Monday, 30 September 2019

Giuliani says he will cooperate with Trump impeachment inquiry — only if the president gives him the green light

Giuliani says he will cooperate with Trump impeachment inquiry — only if the president gives him the green lightPresident Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said Sunday he would cooperate the House impeachment inquiry, but only if directed by his client.




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Utah woman says bison flipped her into air, broke her ankle

Utah woman says bison flipped her into air, broke her ankleKayleigh Davis was hiking on a trail Friday evening at Antelope Island State Park in Utah chasing the sunset, when she was suddenly, violently, flipped into the air by a bison. When she looked up, the bison was hovering over her. The incident left her with a broken ankle and a gash on her leg.




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Mohammed bin Salman says he takes 'full responsibility' for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi but denies that he ordered it

Mohammed bin Salman says he takes 'full responsibility' for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi but denies that he ordered itSpeaking to CBS News' "60 Minutes," the Saudi Crown Prince admitted that Khashoggi's murder was a "heinous crime" but denied his involvement.




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GOP Congressman Says ‘Troubling Issues’ in Whistleblower’s Report Should Be Investigated

GOP Congressman Says ‘Troubling Issues’ in Whistleblower’s Report Should Be InvestigatedRepublican congressman Will Hurd said Sunday that lawmakers should investigate the "troubling" allegations in the whistleblower report against President Trump but cautioned against a rush to impeachment.“Having laws in place to ensure that folks throughout the government are able to get to the right committees information where they think may be wrongdoing is important," the Texas Republican said on CBS. "There are troubling issues within the whistleblower’s report, but they are allegations, and I think that’s why we should explore these allegations through hearings.”Hurd added that a top priority should be protecting the whistleblower, although he said he finds it "highly unlikely in this incredibly partisan environment" that the individual's identity will be protected, an "unfortunate" result.The former undercover CIA officer noted the secondhand nature of some of the whistleblower's information and said investigators must "be methodical" and not "rush it" in order to "get to the bottom" of the accusations against Trump.House speaker Nancy Pelosi last week announced the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump, amid accusations that he withheld military aid from Ukraine in an effort to prompt a Ukrainian investigation of Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden."An impeachment inquiry, I think this is wordplay being used by Speaker Pelosi in order to placate some of the extreme wings of her party," Hurd said. "The last three times there was an impeachment inquiry of a president it was a vote on the House floor and it was done in a bipartisan way."“Anybody who thinks that we have enough information to make a statement on impeachment, that’s incredibly premature,” the congressman warned.Some Democrats have been attempting to launch impeachment since Trump's inauguration, he noted.Hurd, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, also took a shot at committee chairman Adam Schiff, saying Schiff is conducting the impeachment investigation like a "tribal council on 'Survivor' and we're voting somebody off the island," referring to the hit reality television show.The whistleblower, an anonymous member of the intelligence community, is expected to appear soon before the intelligence committee.




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Chinese ambassador: We are doing our part to combat the opioid crisis

Chinese ambassador: We are doing our part to combat the opioid crisisChina wants to do what it can to make sure an end to this issue is reached. We must emphasize though, that this problem is not ultimately our own.




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Impeachment Doesn’t Shake Trump Voters But Sows Doubt on Biden

Impeachment Doesn’t Shake Trump Voters But Sows Doubt on Biden(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump may have risked impeachment in an attempt to tar Joe Biden with scandal, but he appears to have accomplished two political goals -- sowing doubts about a leading rival while incurring little damage among his most ardent supporters.Interviews with voters across the country in recent days found few have changed their minds about the president as a result of the Trump-Ukraine scandal.As with previous controversies, Trump’s supporters said they were sure he had done nothing wrong, while his critics said they thought it was obvious that he had. It was Biden who may suffer the most, as even some who support the impeachment inquiry said they now had questions about what Biden’s son, Hunter, did in Ukraine.Robin Wade, 58, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to vote for him again. The former teacher, now on disability, thought Democrats were “making a mockery out of our country” by opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s pressuring of the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden.“What’s wrong with the president of the United States saying, ‘Check this guy out?’” she asked.Keith Justice, 54, of Dayton, Ohio, who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, was equally convinced that Trump had done something wrong. The owner of a center for people with developmental disabilities said the office of the presidency should be held to a higher standard.“President Trump is abusing the office bigly -- isn’t that the word he used?” he said.Polls show that views of Trump have long been hardened. His Gallup approval rating has stayed within an 11-point range, compared to the 30-point average difference between highs and lows for every other president since World War II during the same time in office.Trump’s strategy of focusing exclusively on his base is not without risk. An average of surveys taken after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement last week of an impeachment inquiry show 46% of Americans support impeachment while 42% oppose it.But Trump won in 2016 in large part because the Democratic nominee was dragged down by scandals he helped publicize. Clinton, who left her post as Secretary of State in 2013 with a 69% approval rating, ended up as the second-most unpopular major-party presidential nominee in modern history, just behind Trump.His attempt to repeat that zero-sum strategy in 2020 may already be working.Accountant Emsie Hapner, 25, of Dayton, voted for Clinton in 2016. She said she’s crossing her fingers that Trump is impeached.“It doesn’t excuse the use of the office of the presidency to find that information out for personal gain,” she said about Trump. “Whether or not Joe Biden has things to answer for is a separate issue.”Retiree Chuck Christiansen, 66, of Burlington, Wisconsin, said that Biden isn’t blameless, but compared to Trump any misdeeds of his would be “a grain of salt on the beach.”On the face of it, the questions raised about Trump and Biden aren’t comparable.Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have admitted that they repeatedly asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation that would damage Biden, an improper and possibly illegal request for a foreign government to help fight a political rival. And in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy, the request came right after a discussion of desperately needed military aid for Ukraine that had been put on hold.At the same time, there’s not much of a case against Biden. As vice president, he carried out Obama administration policy to join European countries and other entities in pressuring Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general. An investigation by that prosecutor into Burisma Holdings, an energy company Hunter Biden was a director of, had been dormant for a year at the time.But some voters said the dueling allegations are exactly what they dislike about politics.Caregiver Kathy Lowery, 61, of McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, said that she hates the constant pettiness she sees politicians engaging in.“I’m just so sick of them -- of both parties. It’s like schoolyard bull. This one kicks dirt so that one has to kick more dirt,” said Lowery, who said she voted for Clinton in 2016, with misgivings. “That’s why I don’t even watch all that much news anymore. I had it on this morning and I was thinking ‘OK, all of you lie. Just shut up. Just shut up. I just can’t even.’”Polls show that trust in government is at a historic low, with only 17% of Americans telling the Pew Research Center this year that they trust Washington to do what’s right all or most of the time, down from three-fourths when the annual survey began in 1958.The perception that politicians are corrupt plays a big role in that. A 2018 survey by the Wall Street Journal found that 77% of registered voters ranked reducing the influence of special interests and corruption as a top issue.For many voters, the Trump-Ukraine scandal was just the latest example.Lana Weldon, 65, of Beavercreek, Ohio, is a Republican, but she didn’t vote in 2016 because she didn’t like Trump or Clinton.“The people have a right to find out the truth,” she said. “Can we really find out the truth though? I feel like politics has a way of hiding everything.”Weldon, a paralegal, said she isn’t sure that Trump should be president because he’s “kind of a hot head,” but she wasn’t sure what to believe about Biden.“Again, how do we know what’s the truth?” she said. “Is there anybody that tells the truth out there? I don’t know what to think about it. I’m confused about that too.”Vacationing in Venice Beach, California, Washington D.C. resident and Clinton voter Nor Villa, 28, was also jaded.“Politicians in general are liars, so you just do your best,” he said.\--With assistance from Emma Kinery, Jeff Green, Tyler Pager, Mario Parker and Mark Niquette.To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Teague Beckwith in New York at rbeckwith3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Ros KrasnyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




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3 big reasons Biden is no longer the definitive 2020 Democratic primary frontrunner

3 big reasons Biden is no longer the definitive 2020 Democratic primary frontrunnerThe more voters see of Biden, the less they like him. And the more they see of his main rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the more they like her.




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CNN's Jake Tapper politely shreds GOP Rep. Jim Jordan's Trump-Ukraine talking points

CNN's Jake Tapper politely shreds GOP Rep. Jim Jordan's Trump-Ukraine talking pointsActing White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney "is on shaky ground in the wake of a bad week for President Trump," CNN reports, largely because he didn't immediately "have a strategy for defending and explaining the contents" of a reconstructed transcript of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) tried his hand Sunday with the White House's subsequent talking points. CNN's Jake Tapper wasn't having it.Jordan alleged that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine to fire top prosecutor Viktor Shokin to help out his lawyer son, Hunter Biden, who had recently gotten a seat on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma. "That's not what happened," Tapper said, noting repeatedly that Shokin was ousted because he wasn't prosecuting people and the Ukrainian investigations related to Burisma's owner were dormant when Hunter Biden was hired. Shokin "wasn't going after corruption -- do you understand what I'm saying?" Tapper asked.Jordan kept hitting on the younger Biden's reported salary, and Tapper eventually stopped him. "If you want to push a law saying that the children of presidents and vice presidents should not be doing international business deals, I'm all for it," Tapper said. "But you're setting a standard that is not being met right now." He gave examples from Trump's children."I'm just telling you what happened," Jordan said. "No, you're not," Tapper said. "It's amazing the gymnastics you'll go through to defend what --" Jordan began, and Tapper brought up accusations from Ohio State wresters that Jordan turned a blind eye to sexual abuse by the team doctor: "Sir, it's not gymnastics -- it's facts! And I would think somebody who's been accused of things in the last year and two would be more sensitive about throwing out wild allegations against people.""I understand you want to change the subject," Tapper said, after Jordan began jumping down 2016 rabbit holes, "but the president was pushing the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival. I cannot believe that that is okay with you."If you are interested in the Hunter Biden story, a former New York Times reporter runs down at The Intercept how Trump, Giuliani, and "the right-wing spin machine" inverted his 2015 reporting on the Bidens, and The Washington Post has a longer look at the Bidens in Ukraine and this helpful explainer.




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UPDATE 3-San Francisco tour guide charged with carrying U.S. secrets to China

UPDATE 3-San Francisco tour guide charged with carrying U.S. secrets to ChinaA San Francisco tour guide has been charged with being an agent of the Chinese government, accused of picking up U.S. national security secrets from furtive locations and delivering them cloak and dagger style to Beijing, federal prosecutors said on Monday. Xuehua Peng, also known as Edward Peng, was arrested on Friday in the San Francisco suburb of Hayward, California, and was denied bail during an initial court appearance by a U.S. magistrate judge that same day, federal prosecutors said at a Monday morning news conference. "Defendant Xuehua (Edward) Peng is charged with executing dead drops, delivering payments, and personally carrying to Beijing, China, secure digital cards containing classified information related to the national security of the United States," Anderson said.




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Al-Shabaab attacks US base, EU convoy in Somalia

Al-Shabaab attacks US base, EU convoy in SomaliaThe Al-Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on a US base in Somalia on Monday, as the European Union confirmed a separate strike against a convoy of Italian advisers. The raid on the base prompted a counter-attack by US forces who staged "two air strikes and used small arms fire targeting al-Shabaab terrorists," Major General William Gayler, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) director of operations said, adding that 10 "terrorists" died and a vehicle was destroyed.




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Republican leadership memo suggests Senate can't block trial if House votes to impeach

Republican leadership memo suggests Senate can't block trial if House votes to impeachRepublican leadership clarified that the Senate must take action if the lower chamber approves articles of impeachment against President Trump.




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A passenger filmed the engine cover coming off a United Airlines plane, which was forced to turn back to the airport

A passenger filmed the engine cover coming off a United Airlines plane, which was forced to turn back to the airportUnited Airlines flight 293 had to turn back to Denver International Airport over what United called a "mechanical issue with one of the engines."




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Amtrak crash: Why train rammed into CSX freight cars, killing 2 and injuring 91, per NTSB

Amtrak crash: Why train rammed into CSX freight cars, killing 2 and injuring 91, per NTSBA CSX freight train conduc tor failed to throw the correct switch, leading to the crash that jackknifed the Amtrak train




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Rudy Giuliani's television appearances reportedly led to his congressional subpoena

Rudy Giuliani's television appearances reportedly led to his congressional subpoenaBe careful about what you say on television, kids.President Trump's personal lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was issued a subpoena by Congress on Monday in relation to the House's impeachment inquiry of President Trump over his communications with Ukraine's government. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), sent a joint letter compelling Giuliani to produce key documents that could aid the inquiry by Oct. 15.> BREAKING: Giuliani subpoenaed pic.twitter.com/ult4WCMVHo> > -- Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 30, 2019Giuliani reportedly landed himself in such a position, in part, because he said on CNN that he asked Ukraine's government government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden over his activities in Ukraine. The committee chairs also wrote that Giuliani has stated he possesses evidence indicating he did not act alone in his dealings with Ukraine, and that there is a "growing public record" of information indicating he pressed Kyiv to investigate Ukrainians who provided evidence against Trump's convicted campaign chair, Paul Manafort.Giuliani was reportedly expecting to be subpoenaed and has said he would cooperate if Trump asked him to. Read more at The Washington Post.




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California man arrested after leading police on 2-hour chase through corn maze

California man arrested after leading police on 2-hour chase through corn mazeA California man was caught and arrested by police Saturday morning, but not before he managed to elude them for two hours while hiding inside a corn maze.




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CBS News poll: Majority of Americans, Democrats approve impeachment inquiry

CBS News poll: Majority of Americans, Democrats approve impeachment inquiryMore than half of Americans — and an overwhelming number of Democrats — say they approve of the fact that Congress has opened an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. But as the inquiry begins, there is no national consensus on how to assess the president's actions.




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Floods kill 113 in north India in late monsoon burst, jail, hospital submerged

Floods kill 113 in north India in late monsoon burst, jail, hospital submergedHeavy rains have killed at least 113 people in India's Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states over the past three days, officials said on Monday, as flood waters swamped a major city, inundated hospital wards and forced the evacuation of inmates from a jail. India's monsoon season that begins in June usually starts to retreat by early September, but heavy rains have continued across parts of the country this year, triggering floods. An official said that at least 93 people had died in most populous Uttar Pradesh since Friday after its eastern areas were lashed by intense monsoon showers.




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Motorist was killed after looking at another driver the wrong way, Phoenix police say

Motorist was killed after looking at another driver the wrong way, Phoenix police sayPolice say Nicolas Elliott shot and killed another motorist "for merely looking at him while stopped at a red traffic light."




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Sunday, 29 September 2019

Sanchez Calls on Catalan Leaders to Repudiate Acts of Violence

Sanchez Calls on Catalan Leaders to Repudiate Acts of Violence(Bloomberg) -- Spain’s acting Prime Minister called on leaders of Catalonia’s independence movement to repudiate violence in any form as the country braces for protests that could follow the trial of separatist leaders.“Their error has been total,” Pedro Sanchez told a meeting of Socialist Party officials in Madrid, referring to the leaders of the Catalan independence campaign. “I ask them to condemn any kind of violence.”The verdict is due soon in a trial of 12 leaders over a bid in 2017 to split Catalonia from Spain, raising the prospect of protests if they are found guilty of charges including rebellion. On Sept. 23, Spanish police arrested nine pro-independence activists on suspicion of terrorism after they were found to have materials that could be used to prepare explosives.“They want to demobilize us. They want to frighten us. They will not succeed,” Joaquim Torra, the pro-independence president of Catalonia, said on Twitter after the arrests.To contact the reporter on this story: Charles Penty in Madrid at cpenty@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Marion Dakers, Jacqueline MackenzieFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




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How about a Bipartisan Treaty against the Criminalization of Elections?

How about a Bipartisan Treaty against the Criminalization of Elections?Back home in the Bronx is where I first heard the old saw about the Irishman who, coming upon a donnybrook at the local pub, asks a bystander: “Is this a private fight or can anybody join?”I was a much younger fellow then. The prospect becomes less alluring with age, so I have some trepidation stepping in between two old friends, Andrew Napolitano and Joe DiGenova. Through intermediary hosts, the pair -- Napolitano a former New Jersey Superior Court jurist and law professor, DiGenova a former United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and prominent defense lawyer -- brawled this week on Fox News (where I, like they, contribute regularly).I’m going to steer clear of the pugnacious to-ing and fro-ing. Let’s consider the intriguing legal issue that ignited it.Judge Napolitano argues that the July 25 conversation between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky contains the makings of a campaign-finance crime. He highlights Trump’s request for Ukraine’s help in investigating then–vice president Joe Biden. In 2016, Biden pressured Kyiv to drop a corruption investigation of Burisma, a natural gas company that paid Biden’s son, Hunter, big bucks to sit on its board.Biden, of course, is one of the favorites for the Democratic presidential nomination. Napolitano reasons that the information Trump sought from Ukraine would be a form of “opposition research” that could be seen as an in-kind donation to Trump’s reelection campaign, which should be deemed illegal because the law prohibits foreign contributions and attempts to acquire them. (Napolitano also raised the “arguable” possibility of a bribery offense, on the theory that Trump was withholding defense aid as a corrupt quid pro quo to get the Biden information. But he emphasized the foreign contribution issue. That is his stronger argument, and I am focusing on it, given that the Trump-Zelensky transcript does not support a quid pro quo demand; plus bribery, in any event, raises the same “thing of value” proof problems addressed below.)DiGenova strongly disagrees. Though there wasn’t much time to elaborate, he is clearly relying on the lack of past campaign-law prosecutions on similar facts. DiGenova is also voicing the prudent conservative hostility to campaign-finance laws: Any expansion of criminal liability would necessarily restrict political speech, the core of First Amendment liberty.I’m with DiGenova on this, but it’s a closer question than he suggests. Napolitano’s construction of the campaign laws, while not wholly implausible, is purely academic. It ignores real-world concerns about free speech and the prosecutor’s burden to prove intent.Most of the commentary on this has been very politicized (surprise!). For dyed-in-the-wool anti-Trumpers, no technicality is too trifling to be a felony. For the Trump base, it’s all a witch hunt. In light of this, the most helpful source we can turn to is the Mueller Report. (File in: Sentences I’d Have Bet My Life I’d Never Write.)Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team overflowed with partisan Democrats, and their report could have been entitled “Roadmap to Impeachment.” While they faced complications (that I’ve addressed) in making a case against the president, the prosecutors were not inhibited when it came to other subjects of the investigation. They’d have loved to nail Donald Trump Jr. But the only thing they had was the notorious Trump Tower Meeting of June 2016, when Don Jr. orchestrated a meeting with a Kremlin-tied lawyer (Natalya Veselnitskaya) in an effort to obtain Russian dirt to be used against Hillary Clinton. Veselnitskaya supplied information, but it was a dud.The campaign-finance offense that Napolitano urges be charged against President Trump appears to be the same one Mueller considered charging against Don Jr. The Mueller team’s analysis (Vol. 1, pp. 186-187) is thus on point. And it is frustratingly ambiguous -- as befits the constitutionally dubious campaign-finance laws.Two offense elements proved to be stumbling blocks for the prosecutors. The first is the question whether opposition research is a “thing of value” under federal law. Mueller’s team assumed that, in theory, it might be (the Napolitano view), but that to interpret it as such would break new ground and raise troubling First Amendment issues (the DiGenova position).The second problem was the intent element. As I’ve observed before, regulatory crimes are not innately wrong (in contrast to, say, murder or robbery). They are illegal only because we choose to make them illegal (for you Latinists out there, they are malum prohibitum). Because the conduct is not wrong in itself (malum in se), the law requires a higher degree of malevolent intent before it can be criminalized. Prosecutors must prove willfulness, which very nearly reverses the adage that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” The defendant must be shown to have known that his intentional conduct was illegal -- not merely unsavory but actually prohibited by law. The Mueller team concluded that they could not have hoped to prove willfulness beyond a reasonable doubt.So, while there might be some conceivable scenario in which acquiring information from a foreign source for use in a campaign could be a federal crime, it is highly unlikely -- so unlikely that some Type A prosecutors wisely decided that the huzzahs they’d have gotten for indicting the president’s son were outweighed by the humiliation they’d endure when the case inevitably got thrown out of court.The Mueller report is also worth considering because the campaign-finance charge the prosecutors rejected is stronger than would be any similar charge against President Trump arising out of the Zelensky call. That, no doubt, is why the Justice Department summarily declined prosecution.To hear the media-Democrat complex tell it, DOJ declined because it is beholden to the president and Attorney General Barr is acting as Trump’s lawyer, not the government’s chief prosecutor. No one who actually took five minutes to read the relevant section of the Mueller Report would see it that way. Moreover, the fact that the president is president complicates matters not only politically but legally.Trump detractors hyper-focus on the president’s request that President Zelensky provide Attorney General Barr with any information Ukraine might have about Biden twisting arms to quash an investigation involving his son’s cashing in on dad’s influence. I say “hyper-focus” because there was a lot more to it than that. Long before the conversation came around to the Biden topic, the “favor” that Trump asked for was Zelensky’s assistance in Barr’s ongoing investigation of the genesis of the Trump-Russia investigation.No matter how much Democrats seek to discredit that probe and the AG overseeing it, it is a legitimate investigation conducted by the United States Department of Justice, which has prosecutors assigned and grand jury subpoena power. It is examining questionable Justice Department and FBI conduct. It is considering whether irregularities rise to the level of crimes. It will be essential to Congress’s consideration of whether laws need to be enacted or modified to insulate our election campaigns from politicized use of the government’s counterintelligence and law-enforcement powers.I mention all this because it is a commonplace for the government to seek assistance from foreign counterparts for ongoing federal investigations.Indeed, as Marc Thiessen pointed out this week in an important Washington Post column, Democratic senators pressured Ukraine to cooperate with the Mueller probe -- notwithstanding the obvious potential electoral ramifications and the specter of “foreign interference in our democracy.” These requests for assistance often occur at the head-of-state level. When I was a federal prosecutor in the mid-nineties, for example, the FBI and Justice Department asked President Clinton to intervene with Saudi authorities to assist the investigation of Iranian complicity in the Khobar Towers bombing.There is nothing wrong with our government’s requesting the assistance of foreign governments that have access to witnesses and evidence relevant to an ongoing Justice Department investigation. The president is the democratically elected, constitutionally empowered chief executive: There is nothing his subordinates may properly do that he may not do himself (it is his power that they exercise). And the president is never conflicted out of executive branch business due to his political interests. There is no legal or ethical requirement that the Justice Department be denied potentially probative evidence because obtaining it might affect the president’s political fortunes.There was no impropriety in President Trump’s asking Ukraine’s president to assist the Justice Department’s investigation of Russiagate’s origins. Okay, you say, but what does that have to do with Biden?Well, Biden was the Obama administration’s point man in dealing with Kyiv after Viktor Yanukovych fled in 2014. That course of dealing came to include Obama administration agencies leaning on Ukraine to assist the FBI in the investigation of Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman. So, Biden’s interaction with Ukraine is germane: The fact that he had sufficient influence to coerce the firing of a prosecutor; the fact that, while Biden was strongly influencing international economic aid for Kyiv, a significant Ukrainian energy company thought it expedient to bring Biden’s son onto its board and compensate him lavishly -- although Hunter Biden had no experience in the industry.That aside, I do not understand why there has not been more public discussion of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in light of the instances of Hunter Biden conveniently cashing in with foreign firms while his dad was shaping American policy toward those firm’s governments. As we saw with the collusion caper, it does not take much evidence of any crime for the FBI and the Justice Department to open an investigation and scorch the earth in conducting it. And if it would have been legit for the Justice Department to open an FCPA investigation of one or both of the Bidens, then it was appropriate for President Trump to ask President Zelensky to help the Justice Department determine if an FCPA crime took place – even if doing so could have affected the 2020 fortunes of Biden and Trump.Don’t get me wrong: I am not rooting for Joe Biden or his son to be subjected to investigation and prosecution. I agree with Attorney General Barr that there has been too much politicization of law enforcement and intelligence. In the absence of a concrete, patent, and serious violation of the criminal law, I want the Justice Department and the FBI out of politics – which would be better for them and for politics. If you think there is an indecorous heavy-handedness to the way Donald Trump and Joe Biden conduct foreign policy, that’s fine – go vote against them on Election Day. We don’t need creative prosecutors deciding elections by testing the boundaries of abstruse statutes.Neither, however, do I believe in unilateral disarmament. There is at least as much basis for opening an FCPA investigation against the Bidens as for opening campaign-finance investigations against the Trumps. If I had my druthers, all of this nonsense would end. But as I detailed earlier this week, we have one candidate for the presidency -- a once-serious legal scholar and practitioner -- who publicly and straight-faced says Trump’s call with Zelensky could rate the death penalty. As we saw in the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton got to experience the independent-counsel statute up close and personal, maybe it takes Democrats being hoisted on their own petard before we finally say: This has to stop.




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French police break up yellow vest protest with tear gas

French police break up yellow vest protest with tear gasFrench police repeatedly used tear gas and water cannons to break up a protest Saturday by nearly a 1,000 yellow vest demonstrators in the southwest city of Toulouse. Police there said four officers were slightly injured and nine demonstrators arrested for offences including throwing projectiles. A police statement in Toulouse said officers made five arrests after being targeted by missiles thrown by some of the protesters.




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Terrorism charge filed against man who crashed car into Woodfield Mall near Chicago

Terrorism charge filed against man who crashed car into Woodfield Mall near ChicagoThe man who slammed his SUV into a suburban Chicago mall has been formally charged with terrorism and criminal damage to property, authorities said.




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A Nevada Congressman is the first House Republican to support the Trump impeachment inquiry

A Nevada Congressman is the first House Republican to support the Trump impeachment inquiryRep. Mark Amodei, a four-term member of Congress, said he was not expressing support for impeachment, but wants the inquiry.




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'Front-row seat to history': The monumental week that changed impeachment and sent Congress into chaos

'Front-row seat to history': The monumental week that changed impeachment and sent Congress into chaosFrom frantic journalists swarming lawmakers to a news cycle that wouldn't slow, members of Congress saw a week of consequence and chaos that made impeaching President Donald Trump a possible reality.




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Rudy Giuliani claims he's 'the real whistleblower' and that no one will know the real story on Trump and Ukraine 'if I get killed'

Rudy Giuliani claims he's 'the real whistleblower' and that no one will know the real story on Trump and Ukraine 'if I get killed'Giuliani told Politico he believes he deserves whistleblower protection, but his attempts to defend himself have only further incriminated him.




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Former British leader defends Biden Ukraine scenario

Former British leader defends Biden Ukraine scenarioFormer British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday supported the explanation offered as to why Vice President Joe Biden pressured the president of Ukraine in 2015 to crack down on corruption. Supporters of President Donald Trump — particularly his attorney Rudy Giuliani — have argued that Trump’s much-criticized July 25 phone call with the current president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, was appropriate because Biden had been corrupt in pushing Poroshenko to get rid of the state prosecutor.




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Kremlin warns US against releasing private calls between Putin and Trump amid Ukraine scandal

Kremlin warns US against releasing private calls between Putin and Trump amid Ukraine scandalRussia has warned the US against publishing private conversations between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump as it emerged the White House may have restricted access to the president’s conversations with multiple world leaders. The comment was in response to the White House’s decision to publish a transcript of Mr Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after Democrats announced the beginning of a formal impeachment investigation into whether the US president pressured his counterpart to interfere in the 2020 election. Asked if Moscow is worried about transcripts of Mr Trump’s calls with the Russian President being similarly released, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "we would like to hope that it wouldn’t come to that in our relations, which are already troubled by a lot of problems." "The materials related to conversations between heads of states are usually classified according to normal international practice," he added. The publication of the call, in which Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky made critical comments about German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, has drawn acerbic comments from other Russian officials. "We are waiting for the party to continue," said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. "Let them publish transcripts of conversations between NATO allies. It would also be useful to publish minutes of closed meetings at the CIA, the FBI and the Pentagon. Put it all on air!" Ms Zakharova also scoffed at Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to open an impeachment inquiry based on the call. "Is it the Democrats' job to make a laughing stock of the United States?" she said. "It's exactly what Ms Pelosi has done to Congress, the White House and other state institutions." A whistleblower complaint at the centre of the Ukrainian scandal claimed White House lawyers had ordered a verbatim transcript of the call between Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky to be stored on a separate computer system to limit the number of people who could access it. US media reports suggest similar tactics were used with Mr Trump’s calls with other leaders, including Mr Putin and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman. Current and former administration officials told CNN that at least one phone call with the crown prince in the aftermath of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was never circulated to the officials who would usually be given access to it. Access to at least one transcript of a call with Mr Putin was also tightly restricted, according to a former Trump administration official. The White House has not yet commented on the claims.




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White House adviser says Trump 'is the whistleblower’

White House adviser says Trump 'is the whistleblower’White House senior adviser Stephen Miller defended President Trump’s attempts to have the Ukrainian president open an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, claiming on Sunday that the scandal was a “political hit job” by the “deep state” and that Trump was really the “whistleblower.”




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Trump-Supporting Lawyers diGenova and Toensing Teamed Up With Giuliani to Dig Up Ukraine Dirt on Biden: Report

Trump-Supporting Lawyers diGenova and Toensing Teamed Up With Giuliani to Dig Up Ukraine Dirt on Biden: ReportFox NewsIn a bombshell report Sunday morning, Fox News reported that two frequent guests on the right-leaning cable news channel were “working off the books” to help former New York City mayor and current presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani dig up dirt on President Donald Trump’s leading Democratic opponent—and that the only person who knew about their involvement was the president himself.Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace broke the news that Giuliani wasn’t acting alone when it came to digging up Ukrainian dirt on Trump’s potential 2020 presidential opponent Joe Biden.“Two high-profile Washington lawyers, Joe diGenova, who’s been a fierce critic of the Democratic investigation, and his wife Victoria Toensing were working with Giuliani to get oppo research on Biden,” Wallace said at the top of his broadcast.“According to a top U.S. official, all three were working off the books apart from the administration,” Wallace added. “The only person in government who knows what they were doing is President Trump.”Giuliani has denied working with any other attorneys in his quest for Ukrainian-provided information on the Biden family in recent appearances on Fox News, denials that the network’s own reporting now call into question.“No,” Giuliani told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday Morning Futures, when asked if he had worked with other attorneys. “I didn’t work with anybody to try and get dirt on Joe Biden.”Requests for comment in response to Wallace’s report from diGenova & Toensing, LLP, their eponymous D.C.-based law firm, were not immediately returned. Requests to Giuliani and the White House have also not been returned. Both diGenova and Toensing have been frequent guests on Fox’s opinion shows, specifically Hannity and Lou Dobbs Tonight. This week, during an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, diGenova blasted Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano as “a fool” for assessing that Trump had committed a crime during his July 25 call with the Ukrainian president.The remarks sparked a multi-day, on-air scuffle between Fox News anchor Shepard Smith and Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Wallace also appeared to join in the internecine fighting over the network’s coverage of the growing scandal, implicitly criticizing the on-air commentary of some of his Fox News colleagues in recent days.Chris Wallace Clashes With Fox News Colleague Over Trump Defenders’ ‘Deeply Misleading’ Spin on UkraineBoth Toensing and diGenova have been two of the president’s fiercest defenders for years. Along with being frequent guests on Fox opinion shows and other conservative media outlets, the husband-wife team has had a close relationship with the president for a while.In March 2018, they were briefly tapped to join Trump’s special counsel legal team. Days later, however, the president decided against hiring the pair.“The president is disappointed that conflicts prevent Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing from joining the president’s special counsel legal team,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said at the time. “However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters. The president looks forward to working with them.”Revelations this week that Giuliani had been tasked by Trump to coordinate with Attorney General William Barr and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in investigating unproven allegations of corruption involving Biden, his son Hunter, and a Ukrainian energy company have pushed long-simmering Democratic support for an impeachment inquiry against the president to a rolling boil.“I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call, and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it,” Trump told Zelensky on a July 25 phone call, according to a rough transcript of the conversation released by the White House this week.Trump and Giuliani have, without providing evidence, accused the former vice president and frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination of supporting the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect Burisma, an energy company advised by his youngest son, Hunter. “A lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump said on the call with Zelensky, after asking the newly elected president of Ukraine for a “favor.”“Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me.”This story is developing.Pompeo Grapples for Ways to Outlast Hurricane RudyRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.




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Founders: Removal from Office Is Not the Only Purpose of Impeachment

Founders: Removal from Office Is Not the Only Purpose of ImpeachmentBenjamin Franklin was a leading voice in the debates framing the Constitution.




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Iran's iconic anti-US murals make way for a new generation of artwork

Iran's iconic anti-US murals make way for a new generation of artworkFamous murals celebrating Iran's Islamic revolution daubed on walls of the former US embassy in Tehran have been erased to make way for new paintings to be unveiled on the fortieth anniversary of the hostage crisis. Three workers were on Sunday afternoon seen removing the original artwork with a sandblaster against the wall of Taleqani avenue, bordering the south side of what was once dubbed a US "spy nest" in central Tehran. On November 4, 1979, less than nine months after Iran's last shah was toppled, pro-revolution students took Americans hostage at the embassy to protest the ex-shah's admission to hospital in the US.




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Trump’s Big Lie About Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Ukraine Falls Apart

Trump’s Big Lie About Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Ukraine Falls ApartPhoto Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photo by Alex Wong/GettyThe big lie spouted by Donald Trump and his allies in the unfurling Ukraine affair—an unprecedented abuse of public trust, which has now led directly to an impeachment inquiry—is that former Vice President Joe Biden urged the Ukrainians to fire the Kyiv general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in order to save Biden’s son's hide. Many of Trump’s cronies and foot soldiers have already spun this line, from Donald Trump Jr. to Rudy Giuliani to Arthur Schwartz.Others have rightly pointed out that, in reality, Biden was not simply relaying the message pushed by the Obama administration, but that his position was supported by Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, European allies, and even groups like the International Monetary Foundation (IMF). As Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state under Obama, recalled this week, “All of us working on Ukraine wanted this prosecutor gone, because he was NOT prosecuting corruption. So did the Europeans. So did the IMF. This didn't come from Joe Biden—he just delivered our message.”That’s all, of course, true. Anyone interested in the success of Ukraine’s democratic transition, and its efforts to clean up rampant corruption, wanted Shokin gone. But here’s something that seems to have been lost in this geopolitical shuffle. Not only was Biden not trying to protect his son, Hunter, who was then working at a Ukrainian energy company named Burisma. If anything, what the former vice president did was make the prosecution of his son’s company more likely, not less—a fact that seems to have been overlooked, but which flips Trump’s lies on their head. I’m not the first to make this point. A few months ago, when Giuliani first began laundering his accusations through friendly voices like The Hill’s John Solomon—a man with an outsized history of whitewashing post-Soviet kleptocracies—The Intercept’s Robert Mackey tried to untangle Giuliani’s ludicrous line of logic. Mackey’s conclusion: “By getting Shokin removed, Biden in fact made it more rather than less likely that the oligarch who employed his son would be subject to prosecution for corruption.”And it’s not difficult to see why. Shokin was, by any measure, a clear and present obstacle in Ukraine’s efforts to steer toward a transparent, democratic polity in the aftermath of the country’s successful 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution. Most charitably, Shokin’s work could have been described as ineffective; others would prefer the term “corrupt,” a hangover from the ancien régime, more accustomed to shakedowns and shirking his duties whenever it benefited him and his confidants. That reprehensible behavior could be seen, most pertinently, in the way Shokin treated an investigation into Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden sat. Launched in 2014, the investigation focused specifically on the means and machinations of Burisma’s oligarchic owner, Mykola Zlochevsky. Initially, the investigation appeared a sign of Ukraine’s new ways, of a willingness to target all and sundry, regardless of political connection.But it quickly became apparent that Shokin had little interest in actually uprooting any corruption percolating within Burisma, or within Zlochevsky’s network. According to former members of Shokin’s staff—including one, Vitaliy Kasko, who reiterated a few months ago that Biden never pressured anyone to avoid looking into his son’s company—Shokin ignored offers of aid from foreign partners to track Zlochevsky’s international financial network. In particular, Shokin effectively ignored the U.K.’s move to freeze tens of millions of dollars allegedly attached to Zlochevsky, identified during a money-laundering investigation directly tied to the ousted Ukrainian regime. Even after Britain’s Serious Fraud Office pronounced that the funds linked to Zlochevsky were “believed to be the proceeds of… criminal conduct,” Shokin didn’t budge. He and his office declined, time and again, to send London the documents necessary to link the frozen funds to Zlochevsky’s kleptocratic malfeasance. Instead, even when the case went to a British court, those advocating for the funds to remain frozen found that someone in Shokin’s office—it was never quite clear who—had written a letter to the British judge claiming that Zlochevsky was not suspected in any crimes. The case was as clear as any to come out of post-2014 Ukraine. And then it collapsed. An arrest warrant for Zlochevsky lapsed. The funds were eventually unfrozen, and allowed to seep back into the offshore networks linked to Zlochevsky, unseen since. All because Shokin, and his office, thought it better to allow the previous regime’s kleptocratic methods to flood back in.  The Americans—and the Europeans, and the IMF, and all those in Ukraine who had marched and stood and demanded better—were livid. Shokin clearly didn’t “want to investigate” Burisma or Zlochevsky, as Daria Kaleniuk, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center and perhaps Ukraine’s leading anti-corruption voice, recently said. Or as then-U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt pronounced in 2015, “Those responsible for subverting the case by authorizing those letters should—at a minimum—be summarily terminated.” This was the world into which Biden stepped, when he became the point-man for all of those demanding Shokin’s removal. And he did so, with thunder and alacrity. As with so many things Biden has done with Ukraine, he wasn’t concerned with whose toes he stepped on. When it came to pushing for Washington to supply arms to Kyiv to fight off Russian revanchism, it didn’t matter if Biden stood at odds with the president for whom he served. And when it came to ousting a prosecutor who refused to do his job, it didn’t matter if his son’s company—a company Hunter Biden should, obviously, never have joined—got caught in the cross-fire. Biden, as the messenger for demanding a new, and more effective, prosecutor, succeeded. That success meant that Ukraine would be more likely to investigate his son’s company. And in that success, a conspiracy theory—that Biden was actually trying to protect his son, rather than push Ukraine to a more democratic path, no matter who got caught in the middle—was born. In the time since, Shokin has taken to rewriting history, claiming that he was on the warpath trying to take down Zlochevsky. (Shokin’s preferred mouthpiece for spouting this revisionism? Solomon, unsurprisingly.) But just like the president’s claims that Biden was up to something nefarious, there’s nothing to back up Shokin’s claims. As Oliver Bullough, a British journalist who covered the Zlochevsky saga, wrote earlier this year, Solomon and the rest of the pro-Trump sycophants are “putting two and two together—and coming up with 22.” That’s putting it kindly. More broadly, they’re taking a bludgeon to anything resembling fact. The lies and spin and rank illiberalism now being spun by the White House are all in an effort to undercut a looming impeachment by rewriting a history most Americans are only now discovering. In pushing to oust the former prosecutor, Biden did the right thing, no matter the personal cost. And in pushing for impeachment, in the face of Trump’s unprecedented move to pressure Kyiv to investigate Biden, House Democrats are pursuing the right tack, no matter the political cost. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.




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Trailblazing Texas deputy who was first local Sikh officer 'ruthlessly' killed during traffic stop

Trailblazing Texas deputy who was first local Sikh officer 'ruthlessly' killed during traffic stopDeputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, the county's first Sikh officer, was killed Friday during a traffic stop near Houston. Police have arrested Robert Solis.




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Iowa reporter who exposed charity fundraiser's historic racist tweets  fired for his own offensive posts

Iowa reporter who exposed charity fundraiser's historic racist tweets  fired for his own offensive postsAn Iowa newspaper reporter who exposed racist tweets by a charity fundraiser has found himself out of a job after his own offensive posts were uncovered.  Aaron Calvin, a journalist for the Des Moines Register, began looking into sports fan Carson King when his jovial plea for beer money turned into a national fundraiser for a children's hospital. But his profile of Mr King led to a public backlash and the newspaper was forced to hire extra security after receiving threats. Public scrutiny turned to Mr Calvin himself, who left the newspaper after it emerged he had made comments mocking same-sex marriage and used a racial slur. Mr King gained national fame on September 14, when his hand-drawn sign for donations for his "Busch Light Supply"  at an Iowa State University American football game was featured in the background of a TV broadcast.  He initially received around $600 (£488) from amused spectators but as donations topped $1 million (£814,650), Mr King said he would donate the money to a University of Iowa children's hospital. Carson King raised $1.8m for a local children's hospital The company behind Busch Light lager offered their own donation along with a year's supply of beer for Mr King in with his face printed on the limited-edition cans.  By way of thanks for the $1.8m (£1.5m) funding, Iowa's governor declared September 28 would be "Carson King Day", saying his "volunteerism and selflessness defines Iowans by nature". At around the same time, Mr Calvin began writing his profile on the 24-year-old casino security guard and found that Mr King had tweeted two racist jokes about black people while in high school.  Hey Everyone! Just a quick appreciation post for ya ☺️ ForTheKidspic.twitter.com/y0Gdj2V3Tl— Carson King (@CarsonKing2) September 26, 2019 Before the piece was published Mr King held a press conference to apologise, saying "I am so embarrassed and stunned to reflect on what I thought was funny when I was 16-years-old". He emphasised that the Des Moines Register "has been nothing but kind in all of their coverage, and I appreciate the reporter pointing out the post to me". "Thankfully, high school kids grow up and hopefully become responsible and caring adults," he added.  The Register is aware of reports of inappropriate social media posts by one of our staffers, and an investigation has begun.— Des Moines Register (@DMRegister) September 25, 2019 The development led Busch Light to distance itself from Mr King, thought it said it would still honour its $350,000 donation. However online supporters of Mr King turned on the newspaper, criticising its decision to cover his teenage posts. Attention turned to Mr Calvin's own Twitter profile and it emerged the reporter himself had made offensive comments about race, same-sex marriage and domestic abuse. Mr Calvin deleted the tweets and apologised "for not holding myself to the same high standards as the Register holds others."  The paper's editor, Carol Hunter, announced that Mr Calvin was no longer with the paper and that its "social media vetting" for employees would be re-examined.




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A US soldier working at Mar-a-Lago uploaded photos of an underage girl to a Russian website — a closer look at the site reveals a horrific underworld

A US soldier working at Mar-a-Lago uploaded photos of an underage girl to a Russian website — a closer look at the site reveals a horrific underworldA cursory look at the Russian website iMGSRC.ru reveals a horrific underworld of shared photos of children.




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Hong Kong crisis threatens to spoil China's 70th party

Hong Kong crisis threatens to spoil China's 70th partyChina's tightly choreographed 70th birthday bash next week risks being upstaged by pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which offer a starkly different take on the strength and power of the Communist Party being feted in Beijing. As President Xi Jinping gets ready to preside over a huge military parade and gala event on Tuesday, the former British colony is in tumult over the erosion of its special freedoms by Beijing. Hong Kong has been rocked by the worst political unrest since its handover to China in 1997, with another round of clashes between protesters and riot police on Saturday and Sunday.




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Thousands rally in Moscow to demand release of jailed protesters

Thousands rally in Moscow to demand release of jailed protestersMore than 20,000 Russians took to the streets of Moscow on Sunday to demand the release of protesters jailed over the summer in what opponents of the Kremlin say is a campaign to stifle dissent. The protesters were arrested at rallies that flared in July when opposition politicians were barred from a local election. Allegations of police brutality and what many Muscovites saw as harsh jail sentences have sparked an unusual public outcry.




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Terrorism charge filed against man who crashed car into Woodfield Mall near Chicago

Terrorism charge filed against man who crashed car into Woodfield Mall near ChicagoThe man who slammed his SUV into a suburban Chicago mall has been formally charged with terrorism and criminal damage to property, authorities said.




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Three more elephants killed in Sri Lanka, bringing toll to seven

Three more elephants killed in Sri Lanka, bringing toll to sevenWildlife officials found three more dead wild elephants in central Sri Lanka Saturday, raising the number believed to have been poisoned by angry villagers to seven. The animals were found at a forest reserve near Sigiriya, a fifth-century rock fortress and UNESCO-protected heritage site, police said. "Since Friday, we have found the remains of seven cow elephants, including a tusker," police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.




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Hong Kong protesters to rally after another night of violence

Hong Kong protesters to rally after another night of violenceHong Kong protesters are to join a global "anti-totalitarianism rally" on Sunday, following another night of violent clashes with police after weeks of pro-democracy unrest in the Chinese-ruled city. Police fired tear gas and water cannon on Saturday night to disperse protesters who threw petrol bombs and rocks, broke government office windows and blocked a key road near the local headquarters of China's People's Liberation Army. Thousands, young and old, gathered peacefully on Saturday at a harbourside park to mark the fifth anniversary of the "Umbrella" pro-democracy movement which gridlocked streets for 79 days in 2014.




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How about a Bipartisan Treaty against the Criminalization of Elections?

How about a Bipartisan Treaty against the Criminalization of Elections?Back home in the Bronx is where I first heard the old saw about the Irishman who, coming upon a donnybrook at the local pub, asks a bystander: “Is this a private fight or can anybody join?”I was a much younger fellow then. The prospect becomes less alluring with age, so I have some trepidation stepping in between two old friends, Andrew Napolitano and Joe DiGenova. Through intermediary hosts, the pair -- Napolitano a former New Jersey Superior Court jurist and law professor, DiGenova a former United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and prominent defense lawyer -- brawled this week on Fox News (where I, like they, contribute regularly).I’m going to steer clear of the pugnacious to-ing and fro-ing. Let’s consider the intriguing legal issue that ignited it.Judge Napolitano argues that the July 25 conversation between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky contains the makings of a campaign-finance crime. He highlights Trump’s request for Ukraine’s help in investigating then–vice president Joe Biden. In 2016, Biden pressured Kyiv to drop a corruption investigation of Burisma, a natural gas company that paid Biden’s son, Hunter, big bucks to sit on its board.Biden, of course, is one of the favorites for the Democratic presidential nomination. Napolitano reasons that the information Trump sought from Ukraine would be a form of “opposition research” that could be seen as an in-kind donation to Trump’s reelection campaign, which should be deemed illegal because the law prohibits foreign contributions and attempts to acquire them. (Napolitano also raised the “arguable” possibility of a bribery offense, on the theory that Trump was withholding defense aid as a corrupt quid pro quo to get the Biden information. But he emphasized the foreign contribution issue. That is his stronger argument, and I am focusing on it, given that the Trump-Zelensky transcript does not support a quid pro quo demand; plus bribery, in any event, raises the same “thing of value” proof problems addressed below.)DiGenova strongly disagrees. Though there wasn’t much time to elaborate, he is clearly relying on the lack of past campaign-law prosecutions on similar facts. DiGenova is also voicing the prudent conservative hostility to campaign-finance laws: Any expansion of criminal liability would necessarily restrict political speech, the core of First Amendment liberty.I’m with DiGenova on this, but it’s a closer question than he suggests. Napolitano’s construction of the campaign laws, while not wholly implausible, is purely academic. It ignores real-world concerns about free speech and the prosecutor’s burden to prove intent.Most of the commentary on this has been very politicized (surprise!). For dyed-in-the-wool anti-Trumpers, no technicality is too trifling to be a felony. For the Trump base, it’s all a witch hunt. In light of this, the most helpful source we can turn to is the Mueller Report. (File in: Sentences I’d Have Bet My Life I’d Never Write.)Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team overflowed with partisan Democrats, and their report could have been entitled “Roadmap to Impeachment.” While they faced complications (that I’ve addressed) in making a case against the president, the prosecutors were not inhibited when it came to other subjects of the investigation. They’d have loved to nail Donald Trump Jr. But the only thing they had was the notorious Trump Tower Meeting of June 2016, when Don Jr. orchestrated a meeting with a Kremlin-tied lawyer (Natalya Veselnitskaya) in an effort to obtain Russian dirt to be used against Hillary Clinton. Veselnitskaya supplied information, but it was a dud.The campaign-finance offense that Napolitano urges be charged against President Trump appears to be the same one Mueller considered charging against Don Jr. The Mueller team’s analysis (Vol. 1, pp. 186-187) is thus on point. And it is frustratingly ambiguous -- as befits the constitutionally dubious campaign-finance laws.Two offense elements proved to be stumbling blocks for the prosecutors. The first is the question whether opposition research is a “thing of value” under federal law. Mueller’s team assumed that, in theory, it might be (the Napolitano view), but that to interpret it as such would break new ground and raise troubling First Amendment issues (the DiGenova position).The second problem was the intent element. As I’ve observed before, regulatory crimes are not innately wrong (in contrast to, say, murder or robbery). They are illegal only because we choose to make them illegal (for you Latinists out there, they are malum prohibitum). Because the conduct is not wrong in itself (malum in se), the law requires a higher degree of malevolent intent before it can be criminalized. Prosecutors must prove willfulness, which very nearly reverses the adage that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” The defendant must be shown to have known that his intentional conduct was illegal -- not merely unsavory but actually prohibited by law. The Mueller team concluded that they could not have hoped to prove willfulness beyond a reasonable doubt.So, while there might be some conceivable scenario in which acquiring information from a foreign source for use in a campaign could be a federal crime, it is highly unlikely -- so unlikely that some Type A prosecutors wisely decided that the huzzahs they’d have gotten for indicting the president’s son were outweighed by the humiliation they’d endure when the case inevitably got thrown out of court.The Mueller report is also worth considering because the campaign-finance charge the prosecutors rejected is stronger than would be any similar charge against President Trump arising out of the Zelensky call. That, no doubt, is why the Justice Department summarily declined prosecution.To hear the media-Democrat complex tell it, DOJ declined because it is beholden to the president and Attorney General Barr is acting as Trump’s lawyer, not the government’s chief prosecutor. No one who actually took five minutes to read the relevant section of the Mueller Report would see it that way. Moreover, the fact that the president is president complicates matters not only politically but legally.Trump detractors hyper-focus on the president’s request that President Zelensky provide Attorney General Barr with any information Ukraine might have about Biden twisting arms to quash an investigation involving his son’s cashing in on dad’s influence. I say “hyper-focus” because there was a lot more to it than that. Long before the conversation came around to the Biden topic, the “favor” that Trump asked for was Zelensky’s assistance in Barr’s ongoing investigation of the genesis of the Trump-Russia investigation.No matter how much Democrats seek to discredit that probe and the AG overseeing it, it is a legitimate investigation conducted by the United States Department of Justice, which has prosecutors assigned and grand jury subpoena power. It is examining questionable Justice Department and FBI conduct. It is considering whether irregularities rise to the level of crimes. It will be essential to Congress’s consideration of whether laws need to be enacted or modified to insulate our election campaigns from politicized use of the government’s counterintelligence and law-enforcement powers.I mention all this because it is a commonplace for the government to seek assistance from foreign counterparts for ongoing federal investigations.Indeed, as Marc Thiessen pointed out this week in an important Washington Post column, Democratic senators pressured Ukraine to cooperate with the Mueller probe -- notwithstanding the obvious potential electoral ramifications and the specter of “foreign interference in our democracy.” These requests for assistance often occur at the head-of-state level. When I was a federal prosecutor in the mid-nineties, for example, the FBI and Justice Department asked President Clinton to intervene with Saudi authorities to assist the investigation of Iranian complicity in the Khobar Towers bombing.There is nothing wrong with our government’s requesting the assistance of foreign governments that have access to witnesses and evidence relevant to an ongoing Justice Department investigation. The president is the democratically elected, constitutionally empowered chief executive: There is nothing his subordinates may properly do that he may not do himself (it is his power that they exercise). And the president is never conflicted out of executive branch business due to his political interests. There is no legal or ethical requirement that the Justice Department be denied potentially probative evidence because obtaining it might affect the president’s political fortunes.There was no impropriety in President Trump’s asking Ukraine’s president to assist the Justice Department’s investigation of Russiagate’s origins. Okay, you say, but what does that have to do with Biden?Well, Biden was the Obama administration’s point man in dealing with Kyiv after Viktor Yanukovych fled in 2014. That course of dealing came to include Obama administration agencies leaning on Ukraine to assist the FBI in the investigation of Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman. So, Biden’s interaction with Ukraine is germane: The fact that he had sufficient influence to coerce the firing of a prosecutor; the fact that, while Biden was strongly influencing international economic aid for Kyiv, a significant Ukrainian energy company thought it expedient to bring Biden’s son onto its board and compensate him lavishly -- although Hunter Biden had no experience in the industry.That aside, I do not understand why there has not been more public discussion of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in light of the instances of Hunter Biden conveniently cashing in with foreign firms while his dad was shaping American policy toward those firm’s governments. As we saw with the collusion caper, it does not take much evidence of any crime for the FBI and the Justice Department to open an investigation and scorch the earth in conducting it. And if it would have been legit for the Justice Department to open an FCPA investigation of one or both of the Bidens, then it was appropriate for President Trump to ask President Zelensky to help the Justice Department determine if an FCPA crime took place – even if doing so could have affected the 2020 fortunes of Biden and Trump.Don’t get me wrong: I am not rooting for Joe Biden or his son to be subjected to investigation and prosecution. I agree with Attorney General Barr that there has been too much politicization of law enforcement and intelligence. In the absence of a concrete, patent, and serious violation of the criminal law, I want the Justice Department and the FBI out of politics – which would be better for them and for politics. If you think there is an indecorous heavy-handedness to the way Donald Trump and Joe Biden conduct foreign policy, that’s fine – go vote against them on Election Day. We don’t need creative prosecutors deciding elections by testing the boundaries of abstruse statutes.Neither, however, do I believe in unilateral disarmament. There is at least as much basis for opening an FCPA investigation against the Bidens as for opening campaign-finance investigations against the Trumps. If I had my druthers, all of this nonsense would end. But as I detailed earlier this week, we have one candidate for the presidency -- a once-serious legal scholar and practitioner -- who publicly and straight-faced says Trump’s call with Zelensky could rate the death penalty. As we saw in the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton got to experience the independent-counsel statute up close and personal, maybe it takes Democrats being hoisted on their own petard before we finally say: This has to stop.




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Saturday, 28 September 2019

Trump's Ukraine call sparks new questions over intelligence chief's firing

Trump's Ukraine call sparks new questions over intelligence chief's firingThe president removed Dan Coats days after his conversation with Zelenskiy and insisted that Coats’s deputy not get the jobDan Coats, seen in 2018, reportedly interrupted a meeting to convince his deputy to resign. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty ImagesThree days after his now infamous phone conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Donald Trump abruptly fired his director of national intelligence in favour of an inexperienced political loyalist.According to a New York Times report, the White House learned within days that the unorthodox call on 25 July with Zelenskiy had raised red flags among intelligence professionals and was likely to trigger an official complaint.That timeline has raised new questions over the timing of the Trump’s dismissal by tweet of the director of national intelligence (DNI), Dan Coats, on 28 July and his insistence that the deputy DNI, Sue Gordon, a career intelligence professional, did not step into the role, even in an acting capacity.Instead, Trump tried to install a Republican congressman, John Ratcliffe, who had minimal national security credentials but had been a fierce defender of the president in Congress. Trump had to drop the nomination after it emerged that Ratcliffe had exaggerated his national security credentials in his biography, wrongly claiming he had conducted prosecutions in terrorist financing cases.Despite the collapse of the Ratcliffe nomination, Gordon was forced out. She was reported to have been holding a meeting on election security on 8 August when Coats interrupted to convince her that she would have to resign.In a terse handwritten note to the president, Gordon said: “I offer this letter as an act of respect and patriotism, not preference. You should have your team.”The Office of the DNI (ODNI) and its inspector general has the authority to receive whistleblower complaints from across all US intelligence agencies and determine whether they should be referred to Congress.“We all knew Coats’ departure was coming because he had clashed with the president on several issues. What was weird was the president’s forcefulness in not wanting Sue Gordon to take over as acting director,” said Katrina Mulligan, a former official who worked in the ODNI, the national security council, and the justice department.“I was hearing at the time that Sue was getting actively excluded from things by the president that she would ordinarily have taken part in, and she was being made to feel uncomfortable,” said Mulligan, now managing director for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress.“And then the president tried to install someone who was clearly unqualified,” she added. “Now the timeline of the whistleblower in the White House raises a lot of questions about the Sue Gordon piece of this.”John McLaughlin, the former acting CIA director, said the fact that Ratcliffe’s nomination was dropped and the job of acting DNI ultimately went to an intelligence professional, Joseph Maguire, was a sign that the intelligence community was so far resisting political pressure from the White House.Maguire faced tough questioning in Congress this week about his initial refusal, on justice department guidance, to refer the whistleblower complaint to Congress.“On politicisation, my sense is that the community is holding the line against it although undoubtedly dealing with more or less constant pressure,” McLaughlin said. “I felt kind of bad for the acting DNI, an honourable man with impeccable service to the nation. I believe he made some honest errors in judgment rather than yielding to political pressure. Throwing him into this job in these circumstances on such short notice is a little like assigning me on a navy Seal mission.”




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Trump Whistle-Blower Goes Where Mueller Never Could

Trump Whistle-Blower Goes Where Mueller Never Could(Bloomberg) -- Revelations about Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president are shaping up to be the most serious threat to his presidency so far, surpassing even the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference that dogged the first two years of his administration.A whistle-blower complaint released Thursday alleging that Trump abused his power when he asked Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden in a July 25 call compounded the damage from a rough transcript of the conversation the White House released a day earlier.The complaint emboldened Democrats pursuing Trump’s removal from office, while Republicans -- many of whom had criticized the House’s move toward impeaching the president -- largely refrained from comment.Trump hurt himself further after telling U.S. diplomats in a private meeting on Thursday that “we’re at war” and the whistle-blower was “almost a spy,” according to video obtained by Bloomberg News.“That is a gross mischaracterization of whistle-blowers,” Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, told reporters.Trump evaded consequences after Robert Mueller’s investigation because the special counsel couldn’t tie the president directly to Russian interference in the 2016 election and didn’t clearly accuse him of obstructing the probe. But in the Ukraine affair, the most damaging facts are rooted in the president’s own words, recorded in a five-page memorandum that largely corroborates the whistle-blower’s complaint.Senate InvestigationWhite House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham on Thursday issued a statement calling the whistle-blower complaint “nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings — all of which shows nothing improper.”Trump, she said, “has nothing to hide.”Late Thursday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said his panel would also conduct an investigation of Trump’s Ukraine actions. He said he is “committed to make sure that we get to the bottom of what questions need answers.”It’s illegal for foreigners to contribute to U.S. political campaigns or for American politicians to solicit their contributions. The memorandum shows Trump asking Zelenskiy for an investigation into Biden, who was at the time the front-runner to challenge the president’s re-election in 2020 -- a request that could be construed as the president seeking a non-monetary contribution to his campaign.The Department of Justice conducted a preliminary review of the whistle-blower complaint and determined a criminal investigation wasn’t warranted. But Congress could decide otherwise. For purposes of impeachment, the Constitution leaves it to lawmakers to decide whether the president’s actions amount to “high crimes and misdemeanors.”The whistle-blower also implicated Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr in the president’s efforts to seek a Ukraine investigation of Biden. “Anyone who’s involved with this episode should be facing questions of criminal campaign finance violations,” said Jed Shugerman, a law professor at Fordham University in New York.In a statement Wednesday, the department attempted to distance Barr from the events. He didn’t learn of the July 25 phone call until “several weeks” afterward, department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.“The president has not spoken with the attorney general about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son,” Kupec said. “The president has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine -- on this or any other matter. The attorney general has not communicated with Ukraine --- on this or any other subject. Nor has the attorney general discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.”Shugerman called Barr “a witness” to Trump’s actions. Giuliani may face more liability.“It’s simply illegal to solicit information or something of value from a foreign national to benefit a campaign and this looks like a months-long effort by the president and his private attorney to do just that,” New York University law professor Ryan Goodman said in an interview.Edifice of LoyaltyThe public release of the whistle-blower complaint also revealed cracks in the edifice of loyalty Trump has attempted to construct around himself, both in the West Wing and on Capitol Hill.In addition to Collins’s criticism, Representative Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, said in a public hearing on the complaint Thursday that Trump’s call was “not okay.”While some of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill rushed to his defense, the vast majority of Senate Republicans were silent on the complaint. Many claimed they hadn’t had a chance to read it. Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, said that because he might be a juror in Trump’s impeachment trial, he shouldn’t comment.Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, said some Republicans privately told him they’re concerned about the latest development. But he said he doesn’t expect them to break with Trump “yet.”White House officials have expressed concern that the impeachment investigation -- focused on the president’s foreign policy -- comes at a time of vulnerability for Trump. Several high-profile national security officials who could have direct knowledge of his actions toward Ukraine have recently departed.They include the former director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who announced his resignation three days after Trump’s call with Zelenskiy, and his deputy, Sue Gordon, who was forced out of her position in August. Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton left earlier this month after a dramatic split between the two men.Unprepared for ImpeachmentThe White House appears unprepared for an in-depth impeachment inquiry. Many offices across the West Wing are already depleted, and Trump has been slow to fill jobs despite record-setting attrition. The White House has not yet retained the help of outside legal counsel to help with the potential burden.QuickTake: All About Impeachment, Including What Happens NextMeanwhile, aides have been consumed by this week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York, where Trump met with a string of foreign leaders including Zelenskiy, leaving them flat-footed to respond to ground-shaking developments. Staff members began to formally plan strategy for an impeachment response upon returning to the White House on Thursday -- two days after the inquiry was announced.Still, there’s reason for the White House to remain confident. Republican control of the Senate means he is unlikely to be convicted and removed from office, even if the House votes to recommend articles of impeachment. While a handful of congressional Republicans have expressed some concern about Trump’s behavior, none have yet said it warrants impeachment.Moreover, while public opinion is swinging in favor of impeachment, many voters still believe Congress should not pursue proceedings to remove Trump from office. In an NPR News/Marist poll released Thursday, 49% of Americans said they approved of Democrats’ impeachment push while 46% did not.The president’s re-election campaign says the impeachment effort is galvanizing voters against Democrats while firing up Trump’s base.“Democrats are trying to block the inevitable re-election of President Trump because they know they can’t beat him fair and square at the ballot box,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday.\--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs, Jordan Fabian, Steven T. Dennis, Chris Strohm and Nick Wadhams.To contact the reporters on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.net;Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net;Andrew Harris in federal court in Washington at aharris16@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Joshua GalluFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




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