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7 years in jail for ex-policeman who rioted at US Capitol

A former Virginia police sergeant who joined Donald Trump’s supporters in storming the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, matching the longest prison sentence so far among hundreds of Capitol riot cases.

Former Rocky Mount Police Sergeant Thomas Robertson declined to address the court before US District Judge Christopher Cooper sentenced him to seven years and three months in prison on Thursday. Cooper also sentenced Robertson to three years of supervised release after his prison term.

Federal prosecutors had recommended an eight-year prison sentence for Robertson. His sentence equals that of Guy Reffitt, a Texas man who attacked the Capitol while armed with a holstered handgun.

Robertson gets credit for the 13 months he has already spent in custody. Robertson has been jailed since Cooper ruled last year that he violated the terms of his pretrial release by possessing firearms.

The judge said he was troubled by Robertson’s conduct since his arrest — not just his stockpiling of guns but also his words advocating for violence. After January 6, Robertson told a friend that he was prepared to fight and die in a civil war, and he clung to baseless conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen from then President Donald Trump, the judge noted.

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Sentencing guidelines calculated by Cooper recommended a prison term ranging from seven years and three months to nine years.

“It’s a long time because it reflects the seriousness of the offences that you were convicted of,” the judge said.

In April, a jury convicted Robertson of attacking the Capitol to obstruct Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory. Jurors found Robertson guilty of all six counts in his indictment, including charges that he interfered with police officers at the Capitol and that he entered a restricted area with a dangerous weapon, a large wooden stick.

Robertson’s lawyers said the Army veteran was using the stick to help him walk because he has a limp from getting shot in the right thigh while working as a private contractor for the Defense Department in Afghanistan in 2011.

The judge said he agreed with jurors that Robertson went to the Capitol to interfere with the joint session of Congress on January 6.

Robertson was an “active and willing participant,” not “some bystander” who got swept up in the crowd, Cooper said.

Robertson travelled to Washington, DC, on that morning with another off-duty Rocky Mount police officer, Jacob Fracker, and a third man, a neighbour who was not charged in the case.

He has been in detention since last year, after the judge found he violated court orders and continued to buy what prosecutors described as an “arsenal” of guns online. FBI agents also found a loaded M4 rifle and a partially assembled pipe bomb at his home during a search.

Robertson’s trial featured testimony from Fracker, who had reported to Robertson on the police force and entered the Capitol on January 6, 2021, with him, where they took selfies together.

Prosecutors said Robertson later destroyed the cell phones they had used that day.

Fracker, who cooperated with the Justice Department, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy in March and is due to be sentenced on August 16. In exchange for his cooperation, prosecutors are asking the judge to sentence him to six-month probation with a condition of community confinement or home detention.

Prosecutors said Robertson “anticipated violence” on January 6, and he packed gas masks for himself and Fracker, as well as military food rations, water and a large wooden stick.

Robertson “used his law enforcement training to block Metropolitan Police Officers attempting to hold back the mob,” Federal Prosecutor Elizabeth Aloi wrote in the government’s sentencing memo.

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Robertson’s lawyer, Mark Rollins, sought a prison sentence below two years and three months. He questioned the fairness of the wide gap in sentences that prosecutors recommended for Robertson and Fracker, given their similar conduct.

Robertson served his country and community with distinction, his lawyer told the judge.

“His life already is in shambles,” Rollins said.

Robertson and Fracker were among several current or former law enforcement officers who joined in the riot. Prosecutors say Robertson used his law enforcement and military training to block police officers who were trying to hold off the advancing mob.

Assistant US Attorney Elizabeth Aloi said Robertson was prepared for violence when he went to the Capitol and did a “victory lap” inside the building, where he posed for a selfie with Fracker.

“The defendant is, by all accounts, proud of his conduct on January 6,” she said.

Jurors saw some of Robertson’s posts on social media before and after the riot. In a Facebook post on November 7, 2020, Robertson said “being disenfranchised by fraud is my hard line”.

“I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting a counter insurgency. [I’m] about to become part of one, and a very effective one,” he wrote.

In a letter addressed to the judge, Robertson said he took full responsibility for his actions on January 6 and “any poor decisions I made”. He blamed the vitriolic content of his social media posts on a mix of stress, alcohol abuse and “submersion in deep ‘rabbit holes’ of election conspiracy theory”.

“I sat around at night drinking too much and reacting to articles and sites given to me by Facebook” algorithms, he wrote.

However, he denied ever having “any intention to disrupt Congress” and claimed that Fracker actually destroyed the cell phones, and later lied to the FBI and the court about it.

The small town of Rocky Mount fired Robertson and Fracker after the riot.

Roughly 850 people have been charged with federal crimes for their conduct on January 6. More than 350 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanour offences, and more than 230 have been sentenced so far.

Robertson’s jury trial was the second for a Capitol riot case; Reffitt’s was the first. Jurors have unanimously convicted seven Capitol rioters of all charges in their respective indictments.

Brazilians protest for democracy as Bolsonaro threatens election

The protests take place amid concerns that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro could refuse to accept election results.

Thousands of Brazilians flocked to a law school Thursday in defence of the nation’s democratic institutions, an event that carried echoes of a gathering nearly 45 years ago when citizens joined together at the same site to denounce a brutal military dictatorship.

In 1977, the masses poured into the University of Sao Paulo’s law school to listen to a reading of “A Letter to Brazilians”, a manifesto calling for a prompt return of the rule of law. On Thursday, they heard declarations defending democracy and the country’s elections systems, which far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked ahead of his bid for reelection in October.

While the current manifestos do not specifically name Bolsonaro, they underscore the country’s widespread concern that the far-right leader may follow in former US President Donald Trump’s footsteps and reject election results not in his favour in an attempt to cling to power.

One manifesto read at Thursday’s event garnered more than 800,000 signatures and warned that Brazilian democracy was under threat.

“We are at risk of a coup, so civil society must stand up and fight against that to guarantee democracy,” Jose Carlos Dias, a former justice minister who helped write the 1977 letter and the two documents read Thursday, told the Associated Press news agency.

In Sao Paulo, drivers stuck in traffic on one of the main roads to the law school applauded and honked as marching students chanted pro-democracy slogans. A huge inflatable electronic voting machine by the building’s main entrance bore the slogan “RESPECT THE VOTE.”

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Bolsonaro’s commitment to democracy has been scrutinized since he took office, in large part because the former army captain has insistently glorified the country’s two-decade dictatorship, which ended in 1985.

For more than a year, in actions that appear to be lifted directly from Trump’s playbook, Bolsonaro has claimed Brazil’s electronic voting machines are prone to fraud, though, like Trump, he never presented any evidence. Bolsonaro has consistently trailed former President Luiz Inacio da Silva, known as Lula, in the polls ahead of the election.

Bolsonaro also began expressing a desire for greater involvement of the armed forces in election oversight. Last week, army officials visited the electoral authority’s headquarters to inspect the source codes of voting machines. Bolsonaro has alleged that some of the authority’s top officials are working against him.

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At the law school on Thursday, Carlos Silveira carried a sign that read: “The military doesn’t count votes.”

“We are here because it is riskier not to do anything,” said Silveira, 43. “Bolsonaro has suggested a big anti-democratic act before the election, and the military has remained on his side, it seems. We want to show them we are the majority, and that our quest for democracy will win.”

When Bolsonaro launched his campaign, he called on supporters to flood the streets for the September 7 Independence Day celebrations. On that date last year, he declared before tens of thousands who rallied at his behest that only God can remove him from power.

US Senator Warren blasts Fed for withholding trading records

US Senator Elizabeth Warren rebuked Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for withholding information on trading by central bank officials during the pandemic and said an investigation into the matter by the Fed’s inspector general was “troubling.”

The IG report “raises new concerns about the reasons why you continue to withhold key information about Fed officials’ financial trading activity from Congress and the public,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a letter to Powell released Thursday.

Warren –- a member of the Senate Banking Committee that has Fed oversight authority — also sent letters to all 12 reserve banks asking for securities transaction records for all senior officials since Jan. 1, 2020, giving the banks an Aug. 25 deadline.

Warren’s request to the Board and reserve banks marks growing dissatisfaction with the central bank’s responses to its main oversight body in Congress. This week Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee, in response to a separate matter in which the Fed refused to share documents with lawmakers, vowed to create legislation that will compel the Fed to disclose certain information to Congress.

Though Republicans and Democrats have sought different information from the Fed, both sides have expressed frustration at being stonewalled following repeated requests.

2020 Trading

Warren’s criticism centers around financial disclosures for 2020 that revealed trading by some officials during a time when the Fed was intervening in nearly every significant credit market to try and buffer the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic. The reserve bank officials included Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, who have since resigned.

“My ongoing concerns about the culture of corruption at the Fed have become more extensive with each new revelation, and with each additional failure by the Fed to provide the information needed by Congress and the public,” Warren wrote.

While the 12 reserve banks are exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests, including from lawmakers, the Board is not. Warren and Republican Senator Pat Toomey both said they have requested information from the Board directly multiple times and haven’t received what they deem appropriate responses. Senate Banking Committee members have expressed interest in making reserve banks subject to FOIA.

“Unfortunately, obstructionism has become too common a response from the Fed and regional Fed banks — which, after all, are creatures of Congress — to congressional oversight inquiries from members in both parties,” 11 Republican members of the committee wrote in an Aug. 9 letter to Powell.

New Rules

The 2020 transactions by some Fed officials highlighted the central bank’s weak internal oversight and dated rules. Powell ordered a review of the rules and the Fed has since adopted strict limits on how senior officials can invest.

The Fed Board requested that the IG investigate transactions by Kaplan, Rosengren, as well as former Vice Chair Richard Clarida. The Fed IG independently also reviewed transactions by a Powell family trust.

The IG cleared Clarida and Powell, saying there was no evidence that they “violated laws, rules, regulations, or policies related to trading activities.”

Warren raised several concerns about the inspector general’s report on Powell and Clarida, which came in the form of a July 11 “memorandum.”

The senator noted that the IG report, for example, didn’t address “the fact that the Board of Governors’ ethics unit issued a warning against unnecessary trading to Fed officials on March 23, 2020” even while some officials made trades.

“These gaps in the review and the IG’s credulous acceptance of explanations for clearly improper behavior render the findings of the IG’s report simply not credible,” Warren said in her letter to Powell.

Kaplan, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. senior executive, listed transactions in several stocks with trades of $1 million or more on “multiple” dates in 2020.

Bloomberg News has requested the specific dates of the transactions through FOIA and was denied.

Rosengren’s disclosure listed stakes in four separate real estate investment trusts and disclosed multiple purchases and sales in those and other securities. Those investments raised concerns because he had publicly warned about the risks in commercial real estate.

Some REITS also hold mortgage-backed securities to gain exposure to real estate assets. The Fed bought hundreds of billions of agency-issued MBS during the pandemic to help with market functioning.

Both Kaplan and Rosengren resigned in 2021 after the trading revelations. Kaplan said the disclosures risked becoming a distraction for the Fed, so he was retiring. Rosengren said he resigned due to a health condition.

FIFA moves World Cup start forward by one day to November 20

2022 World Cup will kick off with opening ceremony followed by game between Ecuador and host Qatar in Al Bayt Stadium.

FIFA has moved the start of the upcoming World Cup in Qatar forward by one day to allow the host nation to play after an opening ceremony on Sunday, November 20.

The football governing body confirmed the decision on Thursday, saying that it followed an assessment of the “competition and operational implications” and consultations with stakeholders and the host nation.

“The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking the start of the FIFA World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions,” FIFA said in a statement.

The opening game was set to be an encounter between Senegal and the Netherlands on November 21. After Thursday’s decision, that match was moved to six hours later, taking the evening spot previously allocated to Qatar v Ecuador.

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The opening ceremony and first game will take place at the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of the Qatari capital Doha.

“The FIFA World Cup 2022 will kick off with an even greater celebration for local and international fans as host country Qatar will now play Ecuador on Sunday, 20 November at 19:00 (16:00 GMT) as part of a stand-alone event,” FIFA said.

This year’s edition brings the World Cup to the Arab World for the first time.

The 2022 World Cup is also the first in the tournament’s 92-year history to be played in November and December. The previous 21 editions were all played between late May and the end of July.

FIFA finalised a decision to play in the northern fall season in 2015 to avoid Qatar’s summer heat, despite opposition from most European football bodies that were irked by having to shut down their domestic leagues for several peak weeks.

The tournament’s final will take place on December 18, Qatar’s National Day.

“Ticket holders will be duly notified by email that the relevant matches have been rescheduled and their tickets will remain valid irrespective of the new date/time. In addition, FIFA will seek to address any issues arising from this change in a case-by-case basis,” FIFA said on Thursday.

Will the Thai prime minister step down?

From: Inside Story

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha is facing calls to resign.

There has been political instability in Thailand since its army chief took power in a coup eight years ago.

He eventually became prime minister but has faced resistance from many Thais who have been demanding change.

Protesters are now calling on Prayuth Chan-ocha to resign. Students at a university in northern Bangkok held protests on Wednesday.

So, will the prime minister step down? And if he refuses, could that lead to further unrest?

Presenter: Mohammed Jamjoom

Guests:

Jade Donavanik – president of the law faculty at the College of Asian Scholars

Thitinan Pongsudhirak – professor and director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University

Sunai Phasuk – senior researcher in the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch

Calm returns to Sierra Leone as protest death toll rises

At least six protesters and six police officers were killed as anti-government protests in Sierra Leone turned violent, according to officials and local media reports.

Hundreds of people took to the streets on Wednesday in a public display of anger over economic conditions in the country and to protest the perceived failure by the government to cushion the effect of rising prices.

At least six protesters were killed, the AFP news agency reported, citing a morgue technician at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown; local media reported that seven protesters died.

Two police officers were killed in Freetown, three in the northern town of Kamakwie and one in the northern city of Makeni, Police Inspector General William Fayia Sellu told the Reuters news agency.

Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify death tolls.

Deadly unrest is uncommon for Sierra Leone, especially in the West African country’s capital Freetown. Relative calm returned to the city on Thursday after a nationwide curfew was imposed. Police and troops patrolled the streets of the capital, and some shops in the city’s central business district had reopened, AFP reported.

A demonstrator throws a gas canister during an anti-government protest, in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
A demonstrator throws a gas canister during an anti-government protest in Freetown, Sierra Leone [Reuters]

What began Wednesday as a peaceful assembly by market women to draw attention to “economic hardship” descended into clashes between security forces and young men demanding the president resign.

Several police stations were burned down and vandalised around the country, it said.

A police statement said 113 “suspects” had been arrested in the northwest and northeast provinces.

‘Embrace dialogue’

One video verified by Reuters from Freetown showed a police officer firing a gun into a crowd.

Sulaiman Turay, a 19-year-old living in east Freetown, marched briefly before police started firing tear gas and said he later saw demonstrators getting shot at from his porch.

“I think people are shocked. It’s not the country we know. Sierra Leone is a peaceful place,” he said.

A curfew imposed on Wednesday would continue from Thursday between 7pm (19:00 GMT) and 7am, the police said, without specifying an end date for the measure.

The government also announced it had put in place “mechanisms” to monitor social media and warned the public against spreading “incendiary” information “to destabilise the state”.

The internet was cut for two hours on Wednesday and again overnight, according to internet observatory NetBlocks.

President Julius Maada Bio, who had been in the United Kingdom on a private visit, returned ahead of schedule on Wednesday night, according to presidency spokesperson Tanu Jalloh.

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“As a government, we have the responsibility to protect every citizen of Sierra Leone”, the president said on Twitter, describing the events as “unfortunate” and promising an investigation.

“I urge all Sierra Leoneans to be calm”, he added.

The United Nations, European Union, UK and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have all condemned Wednesday’s violence.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged the government to hold “prompt, impartial and thorough investigations … and bring those responsible to account regardless of their status and political affiliation”.

“I urge all sides to embrace dialogue”, she said.

Sierra Leone has had a reputation for relative stability since the end of a civil war that ran from 1991 to 2002.

Its population of eight million people live in one of the poorest nations in the world, ranking 182 out of 189 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index, a benchmark of prosperity.

The economy, heavily dependent on minerals, was devastated by the civil war that left about 120,000 dead.

Efforts at rebuilding were set back by an Ebola epidemic in 2014-2016, a fall in world commodity prices and the coronavirus pandemic — all of which have disrupted trade and investment and hit exports.

In July, the country slashed three zeros off its currency in a bid to restore confidence in the inflation-hit leone.

Argentina hikes rate to 69.5% as inflation surges to 30-year high

Argentina’s inflation woes and political upheaval got only worse in July, when then-Economy Minister Martin Guzman abruptly resigned.

By Bloomberg

Argentina’s annual inflation surged past 70% last month, one of the fastest rates in the world, after renewed political turmoil fueled price spikes and a currency rout.

Consumer prices rose 71% in July from a year ago, the highest level in about 30 years, according to government data published Thursday. On a monthly basis, the inflation rate spiked to 7.4%, accelerating at the fastest pace in two decades and slightly above economists’ average expectations for 7.3%.

The country's key interest rate is not keeping pace with inflation above 64%

Galloping prices pushed Argentina’s central bank to life rates earlier in the day by the most in three years, jacking up borrowing costs by 950 basis points on the benchmark rate to 69.5%. It signaled a tougher monetary stance against inflation, following another large rate hike just two weeks ago. Policy makers had been only raising rates once a month previously.

Argentina’s already-high levels of inflation got supercharged in July when then Economy Minister Martin Guzman abruptly resigned, blowing open a political crisis long brewing inside the country’s ruling coalition. President Alberto Fernandez replaced Guzman with little-known economist Silvina Batakis, who lasted only three weeks in the job before Fernandez tapped Sergio Massa, a seasoned political operator and one of the leaders of the Peronist coalition, for the role.

All the political turmoil added volatility to an already unstable outlook, with the black market peso losing about 15% of its value in the month and local businesses jacking up prices 20% overnight.

South American Interest-Rate Increases | At least seven authorities raised by 250 basis points or more in 2022

To signal a tougher stance on inflation, Massa committed to stop printing more money to finance government spending — a key factor driving inflation — for the rest of the year. However, other policies, such as removing subsidies on utility bills to improve the fiscal balance, stand to keep price increases high in the near term.

Economists see annual inflation in Argentina ending this year at 90%, according to the latest central bank survey.

(Updates with official government data and central bank rate hike)

Initial efforts to rescue trapped Mexican miners unsuccessful

Divers are hindered by debris and poor visibility as they search for 10 miners who remain trapped in a flooded mine.

Rescue divers have thus far failed to reach 10 workers trapped in a flooded Mexican coal mine, according to authorities.

The workers have been trapped inside the mine since last week, and shafts clogged with debris paired with bad visibility have hindered the first attempts by divers to locate them. Four attempts were made Wednesday, but the divers were not able to get far.

“They found they didn’t have space to advance,” said Mexican Defence Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval on Thursday. “With the lights they carry they don’t have the visibility they need to identify what they find.”

The miners became trapped on August 3, when a mine in Sabinas in the state of Coahuila in northern Mexico flooded. Authorities believe the miners breached a wall shared with another flooded area. Five miners were able to escape with injuries, but rescue workers have not been able to make contact with the 10 who remain trapped. It is unclear if they are still alive.

Mexican authorities have tried to drain some of the water using dozens of pumps, and Wednesday’s dives marked the first effort of rescue workers to enter the mine.

Coahuila Governor Miguel Riquelme said on Twitter that more pumping would be carried out before additional attempts were made to enter.

Military personnel and rescue dogs were deployed to the scene of the accident on Wednesday, and the Defence Ministry has promised that “the work will not stop until they are found.”

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It is not the first time that mines in Coahuila, the country’s main coal-producing region, have been the subject of grim news.

Last year, cave-ins in Coahuila killed nine miners in June and July. The state was also the site of Mexico’s worst mining accident. In February 2006, an explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine killed 65 miners, and eight were rescued with severe burns. Only two bodies were recovered from that incident.

In 2020, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised to recover the remaining bodies from Pasta de Conchos, but that effort has yet to begin.

Soldiers walk near the area of a rescue operation for miners trapped in a coal mine that flooded in Sabinas, Coahuila state, Mexico.
Soldiers walk near the area of a rescue operation for miners trapped in a coal mine that flooded in Sabinas, Coahuila state, Mexico, last week. 10 miners remain trapped, and it is unclear if they are still alive [Daniel Becerril/Reuters]

Mining remains a highly dangerous line of work, especially in countries with meagre regulations protecting workers. In May, at least four miners died in Burkina Faso after a mine owned by Trevali Mining Corp, a Canadian firm, filled with water after intense and unexpected rainfall.

According to the United States Department of Labor, 17 mining fatalities have occurred in the US since the beginning of the year.

Biden team pushes to allay concerns about tax enforcement funds

US Treasury secretary directs IRS chief against using new resources to audit more households making less than $400,000.

After a Republican outcry over a bill providing more funding to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has directed the United States tax agency’s chief against using the new resources to increase audits for households making below $400,000 annually.

The Senate-approved Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) would provide nearly $80bn in additional funding to the IRS over 10 years, including about $45bn for enforcement. And so, Republican legislators have been warning that Democrats are looking to hire tens of thousands of IRS agents who would audit average Americans over small transactions and minor financial activities.

But on Wednesday, Yellen ordered IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig against using new hires to target low- and middle-income taxpayers.

“Specifically, I direct that any additional resources – including any new personnel or auditors that are hired – shall not be used to increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels,” Yellen wrote in a letter to Rettig.

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CNN first reported on the letter on Thursday, and the White House confirmed it later.

On Sunday, Senate Democrats passed the IRA — an expansive $430bn bill that aims to lower drug prices and tackle the climate crisis — without the support of a single Republican.

Over the past few days, key Republicans have sounded the alarm about the additional funding that the IRS is set to receive. The new legislation is expected to pass in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives by the end of the week.

“Do you make $75,000 or less? Democrats’ new army of 87,000 IRS agents will be coming for you—with 710,000 new audits for Americans who earn less than $75k,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

The IRA does not specify a number of new employees to be hired by the IRS. But several US media outlets have traced the notion of 87,000 incoming IRS agents to a 2021 Treasury report that estimated that an $80bn investment in the agency would enable it to hire 86,852 full time employees by 2031.

Still, the number has become a rallying cry for many Republicans, who have used it to denounce the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida earlier his week.

“The FBI raiding Donald Trump is unprecedented. It is corrupt & an abuse of power,” Senator Ted Cruz wrote on Twitter on Monday. “What Nixon tried to do, Biden has now implemented: The Biden Admin has fully weaponized DOJ [Department of Justice] & FBI to target their political enemies. And with 87K new IRS agents, they’re coming for YOU too.”

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For his part, Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, wrote on late Monday: “After todays raid on Mar A Lago what do you think the left plans to use those 87,000 new IRS agents for?”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has pushed to allay some of the concerns about the IRS funding.

In a letter to the Senate earlier this month, Rettig, the IRS commissioner, said the new resources are “absolutely not about increasing audit scrutiny on small businesses or middle-income Americans”.

“As we’ve been planning, our investment of these enforcement resources is designed around the Department of the Treasury’s directive that audit rates will not rise relative to recent years for households making under $400,000,” Rettig wrote (PDF).

He added that new funding for technology and customer service would make it less likely that compliant taxpayers would be audited.

But critics have continued to raise concern about a possibly more enforcement-focused IRS, noting that the agency disproportionately targets working class taxpayers with audits.

On Thursday, the White House stressed that “Yellen’s directive again confirms that these resources will be used only to address the shortfall in addressing tax avoidance by the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations.”

AZ Alkmaar 7-0 Dundee Utd (agg 7-1): Visitors suffer equal worst Euro loss by Scottish side

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Dundee United are left disappointed against AZ
Dundee United had led 1-0 from the first leg

Dundee United slumped to the joint heaviest European defeat by a Scottish side as AZ Alkmaar marched into the Europa Conference League play-offs.

It equals 7-0 losses by Hibernian against Malmo and Celtic to Barcelona.

Leading 1-0 from the first leg, the roof fell in as United conceded five goals in 23 minutes before the break.

Vangelis Pavlidis and Tijjani Reijnders both found the net twice and Hakon Evjen also scored before Dani de Wit and Mayckel Lahdo added to the misery.

It surpassed United’s heaviest European defeat – a 5-0 second-leg thumping by Dinamo Moscow the last time they qualified 10 years ago.

AZ move on to face Gil Vicente, the Portuguese having beaten Latvian visitors Riga, as Jack Ross’ side lick their wounds ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Premiership trip to face Heart of Midlothian.

United’s head coach had sacrificed the flair of first-leg scorer Glenn Middleton and handed a debut to Australia left-back as the experience of Charlie Mulgrew and Ian Harkes were brought back into the side after Sunday’s domestic defeat by Livingston.

The solidity shown in the first leg looked to have returned as they subdued AZ for the first quarter, but United failed to heed the warning signs as goalkeeper Mark Birighitti saved from Pavlidis and Evjen.

A flowing passing move opened up the United defence and Pavlidis tapped in his third goal of the season from a cut-back from Milos Kerkez.

United threatened to level, but goalkeeper Hobie Verhulst superbly palmed over Harkes’ athletic hitch-kick from six yards.

Visiting optimism began to dwindle as midfielder Reijnders fired low past Birighitti from 18 yards.

It disappeared completely after the United goalkeeper, moments after fumbling on the line under a Pavlidis challenge, punched thin air as he looked to meet an Evjen corner and the Greece striker headed into the empty net.

Reijnders fired home as United struggled to clear inside their penalty box before fellow midfielder Evjen rifled in a strike from 20 yards.

Any half-time advice imparted by Jack had little effect as AZ increased their lead in their first attack after the break as midfielder De Wit followed up from close range after a Pavlidis shot was blocked.

Substitute winger Lahdo drilled in the Dutch side’s final goal with 15 minutes remaining, but there was still time for Pavlidis to be denied a hat-trick – and United avoided going down in history with the worst-ever Scottish defeat – as his late drive struck the outside of a post.

Man of the match – Pavlidis (AZ)

AZ striker Vangelis Pavlidis celebrates
Striker Vangelis Pavlidis scored twice but came close to a hat-trick and ran the United defence ragged with his movement

What did we learn?

United received a major lesson – that they are obviously not as good as they thought they were after receiving plenty of plaudits from their impressive first-leg win over wily European operators.

They have endured a result not only embarrassing for a club that once famously reached the Uefa Cup final but for Scottish football as a whole.

Yes, AZ have now not lost in 20 European ties at home and United were always underdogs, even after establishing a 1-0 lead, but the way they capitulated will leave question marks over the mentality and ability of a group of players a number of whom have plenty of top-level experience.

AZ boss Pascal Jansen learned his lessons from the first leg to win the battle of strategies. Now it is up to Ross to find a way to somehow lift his players for their return, heads bowed, to the domestic scene.

What’s next?

United travel to face Hearts in the Premiership on Sunday (15:00 BST).

Line-ups

AZ Alkmaar

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 12Verhulst
  • 3HatzidiakosSubstituted forWitryat 62′minutes
  • 31Beukema
  • 4Martins Indi
  • 5KerkezSubstituted forde Witat 62′minutes
  • 6Reijnders
  • 8ClasieBooked at 63minsSubstituted forBazoerat 76′minutes
  • 18Evjen
  • 10de WitSubstituted forBarasiat 76′minutes
  • 33van BrederodeSubstituted forLahdoat 62′minutes
  • 9Pavlidis

Substitutes

  • 1Vindahl
  • 2Sugawara
  • 13Westerveld
  • 14Koopmeiners
  • 15Witry
  • 17Barasi
  • 22Dekker
  • 23Lahdo
  • 25Bazoer
  • 32de Jong
  • 34de Wit

Dundee Utd

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Birighitti
  • 2Smith
  • 12Edwards
  • 4Mulgrew
  • 16BehichSubstituted forMcMannat 54′minutes
  • 14SibbaldSubstituted forNiskanenat 45′minutes
  • 19LevittSubstituted forMeekisonat 75′minutes
  • 18McGrath
  • 23Harkes
  • 32WattSubstituted forMiddletonat 45′minutes
  • 9FletcherSubstituted forAnim Cudjoeat 66′minutes

Substitutes

  • 3McMann
  • 6Graham
  • 7Niskanen
  • 10Clark
  • 13Eriksson
  • 15Middleton
  • 17Meekison
  • 22Freeman
  • 25Fotheringham
  • 28Anim Cudjoe
  • 44Macleod

Referee:
Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz

Match Stats

Live Text

  1. Match ends, AZ 7, Dundee United 0.

  2. Second Half ends, AZ 7, Dundee United 0.

  3. Mayckel Lahdo (AZ) hits the left post with a right footed shot from the centre of the box. Assisted by Hobie Verhulst.

  4. Foul by Yusuf Barasi (AZ).

  5. Liam Smith (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  6. Attempt missed. Ryan Edwards (Dundee United) header from the left side of the six yard box misses to the left. Assisted by Charlie Mulgrew with a cross following a set piece situation.

  7. Foul by Tijjani Reijnders (AZ).

  8. Jamie McGrath (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  9. Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Aslak Witry.

  10. Attempt blocked. Glenn Middleton (Dundee United) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

  11. Foul by Bruno Martins Indi (AZ).

  12. Glenn Middleton (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  13. Attempt blocked. Yusuf Barasi (AZ) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Vangelis Pavlidis.

  14. Attempt blocked. Aslak Witry (AZ) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Vangelis Pavlidis.

  15. Offside, AZ. Bruno Martins Indi tries a through ball, but Yusuf Barasi is caught offside.

  16. Attempt blocked. Vangelis Pavlidis (AZ) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Aslak Witry.

  17. Substitution, AZ. Riechedly Bazoer replaces Jordy Clasie.

  18. Substitution, AZ. Yusuf Barasi replaces Dani de Wit.

  19. Substitution, Dundee United. Archie Meekison replaces Dylan Levitt.

  20. Goal! AZ 7, Dundee United 0. Mayckel Lahdo (AZ) right footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Vangelis Pavlidis.