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Charge filed against woman who called police on black birdwatcher

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Christian Cooper

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Christian Cooper filmed Amy Cooper after she refused to stop her dog running through woodland

A white woman in New York is facing a criminal charge for calling 911 on a black man after he asked her to put her dog on a lead in Central Park.

Amy Cooper, who was shown calling police in a viral video, is accused of filing a false report, punishable by up to one year in jail.

Ms Cooper lost her job and dog after the incident, and publicly apologised.

Video of the exchange shows Ms Cooper claiming that the black man, who was bird watching, threatened her.

Woman sacked after calling police on black man

The incident occurred on 25 May, the same day that unarmed African-American man George Floyd died in police custody, triggering weeks of national and global anti-racism protests.

“Today our office initiated a prosecution of Amy Cooper for falsely reporting an incident in the third degree,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Monday.

“We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable,” Mr Vance said. He also encouraged “anyone who has been the target of false reporting” to contact the district attorney’s office.

Christian Cooper, who is prominent in the New York bird watching community, filmed his encounter with Ms Cooper, 41, after he asked her to put her dog on a lead to keep it from scaring away birds. Mr Cooper, 57, said he offered the dog treats, as a way to convince Ms Cooper, who is not related to him, to contain her dog.

In response, Ms Cooper called emergency services. She told them: “I’m in the Ramble,” – a wooded area in Central Park – “there is a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet and he is recording me and threatening me and my dog,” as her tone rose in apparent distress.

“I am being threatened by a man in the Ramble, please send the cops immediately!” she said.

Ms Cooper’s actions were widely condemned as racist. She was fired by the investment firm where she managed an insurance portfolio. The pet adoption agency that gave her the dog seen in the video took it back after criticism that the way she held its collar seemed to strangle it.

She is due to appear before a judge on 14 October.

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‘Parler feels like a Trump rally’ — and MAGA world says that’s a problem

The MAGAfication problem is so bad that CEO and founder John Matze has openly begged progressive pundits to join the platform, offering a “progressive bounty” of $20,000 to any left-wing influencer with a following of 50,000 or more users on Twitter who makes an account. And with even establishment conservatives like Sens. Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney eschewing Parler for now, Trump supporters worry that Parler’s influencers will be preaching to a MAGA choir forever.

“The question is not pure engagement. The question is influence,” said Will Chamberlain, editor-in-chief of the populist magazine Human Events. “Twitter is interesting because there’s so many people, prominent people, that can be influenced. Parler is not that.”

Regardless, Parler is rapidly growing: In the past week alone, Parler’s user base has grown from 1 million to 1.5 million users, according to a CNBC interview with Matze. And given the number of conservative influencers on the site — as well as a robust presence of conservative outlets, which don’t have to worry about social media companies shutting off their traffic spigots — there is potential for the site to grow a decently sized conservative audience.

Adopters have found benefits to the Twitter alternative: It isn’t lousy with white nationalists, like the niche social media site Gab; it has a better user interface than the encrypted messaging service Telegraph; and its commitment to making both sides equally heard is heaven to the ears of people constantly worried that Big Tech, their so-called liberal nemesis, is about to deplatform them.

However, Parler’s user base is still dwarfed by Twitter, which has over 300 million active users, and Facebook, with 2.6 billion active users. Even Parler’s frequent surge in new users may not be indicative of sustained growth and relevance. Google+ — Google’s attempt to launch a Facebook competitor — similarly surged in users before flaming out quickly. And Parler had several unexpected technical hiccups during its initial launch, such as when Owens announced that she was joining in 2018 and swamped the companies’ servers with 40,000 new followers.

Moreover, conservative attempts to clone pre-existing internet behemoths — Conservapedia, Conservative Fact Check, the infinite attempts to make a Facebook clone — have rarely, if ever, produced an actual winner.

“Every time conservatives try to build the conservative MoveOn or the conservative YouTube or the conservative …. whatever, it never works,” said Matt Lewis, a Trump-critical conservative columnist at the Daily Beast. “This feels like an attempt to re-create the conservative version of Twitter. Maybe it will work out this time, but the track record isn’t good.”

But even if the site grows, the element Parler will find difficult to replicate is Twitter’s vast variety of communities, celebrities and influencers — particularly if they didn’t feel inclined to join what’s increasingly known as a MAGA platform.

Much of Twitter’s draw, after all, is seeing high-profile people from different ideological backgrounds go after each other. If, for instance, Donald Trump Jr. leaves Twitter for Parler, he won’t be able to get into a real-time social media war with progressive Twitter darling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Nor could Trump himself — the white whale of Parler, who has yet to join the site — direct his nearly 83 million followers to spam the account of a Hollywood celebrity or a Democrat politician who criticized him.

“Until those people start getting on, I think it’s going to be insular,” said Jack Posobiec, a MAGA personality, former Pizzagate proponent and a correspondent for the pro-Trump One America News Network. “And that’s OK. People do like to be able to feel safe. People kind of feel like they’re at a party right now. But the energy of Twitter comes from having different communities on it. And that energy isn’t there right now. Right now, Parler feels like a Trump rally.”

Chamberlain said Parler seems like an easy-out solution to what was ultimately conservatives’ biggest internet problem: their perceived censorship on the platforms with the biggest audiences.

“There are a lot of libertarian-leaning legislators who find that really appealing because they don’t like the idea of using government to regulate Big Tech,” he said. “They can say, ‘Oh, look at Parler. We don’t need to do anything, everybody should just move over to Parler.’”

For now, Parler is the hot new thing on the right, populated by a growing number of right-wing celebrities, right-wing fans and people who would like to troll both of these constituencies by creating fake accounts in their names. The trolls, Posobiec said, are “a weird sort of sign of a healthy online digital commons, because that’s sort of the sign that people from the other side are getting on.”

But unless real political and ideological opponents follow them off Twitter and go on Parler, the site will be little more than a perpetual Trump party where everyone can yammer all day about how Trump is the best, with no pushback.

“I would love to be able to leave for Parler,” Chamberlain said. “I would love to ignore Twitter, but my job isn’t just getting engagement. My job is influencing public conversation, the way I see it. And I need Twitter for that.”

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Never Trump Group Wants To Eliminate Republicans From The Senate

The Lincoln Project, a group of political retreads whose main mission is the downfall of President Trump, is actively trying to take out Senate Republicans with one notable exception.

The band of political misfits, lacking in both morals and any semblance of courage, are trying to hand the Senate majority to Democrats by taking out political ads against key GOP senators.

Steve Schmidt, a member of the group who “renounced” his membership in the Republican party in 2018 because of Trump, compared taking down the Republican party to burning an entire system to the ground.

“The analogy would be in the same way that fire purifies the forest, it needs to be burned to the ground and fundamentally repudiated,” said Schmidt. “Every one of them should be voted out of office, with the exception of Mitt Romney.”

RELATED: CNN Contributor Rick Wilson Gets Flattened By Domino’s Pizza After Complaint Involving Kayleigh McEnany

Liberals In Sheeps Clothing

Much like their muse Romney, the Lincoln Project is essentially composed of people who have no standing in a Trump-fueled America. An island of political misfit toys as it were.

But make no mistake, they are not Republicans in any way shape or form as they continue to profess, or as their media comrades continue to present them.

A true conservative Republican, regardless of their personal feelings toward the President, would still recognize him as the person who can implement their ideals and platforms.

The Lincoln Project is not guided by ideals or morals, they’re guided by the juvenile notion that Trump is a bully and as a group of people most likely locked in their own high school lockers growing up, they want revenge.

And by God, this is their moment to take down the biggest bully of them all.

RELATED: Biden Announces He Wants To ‘Transform’ America

Don’t Believe Us?

What else can you possibly call a group that is willing to abandon everything they’ve believed in for their entire career simply because the President is mean?

Joe Biden has suggested that he will support abortion “under any circumstance” as President. He supports open borders. The first thing that will happen after he is elected will be Ruth Bader Ginsburg retiring so he can name a new Justice to the Supreme Court, tilting that institution to the left for decades to come.

And people like George Conway and Rick Wilson, fueled by being made irrelevant in the era of Trump and an acute case of Napoleon complex, are going to support open borders, terminating babies, and a socialist/liberal agenda because he irks them?

Clowns – all of them.

Also, note how they use the same rhetoric – ‘burning down the system’ – as the liberal anarchists torching the streets as a means to protest that with which they do not agree.

They’re liberals. They’re Democrats. Perhaps not in name, but don’t let them tell you otherwise.

The group has announced significant ad buys against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Martha McSally (R-AZ).

President Trump has accurately referred to the Lincoln Project as “loser types” while his campaign has called them a “pathetic little club of irrelevant and faux ‘Republicans,’ who are upset that they’ve lost all of their power and influence inside the Republican Party.”

That’s putting it nicely.

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Republicans Want to Kill the $600 Weekly Bonus for Unemployed Workers

WASHNGTON — When Congress gets back from its extended Fourth of July break, it will be careening towards an economic cliff — and Republicans don’t seem eager to hit the brakes.

Senate Republicans have refused to work seriously on the next round of legislation to deal with the ongoing economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, insisting on waiting until they return on July 20 before negotiating the next COVID spending package.

That leaves Congress just days to negotiate another potentially massive spending package before some major programs run out. That includes the $600 per week in additional unemployment insurance that has helped keep millions of unemployed people out of poverty during the pandemic. It also leaves in limbo bailouts to state and local governments who have had gaping holes ripped in their budgets by the ongoing recession.

Many Republicans oppose the package in its current form because it pays out more money to some people than they were making in their jobs.

But some have signaled they’re onboard with a few aspects of Democrats’ HEROES Act, a massive $3 trillion proposal for the next round of coronavirus response that the House passed weeks ago. Republicans agree the federal government should boost funds for medical research, are open to some form of support for struggling state and local governments, and some have floated more direct payments to Americans to weather the economic crisis. But they also want liability protection to make it harder for people to sue businesses and individuals if they contract coronavirus.

“We have a lot of important features that all come to an end in July,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the White House’s point man on coronavirus negotiations, said during House testimony last Tuesday.

Lawmakers in both parties are operating on the assumption that they’ll pass something — it’d be a political and economic disaster for all involved if they don’t. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that he planned to wrap up the legislation before Congress heads out again on its annual August recess. But what Republicans are willing to actually pass remains a mystery.

Will Republicans end the $600-a-week unemployment benefit?

Senate Republicans have made it clear they have no plans to back a full renewal of the $600 per month across-the-board boost in unemployment, arguing that it’s slowing economic recovery by disincentivizing people from returning to work.

“Unemployment is extremely important and we need to make sure for those who are not able to recover their jobs, unemployment is adequate. That is a different issue from whether we ought to be able to pay people a bonus not to go back to work,” McConnell said Tuesday. “So I think that was a mistake. And we’re hearing it all over the country, that it has made it harder actually to get people back to work. But to have the base protections of unemployment insurance is extremely important and should be continued.”

McConnell didn’t make clear whether he backed some alternate or smaller federal boost to unemployment, or just wanted state unemployment insurance programs to handle it themselves. It remains unclear at this point what if any unemployment benefit expansion Republicans would be willing to accept — or whether the GOP conference can get on the same page on an actual plan to solve the issue rather than just junk the program.

The real-world consequences of Republicans refusing to continue the expanded unemployment could be severe. While the unemployment rate dropped to 11.1% as of mid-June, down from a high of 14.7% in mid-April, it’s still sky-high by normal standards, and could tick higher as states are forced to lock down their economies to respond to spiking coronavirus cases.

Fully 30 million people have been receiving at least some unemployment insurance since the crisis began, and a Columbia University study found the original pandemic unemployment assistance funds passed by Congress as part of the CARES Act in late March helped keep around 13 million people out of poverty as of April.

Zach Parolin, the study’s lead author, estimated that if those funds aren’t extended, depending on the exact economic conditions between 15 and 30 million more Americans will fall into poverty by the end of the year.

“If Congress does not extend these benefits, it’s safe to say that poverty rates will increase in the second half of the year.”

“If Congress does not extend these benefits, it’s safe to say that poverty rates will increase in the second half of the year, that individuals who lose their jobs in the second half of the year will struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table, and there’s a high possibility that entire families would go months with little to no support from the federal government,” he warned.

A study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that five out of six people who receive the money stand to make more on unemployment, a major sticking point for Republicans who think the money is dissuading people from returning to work. But the GOP has yet to coalesce around an alternate plan — and it’s unclear they’ll be willing and able to do so in the rushed return in late July before the program expires at the end of the month.

Funding for state and local governments is another crucial piece of the next package. Most government budgets began on July 1 and will need to be adjusted dramatically as states and cities deal with gaping holes in their estimated funding, and without a major assist from the federal government, that means massive looming layoffs in a sector of the economy that’s already started to feel the damage from budget gaps.

Roughly 1.5 million state and local employees have already been furloughed or laid off, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, double the number during the entirety of the Great Recession of 2008-2010. That number will spike dramatically if states and cities are forced to close the gaps in their budget created by coronavirus-created revenue shortfalls by firing people and cutting services. Unlike the federal government, they have to balance their budgets.

“Employees of state and local government, many of them, especially in health care sections risking their lives to save other people’s lives. And now they may lose their jobs,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Friday. “In the HEROES Act are the resources to keep state and local government running so you don’t have to fire people so that they can continue services.”

A study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, found that most state and local governments will see revenue drops of 10% to 20% from the previous year due to the ongoing recession — an estimated $600 billion total shortfall over previous estimates over the next two and a half years. Most state and local government officials will revisit in the late summer and fall what they’ll have to do to fix these budget shortfalls. Without federal support, they’ll have to choose between draconian cuts and tax increases.

“Congress really needs to act quickly before states and local governments build in spending cuts that are going to lengthen the recession,” warned Elizabeth McNichol, the study’s lead author.

House Democrats’ bill had about $900 billion in state and local funds. But Republicans have raged against giving states that much would let Democrats in states that had budget crises even before the recession hit off the hook.

McConnell and other Republicans originally signaled they wouldn’t give any help to state and local governments. They’ve walked that back some but have continued to express a stingy attitude towards states. In late May, McConnell said there would be a “plug” of funding for state and local governments, but that he wouldn’t allow funding that would help states fix their “preexisting” budget problems.

How much Congress coughs up will matter a lot. In the last recession, the federal government covered about a quarter of state and local governments’ budget shortfalls, forcing governments to slash employment and funding for both K-12 and higher education. Some states still haven’t fully bounced back to pre-recession levels of education spending, and K-12 class sizes have grown and public university costs have risen by 20% to 30% in many states as a result.

Plenty of other issues remain unresolved as well. The Post Office desperately needs funding to keep operating. Current federal moratoriums on evictions are set to expire, which could cause a massive homelessness crisis. Democrats want expanded food stamp assistance to help keep people from going hungry. The House bill also included $4 billion to states to help them expand mail voting and other voting options so they can run smooth elections in November — a potential looming disaster that has already been foreshadowed by chaotic primaries in states like Wisconsin and Georgia.

But the expanded unemployment insurance and funds for state and local governments are the most crucial elements of the bill. And both remain in limbo as Congress takes its annual July holiday break.

Cover: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell R-KY speaks to the media after a Republican policy luncheon at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on June 9, 2020. (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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POLITICO’s Election Forecast: Trump, Senate GOP in trouble

The national atmosphere is toxic enough that Senate Republicans, who currently hold a three-seat majority, no longer have a significant edge in their quest to retain control of the chamber next year. Democrats have both built leads in states that were previously considered up-for-grabs and put new states firmly on the map, expanding their path to a majority and potential unified control of government in 2021.

POLITICO’s Election Forecast is a long-term, qualitative examination of the political landscape, from the presidential campaign down to the congressional-district level. It is based on continual interviews with strategists and operatives, polling and other data streams and the electoral and demographic trends driving the 2020 campaign. It is a more deliberative approach than a statistical model, which can be helpful in cutting through polls and other data sources but can also shift from day-to-day with little rationale for the changes.

From the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump’s standing with voters has suffered, with a majority disapproving of his handling of the emergency. But with Americans more dissatisfied than ever after four months since the coronavirus became a dominant force in the country — and with the same period of time to go until Election Day — the shift toward Democrats is both real and durable, though it’s not irreversible.

The signs are apparent: Trump’s campaign is running ads in states he won handily in 2016, like Georgia and Ohio. Senate Republicans aren’t just playing defense in vulnerable seats in states like Colorado, Maine and North Carolina — they’re also retrenching in places like Iowa and Montana.

Meanwhile, Trump’s incumbent advantages — money and the bully pulpit of the presidency — are eroding. Biden’s fundraising has surpassed Trump’s over the past two months, though Trump’s campaign retains a cash-on-hand edge. Trump’s poll numbers on the coronavirus and the civil unrest regarding racial injustice are consistently underwater, suggesting Americans believe he has failed to lead on the two dominant issues facing the country.

It could all add up to a potentially disastrous November for Republicans up and down the ballot if the president’s numbers don’t recover. There is still time for that to happen — and a plausible path for Trump to win an Electoral College majority and the GOP to keep the Senate. But it has grown much less likely.

Electoral College

The most consequential changes to the forecast are four one-time toss up states moving to “Lean Democratic”: Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Adding those four to Biden’s column, along with bluer states, would put the Democrat at 268 electoral votes, just shy of the majority needed to clinch the presidency.

Michigan and Pennsylvania are the second- and fourth-largest states Trump flipped to the Republican column in 2016 — and along with Wisconsin, which remains as a toss up, they have been at the heart of Democrats’ strategy to win back the presidency. Biden had double-digit leads in all three states in the most recent high-quality polls, from The New York Times and Siena College — but most observers see Wisconsin as the most Republican-friendly of the three.

Nevada and New Hampshire were states Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 — and with Biden posting larger leads against Trump, they have moved further from the president’s grasp.

The states remaining in the toss up column are Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin, along with two competitive congressional districts in Maine and Nebraska, where electoral votes are split by district. In each of those places, recent public and private polling has showed Biden leading Trump, though it’s too early to say the Democrat is a significant favorite.

Meanwhile, as Biden’s lead over Trump has increased over the past few months, the list of battlegrounds has expanded. Trump’s campaign is now spending significant resources in states the president carried comfortably in 2016: Georgia, Iowa and Ohio.

All three are still classified as “Lean Republican” in POLITICO’s forecast, as polling shows the two candidates neck-and-neck, even with Biden opening up a sizable national lead. If they are toss-up states on Election Day, it would essentially foreclose Trump’s path to a second term.

Trump’s advertising spend also includes small buys in Minnesota and New Mexico, two states Clinton carried. Minnesota remains classified as Lean Democratic; it’s not difficult to imagine Trump winning it if his national standing improves. New Mexico is rated as Likely Democratic.

Senate

Republicans entered the 2020 Senate election cycle with greater exposure — including special elections, they control 23 of the 35 seats on the ballot this fall — but with some significant advantages. The GOP holds a three-seat majority, but only two of the GOP-held seats up this year are in states Clinton carried in 2016. Meanwhile, there are also two Democratic senators from Trump states up for reelection.

But the race for Senate control is now close to a coin flip. Democrats now have discernible leads in Arizona and Colorado. Retired astronaut Mark Kelly has consistently outpolled appointed Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona’s special election.

After winning last week’s Democratic primary in Colorado, former Gov. John Hickenlooper begins with a lead over GOP Sen. Cory Gardner. Gardner is a skilled politician, but he’s running in a state where Trump won only 43 percent of the vote in 2016. While the forecast is currently leaving the race in the toss-up column, Gardner is in extreme peril.

In Iowa, GOP Sen. Joni Ernst is no longer a significant favorite to win a second term. A Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll last month showed her narrowly trailing Democratic nominee Theresa Greenfield, and the race is now a toss-up.

Also joining the toss-up ranks is Republican-leaning Montana. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock has earned high marks for his handling of the pandemic, and even polls that show Trump with a solid lead in the state have Bullock leading or tied with GOP Sen. Steve Daines.

With one toss up race moving slightly into the Democratic column, and two GOP-leaning states nudging to the highly competitive toss up rating, Republicans currently hold or are favored to win 48 seats, only one more than Democrats. The majority is at stake in the five toss-up races: Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana and North Carolina.

House

As the national environment has swung toward Democrats, their grip on the House has strengthened. The latest ratings have 216 seats in the Democratic column, only two shy of the majority.

Democrats’ online-powered fundraising machine has enabled the party to raise money at a rapid clip, seemingly unencumbered by the nation’s economic slowdown. As a result, a number of once-vulnerable freshman House Democrats — including Katie Porter and Josh Harder in California — are far more secure than when the election cycle began.

Republicans would have to run the table in the toss-up races — as they did in May’s special election for a suburban Los Angeles seat. Now-Rep. Mike Garcia’s better than expected performance in that special had some Republicans crowing about their chances to win back the House.

But given Democratic voters’ enthusiasm to turn out in November against Trump, a significant realignment of the current political dynamic will be necessary to put Democrats’ majority seriously at risk.

Governors

Given the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, governor’s races are more likely to be influenced by in-state dynamics than national factors. That’s the case in Vermont, where GOP Gov. Phil Scott’s announcement that he will seek another term in Montpelier makes him favored to win, despite the state’s orientation in federal elections.

In North Carolina, the most populous state holding a gubernatorial election this year, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has pushed out to a sizable lead in the polls over GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Forest — and the race is now leaning Democratic.

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Country rocker and fiddler Charlie Daniels dies at age 83

By KRISTIN M. HALL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country music firebrand and fiddler Charlie Daniels, who had a hit with “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” has died at age 83.

A statement from his publicist said the Country Music Hall of Famer died Monday at a hospital in Hermitage, Tennessee, after doctors said he had a stroke.

He had suffered what was described as a mild stroke in January 2010 and had a heart pacemaker implanted in 2013 but continued to perform.

Daniels, a singer, guitarist and fiddler, started out as a session musician, even playing on Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” sessions. Beginning in the early 1970s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year.

“I can ask people where they are from, and if they say `Waukegan,′ I can say I’ve played there. If they say `Baton Rouge,′ I can say I’ve played there. There’s not a city we haven’t played in,” Daniels said in 1998.

Daniels performed at White House, at the Super Bowl, throughout Europe and often for troops in the Middle East.

He played himself in the 1980 John Travolta movie “Urban Cowboy” and was closely identified with the rise of country music generated by that film.

“I’ve kept people employed for over 20 years and never missed a payroll,” Daniels said in 1998. That same year, he received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music.

In the 1990s Daniels softened some of his lyrics from his earlier days when he often was embroiled in controversy.

In “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a 1979 song about a fiddling duel between the devil and a whippersnapper named Johnny, Daniels originally called the devil a “son of a bitch,” but changed it to “son of a gun.”

In his 1980 hit “Long Haired Country Boy,” he used to sing about being “stoned in the morning” and “drunk in the afternoon.” Daniels changed it to “I get up in the morning. I get down in the afternoon.”

“I guess I’ve mellowed in my old age,” Daniels said in 1998.

Otherwise, though, he rarely backed down from in-your-face lyrics.

His “Simple Man” in 1990 suggested lynching drug dealers and using child abusers as alligator bait.

His “In America” in 1980 told this country’s enemies to “go straight to hell.”

Such tough talk earned him guest spots on “Politically Incorrect,” the G. Gordon Liddy radio show and on C-Span taking comments from viewers.

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was No. 1 on the country charts in 1979 and No. 3 on the pop charts. It was voted single of the year by the Country Music Association.

In the climactic verse, Daniels sang:

“The devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat.

“He laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet.

“Johnny said, `Devil just come on back if you ever want to try again.

“I told you once you son of a gun, I’m the best that’s ever been.”

He hosted regular Volunteer Jam concerts in Nashville in which the performers usually were not announced in advance. Entertainers at thes shows included Don Henley, Amy Grant, James Brown, Pat Boone, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, the Lynyrd Skynyrd Band, Alabama, Billy Joel, Little Richard, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eugene Fodor and Woody Herman.

Daniels, a native of Wilmington, N.C., played on several Bob Dylan albums as a Nashville recording session guitarist in the late 1960s, including “New Morning” and “Self-Portrait.”

Eventually, at the age of 71, he was invited to join the epitome of Nashville’s music establishment, the Grand Ole Opry. He was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

He said in 1998 that he kept touring so much because “I have never played those notes perfectly. I’ve never sung every song perfectly. I’m in competition to be better tonight than I was last night and to be better tomorrow than tonight.”

Daniels said his favorite place to play was “anywhere with a good crowd and a good paycheck.”

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Biden unveils Florida leadership team

Florida Democratic Party executive director Juan Peñalosa was named a Biden senior adviser, though the presidential race has already been an all-hands-on-deck focus for the party he leads. Karen Andre, an attorney who comes from Organizing Together 2020, was also named a senior adviser. Her resume includes working for 2018 Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum’s successful primary campaign.

“We are thrilled to bring together some of the most talented and experienced minds in Florida Democratic politics to oversee a Florida operation that will reflect the state’s diversity and prioritize the issues Floridians care about,” Jenn Ridder, Biden’s national states director, said in a statement. “We look forward to competing aggressively in the Sunshine State, and Jackie, Juan, Brandon and Karen will lead the team that will turn Florida blue and help send Joe Biden to the White House.”

The campaign is also expected to bring on a national faith outreach director in the near future.
.
Biden has consistently topped Trump in public polling in Florida, a state the president narrowly won by 113,000 votes in 2016. Real Clear Politics average of Florida polls has Biden leading Trump 48-43, numbers that include an outlier Trafalgar Group poll that had the race tied in the state.

There is no real path forward to reelection for Trump without winning Florida, a reality that adds to the sense of urgency for both campaigns in the nation’s largest swing state.

To try and help right the ship, Trump last week made his own staffing splash, re-hiring Susie Wiles, a veteran Florida GOP consultant who led the president’s 2016 Florida campaign. That hire came even as Wiles was elbowed out of the orbit of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a top Trump ally.

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Hawk Nelson Singer Explains Why He No Longer Believes in God After Fronting a Christian Rock Band

What am I doing? It’s the question Jon Steingard, former frontman of Christian rock outfit Hawk Nelson, was asking himself in May as he hit publish on an Instagram announcing he no longer believed in God. “I didn’t sleep too well that night,” he admits on a phone call from his adopted hometown of San Diego. “But what I just come back to, now that it’s done, is that this is true. This is how I really feel.”

Hawk Nelson, then with a different lead vocalist at the mic, first broke big on the Christian circuit in 2004 when the Ontario-bred group’s pop punk-infused Letters to the President LP gained traction. The following handful-plus of years saw them collaborate with A-list format talent like Amy Grant while recording songs for soundtracks like Yours, Mine & Ours (which starred Dennis Quaid). They were nominated for three Dove Awards and, in 2009, earned a Grammy nod.

Steingard made the move from guitarist to center stage for the band in 2012; he’d spearhead the release of three more albums into Hawk Nelson’s eight studio album discography. But he was also beginning to have doubts about his faith—something that would have completely sidelined his act. The CCM industry, which sees tens of millions of albums in sales each year, is not necessarily the most welcome place for those questioning their faith, he tells me. He fought those feelings off as long as he could—he would “shove them down,” he says—but eventually they became unavoidable. And when he finally pushed share on Instagram, his post went viral.

It found headlines across news and entertainment verticals, while thousands of fans, former Christians, and current Christians, alike flooded his comments. “I just didn’t think it was that shocking of a thing to say,” he says, considering the breadth of the attention. “I woke up the next morning with an honesty hangover, but I’m pretty convinced it was the right thing to do.” And as the messages began piling up, he also realized, “wow, that’s a lot of responsibility.”

In a wide-ranging interview following his announcement, Steingard discussed the unraveling of his faith, the joy he felt at SCOTUS’ ruling in support of gay marriage, and, of course, the Kanye of it all. The following has been edited for clarity and length.

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Now that you have made your announcement, do you feel like you need to continue the conversation, from this point forward or was this a final note on the topic?

Yeah. That’s where this whole thing started for me. I felt like I had been public about faith and Christianity for so long that the fact that I had a change of heart over the last few years meant that I had a responsibility to be honest. If I was open before, why should I not be open now? I’m not able to write back to everyone that writes me because, quite frankly, I’ve never experienced this amount of inbox flood, but there have been a few stories that have stood out and I’m doing my best to jump in when I feel like I can be helpful.

In your post, you likened losing your faith to a sweater unraveling over time. It doesn’t sound like it was one big moment where your worldview hit a 180.

[The sweater metaphor] felt most true to my experience. It was a gradual process, thread by thread. Eventually you look down and discover the sweater isn’t there anymore. There were a number of points along the way where I was trying to hold onto my idea of God—like “Well, I have no problem with the idea of God; I have a problem with Christian culture, or the Church, or these types of Christians…”

But when I got right down to it, I was just trying to convince myself of things in order to hold onto my notion of God. Eventually, I got to this place where I realized if I was honest with myself, and if I could build up the courage to actually say it to myself, I’d have to say “I don’t believe any of it.”

Were there specific moments where you can pinpoint another thread falling? To continue the imagery…

I remember when the Supreme Court decision was passed to legalize gay marriage feeling in my gut, I want to celebrate this. And at that point, I can’t say that I had a lot of gay friends, but I had a few. And I had friends that were in long-term same-sex relationships and wanted to get married. I remember feeling like I wanted to support them but didn’t feel like I could, publicly.

There was a band called Jars of Clay that I grew up listening to as a kid, and I don’t remember if they came out and supported it as a band, but Dan, the singer, he did. I didn’t see them around the Christian music circuit very much after that.

Jon Steingard performs with Hawk Nelson.

Rick DiamondGetty Images

I’d imagine that makes your own realization, that your belief was wavering, all the scarier.

It was terrifying on a bunch of levels. First off, how do we discuss this with our families and friends? But on a more existential level, I had always believed that there was someone looking out for me. The idea that we’re on our own was really scary. And then it was like, what do I teach my kids? What do I tell them? It feels like I’m not living in the same world I was living in a year ago.

How did that fear manifest in your daily life?

It put me in a pretty depressive state for a while. I felt a lot of responsibility. I felt like, I’ve been fronting this Christian band—what does that mean for the band? What does that mean for the guys in the band? What does that mean for our manager? Our label? Our publicist? I was feeling the weight of all of that, and I was also like, “How is this going to affect my kids and my wife and my family?”

I started seeing a counselor, and my therapist has been rad. I knew my parents would suggest that I find a Christian counselor—I was pretty open with my parents as I was processing this stuff—but I had to tell them that I wanted to find a counselor who I didn’t really care what they believed. And the first few sessions, I couldn’t have told you. I didn’t sense any agenda other than she wanted to get me to a healthy place.

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How did this affect your relationship with your wife and her own faith?

I’m lucky that my wife has been processing these things in the same way that I have. I have friends that have gone through this process, where their spouse did not feel the same way, and that is a hard path to walk. I tend to be one or two steps ahead of my wife in this, but that’s only because I am obsessed with reading and I’m getting up at three in the morning and spending time alone reading.

Both your father and your father-in-law are pastors, so I have to imagine both sets of parents are invested in keeping your faith active.

It’s a hard conversation because if I’m talking with my parents—or someone that I care about who believes deeply—I can’t really say, “I don’t believe in God” without essentially telling them, “I think you’re wrong.” When it’s someone that you love and care about, you have no desire to attack their deepest-held beliefs, but by simply stating your own, it becomes that.

How are they handling this news?

They’re all really, really loving. They’ve made it clear that they love us no matter what. But my mom believes deeply that if I’m open, God will reveal himself. And I’ve just said, “Hey, if God is there, why wouldn’t I want to know about him?” In order for me to get to a place where I can believe in him, I feel like I need to really have an experience that takes me there. I’m just unwilling to manufacture it in my own mind. That’s the closest thing we’ve found to a place where we can all land. My mom said, “I feel like it’s in God’s court now.” And I said, “Okay. I feel the same.”

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If you are a Christian whose job doesn’t depend on their faith, you’re allowed to remain a conflicted, or questioning, person. But as soon as it is your job—you become a Christian rocker, let’s say—suddenly you have to believe and maintain every single thing on the Christian checklist.

Yeah, and you can never wrestle with that. That’s one of the reasons that I have a ton of empathy for pastors, because they’re in a position where it’s difficult for them to be honest about their struggles with things. Every time they’re honest about something hard, they could lose their livelihood. That’s why you see things where those things can build up and build up and then you have something horrible come out and you have a huge scandal on your hands. It’s because we’re in a culture that can’t discuss these things.

Outside of the band, you have a full-time career in film editing and production. But was there a worry that by making this announcement, the financial well-being of your family, or your band members’ families, might be put in duress?

Luckily, all of us have developed other things that we’ve moved onto. About half of my work involves Christian organizations or nonprofits or bands, so I still felt like “this could be trouble.” But if people stop hiring me, I have the added layer of, I will never know if it was coronavirus or not…

My willingness to speak up increased as I became financially more independent from that community. Consciously and subconsciously, my way of dealing with my doubts was to shove them down. Because if I got to this place I’m at now, and I was still financially dependent on the band, and I was going onstage and singing songs about God that I didn’t believe in, that would have been so horrifying. It wasn’t until I began to be more financially separate from that community that I noticed, “Oh, if my career doesn’t require me to believe anything in particular, then when do I believe?” That’s where the journey became real.

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Do you have any plans to make more music?

I’m not super interested in, at the moment, making music. Partially, it’s a practical thing. I feel like I’ve found other things that are more practical for me to make a living doing. But also, music is so tied to that period of my life that I feel like I would be missing part of the story if I wasn’t honest with myself about the fact that there might be a little sadness there for me. While I was processing all of this stuff, I was barely listening to music, for like two years.

Christian music is in an especially wrought spot. It’s kind of maligned by mainstream music press, or not really covered. But there are also a whole host of Christians who feels discomfort with it because of how much people profit off their faith.

There’s this sort of tension between art and commerce and ministry. And every Christian artist has their own blend of those three things. Some are heavier on one than the others. There are some artists that are very clearly, “This is a business.” And some that are very clearly, “This is a ministry.” And some that are very clearly, “This is art.” And I am comfortable with all three of those existing, as long as they’re honest.

My perspective, the whole time I was in it, and even now, is that I don’t think it’s inherently wrong to have any particular blend of those three things. I think where we get a little tripped up is that I think, broadly, that the Christian music audience is a little uncomfortable with the business side of things, because it feels somehow less pure … And I don’t think it’s fair to paint all of Christian music with the same brush, either. I know these people. There are some that I wouldn’t trust with a dime of mine. But then there are others that I would trust with my children. It’s hard for me to write the whole thing off.

nashville, tn   may 31  jon steingard, david niacaris, micah kuiper, and daniel biro of musical group hawk nelson speak onstage in the press room during the 3rd annual klove fan awards at the grand ole opry house on may 31, 2015 in nashville, tennessee  photo by terry wyattgetty images for klove

Jon Steingard, David Niacaris, Micah Kuiper, and Daniel Biro of musical group Hawk Nelson speak onstage in the press room during the 3rd Annual KLOVE Fan Awards at the Grand Ole Opry House on May 31, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Terry Wyatt

The industry has had another level of attention added in the last couple years as Kanye West has said that he now only wants to make faith-based music. It feels like many people have been overjoyed that someone as famous as him has made such an announcement, but it also feels like there are a large number of doubters—people who think he’s just in it to sell tickets to Sunday service and new merch.

I’m fascinated by the Kanye thing. It brings up all kinds of questions that are so important—like, who gets to decide whether Kanye gets to talk about Jesus or not? Whose permission does Kanye need to talk about Jesus?

I would answer that very quickly: “No one’s.”

How can you know someone’s motivations? I am quite sure there are people in the Christian music industry right now who are asking those questions about me and wondering what my motivations are. I appreciate, more than ever, the value of leaving space for people to have their motivations remain unquestioned and take people at their word. When they say, “This is why I’m doing this,” believe them, unless you have a really good reason not to.

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The ultimate reason why there’s no there there in the ‘Russian bounties’ narrative

Taliban fighters. AP video

Spoiler up front: the reason is that the proposition – that it’s some kind of administration black eye in terms of taking care of the troops – is militarily incongruous.  We don’t need special indications that Russians (or Iranians, or anyone else) are offering bounties on the U.S. troops deployed in active combat zones, to be alert and proactive about force defense in those zones.

We’re already alert and proactive.

Such information is supplemental (and it was provided to the forces in-country on an unconfirmed basis).  It doesn’t change the basic operational posture.

This is especially the case given that we’ve already known for years that bounties are likely to be offered on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.  U.S. forces haven’t spent one day in the last decade under the misapprehension that no one could possibly be offering bounties on our troops in AfPak (or Syria, for that matter).

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Before going further, let’s take a listen to a blessedly non-politicized briefing from Military Times (in its weekly “Briefing” video) about the Russian bounties narrative.  It’s the first brief in the package, starting about 40 seconds in.

Kudos to Military Times for delivering the only brief, cogent, spin-free summary I’ve seen of the “Russian bounties” proposition to date.  The first item reviewed is whether the intelligence was valid.  The second is what the response has been.

Here is the money passage:

The second component is when did the White House know about this, and have they done anything.  We’ve seen reports that say at least as early as March, maybe February or even 2019, the president was briefed, had some knowledge of Russia targeting U.S. troops.  But didn’t act and make any public announcements, didn’t issue any new orders to the Department of Defense.  So, both of those things are what lawmakers are concerned about right now: is it true, and did we do enough to react to it when we found out?

Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane goes on to say that lawmakers are tying their concern to the U.S. casualties in Afghanistan over the past year.

The “is it true?” question remains unanswered.  If there’s continuing doubt about it, that tells me it is not a slam-dunk, but rather a piece of information that has yet to be validated or corroborated.  In other words, the source itself is not considered demonstrably reliable or definitive, and however old the original information is, it hasn’t been corroborated by other intelligence or subsequent events.

(I also note that not one member of Congress commenting on the briefing about the information – from the CIA this past week – has said anything in public at all about the validity of the information.  The void of color or opinion in that regard has been noteworthy.  It tells its own tale; one thing it tells us is that the CIA didn’t say it was likely to be valid.  But for some reason, even Republicans haven’t been anxious to put down emphatic markers that it’s unconfirmed.  They’re just not talking, and – even more informatively – neither is anyone else.  Curiously, moreover, when you actually listen to each public comment by a Republican, the reference to being angry at Putin turns out to be a generic one, on principle – which is perfectly valid – and not an implication that the “Russian bounties” information per se has been verified.)

The operational issue

The important point, however, is that what we’re talking about is a foreign power allegedly offering bounties to terrorist militants to attack and kill U.S. service members deployed in a combat zone.

How are the terrorists (in this case, the Taliban) going to do that?  Using the same methods they use when they’re attacking U.S. service members for their own purposes.  In other words, doing the things we’re already on the watch for 24/7, and have rules of engagement for.

There’s another consideration, which is the question whether a foreign power offering bounties would also offer intelligence and weapons to the Taliban to help them score bounties.  Believe me, the president doesn’t have to order anyone to pursue that consideration.  The military already knows enough to start tracking that down immediately, even on yet-to-be-validated information.  It has no need to ask permission, and no purpose for doing so.

When National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper spoke this past week of the military commanders being briefed on the unconfirmed Russian-bounties information, that’s the kind of thing they were assuring Americans had been triggered like clockwork.

The “bounty schedule,” if you will – i.e., how much is being paid for what types of kills or damage – would also be informative, if known.  It would speak to the level of incentive, and shape predictions about the kinds of attacks that would be most likely.

But the Taliban already have and use IEDs of various kinds, with an extensive history of tactical deployment for them; and they have the capability of rocket and mortar attacks, as well as short-range/low-level anti-air attacks.  Virtually all the rocket, mortar, and short-range air attacks in the hot-spots of Asia and the Middle East are made with former-Soviet weaponry (in original or back-engineered form), of which the U.S. forces have extensive experience.  If the bounties factor means newer systems are coming into play – then see the point above about U.S. intel pursuing that without prompting from the president.

The Taliban’s (and other terrorists’) history in Afghanistan with roadside bombs, ambushes, etc. is voluminous in itself; it’s what they’ve done for years, and there is no need to ask President Trump to say something new before weaving into the force operational posture the possibility that the Russians are offering bounties for these well-known types of attack.

The same is true of suicide bombings and ambush shootings in markets, as well as more elaborate attacks on helicopter landing zones and civil security outposts, where U.S./NATO and Afghan forces operate together.

Obviously, a piece of information like the Russian-bounties narrative would cue U.S. intelligence to be extra-vigilant about signs of Russian backing for terrorist infiltration of Afghan forces.  Working closely with the Afghans in security operations is a key point of vulnerability for the U.S. and NATO.  It would be a likely avenue for bounty-incentivized attacks.

Like everything else in the operational picture, this is not a brilliantly clever insight; it’s just what U.S. forces in-country would already know to act on, without the slightest urging from the White House.

The strategic/geopolitical issue

Alert readers have probably recognized that the real issue, then, if there is one, is what was done about Russia being a source of bounties on U.S. service members.

That gets back to whether the information is valid.  If it’s not, then what, exactly, was the president supposed to do about it?  Demand answers from Russia about unconfirmed information – information whose exposure to Russia might even put intelligence sources or methods in jeopardy?

If the information hasn’t been either validated in its own right or corroborated by other intelligence or events, then there is no compelling need to bring this information up with Russia at the diplomatic level.  The drawbacks of such a course appear to outweigh the incentives for it.  Seek  more intelligence on it – of course.  That’s exactly what we’ve been doing, assuming O’Brien is telling the truth.

Note, meanwhile, the excellent point Michael Pregent made this week that there’s already enough of a history of Russia targeting our troops that we can bring the point up at any time, without reference to any individual piece of information.

That’s where the emphasis for policy should be.  Pregent’s point makes the media hype about the “Russian bounties” data point look even more like a planted controversy of some kind.

The nature and source of the information are the key

We already have some near-decisive evaluation factors for the Russian-bounties narrative.  One is that Democrat Adam Schiff was briefed on it in February 2020 and did nothing at the time.  Another is that, as mentioned above, we have known for years that bounties are offered on our troops in Southwest Asia.  The Russian-bounties story does not decisively affect our operational posture or its outcomes in Afghanistan – especially if the original information was from as early as 2019.  If it’s that old, we’ve had enough time to assess that it has made no net difference.

As regards the “Russian culpability” aspect of the problem, what matters is whether it’s true.  That’s something that is best assessed by where it came from and how it got to us: the two things the public has no clue about.

Mollie Hemingway had a nice summary several days ago comparing the Russian-bounties tale to previous instances of later-repudiated intelligence like the CURVEBALL informant on Iraqi WMD programs.  I recommend that summary as a good bracer.

That said, the reluctance of anyone to give even the slightest hint about the nature of the information itself, and the concern expressed by Republicans that the big problem here is the politicization of intelligence for leak campaigns to the media, suggest that there’s a source behind it in whom (or which) the U.S. is invested.  If so, and that source has been jeopardized by the leak, then the leaker(s) and the media ought to be more than ashamed of themselves: they ought to be locked up for the rest of their lives.

Even if there’s a real, U.S.-invested source, that doesn’t mean the information is valid.  It could, however, mean that keeping it close-hold within the administration was all along about protecting the source.

And that said, we might typically expect the information to be thought more credible if it came from a U.S.-invested source.  There are other possibilities.  One that can’t be dismissed is that the information came to U.S. intelligence, sure enough, but from a source some in the U.S. media were also independently aware of.  (A source in, say, Qatar would fit the profile for such dual injection points.)

That would certainly merit a thorough investigation, although not the one congressional Democrats seem to have in mind.

The progress of the information through our national security organization indicates that it did come in to the administration through the front door of U.S. intelligence.  But that doesn’t mean it made its way to the New York Times by that route.

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Chinese Firm Updates Records To Remove Hunter Biden From Its Board, But He Still Owns 10% Of The Company

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden attend an NCAA basketball game between Georgetown University and Duke University in Washington, U.S., Jan. 30, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Chinese private equity firm BHR Partners updated its business records on April 20 to remove Hunter Biden as a member of its board of directors, but he continues to hold a 10% ownership stake in the company through his LLC, Chinese business records show.

Hunter Biden’s departure from BHR’s board was submitted to China’s National Credit Information Publicity System (NCIPS) more than six months after he pledged to relinquish his position with the firm “on or by October 31,” according to Qixinbao and Baidu, two independent services that provide registration information on Chinese corporations based on NCIPS filings.

The records also show that Hunter Biden continues to hold a 10% equity stake in BHR through his company, Skaneateles LLC, as of Friday, a position he maintains despite a pledge in December from his father, former Vice President Joe Biden, that none of his family members would “be engaged in any foreign business” if he is elected president in November.

The Biden campaign did not respond when asked if the candidate will call on his son to relinquish his equity stake in the Chinese private equity firm.

BHR manages the equivalent of $2.1 billion in assets, according to its website. Hunter Biden began serving as an unpaid member of BHR’s board when it was founded in 2013, and in October 2017 he obtained his equity stake in the firm with a $420,000 investment, according to a statement issued by his lawyer, George Mesires, in October.

BHR’s business records with the NCIPS were updated on April 20 to reflect Hunter Biden’s departure from its board less than one week after the Daily Caller News Foundation reported on April 14 that his name was still listed as a member of the firm’s board at the time and that no evidence had yet surfaced to prove that Biden had actually relinquished his position with the company.

In response to that report, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, George Mesires, released a one-sentence letter he received from BHR CEO Jonathan Li dated April 17 stating that Hunter Biden “no longer serves as an unpaid director on the board of Bohai Harvest RST (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Co., Ltd. effective from October 2019.” (RELATED: Chinese Firm’s Letter On Hunter Biden’s Resignation Raises More Questions Than It Answers)

Mesires provided the letter to Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler, who tweeted that Hunter Biden’s continued presence on BHR’s business records with the Chinese government at the time was due to “an apparently outdated database entry.”

Li’s letter did not specify the exact date in October that Hunter Biden ceased serving as an unpaid director of BHR. Mesires has refused multiple requests by the DCNF for a copy of Hunter Biden’s actual letter of resignation from the firm’s board.

Mesires did not respond when asked if Hunter Biden intends to relinquish his 10% equity stake in BHR.

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