Belgian authorities struggle to get a handle on terror threat: 'It's literally an impossible situation'
Belgian authorities have faced ongoing criticism for their missteps in addressing the terrorist threat in the heart of their country — criticisms that will likely only be exacerbated following the March 22 attacks in Brussels that have left at least 26 dead.
"We just don't have the people to watch anything else and, frankly, we don't have the infrastructure to properly investigate or monitor hundreds of individuals suspected of terror links as well as pursue the hundreds of open files and investigations we have," a Belgian counter-terrorism official told BuzzFeed last week. "It's literally an impossible situation and, honestly, it's very grave."
One 42-year-old Belgian man told BuzzFeed that the government divisions between the French-speaking south and Dutch-speaking north make the government "fractured and ineffective."
"This is what happens when you don’t have a real government and a divided bureaucracy,” he said.
An American survivor of the attack in the Maelbeek situation also expressed distress over Brussels' seeming inability to get the situation under control. "There are so many competing language groups. The police don't cooperate well together," Brian Carroll, 31, told The New York Times. Jeva Lange
A New Jersey teacher called the police when one student in her third grade class made a comment another child said was racist. "He said they were talking about brownies," which the class was eating for an end-of-the-year party, said the boy's mother, Stacy dos Santos. "Who exactly did he offend?"
Dos Santos reports her son was "traumatized" by his interaction with the police, and she hopes to send him to a different school in the fall. "He was intimidated, obviously," she said. "There was a police officer with a gun in the holster talking to my son, saying, 'Tell me what you said.' He didn't have anybody on his side."
Police are called to the elementary school in question as often as five times per day, as teachers prefer to dial the cops rather than dealing with routine misbehavior themselves. Following the brownies incident, the local police department reiterated its guidelines for the school as to appropriate circumstances for bringing officers to discipline elementary school hijinks. Bonnie Kristian
Trump doesn't mind if people call him a 'xenophobe' because 'How many people even know what that word means?'
Donald Trump waved away charges that he is a "xenophobe" and a "nativist" with the suggestion that these words are too difficult for the average voter to understand anyway — at least, that's what Boston radio host Howie Carr said following a conversation with Trump on the candidate's personal plane.
Carr mentioned a sighting of anti-Trump protesters in Boston, one of whom was waving a sign which read, "RACIST SEXIST BIGOT FASCIST XENOPHOBE ISLAMOPHOBE TRUMP."
Trump was unconcerned. "Hillary's called me a 'xenophobe' a few times," he said. "How many people even know what the word means? Same with 'nativist.'"
During the same conversation, Trump offered Carr some public relations advice. "Whatever you do, don't apologize," Trump said. "You never hear me apologize, do you? That's what killed Jimmy the Greek way back. Remember? He was doing okay 'til he said he was sorry." Bonnie Kristian
Six former Mar-a-Lago employees told BuzzFeed that Donald Trump had the ability to tap into every phone at the Palm Beach resort, and that he did so to eavesdrop on his staff throughout the mid-2000s.
[Four employees speaking to BuzzFeed anonymously] said [Trump] listened in on calls between club employees or, in some cases, between staff and guests. None of them knew of Trump eavesdropping on guests or members talking on private calls with people who were not employees of Mar-a-Lago. They also said that Trump could eavesdrop only on calls made on the club's landlines and not on calls made from guests' cell phones.
Each of these four sources said they personally saw the telephone console, which some referred to as a switchboard, in Trump's bedroom. [BuzzFeed]
The allegations follow a similar rumor reported by The New York Times last month, which cited campaign staffers' concerns that their offices in Trump Tower were bugged. Trump has said in the past that he supports the NRA collecting metadata on civilians and that "I tend to err on the side of security."
President Obama's former senior adviser David Axelrod slammed Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch over their meeting earlier this week, claiming that while he took them "at their word" that it was "primarily social," the "optics" certainly looked bad.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) June 30, 2016
The meeting, which Lynch said was primarily a discussion about grandchildren, raised concerns due to the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while acting as secretary of state.
"[Lynch's] agents and lawyers, more than 100 of them, are engaged in two serious criminal investigations of Bill Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. It is inconceivable that she would permit herself to have any kind of contact with the husband of the target of a criminal investigation. The appearance of impropriety is so profound, no one could accept that she is now neutral in this case," Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, said. Jeva Lange
In the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, Republican operatives are waiting for commands from Trump headquarters only to watch cobwebs grow on their phones. Even as Hillary Clinton moves into make-or-break counties in preparation for the general election, the Trump campaign severely lags in infrastructure to swing the state red, Politico reports.
For Trump supporters, that means good news and bad news: "The good news is, the level of enthusiasm for Mr. Trump in this county is the strongest I've ever seen for anyone. The bad news is, the resources at our disposal are by far the worst I've ever seen in any campaign, at least in any presidential campaign," Republican chairman of Westmoreland County Michael Korns told Politico.
Korns explained, "They don't yet have any sort of field-level staffers, at least that I've interacted with, that are paid, which is unusual at this point in a campaign. Four years ago, we did have multiple staffers available, and that's not here yet."
Other GOP staffers echoed Korns when talking with Politico, saying they also haven't heard from Trump's people yet. That's intentional, at least to some extent — Trump plans to pass control to the Republican National Committee and state party. Still, "there are a number of individuals, with varying levels of authority, some self-appointed, some not, that sort of float around on [the Trump] campaign, so it's definitely been a bit of a learning curve on our end,” Korns said.
Despite Clinton's early organization, she still polls three points behind Trump in the state according to RealClearPolitics and a pro-Clinton super PAC. Maybe there is something to be said for bumper stickers after all. Jeva Lange
Taking a page from the Donald Trump playbook, the Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov is launching a TV series modeled after The Apprentice, the winner of which will get to serve in his government. Kadyrov's assistants will also have to face challenges on the television show, Meduza reports.
"Participants will be able to test themselves and show what they can do in the most beautiful corners of Chechnya: They'll climb mountains, descend into lakes, walk through the forests, and fully appreciate the hospitality and traditions of Chechnya," Russian television network, Rossiya 1, said in a statement, according to Meduza. People of every "age or social status" are encouraged to apply to be contestants on the show.
Despite a macho demeanor and a concerning human rights record, Kadyrov has a noted fondness for television and social media, having posted to Instagram earlier this year in an effort to find his lost cat as well as using his account to announce that he would star in a "Hollywood" action film, Whoever Doesn't Understand Will Get It. Jeva Lange
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) is likely on the shortlist to be Hillary Clinton's running mate, but if selected, his acceptance of gifts could provide ample ammo for enemies seeking to take Clinton down in the general election. Although Virginia has especially lenient gift laws (which has gotten others, such as former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), into hot water), Republicans can point to Kaine's acceptance of an $18,000 Caribbean vacation, $5,500 in clothes, and tickets to the NCAA basketball Final Four as evidence of a corrupt political class, Politico reports.
"During his eight years as lieutenant governor and governor, Sen. Kaine went beyond the requirements of Virginia law, even publicly disclosing gifts of value beneath the reporting threshold. He's confident that he met both the letter and the spirit of Virginia's ethical standards," a spokesperson said. Kaine indeed has never been accused of corruption; his gifts were rather received out of acts of apparent friendships rather than in a bargain for political favors.
Still, "the danger here is that there's already a narrative on Hillary Clinton: It's crooked cronyism, and any pick or any other action that drives that narrative is going to be bad for her," former Republican National Committee Deputy Research Director Matt Moon said. "If you're on the Clinton campaign side, you want to look at potential vulnerabilities in how a VP pick would drive an opposition narrative." Jeva Lange