US sanctions aimed at turning business elite against Putin before election – Kremlin

The threat of sanctions is a tool for Washington to divide the country’s big business and Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov has said. The Kremlin spokesman pointed out that the timing coincides with the approaching 2018 presidential election in Russia.

Dmitry Peskov was replying to questions submitted to him by an international news agency on Thursday. He didn’t mention the media outlet by name, but Reuters later revealed that they were the source of the questions. Among other things, the agency wanted to know whether Moscow agreed with the notion that the US was using sanctions to set Vladimir Putin’s supporters among major Russian businessmen against the President. “We are sure that this is the case,” Peskov said.

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German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel  © Axel Schmidt

Another question read: “Do you think that these US efforts are timed to [affect] the presidential election in Russia?” The Kremlin press-secretary replied by saying: “We are convinced of this.”

A Reuters report on Thursday claimed that Russian business was worried about the threat of new US sanctions. The agency cited an unnamed top-manager of a Russian company who said that “people are on edge” in anticipation of the new sanction list to be put together by Washington in early 2018. “If they classify you as close to Putin, just try proving it’s not the case. The Americans’ tactics are clear: they need to cause pain in all ways possible for those who support Putin,” the source said.

However, Peskov said the Kremlin was “not aware” of any Russian business elite members who were angry with the Russian authorities over the US sanctions and blamed Putin for the situation.

Commenting on the agency’s claim that some Russian entrepreneurs were allegedly complaining that the Kremlin was ignoring the interests of the country’s business, while developing its relations with the West, Peskov said: “We’re not aware of such opinions and views. If they were voiced somewhere than we’re, obviously, always ready for discussions with the representatives of domestic business circles,” he added.

“If some media outlets are aware that some representatives of the business elite are making such statements, we would be grateful if they tell us, who they are,” Peskov laughed, quickly specifying that he was joking.

READ MORE: Tillerson accuses Russia of using nukes to ‘assert global dominance’

The presidential election is scheduled to take place in Russia on March 18, 2018. Vladimir Putin is eligible to run for office for a second consecutive term, which would also become his fourth term overall. Putin hasn’t yet confirmed his intention to seek re-election.

The US introduced sanctions against Moscow in 2014 when the country re-united with Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine began. The restrictions have since expanded, to include individuals, companies and whole branches of the Russian economy.

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Tony Blair insists it’s never too late for Britain to change its mind about Brexit

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair says he will fight for Britain’s right to change its mind on Brexit. He claims that as the difficulty of leaving the EU becomes clearer, the UK’s feelings about Brexit will change.

Speaking to French newspaper Le Figaro, Blair, who has not held elected office for 10 years, said: “My country has the right to change its mind. I want to fight for it.”

Blair believes that as the costs of leaving the EU become clearer and new facts become public, it is likely Brits’ feelings about Brexit will change. “It is clear there will be a bill for Brexit and that there will be less money for health,” he said. “People are also starting to realize that going out of the single market and the customs union is going to be extremely painful. It’s going back to 40 years of integration and liberalization.” He added: “When negotiations [with Brussels] are over, whatever the agreement reached by the government, we must demand to have our say on it.”

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Former British prime minister Tony Blair © Ben Stansall

Despite the majority of British citizens having voted for Brexit last year, and the fact the UK has started negotiations with Brussels, Blair thinks “it is still possible for stop Brexit, even if the probability is less than 50 percent.”

“The Conservative Party has said it will go to the end of Brexit no matter what the price. It lost a majority in Parliament in the last election – the Conservatives did not get the mandate they asked for. The atmosphere is changing in the country.”

According to Blair, there are a number of options for Britain. That includes staying in the EU, remaining in a “reformed” union, an exit with a special economic agreement, a complete exit, or a lack of agreement.

Blair says he wants to be “very active” on the subject. Labour, headed by Jeremy Corbyn, should take a stronger line on opposing Brexit, Blair added. “I am trying to convince the Labour Party to take a strong position against Brexit. I have the impression that [Corbyn] is moving in this direction. Then, we will see if some Conservatives are ready to choose their country rather than their party.”

When asked what the outcome will be if Britain does end up leaving the EU, Blair said: “Of course we can exist without Europe. But will it be stronger or weaker? I am deeply convinced that Brexit would be bad for Europe.”

In May, Blair announced he would be “returning to politics,” motivated by Brexit. “This Brexit thing has given me a direct motivation to get more involved in the politics,” he said in an interview to the Daily Mirror, adding that he is ready to get his “hands dirty.” Not much more had been heard from him about Brexit until now, however.

One of the youngest and most controversial British politicians, Blair became PM in 1997 after a landslide victory in the general election. However, his head-spinning approval ratings plummeted in 2003, when he had the UK follow the US invasion of Iraq.

Last year, that controversial step received one more blow, after revelations by Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry that Blair had deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by the Iraqi regime and the invasion came before peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Following the revelations, families of British service personnel killed in Iraq called for Blair to face criminal charges.

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Stone ‘trolling you silly’: WikiLeaks’ Assange to ‘fake news’ CNN

Julian Assange fired back at CNN after the network ran a story repeating claims by former Trump advisor Roger Stone.  Stone had claimed that radio personality-comedian Randy Credico was an “intermediary” between him and the Wikileaks co-founder.

“CNN, don’t forget these other WikiLeaks’ ‘contacts’ and ‘intermediaries’: Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper & Brian Stelter who also all interviewed me in 2016,” Assange tweeted on Thursday, referring to three of the network’s hosts and journalists. “Stone continues to troll you silly, but being fake news, you love it.”

Earlier on Thursday, CNN reported that Stone had said Credico was “an intermediary between him and Assange.” The article said Stone had declined to reveal Credico’s name to the House Intelligence Committee but later did so privately.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating allegations that Russians meddled in the 2016 presidential election. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied interference or collusion with the Trump campaign. The committee is interested in Stone and Credico because of a statement in which Stone appeared to predict that WikiLeaks would soon release damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Stone has denied any prior knowledge of WikiLeaks’ publications.

Where the word “intermediary” came from it is not clear. In a Facebook post, Stone said Wednesday that Credico merely confirmed what Assange had said publicly in an interview with British ITV network.

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© Randy Credico

“Randy Credico is a good man,” Stone wrote. “The Committee is wasting their time. He merely confirmed what Assange had said publicly. He was correct. Wikileaks did have the goods on Hillary and they did release them.”

In an interview with RT, Credico called the House Intelligence committee investigation modern-day McCarthysm and a witch hunt.

“They are going after me, why? Because of my connection with Julian Assange. I have been interviewing him for the last year and a half. I’ve had him on my show; I have been to the embassy,” Credico told RT. “This is just another way to keep this phony Russiagate inquiry alive.”

Credico said the US government is going after Wikileaks because of its exposure of what the US had been doing in Syria, in Libya, in Palestine.

“All of that they want to keep suppressed from the public,” said Credico. “I want to know about it! And Assange is perhaps the most gifted person to get that stuff out.”

One of CNN’s reporters, David Wright, got into a Twitter fight with Assange over the story.

“Use whatever phrase you want, but arguing semantics isn’t helping your case. And no one is asserting anything about Stone’s credibility here, merely reporting what he’s told investigators. Wonder why you’re so upset, though,” Wright tweeted.

“I see. For CNN ‘once interviewed him’ is the same as ‘intermediary’ in a plot to overthrow America. We’re done here. Please have the FCC put that warning label on your homeopathic ‘news’ placebo,” Assange replied.

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MMA fighter cuts own stomach & hand in detention (GRAPHIC VIDEO)

A video of detained amateur MMA fighter Akim Kuliev cutting his stomach in his cell in Russia’s Republic of Dagestan has surfaced online. The athlete, who was arrested on suspicion of arson, denies his guilt.

The security camera footage which appears to have been videoed last week was uploaded on Wednesday by the local news outlet. In the chilling footage, the unflinching man is seen cutting his own abdomen and arm. He then walks from corner to corner as blood streams down his body.

A while later doctors attended to the suspect, stopping the bleeding and bandaging him.

WARNING: You may find the following footage disturbing.

Kuliev’s relatives and friends claimed that the man opted to undertake the desperate move due to being tortured by the police, who are allegedly pushing for the athlete to acknowledge the crime he didn’t commit.

The man is a friend of famous UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, who took to social media, asking the authorities to protect his fellow athlete from the alleged abuse. Kuliev’s father told the Kavkazsky Uzel website that his son is a “multiple champion of Dagestan in wushu-sanda and hand-to-hand combat, he also won international tournaments.”

The Interior Ministry in Dagestan has denied torture claims, RIA Derbent reported. 

READ MORE: Russian former champion kickboxer shot dead outside home in Germany

The fighter was among the four people detained in Dagestan’s Rutul village in early November on suspicion of setting fire to the local administration building, which was burnt to the ground as a result. Kuliev denies his guilt, saying that he has an alibi and that the case against him was fabricated.

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Terrorists could use murderous robots to kill us all, experts tell House of Lords

Terrorists could soon use swarms of killer robots to launch lethal attacks against the West, the vice-president of a European defense giant has warned. Thales VP Alvin Wilby told a House of Lords committee that it’s only a matter of time.

While a visit from Skynet’s T-800 Model 101 Terminator isn’t too likely, an assault by “swarms” of killer drones could be in the cards. Wilby told the Lords Artificial Intelligence (AI) Committee on Tuesday that terrorists will be able to get their mits on killer robots “in the very near future.”

“It’s just a question of time and scale and I think that’s an absolute certainty that we should worry about,” Wilby said.

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© Anthony Wallace

“This capability is out there … scaling it up to swarms [of drones] doesn’t need any huge inventive step, it’s just a question of resources, time, and scale. I think that’s an absolute certainty that we should worry about.”

Wilby reminded the committee that civilian drones are already being used in warfare, pointing out that in 2015 a Japanese civilian tried to deliver “radioactive sand” to the Japanese prime minister.

Noel Sharkey, Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield and spokesperson for the Stop Killer Robots campaign, warned the committee that if AI technology falls into the wrong hands, the results could be catastrophic.

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A sentry robot freezes a hypothetical intruder by pointing its machine gun during its test in Cheonan, 92 kms south of Seoul, 28 September, 2006. ©Kim Dong-Joo / AFP

Sharkey’s said his key issue was “authoritarian dictators getting a hold of these, who won’t be held back by their soldiers not wanting to kill the population.”

He said Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) is already using drones to attack, although they are currently remote-controlled and not smart drones with the capability to discern between friend and foe.

“I don’t want to live in a world where war can happen in a few seconds accidentally and a lot of people die before anybody stops it,” he said.

Swarming drones are currently used by the American and Chinese military. Sharkey warned the AI committee that the world may soon see “bad copies” made of such weapons, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Former Ministry of Defence chief information officer Mike Stone said North Korea and Iran are “at the top the list” of countries to be concerned about.

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Rep. Conyers hospitalized amid sexual misconduct allegations and House ethics probe

Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) has been hospitalized amid accusations of sexual misconduct and a House Ethics Committee probe. Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has called on him to resign.

Conyers is “resting comfortably in an area hospital, he’s doing OK, as well as can be expected for a gentleman that is approaching 90 years of age,” consultant Sam Biddle told Detroit’s WDIV-TV.

“The congressman’s health is not what it should be and a lot of that is directly attributable to this media assault,” Biddle said. “The reality is these serial accusers have done this before, we’re used to it.”

Last week, BuzzFeed published a report that claiming that Conyers settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee, who said she was fired for refusing his sexual advances and “blackballed” into accepting a settlement of $ 27,000.

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U.S. Representative John Conyers. © Rebecca Cook

Conyers initially denied the allegations. He later admitted he had reached a financial settlement with a former staffer who had accused him of sexual misconduct. He denied having done anything improper, however.

Marion Brown, a former deputy chief of staff to Conyers, told NBC’s ‘Today’ show on Thursday that she was the former employee named in the report.

“It was sexual harassment, violating my body, propositioning me, inviting me to hotels with the guise of discussing business and propositioning for sex,” Brown said. “He just violated my body, he’s touched me in different ways. It was very uncomfortable and very unprofessional.”

The House Ethics Committee is investigating the allegations. Conyers, the longest serving representative in the House, announced last Sunday that he would step aside as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Conyers has faced numerous calls to resign from fellow Democrats and public figures. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) called on Conyers to resign Thursday morning. Pelosi called the allegations are “serious, disappointing and very credible.”

“We are at a watershed moment for our country in the fight against sexual harassment and discrimination,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to the ethics panel on Tuesday. “The Committee on Ethics has a great responsibility to proceed expeditiously as well as fairly into any investigation of credible harassment and discrimination allegations.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) has also called on Conyers to resign. “It is not easy for me to reach this conclusion because, as a civil rights activist, I have looked up to Representative Conyers for decades,” she said in a statement. “I believe these women, I see the pattern and there is only one conclusion – Rep. Conyers must resign.”

On Wednesday, Conyers’ Detroit-area attorney Arnold Reed told the AP that Conyers is innocent and has no plans to step down.

Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) is also facing calls to resign, as a fifth woman has accused him of sexual misconduct. An army veteran said Franken groped her breast while the two were being photographed together. Franken was first called out by broadcaster Leeann Tweeden, who said the future senator groped and kissed her without consent during a 2006 USO tour.

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'Bomb on board’ Wi-Fi network prompts Turkish Airlines scare

A Turkish Airlines flight en-route to Nairobi has had to make an emergency landing in Sudan after a bomb threat was reported onboard. The airline later said the name of a Wi-Fi network was behind the alarm.

The threat was apparently received by a British passenger as the plane flew through Sudanese airspace before the pilot had to make an emergency landing at Khartoum airport at around 7:30am local time.

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© Imagebroker / Digfoto / Global Look Press

“Turkish Airlines flight 606 made an emergency landing after a passenger on board said he received an email saying there was a bomb on board,” AFP quoted civil aviation authority spokesman Abdelhafiz Abdelrahim as saying. 

The jet was then taken to an isolated area of the airport where it was scoured for explosives, while the passenger who reported the threat was questioned. Abdelrahim added that “security officials searched the plane and passengers’ luggage but didn’t find anything suspicious.”

Later, Turkish Airlines released a statement that the alarm had been caused after a passenger spotted a Wi-Fi network named “bomb on board”, and that the flight went on its way after being cleared by security checks.

“Experts said the Wi-Fi network in question was created on board. No irregularities were seen after security procedures were carried out, and passengers were brought back on the plane once boarding restarted,” the airline’s statement read, as reported by Reuters.

It’s not clear whether the person behind the Wi-Fi network was identified

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IOC-banned Russian athletes ask Putin for help amid doping row

Five Russian athletes suspended from international competition over doping allegations have turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin for help. They say they can turn to no one else.

Bobsledders Alexander Kasyanov, Aleksei Pushkarev and Ilvir Khuzin, as well as two skeleton athletes – 2014 Olympic champion Aleksandr Tretyakov and Sochi bronze medalist Elena Nikitina – pleaded for the president’s intervention after being targeted in the ongoing doping row and barred from competing at international events. In an open letter, the five say they were “unfairly” denied a right to compete.

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Canadian Lawyer Richard McLaren © Reuters

This may be an emotional outburst and the wording may not be accurate, but we are shocked over what is being done to us,” Kasyanov explained to TASS news agency. “We don’t really know what else we can do.”

Earlier this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will do everything possible defend the interests of its athletes, reiterating that there has never been any state-run doping program in the country.

Last Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) handed life bans for any future Winter Games to four Russian winter-sports athletes, including the two members of the skeleton team, who have now appealed to Putin. The IOC also annulled their results for the Sochi games.

Following the IOC’s verdict, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) imposed provisional suspensions on the Russian athletes who had been affected by the IOC sanctions. The decision may be appealed, but at the moment they cannot participate in any IBSF event.

This week, the IOC and later the IBSF imposed a similar punishment on the three bobsledders. The penalties are part of a wider crackdown on an alleged system of government-backed doping in Russia, which Moscow denies ever existed.

READ MORE: IOC disqualifies 4 Russian skeleton athletes, strips Russia of more Olympic medals

The crackdown by the World Anti-Doping Organization (WADA) and the IOC is mostly based on evidence provided by fugitive former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov. Moscow insists that the official is an unreliable witness and that Russia is being targeted unfairly for political reasons.

Russia’s participation in the upcoming Winter Games in South Korea remains in jeopardy amid the doping probes. A proposal to ban the Russian national team will be discussed at the IOC Executive Board meeting on December 5 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Moscow has threatened to boycott the games, refusing to purchase broadcasting rights to the event in Russia, unless athletes are allowed to compete under the Russian national flag.

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Trump tweeted wrong @TheresaMay – this one is ‘a mom from Bognor’ & she wants an apology

Theresa May has demanded an apology from the White House. No, not the British prime minister – the Theresa May that Donald Trump accidentally tagged on Twitter.

The wrong Theresa May, aka Theresa May Scrivener, or @theresamay, was hit with a barrage of tweets on Wednesday when the president of the United States mistakenly tagged her in a post aimed at the British leader. Wouldn’t be much of a problem if it were anyone else – but Trump has 43.7 million followers. Poor Theresa only had six.

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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and Glamour model Teresa May © Facebook / Reuters

Last night she was shocked to find the POTUS attacking her from his @realDonaldTrump account. Trump was hitting back at the prime minister for telling him he was wrong to retweet Britain First messages online.

His tweet read: “@TheresaMay, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”

Theresa May Scrivener, who goes by the Twitter handle Theresa May, was suddenly very popular. Scrivener told the Press Association: “If I wanted to be famous I would have gone on X Factor. It’s amazing to think that the world’s most powerful man managed to press the wrong button. I’m just waiting for a call from the White House with an apology.”

Apologies flooded in after the mistake was realized, but not from Trump. “I’m just glad he was not contacting me to say he was going to war with North Korea,” May added.

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Donald Trump has hit out at Theresa May for criticizing his tweets © Reuters/ Kevin Lamarque

“It has been very surreal. I am laughing about it now but he is the one who sent the tweet and I have been inundated with calls. I haven’t been able to leave my house. I’ve been bombarded and been contacted by press from around the world.”

Scrivener was in bed when the tweet went off in the early hours. “I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. I was in bed by half 10 last night and oblivious to it all,” she said.

She nevertheless insists she will keep her Twitter handle. “He needs to think before he tweets. We – Theresa May and I – are so different. Our profiles are completely different. She runs the country, I’m a mom from Bognor.”

She also said the mistake would not cause her to change her name. “Why should I? It’s my name, I’m not going to change it.”

This isn’t the first time the White House has messed up the PM’s name. In January, it emerged Theresa May had been spelt ‘Teresa’ May in official documents over her visit to the White House. T-e-r-e-s-a… like the famous, now retired, porn star, Teresa May. The mistake was made three times, while referencing London and Washington’s “special relationship.”

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Washington Post reporter admits ‘Russiagate’ story a ‘f*cking crap shoot’ in Project Veritas video

After previously getting employees at CNN and the New York Times to admit there was little substance behind the claim of “Russia meddling” in the 2016 elections, Project Veritas caught the Washington Post’s national security reporter doing that as well.

James O’Keefe, founder of Project Veritas and self-described “guerrilla journalist,” has made a number of enemies among the media by using his undercover techniques not against the usual suspects –government and corporate insiders, for example – but against the media establishment itself. And lately, O’Keefe, together with his young team of collaborators, has taken on the myth of “Russiagate.”

The latest to fall prey to Project Veritas just happened to be one of the largest purveyors of the “Russia meddling” story, the Washington Post (WaPo), which claims that Donald Trump colluded with the Russians to steal an otherwise certain victory from Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections.

In a conversation with an undercover Project Veritas “reporter,” WaPo’s national security reporter, Adam Entous, who is assigned to the Russia beat, let the proverbial cat out of the bag regarding the “Russiagate” story.

Here is a portion of the conversation as it played out inside of a bustling drinking spot.

Adam Entous:Our reporting has not taken us to a place where I would be able to say with any confidence that the result of it is going to be the president being guilty of being in cahoots with the Russians. There’s no evidence of that that I’ve seen so far.

Project Veritas:There has to be something, right?

Entous:Maybe, maybe not. It could just be lower-level people being manipulated or manipulating, but it’s very hard to, it’s really…It’s a f*cking black box.

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© Louie Palu / Global Look Press

We’ve seen a lot of flirtation, if you will, between them but nothing that, in my opinion, would rank as actual collusion. Now that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, it just means we haven’t found it yet. Or maybe it doesn’t exist.

I mean it’s a f*cking crap shoot. I literally have no prediction whatsoever as to what would happen, and I do all the stuff for the Post on this so…

PV:How do we get the president?

Entous:I have no idea. And frankly, there may not be anything that gets the president.

Entous has authored literally dozens of Russian-related stories for WaPo, with headlines like, “Add Google to the list of tech companies used by Russians to spread disinformation,” and “Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms” and “Russian Facebook ads showed a black woman firing a rifle, amid efforts to stoke racial strife.”

Project Veritas, a conservative group specializing in what it says are undercover sting videos, has released a number of videos on US media outlets in a series dubbed “American Pravda.” The group has so far targeted CNN and the New York Times

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© Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The investigative work of Mr. O’Keefe has not been without heated criticism from individuals who reject his undercover methods.

Perhaps his most famous piece of “reporting” involved the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which conducted voter registration drives across the United States among low and working-class voters. The Republican Party regularly charged the group with voter fraud, but had no way to prove it.

In 2009, O’Keefe entered several ACORN offices pretending to be a pimp, and accompanied by a “prostitute.” The video he released alleged to show staff encouraging criminal behavior. Although ACORN employees had been cleared of any wrongdoing as suggested by Project Veritas, the damage had been done. On November 2, 2010, its US offices filed for bankruptcy, effectively ending the work of the non-government organization.

In 2010, O’Keefe was sentenced to three years’ probation, 100 hours of community service and a $ 1,500 fine after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from entering then-Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) office on false pretenses.

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