Downtown Nashville Explosion Knocks Communications Offline

Downtown Nashville Explosion Knocks Communications Offline Downtown Nashville Explosion Knocks Communications Offline (AP)

KIMBERLEE KRUESI and THALIA BEATY Friday, 25 December 2020 05:39 PM

A recreational vehicle parked in the deserted streets of downtown Nashville exploded early Christmas morning, causing widespread communications outages that took down police emergency systems and grounded holiday travel at the city's airport. Authorities said they believe the blast was intentional.

Police were responding to a report of shots fired Friday when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomb squad. The RV exploded shortly afterward, Drake said at a midday news conference. Police did not immediately indicate a possible motive or the target.

“It looks like a bomb went off on Second Avenue,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said after touring the site. Cooper issued a state of emergency and a curfew for the area.

Police did not immediately indicate a possible motive or the target.

Surveillance video published on a Twitter account Friday that appeared to be across the street from the blast captured the warning issuing from the RV, “… if you can hear this message, evacuate now,” seconds before the explosion.

The blast sent black smoke and flames billowing from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops. Buildings shook and windows shattered streets away from the explosion near a building owned by AT&T that lies one block from the company's office tower, a landmark in downtown.

“We do not know if that was a coincidence, or if that was the intention,” police spokesman Don Aaron said. Aaron said earlier that some people were taken to the department’s central precinct for questioning but declined to give details.

AT&T said the affected building is the central office of a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it. The blast interrupted service, but the company declined to say how widespread outages were.

“Service for some customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning. We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service,” AT&T spokesman Jim Greer said in an emailed statement.

The AT&T outages site showed service issues in middle Tennessee and Kentucky, including Bowling Green about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Nashville. Several police agencies reported that their 911 systems were down because of the outage, including Murfreesboro and Knox County, home to Knoxville about 180 miles (290 kilometers) east of Nashville.

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of Nashville International Airport because of telecommunications issues associated with the explosion.

Three people were taken to area hospitals for treatment after the blast, although none were in critical condition, Aaron said. Cooper said the city was lucky that the number of injuries was limited. Authorities don’t know whether anyone was in the vehicle when it exploded.

Human remains were found in the vicinity, two law enforcement officials told the The Associated Press. It was unclear how the remains were related to the explosion or whether they might belong to the person believed to be responsible or a victim. The officials could not discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation, agency spokesman Joel Siskovic said. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism.

A Philadelphia man staying in a nearby hotel said that when he heard the blast, he was knew it wasn’t harmless.

“We tried to rationalize it that it was an earthquake or something, but it was obvious it wasn’t an earthquake," Joseph Fafara said. He said he traveled to Tennessee with his family on Christmas because the state has looser COVID-19 restrictions than Philadelphia.

When he went to look at the damage, police barricades had already been put in place. At noon, police dogs continued to search cars and buildings in the nearby area.

Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blare in the background along with cries of people in distress. A fire is visible in the street outside.

McCoy said he heard gunfire 15 minutes before the explosion rocked his building, set cars in the street on fire and blew trees apart.

“All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there it would have been horrible,” he said.

“It felt like a bomb. It was that big,” he told The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has been briefed, according to White House spokesperson Judd Deere. The U.S. Justice Department said Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen was also briefed and directed all department resources be made available to help with the investigation.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said on Twitter that the state would provide the resources necessary “to determine what happened and who was responsible.”

The American Red Cross of Tennessee announced that it was working with officials to open a shelter for victims.

Sen. Blackburn Praises Nashville Law Enforcement for Quick Action

Sen. Blackburn Praises Nashville Law Enforcement for Quick Action marsha blackburn sits behind table Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. (Jason Andrew-Pool/Getty)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Friday, 25 December 2020 12:45 PM

Sen. Marsha Blackburn Friday praised members of the Nashville Police Department for their quick action in the wake of a massive explosion that rocked the mostly empty streets in the city early Christmas morning.

"This is a time when we are so grateful that we have members of the police, that thin blue line that continues to stand between chaos and calm, for the good work that they have done this Christmas morning when this tragedy, this unspeakable, unseemly tragedy, has occurred in downtown Nashville," the Tennessee Republican told Fox News.

Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron said that police had been responding to a call about shots being fired just before 6 a.m. local time but found no signs of a shooting. However, the officers noticed a suspicious vehicle and called for a hazardous response unit. While they waited, the vehicle exploded.

Blackburn said there will be more information from the FBI, which is leading the investigation into the explosion, which officials said was apparently set off intentionally.

The senator said her office has been in touch with state, local, and federal authorities, and that the explosion is a "tragic situation."

"We are of course concerned for safety and security, and we are grateful for the first responders and law enforcement who found it suspicious, again, cordoning off the area and working to protect people that live in this downtown area," said Blackburn.

The section where the explosion took place is a "very busy" part of the city, Blackburn said.

"You are down around Broadway," she said. "Of course in Nashville, we have lots of bars and venues, live music venues. You have the Country Music Hall of Fame that is within a few blocks of this area, as is the Symphony Hall, as is the arena, so it is a very busy area. Other times, there is a lot of pedestrian traffic in this area. We are just so grateful for law enforcement and people that were watching and felt this was suspicious."

Dick Morris to Newsmax TV: Legislatures, Feds Important in Trump Case

Dick Morris to Newsmax TV: Legislatures, Feds Important in Trump Case (Newsmax TV)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Saturday, 28 November 2020 10:29 PM

As the fight for President Donald Trump's election moves in the federal court, "our chances of winning increase," and state legislatures will also come into play, political strategist and author Dick Morris told Newsmax TV Saturday.

"State legislatures like in Pennsylvania are taking their constitutional duty seriously to determine who won the state and who gets the electoral votes," Morris, also an analyst for Newsmax TV, told "The Count." "The Constitution is explicit that state legislatures have that authority."

In the past, legislatures "rubberstamped" what the state boards of canvassers told them, but now with the irregularities in the state courts, "they are moving in asserting their legal jurisdiction over that and I think that is very important," Morris said.

Meanwhile, Arizona would be the most difficult state for Trump to win, but Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, the "fraud was very blatant and well planned well in advance,' said Morris.

"Pennsylvania prepared for the fraud by illegally extending that time you had to vote to 3 days after the election day, clearly in violation of the Constitution and state law," he added.

Morris also discussed the ruling by Judge Matthew Brann of the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, noting that the "mistake" the judge made was that the federal case wasn't about ballot fraud, but about equal protection under the law.

Important: See Newsmax TV now carried in 70 million cable homes, on DirecTV Ch. 349, Dish Network Ch. 216, Xfinity Ch. 1115, Spectrum, U-verse Ch. 1220, FiOS Ch. 615, Optimum Ch. 102, Cox cable, Suddenlink Ch. 102, CenturyLink 1209, Mediacom Ch. 277, Frontier 615 or Find More Cable Systems – Click Here.

Original Article

Sidney Powell to Newsmax TV: Dominion Contracts Warrant Criminal Probe

Sidney Powell to Newsmax TV: Dominion Contracts Warrant Criminal Probe (Newsmax TV's "The Count")

By Eric Mack | Saturday, 28 November 2020 09:49 PM

The $107 million contract awarded by Georgia for Dominion Voting Systems should be thoroughly investigated for potential "benefits being paid to family members of those who signed the contract," according to former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell on Newsmax TV.

"There should be an investigation, a thorough criminal investigation, frankly, of everyone involved in acquiring the Dominion [Voting] System for the state of Georgia," Powell told Saturday's "The Count" hosted by Tom Basile and Mark Halperin.

"And frankly for every other state, given how appalling the system is and the fact it was designed to manipulate the votes and destroy the real votes of American citizens who were casting legal votes."

Powell's investigation is turning up potential criminal allegations, including "money or benefits being paid to family members of those who signed the contract for Georgia."

"I think there are multiple people in the Secretary of State's office and other that should be investigated in Georgia for what benefits they might have received for giving Dominion the $100-million, no-bid contract," Powell said.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported in 2019, however, Georgia did receive three bids for the new voting systems, with Dominion winning on being "the lowest-cost system among three companies that submitted bids."

That contract was pursued by the state after Stacey Abrams never conceded to Gov. Brian Kemp in the 2018 midterm elections, claiming the Secretary of State and Kemp unlawfully ''suppressed'' votes by voiding registrations found to be illegitimate.

Important: See Newsmax TV now carried in 70 million cable homes, on DirecTV Ch. 349, Dish Network Ch. 216, Xfinity Ch. 1115, Spectrum, U-verse Ch. 1220, FiOS Ch. 615, Optimum Ch. 102, Cox cable, Suddenlink Ch. 102, CenturyLink 1209, Mediacom Ch. 277, Frontier 615 or Find More Cable Systems – Click Here.

Sidney Powell to Newsmax TV: Dominion Contracts Warrant Criminal Probe

Sidney Powell to Newsmax TV: Dominion Contracts Warrant Criminal Probe (Newsmax TV's "The Count")

By Eric Mack | Saturday, 28 November 2020 09:49 PM

The $107 million contract awarded by Georgia for Dominion Voting Systems should be thoroughly investigated for potential "benefits being paid to family members of those who signed the contract," according to former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell on Newsmax TV.

"There should be an investigation, a thorough criminal investigation, frankly, of everyone involved in acquiring the Dominion [Voting] System for the state of Georgia," Powell told Saturday's "The Count" hosted by Tom Basile and Mark Halperin.

"And frankly for every other state, given how appalling the system is and the fact it was designed to manipulate the votes and destroy the real votes of American citizens who were casting legal votes."

Powell's investigation is turning up potential criminal allegations, including "money or benefits being paid to family members of those who signed the contract for Georgia."

"I think there are multiple people in the Secretary of State's office and other that should be investigated in Georgia for what benefits they might have received for giving Dominion the $100-million, no-bid contract," Powell said.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported in 2019, however, Georgia did receive three bids for the new voting systems, with Dominion winning on being "the lowest-cost system among three companies that submitted bids."

That contract was pursued by the state after Stacey Abrams never conceded to Gov. Brian Kemp in the 2018 midterm elections, claiming the Secretary of State and Kemp unlawfully ''suppressed'' votes by voiding registrations found to be illegitimate.

Important: See Newsmax TV now carried in 70 million cable homes, on DirecTV Ch. 349, Dish Network Ch. 216, Xfinity Ch. 1115, Spectrum, U-verse Ch. 1220, FiOS Ch. 615, Optimum Ch. 102, Cox cable, Suddenlink Ch. 102, CenturyLink 1209, Mediacom Ch. 277, Frontier 615 or Find More Cable Systems – Click Here.

Original Article

Arizona Republicans to Hold Meeting on Nov. 3 Election

Arizona Republicans to Hold Meeting on Nov. 3 Election

Saturday, 28 November 2020 08:38 PM

Arizona Republicans have scheduled a meeting at a hotel in downtown Phoenix on Monday to discuss the Nov. 3 election.

The event was billed as a “fact-finding hearing" featuring members of Trump's legal team and members of the Arizona Legislature, but top leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature told The Associated Press that the planned gathering was not an official legislative event.

According to press release by state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro-Valley, the gathering is intended “to hear testimony and view evidence related to allegations of electoral compromise related to the 2020 election."

A similar event was held Wednesday in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

No evidence of fraud or hacking of voting machines has emerged during this election in Arizona.

Five challenges have been filed in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix since Nov. 3 and four of those have been dismissed. An initial hearing on the fifth is scheduled Monday, the same day as the hotel event and the state election canvass at the state Capitol.

Among the Trump supporters using social media to publicize the Arizona event were state GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. “I will be there," Gosar declared on Twitter.

It wasn't clear whether the Trump attorneys would be present in Phoenix or addressing the gathering remotely.

On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey acknowledged for the first time that President-elect Joe Biden won Arizona.

The Arizona Legislature is not in session and Senate President Karen Fann said neither she nor House Speaker Rusty Bowers, authorized fellow Republican lawmakers to hold a hearing at the Capitol on the election.

“So they found a site off-site to hold it," Fann said.

The planned gathering drew scorn from some Democrats.

“Might as well have a boat parade and call it a legislative hearing. This unsanctioned unofficial circus sideshow will have no bearing or impact on @JoeBiden’s victory in Arizona,” the Democratic Caucus of the Arizona House said in its Twitter feed.

Original Article

Pennsylvania High Court Rejects Lawsuit Challenging Election

Pennsylvania High Court Rejects Lawsuit Challenging Election judge gavel (Picture Alliance-DPA via AP Images)

MARC LEVY Saturday, 28 November 2020 07:58 PM

Pennsylvania's highest court on Saturday night threw out a lower court's order preventing the state from certifying dozens of contests on its Nov. 3 election ballot in the latest lawsuit filed by Republicans challenging the vote count in the battleground state.

The state Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, threw out the three-day-old order, saying the underlying lawsuit was filed months after the law allowed for challenges to Pennsylvania's expansive year-old mail-in voting law.

The state's attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, called the court's decision “another win for Democracy.”

The week-old lawsuit, led by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania, had challenged the state's mail-in voting law as unconstitutional.

As a remedy, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law — most of them by Democrats — or to wipe out the election results and direct the state's Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania's presidential electors.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, elected as a Republican in 2009, had issued the order Wednesday to halt certification of any remaining contests, including apparently contests for Congress.

A day earlier, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said he had certified Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election in Pennsylvania. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016.

Wolf had appealed McCullough's decision to the state Supreme Court, saying there was no “conceivable justification” for it.

Original Article

House GOP: Censure Dem for Complaint in Trump Legal Team

House GOP: Censure Dem for Complaint in Trump Legal Team House GOP: Censure Dem for Complaint in Trump Legal Team Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J, (A)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Saturday, 28 November 2020 02:22 PM

House Republicans are calling for the censure of Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J, who filed complaints with state bars seeking the disbarment of Rudy Giuliani and 22 other Trump campaign lawyers over the lawsuits they filed in several states after the election.

The resolution was introduced by GOP Reps. Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Warren Davidson of Ohio, Andy Harris, of Maryland, and Randy Weber of Texas, reports Fox News.

Pascrell last week filed complaints in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York, and Nevada saying the attorneys had filed "frivolous lawsuits" and were trying to help President Donald Trump "steal the election and dismantle democracy."

He also accused Giuliani specifically of "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation: and accused him of helping Trump commit "sinister arson" by undermining public confidence in the election process.

In their resolution, the Republicans say Trump's campaign has the legal right to sue and to ensure that all legal votes are counted, and to challenge illegal votes.

The resolution calls on the House to censure Pascrell for "conduct that threatens the livelihoods of American citizens in a way that is not befitting an elected Member of the House of Representatives.”

Pascrell Saturday called the Republicans seeking the censure "fascist wannabees" and accuse them of being "complicit" in Trump's behavior

"Donald Trump and his minions are trying to steal the election after getting blown out by President-elect Joe Biden," Pascrell said in a statement. "His lawyers filing frivolous lawsuits in taxpayer-funded courts are accomplices to Trump’s assault on American democracy and they must be held accountable."

Original Article

Biden Considering Cindy McCain for UK Ambassador Role

Biden Considering Cindy McCain for UK Ambassador Role Biden Considering Cindy McCain for UK Ambassador Role Cindy McCain. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Saturday, 28 November 2020 12:31 PM

Joe Biden is eyeing Cindy McCain as a potential U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, according to multiple sources.

“It’s hers if she wants it,” a source told The Times of London about McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain. “She delivered Arizona. They know that.”

Biden was the first Democrat to win Arizona since 1996.

McCain, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, is a known Anglophile. She and former Sen. Jeff Flake are both being credited for endorsements that helped Biden win in their state. Both have been floated for posts in the Biden administration, reports The Hill, with McCain being considered for a top ambassador role or another diplomatic post.

She currently serves on Biden's transition team on the advisory board. She has never held public office but is said to have had a front-row seat to international diplomacy while traveling with her husband, a frequent target of barbs from Trump.

McCain told ABC's "The View," which her daughter Meghan co-hosts, that the Biden administration will be "all-inclusive and there is a role for Republicans."

Biden has also signaled that he could reach across the aisle and name Republicans to key posts in his administration, including in his Cabinet.

Original Article

Pa. Judge Opines State’s Mail-in Ballot Procedures Likely Illegal

Pa. Judge Opines State's Mail-in Ballot Procedures Likely Illegal a graphic showing a 2020 pennsylvania ballot box with votes flying into it (Dreamstime)

Bob Van Voris Saturday, 28 November 2020 12:33 PM

A Pennsylvania judge who Nov. 25 blocked the state from going forward with additional steps that might be required to certify the state's presidential vote said in a written opinion that changes to the Pennsylvania's mail-in balloting procedures were likely illegal.

The order is delayed while the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considers the case, filed by Pennsylvania Republicans, on an expedited basis. Friday night's opinion simply provides the judge's reasoning for ordering a temporary delay.

It is unclear exactly what further steps in the process can be delayed, but the plaintiffs suggested there were several, including the assembly of electors. The Electoral College vote to certify the Nov. 3 election results does not take place until Dec. 14.

A federal appeals court Friday had rejected President Donald Trump's attempt to revive a lawsuit in which his campaign was seeking to undo Pennsylvania's certification Joe Biden's victory in the state.

A three-judge panel resoundingly dismissed the campaign's goal of striking out tens of thousands of ballots, saying there were no claims of fraud in the lawsuit, or proof.

The decision potentially tees the case up for the U.S. Supreme Court, and the president has openly mused the 6-3 conservative majority could deliver the election to him. But most legal experts doubt the high court will take up a case which will not change the race. Biden would still win the presidency without Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes, and Georgia, Michigan and Nevada have also certified results in his favor.

"Voters, not lawyers, choose the president," the federal appeals court in Philadelphia said.
"Ballots, not briefs, decide elections. The ballots here are governed by Pennsylvania election law. No federal law requires poll watchers or specifies where they must live or how close they may stand when votes are counted. Nor does federal law govern whether to count ballots with minor state-law defects or let voters cure those defects."

In its ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit took apart the Trump campaign's legal arguments, as it refused to force the lower-court judge who dismissed the case to allow the campaign to file a revised complaint.

Trump is trying to invalidate tens of thousands of mail-in ballots and asking the appeals court for an emergency order blocking "the effects" of Pennsylvania's certification of votes.

Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis said in a tweet the campaign would appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Trump campaign brought an expedited appeal of the lower-court judge's ruling. U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann on Saturday rejected both the request to file a new complaint and the idea of blocking certification, saying the campaign’s suit was speculative and based on "strained legal arguments" that were without merit.

The combined rulings from Brann and the appeals court are the highest-profile courtroom defeats for Trump since the Nov. 3 election. Suits filed by the campaign and its GOP allies have failed in Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona as judges declined to toss out millions of votes based on claims tied to a vast and implausible conspiracy theory about corrupt Democratic election workers.

The appeals panel, with all three members appointed by Republican presidents, said the campaign's ultimate goal of setting aside 1.5 million mail-in ballots from the defendant counties for an audit and "statistical analysis" to look for improper ballots would not be fair to voters, especially when there is no allegation of fraud in the complaint.

"There is no allegation of fraud (let alone proof) to justify harming those millions of voters as well as other candidates," the appeals court said.

Original Article

Over 700 Gang Members in Central America Arrested in US-Aided Actions

Over 700 Gang Members in Central America Arrested in US-Aided Actions Over 700 Gang Members in Central America Arrested in US-Aided Actions (Dreamstime)

Friday, 27 November 2020 08:14 PM

El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have brought criminal charges against more than 700 members of cross-border criminal organizations, primarily the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, in a U.S.-assisted effort, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday.

"The U.S. Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners in Central America are committed to continued collaboration in locating and arresting gang members and associates engaged in transnational crimes," said U.S. Attorney General William Barr, according to the statement.

The charges resulted from a one-week coordinated law enforcement action under Operation Regional Shield (ORS), a DOJ-led initiative to combat transnational organized crime that brings together authorities from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States.

Tackling transnational human smuggling networks and gangs, including MS-13, is a top priority for U.S. President Donald Trump.

Prosecutors in El Salvador this week filed criminal charges against 1,152 members of organized crime groups in the country, primarily MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, the statement said.

The national civil police captured 572 of the defendants on charges involving terrorism, murder, extortion, kidnapping, money laundering, human trafficking and human smuggling, among others.

In Guatemala, authorities executed 80 search warrants, arrested 40 individuals and served 29 arrest warrants against people already in custody, all of whom are members of the 18th Street gang and MS-13, the DOJ said. Guatemalan authorities seized drugs and a firearm, and filed charges for extortion, illicit association, conspiracy to commit murder and extortive obstruction.

In Honduras, the one-week joint operation resulted in the arrest of over 75 MS-13 and 18th Street gang members and five police officers and the execution of over 10 search warrants.