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Trump: I’ve ‘authorized’ federal arrests for vandalizing statues; says up to 10 years in prison

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President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday morning that he has “authorized” the federal government to arrest those who may vandalize or destroy federal property in accordance with existing laws.

“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent,” Trump tweeted.

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“This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!” he added.

It’s unclear whether or not Trump is authorizing any new actions toward those who destroy government property, as laws protecting statues and federal property have already been in place.

While the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003 does specify up to 10 years imprisonment for violators, it specifies destruction toward “any structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States.”

Other laws are in place to protect federal property, however. 18 U.S.C. § 1361 states that those who intentionally destroy government property and incur more than $100 in damages are subject to up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Trump’s announcement comes the morning after protesters in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square defaced a statue of Andrew Jackson and attempted to pull it down after attaching several ropes to it.

Social media video showed protesters who had climbed the statue to affix the ropes so the crowd could attempt to pull it down. The statue, however, remained in place.

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Beirut explosion kills at least 50, injures thousands in Lebanon’s capital

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Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said it might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.

Witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-colored cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates.

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An Israeli government official said Israel “had nothing to do” with the blast. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. Israeli officials usually do not comment on “foreign reports.”

The blast was stunning even for a city that has seen civil war, suicide bombings and bombardment by Israel. It could be heard and felt as far away as Cyprus, more than 200 kilometers (180 miles) across the Mediterranean.

Eyewitness video shows the moment of a large explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4.BEIRUT — A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. At least 50 people were killed and 2,700 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.

Hours later, ambulances still carried away the wounded as army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port.

The sudden devastation overwhelmed a country already struggling with both the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis: Beirut hospitals quickly filled beyond capacity, pleading for blood supplies and generators to keep their lights on.

The cause of the blast, which sparked fires, overturned cars and blew out windows and doors, was not immediately known.

A massive explosion shook Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday, wounding a number of people and causing widespread damage.

Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said it might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.

Witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-colored cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates.

An Israeli government official said Israel “had nothing to do” with the blast. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. Israeli officials usually do not comment on “foreign reports.”

The blast was stunning even for a city that has seen civil war, suicide bombings and bombardment by Israel. It could be heard and felt as far away as Cyprus, more than 200 kilometers (180 miles) across the Mediterranean.

“It was a real horror show. I haven’t seen anything like that since the days of the (civil) war,” said Marwan Ramadan, who was about 500 meters (yards) from the port and was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion.

Health Minister Hassan Hamad said the preliminary toll was 25 dead and more than 2,500 wounded. Emergency teams streamed in from across Lebanon to help, and injured had to be taken to hospitals outside the capital.

Some of those injured lay on the ground at the port, Associated Press staff at the scene said. A civil defense official said there were still bodies inside the port, many under debris.

Beirut’s governor, Marwan Abboud, broke into tears as he toured the site, saying, “Beirut is a devastated city.”

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Herman Cain dies at 74 after weeks-long battle with coronavirus

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Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza who became a GOP front-runner for president for his firebrand conservatism, died Thursday at the age of 74 from COVID-19.

Cain had entered an Atlanta-area hospital in early July after falling ill with coronavirus shortly after attending President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla. A spokesperson on Monday had said the former Republican presidential candidate was “being treated with oxygen for his lungs.” 

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“Suddenly, the plague strikes home,” political consultant Dick Morris told Newsmax on Thursday. 

Cain who was a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump attended Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa. Cain posted a photo to his Instagram account of a group at the rally without masks or social distancing.

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Oregon asks for restraining order against federal agents in Portland

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Attorneys for Oregon argued Wednesday for a restraining order against federal agents deployed to quell protests in Portland, in a standoff that some legal experts have warned could lead to a constitutional crisis in an election year.

A federal judge heard the state’s and the U.S. government’s arguments in a lawsuit filed by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who accuses federal agents of arresting protesters without probable cause, whisking them away in unmarked cars and using excessive force to quell the unrest. Federal authorities have disputed that.

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The lawsuit is part of a growing pushback against the Trump administration’s use of federal agents in Portland and its plans to do the same in other cities that is deepening the country’s already considerable political divides. Democratic mayors of 15 cities — including Portland and cities where President Donald Trump has sent or threatened to send federal forces — condemned the use of the agents in a letter to the attorney general.

The hearing Wednesday focused on the actions of more than 100 federal agents responding to protests outside the the city’s Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, which has been a target for more than 50 nights of demonstrations against racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The motion for a temporary restraining order asks U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman to command agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Federal Protective Service and the U.S. Marshals Service to immediately stop detaining protesters without probable cause, to identify themselves and their agency before arresting anyone, and to explain why an arrest is taking place.

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