Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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Republicans on the House Intel Committee killed their Russia investigation this week, concluding that there was “no evidence of collusion” with the Trump campaign. Days later, news broke that Special Counsel Mueller has issued subpoenas to the Trump Organization, suggesting that the active federal probe has more questions about the Trump family’s business dealings.

The special counsel got a nod of support from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who said Mueller was not an “unguided missile” and that there was no “justification” to end his investigation. In an odd development, George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who is cooperating with the probe and had multiple meetings with Trump campaign officials on behalf of the U.A.E., was revealed to have a 15-year-old pedophilia conviction in Europe.

Democrats on the House panel are pressing on without their GOP colleagues, releasing a list of the witnesses (Reince Priebus, Stephen Miller, KT McFarland) and entities (Deutsche Bank, Twitter) they still want information from. One outstanding area of interest: ties between Russia and the NRA. Former NRA attorney Cleta Mitchell on Friday adamantly denied reports, which appear to be leaked to the press by congressional investigators, that she expressed concern about whether the NRA was helping to funnel Russian money to Trump’s campaign.

Overseas, Russia continues to disrupt international affairs. British police and Prime Minister Teresa May have determined that Russia is behind the recent poisoning of an ex-spy living in England and may be involved with the strangling of a London-based Russian businessmen. The attacks were condemned as the work of Russia by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Rex Tillerson, one day before Trump sacked him as Secretary of State.

While Trump continues to waffle on Russia’s bad behavior, the U.S. government has taken other steps to check the Kremlin’s influence. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 19 Russians for allegedly meddling in the 2016 election, including 13 indicted by Mueller for using fake social media accounts and ads to push pro-Trump propaganda.

The Trump administration also accused Russia of a concerted, ongoing effort to hack and spy on the U.S. energy grid and other infrastructure.

Russia is threatening retaliation for these steps, and President Putin told NBC last weekend that he “couldn’t care less” about his country’s alleged interference in the presidential race. In a new anti-Semitic twist, he suggested that some of the indicted Russians could actually be “Jews” with Russian citizenship.

This week saw a number of instances of the U.S. government and even elements of the administration breaking with the President’s soft-ball stance on Russia. With a staff shakeup rumored to be coming any day now, we may see less of that as we move further into 2018.

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A black man violently attacked at last summer’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville was acquitted Friday on charges that he assaulted one of the racists in attendance.

DeAndre Harris was found not guilty on a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery against Harold Crews, the North Carolina chairman of the neo-Confederate hate group League of the South, The Washington Post reported.

The verdict brings an end to a legal rollercoaster for Harris, a 20-year-old former special education teaching assistant, who was pummeled with flagsticks, shields, and pieces of wood by a crowd of white supremacists at the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally.

Video of the parking garage assault on Harris went viral, prompting outrage and a flood of donations to help cover medical bills for his injuries, which included a spinal injury and head lacerations.

Four of the white nationalists who assaulted Harris are currently awaiting trial.

Months later, in October, Crews filed a police report and persuaded a Charlottesville magistrate to issue an arrest warrant against Harris on a felony charge of unlawful wounding. As TPM previously reported, this was made possible thanks to an odd statute in the Virginia state code that allows private citizens to initiate the process of obtaining a warrant.

The charge was later downgraded to a misdemeanor, which would have resulted in a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail and a $2,5000 fine.

The case was based on a few short, chaotic moments of video. In one clip posted on YouTube, Crews and a friend of Harris’ are pulling on either end of a large flagpole. Harris cuts in and appears to swing a flashlight in Crews’ direction. Within minutes, he is chased through the garage and wrestled to the ground, where the brutal beating commences.

Charlottesville General District Court Judge Robert Downer Jr. determined that Harris intervened only to help his friend and did not intend to hit Crews, per the Post.

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Under pressure for killing a resolution denouncing white nationalism and neo-Nazism, Tennessee GOP lawmakers are belatedly offering an explanation.

In a Friday email to TPM, Rep. Bob Ramsey, one of three Republicans on the State Government Subcommittee, said they objected to language that would ask law enforcement to consider the groups “domestic terrorist organizations.”

“Our Committee has had several resolutions from various political parties, aimed at special prosecutors, designations of terrorist organizations, condemnation of religious sites and practices, and celebration of controversial historical sites, figures, or organizations,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey insisted that the GOP members agreed with the “intent and philosophy” of the resolution, which was originally introduced last year by Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville, Va. white-nationalist rally.

“These subjects seem simple but have initiated some of the most bitter decisiveness [sic] and debates I have ever witnessed.”

Ramsey added that he and the other Republican lawmakers, Reps. Bill Sanderson and Bud Hulsey, were urging Clemmons to consider changes to the language of the bill in order to secure its passage.

As the Tennessean first reported, the resolution was “met with silence” from the trio of Republican lawmakers when it was brought before the panel on Wednesday. The other provisions would have required the House to “strongly denounce and oppose” the racist bigotry promoted by these groups.

National Democratic groups condemned the GOP’s failure to back the measure. Ben Wexler-Waite, communications director for super PAC Forward Majority, called on the Republican National Committee and Republican State Leadership Committee to publicly denounce the Tennessee lawmakers’ move.

“It’s beyond shocking that anyone in the year 2018 has to ask the RSLC or RNC why they won’t condemn neo-nazism,” Wexler-Waite said in a Friday statement. “The actions of the GOP-controlled Tennessee legislature are a punch in the gut to everything this country stands for and an insult to Jews, people of color, and all who have suffered at the hands of right wing extremists. There is zero excuse for why the legislature would even hesitate to pass this resolution and history will not forget the moment the Republican Party stood silent as its members condoned Nazis.”

Tennessee is home to a number of active white nationalist groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s recently released “hate map” for 2017 found 37 hate groups in the state, including chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Confederate League of the South, and the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations.

Last weekend, Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group aimed at recruiting college students, held a flash mob demonstration in a Nashville park. In October, some 200 white nationalists convened in Shelbyville for a “White Lives Matter” rally.

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A former lawyer for the National Rifle Association says she’s “totally outraged” over a report that she expressed concerns about the gun group’s ties to Russia and possible use of Russian money to help Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign

In a Friday email to TPM, Cleta Mitchell, a longtime conservative lawyer and former NRA board member, came out swinging against McClatchy’s report that congressional investigators have learned she was worried about the Russian links.

“a) I have not been involved with NRA since 2012 when my board term expired, b) there is ZERO chance that NRA was involved in any way with Russian money as NRA has always been 100% meticulous about what money is spent for what and c) I’ve never ever expressed any concerns because I’ve never had such concerns,” Mitchell wrote. “Never crossed my mind. Ever.”

“I suggest you better not mention my name or if you mention it, you better say that the story is false and the House Dems’ statements are false and that this only underscores how there is nothing NOTHING to this entire Russia collusion story,” Mitchell added. “It is a complete fabrication by the left and their supplicants in the liberal media.”

Mitchell, a veteran conservative election lawyer who played a key role in stoking the IRS “scandal” under the Obama administration, blamed “scumbags” on “the left,” namely the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and the press for raising questions about reported ties between the NRA and Russia.

Two sources familiar with the matter who spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity declined to specify exactly how investigators became interested in Mitchell’s alleged concerns.

Schiff’s office declined to comment. A spokesperson for Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, did not immediately respond to TPM’s inquiry.

Mitchell was identified this week in a report released by Democrats on the House Intel Committee listing the witnesses and entities Democrats still want to contact as part of their probe into Russia’s election interference. The report says Mitchell’s work for the NRA “may be able to clarify for the Committee any Russian-related approaches to and interaction with the organization and persons of interest to the Committee during the 2016 election.”

In January, McClatchy reported that the FBI was investigating whether Alexander Torshin, a Russian banker with close ties to the NRA, channeled money to the NRA to boost Trump. The NRA has denied being contacted by the FBI, and has said it has safeguards in place to prevent it from using foreign money for politics.

McClatchy’s initial report, which noted that the NRA’s legislative arm spent an unprecedented $30 million to help support Trump’s campaign, sparked the interest of congressional investigators.

Other NRA-linked individuals on the House Intel Dems’ list of interviewees include Torshin’s former assistant Maria Butina; NRA member and conservative activist Paul Erickson who offered Trump’s campaign a “dialogue” with Russia; and Torshin friend Johnny Yenason.

Russia has made a concerted effort to make inroads with the gun lobbying giant in recent years, with Torshin hosting high-level NRA members for a visit to Moscow in 2015.

Mitchell’s full emails to TPM are below.

I am totally outraged about this story.  I told one ABC reporter three weeks ago  (and reiterated to the McClatchey reporter) that a) I have not been involved with NRA since 2012 when my board term expired, b) there is ZERO chance that NRA was involved in any way with Russian money as NRA has always been 100% meticulous about what money is spent for what and c) I’ve never ever expressed any concerns because I’ve never had such concerns.  Never crossed my mind.  Ever.

So the House Dems are spreading rumors and the McClatchey story is false and FAKE NEWS and I have told them they better fix that story immediately.

I now understand why Adam Schiff gets so much publicity.  He and his staff are all in the media mix and all of you people just spread false rumors and treat them as fact.  It is completely disgusting.

I suggest you better not mention my name or if you mention it, you better say that the story is false and the House Dems’ statements are false and that this only underscores how there is nothing NOTHING to this entire Russia collusion story.  It is a complete fabrication by the left and their supplicants in the liberal media.

Scumbags.  All of it.

Told that TPM would include her response, Mitchell followed up with this message:

There is NO story!  The only story is the lying Dems on HSCI.   There is zero basis for their even mentioning my name.  If they talked to me I would tell them they are full of crap.  There’s no story, no concern on my part and not a shred of truth to any of it.

The story is the lying by Schiff and the Dems.  That’s the story.  The only story.

This story has been updated.

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If online agitators spark a wave of harassment by publishing damaging, dishonest stories about private individuals’ personal lives, can the victims do anything to stop them?

Brennan Gilmore hopes so. A counter-protester at the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Gilmore has brought a defamation suit against InfoWars, Gateway Pundit and other right-wing conspiracy-peddling sites that he says smeared his reputation.

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday comes not long after some of those same sites falsely dismissed the student activists who survived the Parkland school massacre as “crisis actors,” and at a time of broader concern about the growing, destructive influence of fake news.

But the hurdles the suit appears to face speak to the challenges of using the courts to hold fake news purveyors accountable.

A complaint put together by lawyers at the Georgetown Law School’s Civil Rights Center details false stories about Gilmore’s involvement in a “deep state” plot to undermine the Trump administration by staging the murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer. Those stories have led to threats to Gilmore’s personal safety and caused potential damage to his career, he contends.

Gilmore, a foreign service officer on long-term unpaid leave, became a target after sharing on Twitter a video he’d captured from the rally, showing neo-Nazi James Fields’ car ramming into a crowd, injuring dozens and killing Heyer. In response, a number of far-right sites quickly noted that Gilmore had worked for the State Department and donated to Democratic politicians. They used this to suggest he was part of a conspiracy funded by philanthropist George Soros to effect an anti-Trump coup.

In one example, Infowars’ Alex Jones claimed in a video posted online that he “did research” and “confirmed” that Gilmore was a “high-level CIA” operative and “State Department insider with a long history of involvement in psy-ops.” Jones definitively stated that Gilmore helped orchestrate the chaos at Charlottesville and was paid $320,000 a year by Soros.

Within days, Gilmore was subjected to death threats, doxxing and in-person harassment on the streets of Charlottesville that made him fear for his personal safety, according to the complaint. He claims the enduring consequences of these false stories have “compromised” his career, deterring companies from wanting to work with him while he’s on leave and putting him at risk if he rejoins the foreign service and returns abroad, as he plans to. The result has been emotional distress, he says.

Gilmore told TPM he won’t settle for any amount of money, and wants his case to set a precedent. His goal, he said, is “to try and prevent someone else who is in my shoes to be victim to the same type of predation that Alex Jones and his fellow conspiracy theorists directed to me.”

“They knew what they were saying was false and they made no attempt to verify anything,”Andrew Mendrala, supervising attorney of Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, told TPM. “[They were] putting this out there with the intention of smearing him and unleashing their followers to sort of carry that out in real life.”

Beyond defamation, the case aims to hold the creators of false online content responsible for their followers’ responses to that content.

That’s why it may be a heavy lift. Although Gilmore may have suffered real personal trauma, strong constitutional protections for publications that traffic in opinion pose a major challenge, First Amendment experts told TPM.

Not all of the defendants used language as unequivocal as Jones’. Derrick Wilson, a writer for former U.S. congressman Allen West’s website, wrote a story suggesting Charlottesville “was a complete SET-UP” and that it was “fishy” that Gilmore formerly worked for the State Department.

That could shield Wilson from the legal standard for defamation, which explicitly relates to false, damaging factual assertions, experts said. Call it the “a lot of people are saying” defense.

“It’s a tough argument to make,” preeminent first amendment attorney Bruce Johnson told TPM of Gilmore’s suit, calling it “path-breaking in terms of the First Amendment issues presented.”

“I could see the core of a defamation case lurking there,” Johnson, a litigator at Davis Wright Tremaine, told TPM. “And I can understand the plaintiff’s frustration because the prevalence of these fake news organizations has clearly infected our political dialogue.”

But, Johnson added, although people can be held liable for false and defamatory facts, “the courts are very reluctant to police individual opinions.”

Then there are the threats. Though the defendants could reasonably be expected to know that their legions of social media followers would go after Gilmore as a result of their bogus stories, it’s difficult to hold them accountable for the actions of others, according to Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment expert at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. Volokh noted that the defendants did not direct their followers to threaten Gilmore.

“Outright solicitation of violence or other kinds of crimes, like vandalism, against a specific identified target is probably unprotected,” Volokh said. But condemning somebody or publishing demeaning hypotheses about them is “generally protected, even when the foreseeable result given the audience is that a fraction of it is going to act improperly or even criminally.”

Many of the defendants in the Charlottesville suit have publicly brushed off the case as a concerted effort to silence conservative voices.

Compare the case to a recent lawsuit targeting the far-right brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Last year, the civil-rights group sued Andrew Anglin, the founder of neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, for directing his followers to carry out a months-long, anti-Semitic harassment campaign against a Montana Jewish woman and her family.

The SPLC accuses Anglin of invading Tanya Gersh’s privacy, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, and violating Montana’s Anti-Intimidation Act. First Amendment attorneys told TPM the case is strong, pointing to the over 700 messages the Gershes received on their personal devices at all hours of the night, on Anglin’s orders, including death threats and promptings to commit suicide.

Still, both cases represent a burgeoning effort to provide legal redress for private individuals suffering real-world consequences caused by chronic bad online actors.

As Mendrala, the attorney in the Charlottesville case put it: “They feel there’s some anonymity afforded them [online], combined with some vague notion that the First Amendment protects anything that they say about anyone, and that they can operate with impunity. And that’s not the case.”

“We feel like we’re sort of seeking to hold them accountable in ways that maybe they have not yet been,” he said.

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As far as the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee is concerned, their investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is complete.

Not so for their Democratic colleagues, who on Tuesday released an exhaustive list of investigative leads and witnesses that the majority didn’t pursue before shuttering its probe.

The list represents a forceful condemnation of the Republicans’ investigation, which Democrats have long seen as a half-hearted effort aimed at exonerating the administration.

“The HPSCI Democrats remain fully committed to conducting this investigation as originally envisioned, leaving no stone unturned in determining the facts of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and the steps we need to take to ensure the future integrity of our democratic process,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the committee’s ranking Democrat, wrote in the status update.

Those stones include interviews with “more than 30 key witnesses” who either have yet to respond to requests for testimony or weren’t identified as pertinent until late in the months-long probe. Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller, and former deputy national security adviser KT McFarland are among those listed.

The House Democrats also say a “legitimate investigation” would require interviews with certain people caught up in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Schiff says the committee deferred talking to people like ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos out of respect for the federal inquiry, but that doing so was essential to gaining a “complete understanding” of Russia-Trump connections. Both Flynn and Papadopoulos are currently cooperating witnesses in Mueller’s probe.

Unlike the now-closed official committee investigation, any ongoing probe by Democrats, of course, would lack subpoena power to enforce its demands.

Unanswered lines of inquiry identified by the minority include detailing the hacking and dissemination of Democratic operatives’ emails; determining the financial leverage Russia may have had over Trump and other members of his campaign; and concluding whether the President obstructed justice by asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, among other moves.

Democrats on the panel are also interested in obtaining documents from entities including Deutsche Bank and the social media giants that Russia used to disseminate false information.

They will likely be alone in these pursuits. The panel’s GOP majority announced Monday that the investigative phase of their work was over, and they were moving on to producing a report on their conclusions. The Republican summary of their draft report said that there was “no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

It also made clear that Republicans were focused on starkly different lines of inquiry, including alleged anti-Trump bias at the Justice Department and FBI and intelligence community leaks to the media.

Democrats insisted they’ll continue on with their more comprehensive inquiry “to the best of our ability,” per Schiff’s status report.

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The wife of Matthew Heimbach, who leads the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party, told police that during a domestic altercation, her husband kicked a wall, grabbed her face, and threw her violently on a bed, according to a police report obtained by TPM. The incident occurred in the presence of the couple’s two young sons.

As TPM reported, Heimbach, 26, was arrested early Tuesday morning and charged with one felony count of domestic battery in the presence of a child under 16, and one misdemeanor count of battery.

The arrest followed a bizarre sequence of events stemming from an extramarital affair Heimbach was conducting, according to the police report.

The white nationalist leader is married to Brooke Heimbach, the step-daughter of Matt Parrott, the Traditionalist Worker Party’s chief spokesman. Matthew Heimbach was also carrying on an affair with Parrott’s wife, Jessica Parrott. Per the police report, when Brooke Heimbach and Matt Parrott confronted Matthew Heimbach about the relationship, Matthew physically attacked both of them.

The group all live in the same trailer park compound in rural Paoli, Indiana, where the Traditionalist Worker Party is based. In statements to the police, all four listed their professions as “white nationalists.”

Per the report, Brooke Heimbach and Matt Parrott tried to set Matthew Heimbach up to see if he would continue the affair after agreeing to call it quits. On Tuesday, they spied on him and Jessica Parrott through the window of the Parrotts’ trailer.

Matt Parrott and Matthew Heimbach got into a physical confrontation, and Matt Parrott later told the police that Matthew Heimbach grabbed him and “choked him out,” leaving him briefly unconscious.

Shortly after police arrived on the scene, the officer heard Matthew Heimbach arguing with his wife and “scuffling.” Brooke Heimbach told the police that her husband kicked the wall, grabbed her face, and “threw me with the hand on my face onto the bed” — a violent exchange she said she recorded on her cell phone. The couple’s two young sons were present for the altercation.

Matthew Heimbach was released from Orange County jail Tuesday on $1,000 bond, according to court records.

This complicated situation leaves the future of the Traditionalist Worker Party, one of the most outspoken groups in the modern white nationalist movement, uncertain. Matt Parrott announced last week that he is resigning his post and leaving the group.

Matthew Heimbach is already on probation for a previous violent incident. Last year he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for shoving a young black protester at a Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, agreeing to pay a $145 fine, take anger management classes, and stay out of trouble with the law for two years.

Read the full police report below.

This post has been updated.

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White nationalist figurehead Matthew Heimbach was arrested on felony domestic violence-related charges Tuesday, according to court records filed in Orange County, Indiana.

The online records show Heimbach was charged with one count of battery and another of domestic battery committed in the presence of a child under 16 years old. He was released on $1,000 cash bond.

Heimbach, 26, is the head of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a neo-Nazi group that advocates for the establishment of an “independent White ethno-state in North America.” He lives in rural Paoli, Indiana with his wife and young sons.

The Orange County prosecutor’s office and court were both closed by the time TPM reached out on Tuesday afternoon. Heimbach did not respond to TPM’s call, email or text message requesting comment.

Heimbach last year pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for shoving a young black protester at a Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky. He had to pay a $145 fine, take anger management classes and stay out of trouble with the law for two years—a provision he may have violated with his latest domestic violence arrest.

Heimbach has been a fixture at other recent white nationalist events, helping organize a “White Lives Matter” rally in Tennessee last fall and brawling with counter-protesters outside of Richard Spencer’s speech at Michigan State University last week.

That event exposed deep fissures in the already strained U.S. white nationalist movement. Spencer announced that he’s quitting his flailing college tour as the events, which are often met with mass protests by anti-racist activists, are no longer “fun.” Spencer’s longtime ally and attorney Kyle Bristow quit the movement outright.

Traditional Worker Party spokesman Matthew Parrott, who is Heimbach’s father-in-law, has announced that he is walking away from the group. In a Monday night post on Gab, a social network popular among the racist far-right, Parrott announced that he would “fully and permanently resign.”

Reached by the Southern Poverty Law Center on Tuesday, Parrott said, “I’m done. I’m out. SPLC has won. Matt Parrott is out of the game.”

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A witness of the deadly car crash at last year’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia is suing Infowars and other far-right purveyors of “fake news conspiracies” for instigating a targeted harassment campaign against him.

Counter-protester Brennan Gilmore alleges that he was defamed by false stories after sharing a video he’d captured of neo-Nazi James Fields allegedly ramming his car into a crowd, injuring 36 and killing anti-racist activist Heather Heyer. Fields was charged with first-degree murder in December. Georgetown Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic on Tuesday filed the defamation suit in federal court in Virginia on Gilmore’s behalf.

“Defendants thrive by inciting devastating real-world consequences with the lies they publish as ‘news,’” the suit reads. “From ‘Pizzagate’ to the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas shootings, Defendants have subjected innocent people to relentless threats of violence and death, bullying, and online harassment.”

Gilmore’s cameraphone video of the August 2017 attack went viral on Twitter, making him a target of online conspiracies alleging that he was part of a “deep-state” plot to undermine the Trump administration by staging the deadly incident.

Infowars’ Alex Jones and Lee Stranahan; Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft; and former congressman Allen West are among the defendants accused of promoting these bogus stories.

The defendants seized on details of Gilmore’s personal life, including his work as a foreign service officer, to allege that he was a “deep state shill linked to George Soros” and that he had “foreknowledge that this event was going to happen.”

As a result, per the complaint, Gilmore faced death threats, hacking attempts and the publication of his and his parents’ personal information. His career as a diplomat was “compromised,” and he was sent a letter containing suspicious powder.

Gilmore is seeking monetary damages for his “emotional distress” and “reputational, emotional, and professional injuries.”

Georgetown’s civil rights clinic last October sued the organizers of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally and the militia groups that guarded them, pointing to an obscure provision of the Virginia Constitution barring the formation of armed paramilitary groups who intend to commit violence.

Both suits use innovative legal arguments to try to hold the perpetrators and defenders of the chaotic event accountable.

As the latest complaint alleges, Jones and Hoft have smeared victims of tragedies before, most recently pushing reports that the teenage survivors of the mass shooting at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas high school were hired “crisis actors.”

Jones responded to the filing in one of his characteristic rambling first-person videos, alleging that he was targeted for “questioning leftist PR surrounding Charlottesville.”

Other defendants told Reuters that they stood by their comments on Gilmore.

Read the full complaint below.

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Editor’s Note: The New York Times report on Haspel’s role in the torture program, cited in the TPM story below, has been corrected. The Times now reports that Haspel didn’t begin supervising the Thailand facility until after the water-boarding of Abu Zubaydah had ended. 

The correction does not affect reporting on Haspel’s role in the torture of al-Nashiri, or in the later destruction of tapes showing the torture.

Original Story:

President Trump’s nominee to replace outgoing CIA director Mike Pompeo had a key role in the agency’s clandestine torture program, running the US’ first overseas detention center.

Gina Haspel was nominated to lead the CIA on Tuesday morning after Trump abruptly fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reassigning Pompeo to serve as as the country’s top diplomat.

As the New York Times reported last year when Haspel was named CIA deputy director, the post she currently holds, she oversaw the torture of two high-profile terrorist suspects at the agency’s secret prison in Thailand in 2002, and helped destroy videotapes documenting their gruesome interrogations.

One of the suspects, Abu Zubaydah, was subjected to waterboarding 83 times in one month and had his head repeatedly slammed into walls. The other, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, had a handgun loaded and a power drill revved next to his hooded head in order to frighten him into talking.

Haspel was also instrumental to the coverup of these brutal sessions, which were recorded on tapes that were stored in a safe at the Thailand facility until 2005. At that time, Haspel was working at CIA headquarters, and her name was on a cable carrying the order to destroy the tapes. The agency has said Haspel’s then-boss Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, was behind the decision to destroy the recordings.

In brief remarks to the press pool on Tuesday, Trump praised Haspel, emphasizing that she was the first woman picked to lead the agency.

“She’s an outstanding person who also I have gotten to know very well,” the President told reporters, as he prepared to embark to California to review prototypes for his signature border wall.

Trump has repeatedly expressed his approval for torture, saying it “absolutely works” and that he’d like to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

His nomination of Haspel, who will need to be confirmed by the Senate, will revive debates over the CIA’s secretive interrogation program. The 2012 Senate Intelligence Committee report on the program determined that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not an effective means of acquiring intelligence, and detailed shocking instances of abuse including forced rectal feedings, “mock executions,” and days-long sessions of standing sleep deprivation.

In 2013, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who led the committee at the time, blocked Haspel’s promotion to run the CIA’s clandestine operations over her role in the torture program.

Democrats were quick to condemn Trump’s decision.

Noting her opposition to Pompeo’s nomination for his failure to condone the torture program, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said Haspel has “done much worse.”

“Her reprehensible actions should disqualify her from having the privilege of serving the American people in government ever again, but apparently this President believes they merit a promotion,” Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, said in a statement. “I could not disagree more.”

Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden (D-OR) told the Daily Beast that Haspel’s “background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director.”

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