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Leader of armed group at U.S. border boasted of assassination training: FBI

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LAS CRUCES, N.M./TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) - The head of an armed group that stops migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally allegedly boasted of training volunteers to kill former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an FBI agent said in court papers.

Larry Hopkins, leader of the United Constitutional Patriots, appeared in court in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Monday to face charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The FBI said it found guns during a 2017 visit to his home.

The UCP has helped the U.S. Border Patrol detain some 5,600 migrants in New Mexico in the last 60 days, the group said.

Defense attorney Kelly O’Connell said Hopkins planned to plead not guilty to the firearms charge. He said the charges were unrelated to UCP’s actions at the border.

“This is not even dealing with what’s going on right here,” O’Connell said.

Wearing a dark green prison jumpsuit and bright orange sneakers, Hopkins appeared at ease in court and did not speak to anyone but his attorney.

The UCP has said its two-month presence at the border was intended to support U.S. Border Patrol, which has been overwhelmed by record numbers of Central American families seeking asylum.

In court papers, the FBI said witnesses in 2017 accused Hopkins of saying the UCP was training to assassinate Obama; Clinton, who was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016; and George Soros, a financier who supports liberal causes. The accusations were made during an investigation into “militia extremist activity,” the agency said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other critics accuse the UCP of being a “fascist militia” whose members illegally detain and kidnap migrants by impersonating law enforcement.