The guy who crowdfunded $25 million to build Trump’s border wall can’t use the money for his legal defense, a judge ruled

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Brian Kolfage in 2014.

  • A “We Build a Wall” co-founder can’t use the money he raised to pay for his legal defense, a judge ruled.
  • Prosecutors say Brian Kolfage used money intended for a US-Mexico border wall to enrich himself.
  • On Thursday, Kolfage was hit with a separate indictment alleging he underpaid his taxes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“We Build a Wall” co-founder Brian Kolfage cannot use the funds he purportedly raised for a US-Mexico border wall in order to fund his legal defense in a criminal fraud case, a federal judge said Thursday in a ruling reviewed by Insider.

Kolfage has been under indictment since August 2020 for charges stemming from an alleged scheme related to a crowdfunding campaign for a wall at the US-Mexico border, a policy priority of former President Donald Trump.

In December 2018, during a government shutdown, Kolfage – a right-wing media figure who lost several limbs while serving in the Iraq War – tried to raise $1 billion to purportedly build the wall himself.

He ultimately raised around $25 million for the project, called “We Build a Wall.” Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from that sum to enrich himself and spend on things like a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, plastic surgery, home renovations, and credit-card debt.

Prosecutors also charged Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chairman and top White House policy adviser, in the crowdfunding scheme, though Trump pardoned him on his last day in office. Trump did not pardon Kolfage or Andrew Babolat and Timothy Shea, two other alleged co-conspirators.

Shortly after the charges were filed in August, the judge overseeing the case, Analisa Torres, granted prosecutors’ request to freeze the funds Kolfage raised as part of a restraining order, court filings show. But Kolfage argued he needs the funds to pay an insurance policy he took out for “We Build a Wall” that would fund his legal defense.

In the new ruling, Torres, citing legal precedents, wrote that Kolfage’s constitutional right to counsel doesn’t mean she needs to unfreeze the funds so that Kolfage can pay his preferred lawyer.

“So long as a court finds probable cause that the restrained assets are forfeitable, a defendant is not entitled to modification of the restraining order to allow him to access funds to pay for an attorney,” Torres wrote.

Torres left a door open for Kolfage to overturn the restraining order and gain access to the funds. She said that he can still request a hearing to challenge the underlying probable cause that led to the restraining order, but he must prove he needs the funds to pay for his defense in order to request that hearing.

A separate indictment from federal prosecutors in Florida unsealed Thursday accused Kolfage of tax crimes. Prosecutors said that while Kolfage took hundreds of thousands of dollars for himself from “We Build a Wall,” he listed his income for 2019 at just $63,574.

Steinberg, the attorney Kolfage says he’s struggling to pay, was dismissive of the new federal charges in Florida.

“Unlike the government, we are not going to hold a press conference to celebrate the persecution of a war hero,” he told Insider.

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Rep. Elise Stefanik backs the controversial GOP-sanctioned recount of 2020 election ballots in Arizona

Elise Stefanik
In this Nov. 20, 2019 file photo, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., listens during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • Rep. Elise Stefanik publicly supports a controversial GOP-backed election recount in Arizona.
  • Stefanik told Steve Bannon that the widely-criticized audit is necessary for transparency.
  • Stefanik is a leading candidate to replace House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is vying for a top position in House leadership, publicly backed the unofficial and highly controversial GOP-sanctioned recount of ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona in an interview on Steve Bannon’s podcast.

The GOP-controlled Arizona state Senate has hired Cyber Ninjas, a private Florida firm, to conduct a hand recount of paper ballots cast in the 2020 election, an exercise that further legitimizes top Republican’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

“I fully support the audit in Arizona. We want transparency and answers for the American people. What are the Democrats so afraid of? The voters in Arizona and the state Senate in Arizona pursued this audit, I fully support it. Transparency is a good thing. We need to fix these election security issues in the future,” she told Bannon.

Read more: Trump is MIA in the Virginia GOP’s governor race because he doesn’t want to back a potential loser. His absence is making a chaotic nomination campaign even more bonkers.

Arizona Republicans and Cyber Ninjas are calling the procedure an audit, but election experts and even some Republican election officials, like Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, say the exercise isn’t following even the most basic procedures to properly audit ballots and keep them secure.

In a scathing letter to Ken Bennett, the state Senate’s audit liason, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said that “the hand counting process being used is a significant departure from standard best practices utilized by jurisdictions and experts across the county, including here in Arizona, and raise serious doubt about the accuracy and reliability of any result of this process.”

She raised a number of security issues with the audit’s processes, and wrote that “a number of items detailed in the Counting Floor Procedures appear better suited for chasing conspiracy theories than as a part of a professional audit.”

Tammy Patrick, a former Maricopa County election official and senior advisor at the Democracy Fund, addressed Stefanik’s exact argument in a press briefing with reporters hosted by the National Task Force on Election Crises on Tuesday, noting that Maricopa County already audited the ballots in question.

“That is the common refrain, right, like, ‘well, you must be hiding something, otherwise, we should do this.’ The real issue, though, is that a hand-count audit was already done of these ballots, and has been done, since, I think the first time we did it was 2007, 8, or 9,” she said.

“I personally have overseen the hand counting of tens if not hundreds of thousands of ballots, if not millions of ballots, over the years. So it’s not a question of being afraid of an audit, there were officially sanctioned audits already conducted by the political parties in Arizona,” Patrick added.

Stefanik is a leading contender to replace Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as the House Republican Conference Chair, the third-highest ranking House Republican after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise.

Cheney has found herself on the outs after she voted to impeach former President Donald Trump over the January 6 insurrection, publicly condemned his lies about the 2020 election, and not-so-quietly feuded with members of her caucus.

Stefanik has publicly endorsed false allegations of fraud in the 2020 election, including pushing baseless claims that signature verification on ballot envelopes in Georgia was “gutted” and that there were 140,000 illegal votes cast, which was debunked by Georgia’s Republican election officials.

Stefanik also voted to reject Pennsylvania’s slate of electors for President Joe Biden during the joint session of Congress on January 6.

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The guy who crowdfunded $25 million to build Trump’s border wall just got indicted on tax fraud charges

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Brian Kolfage in 2014.

  • Brian Kolfage, who founded “We Build the Wall,” with Steve Bannon, was indicted in a new tax case.
  • A New York grand jury separately found the crowdfunding effort to be fraudulent in August 2020.
  • Donald Trump pardoned Bannon before he left office, but didn’t pardon Kolfage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Brian Kolfage – the cofounder of a failed crowdfunding effort to build a wall along the US-Mexico border with Steve Bannon – is facing a new tax case after being indicted on federal fraud charges last year.

Newly unsealed court documents show that a federal grand jury in Florida indicted Kolfage on accusations of fraud and filing false tax returns.

According to charging documents reviewed by Insider, Kolfage’s tax filings for 2019 represented an income of $63,574. In fact, the charges say, Kolfage personally received hundreds of thousands of dollars that year through his “We Build a Wall” project and other organizations.

The charges were first reported by Bloomberg News.

In August, federal prosecutors in New York filed an indictment against Kolfage and Bannon, accusing them of using some of the $25 million raised for the “We Build a Wall” organization to line their own pockets. Two other right-wing political operatives, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, were also charged in the scheme.

The prosecutors accused Kolfage of using $350,000 in donor money to fund a lavish lifestyle, including spending money on home renovations, a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, plastic surgery, and credit-card debt.

Kolfage launched the “We Build a Wall” fundraiser in December 2018, during a government shutdown, in a failed attempt to raise $1 billion to build a US-Mexico border privately. Trump himself had distanced himself from the project.

Trump pardoned Bannon, his former campaign chairman and chief White House strategist, on his last day in office. He didn’t pardon Kolfage, Badolato, or Shea.

Additional charging documents in the Florida case detailing how Kolfage handled his money were not immediately available in public court records. The indictment says Kolfage kept his money in the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which typically represents members of the US Military. Kolfage is an Air Force veteran and lost both arms and a leg in the Iraq War.

An attorney representing Kolfage didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell told Steve Bannon he is launching ‘MyStore’ – a ‘patriotic’ version of Amazon

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MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has a brand new idea -a patriotic e-commerce platform.

  • MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell wants to launch an e-commerce platform, “MyStore,” to rival Amazon.
  • He announced the upcoming launch on Steve Bannon’s “War Room: Pandemic” podcast.
  • MyStore currently lists items like “freedom coffee,” “uncommon USA flag pole,” and pro-Trump books.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has another brand new idea – a patriotic e-commerce platform.

Speaking on Steve Bannon’s “War Room: Pandemic” podcast on Monday, Lindell announced that he was launching MyStore as a “rival to Amazon.” Lindell’s latest appearance on Bannon’s podcast follows his last visit to the show two weeks ago, where he went on a long rant about voter fraud allegations and asserted, once again, the baseless conspiracy theory that former president Trump would be back in office in August.

The MyPillow website currently features a version of MyStore with 81 products. These include “freedom flags,” “freedom coffee”, and – somewhat bizarrely – an “uncommon US flagpole.”

Also sold on the site are books about former president Donald Trump, including a book titled “Love Joy Trump.” Lindell has also listed his memoir, titled “Mike’s Memoir: With God, All Things Are Possible,” which retails for $9.97.

“For years entrepreneurs and inventors have come to me with products and ideas. They don’t know how to market them and I haven’t had the time to show them,” Lindell said in a video on the site.

“I am going to put vetted products from great entrepreneurs on here, like you see a sampling of them here today, that are going to change this country,” he continued.

“We’re finally going to be able to see these products and be able to get these great entrepreneurs, their great ideas, out to you, the public.”

The site also proclaims that there are “hundreds” of products coming soon, and includes a link to a form for people to submit applications for “products ready for market.”

It is unclear if Lindell was referring to the current iteration of MyStore as being a solid contender to rival Amazon’s dominance in the US e-commerce market, or if he planned to launch another version of it.

In the span of just a few months, Lindell has been banned from Twitter and sued by voting-machine company Dominion, after he peddled voter-fraud conspiracy theories.

Insider reported in February that he and his company, MyPillow, were expected to lose $65 million in revenue over his election fraud claims, but analysts and marketing experts say he might be able to find a way to capitalize on the bad press to get some monetary returns.

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MyPillow’s Mike Lindell claims Trump will ‘be back in office in August’ in Steve Bannon podcast rant

mike lindell fox news
My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell told Steve Bannon the “election of 2020 is going bye-bye.”

  • The MyPillow CEO launched into a long rant on voter fraud on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast.
  • He claimed that Trump will be reinstated in August, saying the “election of 2020 is going bye-bye.”
  • Voting-machine maker Dominion is suing Lindell for $1.3 billion for his voter fraud allegations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Mike Lindell is back at it again: launching into a long, conspiracy-theory fueled rant on voter fraud and communism on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s ”War Room: Pandemic” podcast.

The MyPillow CEO and Trump ally also promoted baseless claim that the former president would be back in the White House by August this year. He added that he has collected evidence that will go before the Supreme Court, despite state and federal courts throwing out election lawsuits filed by Trump and his supporters.

“Donald Trump will be back in office in August,” Lindell said, gesticulating at the video camera.

“What I’m talking about Steve is what I have been doing since January 9th. All of the evidence I have, everything that is going to go before the Supreme Court and the election of 2020 is going bye-bye,” Lindell said during the podcast, which aired over the weekend.

“It was an attack by another country – communism coming in. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it after they pull it down but it’s going down.”

Lindell made several other claims in his eight-minute-long podcast rant, saying that he was “hiring the best private investigators in the world.”

These investigators, he said, would “go back in time” and find out who “ordered hit jobs” on him.

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Manhattan’s DA subpoenaed Steve Bannon’s fundraising records as part of a fraud investigation into his border-wall campaign, report says

steve bannon
Steve Bannon.

  • Manhattan’s DA has subpoenaed financial records relating to Steve Bannon, CNN reported. 
  • The DA is investigating Bannon’s use of funds donated as part of the We Build the Wall campaign.
  • Bannon was pardoned by Donald Trump last month, but he could still face state charges. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Manhattan’s district attorney has subpoenaed financial records from Steve Bannon’s crowdfunding campaign to build a wall across the US-Mexican border, sources told CNN. 

According to the report, subpoenas were issued to Wells Fargo, which held the money Bannon raised as part of the We Build the Wall fundraising drive, and GoFundMe, the online platform he used to raise donations. 

A spokesman for Manhattan’s district attorney declined to comment. 

The subpoenas were issued shortly after former President Donald Trump pardoned Bannon on federal conspiracy charges hours before he left the White House last month, according to CNN.

New Jersey’s attorney general has also launched a civil investigation into the We Build The Wall campaign, per CNN. 

Bannon had been charged by federal prosecutors last December along with three other men with defrauding donors out of $25 million in relation to the border-wall project. Bannon was accused of pocketing hundreds and thousands of dollars of the money for his own expenses, and diverting $1 million to pay an alleged co-conspirator. 

The three men involved in the project, and charged alongside Bannon, did not receive a pardon from Trump. All of the men charged have denied any wrongdoing.

But Trump’s presidential pardon only applies to federal charges, meaning that Bannon could still faces charges in a state court.

Insider has contacted Bannon’s attorney for comment. 

Bannon was formerly among the most influential people in Trump’s orbit, serving as campaign manager during Trump’s successful run for the White House in 2016, and afterward appointed White House chief strategist. 

He left the White House 2018, after he was quoted in an exposé by the author Michael Wolf insulting members of Trump’s family and likening the Trump Organization to a crime syndicate.

But the men repaired their relationship before Trump left office, and Bannon used his podcast last year to spread Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. 

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Steve Bannon believes the Democrats have a ‘compelling’ case for convicting Trump

FILE PHOTO: Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon holds a news conference in Rome, Italy September 22, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianch/File Photo
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

  • Former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial is set to begin on February 8.
  • Steve Bannon has described the Democrat’s case as ’emotional’ and ‘compelling.’
  • The former chief strategist told Politico that Democrats will try to ‘smear’ the former president.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Steve Bannon, the former President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, believes that the upcoming Senate trial could be bad news for his old boss.

“The Democrats have a very emotional and compelling case,” Bannon, a preeminent ideologue of the US far-right, told Politico.

It is unlikely that Senate will convict Trump. It would require a two-thirds majority, which has not ever happened before.

But, in Bannon’s eyes, the court of public opinion might not acquit him for the deadly insurrection on January 6.

“They’re going to try and convict him in the eyes of the American people and smear him forever,” Bannon told Politico.

Read more: Josh Barro on why President Trump should be impeached.

Trump’s Senate impeachment trial is scheduled to begin on February 8.

The former president is accused of  “incitement of insurrection” over his role in stirring up a mob to storm the US Capitol building.

While the impeachment trial’s main focus will be on the insurrection, Bannon has suggested that Trump’s legal team should instead pivot to discussing unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud.

“He is not going to be convicted, so we must address November 3. The best place to adjudicate this is the well of the US Senate,” Bannon told Politico.

“It has to be dramatic. It has to be big. It has to be the big lie versus the big steal,” he added.

Presenting these arguments will fall upon Trump’s lawyers.

Trump has rejected a request from House impeachment managers to testify under oath during the trial.

Bannon could be facing legal woes of his own. He is under investigation in New York for a fund-raising scheme that allegedly defrauded people who had donated towards the building of Trump’s border wall between the US and Mexico, according to reports.

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Manhattan DA weighs prosecuting Steve Bannon at the state level after Trump pardoned him: WaPo

steve bannon banned twitter
  • The Manhattan DA’s Office is weighing a state court case against Steve Bannon, a new report says.
  • Bannon and three others were charged with defrauding donors while fundraising for the border wall.
  • Presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes, not state or local court cases.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is contemplating bringing a state court case against former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, The Washington Post reported. 

The news comes weeks after former President Donald Trump issued a last-minute pardon for Bannon just hours before President Joe Biden was inaugurated. Federal prosecutors accused Bannon and three others of defrauding donors out of $25 million in fundraising campaign for the US-Mexico border wall via their We Build the Wall nonprofit.

Presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes, not state or local cases. Bannon was among more than 140 individuals who Trump granted clemency or commutations in his final 24 hours in office.

Investigators under District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. are in “early-stage discussions” in bringing state charges against Bannon for his involvement in the fundraising fraud, according to The Post report.

Read more: 7 yuuge reasons Donald Trump isn’t going away

The former Trump strategist and three others were charged at the federal level with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering related to the border wall fundraising campaign. He was arrested in August of last year in Westbrook, Connecticut, and pleaded not guilty.

“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” acting Manhattan US attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.

“While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle.”

Kolfage, along with We Build the Wall cofounders Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, did not receive a pardon from the former president.

Read the full story at The Washington Post »

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The Lincoln Project threatens Rudy Giuliani with legal action after he linked the group to the Capitol riot

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Former President Donald Trump (L), Rudy Giuliani (C), and former White House strategist, Steve Bannon (R).

  • The Lincoln Project threatened to sue Rudy Giuliani for defamation on Saturday.
  • The legal threat comes after Giuliani alleged that the group had helped organize the Capitol siege.
  • The anti-Trump group has given Giuliani until February 3 to apologize and retract his false statements.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Lincoln Project threatened to sue Rudy Giuliani for defamation on Saturday after the lawyer falsely claimed the group had helped organize the deadly Capitol riot.

During an interview on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast on Friday, Giuliani alleged that the Republican group had secretly disguised themselves as Trump supporters during the January 6 riot, which resulted in the deaths of five people including a police officer.

Bannon himself challenged Giuliani on that claim, repeatedly asking him during the interview where he got that information from.

“I don’t know if I can reveal his name,” Giuliani responded. “Because we have that from anonymous sources. But he worked in the past for [Utah Senator Mitt] Romney.”

Read more: Donald Trump didn’t pardon himself. A massive tsunami of legal peril now awaits him.

The founder of the Lincoln Project, Steve Schmidt, told MSNBC on Saturday he was “thrilled” at the prospect of not only suing Giuliani for defamation but also going after Trump and Bannon.

” Steve Bannon knows he’s going to get sued by us also, and he is, and so is Donald Trump who is Rudy Giuliani’s client, and Rudy Giuliani is acting on his behest,” Schmidt said, according to MSNBC.

“But look, it is very difficult to sue somebody for defamation or libel in the United States, but our lawyers are telling us that Rudy is well across the line so we’re thrilled about this,” he added.

On the same day, the group’s attorney posted a letter on Twitter warning of a lawsuit unless Giuliani publicly apologizes for his accusations.

 

“You committed a textbook case of defamation,” Matthew Sanderson wrote in the letter. “You publicly accused The Lincoln Project of an infamous and criminal act it had nothing to do with, as you very well knew. You lied.”

The group has given gave Giuliani until February 3 to retract his statement. 

Giuliani is already facing several legal challenges, including a lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which is seeking $1.3 billion in damages after he made a series of wild and baseless claims that the company was involved in rigging the presidential election.

The Lincoln Project was started in late 2019 by former GOP operatives, including political strategist Rick Wilson and Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway.

Over the months, the group has gained a reputation for its memes and ads bashing Trump, including billboards in New York City in October last year that mocked Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

After Giuliani’s interview with Bannon, the group took to Twitter to make fun of Trump’s former lawyer for going from calling for “trial by combat” to blaming them for the insurrection in a matter of weeks.

 

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China has imposed sanctions on Mike Pompeo, Alex Azar, and Steve Bannon, along with more than 2 dozen other former Trump officials

chinesesanctions bannon pompeo azar
Former Trump administration members Steve Bannon, Alex Azar, and Mike Pompeo are among more than two dozen former officials who have been sanctioned by China following the end of Trump’s term.

  • China announced it would be imposing sanctions on nearly 30 former members of the Trump administration.
  • Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump operative Steve Bannon, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar are among those who made the list.
  • In a statement, the foreign ministry chastened the Trump campaign for promoting and executing “a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs” and damaged US-China relations.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

WASHINGTON (AP) – China imposed sanctions on nearly 30 former Trump administration officials moments after they left office on Wednesday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Beijing slapped travel bans and business restrictions on Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, and UN Ambassador Kelly Craft.

Read more: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s departing message to the US is that ‘multiculturalism’ is ‘not who America is’

Others covered by the sanctions include Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro; his top diplomat for Asia, David Stilwell; Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; along with former national security adviser John Bolton and strategist Stephen Bannon. The sanctions are largely symbolic but underscore Beijing’s antipathy toward a US administration it regarded as hostile.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-US relations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Read more: ‘Floppy and weak’: Iran has joined China and Russia in ridiculing the US on social media over the Capitol riots

On Tuesday, Pompeo announced that he had declared China’s repression of the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority a “genocide,” possibly opening the door to new US sanctions against Chinese officials.

The Trump administration had steadily ramped up pressure on China since last year, and especially in the past several months. During its last weeks in office, the administration had hit numerous officials with sanctions for their actions on Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea.

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