What to Watch in Montana's Special Election – New York Times

HELENA, Mont. — The altercation that led the Republican nominee in a special House election here to be charged with assault just hours before the polls opened has upended a hard-fought race that was already being watched for clues about the country’s political environment.

The costly special election for Montana’s at-large House seat had already evolved into a referendum on two decidedly national issues. And the results were expected to prove a harbinger of the country’s political environment heading into next year’s midterm elections.

But the question on Thursday morning was whether the misdemeanor assault charges filed against the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, after a heated run-in with a reporter, would affect his race against the Democrat Rob Quist.

The Run-Up

The podcast that makes sense of the most delirious stretch of the 2016 campaign.

The story of the encounter between Mr. Gianforte and the reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — who went to a Bozeman emergency room after he said he was “body-slammed” by the Republican candidate — exploded on social media after Mr. Jacobs posted an audio recording of the episode.

Within hours, newspapers in Missoula, Billings and Helena had rescinded their endorsements of Mr. Gianforte, House Democrats released a digital ad featuring the audio recording, and Republicans were in a state of paralysis about what to do with a candidate who suddenly had a court date next month.

At a final rally for Mr. Quist in a brewpub in Helena, activists were electrified by the news, and some of them said they intended to play the tape for those yet to vote when canvassing for Mr. Quist.

Washington-based Republicans were already grumbling about having to spend millions of dollars on behalf of Mr. Gianforte, who is a multimillionaire. Montana still occasionally elects Democrats statewide, but it leans Republican and has not sent a Democrat to the House for over two decades.

Republican groups have sought to support their nominee by attempting to focus the race largely on Mr. Quist’s personal financial difficulties, lashing him in a well-financed advertising campaign. Yet Mr. Gianforte has made it difficult for his party, which is concerned about the intensity of liberal voters in Montana and beyond who are hungry to send a message to President Trump.

Mr. Gianforte irritated Republican officials earlier this month when he said on a conference call with Washington lobbyists that he was “thankful” that the House had passed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, after suggesting to Montana voters that he would not have supported the bill. Democrats have seized on an audio recording of that call, pointing to his comments as evidence that he is sending contradictory messages to different audiences.

Now he is facing another audio recording that could prove even more threatening. The question, though, is whether there are enough outstanding ballots to make a difference in the race.

Montanans, no matter their political inclination, are fond of noting voters’ independent bent in a state that proudly embraces its unofficial and boastful credo: “The Last Best Place.” Still, voting by mail is common in the state, and officials in both parties believe that more than half of the total ballots that will be cast in the election had been submitted before Thursday.

Mr. Gianforte has unreservedly embraced Mr. Trump, highlighting his efforts to build relationships with the new administration in a wager that the president’s tumultuous first months will matter little in a state that he carried by 21 points last year. Mr. Gianforte, a wealthy technology executive, has campaigned with Vice President Mike Pence, welcomed Donald Trump Jr. to the state for two multicity tours and had the president and vice president record automated calls for him in the campaign’s final days.

“I’m running to go back there to be a voice for Montana and to work with Donald Trump,” Mr. Gianforte said in an interview Wednesday. “My opponent clearly has said he’s going to obstruct Donald Trump. That’s the decision here.”

If Mr. Gianforte is trying to test the depth of Mr. Trump’s appeal in a heavily rural state with an enduring populist streak, Mr. Quist is seeking to demonstrate just how much of a political liability the House-passed health care bill is for congressional Republicans. Mr. Quist, a banjo-strumming folk singer, has refocused his campaign in its final weeks on the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The contest in Montana, to fill the seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has drawn national attention, with both sides together pouring over $10 million into television and radio ads. But this spending in Montana’s relatively cheap media markets happened almost in spite of the national Democratic Party, which has been skeptical about Mr. Quist’s prospects. Democrats only began helping their nominee here reluctantly, after weeks in which Republicans hammered Mr. Quist on TV with little response. Republicans outspent Democrats more than two-to-one on television and radio, according to media buyers in both parties.

This disparity and the Republican tilt of Montana make the race less of a bellwether than the special House election next month to fill the seat formerly held by Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, in suburban Atlanta. But after Democrats’ closer-than-expected loss in March in a special House election in Kansas — in a district that is even redder than the one in Montana — the contest here will be closely watched for clues about just how perilous a political environment Republicans face going into 2018.

Where to Watch

An old rule in Montana politics — that the winner of a statewide election could be gleaned by watching who won Yellowstone County, home to Billings — has receded in recent years. But the county, Montana’s most populous, still merits a close eye. If Mr. Gianforte does not amass a significant margin of victory there, the race could prove competitive. Similarly, if Mr. Quist does not come out of Cascade County, where Great Falls sits, with a substantial advantage, it will be difficult for him to keep the contest close.

But the most important task for Mr. Quist in a special election where turnout is so crucial may be to drive up his margins in the two liberal-leaning counties that are home to Montana’s large state universities: Missoula and Gallatin.

A Libertarian in the Mix

As Montana Republicans know all too well, Libertarians here have a history of siphoning enough votes to hand statewide races to Democrats. And there is a Libertarian, Mark Wicks, on the ballot Thursday. While Democrats have not overtly tried to promote Mr. Wicks, as they have Libertarian candidates in previous elections, both parties acknowledge that he could capture about 5 percent of the vote — enough to make a difference.

Prepare for a Long Night

If we have piqued your curiosity about this race, here is a suggestion: Get some coffee. It’s going to be a long night. The polls close at 10 p.m. Eastern, and The Associated Press is often slow to make projections in Montana.

The race for governor in November was not called until 10 a.m. the next day, even though Steve Bullock, the Democrat, was re-elected by a fairly comfortable four-point margin. Similarly, the Democratic presidential primary wasn’t called until after 2 a.m.; Bernie Sanders ultimately won by seven points.

Why? It often takes a long time for Montana’s conservative and rural areas to report. It is also tricky because so many ballots are cast by mail. More than 250,000 have been returned already, a significant enough portion of the just over 699,000 registered voters in the state to potentially mitigate the effects of Mr. Gianforte’s assault charge. The substantial early vote will also make it harder to get a quick grasp on the race, since the mailed votes can differ from those cast on Election Day.

What It Will Mean

With Mr. Gianforte centering his campaign on health care, and a new report from the Congressional Budget Office projecting that 23 million Americans would lose coverage if the House bill became law, a Democratic victory or even a narrow loss here could prompt congressional Republicans to recalibrate their approach to the issue. Few Republican leaders want to hand Democrats a made-to-order issue to campaign on across the country, no matter how conservative the state or district.

Beyond policy, a defeat or close call here for Mr. Gianforte would underscore the intensity on the left, bolstering Democrats’ effort to recruit candidates to run next year and nudging some Republican incumbents toward retirement. And if Mr. Quist does fall short by a small margin, it will inflame tensions between energized progressives determined to leave few districts uncontested and more pragmatic party officials loath to spend money in forbidding territory.

But Don’t Overread It

This year’s special elections have been heralded as a critical test of whether Democrats can retake the House next November. But it can be a mistake to read too much into the results of a single contest, and whatever happens on Thursday, it is clear that the national political environment is favorable to Democrats.

Republicans have already struggled on conservative terrain this year: winning the House seat in Kansas by just seven points after carrying it by 32 points last year, and watching Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, capture over 48 percent and nearly avert a runoff in the first round of voting last month for Mr. Price’s seat in Georgia. The Democrats benefited from strong turnout and grass-roots fund-raising in both contests.

Given Mr. Trump’s large margin of victory here, even a fairly comfortable win for Mr. Gianforte would still be consistent with the emerging pattern of Democratic strength.

The strong performances by Democrats are not especially surprising with the president’s approval rating in the high 30s. They suggest that the House may be in play next November if Mr. Trump’s political fortunes don’t improve.

Bernie’s Party

The Democratic Party’s ascendant populist wing, led by Mr. Sanders, believes that a more ambitious economic message can lure back Trump voters. But in 2018, there’s a catch: Most of the competitive House districts are in well-educated and affluent suburbs where Mr. Trump fared poorly last November.

Mr. Ossoff’s success in the Georgia race, in one of the most well-educated districts in the country, has already shown that Democrats have a path forward in traditionally Republican parts of the Sun Belt. A solid performance by Mr. Quist in Montana, an overwhelmingly white and working-class state, could do the same for populists who argue that the party can win back such voters with the right kind of candidate.

Mr. Sanders campaigned for Mr. Quist last weekend across the state, drawing thousands, and his supporters here and beyond will surely claim some of the credit for a strong showing.

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What to Watch in Montana's Special Election – New York Times

HELENA, Mont. — The altercation that led the Republican nominee in a special House election here to be charged with assault just hours before the polls opened has upended a hard-fought race that was already being watched for clues about the country’s political environment.

The costly special election for Montana’s at-large House seat had already evolved into a referendum on two decidedly national issues. And the results were expected to prove a harbinger of the country’s political environment heading into next year’s midterm elections.

But the question on Thursday morning was whether the misdemeanor assault charges filed against the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, after a heated run-in with a reporter, would affect his race against the Democrat Rob Quist.

The Run-Up

The podcast that makes sense of the most delirious stretch of the 2016 campaign.

The story of the encounter between Mr. Gianforte and the reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — who went to a Bozeman emergency room after he said he was “body-slammed” by the Republican candidate — exploded on social media after Mr. Jacobs posted an audio recording of the episode.

Within hours, newspapers in Missoula, Billings and Helena had rescinded their endorsements of Mr. Gianforte, House Democrats released a digital ad featuring the audio recording, and Republicans were in a state of paralysis about what to do with a candidate who suddenly had a court date next month.

At a final rally for Mr. Quist in a brewpub in Helena, activists were electrified by the news, and some of them said they intended to play the tape for those yet to vote when canvassing for Mr. Quist.

Washington-based Republicans were already grumbling about having to spend millions of dollars on behalf of Mr. Gianforte, who is a multimillionaire. Montana still occasionally elects Democrats statewide, but it leans Republican and has not sent a Democrat to the House for over two decades.

Republican groups have sought to support their nominee by attempting to focus the race largely on Mr. Quist’s personal financial difficulties, lashing him in a well-financed advertising campaign. Yet Mr. Gianforte has made it difficult for his party, which is concerned about the intensity of liberal voters in Montana and beyond who are hungry to send a message to President Trump.

Mr. Gianforte irritated Republican officials earlier this month when he said on a conference call with Washington lobbyists that he was “thankful” that the House had passed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, after suggesting to Montana voters that he would not have supported the bill. Democrats have seized on an audio recording of that call, pointing to his comments as evidence that he is sending contradictory messages to different audiences.

Now he is facing another audio recording that could prove even more threatening. The question, though, is whether there are enough outstanding ballots to make a difference in the race.

Montanans, no matter their political inclination, are fond of noting voters’ independent bent in a state that proudly embraces its unofficial and boastful credo: “The Last Best Place.” Still, voting by mail is common in the state, and officials in both parties believe that more than half of the total ballots that will be cast in the election had been submitted before Thursday.

Mr. Gianforte has unreservedly embraced Mr. Trump, highlighting his efforts to build relationships with the new administration in a wager that the president’s tumultuous first months will matter little in a state that he carried by 21 points last year. Mr. Gianforte, a wealthy technology executive, has campaigned with Vice President Mike Pence, welcomed Donald Trump Jr. to the state for two multicity tours and had the president and vice president record automated calls for him in the campaign’s final days.

“I’m running to go back there to be a voice for Montana and to work with Donald Trump,” Mr. Gianforte said in an interview Wednesday. “My opponent clearly has said he’s going to obstruct Donald Trump. That’s the decision here.”

If Mr. Gianforte is trying to test the depth of Mr. Trump’s appeal in a heavily rural state with an enduring populist streak, Mr. Quist is seeking to demonstrate just how much of a political liability the House-passed health care bill is for congressional Republicans. Mr. Quist, a banjo-strumming folk singer, has refocused his campaign in its final weeks on the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The contest in Montana, to fill the seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has drawn national attention, with both sides together pouring over $10 million into television and radio ads. But this spending in Montana’s relatively cheap media markets happened almost in spite of the national Democratic Party, which has been skeptical about Mr. Quist’s prospects. Democrats only began helping their nominee here reluctantly, after weeks in which Republicans hammered Mr. Quist on TV with little response. Republicans outspent Democrats more than two-to-one on television and radio, according to media buyers in both parties.

This disparity and the Republican tilt of Montana make the race less of a bellwether than the special House election next month to fill the seat formerly held by Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, in suburban Atlanta. But after Democrats’ closer-than-expected loss in March in a special House election in Kansas — in a district that is even redder than the one in Montana — the contest here will be closely watched for clues about just how perilous a political environment Republicans face going into 2018.

Where to Watch

An old rule in Montana politics — that the winner of a statewide election could be gleaned by watching who won Yellowstone County, home to Billings — has receded in recent years. But the county, Montana’s most populous, still merits a close eye. If Mr. Gianforte does not amass a significant margin of victory there, the race could prove competitive. Similarly, if Mr. Quist does not come out of Cascade County, where Great Falls sits, with a substantial advantage, it will be difficult for him to keep the contest close.

But the most important task for Mr. Quist in a special election where turnout is so crucial may be to drive up his margins in the two liberal-leaning counties that are home to Montana’s large state universities: Missoula and Gallatin.

A Libertarian in the Mix

As Montana Republicans know all too well, Libertarians here have a history of siphoning enough votes to hand statewide races to Democrats. And there is a Libertarian, Mark Wicks, on the ballot Thursday. While Democrats have not overtly tried to promote Mr. Wicks, as they have Libertarian candidates in previous elections, both parties acknowledge that he could capture about 5 percent of the vote — enough to make a difference.

Prepare for a Long Night

If we have piqued your curiosity about this race, here is a suggestion: Get some coffee. It’s going to be a long night. The polls close at 10 p.m. Eastern, and The Associated Press is often slow to make projections in Montana.

The race for governor in November was not called until 10 a.m. the next day, even though Steve Bullock, the Democrat, was re-elected by a fairly comfortable four-point margin. Similarly, the Democratic presidential primary wasn’t called until after 2 a.m.; Bernie Sanders ultimately won by seven points.

Why? It often takes a long time for Montana’s conservative and rural areas to report. It is also tricky because so many ballots are cast by mail. More than 250,000 have been returned already, a significant enough portion of the just over 699,000 registered voters in the state to potentially mitigate the effects of Mr. Gianforte’s assault charge. The substantial early vote will also make it harder to get a quick grasp on the race, since the mailed votes can differ from those cast on Election Day.

What It Will Mean

With Mr. Gianforte centering his campaign on health care, and a new report from the Congressional Budget Office projecting that 23 million Americans would lose coverage if the House bill became law, a Democratic victory or even a narrow loss here could prompt congressional Republicans to recalibrate their approach to the issue. Few Republican leaders want to hand Democrats a made-to-order issue to campaign on across the country, no matter how conservative the state or district.

Beyond policy, a defeat or close call here for Mr. Gianforte would underscore the intensity on the left, bolstering Democrats’ effort to recruit candidates to run next year and nudging some Republican incumbents toward retirement. And if Mr. Quist does fall short by a small margin, it will inflame tensions between energized progressives determined to leave few districts uncontested and more pragmatic party officials loath to spend money in forbidding territory.

But Don’t Overread It

This year’s special elections have been heralded as a critical test of whether Democrats can retake the House next November. But it can be a mistake to read too much into the results of a single contest, and whatever happens on Thursday, it is clear that the national political environment is favorable to Democrats.

Republicans have already struggled on conservative terrain this year: winning the House seat in Kansas by just seven points after carrying it by 32 points last year, and watching Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, capture over 48 percent and nearly avert a runoff in the first round of voting last month for Mr. Price’s seat in Georgia. The Democrats benefited from strong turnout and grass-roots fund-raising in both contests.

Given Mr. Trump’s large margin of victory here, even a fairly comfortable win for Mr. Gianforte would still be consistent with the emerging pattern of Democratic strength.

The strong performances by Democrats are not especially surprising with the president’s approval rating in the high 30s. They suggest that the House may be in play next November if Mr. Trump’s political fortunes don’t improve.

Bernie’s Party

The Democratic Party’s ascendant populist wing, led by Mr. Sanders, believes that a more ambitious economic message can lure back Trump voters. But in 2018, there’s a catch: Most of the competitive House districts are in well-educated and affluent suburbs where Mr. Trump fared poorly last November.

Mr. Ossoff’s success in the Georgia race, in one of the most well-educated districts in the country, has already shown that Democrats have a path forward in traditionally Republican parts of the Sun Belt. A solid performance by Mr. Quist in Montana, an overwhelmingly white and working-class state, could do the same for populists who argue that the party can win back such voters with the right kind of candidate.

Mr. Sanders campaigned for Mr. Quist last weekend across the state, drawing thousands, and his supporters here and beyond will surely claim some of the credit for a strong showing.

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Fox News crew 'watched in disbelief' as Montana's Greg Gianforte 'slammed' and 'punched' reporter – Washington Post

A Republican candidate in Montana’s special election, Greg Gianforte, allegedly ‘body-slams’ Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, prompting a police investigation into the incident. (Courtesy of The Guardian)

A Fox News reporter provided a vivid eyewitness account late Wednesday of an attack on a reporter by Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte that led to him being cited for assault by the county sheriff and to lose his endorsements from two Montana newspapers ahead of the special election set for Thursday.

Both papers, the Missoulian and the Billings Gazette, issued scathing denunciations of Gianforte.

The alleged assault took place at Gianforte’s headquarters in Bozeman, where Fox’s Alicia Acuna and her crew were preparing a story to air on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

As the crew was setting up, Gianforte was approached by the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs, who put a voice recorder “to Gianforte’s face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act,” the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act, she wrote.

“Gianforte,” Acuna wrote, “told him he would get back to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.

“At that point,” she wrote, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.”

Acuna and her crew “watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’”

Acuna said that Jacobs “scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken.” He asked the Fox reporter and crew for their names but “in shock, we did not answer.”

[GOP candidate in Montana race charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly body-slamming reporter]

“To be clear,” she wrote, “at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.”

Her account contradicts a statement issued by Gianforte’s campaign which said that Jacobs, the Guardian reporter, “grabbed Greg’s wrist” as the candidate tried to grab a phone “pushed in his face.” Jacobs then “spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground.”

“It’s unfortunate,” said that statement, “that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

The entire incident can be heard on an audio recording published by the Guardian. The recording does not support the campaign’s claim that Jacobs had been asked to leave but rather reflects some broader grievance with reporters. “I’m sick and tired of you guys,” Gianforte is heard saying. “The last guy who came here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here.”

It’s unclear whether it was the subject matter that provoked Gianforte or simply Jacobs’ presence and persistence in questioning him. The Congressional Budget Office estimates released Wednesday on the impact of the Republican health care proposal were not helpful to Republicans supporting the measure (23 million more Americans would be left uninsured by 2026, the CBO projected.) But while CBO numbers are often the source of much political heat and wonky debate, there’s no history of violence associated with them.

Later, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, in a statement, said that after “multiple interviews and an investigation … it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault.”

The sheriff, Brian Gootkin, noted in response to questions that he had made a $250 contribution to Gianforte’s campaign. “This contribution has nothing to do with our investigation which is now complete,” he said.

Following the extraordinary incident, Montana’s largest newspapers withdrew their endorsements of the Republican in what has become a surprising close race against Democrat Rob Quist to fill the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke when he became President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior.

Missoulian rescinds Gianforte endorsement https://t.co/QMEWH67aJE via @missoulian

— missoulian (@missoulian) May 25, 2017

In a late night editorial, the Missoulian wrote:

“The Republican candidate for Congress not only lost the endorsement of this newspaper Wednesday night when, according to witnesses, he put his hands around the throat of a reporter asking him about his health care stance, threw him to the ground and punched him — he should lose the confidence of all Montanans.”

“We’re pulling our endorsement of Greg Gianforte” said the headline in the Billings Gazette.

“We’re at a loss for words,” the paper wrote in an editorial. “And as people who wrangle words on a minute-by-minute basis, that doesn’t happen often.

“What happens even less — hopefully never again — is a Montana candidate assaulting a reporter. While there are still questions left unanswered about GOP House hopeful Greg Gianforte’s altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, eyewitness accounts, law enforcement investigations and records are all shocking, disturbing and without precedent.

” … We will not stand by that kind of violence, period.”

The Gazette referenced an incident at a campaign event in which a Gianforte took questions from the audience, including a man who said:

‘Our biggest enemy is the news media. How can we rein in the news media?’

The man then looked at the Ravalli Republic reporter sitting next to him and raised his hands as if he would like to wring his neck.

Gianforte smiled and pointed at the reporter.

‘We have someone right here,’ the candidate said. “It seems like there is more of us than there is of him’

That and “other questionable interactions Gianforte had with reporters … must now be seen through a much more sinister lens,” the Gazette said. “What he passed off as a joke at the time now becomes much more serious.”

The Gianforte campaign, it added, “should be appalled” by its statement “that would seem to justify the fight when it said the Bozeman Republican had tussled with a ‘liberal journalist.’ How would the campaign have known the reporter’s political beliefs? And, is it suggesting that it’s acceptable to put your hands on a reporter if you believe their political views are different from yours?”

The Society of Professional Journalists denounced the alleged assault, saying “it is never acceptable to physically harm or arrest a journalist who is simply trying to do his or her job.”

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The three numbers you need to understand the CBO report on Republicans' health-care bill – Washington Post

If Republicans’ attempts to roll back Obamacare were a chicken crossing the road, it’d be like 1/4 of its way across. And Wednesday is a big day for Republicans’ chicken health-care bill to reach the halfway point.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its estimate on the financial and real-life impact of Republicans’ attempt to roll back Obamacare. House Republicans took the unusual step earlier this month of passing their version of this legislation without knowing how many people could lose/gain health insurance or how much it would cost them and the federal government.

Now, they could pay a political and procedural price for that. When the CBO estimated the impact of a different version of Republicans’ bill in March, the bill lost so much support among House Republicans that leaders had to cancel a high-profile vote.

This time, Senate Republicans will have to decide whether to tweak the House’s version or throw it in the trash after a CBO estimate.

If the Senate does its own thing, that could make getting a bill to President Trump’s desk 1,000 times more difficult, since the Senate and House will have to re-vote on any changes the other chamber makes.

The CBO is an important political tool for both sides in the health-care debate, since it puts real numbers to a complicated bill. Here are the three numbers to watch out for:

24 million

That’s how many fewer people would be insured under Republicans’ health-care plan than are insured by Obamacare now, according to the CBO’s March estimate.

Watch for: Whether this number is higher or lower now that this new bill allows states to opts out of key parts of Obamacare.

This 24 million number is a big reason why the first bill never came up for a vote in the House: Moderate Republicans couldn’t vote for a bill that meant more people would lose their insurance than gained it under Obamacare (some 20 million).

Some of those people would willingly lose their insurance, the CBO said, because they would no longer be required by law to have health insurance. (A mandate to have health insurance or else pay taxes is the linchpin of Obamacare.) Others, though, would unwillingly lose their insurance because they wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Which brings us to our next number to watch for:

750 percent

That’s the CBO’s first estimate of how much insurance premiums would rise for elderly, poor people over the next decade if Republicans’ first version of this bill became law. In a report filled with brutal numbers for Republicans, this may have been the most brutal, The Fix’s Aaron Blake noted at the time.

For one thing, its impacts are easily digestible: Republicans said their bill will make health insurance cheaper. Well, here, Democrats said, is an official estimate showing the exact opposite: Right now, people over 64 making $26,500 a year are on track to pay $1,700 in 2026. Under Republicans’ bill, they’d be paying $14,600.

Watch for: Whether Republicans’ new amendment, which lets states choose to allow insurers to jack up the prices for preexisting conditions, makes this better — or, as health-care experts estimate, worse.

The CBO did estimate that premiums overall will begin to drop by 2020, but that the savings would mostly be for young, healthy people. In general, this bill would make health insurance more expensive for older, sicker people, which has been a major Democratic talking point ever since.

$2 billion

That’s how much this health-care bill needs to reduce the deficit by to make it even be considered by the Senate.

The whole purpose of this report is to make sure that the bill complies with a requirement — given by Congress to Congress — to reduce the federal deficit by $2 billion over the next decade. That’s because Republicans are attempting to get this bill through Congress without any Democratic votes, so they have to use a budgetary rule that allows them to avoid a Senate Democratic filibuster. If the math whizzes at the CBO calculate that the House bill falls short of that goal, the bill can’t move onto the Senate and House Republicans will have to start over.

Watch for: Actually, this is the one number Republicans may not have to worry about. The CBO reported their first bill would reduce the deficit by $337 billion over the next decade — 168 percent more than Republicans technically need to reduce the deficit by.

The real question is whether a deficit reduction, in the context of more people uninsured and higher premiums for some vulnerable Americans, is enough to convince the Senate to take up their version of the legislation. TBD, but at least now you know what to watch for.

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The Pope's Gifts to Trump Send Some Clear Messages – New York Times

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis and President Trump discussed terrorism and the radicalization of young people in a meeting on Wednesday in which two global leaders with starkly different world views sought to bridge the chasm between them with a handshake, a private audience and a mutual pledge to work for peace.

In a larger meeting with American and Vatican officials, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, urged Mr. Trump not to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord.

The pope, by turns dour and smiling, welcomed a more effusive president to the seat of a religion that claims more than 70 million followers in the United States. The two stuck mainly to protocol, avoiding a public reprise of the barbs they aimed at each other during Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign or the pope’s thinly veiled critiques of Mr. Trump as a symbol of a dangerously reinvigorated nationalism.

But there appeared to be a message in the gifts the pope gave to his guest. They included a copy of his influential essay on the importance of saving the environment, a rebuke to the climate change skepticism espoused by Mr. Trump. Francis also presented him with a medallion engraved with the image of an olive tree — “a symbol of peace,” he explained.

“We can use peace,” Mr. Trump said.

Francis replied, “It is with all hope that you may become an olive tree to make peace.”

As he bade the pope farewell, Mr. Trump told him, “I won’t forget what you said.”

There was a sense in the Vatican that Mr. Trump was easier to talk to than his tough language on the campaign trail and sharp words toward Francis had led them to believe. “Trump’s bark is worse than his bite,” said a senior Vatican official who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the meeting.

For Mr. Trump, who came here after stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel, the visit to the Vatican capped a tour of the ancestral homes of three of the world’s great monotheistic religions. For Francis, who made his own landmark visit to Egypt last month, it was a chance to welcome a second American leader, after President Barack Obama paid his respects in 2014.

Unlike that meeting, few expected a meeting of the minds. Pope Francis and Mr. Trump have diametrically opposed views on issues as varied as immigration, climate change and arms sales. Although both appeared determined not to let politics spoil their encounter, their fraught personal history and divergent personal styles made for a loaded backdrop.

At 8:20 a.m., under an azure sky, the president’s motorcade rolled into the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. Ostrich-feather-plumed Swiss Guards stood at attention as Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, stepped out of an armored Chevrolet sport utility vehicle — he in a dark suit, white shirt and black-and-white-stripe tie; she in a black dress with a veil on her hair. A few minutes earlier, the pope arrived in a lone blue Ford Focus. He stepped out and walked into a side entrance.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the prefect of the papal household, greeted Mr. Trump and escorted him to an antechamber outside the pope’s office, where, after a few seconds, Francis came to greet him.

“Thank you so much,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s an honor.”

After posing for a picture — “protocol,” the pope murmured — Mr. Trump took a seat across a wooden desk from Francis. Vatican officials shooed reporters out of the room and the two men met for half an hour (the pope’s session with Mr. Obama lasted 20 minutes longer).

Speaking to reporters later, Mr. Trump described the session as “fantastic.” Later, on Twitter, he wrote, “I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”

The Vatican said in a statement that the two discussed the Middle East and “the protection of Christian communities,” as well as “the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience” and the Catholic Church’s aid work on behalf of immigrants.

Immigration has been a fault line between history’s first South American pope and a president who came to power promising to build a wall to keep Mexican migrants out of the United States. But people close to the pope said in the days leading up to the meeting that he would not reprimand Mr. Trump, but seek to impart his values and build a dialogue that could cause a reconsideration of policies by Mr. Trump, if not a conversion.

A bell signaling the end of the audience rang at 9 a.m., and Mrs. Trump joined her husband and the pope. Francis looked graver than the beaming Mr. Trump, but he lightened up when he shook Mrs. Trump’s hand, jokingly asking her in Italian, “Did you give him potizza to eat?” (potizza is a Slovenian dessert).

Mr. Trump then introduced his daughter, Ivanka, who also wore a black dress and veil; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and other members of the American delegation, including Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster.

Notably missing was Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who left the trip before coming to Rome. Mr. Bannon, a Catholic, has criticized Pope Francis as a socialist, a global elitist and promoter of Muslim migration to Europe.

“That is why this visit is so important,” said Jim Nicholson, a former American ambassador to the Vatican. “There still is an educational element to it. It is an opportunity for President Trump to learn a lot more about this man, his life and his formation.”

In his gifts, the pope seemed eager to impart a lesson. He gave the president a copy of his most recent World Day of Peace message (“I signed it personally for you,” Francis said), as well as three of his writings: on the family, the joy of the Gospel, and, most tellingly for a recipient who has called climate change a hoax, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.” Written in 2015, it is the first papal encyclical focused solely on the environment.

“Well, I’ll be reading them,” said Mr. Trump, who gave the pope a set of books by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The pope and the president were both elected as outsiders promising to carry the far-off voices of the forgotten to the centers of global power. But that is more or less where the similarities end.

Mr. Trump is the scion of a real estate developer and a thrice-married lover of all things gilded. Pope Francis has made a calling card out of modesty. When, in 2013, he paid his own hotel bill after being elected pope, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter: “I don’t like seeing the Pope standing at the checkout counter (front desk) of a hotel in order to pay his bill. It’s not Pope-like!”

The two have fundamentally different views about how to restore balance to a global economic system they consider broken, with Mr. Trump focusing on the engines of capitalism and Francis fighting to protect the disadvantaged from the dehumanizing forces of the modern world.

But Francis is also a shrewd political operator, and he had said that he was not seeking a confrontation. “In our talk, things will come out,” he told reporters after a recent trip to Fátima, Portugal. “I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks, but I never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person.”

That is a far cry from his previous remarks about Mr. Trump. In February 2016, Francis said, “A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Mr. Trump, a candidate at the time, swiftly returned fire. “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” he said at a campaign rally in South Carolina.

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Younger brother of Manchester bomber was 'planning to stage an attack' in Libya, authorities say – Washington Post

By , and ,

MANCHESTER, England — The police chief leading the investigation into a suicide bombing that killed 22 people at a Manchester concert said Wednesday that the attacker did not act alone and that authorities are trying to unravel a wider web of plotters.

“It’s very clear that this is a network we are investigating,” said Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.

The comments — which came as British troops fanned out across London at prominent sites such as 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace — confirmed what other senior British officials have hinted. They also offered further insights into Britain’s decision to raise the nation’s threat level to its highest point.

[Manchester shows the holes in even the tightest security measures]

In Libya, meanwhile, an official said counterterrorism authorities have arrested at least two members of the family of the bomber, Salman Abedi, including a younger brother suspected of planning an attack in Libya’s main city, Tripoli. The bomber was a British-born citizen whose parents emigrated from Libya.

Ahmed Dagdoug, spokesman for Libya’s counterterrorism Reda Force, said Hashem Abedi was arrested Tuesday and is suspected of “planning to stage an attack in Tripoli.” Abedi’s father, Ramadan, was arrested Wednesday.

Dagdoug said Hashem was also in frequent contact with his brother Salman in Manchester and was aware of the plans to attack the concert.

It was unclear whether Abedi’s relatives were a key part of the network planning the Manchester attack, but authorities were increasingly exploring the emerging connections between Britain and Libya.

In Britain, Hopkins said British police have taken at least five people into custody in connection with the attack.

Raids continued Wednesday in Britain, including one in the heart of Manchester — not far from the concert venue where Salman Abedi detonated the blast that claimed victims as young as 8 years old.

[An 8-year-old was separated from her family after the Manchester attack. She never made it out.]

Britain’s domestic security chief, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, told the BBC that security services — which had been aware of Abedi “up to a point” before the bombing — were focusing on his visits to Libya, at least one of which was very recent. 

Rudd’s French counterpart, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, told broadcaster BFM TV that Abedi may have also gone to Syria and had “proven” links with the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Manchester blast and called Abedi a “soldier.”

Abedi’s father, Ramadan Abedi, said his son sounded “normal” when they last spoke five days ago. Before his arrest, the elder Abedi told the Associated Press by telephone from Tripoli that his son planned to visit Saudi Arabia and then spend the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with family in Libya.

“We don’t believe in killing innocents,” he told the AP. “This is not us.”

[In suburban Manchester, a search for what might have motivated the attacker]

The local mosque where Salman Abedi’s family worshiped — and where Ramadan Abedi had once worked, issuing the call to prayer — denounced the attack. Mosque officials also denied reports that the bomber had worked there. 

“The horrific atrocity that occurred in Manchester on Monday night has shocked us all,” said Fawzi Haffar, a trustee with the Manchester Islamic Center, also known as the Didsbury Mosque. “This act of cowardice has no place in our religion, or any other religion.” 

Salman Abedi was described in reports Wednesday as a college dropout who had recently become radicalized. Security experts said it was unlikely that he coordinated the attack, and the BBC reported he may have been “a mule” tasked with carrying out the bombing but who had little role in creating the explosive or choosing the target.

Of particular concern to British investigators was the possibility that the bombmaker was still at large and may be planning to strike again.

On Tuesday night, British Prime Minister Theresa May took Britain’s alert level from “severe” to its highest rating, “critical.” The decision, she said, was “a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face.”

[British prime minister raises nation’s threat level, saying another attack ‘may be imminent]

The impact was quick and visible.

In London, nearly 1,000 soldiers were deployed onto the streets to help free up police. Soldiers were seen at prominent locations, including Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

Hopkins said there were no plans to deploy troops in Manchester. But armed police officers were more visible on the city’s streets Wednesday than usual, and Hopkins said the deployment of soldiers in the capital would make more police available in other parts of the country.

The British Parliament announced that “due to the raised national security threat,” all public tours of the Palace of Westminster would be stopped. The changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace — a popular tourist attraction — was also canceled.

[Photos: Armed troops guard Buckingham Palace and other London landmarks]

American pop star Ariana Grande, who had just finished performing when the Manchester concert venue was bombed, announced the cancellation of concerts in London on Thursday and Friday out of respect for the victims.

Chelsea, the title-winning soccer club in England’s Premier League, called off a planned victory parade through London in an open-top bus. The team said in a statement that it “would not want in any way to divert important resources.”

“It’s a very good thing. It’s visibility, it’s assurance,” said Geanalain Jonik, a 48-year-old tourist from Paris who was peering through the railings of Buckingham Palace.

A similar military presence has brought reassurance in Paris since attacks in 2015, he said. “We don’t have enough policeman, and when you see soldiers and troops in the streets, it’s better,” he added. “It gives you the sense of feeling safe.”

Health officials said Wednesday that in addition to the dead, 20 people remained in “critical care” and were suffering from “horrific injuries.”

After years of successfully fending off more-sophisticated strikes even as countries across continental Europe have fallen victim to bombings, Monday night’s carnage underscored that Britain is not immune amid a rising tide of extremist violence. 

[Three seconds of silence, then a scream: How the attack unfolded]

“Getting a car or a knife is easy,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “Making a bomb that works and goes off when you want it to go off takes preparation and practice. And it usually involves other people.”

Pantucci said British authorities “are going to try to figure out who [Abedi] knows, who he’s linked to. Did he build the bomb itself, or did someone build it and give it to him?”

A family friend said Abedi traveled frequently between Libya and Britain. “We have a Daesh problem in Libya. We wonder whether he met people there who trained him,” said the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Even before May’s announcement of a “critical” threat level for just the third time — the first two came in 2006 and 2007 — authorities from London to Scotland said they would be reviewing security plans for upcoming public events. Smaller gatherings that would not have been policed in the past may now get protection, they said.

[The targeting of women and girls in Manchester may have been intentional]

“Over the coming days as you go to a music venue, go shopping, travel to work or head off to the fantastic sporting events, you will see more officers, including armed officers,” said Commander Jane Connors of London’s Metropolitan Police Department.

May’s decision to deploy the military means the public may now see soldiers rather than police. May said the military would operate under police command.

The escalation came as the nation grieved for the young victims, with thousands of people converging on Manchester’s graceful Albert Square for a vigil that was part solemn remembrance and part rally against extremism.

To roaring applause, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham vowed that the city — which has seen hardship, having been bombed relentlessly during World War II — would not succumb to division or anger. A poet named Tony Walsh delivered an ode to the city titled “This is the Place.” And in what has become a dark mainstay of life in Western Europe, passersby left candles, flowers and cards for the dead. 

The casualties included children as young as elementary school students. Police said that among the 59 people injured, a dozen were younger than 16. Among the dead was Saffie Rose Roussos, who was just 8 years old. 

Hopkins said Wednesday that an off-duty police officer was also killed and that medical examiners had finished identifying the victims.

In a speech outside 10 Downing Street, where flags were lowered to half-staff, May called the Manchester killings a “callous terrorist attack.” 

“This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” she said.

[The Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared]

The attack was the worst terrorist strike on British soil since 2005, when Islamist extremists bombed the London subway and a bus, killing 52 people.

Pantucci, the security expert, said that authorities had disrupted several plots in recent months but that Monday’s attack somehow slipped through. Understanding why, he said, will be crucial.

“They’ve been dealing with a very high threat tempo,” he said. “But this is one they weren’t able to stop.” 

And in a highly unusual public rebuke, Rudd, the home secretary, slapped down U.S. authorities for leaking information about the investigation. 

Some details about the case — including the suspect’s name — first appeared in U.S. media.

When asked by the BBC whether she would look again at information-sharing with other countries, she said: “Yes, quite frankly. The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise.” 

She said it was “irritating if it gets released from other sources, and I have been very clear with our friends that should not happen again.”

                     

            

Adam reported from London, and Raghavan from Tripoli, Libya. Souad Mekhennet, Isaac Stanley-Becker, James McAuley and Rick Noack in Manchester; Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethi­o­pia; and Devlin Barrett, Brian Murphy and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

 Read more         

Who were the victims of the Manchester Arena attack?  

Two bombings in Manchester show the changing nature of terrorism

‘Evil losers’: Trump joins world leaders in condemning Manchester terrorist attack

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world            

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news 

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Police Investigate 'Network' of Salman Abedi, Manchester Bomber – New York Times

MANCHESTER, England — He was a fan of Manchester United, like many in his soccer-obsessed hometown. He smoked pot. He lost a friend to violence last year. He recently dropped out of college. Last month he went to Libya to visit his parents, who had moved back there after two decades in Britain.

A portrait of Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old who carried out Britain’s deadliest terrorist attack since 2005, began to come into focus on Wednesday as the police raced to track down what they called his “network,” in the first official confirmation that investigators believe Mr. Abedi had received help.

On Monday night, Mr. Abedi detonated a powerful bomb as fans were leaving a pop concert by the American singer Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena. The explosion killed 22 people, including a police officer and an 8-year-old girl, and wounded 64 others; 20 were still listed in critical condition on Wednesday.

“It seems likely — possible — that he wasn’t doing this on his own,” Britain’s home secretary, Amber Rudd, said on Wednesday morning. Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police later confirmed that “this is a network that we are investigating.” He added: “There’s an extensive investigation going on, and activity taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak.”

Indeed, minutes before he spoke, the police were raiding a house in the city center. Four men were arrested on Wednesday — three in the city center and one in Wigan, a town to the northwest — bringing the total number of people in custody to five, including Mr. Abedi’s older brother.

In Libya, Mr. Abedi’s father was arrested by a militia, the Special Deterrence Forces, which said it had also detained Mr. Abedi’s younger brother, Hashem Abedi, 20.

In a Facebook post, the militia, which operates out of a former American military base, said that Hashem Abedi had been a member of the Islamic State, had been involved with the Manchester plot, and was en route to withdrawing 4,500 Libyan dinars (about $560) sent by Salman Abedi when he was arrested on Tuesday night by the militia. The militia also said that the younger brother traveled from Britain to Libya on April 16, and that he had been in daily contact by phone with Salman Abedi since then. The militia also said the younger brother was planning a new attack, in Tripoli.

The militia’s claims about the younger brother could not be immediately verified. The militia is affiliated with the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord, one of three administrations vying for control of Libya, but it has been accused by human rights groups of abusing prisoners under its control.

In addition to the younger brother, the authorities were pursuing many leads. The BBC reported on Wednesday that officials said they believed Mr. Abedi had been a “mule,” carrying a bomb made by someone else. Officials also said they were looking into Mr. Abedi’s relationship with Raphael Hostey, a British recruiter for the Islamic State who is believed to have been killed in a drone strike in Syria last year.

Officials were still trying to find the “factory” where the bomb was produced and to discern whether Mr. Abedi had received help assembling the device, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy surrounding the investigation.

Also, officials were looking into reports that people who knew Mr. Abedi — including an imam at his mosque — had contacted the authorities as early as two years ago with concerns that he had become radicalized.

Even as the investigation unfolded at an intense pace, Britain was put on the highest possible state of alert — critical, meaning that another attack “may be imminent” — for the first time since 2014. Public tours of Parliament were called off until further notice, and the guard-changing ceremony at Buckingham Palace, long a favorite of tourists, was canceled. Soldiers were deployed to vital locations, including Downing Street, the home and office of the prime minister, and foreign embassies. Britain will observe a minute of silence at 11 a.m. on Thursday for the victims.

Manchester, a city of half a million and the hub of Britain’s second-largest metropolitan region, is home to a sizable community of people of Libyan descent, many of whom fled the regime of the longtime dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in the 1980s. The violent overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi in 2011 during the tumult of the Arab Spring created a power vacuum in which the Islamic State and other extremist groups have gained support.

Many of the Libyan expatriates clustered in Manchester, creating one of the largest Libyan communities outside Libya, according to Nazir Afzal, who until 2015 was the chief prosecutor for northwest England, based in the city.

Among them was the Abedi family, who moved in 1993 to Britain. Salman was born there a year later.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Ramadan Abedi, the father, expressed shock and denial.

“I don’t believe that it was him,” he said of Salman. “His ideas and his ideology were not like that. He was born and raised in Britain. He’s a British citizen and he does not hold such ideologies.”

Mr. Abedi confirmed that his son had been distressed by the murder of a friend, Abdul Wahab Hafidah, in May 2016 at the hands of suspected gang members. But he said it did not drive him toward radicalism.

“Yes, a friend of his was killed by the gangs of Manchester, but that doesn’t mean that he carried out an attack for it,” Mr. Abedi said.

However, the father’s account was contradicted by several people who knew the family. The BBC quoted a resident, who was not identified, as saying that neighbors called an antiterrorism hotline a few years ago, concerned that Salman Abedi had expressed the view that “being a suicide bomber was O.K.” That resident also said that Mr. Abedi had smoked marijuana and socialized with gang members.

In addition, the French interior minister, Gérard Collomb, said on Wednesday that Mr. Abedi had “most likely” gone to Syria and had “proven” links to the Islamic State. The father said he had no knowledge of such a trip.

Mr. Abedi’s parents in Libya had become worried about his radicalization, and they had even seized his British passport, according to a friend in Manchester who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety.

Mr. Abedi had told his parents that he wanted to visit the holy city of Mecca, so they returned his passport. But instead of flying to Saudi Arabia, he returned home, the friend said.

The father denied that account. “I did not take his passport,” he said. “He was a man and I trust the man that he was. That’s why I let him do what he wanted.”

The father said he had yet to be contacted by the British security services over the bombing — and he challenged them to prove that his son was responsible. “Why have they not called me, the British government?” he asked. “They surely have my phone number.”

A short while later, Ramadan Abedi was arrested in Tripoli, according to the Islamist militia, which also announced the younger brother’s arrest.

Several waves of Libyans from Manchester have waged jihad abroad, according to Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London. The Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group had a contingent in Manchester, Mr. Pantucci said. And in 2010 and 2011, when the war against Colonel Qaddafi intensified, a number of Libyan-Britons left Manchester for Libya as foreign fighters, he said. More recently, a cluster left for Syria, he said.

In Fallowfield, a neighborhood south of the Manchester city center, residents recalled Mr. Abedi as a quiet and respectful young man who showed a passion and aptitude for soccer as a boy and, as a child, often wore a T-shirt with the emblem of Manchester United, one of the city’s renowned soccer teams.

Officials at the Manchester Islamic Center, also known as Didsbury Mosque, where the Abedi family worshiped, have condemned the attack, but declined to talk about the family, except to deny reports that Salman Abedi had once worked there. The father, who goes by the honorific Abu Ismail, occasionally issued the call to prayer there.

“The horrific atrocity that occurred in Manchester on Monday night has shocked us all,” a mosque trustee, Fawzi Haffar, told reporters. “It has indeed shocked us all. This act of cowardice has no place in our religion or any other religion for that matter.”

In 2015, according to a neighbor who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about safety, an imam at the mosque, Mohammed Saeed, delivered a sermon condemning terrorism and murder carried out in the name of a political cause. The sermon prompted a heated discussion among congregants, some of whom signed a petition taking issue with it, according to the neighbor.

“He was angry,” the neighbor said of Mr. Abedi. “He scared some people.”

However, a senior member of the Libyan Youth Association, a community group in Manchester, said the sermon was controversial not because it criticized the Islamic State but because it praised Khalifa Haftar, a Libyan military commander who was involved in the 2011 revolution. The association member, who declined to be identified because of safety concerns, added that he did not know if Salman Abedi had been involved in the dispute.

Recently, according to several people who know the family, Mr. Abedi dropped out of the University of Salford, in Greater Manchester, where he had been studying business administration.

Many in the Libyan community in Manchester who, like Mr. Abedi’s parents, have returned since Colonel Qaddafi was ousted, spoke of the abundance of extremist messages being spread around young people there. “He would have been radicalized there and then brought it back to Manchester,” the neighbor said.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack but did not describe Mr. Abedi’s links to the network. In several past terrorist assaults, extremists traveled to Syria from Europe for indoctrination and training.

Ms. Rudd, speaking to the BBC, said on Wednesday that the bomb “was more sophisticated than some of the attacks we’ve seen before.” Mr. Abedi appeared to have carried a powerful explosive in a lightweight metal container concealed either within a black vest or a blue Karrimor backpack, and to have held a small detonator in his left hand.

Follow Katrin Bennhold @kbennhold and Stephen Castle @_StephenCastle on Twitter.

Katrin Bennhold and Stephen Castle reported from Manchester, and Suliman Ali Zway from Berlin. Reporting was contributed by Aurelien Breeden from Paris, Sewell Chan from London, Declan Walsh from Cairo, and Nour Youssef from Cairo.

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Police Investigate 'Network' of Salman Abedi, Manchester Bomber – New York Times

MANCHESTER, England — He was a fan of Manchester United, like many in his soccer-obsessed hometown. He smoked pot. He lost a friend to violence last year. He recently dropped out of college. Last month, he went to Libya to visit his parents, who had moved back there after two decades in Britain.

A portrait of Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old who carried out Britain’s deadliest terrorist attack since 2005, began to come into focus on Wednesday as the police raced to track down what they called his “network,” in the first official confirmation that investigators believe Mr. Abedi had received help.

On Monday night, Mr. Abedi set off a crude improvised bomb as fans were leaving a pop concert by the American singer Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena. The explosion killed 22 people, including a police officer and an 8-year-old girl, and wounded 64 others; 20 were still listed in critical condition on Wednesday.

“It seems likely — possible — that he wasn’t doing this on his own,” Britain’s home secretary, Amber Rudd, said on Wednesday morning. Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police later confirmed that “this is a network that we are investigating.” He added: “There’s an extensive investigation going on, and activity taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak.”

Indeed, minutes before he spoke, the police were raiding a house in the city center. Four men were arrested on Wednesday — three in the city center and one in Wigan, a town to the northwest — bringing the total number of people in custody to five, including Mr. Abedi’s older brother. What role they might have played in the attack has not been disclosed.

The government decided Tuesday evening to put the country on the highest level of alert — critical, meaning that another attack “may be imminent” — for the first time since 2014.

That decision was made because the authorities were still trying to find the “factory” where the bomb was produced and to discern whether Mr. Abedi had received help assembling the device, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy surrounding the investigation.

The BBC reported on Wednesday that officials said they believed Mr. Abedi had been a “mule,” carrying a bomb made by someone else. Officials also said they were looking into Mr. Abedi’s relationship with Raphael Hostey, a British recruiter for the Islamic State who is believed to have been killed in a drone strike last year.

The arrests came as Britain mobilized its armed forces to guard vital locations. Public tours of Parliament were called off until further notice, and the guard-changing ceremony at Buckingham Palace, long a favorite of tourists, was canceled. The military said it would deploy soldiers to support policing at Downing Street, the home and office of the prime minister; at the palace; at Parliament; and at embassies, among other sites. Britain will observe a minute of silence at 11 a.m. on Thursday for the victims.

Manchester, a city of half a million and the hub of Britain’s second-largest metropolitan region, is home to a sizable community of people of Libyan descent, many of whom fled the regime of the longtime dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in the 1980s. The violent overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi in 2011 during the tumult of the Arab Spring created a power vacuum in which the Islamic State and other extremist groups have gained support.

Many expatriates who fled the Qaddafi regime clustered in Manchester, creating one of the largest Libyan communities outside Libya, according to Nazir Afzal, who until 2015 was the chief prosecutor for northwest England, based in the city.

Among those expatriates was the Abedi family, who moved in 1993 to Britain. Salman was born there a year later.

Reached by phone on Friday, Ramadan Abedi, the father, expressed shock and denial.

“I don’t believe that it was him,” he said of Salman. “His ideas and his ideology were not like that. He was born and raised in Britain. He’s a British citizen and he does not hold such ideologies.”

Mr. Abedi confirmed that his son had been distressed by the murder of a friend, Abdul Wahab Hafidah, in May 2016 at the hands of suspected gang members. But he said it did not drive him toward radicalism.

“Yes, a friend of his was killed by the gangs of Manchester, but that doesn’t mean that he carried out an attack for it,” Mr. Abedi said.

However, the father’s account was contradicted by several people who knew the family. The BBC quoted a resident, who was not identified, as saying that neighbors called an antiterrorism hotline a few years ago, concerned that Salman Abedi had expressed the view that “being a suicide bomber was O.K.” That resident also said that Mr. Abedi had smoked marijuana and socialized with gang members.

In addition, the French interior minister, Gérard Collomb, said on Wednesday that Mr. Abedi had “most likely” gone to Syria and had “proven” links to the Islamic State. The father said he had no knowledge of such a trip.

Mr. Abedi’s parents in Libya had become worried about his radicalization, and they had even seized his British passport, according to a friend in Manchester who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety.

Mr. Abedi had told his parents that he wanted to visit the holy city of Mecca, so they returned his passport. But instead of flying to Saudi Arabia, he returned home, the friend said.

The father denied that account. “I did not take his passport,” he said. “He was a man and I trust the man that he was. That’s why I let him do what he wanted.”

The father said he had yet to be contacted by the British security services over the bombing — and he challenged them to prove that his son was responsible.

“Why don’t they give us a finger, or something to identify him? Why have they not called me, the British government. They surely have my phone number.”

A short while later, Hashem Abedi, Salman Abedi’s younger brother, was arrested in Tripoli. “We have been following him for at least a month and a half now,” said Ahmed Omran, a spokesman for the Special Deterrence Force militia, adding that they suspected that Hashem Abedi was a member of the Islamic State.

Several waves of Libyans from Manchester have waged jihad abroad, according to Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London. The Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group had a contingent in Manchester, Mr. Pantucci said. And in 2010 and 2011, when the war against Colonel Qaddafi intensified, a number of Libyan-Britons left Manchester for Libya as foreign fighters, he said. More recently, a cluster left for Syria, he said.

In Fallowfield, a neighborhood south of the Manchester city center, residents recalled Mr. Abedi as a quiet and respectful young man who showed a passion and aptitude for soccer as a boy and, as a child, often wore a T-shirt with the emblem of Manchester United, one of the city’s renowned soccer teams.

Officials at the Manchester Islamic Center, also known as Didsbury Mosque, where the Abedi family worshiped, have condemned the attack, but declined to talk about the family, except to deny reports that Salman Abedi had once worked there. The father, who goes by the honorific Abu Ismail, occasionally issued the call to prayer there.

“The horrific atrocity that occurred in Manchester on Monday night has shocked us all,” a mosque trustee, Fawzi Haffar, told reporters. “It has indeed shocked us all. This act of cowardice has no place in our religion or any other religion for that matter.”

In 2015, according to a neighbor who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about safety, an imam at the mosque, Mohammed Saeed, delivered a sermon condemning terrorism and murder carried out in the name of a political cause. The sermon prompted a heated discussion among congregants, some of whom signed a petition taking issue with it, according to the neighbor.

“He was angry,” the neighbor said of Mr. Abedi. “He scared some people.”

However, a senior member of the Libyan Youth Association, a community group in Manchester, said the sermon was controversial not because it criticized the Islamic State but because it praised Khalifa Haftar, a Libyan military commander who was involved in the 2011 revolution. The association member, who declined to be identified because of safety concerns, added that he did not know if Salman Abedi had been involved in the dispute.

Recently, according to several people who know the family, Mr. Abedi dropped out of the University of Salford, in Greater Manchester, where he had been studying business administration.

.

Many in the Libyan community in Manchester who, like Mr. Abedi’s parents, have returned since Colonel Qaddafi was ousted spoke of the abundance of extremist messages being spread around young people there. “He would have been radicalized there and then brought it back to Manchester,” the neighbor said.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but did not describe Mr. Abedi’s links to the network. In several past terrorist assaults, extremists traveled to Syria from Europe for indoctrination and training.

Ms. Rudd, speaking to the BBC, said on Wednesday that the bomb “was more sophisticated than some of the attacks we’ve seen before.”

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Pope welcomes Trump to the Vatican despite past disagreements – Washington Post

By , and ,

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis welcomed President Trump to the cradle of Roman Catholicism on Wednesday, delivering a message of peace even as the pontiff emphasized his role as the world’s moral counterpoint to the president’s nationalist agenda.

The two met in the pope’s private study for nearly half an hour, joined only by an interpreter. The pontiff, in white papal dress and a pectoral cross on a chain around his neck, sat behind a small desk while Trump, in a dark suit and navy striped tie, took the single chair across from him as if interviewing for a job.

After some initial awkwardness — Trump looked somewhat uneasy as he was kept waiting for a few seconds in the Saint Ambrose room before shaking hands with Francis, who was stone-faced at first — the atmosphere soon warmed.

The pair seemed to set aside their differences from last year’s campaign, with Trump appearing both presidential and deferential, while the pope, smiling slightly, seemed to be visually appraising him.

A brief Vatican communique later called the meeting “cordial,” and expressed hope for collaboration with the administration on “health care, education and assistance to immigrants.”

It said Trump and Francis had exchanged views on “international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.”

Trump and Francis spoke about how religious communities can combat suffering in “crisis regions,” such as Syria, Libya and areas controlled by Islamic State terrorists, according to the White House. The president told the pope that their states share “many fundamental values,” such as promoting human rights, combating global famine and protecting religious freedom, the White House said.

Trump later met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, who raised the issue of climate change and encouraged the president to maintain the U.S. participation in the Paris climate accords, a decision the administration is debating.

“We had a good exchange [about] the difficulty of addressing climate change, responses to climate change, and ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people jobs so they can feed their families and have a prosperous economy,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters.

Trump called the meeting “great” and “fantastic.”

[Trump’s budget proposal even has GOP allies wincing]

“He is something,” Trump said of Francis. “We’re liking Italy very, very much, and it was an honor to be with the pope.”

Once Francis rang a bell signaling that the one-on-one discussion had concluded, the pair exchanged official gifts. The pope presented Trump with a medallion by a Roman artist in the shape of an olive tree, the symbol of peace.

“We can use peace,” Trump said.

Later, moments before taking off for Brussels, Trump tweeted: “Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”

At the Vatican, Francis also offered copies of his writings on the topics of family, the joy of the gospel and “care of our common home, the environment.”

“Well, I’ll be reading them,” the president said.

Trump’s visit to the Vatican capped his quest this week to promote “tolerance” among followers of three of the world’s religions and cooperation against extremism. On his maiden foreign trip as president, Trump has addressed a summit of Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, and met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Arguably the West’s most influential leaders, Trump and Francis hold divergent worldviews on everything from migrant rights to climate change.

Underscoring the differences between them, Trump’s administration introduced a budget proposal Tuesday that would deeply cut assistance to the poor. Francis, meanwhile, spent Tuesday commemorating the Rev. Oscar Romero, a Salvadoran archbishop gunned down by right-wing death squads and who championed social justice and the rights of the poor.

Following their private meeting, Trump expressed gratitude for the audience.

“Thank you,” he said, shaking hands with the pontiff. “Thank you. I won’t forget what you said.”

[Opinion: Does Trump need an atlas?]

First lady Melania Trump, in a black dress with a black veil, also was greeted by the pope and engaged in a brief conversation. She appeared more animated than she has during the earlier parts of the trip, when she gazed into the distance without expression while her husband was the center of attention.

The first lady chatted with Francis, who said something to her in English that made her laugh.

“What do you give him to eat, potica?” Francis asked, referring to the president and a Slovenian dessert.

The first lady, who was born in Slovenia, smiled and repeated “potica.”

One of the pope’s attendants gave Melania Trump a small object that appeared to be a rosary, as she was walking away. She turned back and asked the pope to bless it, which he did.

Before departing the Vatican, the Trumps were given a private tour of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, and the president held a 50-minute meeting with Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who effectively serves as the Vatican’s foreign minister.

The president later met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, and with Prime Minister Pablo Gentiloni at Villa Taverna.

Among the gifts Francis presented to the president was a copy of the pontiff’s 2015 encyclical on the environment and its relationship to social justice. Although it predates Trump’s presidency, the document seemed a message to an administration that has questioned climate change and whose economic policies are centered on profit and growth.

In it, Francis chastised the world’s leading nations for lacking the will to address man-made climate change. “The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming,” he wrote.

Trump is in the process of deciding whether to uphold the Paris climate change agreement, amid debate among his advisers. The agreement is expected to be the subject of discussion between Trump and new French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders when they meet in Brussels this week.

[Opinion: Melania and Ivanka show world what feminine power looks like]

The pope also gave Trump a copy of his January 2017 World Day of Peace message, saying, “I signed it personally for you.”

“Ooh,” Trump commented. “That’s so beautiful.”

The message noted that although the past century was marked by two world wars, “today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal,” including “the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment.” Echoing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he called for increased engagement in “active and creative nonviolence.”

Trump gifted Francis a first-edition set of King’s five books, which were custom-bound and accented with gold hand-tooling. Francis cited King’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in his 2015 address to a joint session of Congress.

“These are books from Martin Luther King,” Trump said. “I think you will enjoy them.”

The president also presented a handmade bronze sculpture created by Florida artist Geoffrey Smith, titled “Rising Above,” and designed to evoke the values of unity and resilience.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who wore a black dress and veil, and her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser, also met the pope.

In a separate room in the Apostolic Palace, Trump introduced members of his family to Francis, and they shook the pontiff’s hand. The Americans included Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, State Department officials Margaret Peterlin and Brian Hook, as well as three longtime aides who are close to the president: Hope Hicks, his communications adviser; Dan Scavino, who manages his Twitter account; and Keith Schiller, his former bodyguard who now directs Oval Office operations.

In a high-profile exchange last year, Trump and Francis traded barbs. The pope called Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a rallying cry for his campaign, “not Christian.” Trump replied by calling any religious leader who would say such thing “disgraceful.”

Nevertheless, Vatican officials — while seeking to play down a meeting that many speculated could be either be very diplomatic or easily run off script — have described Wednesday’s encounter as an opportunity for the U.S. president and the head of the Roman Catholic Church to find common ground.

“It’s in nobody’s interest to try to win arguments,” said a senior Vatican official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the meeting. “The Holy See and the U.S. government will have their differences — as they always do — but there’s a whole range of issues they can work together on, and this kind of meeting can serve to get them off to a good start.”

Trump was “honored to go and meet the pope,” adding that he “has a lot of respect” for Francis, a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday aboard Air Force One, as the president flew to Rome from Israel.

In St. Peter’s Square outside the basilica, crowds of tourists and the faithful were gathering for the pope’s appearance at his regular General Audience on Wednesdays.

“This is a beautiful meeting,” said Carlos Castillo, 18, of Vancouver, Canada, said of Trump’s visit. “They have been criticizing each other from afar and now they are face to face.”

Herel Hughes, 24, a university student from Chicago, said, “I hope the pope will be able to talk some sense into Trump.”

On Tuesday night, a small number of Italians and Americans living in Rome organized an anti-Trump demonstration in Rome’s Piazza Bologna.

“I am not a Catholic, but this pope has stood up for migrant rights, for the poor, for everything Trump doesn’t,” said Michele Renda, 39, who held a sign reading, “Rome Resists.” I think it’s outrageous that Trump is coming for the photo with the pope, to try to prove he is something he is not.”

“We in Italy, in Europe, looked up to the United States for its democracy,” Renda said. “But not with Trump. Not with what he stands for.”

On Wednesday, police here took a zero-tolerance approach toward protesters. A group of Americans living in Rome reported in a Facebook post that their fliers, with the message “Build Bridges Not Walls,” were confiscated. After being briefly detained, according to their statement, authorities told them that “any material that is even directly protesting Trump is prohibited in the center of Rome until he leaves the city.”

Stefano Pitrelli in Vatican City contributed to this report.

Read more:

In Israel, Trump urges new Middle East harmony but faces old suspicions

What you need to know about Trump’s first trip abroad

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Manchester bombing probe seeks 'network' of suspects as Britain tightens security – Washington Post

By , and Souad Mekhennet,

MANCHESTER, England — The police chief leading the investigation into a suicide bombing that killed 22 people at a Manchester concert said Wednesday that the attacker had not acted alone and authorities were trying to unravel a wider web of plotters.

“It’s very clear that this is a network we are investigating,” said Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.

The comments — which came as British troops fanned out across London at prominent sites such as 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace — confirmed what other senior British officials have hinted. It also offered further insights into Britain’s decision to raise the nation’s threat level to its highest point.

Hopkins said British police had taken at least five people into custody in connection with the attack since Monday night.

Raids continued Wednesday in Britain, including one in the heart of Manchester — not far from the concert venue where Salman Abedi carried out the blast that claimed victims as young as 8 years old.

Hours after Hopkins spoke, police said a person was arrested in Wigan, about 20 miles west of the city.

Among those detained in Britain was Abedi’s older brother, Ismail. Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency reported that Salman’s younger brother Hashem was also arrested by authorities in Libya.

The bomber Abedi was a British-born citizen whose parents emigrated from Libya.

Britain’s domestic security chief, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, said did not provide details on possible associates of the 22-year-old Abedi.

But she told the BBC that security services — which had been aware of Abedi “up to a point” before the bombing — were focusing on his visits to Libya, at least one of which was very recent. 

Rudd’s French counterpart, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, told broadcaster BFMTV that Abedi may have also gone to Syria and had “proven” links with the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Manchester blast and called Abedi a “soldier.”

Abedi’s father, Ramadan Abedi, said his son sounded “normal” when they last spoke five days ago. The elder Abedi told the Associated Press by telephone from Tripoli, Libya, that his son planned to visit Saudi Arabia and then spend the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with family in Libya.

“We don’t believe in killing innocents,” he told the AP. “This is not us.”

[Manchester shows the holes in even the tightest security measures]

The local mosque where Abedi’s family worshiped — and where Ramadan Abedi had once worked, issuing the call to prayer — denounced the attack. Mosque officials also denied reporters that the bomber had worked there. 

“The horrific atrocity that occurred in Manchester on Monday night has shocked us all,” said Fawzi Haffar, a trustee with the Manchester Islamic Center, which is also known as the Didsbury Mosque. “This act of cowardice has no place in our religion, or any other religion.” 

Abedi was reported Wednesday to have been a college dropout who had recently become radicalized. Security experts said it was unlikely that he coordinated the attack, and the BBC reported he may have been “a mule” tasked with carrying out the bombing, but who had little role in creating the explosive or choosing the target.

Of particular concern to British investigators was the possibility that the bomb-maker was still at-large, and may be planning to strike again.

On Tuesday night, British Prime Minister Theresa May took Britain’s alert level from “severe” to its highest rating, “critical.” The decision, she said, was “a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face.”

The impact was quick and visible.

In London, nearly 1,000 soldiers were deployed onto the streets to help free up police. Soldiers were seen at prominent locations including Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

[In suburban Manchester, a search for what might have motivated the attacker]

Hopkins said there were no plans to deploy troops in Manchester. But armed police officers were more visible on the city’s streets Wednesday than usual, and Hopkins said the deployment of soldiers in the nation’s capital would make more police available in other parts of the country.

The British Parliament announced that “due to the raised national security threat” all public tours of the Palace of Westminster would be stopped. The Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace — a popular tourist attraction — was also canceled.

Chelsea, the title-winning soccer club in England’s Premier League, called off a planned victory parade through London in an open-top bus. A team statement that it “would not want in any way to divert important resources.”

“It’s a very good thing. It’s visibility, it’s assurance,” said Geanalain Jonik, a 48-year-old tourist from Paris who was peering through the railings of Buckingham Palace.

A similiar military presence has brought reassurance in Paris since attacks in 2015, he said. “We don’t have enough policeman and when you see solider and troops in the streets it’s better,” he added. “It gives you the sense of feeling safe.”

Health officials said Wednesday that in addition to the dead, 20 people remained in “critical care” and were suffering from “horrific injuries.”

After years of successfully fending off more-sophisticated strikes even as countries across continental Europe have fallen victim to bombings, Monday night’s carnage underscored that Britain is not immune amid a rising tide of extremist violence. 

[Three seconds of silence, then a scream: How the attack unfolded]

“Getting a car or a knife is easy,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “Making a bomb that works and goes off when you want it to go off takes preparation and practice. And it usually involves other people.”

Pantucci said British authorities “are going to try to figure out who [Abedi] knows, who he’s linked to. Did he build the bomb itself, or did someone build it and give it to him?”

A family friend said Abedi traveled frequently between Libya and Britain. “We have a Daesh problem in Libya. We wonder whether he met people there who trained him,” said the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Even before May’s announcement of a “critical” threat level for just the third time — the first two came in 2006 and 2007 — authorities from London to Scotland said they would be reviewing security plans for upcoming public events. Smaller gatherings that would not have been policed in the past may now get protection, they said.

[The targeting of women and girls in Manchester may have been intentional]

“Over the coming days as you go to a music venue, go shopping, travel to work or head off to the fantastic sporting events, you will see more officers, including armed officers,” said Commander Jane Connors of London’s Metropolitan Police Department.

May’s decision to deploy the military means the public may now see soldiers rather than police. May said the military would operate under police command.

The escalation came as the nation grieved for the young victims, with thousands of people converging on Manchester’s graceful Albert Square for a vigil that was part solemn remembrance and part rally against extremism.

To roaring applause, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham vowed that the city — which has seen hardship, having been bombed relentlessly during World War II — would not succumb to division or anger. A poet named Tony Walsh delivered an ode to the city titled “This Is the Place.” And in what has become a dark mainstay of life in Western Europe, passersby left candles, flowers and cards for the dead. 

The casualties included children as young as elementary school students. Police said that among the 59 people injured, a dozen were younger than 16. Among the dead was Saffie Rose Roussos, who was just 8 years old. 

Hopkins sad Wednesday that an off-duty police officer was also among the dead, and that medical examiners had finished identifying all of the victims.

In a speech outside 10 Downing Street, where flags were lowered to half-staff, May called the Manchester killings a “callous terrorist attack.” 

“This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” she said.

[The Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared]

The Monday night attack was the worst terrorist strike on British soil since 2005, when Islamist extremists bombed the London subway and a bus, killing 54 people.

Pantucci, the security expert, said that authorities had disrupted several plots in recent months but that Monday’s attack somehow slipped through. Understanding why, he said, will be crucial.

“They’ve been dealing with a very high threat tempo,” he said. “But this is one they weren’t able to stop.” 

And in a highly unusual public rebuke, the Home Secretary Rudd slapped down U.S. authorities for leaking information about the investigation. 

Some details about the case — including the suspect’s name — first appeared in the U.S. media.

When asked by the BBC if she would look again at information-sharing with other countries, she said: “Yes, quite frankly. The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise.” 

She said it was “irritating if it gets released from other sources, and I have been very clear with our friends that should not happen again.”

                     

                     

Adam reported from London. Isaac Stanley-Becker, James McAuley and Rick Noack in Manchester; Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethi­o­pia; and Devlin Barrett, Brian Murphy and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

 Read more         

Who were the victims of the Manchester Arena attack?  

Two bombings in Manchester show the changing nature of terrorism

‘Evil losers’: Trump joins world leaders in condemning Manchester terrorist attack

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world            

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