Singer R Kelly has been arrested in Chicago on Federal Sex Trafficking Charges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Singer R. Kelly has been arrested in Chicago on federal sex crime charges according to two law enforcement officials.

The 52-year-old was arrested by Homeland Security Investigation agents and NYPD Public Safety Task Force Thursday night on sex trafficking charges, officials tell News 4, and it is expected he will be brought to New York.

The 13-count indictment includes charges of child pornography, enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice, U.S. attorney spokesman Joseph Fitzpatrick tells The Associated Press. Further details on the case are expected to be announced Friday out of the Eastern District of New York.

Spokespeople from the NYPD and Homeland Security Investigations declined to comment on the arrest. Calls to the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn were not immediately returned.

R. Kelly Yells In Explosive Interview: 5 Biggest Bombshells

[NATL] R. Kelly Yells In Explosive Interview: 5 Biggest Bombshells

R. Kelly gave his first explosive and emotional interview with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” since sexual abuse charges landed the singer in jail last month.

(Published Wednesday, March 6, 2019)

Attempts to contact a spokesperson and legal team for R. Kelly were not immediately successful. Drea Kelly, the singer’s ex-wife, had no comment following the arrest, her rep said.

The R&B star, whose real name is Robert Kelly, has been the subject of different sexual abuse allegations for nearly two decades, with some of the alleged acts dating back to 1998.

Back in February, Kelly was charged with aggravated sexual abuse involving four women, three of whom were minors when the alleged abuse occurred. He pleaded not guilty and was released from Chicago’s Cook County Jail after posting bail.

A jury in 2008 acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges stemming from a video showing him having sex with a girl as young as 13, prosecutors claimed at the time. Kelly faced 15 years in prison for that charge, but the young woman in that claim denied it was her and did not testify.

Acosta, Who Cut Deal With Epstein, Tried to Slash Anti-Trafficking Program by 80 Percent

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DAILY BEAST NEWS SITE)

 

Acosta, Who Cut Deal With Epstein, Tried to Slash Anti-Trafficking Program by 80 Percent

His proposal came under fire at the time from a congresswoman who noted his sweetheart deal with accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

On Jan. 2, 2018, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta released a statement commemorating the beginning of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, recommitting his department’s mission to “ending practices that harm individuals, families, and communities.”

“We must act to end exploitation and abusive labor practices at home and abroad,” the statement said.

Absent from that statement was the fact he had already tried to cut a program by nearly 80 percent inside the Department of Labor dedicated to combating human trafficking, along with child and forced labor, internationally. And two months later, he would return to Congress to advocate for a second budget to cut the program just as deeply.

His proposal came under fire from a congresswoman who noted a chapter from Acosta’s past: As U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida, Acosta granted a sweetheart deal that allowed convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein to plead to one count of prostitution and serve out 13 months of an 18-month sentence prison sentence (in which he was allowed leave to jail to go to the office most days) despite allegations he molested and trafficked countless underage girls.

Epstein was arrested in New York this week under a new set of charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy, bringing Acosta’s actions a decade ago and his record as labor secretary under new scrutiny.

The cut to the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB)’s budget in the 2020 budget —reducing the funding level to $18.5 million, attracted the attention of Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), who asked Acosta about the department’s responsibilities as they related to human trafficking during a hearing about his department’s funding request  in April 2019.

“The problem is a large one the Department of Labor recently issued a report and it actually detailed 1,700 recommendations that could be looked at around the world to address this,” Acosta told Clark.

“That is excellent,” Clark responded, with a smile. “And I know that there are hundreds of thousands of adults and children who are victims of sex and labor trafficking in the U.S., glad you are looking at it, glad you’ve detailed a comprehensive strategy.”

Her smile disappeared.

“But you’ve also proposed a budget cut, almost 80%, 79% to ILAB where this work is done, bringing its budget from $68 million to just 18.5 million,” she said. “I’m sure you’ve come prepared to justify this cut to us but it doesn’t go unnoticed that this isn’t the first time that you’ve ignored human trafficking.”

“How can we expect you, the Labor Secretary to fight for American workers if you couldn’t even fight for these girls?” she asked, as Acosta initially stared at her blankly.

The International Labor Affairs Bureau’s office of child labor, forced labor and human trafficking has several functions, including producing an annual authoritative, congressionally mandated report on child labor and human trafficking globally as well as maintaining a list of products and source countries that the office has reason to believe use child and forced labor. It also helps fund programs in countries through civil society organizations and others non-governmental groups to address the root of child labor and trafficking, according to a source with knowledge of the bureau’s operation.

The Department of Labor did not respond to a request for comment as to why this program chosen for cuts, but a 2017 press release announcing the department’s 2018 budget request states the government will save, “$68 million by refocusing the Bureau of International Labor Affairs on ensuring that U.S. trade agreements are fair for American workers.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Clark said the attempt to defund this program “ speaks to the priorities of this administration and specifically the Secretary Acosta that they would in essence make the bureau inoperable.”

“This is the program within the Department of Labor that really promotes a fair global playing field for workers in the United States and specifically it does it by looking at forced labor for children and human trafficking all that sexual exploitation that sadly we see too often,” she said.

She added, “What it showed me is that Secretary Acosta has a pattern of not recognizing the priority of these issues. He certainly did that in Florida when he chose the powerful and the wealthy over child victims and a 53-page indictment that had been put together by his office.”

Advocates have also decried recent decision by the Department of Labor to stop issuing certain visas to victims of human trafficking or other workplace crimes until the victims consult with another law enforcement agency like the FBI.

Erika Gonzalez, an attorney with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, told The Daily Beast the change means victims will have to jump through “a lot more hoops” to get the relief they need. She compared the policy change to the Epstein plea deal, which Acosta did not clear with the billionaire’s victims before accepting.

“What the Epstein case shows is when these policies around human trafficking are implemented, they’re not necessarily considerate of the impact on the victims themselves,” Gonzalez said. “With the Department of Labor asking the FBI to look into [workplace violations] first, they’re adding another barrier for victims of trafficking to access the services the Department of Labor has.”

Other anti-trafficking organizations went further, saying the Epstein case shattered their trust in Acosta’s ability to protect victims of sex and labor exploitation. ECPAT-USA, and anti-child-trafficking organization, wrote a letter to Trump this week calling for Acosta to be fired.

“How can you in good faith be trusted to carry out labor laws when you can’t even enforce sex trafficking laws among children?” Joe Huang-Racalto, ECPAT’s government relations director, told The Daily Beast.

“With the scourge of labor trafficking in this country, the refusal to address recruiter fees, and companies that aren’t playing by the rules, we should [be able to] depend on the Secretary to enforce them—and we don’t.”

Mueller to testify publicly on July 17 following a subpoena

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Mueller to testify publicly on July 17 following a subpoena

(CNN)Robert Mueller will testify before Congress on July 17 after House Democrats issued a subpoena for his appearance, a move that paves the way for a reluctant special counsel to answer questions publicly for the first time about his 22-month investigation into President Donald Trump.

The House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees announced Tuesday that Mueller had agreed to testify after they issued subpoenas for his testimony, and Mueller would appear in public before the two panels next month.
“Americans have demanded to hear directly from the Special Counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia’s attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign’s acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates’ obstruction of the investigation into that attack,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a joint statement.
Schiff said Tuesday that the committees would be questioning Mueller separately the same day, and that his committee would question Mueller’s staff in closed session following the public hearing so they can discuss the counterintelligence portions of the investigation.
Mueller’s testimony is poised to be the most-anticipated congressional hearing in years, and represents a huge moment for House Democrats who have wrestled with whether to dive into a politically divisive impeachment process following the Mueller investigation and White House stonewalling of congressional probes.
The subpoenas to Mueller come after weeks of negotiations between Democrats, the special counsel’s team and the Justice Department. Democrats are proceeding with subpoenas to Mueller after he spoke publicly last month and said he did not wish to testify publicly about the investigation, and that his testimony would not go beyond what was written in the special counsel’s 448-page report.
In a letter to Mueller, the Democratic chairmen said that they understood Mueller’s concerns about ongoing investigations referred by the special counsel, but still felt it was necessary for him to testify.
“We will work with you to address legitimate concerns about preserving the integrity of your work, but we expect that you will appear before our Committees as scheduled,” Nadler and Schiff wrote.
Democrats have been talking about bringing Mueller in to testify since his investigation wrapped in March, and their decision to issue subpoenas comes more than a month after the initial date that Nadler had floated for Mueller to appear.
Since then, Democrats have continued to negotiate with Mueller, holding out hope he would agree to testify voluntarily. While Mueller stated he did not wish appear before Congress, Democrats — and some Republicans — have said they still believe Mueller should testify. Democrats have argued that the American people can hear directly from the special counsel in a public setting, and lawmakers in both parties have said they want to ask him about some of the decisions made during the investigation.
Mueller’s report was written in two parts: a volume on Russian election meddling and one on obstruction.
In the first volume, the special counsel did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but it did detail numerous contacts between Russians and members of Trump’s team that Democrats charge are troubling, even if they aren’t criminal. In the second volume, Mueller documented nearly a dozen episodes of possible obstruction of justice. The special counsel wrote that DOJ guidelines did not allow a sitting president to be indicted, and that the investigation could not exonerate Trump.
Mueller’s public statement last month — in which he emphasized that the investigation did not exonerate the President and that his team followed the DOJ guidelines — sparked a wave of House Democrats to call for the opening of an impeachment inquiry.
Their numbers have grown amid White House stonewalling of testimony and documents to congressional investigations, and now more than 75 have come out in favor of opening an impeachment inquiry.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has continued to resist the move, arguing that Democrats are winning their court fights with the Trump administration and impeachment should only be pursued if the public is on board.
Schiff and Nadler have both publicly refrained from calling for the opening of an impeachment inquiry. Behind the scenes, Nadler has lobbied Pelosi to do so, while Schiff has argued against it.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

TBI identifies man killed in U.S. Marshals shooting that led to assaults on MPD officers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF MEMPHIS TENNESSEE NEWS CHANNEL 3)

 

TBI identifies man killed in U.S. Marshals shooting that led to assaults on MPD officers

US Marshals involved in shooting

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A man was shot and killed Wednesday night during a confrontation with U.S. Marshals that led to a tense situation between MPD officers and a crowd on a Frayser street.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation identified the man shot as Brandon Webber, 20. TBI is in charge of investigating the incident.

Officers with the U.S. Marshal Service’s  Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force came into contact with Webber, who was wanted on multiple felony warrants as he was getting into a vehicle in the 2000 block of Durham in Frayser on Wednesday.

The details of the charges in those warrants was not immediately clear, but Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said the warrants were for “violent felony offenses, from an incident that occurred June 3, 2019, in Hernando, Miss.”

A source close to the investigation confirmed the charges are related to an incident in which a Hernando man was shot and his car stolen by a man. The suspect had met the victim on Facebook and was test-driving the vehicle after saying he wanted to buy it.

While officers attempted to stop Webber, he reportedly rammed his vehicle into the officer’s cruisers multiple times before jumping out with a weapon.  The officers opened fire, striking and killing the man.

After the shooting, Memphis police officers at the Old Allen Station received a call to assist the U.S. Marshals. MPD officers were not involved in Webber’s shooting.

Around that time, a large group started gathering on the scene and several individuals began throwing concrete rocks and bricks at officers and squad cars. Fire officials also said windows were broken out of a fire station, though no firefighters were hurt.

In a post on Facebook, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said a concrete wall outside a business was torn down.

Video shows one man using a chair to hit a police cruiser, and a WREG reporter at the scene was knocked to the ground by a man.

Luke Jones

@LukeJonesTV

Just saw 2 guys smash a police car with a chair. @3onyourside pic.twitter.com/Am5dcL2V5i

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The violence reportedly led officers to call in back up as well as don protective clothing.

Authorities confirmed at least 25 officers received some sort of injury and they were forced to set up a triage unit on the scene for the officers who had been hurt.  They were eventually forced to use a chemical agent to disperse the crowd.

“What I need now is for everyone to stay calm,” Police Director Michael Rallings said during a news conference early Thursday morning. “If your home or car was vandalized during these acts, you need to call police.  If you witnessed acts of violence or vandalism you need to call police.”

Thursday morning, Strickland said Rallings made the right call to disperse the crowd because of violence against officers and the media. He also praised Memphis Police officers and Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies for exercising restraint at the scene.

Three people were arrested after the chaos: Eddie Richardson, Kleston Beverly and Joshua Taylor.

Police said each of the men were among the people causing problems at the scene and refused to leave when told to disperse. Taylor, 19, even laid on the ground and told officers, “ya’ll gonna have to lock me up today.”

Taylor was charged with inciting a riot and riot, while Richardson and Beverly were charged with disorderly conduct.

The U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement that the agency would conduct an internal review after the state completes its investigation. The agency said they would not release the names of deputy marshals involved in the shooting until the conclusion of all investigations.

Shelby County Schools said Thursday that Webber was a 2017 graduate at Central High School.

“Shelby County Schools has received information about a planned vigil near the school. As a proactive measure, we have deployed additional security personnel to Central HS and provided grief counselors to multiple schools in the area to assist students and staff. Our priority is to ensure our school is secured and students and staff feel safe,” the district said.

Greg McCullough, principal at Central High School, said in a statement, “My heart is broken over the news regarding the death of Brandon Webber.

“Brandon worked hard during his time at Central where he graduated in 2017. I remember that he was a very talented art student. He seemed to really love his experience at Central High and he engaged well with others. My prayers go out to the Webber family during this devastating time.”

Luke Jones

@LukeJonesTV

: TBI has just confirmed this was an officer-involved shooting involving US Marshals. @3onyourside pic.twitter.com/vnZgQGrdZo

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Luke Jones

@LukeJonesTV

You could hear something being fired (not sure what). Sent crowd running briefly. Sounds like maybe police are trying to disperse crowd. @3onyourside pic.twitter.com/tP3EkKIrN7

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Luke Jones

@LukeJonesTV

A few in the crowd now throwing things (not sure what) at officers who have again formed a wall. @3onyourside pic.twitter.com/xhwVXqotys

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Luke Jones

@LukeJonesTV

Police now have shields. Heard them telling crowd to disperse over loudspeakers. pic.twitter.com/jMynWKlXo4

View image on Twitter
43 people are talking about this

Luke Jones

@LukeJonesTV

Had to change locations. Guy just ran up, hit me on the side of my head and knocked me to the ground. @3onyourside

244 people are talking about this

Rudy Giuliani: ‘No one really respects’ James Comey (In Fact No One Respects Rudy!)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)
(As is normal, Rudy Giuliani has it backwards, every single person I have spoken to has absolutely ZERO RESPECT for Giuliani and total respect for Mr. Comey. But then again, THE TRUTH is never THE TRUTH with Giuliani!)(OPED by oldpoet56)

Rudy Giuliani: ‘No one really respects’ James Comey

Rudy Giuliani says “no one really respects” ex-FBI director James Comey “or wants to hear from him.”

The late-night put-down came Friday after Comey bashed Attorney General William Barr, tweeting that the AG is “sliming his own Department.”

“If there are bad facts, show us,” Comey’s tweet continued. “An AG must act like the leader of the Department of Justice, an organization based on truth. Donald Trump has enough spokespeople.”

Giuliani, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, made his retort about an hour later.

“Someone should tell Jim Comey no one really respects him or wants to hear from him,” the former New York City mayor tweeted. “The Dems wanted him fired when he violated DOJ ethics in slimming Hillary. Rs believe he committed perjury and abused his power as FBI Director.”

Barr on Friday vowed to uncover the origins of the investigation of the Trump campaign. He previously characterized the investigation of Trump staff as “spying.”

FILED UNDER   

Former U.S. Soldier, Converted To Islam Planned Mass Murder In L.A. Foiled By FBI

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

A 26-year-old former US Army soldier who served in Afghanistan has been charged with plotting terror attacks in the Los Angeles area, the Justice Department said Monday.

Mark Steven Domingo allegedly sought to detonate improvised explosive devices containing nails this past weekend at a rally in Long Beach that was organized by a white nationalist group.
He was arrested Friday night after he took receipt of what he thought were pressure cooker bombs, US Attorney Nick Hanna announced at a press conference.
“Law enforcement was able to identify a man consumed with hate, and bent on mass murder and stop him before he was able to carry out his attack,” Hanna said.
Domingo allegedly wanted to “seek retribution for attacks against Muslims” and also considered attacks on Jewish people, churches and law enforcement.
He is accused of targeting “Jews as they walked to synagogue, police officers, a military facility, and crowds at the Santa Monica Pier.”
On March 2, DOJ says Domingo posted a video online professing his Muslim faith and wrote, “America needs another Vegas event,” referring to the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017 in which more than 50 people died.
Domingo is a recent convert to Islam, Hanna said.
He wanted to give “them a taste of the terror they gladly spread all over the world,” according to the Justice Department.
Following a mass shooting attack on a mosque in New Zealand in March that killed dozens of people, Domingo posted, “there must be (sic) retribution.”
Domingo asked a FBI informant to find someone to construct an IED, according to the Justice Department. He met with the informant and came armed with an AK-47 style rifle.
There is no ongoing threat to public and no known co-conspirators, Hanna said.
Hanna said the “criminal case outlines a chilling terrorism plot that developed over the past two months and targeted innocent Americans that he expected to gather this past weekend.”
This story has been updated.

Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. He’s worse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)

 

Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. He’s worse

Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. He’s worse
President Trump at the White House on April 18, the day the redacted Mueller report was released. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report makes one thing clear: Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. He is worse. And yet Trump seems almost sure to be spared Nixon’s fate. This will do severe — possibly irreparable — damage to the vital norms that sustain American democracy. There is still time for Congress and the American people to avert the worst of this damage, but the odds are long and time is short.

Despite his famous protestation to the contrary, President Nixon was a crook. He directed the CIA to shut down the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate burglary, in which several of his campaign operatives broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters. He also directed subordinates to pay hush money to subjects of that investigation. He then fired the first special prosecutor appointed to investigate these matters, hoping to protect himself and his senior advisors from possible criminal liability and untold political damage.

For these attempts to obstruct justice, Nixon paid the ultimate political price. When he terminated special prosecutor Archibald Cox, a ferocious public backlash forced him to appoint a widely respected replacement. That was Leon Jaworski, whose dramatic victory at the U.S. Supreme Court forced the release of secret White House tapes that destroyed the last vestiges of Nixon’s congressional support. He resigned the presidency days later. Had he failed to do so, impeachment by the House of Representatives and removal by the Senate were all but certain.

If Trump escapes unscathed, future presidents will take notice.


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Nothing in Nixon’s presidency became him like the leaving it. For two generations, his downfall served as a cautionary tale for subsequent presidents who might be tempted to interfere with a federal investigation for personal or political reasons. Firing a special prosecutor, in particular, was almost universally understood to be political suicide. As Watergate showed, the American people simply would not stand for a president who sought to place himself above the law. This broadly shared understanding served as a crucial safeguard against the abuse of presidential power.

Then came Trump. After smashing through dozens of other deeply rooted norms of American politics to win the presidency, he treated the post-Watergate consensus with similar contempt. Just weeks after he took the oath of office, as the Mueller report details, Trump asked FBI Director James B. Comey to drop the investigation of national security advisor Michael Flynn. Before making this request, the president cleared the room, strongly suggesting that he knew his actions were improper. Requesting that the FBI drop an investigation of his friends is exactly what Nixon was caught doing on the famous “smoking gun” tape that sealed his fate.

Yet for Trump, this was just the beginning. A few weeks later, in early March 2017, the report shows that Trump lobbied vigorously to prevent Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation. When Sessions nevertheless followed the advice of ethics officials and recused himself, Trump exploded in anger and personally pressed Sessions to reverse his decision. Trump wanted an attorney general who would protect him to be in charge of the investigation.

In May 2017, the Mueller report shows that Trump removed Comey as head of the FBI and concocted a deliberately false explanation related to Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Along with Trump’s attendant criticism of the Russia investigation and personally vindictive treatment of Comey, this action “had the potential to affect a successor director’s conduct of the investigation.” The report catalogs significant evidence that the president was worried the investigation would turn up politically and legally damaging information, and that it threatened the legitimacy of his election.

The report’s most damning evidence of obstruction of justice concerns the special counsel’s investigation itself. Once Trump learned in June 2017 that he was himself under investigation by Mueller’s team, his efforts to thwart the investigation reached new heights of audacity. That month, in a series of frantic phone calls, he ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. The report describes “substantial evidence” that this was an attempt to obstruct the special counsel’s investigation; Trump was acting to protect himself from potential criminal liability and political damage.

When McGahn refused to carry out the order to fire Mueller, Trump resumed his campaign to get Sessions to take over the investigation and curtail it — or resign, so that Trump could appoint someone who would protect him. Much of this information was already in the public domain, but it is no less shocking for that. The evidence available to Mueller’s investigators, including contemporaneous documents and testimony under oath, provides a far surer foundation than anonymously sourced news stories.

The report also contains a wealth of new information. When Trump’s order to fire the special counsel was publicly reported in January 2018, Trump demanded that McGahn fabricate “a record denying that the President had tried to fire the special counsel.” This is witness tampering, plain and simple, of a much more direct and personal kind than any that Nixon engaged in. It also amounts to falsifying evidence, which counts as obstruction of justice even on the narrowest possible reading of the federal statute advanced by Trump’s lawyers.

Along similar lines, the report describes substantial evidence that Trump privately urged Flynn, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen to “stay strong” and promised — through his lawyers — that they would “be taken care of” unless they “went rogue.” Together with the president’s public tweets praising Manafort and Stone for their bravery and baselessly accusing members of Cohen’s family of crimes, this conduct also amounts to witness tampering, plain and simple.

Lest it be forgotten, all of this took place in the context of one of the most serious law enforcement and counterintelligence investigations in the history of the United States. As the Mueller report explains, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” on behalf of Donald Trump. The FBI and Mueller set out to discover whether Trump’s campaign was complicit, and Trump took extraordinary measures to thwart their efforts. Nixon’s obstruction of the Watergate investigation looks almost innocent by comparison.

And yet Trump seems very likely to escape direct accountability. House Democrats may well opt against pursuing impeachment, for entirely understandable reasons: It might be too wrenching for the country, in the absence of a clear popular consensus supporting Trump’s removal. It might not be good politics for 2020, with voters more concerned about bread-and-butter issues. Even if the House votes to impeach, a two-thirds Senate vote to remove Trump from office seems almost inconceivable.

But if Trump escapes unscathed, future presidents will take notice. The cautionary tale of Watergate will be superseded by the Trump triumph and its very different lesson: In the hyperpolarized political environment of the early 21st century, the president is a law unto himself.

Andrew Coan is a professor of law at the University of Arizona and the author of “Prosecuting the President: How Special Prosecutors Hold Presidents Accountable and Protect the Rule of Law.”

Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder arrested in London

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder arrested in London

Media caption Video footage shows Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court.

He now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets.

The UK will decide whether to extradite Assange, in response to allegations by the Department for Justice that he conspired with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download classified databases.

He faces up to five years in US prison if convicted on the charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.

She said she had visited Assange in the police cells where he thanked supporters and said: “I told you so.”

Assange had predicted that he would face extradition to the US if he left the embassy.

What happened in court?

Sketch of Julia Assange at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 11 April 2019Image copyright JULIA QUENZLER, BBC

After his arrest, the 47-year-old Australian national was initially taken to a central London police station before appearing in court.

Dressed in a black suit and black polo shirt, he waved to the public gallery and gave a thumbs up. He pleaded not guilty to the 2012 charge of failing to surrender to the court.

Finding him guilty of that charge, District Judge Michael Snow said Assange’s behaviour was “the behaviour of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest”.

He sent him to Southwark Crown Court for sentencing, where he faces up to 12 months in prison.

The court also heard that during his arrest at the embassy he had to be restrained and shouted: “This is unlawful, I am not leaving.”

Julian Assange pictured in a police vanImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Assange gave a thumbs up as he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court in a police van

Why does the US government want to extradite Assange?

Assange set up Wikileaks in 2006 with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images.

The organisation hit the headlines four years later when it released footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.

Former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website.

She said she only did so to spark debates about foreign policy, but US officials said the leak put lives at risk.

She was found guilty by a court martial in 2013 of charges including espionage. However, her jail sentence was later commuted.

Manning was recently jailed for refusing to testify before an investigation into Wikileaks’ role in revealing the secret files.

What are the US charges against him?

The indictment against Assange, issued last year in the state of Virginia, alleges that he conspired in 2010 with Manning to access classified information on Department of Defense computers. He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning downloaded four databases from US departments and agencies between January and May 2010, the indictment says. This information, much of which was classified, was provided to Wikileaks.

The US Justice Department described it as “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”.

Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn HrafnssonImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson say the arrest sets a dangerous precedent

Cracking a password stored on the computers, the indictment alleges, would have allowed Manning to log on to them in such a way as to make it harder for investigators to determine the source of the disclosures. It is unclear whether the password was actually broken.

Correspondents say the narrowness of the charge seems intended to avoid falling foul of the US Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press.

Why did the Ecuadorian embassy stop protecting him?

The Wikileaks co-founder had been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation.

The investigation into the alleged rape, which he denied, was later dropped because he had evaded the arrest warrant. The Swedish Prosecution Authority has said it is now considering whether to resume the inquiry before the statute of limitations runs out in August 2020.

Scotland Yard said it was invited into the embassy on Thursday by the ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.

Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno said the country had “reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange”.

Mr Moreno said: “The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when Wikileaks leaked Vatican documents.

“This and other publications have confirmed the world’s suspicion that Mr Assange is still linked to WikiLeaks and therefore involved in interfering in internal affairs of other states.”

His accusations against Assange also included blocking security cameras at the embassy, accessing security files and confronting guards.

Julian AssangeImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Julian Assange outside the embassy in 2017

Mr Moreno said the British government had confirmed in writing that Assange “would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty”.

The arrest comes a day after Wikileaks said it had uncovered an extensive spying operation against its co-founder at the Ecuadorian embassy.

There has been a long-running dispute between the Ecuadorian authorities and Assange about what he was and was not allowed to do in the embassy.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said that over the years they had removed his access to the internet and accused him of engaging in political activities – which is not allowed when claiming asylum.

He said: “Precisely what has happened in the embassy is not clear – there has been claim and counter claim.”

How have people reacted?

Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons: “This goes to show that in the UK, no one is above the law.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the arrest was the result of “years of careful diplomacy” and that it was “not acceptable” for someone to “escape facing justice”.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that Assange had revealed “evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan” and his extradition “should be opposed by the British government”.

Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders said that the UK should resist extradition, because it would “set a dangerous precedent for journalists, whistleblowers, and other journalistic sources that the US may wish to pursue in the future”.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said he would continue to receive “the usual consular support” and that consular officers will try to visit him.

And actress Pamela Anderson, who has visited the embassy to support Assange, said the arrest was a “vile injustice”.


Timeline: Julian Assange saga

  • August 2010 – The Swedish Prosecutor’s Office first issues an arrest warrant for Assange. It says there are two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation. Assange says the claims are “without basis”
  • December 2010 – Assange is arrested in London and bailed at the second attempt
  • May 2012 – The UK’s Supreme Court rules he should be extradited to Sweden to face questioning over the allegations
  • June 2012 – Assange enters the Ecuadorean embassy in London
  • August 2012 – Ecuador grants asylum to Assange, saying there are fears his human rights might be violated if he is extradited
  • August 2015 – Swedish prosecutors drop their investigation into two allegations – one of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion because they have run out of time to question him. But he still faces the more serious accusation of rape.
  • October 2015 – Metropolitan Police announces that officers will no longer be stationed outside the Ecuadorean embassy
  • February 2016 – A UN panel rules that Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” by UK and Swedish authorities since 2010
  • May 2017 – Sweden’s director of public prosecutions announces that the rape investigation into Assange is being dropped
  • July 2018 – The UK and Ecuador confirm they are holding ongoing talks over the fate of Assange
  • October 2018 – Assange is given a set of house rules at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He then launches legal action against the government of Ecuador
  • December 2018 – Assange’s lawyer rejects an agreement announced by Ecuador’s president to see him leave the Ecuadorean embassy
  • February 2019 – Australia grants Assange a new passport amid fears Ecuador may bring his asylum to an end
  • April 2019 – The Metropolitan Police arrests him for “failing to surrender to the court” over a warrant issued in 2012. He is found guilty and faces up to 12 months in prison, as well as extradition over US charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

Black Church Fires: Louisiana Deputy Turns In 21 Year Old Son For Arrest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

Last Updated Apr 11, 2019 10:07 AM EDT

Police arrested the 21-year-old son of a sheriff’s deputy in connection to fires at three historically black churches in one Louisiana Parish in just 10 days. CBS News has learned it was the suspect’s father, Deputy Roy Matthews, who turned him in to authorities. The fires were devastating to the St. Landry Parish community.

Investigators arrested suspect Holden Matthews Wednesday evening. He was charged Thursday morning with three counts of simple arson of a religious building.The maximum penalty for each counts is 15 years in prison.

Matthews’ social media shows he had an interest in black metal music and is the lead singer for a band called Vodka Vultures. Records show Matthews lives in Saint Landry Parish, where the churches burned just a few miles apart. Police have not yet revealed a motive.

The churches were empty at the time of each fire and no one was hurt.

Earlier this week, the NAACP said the church burnings were “domestic terrorism,” targeting people because of their skin color and faith.

Attacks on black churches have long been used as a way to intimidate the black community, most notably during the civil rights era. Though police in Saint Landry Parish have heightened security at nearby churches, parishioners have not stopped their Sunday worship and all the pastors say they will rebuild.

The fires began on March 26 at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre followed by Greater Union Baptist on April 2 and  Mount Pleasant Baptist Church on April 4.

“There’s still people that need to be helped, there’s still ministry that has to be done, so we can’t let this setback stop us from doing what God has initially called us to do,” said Pastor Kyle Sylvester of St. Mary’s Baptist Church.

The FBI and ATF have been assisting local police with the investigation.

Authorities say they will announce “significant updates” at a press conference Thursday morning with Louisiana’s governor.

FBI joins criminal probe into Boeing 737 safety certification

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

FBI joins criminal probe into Boeing 737 Max 8 safety certification in wake of crashes

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The FBI has joined the widening criminal probe into how Boeing’s 737 Max 8 jets were deemed as safe in the months before two of them crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, leading to a worldwide grounding of the vaunted planes amid scrutiny of U.S. certification standards.

A person familiar with the inquiry told USA TODAY on Wednesday that the FBI is assisting federal transportation authorities in their investigation into the jet’s certification process, which has come under criticism for possible cozy relationships between Boeing and FAA inspectors.

The two crashes killed more than 300 people since October. Transportation Department officials are leading the investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration approval of the passenger jet, while the FBI is providing needed resources, said the person, who is not authorized to comment publicly.

The FBI’s role in the inquiry was first reported by the Seattle Times.

It’s the latest revelation in the Boeing case, with a federal grand jury also looking into safety approvals for the planes and a key congressional panel scheduled next Wednesday to delve into the Max 8 and aviation safety in general.

“In light of the recent tragedy in Ethiopia and the subsequent grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, this hearing will examine challenges to the state of commercial aviation safety, including any specific concerns highlighted by recent accidents,” according to a statement from the committee, to be chaired by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. “The committee will hear from a panel of government witnesses on ways to improve the safety of the commercial air transportation system”

News of the FBI’s involvement also comes after Wednesday’s  decision by Europe and Canada to break with U.S. air-safety regulators. The Europeans and Canadians vow to conduct their own reviews of Boeing’s changes to a key flight-control system, not to simply take the Federal Aviation Administration’s word that the alterations are safe.

Those reviews scramble an ambitious schedule set by Boeing and could undercut the FAA’s reputation around the world. It could also mean a likely delay in the resumption of Max 8 flights around the globe. Hundreds of Max 8s are ground and production of more than 4,000 others have been halted amid safety concerns.

Boeing hopes by Monday to finish its update to critical software that can automatically point the nose of the plane sharply downward in some circumstances to avoid an aerodynamic stall, according to two people briefed on FAA presentations to congressional committees.

The FAA expects to certify Boeing’s modifications and plans for pilot training in April or May, one of the people told the Associated Press. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the briefings.

But there are doubts about meeting that timetable. Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1 and suspend some routes that it flew with the plane before it was grounded around the world last week.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, which are slightly less dependent on the Max than Air Canada, are juggling their fleets to fill in for grounded planes, but have still canceled some flights.

By international agreement, planes must be certified in the country where they are built. Regulators around the world have almost always accepted that country’s decision.

As a result, European airlines have flown Boeing jets with little independent review by the European Aviation Safety Agency, and U.S. airlines operate Airbus jets without a separate, lengthy certification process by the FAA.

That practice is being frayed, however, in the face of growing questions about the FAA’s certification of the Max. Critics question whether the FAA relied too much on Boeing to vouch for critical safety matters and whether it understood the significance of a new automated flight-control system on the Max.

CONTRIBUTING: Ledyard King, USA TODAY; Associated Press

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