latest

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (White Freemason, White Pedophile) resigns after latest child sex-abuse allegation

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/12/us/seattle-mayor-ed-murray-resigns/index.html

 

(CNN) Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced his resignation Tuesday, hours after new sexual abuse allegations surfaced against the embattled politician.

Murray, a Democrat and the city’s first openly gay mayor, said he was resigning effective 5 p.m. Wednesday so the scandal would no longer overshadow his office.
The mayor’s announcement comes after his cousin gave an interview with the Seattle Times alleging abuse, the latest in a series of similar accusations. The cousin is the fifth person to publicly accuse Murray of child sexual abuse since a lawsuit was filed against him in April.
Murray denied the allegations, as he has in the past. Previously, he called them part of a political effort to stymy his progressive agenda and support for LGBTQ and immigrant rights.
“While the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our city government to conduct the public’s business,” he said in a statement.
“To the people of this special city and to my dedicated staff, I am sorry for this painful situation.”
Council President Bruce Harrell will become mayor upon Murray’s resignation. Harrell has five days to decide to hold the position for the remainder of Murray’s term, which ends in December.
Murray, 62, was elected in 2014 after 18 years as a state lawmaker. In his statement Tuesday, he touted his accomplishments from his political career. As an openly gay state legislator, he sponsored Washington state’s historic marriage equality law and a landmark bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
As mayor, he raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, passed ambitious affordable housing legislation, and laid the groundwork for a city-owned sports and entertainment arena. He was a party to a lawsuit filed in March on behalf of the city against the Trump administration over its executive order on so-called sanctuary cities.
But, in light of the latest allegations, he said it was clear it is best for the city for him to step aside.
He withdrew from the Seattle mayor’s race in May, after a lawsuit accused him of repeatedly raping a man about 30 years ago. Murray denied the allegations, saying he never heard his accuser’s name before the lawsuit. But he said he was dropping his re-election bid so the scandal would not overtake the election.
Delvonn Heckard said he was 15 and Murray was 32 when the sexual acts occurred, claiming that Murray paid him for them.
The complaint further alleged that Heckard was not the only child abused by the mayor. On at least one occasion, Heckard said he was at Murray’s apartment when another boy who appeared underage was there. “D.H. was of the understanding that Mr. Murray was having sex with the other boy for money at the same time,” the complaint alleged. A spokesman for the mayor said the allegations were unfounded.
Heckard withdrew the lawsuit in June to complete counseling, according to his lawyer. In a news conference following the withdrawal, Murray said the lawsuit was politically motivated. He vowed to continue his “progressive agenda.”
Since the lawsuit, four more men have publicly accused Murray of various forms of sexual abuse when they were teens. CNN has not independently verified the claims.
Advertisements

Democratic, Republican Lawmakers Decry Trump’s Latest Charlottesville Remarks

http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/not-my-president-lawmakers-decry-trump-s-latest-charlottesville-remarks-n793021?cid=eml_mrd_20170816

 

President Donald Trump left lawmakers in both parties aghast Tuesday after he blamed “two sides” for the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, which ended in a deadly attack on counter-protesters rallying against white nationalism.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., went on a tweetstorm decrying the president for his remarks, which were made during a freewheeling news conference at Trump Tower in which Trump equated white supremacists on the right to the “alt-left.”

“Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain,” he wrote. “When entire movement built on anger & hatred towards people different than you, it justifies & ultimately leads to violence against them.”

The organizers of events which inspired & led to  are 100% to blame for a number of reasons. 1/6

Mr. President,you can’t allow  to share only part of blame.They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain 5/6

“There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for the country, but there are two sides to a story,” the president said Tuesday, doubling down on remarks he made Saturday, when he blamed “many sides” for the riots that erupted in violence.

Republican leaders reacted swiftly to condemn white supremacy, although many did not mention Trump. Among them was Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who called the white supremacists “racist, bigoted, Nazi” on Twitter.

No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a tweet: “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California said in a statement that the violence was “a direct consequence of the vile and hateful rhetoric and action from white supremacists,” while House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana wrote on Twitter that “we must defeat white supremacy.”

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, one of Trump’s most vocal Republican critics, said in a statement: “We cannot accept excuses for white supremacy and acts of domestic terrorism. We must condemn them. Period.”

Other Republicans, including members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, were more direct in criticizing the president for his remarks.

Flake’s Senate colleague from Arizona, John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, tweeted: “There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry. The President of the United States should say so”

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan mocked the president for calling the white supremacists “very fine people,” noting that they chanted “racist and anti-Semitic slogans.”

Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania wrote on Twitter that the president “must stop the moral equivalency! AGAIN, white supremacists were to blame for the violence.”

We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.

@POTUS must stop the moral equivalency! AGAIN, white supremacists were to blame for the violence in .

Related: Trump Says ‘Two Sides’ Share Blame for Charlottesville Rally Violence

The lawmakers who spoke out immediately after the news conference saw the president’s remarks as a shocking about-face from his prepared speech Monday.

In those remarks, he called racism “evil” and named the groups — the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists — calling them “repugnant” for causing the violent clash that left one person dead and 19 others injured.

“Blaming ‘both sides’ for #Charlottesville?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no,” tweeted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

“No words,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., tweeted, along with a snippet of a video from Tuesday’s news conference.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, a Democrat, blasted the president for equating the white nationalists and the counter-protesters.

“This is a time to choose sides — simple as that,” he tweeted. “There is a right side and an immoral one.”

Blaming “both sides” for ?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no.

The Virginia college town devolved into chaos last week when counter-protesters clashed with a chorus of white supremacists, who were protesting the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Trump defended those protesters, arguing that it was unfair to suggest that all the torch-wielding marchers at the rally were Nazis or white supremacists. He also called the statue of Lee, a slave owner who commanded the Confederate Army, “very important.”

“Great and good American presidents seek to unite not divide. Donald Trump’s remarks clearly show he is not one of them,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said on Twitter.

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., tweeted: “I did not attend the inauguration because I felt President Trump lacked ‘moral legitimacy.’ This is exactly what I was talking about.”

Great and good American presidents seek to unite not divide. Donald Trump’s remarks clearly show he is not one of them.

I did not attend the inauguration because I felt President Trump lacked “moral legitimacy.”

This is exactly what I was talking about.

Trump dubbed the counter-protesters the “alt-left,” a spin on white supremacists who sometimes call themselves the “alt-right,” a wing of the conservative moment that mixes racism with white nationalism and populism.

“The president’s continued talk of blame ‘on many sides’ ignores the abhorrent evil of white supremacism, and continues a disturbing pattern of complacency around acts of hate from this president, his administration and his campaign for the presidency,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement.

“From the beginning, President Trump has sheltered and encouraged the forces of bigotry and discrimination,” she added.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, also sharply rebuked the remarks.

“Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists came to Charlottesville heavily armed, spewing hatred and looking for a fight. One of them murdered a young woman in an act of domestic terrorism. … This was not ‘both sides’,” he said.

“We need real leadership, starting with our president,” McAuliffe added.

Mistrial in Cincinnati Shooting as Officer Is Latest Not to Be Convicted

CINCINNATI — The encounters with the police officers turned deadly within seconds. Each time, a black man was fatally shot, and each time, it was captured on video. And three times in the span of a week, the officers’ trials have ended without a conviction.

On Friday, it was jurors here who were hopelessly deadlocked in the retrial of Raymond M. Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who faced charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting Samuel DuBose, an unarmed motorist, in 2015. Mr. Tensing’s first trial, held last fall, also ended with a hung jury.

“We are almost evenly split regarding our final votes,” read the note passed from the jury to Judge Leslie Ghiz, who declared a mistrial as rain lashed against the windows of her chilly downtown courtroom. Mr. Tensing dropped his head into his hand and squeezed his eyes, while one man seated with Mr. DuBose’s family hung his head and looked out at the rain.

As she walked out of the courtroom, Terina DuBose-Allen, a sister of Mr. DuBose’s, spoke quietly: “I think it’s horrible.”

Jurors had deliberated for more than 30 hours in the case, which revolved around a botched traffic stop that prosecutors once called “asinine” and “senseless.”

The mistrial left prosecutors weighing whether to try Mr. Tensing a third time, and what charges to use if they do. Last week, partway through the trial, prosecutors had sought to add a third — and lesser — charge of reckless homicide to the jury’s options. Judge Ghiz denied the motion, saying, in essence, that it was too late.

Joseph T. Deters, the head prosecutor in Hamilton County, said he would not comment on his plans until next week.

But Mr. DuBose’s family — along with activists gathered outside the courtroom — urged the prosecutors to press on. “We are outraged that a second jury has now failed to convict Ray Tensing,” Audrey DuBose, Mr. DuBose’s mother, said in a statement. “We demand another retrial.”

In the wake of acquittals of police officers in St. Paul a week ago and Milwaukee on Wednesday, the mistrial here underscored a difficult reality for prosecutors and activists who want officers held criminally liable in cases like these: A conviction is far from assured, even when there is video evidence and an aggressive prosecutor.

In St. Paul, jurors watched dashboard video showing Officer Jeronimo Yanez shoot into the car where Philando Castile, a cafeteria worker, was sitting with his fiancée and her daughter, and acquitted the officer. In Milwaukee, jurors acquitted Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown after watching frame by frame as he shot a fleeing suspect, Sylville K. Smith, and fired a second time after Mr. Smith tossed a gun he was holding and lay on the ground.

Here in Cincinnati, prosecutors turned time and again to the body-camera footage gathered by Mr. Tensing when he stopped Mr. DuBose on a summer evening after noticing a missing license plate. Mr. Tensing asked Mr. DuBose for his driver’s license, which he never produced. In a split second, the video turned violent, and the footage shaky: Mr. DuBose pulled the door closed with his left hand and restarted the car with his right hand; Mr. Tensing reached into the car with his left arm, yelled “Stop!” twice and with his right hand fired his gun once, into Mr. DuBose’s head.

“You point a gun that close to somebody’s head and you pull the trigger, your purpose is to end their life,” a prosecutor, Seth Tieger, said in his closing argument on Monday, as he described the video as a crucial piece of evidence.

But the footage of those seconds was jerky and blurred, and prosecutors had to slow it down, with the aid of a forensic expert, in their effort to counter Mr. Tensing’s contention that his arm had felt stuck in the steering wheel and that he had shot Mr. DuBose because he believed he was going to be dragged by the car.

“There was no danger to Ray Tensing when he made the decision to go for his gun,” Mr. Tieger said.

Indeed, the video had contradicted Mr. Tensing’s initial claim that his arm had been caught in the steering wheel. But Mr. Tensing’s lawyer, Stew Mathews, said that the analysis of the video amounted to “20/20 hindsight,” and that what mattered was Mr. Tensing’s stated belief, in the moment, that Mr. DuBose was a danger to him because his arm was stuck somehow and that he had to shoot to “stop the threat.”

“The body-worn camera, in and of itself, is not the only piece of evidence,” Mr. Mathews said, before appearing to shift the blame to Mr. DuBose himself, saying that he had “started this whole situation.”

“You have to try to put yourself into the position of an officer on the scene of a situation like this,” Mr. Mathews told the jury, “and ask yourselves, ‘What would I do?’”

The jurors may have come to their conclusions less because of what they saw on screen than because of what they believed was in Mr. Tensing’s mind in those critical seconds.

“I suspect that the more ambiguous a video is, the more that you need a forensic expert to explain to a jury exactly what it shows, the more likely a jury is to think the officer’s perception was reasonable,” said Seth W. Stoughton, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and a former police officer.

Mr. Stoughton described a possible juror’s reasoning: “If I needed an expert to explain that to me, how could the officer have made sense of the situation at the time?”

Mr. Tensing, who was 25 at the time of the shooting, was fired by the University of Cincinnati after being indicted on a murder charge for killing Mr. DuBose, 43. The university also agreed to pay Mr. DuBose’s family $4.85 million and to educate his 12 children.

Civic leaders had eyed the case warily, knowing that when a white officer shot an unarmed black man there in 2001, rioting followed. But as rain fell outside the courthouse on Friday, the dozens of demonstrators gathered under umbrellas did so peacefully, citing the video as they vented their frustration at a second mistrial.

“It’s a straight-up video,” said one demonstrator, Destiny Brooks, 16. “He reached on his side and shot that guy.”

Barry Kowalski, a former federal prosecutor who won convictions against some of the police officers who were taped beating Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991, said the proliferation of video had increased pressure on prosecutors to announce indictments against police officers — sometimes after only days of investigation.

“Rather than take the time to look carefully at the case and take the heat from the community,” Mr. Kowalski said, “prosecutors bring the case and then they’re off the hook, they brought the case, and now it’s the jury’s problem.”

Trump Attacks Rosenstein in Latest Rebuke of Justice Department

WASHINGTON — President Trump escalated his attacks on his own Justice Department on Friday, using an early-morning Twitter rant to condemn the department’s actions as “phony” and “sad!” and to challenge the integrity of the official overseeing the expanding inquiry into Russian influence of the 2016 election.

Acknowledging for the first time publicly that he is under investigation, Mr. Trump appeared to accuse Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, of leading what the president called a “witch hunt.” Mr. Rosenstein appointed a special counsel last month to conduct the investigation after Mr. Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey.

“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!” Mr. Trump wrote, apparently referring to a memo Mr. Rosenstein wrote in May that was critical of Mr. Comey’s leadership at the F.B.I.

“Witch hunt,” Mr. Trump added.

The remarkable public rebuke is the latest example of a concerted effort by Mr. Trump, the White House and its allies to undermine officials at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. even as the Russia investigation proceeds.

The nation’s law enforcement agency is under siege, short-staffed because of delays in filling senior positions and increasingly at odds with a president who had already engaged in a monthslong feud with the government’s intelligence agencies.

Several current and former assistant United States attorneys described a sense of listlessness and uncertainty, with some expressing hesitation about pursuing new investigations, not knowing whether there would be an appetite for them once leadership was installed in each district after Mr. Trump fired dozens of United States attorneys who were Obama-era holdovers.

In the five weeks since Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, he has let it be known that he has considered firing Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading the Russia investigation. His personal lawyer bragged about firing Preet Bharara, the former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was let go as part of the mass dismissal of top prosecutors. Newt Gingrich, an ally of the president’s, accused Mr. Mueller of being the tip of the “deep-state spear aimed at destroying” the Trump presidency.

Inside the White House, those close to the president say he has continued to fume about the actions of Justice Department officials, his anger focused mostly on Mr. Rosenstein for appointing Mr. Mueller and on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime political ally whose decision to recuse himself from the Russia case in March enraged Mr. Trump.

What the president wanted out of the investigation was simple, several people close to him said: a public statement that he was not under a cloud. What he got instead were reports of Mr. Mueller’s intention to investigate him for possible obstruction of justice.

An impatient New Yorker by nature, Mr. Trump has been unable in his first months in office to bend Washington to his “you’re fired!” ways. He is frustrated, friends say, and unsure what to do — apart from tweeting, which he views as the most direct and effective way of defending himself and venting his anger.

That anger burst into public on Twitter late Thursday and continued Friday, as the president repeatedly assailed the legal forces arrayed against him. He accused the news media of pursuing a “phony” obstruction story and accused law enforcement and congressional committees of conducting “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history.” He said the investigations are led by “some very bad and conflicted” people.

By Friday morning, his focus was on Mr. Rosenstein, though the president never used his name, and his tweet oversimplified and misstated the truth.

Mr. Rosenstein is supervising the investigation, not conducting it. And Mr. Trump has said he decided to fire Mr. Comey before he received Mr. Rosenstein’s memo.

The outburst came after an oddly worded statement late Thursday from Mr. Rosenstein complaining about news reports based on leaks.

“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote.

His statement followed two articles by The Washington Post that cited unnamed officials. One said Mr. Mueller’s investigation had widened to include whether Mr. Trump committed obstruction of justice. The other said the investigation was examining financial transactions involving Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law. After Mr. Rosenstein’s statement, The Post updated the article about Mr. Kushner online so that its first sourcing reference was to “U.S. officials.”

The highly unusual statement raised the question of whether Mr. Trump or some other White House official had asked Mr. Rosenstein to publicly discredit the reports. Mr. Trump has repeatedly pushed top intelligence officials to exonerate him publicly.

A Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, said that no one had asked Mr. Rosenstein to make the statement and that he had acted on his own.

Still, the statement, and Mr. Trump’s tweet, demonstrated the political pressure on the deputy attorney general as the department pursues the Russia probe.

Reaction was swift. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said she was “growing increasingly concerned” that Mr. Trump might attempt to fire both Mr. Mueller and Mr. Rosenstein.

“If the president thinks he can fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation, he’s in for a rude awakening,” she said in a statement. “Even his staunchest supporters will balk at such a blatant effort to subvert the law.”

Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, appeared before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

People close to the president say he is in a firing frame of mind but feels blocked from carrying out such a move because of the potential political damage.

While he has left open the possibility of dismissing Mr. Mueller and began considering it shortly after the special counsel was appointed last month, the president’s anger has been largely trained on Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein, whom he views less as executors of law than as salaried staff.

At a congressional hearing this week, Mr. Rosenstein issued a modest declaration of independence, testifying that he was the only person who had the ability to fire Mr. Mueller. And he made plain that his actions would not be dictated by the president.

“I’m not going to follow any order unless I believe they are lawful and appropriate orders,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “It wouldn’t matter to me what anybody said.”

Mr. Trump has a different view of the chain of command, aides said, but he also knows that he cannot afford to fire Mr. Rosenstein without prompting a massive backlash on Capitol Hill, even among Republicans. But the deputy attorney general, who would have to sign off on Mr. Mueller’s firing, has become a favorite target for Mr. Trump in conversations with advisers and friends.

The apparent expansion of Mr. Mueller’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, including by firing Mr. Comey, has raised the question of whether Mr. Rosenstein, a witness to and participant in the events that culminated in that ouster, may also have to recuse himself from overseeing the inquiry.

If he were to do so, or resign or be fired by Mr. Trump, acting attorney general duties for the inquiry would fall to the department’s No. 3 official, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.

Ms. Brand has never served as a prosecutor. She advised the Justice Department on selecting judicial nominees under President George W. Bush, and she served as a Republican appointee on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

“As the deputy attorney general has said numerous times, if there comes a point when he needs to recuse, he will,” said Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman. “However, nothing has changed.”

On Friday morning, Mr. Rosenstein reacted in public with the calm of a career prosecutor who had spent nearly three decades in government.

Within an hour of Mr. Trump’s tweet, he addressed a crowd of several hundred people in the Justice Department’s great hall, shaking the hands of 175 government employees, a majority of them assistant federal prosecutors from around the country who had won awards for their work over the past year, including drug and human trafficking prosecutions.

“The pursuit of justice is never a 9-to-5 endeavor,” said Mr. Rosenstein. “I will continue to work alongside all of you to make this department and our country stronger and better.”

McCain: Latest Trump revelations are of ‘Watergate size and scale’

Arizona GOP Senator John McCain, a former presidential candidate, said Tuesday that the latest revelations out of the Trump White House are “at a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale.”

“We’ve seen this movie before,” McCain said at a dinner where he was receiving the International Republican Institute’s Freedom Award, hours after it was revealed that the US president in February had urged James Comey, the former FBI director, to drop an investigation into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with the Russians. The report was based on a memo Comey drafted after a meeting with Trump following Flynn’s dismissal on February 13. It was first reported by the New York Times and later confirmed to other media outlets.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump is accused of telling Comey, according to the memo written by the former FBI chief, who was sacked last week.

“He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Trump reportedly told him.

In this Feb. 10, 2017 file photo, then-national security adviser Michael Flynn sits in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

The Flynn-related report came some 24 hours after the Washington Post dropped a bombshell article revealing that Trump had disclosed highly classified intelligence obtained by Israel to Russians officials –Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and its ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak — in the White House last week.

Both reports were at first denied and then rebutted by the White House.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 15, 2016. (AP/Susan Walsh, File)

“The shoes continue to drop, and every couple days there’s a new aspect,” McCain said in comments reported by the Daily Beast on Tuesday.

McCain said Trump needs to “get it all out … and the longer you delay, the longer it’s going to last.”

McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, also called it “unacceptable” for Trump to invite Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov into the Oval Office last week, calling him a “stooge.”

Meanwhile, the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee , Jason Chaffetz, wrote a letter to the FBI requesting that it turn over all documents and recordings that detail communications between Comey and Trump.

In his letter Tuesday, Chaffetz said he was making the request to determine whether the president attempted to influence or impede the bureau’s investigation into Flynn’s contacts with the Russians.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. (AP/Cliff Owen)

Chaffetz’s letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe requests all memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings that relate to any communications between Comey and the president.

The letter gave the FBI a week to produce the records.

The intensifying drama comes as Trump is set to embark Friday on his first foreign trip, including to Israel, which had been optimistically viewed by some aides as an opportunity to reset an administration floundering under an inexperienced president.

When Trump fired Comey, he said he did so based on Comey’s very public handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and how it affected his leadership of the FBI. But the White House has provided differing accounts of the firing. And lawmakers have alleged that the sudden ouster was an attempt to stifle the bureau’s investigation into Trump associates’ ties to Russia’s meddling in the campaign.

White House Proposes Tougher Sanctions On NK After Latest Missile Test

After another missile test by North Korea this past weekend, the Trump administration called for yet another round of sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime.

According to Fox News, the launch was conducted in the early hours of Sunday morning in North Korea. The missile, referred to by North Korean state media as the Hwasong-12, landed in the Sea of Japan roughly 60 miles from Vladivostok in Russia.

The test was notable for several reasons. First, Japanese officials say that the missile flew for 30 minutes and a little less than 500 miles, hitting an “unusually high” maximum altitude of 1,240 miles. That indicates some development in North Korean missile technology — and could put Russia within range of Pyongyang’s military grasp.

Second, official state media outlet KCNA reported that the Hwasong-12 was “capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead.” They also noted that after Kim Jong Un witnessed the test, he “hugged officials in the field of rocket research, saying that they worked hard to achieve a great thing.”

While North Korean propaganda can usually be taken with a 40-pound bag of Morton’s Salt, the test still represents a disturbing development — and the Trump administration was quick to respond.

“Let this latest provocation serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea,” a statement from the White House said, according to Newsmax, adding that North Korea “has been a flagrant menace for far too long.”

The statement also brought a new player into the matter, nothing that the missile landed “so close to Russian soil … (that) the president cannot imagine that Russia is pleased.”

China’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, sounded a much softer tone.

“All relevant parties should exercise restraint and refrain from further aggravating tensions in the region,” a statement from the foreign ministry said.

Sorry, but that kind of “restraint” clearly isn’t cutting it. After years of “strategic patience” did nothing to erode the North Korean menace. Real leadership — tough leadership — is needed, and the White House seems more than willing to provide that. North Korea needs to feel the consequences of their actions, and not just militarily. They need to suffer economically as well.

Trump’s Latest Appointee Was Accused of Sexually Assaulting Male Students — 5 TIMES

http://www.renegadetribune.com/trumps-latest-appointee-accused-sexually-assaulting-male-students-5-times/
By Matt Agorist

Washington, D.C. — Earlier this year, President Donald Trump promised to seek out sexual predators and those who are participating in the “human trafficking epidemic” and bring them to task. However, his recent actions in the White House appear to be doing the exact opposite.

Last week, the Free Thought Project reported on Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta. As TFTP noted, former U.S. Representative, Cynthia McKinney, is none too pleased with this confirmation, tweeting shortly after the news,

“He (Acosta) let Jeffrey Epstein off pedophilia charges with a wristslap; now he’s Trump’s SecLabor….”

Epstein is a convicted child molester and sexually abused no less than 40 underage girls. Despite this fact, Acosta protected him while serving as a U.S. Attorney in Florida.

These are undisputed facts — yet Trump still appointed Acosta.

Acosta’s appointment should come as no surprise, given Trump’s outspoken praise for Epstein, including referring to the convicted pedophile as a “terrific guy,” he is “fun to be with,” and “he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

Giving Trump the benefit of the doubt with Acosta would be easier had he not made those comments. It would also be easier to overlook if he didn’t just appoint another alleged sexual predator to his cabinet.

According to ProPublica, a political appointee hired by the Trump administration for a significant State Department role was accused of multiple sexual assaults as a student several years ago at The Citadel military college.

Steven Munoz was hired by the Trump administration as assistant chief of visits, and has been accused of sexually assaulting male students — not once — but at least five times.

As ProPublica reports, at The Citadel, five male freshmen alleged that Munoz used his positions as an upperclassman, class president and head of the campus Republican Society to grope them. In one incident, a student reported waking up with Munoz on top of him, kissing him and grabbing his genitals. In another, on a trip to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., a student said that Munoz jumped on him in bed and he “felt jerking and bouncing on my back.”

“Munoz coerced, threatened, and convinced me to allow inappropriate touching, grabbing, and kissing by leading me to believe it was what I needed to do to gain acceptance in the corps of cadets,” one accuser said in their statement. “He threatened to call my upperclassmen who would be upset if I did not comply with him.”

Another victim described how Munoz “instructed me to sit on his bed during these meetings. … After a few meetings he began to rub my leg with his hand. He moved his hand under my shorts and the first time I pushed his hand off my leg he said he was just playing and that he did it with his other knobs so I shouldn’t mind. I had seen this in the past and when I asked my classmates about the interaction, they said when they resisted, he yelled at them for not trusting him and Mr. Munoz made them stay longer in his room.”

In another meeting, Munoz “put his other hand down my underwear until I again pushed him away, but he did not stop. He said as a new leader I had to learn to trust other leaders on the team and this was how I should show him I trusted him.” Munoz said “he read the Bible and knew what it said and I should not question his love of God. He continued to rub my leg and rub my private area. … He said this needed to stay between us and dismissed me.”

In spite of an investigation finding that these assaults “likely occurred,” a local prosecutor reviewed the case and declined to go after Munoz. Instead of charging Munoz with assault, he was let off with a warning only to be given several awards for “leadership, sound character, and service to others” upon graduating in 2011.

After he graduated, even more students came forward. These claims prompted an investigation by police. After the investigation by police in 2012, Munoz was banned from campus and all students were sent an email notifying them of this ban.

In spite of the Citadel investigation finding that  “certain assaults likely occurred,” Munoz was able to weasel his way back onto the campus. Later that year, ProPublica writes, the school partially rescinded the no-trespass order, “permitting general access to public facilities and events, but no direct cadet interactions.” Asked why, the school pointed to the prosecutor’s decision not to seek indictments.

Despite the very public allegations of sexual assault, in 2012, staunch Christian, and RINO, Rick Santorum found no problem hiring Munoz either.

BuzzFeed reported that Munoz “ran Santorum’s presidential campaign’s advance team,” and, more recently, that Munoz was paid for event planning for the Romney presidential campaign, on two occasions this summer.

So how does a five-time accused sexual predator find his way on to the Trump train? Well, the answer to that question is fairly simple.

As Vice News points out, the Trump administration is no stranger to allegations of assault. Aside from his “grab ’em by the pussy” comment, the president himself has been formerly accused of sexual assault in court. In the 1980s, Trump’s former pick for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder, was accused of domestic abuse, and Steve Bannon was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery in 2001, although the case was later dropped.

As the Free Thought Project reported last month, during Trump’s presidential run last year, Judge Tim Nolan of California, Kentucky, was serving as the chair of his campaign. In April, Nolan was arrested and charged with numerous felonies for the sex trafficking of children — all which took place while he worked on the Trump campaign.

Children and the vulnerable, take note: steer clear of the Trump swamp as you may be raped, abused, or otherwise sold into sex slavery by many of the people with which the president chooses to surround himself.


This article originally appeared on The Free Thought Project.

The GOP’s Latest Health Care Replacement Bill Is Even More Heartless Than First Thought

As the House begins its series of votes Thursday to repeal Obamacare, it’s clear that members of Congress are still discovering more brazen giveaways to the insurance industry that will negatively affect more American households.

The biggest example, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, was new fine print in the bill that would allow insurers to lessen the benefits covered in insurance policies employers provide to employees. These are not people covered at all under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but who benefited from the ACA’s required coverage provisions.

“Many people who obtain health insurance through their employers—about half of the country—could be at risk of losing protections that limit out-of-pocket costs for catastrophic illnesses, due to a little-noticed provision of the House Republican health-care bill to be considered Thursday, health-policy experts say,” the WSJ report began. “Insurers in states that obtain the waivers [under the House bill] could be freed from a regulation mandating that they cover 10 particular types of health services, among them maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health treatment and hospitalization.”

This is not the only surprising analysis that’s appeared in the past 24 hours. A New York Times report noted how the bill will take billions away from K-12 public schools that’s now used for special education, where specialists are hired to help children with developmental disabilities.

“The new law would cut Medicaid by $880 billion, or 25 percent, over 10 years and impose a ‘per-capita cap’ on funding for certain groups of people, such as children and the elderly—a dramatic change that would convert Medicaid from an entitlement designed to cover any costs incurred to a more limited program,” the Times reported. “School districts receive about $4 billion in Medicaid reimbursements annually.”

There are other stunning summaries of the bill that is coming before the House. Its broadest provisions deregulate the health insurance industry, eliminate the ACA’s patient protection standards, eliminate cost controls and subsidies, and set the stage to turn government-delivered care for poor people into a system of rationed benefits and coverage. Those recipients include the most vulnerable elderly and children, not just poor adults.

These results flow from the bill’s specifics, which according to a new Times analysis, repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to have insurance coverage; repeals the requirements that employers provide insurance; repeals subsidies that help low- to middle-income families pay for policies after 2020; repeals the income tax surcharges that generated those subsidies; lets states keep their Medicaid expansion but turns it into per-capita payments; lets states end requirements that insurers sell policies to people with pre-existing conditions; allows states to waive “essential benefit” requirements; lifts restrictions on what insurers can charge older Americans; offers tax credits instead of subsidies for middle-class families; and encourages health savings accounts.

An economic analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness and Healthcare for America Now, both progressive coalitions, broke down how the Obamacare repeal bill was a massive giveaway to the wealthy, insurers and the drug industry at the expense of people who are now covered or will see premiums skyrocket.

“The GOP plan will deprive 24 million Americans of healthcare coverage and drive up the cost of coverage for millions more, especially older people and people in rural America. At the same time, it will create tax breaks worth about $600 billion that will mostly go to health insurance companies, prescription drug manufacturers and the wealthy,” the summary said. It gave the following breakdown.

The “winners” are, according to the report:

  • Tax cuts: Gives $600 billion in tax breaks, mostly to the rich and corporations;
  • Millionaires: Get a $50,000 tax break each year from repeal of the ACA’s taxes on the rich. A total of $275 billion in tax cuts goes mostly to the richest 2%;
  • 400 richest families: Each gets a tax cut of $7 million a year, on average;
  • Insurance companies: Get $145 billion in tax breaks over 10 years;
  • Drug companies: Get $25 billion in tax breaks over 10 years;
  • Richest 2%: Get a $117 billion tax cut by eliminating a small Medicare tax on couples with incomes above $250,000 a year.

The “losers” are:

  • Health care cuts: Takes health care away from 24 million Americans;
  • Low-income Americans: Loss of $275 billion in revenue from wealthy tax cuts plays a big role in 14 million low-income kids and seniors losing Medicaid coverage;
  • Workers: 7 million will lose health care coverage from their employer;
  • Older Americans: Health insurance companies could increase premiums by up to $13,000 for older Americans;
  • Patients: No protections from huge drug price increases by pharmaceutical companies;
  • Medicare beneficiaries: Loss of $117 billion in revenue from wealthy tax cut shortens Medicare’s ability to pay full benefits by three years.

The bill was brought to the floor before a new Congressional Budget Office analysis, which is likely to show that more than 24 million Americans will be harmed by the legislation.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

FRANCE GOES TO POLLS UNDER CLOUD OF LATEST TERROR ATTACK

 

PARIS – Voting in France’s presidential election will kick off Sunday morning under the tragic auspices of yet another terror attack that hit Paris earlier in the week, heightening concerns centered on security issues in an already tight race with no clear front-runner.

The polls will open on Sunday at 8 a.m., and will close 12 hours later. If, as seems certain, no one receives 50% of the ballots, the top two contenders will face off two weeks later.

 

Surveys indicate that 23% of voters plan to vote for centrist Emmanuel Macron, 22% support far-right Marine Le Pen, 20% support center-right François Fillon and 19% are for far-left Jean-Luc Melanchon. Supporters of Benoit Hamon, candidate of the ruling center-left Socialist Party, have lost nearly all hope of seeing their candidate make it to the May 7 runoff.

The campaign has focused on the economic crisis and high unemployment rate at the heart of the public agenda (the very same issues that made President François Hollande so unpopular), along with immigration.

But anxieties about France’s security situation were only exacerbated following a shooting on Thursday night on the Champs-Elysees shopping boulevard in central Paris, in which one policeman was killed and two others were wounded.

It is currently unclear how the event will affect the French election, but candidates have been jockeying for an advantage in the contest by emphasizing their security credentials throughout the campaign period.

Some of the candidates later clashed over whether official campaigning should be brought to a full stop in light of the incident.

“In this current context, there are no grounds to continue campaigning. We must first show our solidarity with the police,” conservative candidate Francois Fillon told the France 2 show a day after the Paris attack.

Fillon, who has sought to reinforce his credentials as a hard-liner on security, added that fighting “Islamist totalitarianism” must be the priority for the next president.

Far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon said the candidates should not cave in to violence.

“As we wait for more definite information, I think we need to attend to our duties as citizens: no panic, we shouldn’t interrupt our democratic process,” Melenchon said.

Pollsters see centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen taking the top two places on Sunday and so going head-to-head in the run-off. That would break the normal rotation of power in France between the center-left and center-right.

Macron, a former banker who quit as economy minister last August to set up his independent “En Marche!” (“Onwards!”) movement, would beat Le Pen or any other candidate in the run-off, the latest polls show.

But these are so close that gaps between candidates in the first round fall within the margin of error.

Melenchon, propelled from wildcard to genuine contender thanks to feisty television performances and a smart social media campaign, is virtually neck-and-neck with Fillon and only a few percentage points behind the frontrunners.

CLOSELY WATCHED OUTCOME

Security fears had already re-emerged in the run-up to a first ballot after an attack thought to have been targeted at some of the candidates was foiled earlier in the week. France has been hit by a series of deadly attacks since 2015.

Le Pen, who has stressed her plans to curb immigration in the last week as she tries to rally support, on Thursday night also seized on the latest incident.

“I don’t want us to get used to Islamist terrorism,” she told France 2. “We have to stop being naive. We can’t leave our children a country that is not able to defend them.”

Earlier in the evening, Macron also weighed in on the shooting, saying the president’s No.1 job was to protect people.

The election will decide the direction of France’s 2.2 trillion euro economy, which vies with Britain for the rank of fifth largest in the world. With eurospectics Le Pen and Melenchon in the race, the outcome could have a bearing on France’s place in Europe.

A Harris Interactive poll on Thursday showed Macron and Le Pen still in front, with the gap a bit wider than before. The centrist inched ahead to 24.5 percent while Le Pen was a bit weaker at 21 percent.

Fillon – an early favorite before his campaign hit the rocks following nepotism allegations that he has denied – scored 20 percent, meaning he was now gaining on Le Pen. Melenchon was stable on 19 percent.

Why the Idea of Cracking Syria into Pieces Would Be America’s Latest Imperial Disaster

Far away from Syria, in the air-conditioned offices of think tanks and war rooms sit the intellectuals of our current order. They gaze at maps of Syria – a country to which they have no emotional ties or on whose land they might not have walked. They are not the first men driven by the fantasy of seizing resources and solving problems by drawing new borders. They follow in the 1916 tradition of the British diplomat Mark Sykes and his French counterpart François Georges-Picot, who carved up Ottoman Syria into zones of influence for their respective countries. A hundred years later, the men who follow Sykes and Picot couch their imperial ambitions in humanitarian rhetoric. Their lines begin with ‘safe zones’ and then move to a confederation and finally to a dismembered Syria. Partition, guaranteed by American airpower and troops, they argue, is the solution to the Syrian crisis.

Deeply battered by the civil war, with half its population displaced and over half a million dead, Syria is weakened to the point of virtual collapse. The fall of the government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus would not be – as many of these intellectuals of the American Empire agree – the best possible outcome. ‘Realistically,’ as Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute put it in 2015, ‘the replacement of Assad’ does not ‘appear within reach’ given the lack of palatable alternatives. Moderate forces – as far as the US determines – are simply not available. Therefore, the ouster of Assad in a precipitous way is considered foolhardy.

Instead of removing Assad, then, the United States should – argues O’Hanlon – push for the establishment of ‘one or two safe zones in relatively promising locations,’ backed by ‘perhaps 1,000 American military personnel.’ In these ‘safe zones, local forces – moderates, it is hoped – could be trained to put pressure on Assad’s government. ‘Ultimately, and ideally,’ O’Hanlon argues, ‘some of the safe zones might merge together as key elements in a future con-federal arrangement.’ This dynamic could very well lead to the ‘outright partition of the country if necessary.’ The partition is envisaged along the lines of sect and ethnicity – a Sunni zone, an Alawite zone, and a Kurdish zone. O’Hanlon calls this ‘deconstructing Syria.’

In a recent column, New York Times’ Thomas Friedman muses over the possible futures for Syria. ‘The least bad solution is a partition of Syria,’ Friedman suggests, ‘and the creation of a primarily Sunni protected area – protected by an international force, including, if necessary, some US troops.’ The gap between O’Hanlon and Friedman is merely in that the former recognizes that in the large mixed cities of Damascus and Aleppo, Hama and Homs, a partition would not be easy. ‘Prudence would have to be the watchword,’ writes O’Hanlon.

Neither O’Hanlon nor Friedman – both influential voices in Washington, DC – seem bothered by their imperial gestures. They are quite happy to speak for Syrians, to offer tutelage to Syria which cannot seem to define its own destiny. These are men who will speak of democracy and human rights when it suits them, but then transform just as easily into imperial bureaucrats with their crayons ready to draw lines on someone else’s map.

The influence of these men can be felt quite palpably in the corridors of power. Late last year, CIA Director John Brennan said quite casually, ‘I don’t know whether or not Syria and Iraq can be put back together again. There’s been so much bloodletting, so much destruction, so many continued, seething tensions and sectarian divisions.’ The outcome of this, he suggested, is the partition of Syria. Former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has said that there is already an ‘emerging partition’ of Syria into six zones leading to the ‘Somalization of Syria.’ Amos Gilad, the Strategic Advisor to the Israeli Defense Ministry and well-regarded in US intelligence circles, said, ‘Syria has reached its end.’ They – quite cavalierly – call for the dismemberment of the country.

Last month, before the US strikes on a government airfield, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that once ISIS is removed from the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, it would be ‘governed by local forces’ with US backing. What is being considered is that the US would create – in northern Syria – an analogous development to the Kurdistan Regional Government, which is autonomous of the Iraqi government. This statement was made in Turkey, where there is fear of a Syrian Kurdish state on its border. Turkey is not bothered by the break-up of Syria. What it fears is the concrete reality that this fracturing shall produce a Syrian Kurdish autonomous region with US support long the length of its southern border. Even here Turkish sentiments are over-read. Last November, US General Joseph Dunford and Turkish General Hulusi Akar agreed that ‘the coalition and Turkey will work together on the long-term plan for seizing, holding and governing Raqqa.’ This means that the US and the Turks would adopt this region, with the Turks eager to make the Kurds marginal to their occupied zone.

In sum, all the major players who speak the syrupy language of democracy are quite willing to undemocratically plan for the dismemberment of Syria.

Weaken Syria To Weaken Iran.

Iran, since 1979, has confounded the West and its West Asian allies – Israel and Saudi Arabia. The point for these powers has been to find a mechanism to weaken Iran. Saudi Arabia and the West backed Iraq’s long war against Iran precisely to hem in the Islamic Republic.

In 1979, right after Iran’s Revolution, US embassy official Talcott Seelye wrote from Damascus that his government should exaggerate the Alawite hold on the Syrian state so as to break the legitimacy of Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president. It was important to get rid of Assad, Seelye wrote, to dent Iran’s role in the region. ‘We are inclined to the view that his days are numbered,’ Seelye wrote, even if by ‘the assassination of Assad.’ Although there is not really an Alawite control over the government, Seelye noted, ‘perception is more important than reality.’

During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), the United States wished to hit Syria as a way to weaken Iran. In a revealing cable from 1983, CIA chief Graham Fuller urged his paymasters to bring ‘real muscle to bear against Syria.’ Fuller suggested that ‘the US should consider sharply escalating military threats against Syria from three border states hostile to Syria: Iraq, Israel and Turkey.’ He hoped that if these countries simultaneously attacked Syria, it would weaken its position and its prestige. If Syria’s position was dented, Fuller argued, Iran would be forced ‘to reconsider bringing the war to an end.’ What is important is that the regional countries – such as Iraq – ‘still need to remain on guard against Iranian influence and power throughout the Gulf.’ Hitting Syria would weaken Iran. That was the posture in 1983 as it was in 1979 and as it is today.

Twenty years later, in 2006, the US political officer in Damascus, William Roebuck, wrote that his country should join with Saudi Arabian intelligence to stoke fears of sectarianism in the country. Their stick would be to suggest to the Sunni community that Iran was promoting a Shiite agenda in Syria. Roebuck’s cable reveals the continuation of fear mongering around Iran to increase sectarian feeling to weaken Syrian society and the state. ‘There are fears in Syria,’ Roebuck wrote, ‘that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis.’ What is startling is that Roebuck then conceded that this is ‘often exaggerated.’ The Americans, Roebuck said, against all evidence, should join with the Saudis to ‘better publicize and focus regional attention to this issue.’

The evidence actually showed that Saudi preachers had entered Syria in large numbers and they had established themselves in the slums. It was in these mosques that they preached virulently sectarian rhetoric and prepared society for the outbreak of sectarian violence. This is precisely what overran Syria in 2011. Roebuck advised his paymasters to encourage splits in the military, advised the Gulf Arabs to stop investing in Syria and encouraged any mischief that would deprive the regime of any support. In other words, Roebuck insisted on preparing the terrain for regime change which would harm – as US intelligence openly said a decade ago – both the Lebanese political-military group Hezbollah and Iran.

Two years ago, the US State Department noted in a memorandum, ‘The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.’ Fear of Iran saturates this document. The basic argument is that Iran has its grip on West Asia through Syria and into Hezbollah. These have to be brought to heel. If Assad’s government falls, then Iran’s conduit to Hezbollah would break. It was – therefore – essential to overthrow Assad. This has nothing to do with the Syrian people or their needs, but everything to do with the Washington and Tel Aviv’s hallucinations about Iranian power. The fall of Assad, the US diplomats calculated, would mean that ‘Iran would no longer have a foothold in the Middle East from which to threaten Israel and undermine stability in the region.’

If Assad falls and a new – perhaps radical Islamist – regime comes to power in Damascus, how would this help Israel? A US intelligence official told me this week that the word of this period is ‘Yugoslavia.’ The break-up of Yugoslavia, he said, left behind minor states with no regional power. Balkanization, he said with a smile, would be the appropriate solution for Syria. Break it up and Iran would lose its foothold and no powerful state would remain on Israel’s border to pose a threat. Israel could permanently claim the Golan Heights, a US-backed state would emerge on the Syrian border, Jordan could help itself to the totality of the Hawran plateau, an Alawite state would take the coastal plain, leaving a series of Sunni states from the al-Ghab valley to the Hamad desert. A weak Syria would be easy to dominate.

Mischief surrounds Syria. Partition is seen as a way to destroy that state and offer Israel relief on its borders with Syria and Lebanon. The rights and ambitions of the Syrian people are irrelevant to these plots and schemes.

Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of 18 books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press, 2012), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013) and The Death of a Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016). His columns appear at AlterNet every Wednesday.