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The takeover of the state party, aka the Reid machine, represents a dramatic turnaround from the 2016 presidential race, when Sanders fans were accused of throwing chairs and making violent threats at a wild convention in Nevada — charges they vehemently deny to this day.

It’s a development that could have effects that stretch well beyond state borders — and a sign that Sanders himself is playing a long game in the battle for control of the Democratic Party.

“It means that the progressive movement is getting stronger, that more and more people are getting actively engaged,” said Judith Whitmer, the new chair of the Nevada Democratic Party. “Instead of just walking away or saying nothing is ever going to happen, we’re just determined to make it happen. More and more people are feeling the same way around the country.”

In the near term, the upheaval in the party could have ramifications on the 2022 midterms — establishment-oriented Democrats are worried that what they consider to be a new and inexperienced team will be ill-prepared to take on Republicans next year in the swing state. The left insists it is ready. But there are also implications beyond the current election cycle for the progressive movement nationwide, and perhaps even the 2024 presidential election.

On Wednesday, Whitmer will meet virtually with Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ chief political adviser, according to people familiar with the gathering. Keenan Korth, campaign manager for the winning slate of party officers, will also attend. One immediate topic of discussion will likely be fundraising: Apparently seeing the writing on the wall, the state party moved $450,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shortly before power changed hands in Saturday’s election.

“It’s basically a call to get an understanding of what they’re facing and what they need help with — support in the immediate term — and making sure they’re in a position to succeed,” said a Sanders aide who declined to speak on the record. “It’s a critical state for Democrats.”

The toppling of the state party has been years in the making. Whitmer, who was chair of the Clark County Democratic Party until stepping down this month, said she contacted the DSA two years ago about filling seats in the central committee, which is the body that elects the party’s officers. Sanders’ political operation also sent texts late last year to the senator’s supporters to encourage them to run for those seats in Las Vegas’ Clark County, the most populous county in the state, said several sources familiar with the effort.

Progressives who were active in pushing for new party leadership said the 2016 caucus was the catalyst that drove many of them to participate in Democratic state politics. Sanders lost narrowly to Hillary Clinton in the February caucuses, leaving some on the left ruminating that they could have won if they’d done more. At the bitterly contested state convention months later, where presidential delegates to the national convention were finalized, Sanders fans al so left feeling that the Nevada Democratic Party had rigged the process.

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“The leadership there in Nevada hijacked the process on the floor, created a tremendous amount of angst among people who were there attending the convention, who were supporters of Sen. Sanders, by ignoring the regular procedure and ramming through what they wanted to do,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ then-campaign manager, at the time.

For its part, the Nevada state party lodged a complaint with the Democratic National Committee regarding the conduct of Sanders supporters and the “Campaign’s penchant for extra-parliamentary behavior—indeed, actual violence—in place of democratic conduct in a convention setting, and furthermore what we can only describe as their encouragement of, and complicity in, a very dangerous atmosphere that ended in chaos and physical threats to fellow Democrats.”

In a sign of how far the Democratic Party has shifted leftward in the state since 2016, even Whitmer’s opponent — who was recruited by Reid allies — is a well-known Sanders supporter. Tick Segerblom, a Clark County commissioner who said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto contacted him about running, backed Sanders in 2016 and 2020. Sanders won the Nevada caucus last year in a rout.

“Truthfully, the other side out-organized us,” said Segerblom, referring to the party leadership elections. “I don’t say that just recently, but starting with the caucus last February where individual delegates to the county convention get elected. They were focused on that at that time. They then proceeded to take control of the county party.”

Explaining why he lost despite himself being a Sanders supporter, Segerblom said it was a story of outsiders versus insiders: “The Bernie grassroots people felt like they had been excluded going back to 2016, and so they wanted to change that. And so whether I was Bernie or not really wasn’t important. It’s that I am close to the governor and the senators and people like that.”

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Shaun Navarro, co-chair of the Las Vegas DSA, said there were also larger forces at play in the weekend’s election results that are changing the state’s politics: “It’s a growing state. The state itself is changing. The electorate is changing: It’s moving more left because it is so diverse and there are so many people moving in from out of state.”

The 2022 midterms in Nevada will be one of the first major tests of the new party officers — and they will also measure the strength of the progressive movement writ large. The new guard believes that left-wing leaders and donors around the country see the fast-growing state as a huge opportunity and will invest financially in the party.

“We know that when it comes to 2024, if the party under our leadership has suffered losses in 2022, that that will undercut our ability to be successful moving forward,” said Korth. “The progressive movement nationwide is excited about Nevada and energized about the future of our party here and our organizing, and can absolutely be a critical component of our fundraising strategy to raise the $10 [million] to $20 million that the party is going to need to raise between now and November of 2022.”

The Reid machine is skeptical that the new leadership can win general elections, and it intends to stay as involved as it has always been — through independent expenditures and other outside groups. The old guard prided itself on being one of the most successful state Democratic parties in the nation, if not the best overall, with a record that includes electing both U.S. senators in recent years, cinching the last four presidential elections and taking control of the state legislature.

“What we have done is focused on winning and delivering Democratic victories up and down the ballot for the better part of 20 years and to see that demonized is hurtful on a personal level,” said Megan Jones, a former Reid aide. “But on a professional level, it’s short-sighted because I don’t think they know what they’re doing. And honestly I don’t know if they want to know what they’re doing, because these folks have been plotting against the state party and what they perceive as this power structure for the better part of four years.”

Whitmer said she is dedicated to reaching out to everyone in the state party — since her victory, she said she has been in contact with Cortez Masto’s team — and argued that internal divisions have been exaggerated. She also said she has “a 27-year career in project management, operations, logistics, managing multibillion-dollar projects.”

Reid declined to provide comment through an aide.

The change in leadership also comes as Nevada is looking to become the first-in-the-nation nominating state in the presidential race, something Reid has been pushing for aggressively. While left-wing and traditional Democrats said they were both committed to moving ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire, some are concerned that divisions in the state party could hurt their cause.

The state party staff quit after the progressive slate won, and Whitmer said the new officers were not immediately given access to social media or ActBlue accounts. (That has since changed, she said.) Both sides have also accused each other of attempting to put their thumb on the scales while filling vacant central committee seats.

The effort to go first in the presidential primary is not the only potential impact in 2024 and beyond, especially if Biden declines to campaign for a second term. Though the party officers’ terms are two years long, Whitmer said she is planning to run for reelection — and progressives say their efforts could make the state a more fruitful place for upcoming left-wing presidential candidates.

“I suspect that if we secure first-in-the-nation here in Nevada that any would-be progressive presidential contenders — it would make them all the more likely to get into the race because of the foundation we built here,” he said.

A Reid ally dismissed that notion, pointing out that the party does not run presidential primaries — unlike caucuses, which state Democrats are looking to axe in the future. “Part of the calculation to move away from the caucus is because we could see this coming,” the person said.


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Queen sits alone at funeral for Prince Philip to set example

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Other royals who are in family bubbles are sitting together.

The service began with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby entering the chapel ahead of the coffin, followed by Philip’s children and three of his eight grandchildren, as a four-member choir sang “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Inside the Gothic chapel, the setting for centuries of royal weddings and funerals, the service was to be simple and somber. There will be no sermon, at Philip’s request, and no family eulogies or readings, in keeping with royal tradition. But Dean of Windsor David Conner will say the country has been enriched by Philip’s “unwavering loyalty to our queen, by his service to the nation and the Commonwealth, by his courage, fortitude and faith.”

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Philip spent almost 14 years in the Royal Navy and saw action in the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific during World War II. Several elements of his funeral have a maritime theme, including the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” which is associated with seafarers and asks God: “O hear us when we cry to thee/For those in peril on the sea.”

Along with Philip’s children and grandchildren, the 30 funeral guests include other senior royals and several of his German relatives. Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark and, like the queen, is related to a thicket of European royal families.


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FBI says it interviewed FedEx mass shooter last year

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The shooter was identified as Brandon Scott Hole, 19, of Indianapolis, Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt told a news conference. Investigators searched a home in Indianapolis associated with Hole and seized evidence, including desktop computers and other electronic media, McCartt said.

Hole began firing randomly at people in the parking lot of the FedEx facility late Thursday, killing four, before entering the building, fatally shooting four more people and then turning the gun on himself, McCartt said. He said he did not know if Hole owned the gun legally.

“There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” he said. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.”

McCartt said the slayings took place in a matter of minutes, and that there were at least 100 people in the facility at the time. Many were changing shifts or were on their dinner break, he said. Several people were wounded, including five who were taken to the hospital.

“You deserved so much better than this,” a man who identified himself as the grandson of Johal tweeted Friday evening. Johal had planned to work a double shift Thursday so she could take Friday off, according to the grandson, who would not give his full name but identifies himself as “Komal” on his Twitter page. Johal later decided to grab her check and go home, and still had the check in her hand when police found her, Komal said.

“(What) a harsh and cruel world we live in,” he added.

Smith, the youngest of the victims, was last in contact with her family shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, family members said in social media posts late Friday. Dominique Troutman, Smith’s sister, waited hours at the Holiday Inn for an update on her sister. “Words can’t even explain how I feel. … I’m so hurt,” Troutman said in a Facebook post Friday night.

Weisert had been working as a bag handler at FedEx for four years, his wife, Carol, told WISH-TV. The couple was married nearly 50 years.

President Joe Biden said he had been briefed on the shooting and called gun violence “an epidemic” in the U.S.

“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation,” he said in a statement. Later, he tweeted, “We can, and must, do more to reduce gun violence and save lives.”

A FedEx employee said he was working inside the building Thursday night when he heard several gunshots in rapid succession.

“I see a man come out with a rifle in his hand and he starts firing and he starts yelling stuff that I could not understand,” Levi Miller told WTHR-TV. “What I ended up doing was ducking down to make sure he did not see me because I thought he would see me and he would shoot me.”

Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said Friday that agents questioned Hole last year after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop.” He said the FBI was called after items were found in Hole’s bedroom but he did not elaborate on what they were. He said agents found no evidence of a crime and that they did not identify Hole as espousing a racially motivated ideology. A police report obtained by The Associated Press shows that officers seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole’s home after responding to the mother’s call. Keenan said the gun was never returned.

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McCartt said Hole was a former employee of FedEx and last worked for the company in 2020. The deputy police chief said he did not know why Hole left the job or if he had ties to the workers in the facility. He said police have not yet uncovered a motive for the shooting.

Police Chief Randal Taylor noted that a “significant” number of employees at the FedEx facility are members of the Sikh community, and the Sikh Coalition later issued a statement saying it was “sad to confirm” that at least four of those killed were community members.

The coalition, which identifies itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the U.S., said in the statement that it expected authorities to “conduct a full investigation — including the possibility of bias as a factor.”

Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, a national advocacy group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in a statement that the shootings marked “yet another senseless massacre that has become a daily occurrence in this country.”

Nikore remarked that gun violence in the U.S. “is reflective of all of the spineless politicians who are beholden to the gun lobby.”

FedEx Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.”

“This is a devastating day, and words are hard to describe the emotions we all feel,” he wrote in an email to employees.

The killings marked the latest in a string of recent mass shootings across the country and the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed in the city in January, and a man was accused of killing three adults and a child before abducting his daughter during at argument at a home in March. In other states last month, eight people were fatally shot at massage businesses in the Atlanta area, and 10 died in gunfire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the community must guard against resignation and “the assumption that this is simply how it must be and we might as well get used to it.”


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Gaetz ex-girlfriend feared alleged sex-trafficking victim taped call for feds

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Gaetz’s former girlfriend has played a bit role in the unfolding public drama — she is the woman who sent the lawmaker a nude video of her performing a hula hoop dance that he showed to other members of Congress.

But two of her friends, who declined to be identified publicly because of the sensational nature of the case, say she now suspects she was being set up when the alleged victim and another woman involved in the case called her to discuss the lawmaker in what she fears might have been a recorded conference call. The call took place sometime after Greenberg was indicted for the sex crime in August.

The friends did not provide details about exactly what was discussed, but one recounted that Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend said she was opposed to talking to authorities and is now worried that prosecutors might try to charge her with obstructing justice in order to get to Gaetz.

Tim Jansen, an attorney for Gaetz’s former girlfriend, declined to comment about his client. Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, also declined to talk. Gaetz has strongly denied allegations he engaged in any sex crimes.

The three women on the call were all present on a September 2018 trip to the Bahamas that authorities think may shed light on the allegations against Gaetz. Also present on that trip: Gaetz and two other Florida Republican political players, former Orlando-area aviation authority member and Gov. Ron DeSantis fundraiser Jason Pirozzolo and former state Rep. Halsey Beshears.

POLITICO is withholding the names of the women who went to the Bahamas, including his ex-girlfriend, because of the sensitive nature of the case and the allegations that while there, some of the women engaged in prostitution.

As the investigation intensified this winter, Beshears abruptly resigned in January as Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary — a post that made him the state’s top business regulator — noting he had contracted Covid-19. About that time, federal authorities seized the iPhones of Gaetz and his former girlfriend.

Federal authorities are examining the Bahamas trip to see if it violated the Mann Act, which forbids transporting people across state lines to engage in prostitution. One woman on the trip told POLITICO that no one engaged in prostitution.

The alleged victim in the sex-trafficking case had turned 18 almost nine months before the Bahamas trip. But Gaetz has acknowledged he’s the subject of a federal investigation into whether he had improper involvement with her as a 17-year-old.

A source familiar with the investigation wouldn’t say whether the alleged victim was cooperating with authorities. But when asked if she has been talking for months with the federal government, the source said “100 percent.”

While the alleged sex-trafficking victim is key to the case against Greenberg and the allegations against Gaetz, the lawmaker’s ex-girlfriend could play a pivotal role in the investigation of the trip, as well as other related controversies.

Gaetz was criticized for allegedly showing the hula hoop video to congressional colleagues, and he was also accused of engaging in revenge porn against his former girlfriend. But two of her friends say the woman, in her early 20s, did not object to him showing it to friends — provided he didn’t send it to others or post it on social media — because she was proud of her appearance and performance.

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“This is the best I will ever look in my life,” a friend who saw the video recalled her saying. “That’s how she is. It’s not revenge porn.”

The former girlfriend first met Gaetz while she attended college in the Orlando area in 2017. Greenberg, who established contact with her on the SeekingArrangement website — a dating website that connects women with so-called sugar daddies — made the connection. Soon after, she began dating Gaetz, although the relationship was not exclusive, friends said.

Gaetz later got her a job interning in the office of another Republican member of Congress, but that member let her go when it was discovered she was a Democrat, according to Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando, who promptly hired her when Gaetz told him of the matter.

Soto, who is not involved in the investigation, would not name the Republican lawmaker or comment about the case. But he said the woman was a hard worker in his office and that he had no complaints about her, other than some inquiries about whether Gaetz’s relationship with the intern was inappropriate.

“We wanted to protect her privacy from the media. She was just an intern,” Soto said. “I’ll also say she was fired by a Republican for being a Democrat. I found it offensive that she was fired for her political beliefs.”

Gaetz and the ex-girlfriend continued to date until well after the Bahamas trip in 2018. Friends said the two remained on good terms, although she was a source of friction between the lawmaker and Beshears. Beshears had apparently been taking her out on dates in Tallahassee, including a trip to the Florida State University president’s skybox at Doak Campbell Stadium, mutual friends said.

At the time, Beshears had recently been left by another girlfriend after she learned about the Bahamas trip. Beshears, then a state legislator, had flown several of the women on his private plane, which was briefly detained by U.S. Customs upon its return to Florida for questioning about the ages of several of the young women on the trip.

“Here was Halsey with three young women who could have been his daughters, and a Customs agent was like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on here?‘” said a source who was familiar with the incident.

Speaking to the partying group and the drama surrounding them, a different mutual friend said: “Tallahassee is like high school. But no one ever graduates.”


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