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Notre Dame Cathedral Fire Conspiracy Theories Flourish After Investigators Say There’s No Proof of Terrorism

This story originally appeared in Right Richter, a newsletter by Will Sommer. Subscribe now to see what's happening in right-wing media from the safety of your inbox.

Right-wing personalities are pushing conspiracy theories about Monday’s fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, even after French investigators said the case is not being investigated as arson or terrorism.

Within minutes of the fire breaking out yesterday, pro-Trump commentators rushed to portray it as a symbol of Western decline. “The West has fallen,” declared Mike Cernovich.

Others were eager to suggest, without evidence, that Muslims were behind the fire. Gateway Pundit dredged up a three-year-old terrorist plot to blow up Notre Dame as proof that this fire was caused by terrorists. Fox News anchors had to repeatedly shut down guests who tried to push the idea that the fire was caused by terrorists. QAnon believers produced a wide range of theories, blaming the fire on everyone Michelle Obama to the deep-state to Pope Francis.

On Tuesday, French fire investigators said there was no evidence that the fire was caused by arsonists or terrorists. Rather than tamping down the conspiracy theories, though, the French statement has only fueled the idea on the right that terrorists were behind the fire. Instead, they’re treating the announcement as proof that the investigators can’t be trusted.

Pardes Seleh, a former Mediaite writer and Ben Shapiro acolyte, has become one of the leading arson truthers.

“Lemme put it this way: i'd be very shocked if it was an accident,” Seleh tweeted on Tuesday. “And no, french authorities announcing at the start of an investigation that they're ‘treating it as an accident’ doesn't count. french authorities are incompetent, we'd confirmed that long ago.”

Pizzagate promoter Jack Posobiec, now a reporter at the pro-Trump One America News cable channel, also suggested without evidence that the fire investigation was a coverup.

“Fastest arson investigation in history,” Posobiec tweeted.

The groundwork for the idea that the French investigation can’t be trusted was laid out Monday night by Glenn Beck, who has recently abandoned his attempts to style himself as a lonely voice of reason in the Trump era and gone back to his conspiracy theory roots.

Beck claimed that, if the fire was caused by terrorists, the truth would never be revealed.

“If this was started by Islamists, I don’t think you’ll find out about it,” Beck said in an appearance on The Blaze. “Because I think it would set the entire country on fire.”

Since the French investigators announced the lack of arson evidence, Beck has been joined by several other right-wing figures. Stefan Molyneux, a Canadian YouTube personality, questioned the validity of the fire investigation. So did Emerald Robinson, another reporter at One America News.


“Dear media: you are already reporting that Notre Dame has been declared an accident. But the investigation just started,” Robinson tweeted. “And the restorers had already left for the day. And the scaffolding had just gone up with no ‘welding equipment’ there yet. Tell me again how it started?”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Hackers unleashed 40 million cyberattacks on Ecuador after Julian Assange’s arrest

Julian Assange’s arrest at the end of last week by British officials who finally snatched him at the London embassy in Ecuador where he’d been living for years did not, in turns out, put the matter to rest for Ecuadorian officials.

Patricio Real, the county’s deputy minister for information and communication technologies, told Agence France Presse in an interview that Assange’s controversial arrest prompted a massive wave of cyberattacks against the country. They added up to a whopping 40 million attacks and “principally come from the United States, Brazil, Holland, Germany, Romania, France, Austria and the United Kingdom,” as well as from South America.

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Javier Jara, Ecuador’s undersecretary of the electronic government department of the telecommunications ministry, added a little more context, telling the news service the attacks were “volumetric” and seemingly focused on overwhelming servers with traffic to render them useless. Those attacks hit the country’s foreign ministry, central bank, office of the president, internal revenue service and a number of ministries and universities particularly hard.

For the moment, Assange is being housed at London’s Belmarsh Prison. The US has requested his extradition to the country to answer for a single charge of hacking a government computer, while Assange supporters fear it could be only a pretext to get him stateside where his legal woes would then quickly mount.

On Monday, a federal judge in Virginia unsealed previously secret government documents that are part of the US’ case against the Wikileaks founder, with the documents shedding new light on the government’s allegations against him.

Per a report from The Hill, the original affidavit and criminal complaint against Assange were made public in Virginia federal court for the first time since their filing in 2017. Among other things, those documents include chat logs between Assange and former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

US authorities contend that Assange worked with Manning to crack a password that would provide access to a classified Defense Department network where secret information could then be obtained by the hackers.

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The Trump team's Mueller report game plan: Read the report quickly and put out responses

WASHINGTON – Thursday, at least a dozen attorneys and staff members for President Donald Trump will plunge into special counsel Robert Mueller’s 400-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Their mission? Distill the document into a quick response for the waiting political world.

The president and his advisers are getting ready for the release by the Department of Justice of the findings by the special counsel whose investigation Trump called a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” Staff and lawyers will be assigned sections of the report to digest as the team looks to develop official statements and talking points.

The descriptions of the Trump team’s preparations are based on interviews with five sources familiar with the plans.

A summary of the report released last month by Attorney General William Barr said Mueller did not find evidence of collusion between Trump or his campaign and Russia, but the document will give a much fuller picture of the investigation.

Mueller report: Investigation found no evidence Trump conspired with Russia, leaves obstruction question open

Barr's summary: Read the AG's summary of the Russia investigation

As of last week, Trump said he had not read the Mueller report, but he and his aides predicted its main takeaways: There was no collusion with Russia, no obstruction of justice and no basis for the inquiry to have begun in the first place.

Getting out that message in the chaotic world of social media and cable television will be a chief aim of Trump's team and advisers. They will comb through the report on the same day that lawmakers, journalists and members of the public will see it for the first time.

"We're going to respond in a prompt and appropriate manner," said Jay Sekulow, one of the president's private attorneys. "We'll provide analysis throughout the course of the day."

It's a process that will probably play out in stages, the Trump aides and advisers said.

Job one: Read the report, quickly

Sekulow has a team of a half-dozen lawyers and staff members who will split up the report, scan their assigned sections quickly and issue summaries to help develop statements and talking points to be used by communicators throughout the day.

At the White House, the immediate review of the report is headed up by Emmet Flood, the lawyer representing the White House in the special counsel investigation.

Some officials joked that they hope the report includes an executive summary or a list of key findings at the front, to speed along the process.

'Multiple offers' from Russians: 6 takeaways from AG William Barr's letter summarizing Mueller's report

'Off the rails': Pelosi says AG Barr acting like 'the attorney general of Donald Trump'

In developing their message, Trump and his aides are buoyed by Barr’s statement that Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

White House officials are less likely to dwell on claims that Trump sought to obstruct justice. Barr said Mueller’s report left "unresolved” whether Trump sought to obstruct justice during the course of the investigation.

Trump and his attorneys declared Barr's summary an exoneration. "No Collusion - No Obstruction!" Trump tweeted Tuesday, a message he is apt to echo after the release.

Job two: Put out responses quickly

Expect short written statements a half-hour or so after the Mueller report surfaces from both the White House and the Trump legal team. That's how Trump’s team responded to Barr’s letter last month.

Trump's legal team will probably issue a longer and more detailed statement an hour or two after that, depending on how much new information Mueller presents.

More: As the Mueller report looms, Democrats find voters would rather talk 'kitchen table' issues

More: Special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russia, Trump to be released Thursday, Justice Department says

Trump’s attorneys have been developing a “counter report” on legal issues involved in the investigation and may release that Thursday. 

As attorneys and aides assess the Mueller report, the public is likely to hear from the top White House communicator: Trump himself. He may tweet or speak to reporters (or both).

Job three: Prepare for new details

In reading the report, teams of Trump supporters at private law offices, the White House, the Republican National Committee and the president's reelection campaign will look for new items that have not been made public.

They will probably be playing defense.

Trump's reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee have "war rooms" and "rapid response teams" ready to monitor media coverage and push back accordingly. "Real time" talking points are planned to be distributed to surrogates on television news programs.

'I am concerned': Attorney general says he will review government 'spying' on Trump campaign

'A mountain gave birth to a mouse': Putin mocks Mueller investigation, again denies interference

Pro-Trump organizations such as the Tea Party Patriots are prepared to weigh in, officials said.

“We know that President Trump will, once again, be vindicated," said Tim Murtaugh, communication director for Trump's reelection campaign. "No collusion and no obstruction."

He said, "The tables should turn now, as it is time to investigate the liars who instigated the sham investigation in the first place.”

The document released Thursday will include redactions. Democratic lawmakers pushed for the full document.

"We should see and judge for ourselves," Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And that's for Congress to judge whether the president obstructed justice or not, and for the public ultimately."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Trump team's Mueller report game plan: Read the report quickly and put out responses

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