United States activists have called for a recount in battle ground states where Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton, over concerns that the ballot may have been skewed by foreign hackers.
According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, a “growing number of academics and activists” are calling for an audit of the results in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Dr Barbara Simons, an adviser to the US election assistance commission and expert on electronic voting, was quoted as stating “I’m interested in verifying the vote…We need to have post-election ballot audits.” According to a CNN report a group of scientists, including J Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Centre for Computer Security and Society, has privately told the Clinton campaign that it believes there was a “questionable trend.” Data experts are now asking why Mrs Clinton performed worse in counties that relied on electronic voting machines compared to paper ballots and optical scanners. While there has been no evidence found of hacking, experts argue that an independent audit is required. The group of scientists has reportedly informed Mrs Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, that she received 7% fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic voting machines, suggesting that they may have been hacked.
Mrs Clinton admitted defeat just hours after the election on 8 November. She lost to Mr Trump by at least 58 votes in the all-important electoral college tally, which is decided on a state-by–state basis. She did however win the popular vote by at least 1 million ballets. According to the LA Times, California still has to complete its official count, because of its complex electoral laws, however the state has already been called for Mrs Clinton.
During the election campaign, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began an investigation into allegations that Russians had hacked the private email of John Podesta. The hacked communications, which portrayed the Clinton campaign in an unflattering light, were later published by WikiLeaks.
In October, Ecuador acknowledged that it partly restricted Internet access for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is taking refuge at its London embassy. Ecuador has disclosed that Mr Assange had in recent weeks released material that could have an impact on the presidential election in the United States, which will take place on 8 November.
In a statement, the Ecuadorean foreign ministry disclosed that WikiLeaks’ decision to publish documents could have an impact on the US presidential election adding that the release was entirely the responsibility of the organization, and that Ecuador did not want to interfere in the electoral process. The statement went on to say “in that respect, Ecuador, exercising its sovereign right, has temporarily restricted access to part of its communications systems in the UK Embassy,” adding that “Ecuador does not yield to pressure from other countries.” WikiLeaks had earlier stated that Ecuador had cut off Mr Assange’s Internet access on the evening of 15 October. The US has denied WikiLeaks accusations that it had asked Ecuador to stop the site from publishing documents relating to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
WikiLeaks has recently been releasing material from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including those from a hack of Mrs Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. On 15 October, the site released transcripts of paid speeches that Mrs Clinton made to the US investment bank Goldman Sachs in the past, which her campaign had long refused to release. According to the latest leaked emails, Mrs Clinton told a Goldman Sachs conference that she would like to intervene secretly in Syria. She made the remark in answer to a question from Lloyd Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, in 2013, just months after she left office as secretary of state. She also told employees of a bank in South Carolina, which had paid here about US $225,000 to give a speech, that “my view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene,” adding,” we used to be much better at this than we are now. Now, you know, everybody can’t help themselves…They have to go out and tell their friendly reporters and somebody else: Look what we’re doing and I want credit for it.” The scripts revealed bantering exchanges with bank executives, which sources say may increase concerns among liberal Democrats that she is too cosy with Wall Street. The Democratic White House candidate’s camp has claimed that the cyber-breach was carried out by Russian hackers with the aim of undermining the US democratic process. Furthermore, while Mrs Clinton’s team has neither confirmed nor denied the leaked emails are authentic, there have been no indications that they are fake.
Transparency activist Julian Assange has sought asylum at London’s Ecuadorean embassy since 2012 in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex assault allegations.
On 26 September, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald held their first of three debates with each accusing the other and a snap poll indicating that the debate gave Mrs Clinton a boost in her chances to win the White House on 8 November
Mrs Clinton was under pressure to perform well in the wake of her bout with pneumonia and a recent drop in opinion polls. However he days of preparation appeared to have paid off in her highly anticipated first 90-minute standoff with Mr Trump, with a CNN/ORC snap poll stating that 62 percent of respondents felt that Mrs Clinton won the debate while 27 percent believed that Mr Trump was the winner.
While initially, Mr trump was strong early on, as the night wore on he appeared to become repetitive and more undisciplined. During the debate, Mrs Clinton accused Mr Trump of racism, sexism and tax avoidance, effectively putting him on the defensive. She sought to raise questions about her opponent’s temperament, business acumen and knowledge. Mr Trump, who is making his first run for public office, used much of his time to argue that the former first lady, US senator and secretary of state had achieved little in public life and that she wants to pursue policies, which have been started by President Barack Obama but which have failed to repair a shattered middle class. He suggested that her disavowal of a trade agreement with Asian countries was insincere and argued that her handling of a nuclear deal with Iran and the so-called Islamic State were disasters. In one of the more heated exchanges during the evening, Mrs Clinton accused Mr Trump of promulgating a “racist lie” by suggesting that President Obama was not born in the United States. The president, who was born in Hawaii, released a long-form birth certificate in 2011 in a bid to put the issue to rest. Only earlier this month did Mr Trump state publically that he believed the president was US-born. In a bid to get a reaction out of Mr Trump, Mrs Clinton suggested that he was refusing to release his tax returns to avoid showing Americans that he either paid next to nothing in federal taxes or that he is not as wealthy as he says he is. Mr Trump replied by saying that as a businessman, paying low taxes was important, adding, “that makes me smart.” He later stated, “I have tremendous income,” adding that it was about time that someone running the country knew something about money. Where Mrs Clinton seemed to pique Mr Trump’s ire was when she brought up his past insults about women, stating, “he loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them and he called this one ‘Miss Piggy’ and then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping.’” During the debate, Mr Trump hinted at wanting to say something but stopped short. Afterwards, he told reporters tat he had though off raising the sex scandal involving Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, who was in the audience with their daughter Chelsea. He stated, “I was going to say something extremely tough to Hillary and her family and I said I can’t do it. I just can do it. Is inappropriate, its not nice.”
After a week of shocking statements made by Republican candidate Donald Trump, new divisions have emerged within the United States Republican Party over its presidential candidate.
In the latest controversy to hit the Republican Party, Mr Trump has refused to support two senior figures within his own party. When asked in an interview for the Washington Post whether he would endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain, who are both up for re-election in November, Mr Trump replied that he was “just not quite there yet.” Both men publicly criticized him.
In recent days, Mr Trump has come under fire for criticizing the parents of a US Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention at the end of July, the soldier’s father, Khazr Khan, lambasted Mr Trump over his plan to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US. Mr Trump responded by attacking the couple. Both Democratic and Republican leaders, as well as veterans’ group, were quick to criticise Mr Trump, with the incident leading US President Barack Obama to make his strongest comments yet on Mr Trump. On 2 August, President Obama stated that “the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president and he keeps on proving it,” adding, “the notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that made such extraordinary sacrifices, means that he is woefully unprepared to do this job.” In response, Mr Trump dismissed President Obama’s time in the White House, calling it a “disaster,” and stating in a Fox News interview that “he’s been weak, he’s been ineffective…the worst president, maybe, in the history of our country.”
Mr Trump’s campaign has been marked by a series of controversial statements, which appear to be creating further divides within his own party. On 1 August, New York Representative Richard Hanna became the first Republican member of Congress to publicly say that he would vote for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. On Monday, Sally Bradshaw, a top adviser to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, disclosed that Mr Trump’s candidacy had convinced her to leave the Republican Party. Just days later, Republican donor Meg Whitman also announced that she has endorsed his Mrs Clinton, stating that Mr Trump’s “demagoguery” had undermined the national fabric. Writing on Facebook, Ms Whitman stated that to vote Republican out of party loyalty alone “would be to endorse a candidacy that I believe has exploited anger, grievance, xenophobia and racial division,” adding that “Trump’s unsteady hand would endanger our prosperity and national security. His authoritarian character could threaten much more.” Meanwhile senior party activist Jan Halper-Hayes has told the BBC that she though Mr Trump was “psychologically unbalanced.” Dr Halper-Hayes, vice president of Republicans Overseas Worldwide, told the BBC’s Today Programme that she was “very concerned” about Mr Trump’s behaviour, however she did not go so far as to endorse Mrs Clinton. She further stated, “I think there is an element of him that truly is psychologically unbalanced, and I feel very guilty for saying this because I’m a Republican and I want the Republican ticket to win…But Donald is out of control right now and he’s not listening to anyone.” Dozens of senior Republican party figures have already stated that they will not vote for Mr Trump. They include the party’s’ 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
In recent weeks, Mrs Clinton has been actively courting moderate Republicans. Furthermore the latest Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll suggests that she has extended her lead over Mr Trump to eight percentage points, from six points in the previous poll.
List of Republicans Not Voting for Mr Trump
- Barbara Bush, former first lady
- Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, 2016 presidential candidate
- William Cohen, former secretary of defense
- Jeff Flake, Arizona senator
- Lindsey Graham, South Carolina senator, 2016 presidential candidate
- Larry Hogan, Maryland governor
- John Kasich, Ohio governor, 2016 presidential candidate
- Mark Kirk, Illinois senator
- Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, 2012 Republican presidential nominee
- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Congresswoman
- Ben Sasse, Nebraska senator
List of Republicans Voting for Mrs Clinton
- Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state
- Hank Paulson, former treasury secretary
- Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser
- Richard Hanna, New York Congressman
- Meg Whitman, party donor and fundraiser
Algerian forces are combing the Sahara desert for five foreigners who remain missing from the attacks at Ain Amenas gas complex last week. It is unknown whether they were able to flee the complex and are perhaps lost in the vast desert region. The plant is located deep in the Sahara with few population centres nearby. Evening temperatures in the region can drop as low as 3° Celsius.
The attack last week left 38 workers and 29 militants dead. The al Qaeda-linked group reportedly demanded the release of two well-known, linked jihadists in exchange for American hostages. The two jihadists are Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (a.k.a. the “Blind Sheikh”) and Aafia Siddiqui (a.k.a. “Lady Al Qaeda”). The request for their release, however unlikely, remains a common refrain by Al-Qaeda linked groups.
Of the three militants taken into custody, one stated under interrogation that some Egyptian members of the group were involved in the terrorist attacks at the US Mission in Benghazi. The attacks left four dead, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, in September of last year. It is not known whether this confession was obtained under duress or should be deemed trustworthy. However, if confirmed, the link underscores the transnational characteristic of the jihadist groups now occupying the Sahara and Sahal regions.
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, believes that the Islamist militant takeover of northern Mali had created a haven for terrorists to extend their reach in North Africa. Algerian officials believe the gas complex plot was devised by groups in northern Mali, where Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of the group claiming responsibility, is believed to be based. Further reinforcing this notion, US intelligence officials believe that some members of Ansar al-Shariah, the group that carried out the attack in Benghazi, has connections to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Algerian officials say the Ain Amenas attackers travelled through Niger and Libya, whose border is only 30 miles from the plant. It is believed that the arms for the assault were purchased in Tripoli. The hostage takers converged in the southern Libyan town of Ghat, just across the border. Algerian officials believe the nation can expect more terrorist attacks, despite having delivered sharp blows to militants over a period covering nearly 15 years.
Belmokhtar, mastermind of the Ain Amenas attack, may have once worked as an agent for Algeria’s secretive internal security agency (Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité or DRS).
A 2009 cable describes a conversation with a prominent Tuareg leader assigned to the Malian consulate, who professed to be “as confused as everyone else regarding the Algerian government’s reticence to go after [Belmokhtar’s] camps in northern Mali”, presuming that Belmokhtar may have been receiving support from certain quarters of the Algerian government.
A senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies stated, “You have a number of jihadi figures who have approached intelligence agencies about serving as double agents, not because they wanted to betray the jihadi cause, but rather because they thought they could play the agencies and get more information about their thinking about the jihadis.”