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Thao to appear in court Tuesday over voter-interference charge

Plus: why schools closed today; Denny Hecker moves to re-entry center; Vin Weber’s ties to Paul Manafort; and more.

St. Paul Council Member Dai Thao
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

The Star Tribune’s Emma Nelson looks in on St. Paul Council Member Dai Thao’s ongoing legal troubles: “It’s been nearly four months since the St. Paul mayor’s race ended. But for Council Member Dai Thao, the campaign isn’t over. … Thao, who placed third in the election for mayor, is scheduled to appear in Ramsey County District Court on Tuesday to face three misdemeanor charges of violating rules designed to keep candidates from manipulating voters on Election Day. … Thao says he was trying to help an elderly Hmong voter on Nov. 6, when authorities said he drove her to a polling place and helped her fill out her ballot. The accusation arose weeks after prosecutors declined to charge Thao in a separate criminal investigation into allegations that his campaign solicited a bribe from a lobbyist.”

Talk about a no-win proposition. MPR’s Nancy Yang explains why school was canceled: “A winter storm that hit the metro area in the afternoon on Jan. 22, 2018, snarled traffic and stranded some St. Paul students for hours on school buses. … The Twin Cities woke up Monday morning to icy roads but no major snow, prompting some to ask ‘Why are schools canceled?’ and ‘When did Minnesota get so soft?’ … So wait. Why is school cancelled?”

Somebody walks. KSTP’s Daren Sukhram and Joe Mazan report: “Former Minnesota auto mogul Denny Hecker will soon be a free man. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Hecker was moved from a Duluth federal prison camp into its residential reentry center in Minneapolis. … Hecker, 65, had been in prison since 2011 after being convicted of defrauding auto lenders and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. … Last October, KSTP spoke with Hecker’s former attorney Barbara May, who said she’d stayed in contact with him over the years. She said he had job opportunities and housing lined up for when he was to be released. ”

A look at how Vin Weber got tied up with Manafort and the Russia business. The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff reports: “In the middle of the 2012 presidential race, Mitt Romney’s campaign had an unusual moment. The Republican billed himself as a foreign policy hawk who would stand up to the Kremlin. But on May 9, 2012, one of his foreign policy advisors, lobbyist Vin Weber, signed a little-noticed contract with a man in Vladimir Putin’s wider orbit. It was a deal that would reverberate for years to come. … Weber spent twelve years in Congress, where he worked alongside Newt Gingrich, did a stint in Republican leadership, and built relationships on both sides of the aisle. Then headed to K Street, where he became one of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists. From 2001 to 2009, he was chairman of the board at the National Endowment for Democracies, which boosts human rights and democracy activists around the world. … While Paul Manafort was scouring the globe for dictators to represent, Weber was sailing to the top of Washingtonian magazine’s Top 50 Lobbyists list. … But their paths crossed. One year, Weber was a hero for democracy. The next, he was (unwittingly, per his firm) a Putin ally’s flack.

In other news…

Oof:Duluth police to post increased presence at Denfeld after social media ‘rumors’” [Duluth News Tribune]

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Awful:Delano couple says dog was killed after being held for ransom” [KARE]

Huh:Researcher: Setting staged for Twin Cities man to kill Cecil the lion” [Star Tribune]

Minneapolitan Wes Winship:Cops tag muralist over Ocean Beach tribute to rock great Lemmy” [San Francisco Chronicle]