Heart of Midlothian v Celtic

Watch: A day in the life of a Scottish Cup final referee
Scottish Cup final: Heart of Midlothian v Celtic
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Saturday, 25 May Time: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One Scotland; listen on BBC Radio Scotland; text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

It has taken 140 games for Celtic to get to the brink of a treble treble. Now they are just 90 minutes on Saturday from completing an unprecedented feat.

The Parkhead club have won every domestic Scottish honour available for the past three seasons. Securing a ninth successive piece of silverware in the Scottish Cup final would clinch the sixth treble in Celtic’s history and their most special of all.

Neil Lennon’s team have yet to concede in the competition this season – and have won all four ties by at least two goals – but face a Hearts side who are not heading to Hampden to make up the numbers.

A season that promised so much for the Tynecastle men – they topped the Scottish Premiership for the first three months – has petered out to a sixth-place finish with cup glory a golden chance of salvation.

Injuries to key players have severely hampered Hearts throughout the campaign, but they are one of only four teams to inflict a domestic defeat on Celtic this term, beating them 1-0 at Tynecastle in August.

They are looking to summon the spirit of 2012 – when they demolished Hibernian 5-1 in the final – as they return to the scene of that memorable triumph bidding to lift the trophy for the ninth time.

How they got to Hampden

Celtic’s road to the Scottish Cup final
Hearts’ road to the Scottish Cup final

Previous final meetings

Hearts hold the upper hand in previous Scottish Cup finals between the pair, but it is more than 60 years since the sides last went head to head for the trophy.

On that occasion, in 1956, a crowd of nearly 133,000 gathered at Hampden to see Hearts prevail 3-1. Before that, the Tynecastle men won 4-3 in 1901, before Celtic ran out 3-0 winners six years later.

Of their recent meetings in earlier rounds, Celtic hammered the hosts 4-0 to reach the last 16 in 2014 after a 7-0 win at the same stage a year later. But a last-minute goal from former Celtic striker Craig Beattie gave Hearts a 2-1 win in the 2012 semi-final.

Current form

  • Hearts have gone five games without a win, losing three in a row
  • Celtic have lost once in 14 games – away to Rangers – since being knocked out the Europa League by Valencia
  • Hearts have lost four times to Celtic since a 1-0 win at Tynecastle in August
  • Celtic beat Hearts 3-0 in their last Hampden meeting, in October’s League Cup semi-final

What the managers say

Hearts manager Craig Levein: “We are going for the single single. It is just as important to us.

“We have recent history of beating Celtic and I feel that the preparation for the game, particularly the last two or three weeks, has gone extremely well, especially getting players back fit, makes me feel better.

“The proof will be in the pudding of course, but we can beat Celtic, we have proven that we have got a big occasion in us, I am certain of that.”

Watch: Celtic’s Tierney & McGregor interview each other

Celtic manager Neil Lennon: “Hearts are a very difficult obstacle for us to overcome, so there’s no point me sitting here telling you how I’m going to feel when we win the cup.

“I’m just wary of everyone talking about treble trebles and bus parades. We’ve got to play the game and not the occasion. That’s the message we’ll be hammering into the players.

“We have a very motivated Hearts team and for some of their players it will be their first cup final. They may never get the opportunity to win it again, so they will be very hungry too.”

Celtic rhythm versus Hearts physicality – analysis

Former Scotland striker Billy Dodds

Celtic have not been playing well of late but still getting results. I wouldn’t say Hearts are heavy underdogs.

Hearts have caused them problems over the last couple of seasons and had a couple of good results against them.

I think Celtic will take care of Hearts, but if Hearts have a good day, they are well capable of giving Celtic problems.

Former Ross County and Plymouth Argyle manager Derek Adams

I think Craig Levein has to go for it. I think he has to start with possibly two up front with maybe three at the back and go for the jugular early in the game.

I don’t think he’ll have a better opportunity in a cup final to beat Celtic. Celtic’s backline is not the strongest and Hearts’ best chance is to get physical.

Former Celtic defender Darren O’Dea

I have played against both teams this season and they are probably the polar opposites.

Hearts are probably the most physical team I’ve played against in my career. I think they will go out to try to disrupt Celtic and there will be so many fouls in the game.

It is a case of whose style is going to take over. If Celtic get into a rhythm, they’ll break them down and will win the game comfortably.

But, if Hearts disrupt their rhythm, they’re physically so demanding that they’ll cause any team problems. Uche Ikpeazu is a monster of a boy – probably the strongest I’ve played against.

Team news

Levein is confident striker Uche Ikpeazu and midfielders Peter Haring and Arnaud Djoum will all be fit having missed the 2-1 defeat at Celtic Park on Sunday. But Callumn Morrison, Aidan Keena, Ben Garuccio, Demetri Mitchell, Steven Naismith and Olly Lee are all out with knee injuries.

Celtic winger James Forrest and left-back Kieran Tierney are available after being rested for the last couple of games. Captain Scott Brown should also return to midfield following a foot injury, while on-loan West Bromwich Albion winger Oliver Burke is hopeful he will take some part despite a knee problem. But Ryan Christie,Jack Hendry, Vakoun Bayo, Dedryck Boyata,Craig Gordon, Eboue Kouassi and Daniel Arzani are still out and Leigh Griffiths remains unavailable.

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Trump puts DOJ on crash course with intelligence agencies

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump granted Attorney General William Barr broad authority to declassify information related to 2016. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

white house

National security veterans fear a declassification order could trigger resignations and threaten the CIA’s ability to conduct its core business — managing secret intelligence and sources.

President Donald Trump’s declassification order Thursday night has set up a showdown between his own Justice Department and the intelligence community that could trigger resignations and threaten the CIA’s ability to conduct its core business — managing secret intelligence and sources.

Trump’s order directed intelligence agencies to fully comply with Attorney General William Barr’s look at “surveillance activities” during the 2016 election — a probe that Trump’s allies see as a necessary check on government overreach but that critics lambaste as an attempt to create the impression of scandal. Numerous former intelligence officials called the move “unprecedented,” saying it grants the attorney general sweeping powers over the nation’s secrets, subverts the intelligence community and raises troubling legal questions.

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“There’s nothing CIA or NSA, for example, guards more jealously than sources and methods,” said Larry Pfeiffer, a 32-year intelligence veteran who served as the chief of staff to CIA Director Michael Hayden. “It is not hyperbole to say that lives are at stake.”

“I doubt any of the [CIA directors] or [directors of national intelligence] that I worked with would have sat by silently if their president contemplated or made such a decision,” added Pfeiffer, who also served as senior director of the White House Situation Room.

It’s the latest chapter in Trump’s rocky relationship with his own intelligence community. During the election, Trump cast doubt on Russia’s role in hacking Hillary Clinton’s campaign. As president, Trump has publicly disagreed with his own intelligence agencies on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the threat posed by the Islamic State, the situation in Afghanistan and whether the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The two sides have usually papered over their differences, but national security veterans said this time might be different.

“I could see something of a showdown happening here, where the CIA says, ‘We’re not comfortable with the declassification of this material and we won’t provide it without the assurance that you won’t declassify it,’” said a former senior Justice Department official who served under both Trump and President Barack Obama, and requested anonymity to discuss the directive more freely. “They feel that these are their sources, their connections.”

If that happened, Trump’s order leaves it unclear who would prevail.

Trump on Friday defended his decision as a pro-transparency move that will give the public insight into nefarious government activity. And he praised Barr as the ideal person to judge what should be released.

Barr is “a great gentleman and a highly respected man, so everything that they need is declassified and they’ll able to see how the hoax or witch hunt started and why it started,” Trump told reporters before leaving for a trip to Japan. “It was an attempted coup, an attempted takedown of the president of the United States.”

Later on Friday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a carefully worded statement, confirming that his agencies will turn over “all of the appropriate information” for the DOJ review. But, Coats added, “I am confident that the Attorney General will work with the [intelligence community] in accordance with the long-established standards to protect highly-sensitive classified information that, if publicly released, would put our national security at risk.”

Numerous national security veterans did not share Coats‘ confidence. They said Trump’s order has challenged those “long-established standards” and raised questions about how the government’s legal power structure might shift in the months and years ahead.

Under the National Security Act, a post-World War II overhaul of the country’s military and intelligence structure, intelligence agencies are legally required to protect the unauthorized declassification of their secretive sources and information-gathering tactics. But Trump’s directive seemingly gave the attorney general the power to determine what should be declassified, potentially upending decades of precedent.

“The president’s memo effectively revises the executive order on classification and gives the AG the authority — previously assigned to the head of the agency that originated the information — to declassify information related to the election inquiry,” said Steven Aftergood, a classification expert who directs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.

While the order includes a caveat that the directive should not impair “the authority granted by law” to agency heads on classification, it also notes that Barr has to consult these agency heads only “to the extent he deems it practicable” about declassification decisions.

And if intelligence chiefs and Barr disagree on what to reveal, Trump retains final say.

“Does an agency head or the DNI have any recourse? Sure — a direct appeal to the president … or threatening to resign over a bad decision,” Pfeiffer said. “Neither is good governance.”

April Doss, who served as the head of intelligence law at the NSA from 2003 to 2016, said she hoped Barr would consult with the intelligence community heads and heed their advice. “But under this memo he is not required to,” she noted.

And that has created a once-unthinkable situation for intelligence professionals — they could lose control of what remains a secret.

“I can’t remember a time when a non-IC officer was given declassification authority over intelligence information,” said Michael Morell, the former acting director of the CIA under Obama.

The result, Morell added, is a loss of faith in the U.S. intelligence system. “It is yet another step that will raise questions among our allies and partners about whether to share sensitive intelligence with us,” he said.

Particularly curious to many intelligence veterans and experts is the fact that Barr asked for this new authority from the president, as well as the breadth of the directive. The memo targets not only the FBI — which Trump has repeatedly accused of hatching a “deep state” plot to overthrow him — but also the CIA, which is fiercely protective of its sources and methods. In particular, Barr is seeking more information about the foreign sources the FBI used in 2016, according to a New York Times report.

The result is a shifting perception of the attorney general’s role.

Since Watergate era, the DOJ chief has been seen as the legal check on intelligence agency overreach, said David Kris, a former Obama-era head of DOJ’s national security division who also held a high-ranking DOJ position during the George W. Bush administration.

“Now,” he added, “many observers have the opposite fear; that the AG, rather than the IC, is the real danger, the real threat to apolitical intelligence under law. Whether or not that fear is entirely valid, it is deeply concerning because it threatens the foundations of intelligence oversight that has protected us for more than 40 years.”

Steve Hall, a former CIA chief of Russian operations, said Trump’s actions are likely to have a chilling effect on the government’s ability to recruit both agents and informants.

The revelation that longtime Cambridge University professor Stefan Halper, for example, was used as an FBI informant in 2016, and the microscopic focus placed on former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele — another longtime FBI source — has made the intelligence community, and its sources, extremely wary.

“Put yourself in the position of considering working for CIA at this moment,” Hall said. “You’d probably want to wait until this all blows over.”

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‘I followed my dream’: Canadian Aladdin star Mena Massoud’s magic carpet ride to stardom | CBC News

You might think it’d be one of the parkour-inspired dashes through the fictional setting of Agrabah or maybe that romantic duet with Naomi Scott’s Princess Jasmine.

But for Mena Massoud, the Egyptian-Canadian star of Disney’s new live-action remake of Aladdin, it was all about “the jam.”

“A special moment for me was the jam scene, because it was almost fully improvised, and it was just a really collaborative, magical day on set,” Massoud said Friday, during a stop in his hometown of Markham, Ont., located just north of Toronto.

“[Aladdin director Guy Ritchie] just really let us play — he trusted us,” Massoud recalled, of the comedic scene, in which his character — transformed into Prince Ali — is formally and very awkwardly presented to the Sultan and Princess Jasmine.  

Massoud, left, and Will Smith improvised much of the comical ‘jam scene,’ according to Massoud. (Daniel Smith/Walt Disney Studios)

“I was the head of my improv team in high school, so getting to improvise on a set like that with Will [Smith, who plays the wise-cracking Genie in the remake] —  that’s something I’ll remember forever.”

“Be true to yourself and you can achieve your dreams” is a theme Massoud embodies both in his breakout role as Aladdin, as well as in his own life.

The 27-year-old actor has criss-crossed the globe in recent weeks to promote Aladdin, but brought the production home to Toronto this week for the film’s Canadian premiere.

“Toronto’s a great city that accepts you for who you are, no matter what culture you are [or] where you come from. So, I think it’s really helped me stay grounded and, whenever I come back, it helps recalibrate me,” said the avid Toronto Raptors fan and unabashed champion of Canadian film

“It feels right, you know?” 

Naomi Scott, who portrays Princess Jasmine, and Massoud attend the premiere of Aladdin in Los Angeles on Tuesday. (Rich Fury/Getty Images)

‘A force of nature’

Born in Egypt, Massoud was just three when his family immigrated to Canada. From childhood, he says, he knew he wanted to be a performer: whether he was re-enacting roles from movies at home (Aladdin, yes, but also physical comedies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Rush Hour and Miss Congeniality) or starring as Peter Pan in elementary school.

By the time he reached high school, he was already a “shape-shifter,” who could perform everything, according to his former drama teacher.

Massoud greets his former high school drama teacher Dori Elliott at the Toronto premiere of the new Disney film on Thursday. (Alice Hopton/CBC)

Dori Elliott, who was among the masses of hometown friends and fans who gathered to celebrate Massoud at Thursday night’s Aladdin premiere in Toronto, recalled him as “this quiet, soft-spoken, low-key, introspective and respectful young man” — at first.

“He sort of flew under the radar until he got up to work. And at that point, he was like a force of nature. He was volcanic,” said the retired St. Brother André Catholic High School drama teacher.

“He’s the real deal.”

Scott and Massoud appear in a scene from Aladdin, directed by Guy Ritchie. (Daniel Smith/Walt Disney Studios)

Though he loved performance, after graduation Massoud chose to study neuroscience at the University of Toronto. Soon, however, he realized his passion lay elsewhere and chose to make the leap into acting full-time, switching over to Ryerson University’s theatre performance program.

Following your dreams

Massoud shared his message about following one’s dreams to a special group of teens in Markham on Friday.

WATCH: Aladdin star Mena Massoud surprises students from his former Markham, Ont. high school with an emotional message to fearlessly follow your dreams. 2:35

“I was told growing up that the arts were just a hobby — that I couldn’t do it as a career,” he recounted to a group of high-schoolers from his alma mater, after surprising them at a midday Aladdin screening.

Once enrolled in theatre school, “I put in my time, I worked hard and I followed my dreams. So, whatever it is that you guys want to do in your life, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do it, because you can,” Massoud declared, with emotion.

St. Brother André Grade 11 students Aaron Emmanuel, left, Ayanna Pinder, centre, and Sumaiya Shariff were among those surprised by a visit from Massoud at a midday screening of Aladdin on Friday. (CBC)

The words hit home for many students in the audience, including 16-year-old Sumaiya Shariff.

“Almost everyone in this theatre is an art student from Brother André, and the reason we came here is to celebrate the fact that he graduated from the drama department,” she said.

Despite originally pursuing studies in science, “he changed his mind. And that shows us that even if we have a dream that we think is too big, we can really achieve it if we think we can.” 

Melton Moyo, principal of St. Brother André Catholic High School, recalled Massoud as a talented former student who was valedictorian in his graduating year. (CBC)

And while some might consider follow your dreams a cliché, the sentiment is valuable and inspirational for young people, added St. Brother André principal Melton Moyo. 

“As parents, we always want our kids to do what we think they should do. But he defied that, and he is doing very well. So congratulations to him.” 

Importance of onscreen representation

As an actor of colour, Massoud understands the responsibility of playing a high-profile, beloved role like Aladdin — he reportedly beat out more than 2,000 actors for the part — and what he represents in an industry that still has much work to do in terms of inclusion and representation.

One of the things he feels proudest of is being an inspiration and motivation to “kids of colour, who don’t see themselves repped on screen a lot,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s enough to really celebrate, you know, the movement of one ethnic group. We’ve got to be able to get to a point where we represent everybody equally. And that’s going to take a while.”

The onscreen representation in Aladdin, for instance, is something else he’s proud of. The film’s creative team chose to reimagine the story’s setting of Agrabah as a culturally diverse coastal city on the Silk Road. The casting — which includes artists of Egyptian, South Asian, Tunisian, Iranian and European heritage — reflects that, he noted.

Massoud has seen some progress on how diverse actors are employed even in his relatively young career, where just a few years ago, one of his earliest on-screen appearances was as “al Qaeda No. 2” on the TV series Nikita.

More recent credits include playing CIA analyst Tarek Kasser in Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan and mayoral aide Kamal in the upcoming film Run This Town, inspired by Rob Ford’s turbulent tenure.

He is also set to star in the upcoming Hulu dramatic thriller Reprisal alongside Abigail Spencer and Rodrigo Santoro.

Friends gather for a photo with Massoud, standing at centre in a blue suit, at Aladdin’s Toronto premiere on Thursday. (Alice Hopton/CBC)

“I want to keep trying to show my range, expanding my range,” Massoud said.

“The beautiful thing about art is that there’s always somewhere to go. There’s always something new to explore and, as an artist, that’s just what I want to do. I wanna keep exploring new things with different directors with different producers and different styles and tones.”

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Theresa May announces resignation amid Brexit chaos

Theresa May has announced her resignation after weeks of deadlock and chaos surrounding several failed attempts to push her European Union Withdrawal Agreement through parliament.

On Friday morning, May announced she would step down as Conservative leader on June 7. She will stay on as prime minister of the United Kingdom until her successor is chosen, May added.

The move came after a meeting with the chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of her Conservative party backbenchers, which last week had forced her to say she would announce her departure date in June.

In the end, May couldn’t hold on until June.

“I have done my best to implement the result of the referendum,” she said outside 10 Downing Street, which has been her home since shortly after the UK voted by a narrow margin to leave the EU.

“I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back my deal,” May added.

“It is a matter of deep regret that I have not delivered Brexit. My successor must find consensus in parliament.”

Race to replace

The race to replace her began a few weeks ago, with at least three leading Conservative figures openly declaring their candidacy for the leadership long before she had resigned.

But whomever replaces her will face the same parliamentary arithmetic which denied May an outright majority and a public greatly dissatisfied both with the delivery of Brexit and the state of the nation’s leadership more generally.

“I know the Conservative Party can renew itself in the years ahead,” said May.

Discontent had been rife within the Conservative Party, growing to unsustainable levels this week, with several key government and backbench figures calling for her resignation.

May’s days were numbered after concessions made to opposition politicians over her Brexit deal failed to win support among opponents, and left her own allies feeling betrayed.

She had tried three times to get parliament to agree to the deal negotiated with the EU. Her fourth effort was dead on arrival, despite offering a vote on a “confirmatory referendum” to attract support.

May’s deal had faced opposition on several fronts. Hardliners in her own Conservative Party said it didn’t go far enough, leaving Britain part of several European institutions and structures such as the Customs Union.

‘Frank’ discussions

The DUP, on whose support May depended to command a majority in Parliament, said efforts to avoid a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – keeping Northern Ireland largely aligned with the EU until a new trade deal can be agreed, also known as the “backstop” position – undermined the integrity of the UK, creating a trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

And Labour, the principal opposition party, while politically committed to leaving the EU, also opposed the deal over issues of workers’ rights and those of EU nationals living in Britain and British nationals living within the EU.

The Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, meanwhile, all oppose Brexit outright.

Andrea Leadsom, a key ally in May’s cabinet, resigned on Wednesday night, and several senior figures were said to have had “frank” discussions with her on Thursday.

May concluded her speech with a litany of claims of her government’s achievements, before issuing a rallying call to future women leaders:

“[I was] the second female prime minister, but certainly not the last,” she said.

“It has been the honour of my life to serve the country that I love.”

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Senate GOP declares war on conservative troublemakers

Thom Tillis

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is vigorously working to defend Sen. Thom Tillis from primary challengers. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo


The party’s campaign arm vows to blackball any firm that works for a primary challenger against one of its incumbents.

Senate Republicans and their establishment allies are vowing to blackball any political consulting firm that works to defeat GOP incumbents, a dramatic step likely to further inflame intraparty tensions over 2020 primaries.

The move comes one day after POLITICO reported that the anti-tax Club for Growth was attempting to lure a Republican congressman to take on first-term Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), infuriating party leaders.

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The Senate GOP campaign arm responded Friday by proclaiming a “zero tolerance policy” against party strategists who aid primary challengers. Party leaders are looking to head off the type of internecine warfare that regularly plagued Republican senators earlier this decade but has tailed off in recent years.

“It is the policy of the NRSC that we will defend any member of our caucus from any challenge — be it in a primary or general election — by any means necessary,” Kevin McLaughlin, the National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director, said in a statement. “It is a zero tolerance policy and we will not work with any vendors who work for campaigns or outside groups challenging incumbent Republican senators.”

The announcement is the most public brushback to those working for primary challengers since 2014, when the NRSC — looking to beat back a wave of conservative insurgents — cut off a consulting firm that had targeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other incumbents up for reelection that year.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a well-funded super PAC closely aligned with McConnell, joined the committee in its decision.

“We have a long-standing policy of not using consultants who are assisting primary challenges against our Senate incumbents,” said Steven Law, the group’s president.

The Club for Growth has not opposed an incumbent Republican senator since 2014, when it tried to unseat then-Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. But this week, the organization indicated it was trying to nudge North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, a staunch Trump ally, into the primary. The Club for Growth also released a poll suggesting that Tillis would be vulnerable in a primary and general election.

The flare-up threatens to divide Republicans in a state at the center of the party’s 2020 strategy. Senate GOP campaign officials have warned aides to President Donald Trump that a disruptive and chaotic North Carolina Senate primary could hurt Trump in the battleground state.

North Carolina had already become an early focus of GOP concerns. The state Republican Party, whose chairman was recently indicted in a corruption case, has been wracked by turmoil. And there is considerable angst within the party about a field of lackluster gubernatorial candidates.

Senate Republicans are vigorously working to protect Tillis. In recent weeks, NRSC officials raised concerns with Trump campaign aides over the work that John McLaughlin, one of the president’s pollsters, was doing for Tillis primary challenger Garland Tucker. On Tuesday, McLaughlin’s firm withdrew from the North Carolina race.

The NRSC has indicated that it’s prepared to aggressively go after Walker, a third-term evangelical pastor. The committee, for example, has pointed out that the congressman has become entangled in the same federal corruption probe that led to the indictment of state party chairman Robin Hayes.

Major donors and outside groups are also coming to the senator’s defense. A spokesman for GOP megadonors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson said the couple “stands by Thom Tillis.”

Ending Spending Action Fund, a super PAC that in the past has received funding from the billionaire Ricketts and Adelson families, said it “will proudly support his reelection and vigorously oppose candidates or groups that seek to challenge the senator.”

Club for Growth officials say Tillis’ past differences with the White House have made him vulnerable in a state where Trump is popular among Republicans. Last year, the senator was criticized by fellow Republicans for co-sponsoring legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. Earlier this year, Tillis wrote a Washington Post op-ed in which he announced his opposition to Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall, though he ultimately voted in favor of it.

The Club for Growth tried to defeat the president in the 2016 GOP primary but has since refashioned itself into a pro-Trump outfit. On Friday, the group said it is still assessing whether to oppose Tillis.

“The Club for Growth has not made a determination if we will support a primary challenge to Sen. Tillis’ seat in North Carolina,” said Joe Kildea, a spokesman for the organization. “If we do endorse Walker, it will only be if we believe he is a stronger candidate in the general election.”

Republicans are not alone in trying to cut off oxygen to primary challengers. At a time when progressive insurgents are looking to unseat establishment incumbents, the House Democratic campaign arm has said it will no longer do business with vendors who are working to defeat sitting lawmakers.

The Club for Growth’s threat to Tillis puts some of the Republican Party’s incumbents, who typically treat their fellow colleagues with deference, in an awkward position. Arizona Sen. Martha McSally has previously used two consulting firms, Axiom Strategies and WPA Intelligence, who have done work for the Club for Growth and Walker.

WPA Intelligence oversaw the Club for Growth’s new North Carolina survey, though a person familiar with the arrangement said it was done through a firewalled division of the polling firm. Jeff Roe, founder of Axiom Strategies and a top McSally adviser, said his firm would not be involved in any effort to defeat Tillis.

McSally is one of the most endangered senators up for reelection in 2020. A spokeswoman for the senator suggested that she took the same no-tolerance approach as the party committee.

“Sen. McSally strongly supports the reelection of Thom Tillis,” said McSally spokeswoman Katie Waldman, “and has made it clear that she will not use any vendors who are involved in a primary against the senator or any other Republican senator in the 2020 cycle.”

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Wisconsin man to spend life in prison for kidnapping Jayme Closs, killing her parents | CBC News

A Wisconsin man will spend the rest of his life in prison for kidnapping Jayme Closs, 13, and killing her parents.

Jake Patterson, 21, was sentenced Friday in Barron County. He pleaded guilty in March to two counts of intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping. He admitted to abducting Jayme in October and killing her parents, James and Denise Closs.

The teen was held captive in a remote cabin for 88 days before she escaped.

Patterson was sentenced to life in prison without release on each homicide count and 25 years in prison on the kidnapping count. The sentences will be served consecutively.

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Trump’s Huawei crackdown could hit Trump country hardest

Huawei logo

The Commerce Department’s decision last week to put the Chinese telecom giant Huawei on a trade blacklist is causing panic among small wireless providers. | Andy Wong/AP Photo


Small, rural wireless providers fear the president’s approach could result in big costs.

The fallout from President Donald Trump’s Huawei crackdown may fall hardest on his rural base, already suffering from his earlier aggressive trade moves.

The Commerce Department’s decision last week to put the Chinese telecom giant on a trade blacklist is causing panic among small wireless providers, many of them in Trump-friendly parts of the country, which have Huawei equipment in their networks. And they warn they’ll face big costs, potentially hundreds of millions of dollars, if they have to rip out and replace it.

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Amid industry lobbying, the administration gave U.S. companies a 90-day reprieve for doing some types of business with Huawei, but a full ban looms as a possibility. That could add to the harm that the blowback from Trump’s trade war has already inflicted in big swaths of Trump country — for instance, China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports like soybeans and pork.

Most U.S. farmers have continued to stand by the White House, despite already reeling from a multiyear decline in income and crop prices, but growing anxiety has prompted the administration to spend billions in direct payments to agricultural producers. Similarly, lawmakers of both parties have called for providing $700 million to help small telecom companies caught in the middle of the Huawei fracas.

One example of the Huawei dilemma is Eastern Oregon Telecom, which covers a string of communities in the northeastern part of the state. CEO Joe Franell said he originally bought the Chinese company’s gear, including fiber broadband equipment, because it was 30 percent to 40 percent cheaper than other products on the market. But he estimates the labor and engineering costs of pulling it out and installing new, more expensive parts, as he fears he may have to do in the wake of a U.S. crackdown on Huawei, will run to about $1.4 million.

“If I have to do it myself, it’s a one-year distraction,” Franell said. “When you’re a rural community that is really struggling, a year is a lifetime to wait.”

“I do think this, oddly enough, will impact the Trump-supportive areas of the United States more than the coastal areas,” he said.

While bigger carriers like AT&T and Verizon have avoided incorporating this gear into their domestic systems, Huawei has made inroads over the years selling network equipment to providers in remote and rural parts of the United States. Wireless company filings with the Federal Communications Commission indicate Huawei gear has gone into networks in states like Missouri, Wyoming, Kansas and Montana.

Huawei does business with around 40 companies across the country, said Carri Bennet, general counsel of the Rural Wireless Association, which represents smaller providers. She said a dozen of her own group’s members use gear from Huawei and another Chinese telecom company, ZTE, and she estimates that replacement costs are likely to range between $800 million to $1 billion.

Bennet added that the disruptions involved in such network overhauls could ripple across businesses that rely on the carriers’ wireless service, from oil and gas production to ranching and farming. All of those sectors increasingly use internet-connected technology.

“You’re not going to be able to say to someone, ‘You can’t use a tractor for a year,’” she said.

Huawei appears to be well aware of this dynamic, and is using it as a pressure point as it tries to stave off U.S. restrictions.

“Because Huawei equipment is installed in dozens of 4G networks in underserved remote and rural parts of the country, a ban would prevent small, independently owned American telecom operators … from developing new services and delivering faster broadband connections to millions of people,” Catherine Chen, director of Huawei’s board, wrote in a New York Times op-ed last week. “Instead, those operators would be forced to spend their limited funds replacing Huawei equipment with more expensive gear.”

Despite a 2012 House Intelligence Committee report cautioning that Huawei and ZTE represent a cybersecurity threat, a number of smaller providers said they had felt confident enough to do business with the companies.

Sagebrush Cellular, which covers 17,000 square miles encompassing parts of Montana and some tribal areas, noted in a regulatory filing last year that it relied on the Agriculture Department’s classification of Huawei as an approved vendor as well as conclusions relayed by staff for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) that there was no reason to hold off.

Trump himself has sent mixed signals about his intentions on Huawei.

Last week, he signed a long-anticipated executive order banning the purchase of communications technology from entities controlled by “a foreign adversary,” setting the stage for the government to block Huawei from 5G networks in the United States. The Commerce Department separately put Huawei on its trade blacklist, saying it has reason to believe the company is involved in activities contrary to U.S. “national security or foreign policy interests.” That reflected the long-standing views of U.S. officials that Huawei could be a vehicle for cyber espionage.

But the president later muddied the waters about how serious he is about sanctions. After warning at a White House event Thursday that “Huawei is something that is very dangerous,” he suggested the company could be a bargaining chip in his talks with China, saying, “It’s possible that Huawei would be included in a trade deal.”

Amid the uncertainty, small telecom companies are beseeching Congress for help, with another of their trade groups, the Competitive Carriers Association, huddling with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) last week. Warner, joining with other senators including Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), proposed a bill to set aside up to $700 million to help these companies, drawing on funds raised from the government’s future auctioning of wireless airwaves.

“It’s a problem,” Rubio said in an interview this week. “They understand the national security concerns. I think from a financial standpoint, though — these are not big providers.”

“The cost of ripping that stuff out and putting compliant technology in is not insignificant, especially for them. So we’re going to have to do something about it,” he said.

Adam Behsudi and Eric Geller contributed to this report.

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