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Jan. 6 nearly ‘spark that started a new Civil War,’ ex-Oath Keepers member testifies

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WASHINGTON — Shortly after an “unhinged” White House meeting with his motliest unofficial advisers, Donald Trump invited his Twitter followers to what would become the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill — a violent, deadly clash that one extremist leader had hoped would spark a “new Civil War.”

Tuesday’s hearing of the congressional committee investigating the riots once again lived up to the promise of the previous six, adding key brush strokes to a portrait of a chaotic, collapsing Oval Office that was all too aware of the dangers posed by its commander-in-chief.

It told the story of an unscheduled, volatile meeting Dec. 18, 2020, between Trump and some of the fringe characters who by then had become the standard-bearers of his bid to stay in power: former campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, retired general Michael Flynn and longtime confidante Rudy Giuliani.

There was a new face, too, as it turns out: Patrick Byrne, the former chief executive officer of Overstock.com, an online discount retailer.

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“The first thing I did when I walked in was I looked at him and said, ‘Who are you?’” said White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who according to Powell’s testimony had “set a new land speed record” racing to break up the meeting.

“I don’t think any of these people were providing the president with good advice, so I didn’t understand how they had gotten in.”

He quickly learned Powell had come armed with a draft executive order that would have made her a special counsel with the power to order the Department of Defense to seize the voting machines that were central to her bogus claims of election fraud — and that the president had at that point already agreed to do so.

By that point, 60 of the 61 cases Giuliani and Powell had filed in key states in an effort to convince the courts to block the electoral voting process had been summarily rejected for a lack of evidence. Trump was rapidly running out of options.

“To have the federal government seize voting machines? It’s a terrible idea,” Cipollone said in his own recorded testimony.

“That’s not how we do things in the United States. There’s no legal authority to do that, and there is a way to contest elections that happens all the time.”

One of the primary take-aways from the testimony of Cipollone and others Tuesday was that virtually everyone with a White House credential and the president’s ear was telling him that with the Electoral College having voted, it was time to concede defeat.

The meeting continued for hours, with various White House officials — Cipollone, lawyer Eric Herschmann, presidential counsellor Derek Lyons — getting into escalatingly profane shouting matches with the outsiders that at times nearly dissolved into physical fighting. A text message from White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson called it “unhinged.”

It broke up in the early hours of Dec. 19, shortly before Trump issued what’s now arguably his most infamous tweet: an invitation to his supporters to take part in a protest in D.C. on Jan. 6, the very day a joint session of Congress was to convene to certify Joe Biden’s election win.

“Be there, will be wild,” Trump tweeted.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two rogue Republicans on the committee, capped the hearing with a bombshell: that Trump himself had tried unsuccessfully to contact a witness who has yet to be called to testify.

“This committee has supplied that information to the Department of Justice,” Cheney said. “Let me say one more time, we will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously.”

Testifying in person Tuesday was Stephen Ayres, a former Trump supporter who attended the rally, entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 and ultimately pleaded guilty to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a federal building.

Ayres said he had only been planning to listen to Trump’s speech at the Ellipse outside the White House and had no plans to go to the Capitol. But that changed after he heard what the president had to say.

“The president, you know, he got everybody riled up, told everybody to head on down (to the Capitol),” Ayres testified. “So we basically, we just followed along with what he said.”

In that speech, Trump ad libbed a number of references to Vice-President Mike Pence and marching to the Capitol, said Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who shared Tuesday’s questioning duties with Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin.

He also said he would march with the protesters — something the committee demonstrated was meant to sound spontaneous, but was actually part of his plan all along, according to testimony.

“I think everybody thought he was gonna be coming down,” Ayre said. “He said in his speech, you know, kind of like he’s going be there with us, and I believed it.”

It all points directly to what is widely considered to be the committee’s ultimate goal: demonstrating Trump’s own liability and responsibility for what happened on Capitol Hill following the speech.

Sitting next to Ayres was Jason Van Tatenhove, a former freelance journalist who signed on with the far-right paramilitary group the Oath Keepers as a national spokesman back in 2014. Both the Oath Keepers and the extremist Proud Boys were out in force on Jan. 6.

Van Tatenhove described Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes as the driving force behind a group he described as a “violent militia,” one that he said was drifting further towards white nationalism and racism in the time he was inside their fold.

The events of Jan. 6, he said, comprised precisely what Rhodes and his acolytes had been waiting for: the chance to circumvent the rule of law and advance an extremist agenda through deceit, intimidation and violence.

“They saw opportunity, in my opinion, to become a powerful paramilitary force,” Van Tatenhove said.

“What it was going to be was an armed revolution … This could have been the spark that started a new Civil War, and no one would have won there. That would have been good for no one.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2022.

 

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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India tells Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats: official

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OTTAWA –

Canada needs diplomats in India to help navigate the “extremely challenging” tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in response to demands that Ottawa repatriate dozens of its envoys.

India reportedly wants 41 of 62 Canadian diplomats out of the country by early next week — a striking, if largely anticipated, deepening of the rift that erupted last month following Trudeau’s explosive allegations in the House of Commons.

The prime minister bluntly spoke of “credible” intelligence linking the Indian government to the shooting death in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader India has long assailed as a terrorist.

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The demand, first reported by the Financial Times, comes less than two weeks after the Indian government first called on Canada to establish “parity in strength and rank equivalence in our diplomatic presence.”

Canada has a much larger diplomatic corps in India, owing in part to the fact it’s a country of 1.4 billion people, compared to 40 million in Canada — about 1.3 million of whom are of Indian origin.

Trudeau would not confirm the reports Tuesday, nor did he sound inclined to acquiesce to India’s request.

“Obviously, we’re going through an extremely challenging time with India right now,” Trudeau said on his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.

“That’s why it’s so important for us to have diplomats on the ground, working with the Indian government, there to support Canadians and Canadian families.”

Canada, he continued, is “taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the government of India.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said largely the same thing.

“In moments of tension, because indeed there are tensions between both our governments, more than ever it’s important that diplomats be on the ground,” Joly said.

“That’s why we believe in the importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India. That being said, we are in ongoing conversations with the Indian government.”

During Tuesday’s daily briefing at the State Department, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel was at pains to avoid exacerbating tensions any further.

“We are — and continue to be — deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau and we remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners,” Patel said, a message the U.S. has had on repeat for weeks.

“It’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice. We also have … publicly and privately urged the Indian government to co-operate in the Canadian investigation and co-operate in those efforts.”

Patel also demurred on the potential impact of an escalating tit-for-tat exchange of diplomatic staff on the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a key element of U.S. efforts to mitigate China’s growing geopolitical influence.

“I certainly don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” he said. “As it relates to our Indo-Pacific strategy and the focus that we continue to place on the region, that effort and that line of work is going to continue.”

David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has already confirmed that the allegations were buttressed in part on intelligence gathered by a key ally from the Five Eyes security alliance, which includes the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, along with Canada.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, confirmed last week that the subject came up in his meetings in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser.

Trudeau’s allegation “was not consistent with our policy,” Jaishankar told a panel discussion Friday hosted by the Hudson Institute.

“If his government had anything relevant and specific they would like us to look into, we were open to looking at it. That’s where that conversation is at this point of time.”

Jaishankar went on to note that the issue of Sikh separatists living in Canada had long been “an issue of great friction,” notably after the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.

“In the last few years, it has come back very much into play, because of what we consider to be a very permissive Canadian attitude towards terrorists, extremists, people who openly advocate violence,” Jaishankar said.

“They have been given operating space in Canada because of the compulsions of Canadian politics.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.

With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa.

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In the news today: Regimental funeral today for B.C. Mountie, NDP victory in Manitoba – National Post

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All Flesh Redux

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Director’s Notes, Stacey Christodoulou

MONTREAL October, 2023 – Combining polyphonic singing, dance, and theatre, All Flesh REDUX is a poetic journey through time and space. Part sing-a-long, Dadaist performance piece as well as a love letter to our planet, the work enfolds the public in an intimate theatre-in-the-round setting where humour, music, storytelling and movement reign. Bringing together the worlds of medieval composers Guillaume de MachautHildegard von Bingen and modern composer John Cage, the company’s creation contemplates the unknowable past and the unimaginable future, and asks what acts of faith are possible in an uncertain world. October 13-22, seating is limited.

Director Stacey Christodoulou: “We could never imagine that the themes we spoke about in 2019 would become reality. In a certain way the show was prophetic. However, I believe that the message of creating beauty as a form of resistance is even more important now. The weaving of medieval song, contemporary dance and text continues our company’s interdisciplinary approach and reminds us that throughout history people have responded to turmoil with innovation and art.”

With: ENSEMBLE ALKEMIA (Jean-François Daignault, Dorothéa Ventura and Leah Weitzner), Stéphanie Fromentin, Erin Lindsay, Vanessa Schmit-Craan, Lael  Stellick

Musical direction by Jean-François Daignault; scenograpy by Amy Keith; sound by Debbie Doe; costumes by Cathia Pagotto; lighting by David Perreault Ninacs and technical stage coordination by Birdie Gregor.

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All Flesh REDUX

Studio Jean Valcourt du Conservatoire

4750, avenue Henri-Julien

Dates: Friday, Oct., 13, Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8pm; Sunday Oct. 14 at 3pm

Wednesday, October 18-Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8pm; Sunday, Oct. 22 at 3pm

Tickets/514 873-4032: $20, Students/Seniors: $15

Seating is limited

othertheatre.com/all-flesh-redux-en/

Website: othertheatre.com  Instagram: @othertheatremtl  Facebook: othertheatre

About THE OTHER THEATRE

Formed in 1991 by Artistic Director Stacey Christodoulou, The Other Theatre is devoted to contemporary creation. Working bilingually, their award-wining work has included adaptations, installations, theatre texts, and collectively written material performed in numerous venues in Montreal and abroad, including theatres, galleries, as well as a moving elevator.

Drawing inspiration from art forms other than theatre – dance, cinema, science, architecture, and the visual arts – the company presents evocative performances, grounded by thought-provoking texts.  From a creole Macbeth, to sci-fi with polyphonic singing, to the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, their original creations are thrilling and visually striking. They have also presented the work of International and Canadian writers, giving them their French-language premieres in Quebec. Exploring the large existential issues of the time, The Other Theatre aims to move audiences to greater emotional connection and reflection, bridging communities and languages to create a hybrid theatre that is reflective of the cultural richness of Montreal. They value and foster artistic exchange, both locally and internationally and share their artistic process in Canada, the US, Europe and Mexico, through mentorships, workshops and cultural mediation in local communities and schools.

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