one on Tuesday.

Among those who pounced on Murphy’s statement was former head of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub.

‘The letter’s worth a read. It may be the most unprofessional thing I’ve seen an agency head put on letterhead. She makes this about her. She makes excuses. She never says that she ascertains the apparent winner. But she releases funds as though she has, so there’s that at least,’ he wrote.

Days earlier, he tweeted: ‘The law requires her only to ascertain the ‘apparent’ winner. It does not require her to be right. There is no harm in releasing the resources. People may die if she doesn’t.’

Democrats including Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia called her actions ‘unconscionable,’ and accused her of ‘hamstringing’ the incoming administration amid the pandemic.

Some Democrats and Trump critics called for her to be investigated after Trump leaves office.

GSA CHIEF AT CENTER OF STORM CAN GO BACK TO CHECKING WEST WING IS CLEAN  

Emily Murphy, 47, became GSA chief in December 2017. She was appointed by President Trump to the position.

A graduate of Smith College and the University of Virginia law school, she worked for years as a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch where she had a reputation for being a policy wonk.

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She heads a 12,000-person agency that manages the government’s real estate and its shopping list: the GSA runs all federal buildings and procures supplies for the executive branch. 

From keeping the photocopiers in paper to making sure the FBI’s electricity bill is paid, it has one off what would normally be the least political aspect of government imaginable. 

Its task range from cleaning the West Wing of the White House to managing the federal government’s 215,000 vehicle motor pool to negotiating multi-million dollar contracts.

But Murphy – who will most likely be required to resign by the incoming Biden administration as a political appointee regardless of her resistance campaign –  will now go down in history as its most political boss ever.

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It was her deputy, not Murphy, who had agreed to brief congressional Democrats who demanded a briefing about her actions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the request for a briefing as opposed to a full hearing an effort to not blow up the situation. 

The end of the Trump resistance effort came after a glitchy zoom meeting in Michigan spelled the end of his bid to overturn its popular vote for Biden. 

The four-person split-party panel who certifies presidential elections in Michigan voted Monday afternoon 3-1 to confirm Joe Biden’s popular vote win in the swing state.

The vote is yet another blow to Donald Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the presidential election, which includes mounting several lawsuits in battleground states like Michigan.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers Vice Chairman Norman Shinkle, a Republican, expressed his objections to certifying Biden’s victory due to irregularities and errors in the voting and tabulation process – and he voted to abstain on Monday.

After hearing from clerks and volunteers who worked at and observed ballot tabulation, the four members voted to certify the election.

Shinkle’s fellow Republican panel member Aaron Van Langevelde voted to certify the election, but maintained a post-election audit needs to be conducted. He also said any complaints of election fraud need to be investigated and, if found, prosecuted.

Ahead of the vote, there were concerns that the split panel members could find themselves in a deadlock, which would result in a delay of certification as President Donald Trump’s continued pressure for swing state Republicans to back his claims of widespread voter fraud.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee on Monday joined the ranks of Republicans calling for Trump to concede and accept that he has lost reelection.

‘The presidential election is rapidly coming to a formal end,’ Alexander released in a statement shortly after the Michigan certification. ‘Recounts are being completed. Courts are resolving disputes. Most states will certify their votes by December 8.

‘Since it seems apparent that Joe Biden will be the president-elect, my hope is that President Trump will take pride in his considerable accomplishments, put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed,’ he wrote in a statement posted to his Twitter.

‘When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do,’ Alexander concluded. 

Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana also acknowledged Biden’s victory after the developments in Michigan, saying the transition ‘should begin for the sake of the country’. 

‘With Michigan’s certifying its results, Joe Biden has over 270 electoral college votes. President Trump’s legal team has not presented evidence of the massive fraud which would have had to be present to overturn the election,’ he said. 

‘I voted for President Trump but Joe Biden won.’

In Texas, local media quoted GOP Senator John Cornyn as saying the outcome of the election was ‘becoming increasingly clear’ and that evidence for widespread irregularities was ‘wanting’.  

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The Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted 3-1 Monday to certify Joe Biden's victory in the state with Republican member Norman Shinkle, 70, abstaining over concerns with mail-in voting and transparency

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted 3-1 Monday to certify Joe Biden's victory in the state with Republican member Norman Shinkle, 70, abstaining over concerns with mail-in voting and transparency

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted 3-1 Monday to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the state with Republican member Norman Shinkle, 70, abstaining over concerns with mail-in voting and transparency

Fellow Republican member Aaron Van Langevelde voted to certify the election, shutting down concerns a deadlock would be reached on the four-person split panel

Fellow Republican member Aaron Van Langevelde voted to certify the election, shutting down concerns a deadlock would be reached on the four-person split panel

Fellow Republican member Aaron Van Langevelde voted to certify the election, shutting down concerns a deadlock would be reached on the four-person split panel 

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Both Democratic members of the Michigan Board of State Canvassers Julie Matuzak (right) and Chairwoman of the panel Jeannette Bradshaw (left) voted to certify the results for Biden

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee immediately released a statement Monday after the vote telling Donald Trump it's time to concede to Joe Biden

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee immediately released a statement Monday after the vote telling Donald Trump it's time to concede to Joe Biden

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee immediately released a statement Monday after the vote telling Donald Trump it’s time to concede to Joe Biden

Also immediately after the Michigan vote, Trump’s campaign sent out a statement from its senior legal advisor Jenna Ellis on certifications.

‘Certification by state officials is simply a procedural step,’ Ellis said in an email blast from the president’s campaign team. ‘We are going to continue combatting election fraud around the country as we fight to count all the legal votes. Americans must be assured that the final results are fair and legitimate.’ 

Shinkle, 70, said ahead of the vote – and throughout statements made during the proceedings Monday – that he has concerns regarding the integrity of the election and suggested he was considering forcing a delay of certification of Biden’s win.

He shared that he has questions regarding electronic equipment used in the Michigan election, the absentee and mail-in voting process and transparency issues.  

Shinkle’s opposition for a potential block of certification would only be possible if Van Langevelde joined him in not signing off on Biden’s win, which would create a deadlock with the two Democrat members – Julie Matuzak and Chairwoman Jeannette Bradshaw.

Van Langevelde, 40, an attorney and former assistant prosecutor living with his wife Adrianne in Charlotte, Michigan, has not said how he plans to vote.

Shinkle lives in Williamson, Michigan with his second wife, Mary. He has two sons, Teddy and Douglas, from his first wife Linda. 

Trump's campaign immediately sent out an email blast with a statement from senior legal advisor Jenna Ellis on certifications being an insignificant 'procedural step' after the Michigan certification

Trump's campaign immediately sent out an email blast with a statement from senior legal advisor Jenna Ellis on certifications being an insignificant 'procedural step' after the Michigan certification

Trump’s campaign immediately sent out an email blast with a statement from senior legal advisor Jenna Ellis on certifications being an insignificant ‘procedural step’ after the Michigan certification

Mary Shinkle was a Republican poll watcher at the Transportation Service Center in Detroit for four days surrounding the election. She claimed there was funny business at that tabulation location.

Mary was one of the more than 200 people who signed a sworn affidavit alleging errors and wrongdoing that they said they witnessed during Wayne County ballot tabulation.

The Trump campaign used this affidavit in one of its federal lawsuits, which since then has been withdrawn. 

In her sworn statement, Mary said she observed on Election Day a specific precinct tabulation table duplicating their counts for ballots. She also was told that the ‘table captain’ told her that she was not allowed to look at ballots because ‘if we were mistaken you would be all over us.’

She also raised concerns with ballots being left unattended in unsecured bags at her specific site in Wayne county.

The wife of the Republican member of the Board of State Canvassers also said that on November 4, the day after the election, that election workers were ‘extremely rude and aggressive’ toward observers.

Following the election, pro-Trump protests popped up near election tabulation sites, demanding counters ‘stop the steal’ – or stop counting mail-in ballots received after Election Day.

Michigan went blue this year, with current reporting showing 50.6 per cent of the vote for Biden and 47.8 per cent for Trump. In 2016 the state swung red for Trump.

The president, however, has called into question the integrity of the results in the rustbelt battleground state this year, claiming there was funny business with tabulation and not allowing Republican poll watchers to stand close enough to observe the ballot counting process. 

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Shinkle's wife, Linda, was a Republican poll watcher in Detroit, and singed a sworn affidavit used by the Trump campaign in a since withdrawn lawsuit alleging errors and wrongdoing in ballot tabulation

Shinkle's wife, Linda, was a Republican poll watcher in Detroit, and singed a sworn affidavit used by the Trump campaign in a since withdrawn lawsuit alleging errors and wrongdoing in ballot tabulation

Shinkle’s wife, Linda, was a Republican poll watcher in Detroit, and singed a sworn affidavit used by the Trump campaign in a since withdrawn lawsuit alleging errors and wrongdoing in ballot tabulation

Usually signing off to certify the presidential election winner in a specific state is a routine event – but as is par for the course in 2020, not this year. 

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, Van Langevelde’s boss, flew to Washington, D.C. Friday with six other GOP lawmakers to meet with Trump and members of his team Friday. He was also spotted enjoying drinks at Trump hotel just a few blocks from the White House over the weekend.

Following the meeting, Chatfield and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, both Republicans, said they have not been ‘made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.’

‘There was this outrage that the president was going to ask us to break the law, he was going to ask us to interfere, and that just simply didn’t happen,’ Chatfield told Fox News when describing the meeting.

Michigan’s elections agency has already recommended that the board certify the presidential election results, which shows Biden with a 2.8 per cent margin of victory.

The Republican National Committee and the Michigan Republican Party, however, are urging the board to adjourn for 14 days to instead investigate alleged irregularities in Wayne County – the state’s largest area, which emcompasses Detroit.

Chair of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel, who is a Michigan resident, and Laura Cox, chair of the Michigan Republican Party, wrote the board Saturday asking it to delay certification for another two weeks as it awaits results of an audit.

They cited ‘procedural and accounting irregularities’ like discrepancies between the number of people recorded casting ballots at Detroit precincts and the actual number of ballots counted.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says post-election audits are in the works, including in Wayne County even though Michigan law states such audits can only be conducted after results are certified.

The group reportedly stayed at the hotel drinking until midnight

The group reportedly stayed at the hotel drinking until midnight

The group reportedly stayed at the hotel drinking until midnight

The celebratory drinks came hours after Chatfield and Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey met with Trump as part of the president's move to try to overturn Joe Biden's popular vote win in Michigan

The celebratory drinks came hours after Chatfield and Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey met with Trump as part of the president's move to try to overturn Joe Biden's popular vote win in Michigan

The celebratory drinks came hours after Chatfield and Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey met with Trump as part of the president’s move to try to overturn Joe Biden’s popular vote win in Michigan

Chatfield said that if the Board of State Canvassers does not confirm the results and the Michigan Supreme Court does not order it to do so there will be a ‘constitutional crisis.’

But the Michigan House speaker, among other Republicans, have vowed not to go against the voters or undermine their will.

The new request to delay certification comes after a two-week period where Michigan double-checked ballots in all 83 counties – and found some expected inaccuracies and irregularities that happen in most elections. The errors were corrected.

During such a partisan time in American history, experts are questioning whether a four-person split panel is still a realistic way to go about certifying election results as a potential deadlock ensues. Some claim there needs to be some sort of built-in tiebreaker like in other states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

TRUMP’S POSSIBLE ROADMAP TO KEEPING THE WHITE HOUSE

Donald Trump does have a precarious – and politically explosive – path to keeping the White House. To do it he needs to get Joe Biden’s wins in a series of states set aside. 

With his claim that the Supreme Court would do that looking to have evaporated, instead he has to use the procedures of the Electoral College to turn it round. 

And he needs to do it in a lot of states: if Georgia and Arizona stay on track for Joe Biden, he will have 306 votes, far above the 270 needed. Trump appears to be taking legal action, or intending to, in six states: Pennsylvania, with 20 Electoral College votes; Georgia, with 16; Michigan with 16; Arizona with 11; Wisconsin with 10; and Nevada with six.

He needs to get at least any two of the larger three states plus one more state to go Republican to get Biden under 270. 

Here is how he might manage it: 

STEP ONE: GET COURTS TO PUT HOLDS ON CERTIFYING THE VOTE IN TARGET STATES 

The vote is not official until it is ‘certified’ – that is officially declared valid – which happens later in November. Georgia certifies on November 20, and Nevada and Wisconsin are last on December 1. 

Trump is already trying to get certification put on hold in Pennsylvania and Michigan, claiming large-scale irregularities.  That briefly appeared to succeed in Wayne County, MI, on Tuesday 17 when the Republicans on the bipartisan board of canvassers refused to certify – but only for a few hours before backing down. The next day they said they wanted to withdraw their signatures but it appeared to be too late under state laws; in the meantime Trump thanked them for their support. On November 23, the bid collapsed completely as the state certified its results, with one Republican member of its board of elections holding out but the other approving them.

OR: GET AN ‘AUDIT’ REQUESTED OR EVEN BETTER ORDERED – AND KEEP IT GOING PAST CERTIFICATION

Some Michigan Republican state senators have asked for an ‘audit’ claiming that allegations of irregularity need to be looked into.  This could be a useful tool if courts don’t come through: at the very least it would allow Republicans to say they don’t trust the certification because it has not been audited. But so far Trump has failed to get anyone to agree to that either.

STEP TWO: KEEP THE CERTIFICATION ON HOLD PAST DECEMBER 8

This is the ‘safe harbor’ deadline when all election disputes must be resolved. If they are not fully played out, whoever has a court ruling in their favor at this point keeps that result. So if Trump has certification on hold in target states, he has a chance to flip them to him starting now. 

STEP THREE: GET REPUBLICAN LEGISLATURES TO AGREE TO APPOINT THEIR OWN ELECTORS

You were not voting for the president directly: you were voting for electors to the electoral college. But the Constitution does not say that electors are winners of a popular vote. Instead the Constitution says: ‘Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.’ In the early 19th century, states rapidly moved to make the appointment of the electors the result of the popular vote; by 1832 South Carolina was the only holdout. It stuck with that approach until secession.

So Republicans in at least three and possibly more states would have to decide that because the results are not certified – or because they claim they don’t trust the certification because of an audit or the lack of one – that they can take back control for themselves. They would argue that because the results aren’t certified or trustworthy, it’s up to them to work out the will of the people.

Then – undoubtedly in the face of huge public protest – they would appoint Republicans who will vote for Trump.  

This has happened in recent history: in 1960 Hawaii had disputed elections and sent two slates of electors. 

STEP FOUR: SWEAT IT OUT WHEN GOVERNORS APPOINT THEIR OWN ELECTORS

All three of the biggest target states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – have Republican legislatures and Democratic governors. So now the governors could simply appoint their own electors – voting for Biden – and say that their votes are what counts on January 6, when the Electoral College is counted and record in Washington D.C.

STEP FOUR: SURVIVE A SUPREME COURT CHALLENGE TO THE REPUBLICAN ELECTORS 

Such a dramatic change would go to the Supreme Court. It has never directly ruled whether states could do that: in 2000, three of the five justices who gave the election to Bush over Gore said that state legislatures had complete control – but that is not a precedent. Now Trump’s fate would be in the hands of nine justices, three of whom he appointed and one of whom – Clarence Thomas – said that legislatures are in charge.  

Democrats would of course argue that the governors’ electors are the right ones, and a titanic battle would play out. If Trump wins – again in the face of likely huge public protest – he is on to the final stage. 

STEP FIVE: HOPE THAT THE PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN SLATES DON’T GO FAITHLESS

If Pennsylvania is one of the states to ignore the popular vote, Trump needs its 20 Republican electors to stick to the plan – but the state allows faithless electors. So all, or even some, could make a difference in an already mathematically fraught bid to keep the presidency. But assuming he has enough votes not going to Biden, it is on to Washington D.C.

STEP FIVE:  MAKE IT TO JANUARY 6 

This is D-day for the plan: The newly-sworn in Congress meets to count the Electoral College votes. The vice-president, Mike Pence, presides, over a joint session. Normally the ‘certificates’ showing how each state voted are opened in front of the vice-president, the count is recorded and with a bang of the gavel, the electoral college winner is officially declared.

Now Trump needs Republicans in the House and Senate to work together. A member of the House and a senator can jointly object to a state’s certificate when it is opened. The last time this happened was in 1877, which caused a months-long crisis, ended by compromise and followed by the Electoral Count Act of 1887. 

This time the 1887 rules come into play. If there is an objection, they split into the House and Senate and there are two hours for debate. This has only happened once, in 2005, when a tiny number of Democrats objected to Ohio’s vote count. But it was voted down overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate. 

And finally, the vote count is in alphabetical order, so Arizona will be the first battleground state where all this could be tested. 

STEP SIX: MAKE SURE THE RULES ARE IN YOUR FAVOR

As the Trump ships enters uncharted waters, one issue is unresolved: how do you work out what a majority of the Electoral College is? That seems simple but it might not be. If the House and the Senate come to different conclusions on a state with rival slates of electors, then the question is what happens next. 

The most likely answer is that they are simply removed from Biden’s total but not added to Trump. But does that mean the states still count in the Electoral College? The 1887 law is not clear: it seems to suggest both options are available, so Congress might have to try to decide – or Pence as president of the joint session could rule.

If Congress goes for the shrinking college, that favors Biden unless Trump has Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – all the states being targeted by Trump. But if it stays at 538, then Biden could well lose without Trump actually winning: once it falls below 270, there is no majority and therefore it is up to the House to decide.

STEP SEVEN: KEEP MITT ROMNEY, SUSAN COLLINS AND LISA MURKOWSKI ON TRUMP’S SIDE (AND HOPE PENCE CAN VOTE)

If Trump is to win, he has to have the Republicans in the Senate vote for Arizona’s Republican slates as the first order of business. 

This is where the Georgia Senate race comes into play. 

If the Georgia runoffs are decided and Democrats take both seats, Pence would have to tie break in Trump’s favor – if that is allowed. The rules say he is president of the joint session. But they are unclear on whether he retains his tie-break power as president of the Senate. The two roles are not identical and the 1887 law appears to give him a passive, rather than active, role in the session – more like the chief justice presiding over Trump’s impeachment trial than a regular Senate session.

But if Republicans get one or both Georgia seats, the Senate will be 51-49 or 52-48, which means that any rebellion by Republicans is extremely dangerous. Assuming that Pence has a tie-break, it would take only two or three rebels to end Trump’s run. There are three obvious candidates: Mitt Romney voted to impeach him, Susan Collins owes him nothing after he refused to campaign for her, and he has called for Lisa Murkowski to be primaried. 

STEP EIGHT: WATCH A DEBATE WHICH HAS NO PRECEDENT

The 1887 law sets some ground rules for how the House and the Senate debate which slate of electors are valid. They have to decide what the true vote was at the safe harbor deadline – back on December 8 – and which slate of electors were appointed in line with state law. So the debate should – in theory – not be partisan but a determination of which side is valid. In principle, that could mean different outcomes for different states. But assuming that  a Arizona goes Trump’s way in the Senate and Biden’s way in the House, that state is tied – and then it’s on to a new constitutional crisis. 

STEP NINE: NOW IT’S GETTING REALLY MESSY – COULD THERE BE TWO PRESIDENTS

The law says that Congress can’t move on to the next state until debate is resolved over the one in question. But it also says that the meeting cannot be dissolved until all states are decided.

So the whole proceeding could be deadlocked at Arizona. And as long as it remains deadlocked, there is a looming deadline of January 20 – at which point Pence and Trump are out of office anyway. In that scenario, Nancy Pelosi becomes president automatically at noon. 

However, Pence could break the deadlock on Arizona by ruling that the votes are not to be counted at all, and debate can resume on the next item.

Democrats clearly would not agree. In that scenario, it is impossible to say what would happen. They could walk out, say the debate is not resolved – which it would not be – and therefore Pelosi would be sworn in on January 20.

But Pence can then rule that the debate in fact is going on even without Democrats, run through the votes with only Republicans and come up with a Trump victory: meaning two rival presidents both claiming they are in charge. Both can be sworn in at noon on January 20, with only one with their personal items in the White House.

What happens then is impossible to say: the Supreme Court could try to rule between them, or the military might have to decide who is commander-in- chief. 

THE OTHER STEP NINE: KEEP DEBATING (ALTHOUGH WHY WOULD DEMOCRATS WANT TO? 

Of course Democrats could stick with the debate and keep going, debating each state as they go along. 

If Trump overturns six states’ votes, it is inevitable that Democrats lose, regardless of the rules. If he has fewer states, he will want the 538 figure kept in play to get Biden into a minority. This highly unlikely step gets to neither having a majority in the Electoral College.

STEP NINE: THE HOUSE DECIDES – TRUMP HAS DONE IT

If Trump and Biden end up here this is safer ground: the House has decided before. It does not vote under normal rules. Instead each state delegation gets one vote and has to decide among the delegation how to allot it. 

So going by current House results, 27 states have Republican majorities, and all Trump has to do it get a simple majority of them. Trump has triumphed – but it is an exhaustingly long process to get back on the platform on January 20 to be sworn in. 

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Europe coronavirus: Leaders outline Christmas lockdown measures

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europe coronavirus leaders outline christmas lockdown measures

European leaders have begun outlining their plans for Christmas under coronavirus – with people warned not to hug or kiss, curfews placed on New Year’s celebrations and rule-breakers told to expect a visit from the police. 

In Germany, groups of 10 will be allowed to meet starting December 23 – but the country will be plunged into a strict lockdown starting December 1 to prepare, with firework displays banned over New Year. 

Meanwhile Italians have been warned to expect a ‘sober’ holiday season without ‘hugging, kissing or parties’ but have been told that gift-giving will still be allowed. 

While Belgium has yet to outline its rules for the festive period, interior minister Annelies Verlinden warned this week that police will be ‘knocking on doors’ to enforce the law – saying they would be on the lookout for ‘noise pollution, large groups of people, and many cars in front of doors.’

In Spain, a draft proposal leaked to the press suggests that Christmas gatherings will be limited to a maximum of six people while a 1am curfew will be in place on New Year’s Eve. 

Meanwhile Emmanuel Macron is expected to address the French tonight to outline his plans going into the New Year, but has already warned that people cannot expect life to return to normal until 2021 at the earliest. 

Ministers in Ireland and the UK are also meeting this week to hammer out their festive plans in the hopes that strict lockdown measures currently in place can be eased slightly over the holiday season. 

Cases of coronavirus have started falling across Europe after lockdowns were introduced to head off a second wave - with leaders now laying out their plans for the festive period and warning that restrictions will still be in place

Cases of coronavirus have started falling across Europe after lockdowns were introduced to head off a second wave - with leaders now laying out their plans for the festive period and warning that restrictions will still be in place

Cases of coronavirus have started falling across Europe after lockdowns were introduced to head off a second wave – with leaders now laying out their plans for the festive period and warning that restrictions will still be in place

While cases have begun falling, deaths - which typically lag behind - are still rising in many places, forcing leaders to keep strict lockdown measures in place

While cases have begun falling, deaths - which typically lag behind - are still rising in many places, forcing leaders to keep strict lockdown measures in place

While cases have begun falling, deaths – which typically lag behind – are still rising in many places, forcing leaders to keep strict lockdown measures in place

But Sweden – caught on the back-foot by an unexpected rise in Covid cases – is not expected to announce its Christmas curbs until next month. 

The previously lockdown-free country has limited gatherings to eight people and banned sales of alcohol after 10pm, amid warnings that more measures might be needed.

Europe has been the worst-hit continent amid the second wave of coronavirus, with infections growing faster within its borders than anywhere else, according to WHO data.

The continent has now suffered a total of 15million cases and more than 840,000 deaths, with 1.8million new cases diagnosed in the seven days to November 17 – the latest WHO data available.

While lockdowns have started to reverse that steep rise, the number of deaths – which typically lags behind cases – is continuing to grow faster than in any other region.

That has prompted the European Center for Disease Control to warn that lockdowns must be maintain over Christmas, or else risk a third wave of infection that will drive cases and deaths further up.

According to ECDC projections, lifting current restrictions on or around December 7 will cause virus cases to soar starting around Christmas Eve, and rising exponentially into the New Year.

Lifting the same set of restrictions on December 24 will delay the increase in cases until the first week of January, the ECDC said, but with a sharp rise still forecast afterwards.

The health body did not model the effects of putting in place partial lockdowns, since most countries have yet to finalise their measures. 

Here is what we know about how Christmas will look under Covid in each country as things stand… 

Germany

Regional leaders have agreed a joint approach to Christmas that will see the country plunged into tougher lockdown measures from December 1, in the hope of reducing cases as much as possible before the rules are relaxed over the festive period.

Starting December 1 and lasting until December 23, the plans say that gatherings will be limited to a maximum of five people from just two different households, with children under 14 exempt.

In the week before Christmas, people are being encouraged to go into seven-day isolation to ensure they are virus-free before meeting relatives. Employers in some states are being offered incentives to let workers stay at home. 

Germany will allow group of up to ten people to meet over Christmas, but the country will be plunged into a strict coroanvirus lockdown before then to reduce cases as much as possible (pictured, Christmas lights in Berlin)

Germany will allow group of up to ten people to meet over Christmas, but the country will be plunged into a strict coroanvirus lockdown before then to reduce cases as much as possible (pictured, Christmas lights in Berlin)

Germany will allow group of up to ten people to meet over Christmas, but the country will be plunged into a strict coroanvirus lockdown before then to reduce cases as much as possible (pictured, Christmas lights in Berlin)

Then, from December 23 until January 1, rules will be eased to allow up to ten people to mix from an unlimited number of households.  

However, large fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve are expected to be banned while restrictions will also be placed on church services to stop them becoming super-spreader events.

The new measures also foresee an extension of closures for restaurants, bars and cultural venues. 

Italy 

Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte has yet to outline his plans for the festive period, but has repeatedly warned of ‘sober’ celebrations this year – with ‘parties, dinners, kisses and hugs’ all discouraged.

Conte reassured Italians on Monday that gift-giving will still be permitted, and that non-essential shops will be open during December so that people can buy for each-other, with hours extended to avoid large crowds.

He also ruled out strict enforcement of coronavirus rules over the holidays, instead calling on Italians to exercise ‘common sense’ when it comes to their plans.

Italians have been warned to expect a 'sober' Christmas without 'hugging, kissing or parties' as the government plans what measures to put in place over the holidays (pictured, Christmas lights in Milan)

Italians have been warned to expect a 'sober' Christmas without 'hugging, kissing or parties' as the government plans what measures to put in place over the holidays (pictured, Christmas lights in Milan)

Italians have been warned to expect a ‘sober’ Christmas without ‘hugging, kissing or parties’ as the government plans what measures to put in place over the holidays (pictured, Christmas lights in Milan)

‘A free and democratic state cannot enter homes and say how many people sit at the table,’ he said.

Minister for Regional Affairs Francesco Boccia added that it is ‘inappropriate’ to be talking about Christmas dinners while up to 700 Italians are dying every day.

He also refused to say whether ski slopes – a traditional Christmas activity for many Italians – will be reopened in time for the festive period, ruling out and change to current regulations until at least December 3. 

Boccia also hinted that travel between regions in Italy is unlikely to be allowed as it was over the summer, before virus cases soared.

Spain 

A draft proposal leaked to the Spanish press suggests that Christmas gatherings could be limited to a maximum of six people from different households – but might be limited to just one household only.

Nighttime curfews should also be in place on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the leaked document suggests, with the potential for a 1am cut-off.

Spanish leaders are considering plans to ban households from mixing on Christmas Day and putting in place a 1am curfew on New Year's Eve in an attempt to crub cases of the virus (pictured, Christmas lights in Madrid)

Spanish leaders are considering plans to ban households from mixing on Christmas Day and putting in place a 1am curfew on New Year's Eve in an attempt to crub cases of the virus (pictured, Christmas lights in Madrid)

Spanish leaders are considering plans to ban households from mixing on Christmas Day and putting in place a 1am curfew on New Year’s Eve in an attempt to crub cases of the virus (pictured, Christmas lights in Madrid)

People will also be advised to wear masks, wash their hands regularly, socially distance, meet outdoors if possible and ventilate any indoor spaces, El Pais reported.

No exemptions will be granted for religious ceremonies, which must be carried out under whatever local rules already apply, the document adds.

University students should be allowed home for the holiday period but should self-isolate before their journey to ensure they are virus free. In general, holiday travel should be allowed but with proper precautions taken.

France

Emmanuel Macron will address France at 8pm local time today to announce his road map out of the strict lockdown the country is currently in, back to relative normality which is expected by the Spring.

The ‘deconfinement’ is expected to take place in three phases – the first of which will begin on December 1 and last until the Christmas period, the second of which will be in place over the holidays, and the third of which will begin on January 1.

Non-essential shops are expected to be allowed to open under the first phase so people can buy holiday gifts, but most other measures – including limits on how far people can travel from their homes – are expected to remain in place in order to keep virus cases down before the holiday period itself.

Emmanuel Macron will give a national address to the French this evening, promising to lay out a 'clear path' between the country's strict lockdown and eventual freedom - but has warned curbs will be in place over Christmas

Emmanuel Macron will give a national address to the French this evening, promising to lay out a 'clear path' between the country's strict lockdown and eventual freedom - but has warned curbs will be in place over Christmas

Emmanuel Macron will give a national address to the French this evening, promising to lay out a ‘clear path’ between the country’s strict lockdown and eventual freedom – but has warned curbs will be in place over Christmas

Macron is then expected to announce a relaxation of the rules on socialising with others over the Christmas period, though it is unclear what limits will be placed on gatherings.

Another big question mark remains over festive travel, with Minister for Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari saying on Friday last week that it is still ‘too early’ for people to be booking tickets for the holidays.

Macron has been careful to dampen expectations ahead of his announcement, warning that life will not go back to normal until the Spring and that the pandemic remains ‘unpredictable’.

Speaking ahead of the address, he said only: ‘Nothing is worse than uncertainty and the impression of an endless gloom. We need consistency, clarity, a course. Knowing together where we are going and how to get there.’

Belgium

The country, which has the highest number of coronavirus deaths relative to its population of any nation, has yet to outline lockdown measures over the festive period.

But interior minister Annelies Verlinden warned at the weekend that police will be knocking on doors to check that people are complying with the rules.

Belgium has yet to set out its festive lockdown plans, but interior minister Annelies Verlinden has warned that police with have powers to knock on front doors of suspected ruled-breakers (pictured, the Christmas tree in Brussels)

Belgium has yet to set out its festive lockdown plans, but interior minister Annelies Verlinden has warned that police with have powers to knock on front doors of suspected ruled-breakers (pictured, the Christmas tree in Brussels)

Belgium has yet to set out its festive lockdown plans, but interior minister Annelies Verlinden has warned that police with have powers to knock on front doors of suspected ruled-breakers (pictured, the Christmas tree in Brussels)

Asked what officers would be looking out for, she said: ‘Noise pollution, large groups of people in the same environment, many cars in front of the door.’

Anyone breaching the rules can expect to be fined, she added, in line with the current measures. 

Belgium went into a strict coronavirus lockdown in November after emerging as an epicentre of infection in Europe, with all non-essential retail forced to close, workers forced to stay at home, and family visits banned.

Ministers have warned the measures will remain in place until at least December 13, with consultations underway over the Christmas period. 

Ireland 

The country was plunged into a national circuit-breaker lockdown in November, which is due to be relaxed in December after cases fell sharply.

While ministers are still in discussion about what the new measures will be, it seems likely that non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen for Christmas shopping – along with gyms, hairdressers and salons.

Ireland is expected to relax rules around household mixing and travel across the country during the festive period, but has warned those coming from overseas they may not be allowed in (pictured, Christmas lights in Dublin)

Ireland is expected to relax rules around household mixing and travel across the country during the festive period, but has warned those coming from overseas they may not be allowed in (pictured, Christmas lights in Dublin)

Ireland is expected to relax rules around household mixing and travel across the country during the festive period, but has warned those coming from overseas they may not be allowed in (pictured, Christmas lights in Dublin)

Restaurants and pubs that serve food are likely to be allowed to reopen before Christmas, allowing people to celebrate the festive season with others.

It is also thought that rules on meeting indoors and travel between counties will also be relaxed over the festive period, with rules due to be announced at a later date, the Irish Times reports.

However, it is unlikely that pubs serving mainly drinks will be allowed to reopen over Christmas or the New Year, while Irish people living abroad have been warned they will likely not be allowed to return home.

Sweden

Lockdown-free Sweden, whose virus expert previously bragged that the country would experience a mild second wave thanks to natural immunity built up in the first wave, is now battling one of the worst outbreaks in Europe.

Caught on the back foot, ministers have rushed to announce nationwide measures of the kind they previously shunned – including a ban on gatherings of more than eight and a ban on alcohol sales after 10pm.

Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell will announce rules for Sweden next month, but has already warned that travel between regions might not be permitted and gatherings should remain small

Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell will announce rules for Sweden next month, but has already warned that travel between regions might not be permitted and gatherings should remain small

Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell will announce rules for Sweden next month, but has already warned that travel between regions might not be permitted and gatherings should remain small

Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist, has already warned that restrictions will likely be in place over Christmas, but will not be announced until next month while current measures are allowed to take effect.

He is expected to announce nationwide guidance on December 13, warning that travel between different regions is likely to be affected and that Swedes should not plan long trips over the winter period.

While the Swedish government has no powers to ban gatherings of any size in private homes, Tegnell is expected to advise people to celebrate with intimate gatherings – having suggested he will do so himself.

UK 

Boris Johnson is meeting with leaders in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland this week to hammer out a joint approach to Christmas after the regional governments previously went their own ways on Covid lockdowns.

It is hoped this means that people to travel cross-country to be with loved ones over the festive period, starting on December 23 and ending December 27.

Mr Johnson is thought to be pushing a plan under which three households will be allowed to meet indoors during the five-day Christmas break, provided they do not meet with anyone else.

Up to three households are expected to be allowed to mix between December 23 and 27 in the UK, with travel permitted across the country for families to unite (pictured, a shopper in London)

Up to three households are expected to be allowed to mix between December 23 and 27 in the UK, with travel permitted across the country for families to unite (pictured, a shopper in London)

Up to three households are expected to be allowed to mix between December 23 and 27 in the UK, with travel permitted across the country for families to unite (pictured, a shopper in London)

However, he has also urged people to show restraint, telling people during a national address on Monday night that ’tis the season to be jolly careful, especially around older relatives’.

Mr Johnson has already announced that England will emerge from a nationwide lockdown into a three-tier system of restrictions from December 2, with non-essential retail allowed to open under all tiers.

Pubs in some areas will also be allowed to reopen but must restrict themselves to table service, which socialising indoors will be largely banned.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Australians among young boys a sick British paedophile who convinced to send him nude photos

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australians among young boys a sick british paedophile who convinced to send him nude photos
David Wilson (pictured), 36, persuaded victims aged four to 14 to give him the material before blackmailing them into sending more extreme videos - including them abusing family or friends.

David Wilson (pictured), 36, persuaded victims aged four to 14 to give him the material before blackmailing them into sending more extreme videos - including them abusing family or friends.

David Wilson (pictured), 36, persuaded victims aged four to 14 to give him the material before blackmailing them into sending more extreme videos – including them abusing family or friends.

A British man who posed as a teenage girl to convince boys to send him nude photos targeted Australian children among his victims.

David Wilson, 36, persuaded victims aged four to 14 to give him the material before blackmailing them into sending more extreme videos – including them abusing family or friends.

He admitted 96 offences against 51 boys at Ipswich Crown Court, in England’s south-east, on Tuesday. 

Wilson used unregistered phones to send sexual images of young women from the internet in exchange for the boys sending him videos and images of themselves.

His victims lived in Australia, the UK and America – with police fearing he may have contacted 5,000 children, with as many as 500 having sent him images.

Facebook identified 20 accounts of boys aged 12 to 15 who had sent images of themselves to an account seemingly belonging to a 13-year-old girl in 2017.  

The information was forwarded to the UK’s National Crime Agency for investigation by the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The NCA uncovered key evidence against Wilson, including IP addresses used to commit the offences resolved to his house and CCTV of him buying credit for a phone lined to one of the accounts. 

His victims lived in Australia, the UK and America - with police fearing he may have contacted 5,000 children, with as many as 500 having sent him images (pictured, Wilson's arrest in 2017)

His victims lived in Australia, the UK and America - with police fearing he may have contacted 5,000 children, with as many as 500 having sent him images (pictured, Wilson's arrest in 2017)

His victims lived in Australia, the UK and America – with police fearing he may have contacted 5,000 children, with as many as 500 having sent him images (pictured, Wilson’s arrest in 2017)

Facebook identified 20 accounts of boys aged 12 to 15 who had sent images of themselves to an account seemingly belonging to a 13-year-old girl in 2017 (pictured, NCA tweets)

Facebook identified 20 accounts of boys aged 12 to 15 who had sent images of themselves to an account seemingly belonging to a 13-year-old girl in 2017 (pictured, NCA tweets)

Facebook identified 20 accounts of boys aged 12 to 15 who had sent images of themselves to an account seemingly belonging to a 13-year-old girl in 2017 (pictured, NCA tweets)

When he was arrested in August 2017 the phone used to commit some of the offences was hidden in Wilson’s bedroom.

The NCA uncovered a web of false social media identities he used to commit offences and received dozens more referrals from NCMEC between November 2017 and January 2018. 

Tony Cooke, from the NCA, paid tribute to the victims who were brave enough to come forward to help the organisation stop Wilson.

Wilson will be sentenced on January 12, 2021. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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