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Trump says a President Biden would get 'no ratings'President Trump, whose halting leadership in the face of the coronavirus pandemic Americans increasingly question, boasted Monday about his one undisputed success: his ability to command media attention.

7/13/2020 9:42:49 AM

It’s so hot at Death Valley National Park that cars are breaking downIt’s the hottest place on Earth for a reason.

7/13/2020 3:34:40 PM

Ousted U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman: Deal Barr Offered ‘Could Be Seen as a Quid Pro Quo’The federal prosecutor whom Attorney General Bill Barr ousted in June told House investigators that he was alarmed at the way Barr attempted to replace him, saying that “the “irregular and unexplained actions by the Attorney General raised serious concerns for me,” according to a transcript of the closed-door interview released by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. Geoffrey Berman, formerly the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, was brought in for a closed-door session of the Judiciary Committee on July 9 to talk about the events surrounding Barr’s public announcement on June 19 that Berman had “stepped down” from his post, even though the U.S. attorney made clear to Barr multiple times that he was not stepping down. The late-night announcement by Barr immediately sparked confusion and raised questions about his involvement in a crucial prosecutor’s office. The next day, Berman said he would leave the job when Barr agreed to let his deputy take over as acting U.S. attorney, as opposed to Craig Carpenito, the U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey, whom Barr wanted to install in the position until the Trump administration’s pick, Securities and Exchange Commission chief Jay Clayton, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.Berman, who at SDNY handled sensitive investigations into Trumpworld figures such as Rudy Giuliani, did not comment specifically to the Judiciary Committee on what he believed Barr’s motivations to be, and he studiously avoided any questions about how specific SDNY probes might have factored into the situation. But Berman made clear that the attorney general’s preferred plan would have slowed and complicated the work of the office, and he raised several questions challenging Barr’s handling of the process. Trump Thought He’d Picked His Perfect U.S. Attorney in Geoffrey Berman. He Was Very Wrong.“Why did the attorney general say that I was stepping down when he knew I had neither resigned nor been fired?” Berman asked rhetorically, in response to questions from Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY). “Why did the attorney general not tell me the actual reason he was asking me to resign instead of saying that it was to get Clayton into the position? And why did he announce the appointment of Craig Carpenito as acting U.S. attorney when Audrey Strauss was the logical and normal successor?”“Replacing me with someone from outside the district would have resulted in the disruption and delay of the important investigations that were being conducted,” Berman said later. “I was not going to permit that. And I would rather be fired than have that done.” At numerous points, Berman expressed his dismay at Barr’s wish to install Carpenito—who would have retained his previous job in New Jersey—in the job instead of Berman’s top deputy, Strauss, a move he said violated 70 years of precedent at SDNY.According to his opening statement that was obtained by The Daily Beast last Thursday, Berman said that during a private meeting in New York that Barr called to open the discussion, the attorney general praised his performance as U.S. attorney but said the Trump administration wanted Clayton to take the SDNY post. Berman said Barr tried to lure him away by dangling other offers—to head the Department of Justice’s civil rights division and, later, the SEC—but Berman declined. Barr told him that if he did not resign, he would be fired. “I believe the attorney general was trying to entice me to resign so that an outsider could be put into the acting U.S. attorney position at the Southern District of New York, which would have resulted in the delay and disruption of ongoing investigations,” Berman told the Judiciary Committee.At one point in the interview, GOP committee attorney Steve Castor asked if Barr had laid out to Berman a set of actions that would have allowed him to keep his job—if there was any “quid pro quo for you getting to keep your job.”Berman said no, and he confirmed that Barr did not mention any specific SDNY investigations—Castor raised Jeffrey Epstein and Guiliani-related probes—in pressuring him to leave. But Berman did say Barr’s offering of other positions could have been construed as a quid pro quo.“You know, he wanted me to resign to take a position. I assume you could call that a quid pro quo. You resign and you get this, that would mean quid pro quo,” said Berman. Asked to clarify those comments later, he said it wasn’t his term but reiterated that “it could be seen as a quid pro quo, his offering me a job in exchange for my resignation.” Berman is a rare U.S. attorney in that he was not confirmed by the Senate but was appointed by the judges of SDNY to hold the position in April 2018. Berman insisted that, as he was a court-appointed prosecutor, neither Barr nor President Trump had the authority to fire him before the Senate confirmed a successor, but some past legal precedent has indicated the president can fire a court-appointed U.S. attorney. Trump has said he had nothing to do with Berman’s ouster. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet 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.

7/13/2020 6:21:25 PM

Boeing lands the first order of the F-15EXThe first award covers an initial lot of eight jets.

7/13/2020 6:20:40 PM

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams says the US can turn coronavirus around in '2 or 3 weeks if everyone does their part'Adams compared his past mask advice to doctors who prescribed "leeches and cocaine and heroin for people as medical treatments" before learning more.

7/12/2020 11:15:21 AM

U.S. Considers TikTok Ban as Chinese Threat to Global Internet Freedom GrowsThe partnership between Chinese tech companies and the Chinese Communist Party is threatening global Internet freedom. But the U.S. has the chance to push back and safeguard online free speech and privacy worldwide.Last Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham that the U.S. is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, a video-sharing social-media platform owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, over its ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).Pompeo cited the threat of “Chinese surveillance” to national security, as TikTok user data is surely being passed on to the CCP. A day later, in an interview with Greta Van Susteren, President Trump took a different tack, listing a ban on TikTok as “one of many” potential ways to punish the Chinese government for its hand in the coronavirus pandemic.TikTok is no stranger to U.S. scrutiny. Government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security have banned the app for security reasons. And last year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department investigated the company after it was alleged to have used data from users under 13 years of age in violation of American privacy laws. It was recently reported that the app may have failed to address regulators’ concerns on that front.It might seem strange that an app known for making harmless, entertaining videos go viral would be the center of so much controversy. But the problem isn’t the content TikTok allows users to share with the world; it’s the company’s meticulous collection of user data and its close, troubling relationship with the CCP.Parent company ByteDance is allegedly working with the CCP in its surveillance efforts. Just as unsettling, the app has been accused of aiding Chinese propaganda efforts through the use of “shadow bans,” fiddling with the app’s algorithm so that users — even users outside China — don’t see content concerning Tiananmen Square or the Hong Kong protests. For instance, in 2019, TikTok user Feroza Aziz had her account suspended after posting a makeup tutorial that secretly condemned China’s mass detention and abuse of Uighur Muslims in Xianjiang Province.Such abuses are not limited to TikTok. Other Chinese tech companies have done the CCP’s bidding inside and outside China as well. According to an Australian Strategic Policy Institute report, Chinese tech giants such as Huawei, Tencent, and Alibaba are using artificial intelligence to collect users’ data and aid and abet China in fulfilling its global ambitions.And what are those ambitions? One is obviously the legitimizing of the CCP’s dictatorship abroad. But China may also be seeking to normalize authoritarianism more generally. For instance, TikTok has reportedly censored criticisms of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s authoritarian president.It’s like a virtual Belt and Road Initiative, in which viral dance videos replace seemingly good-faith investments as the vehicle for the spread of CCP influence.In the face of China’s threats to the freedom of the world’s Internet, the Trump administration should be applauded for considering a ban on TikTok. As Chinese censorship, surveillance, and propaganda spread worldwide, the U.S. has a chance to fight back and change the trajectory of the Information Age for the better. At a press conference on Wednesday, Pompeo said that “the infrastructure of this next hundred years must be a communications infrastructure that’s based on a Western ideal of private property and protection of private citizens’ information in a transparent way.” He added, however, that realizing that vision would be difficult: “It’s a big project, because we’ve got partners all around the world where infrastructure crosses Chinese technology and then comes to the United States.”It won’t be easy, but it must be done. Nothing less than global Internet freedom is at stake.

7/13/2020 12:28:44 PM

French man accused of molesting hundreds of children dies in IndonesiaFrancois Camille Abello, 65, died in a suspected suicide in his cell in Jakarta, police say.

7/13/2020 6:22:57 AM

South Africa's 9 million smokers were faced with cold turkey when the government banned cigarette sales in March as a coronavirus measure. Now Big Tobacco is fighting back.Cigarettes have become the top illicit drug, more profitable than cocaine and heroin, analysts told AP.

7/12/2020 11:03:00 AM

Robert Mueller breaks his silence and condemns Trump for commuting Roger Stone's sentenceUS special counsel defends his investigation into allegations of corruption during 2016 electionThe former special counsel Robert Mueller made a rare move on Saturday to publicly defend his two-year investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election – and to castigate Donald Trump’s decision to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence.Mueller wrote an opinion article for the Washington Post [paywall] published under the headline “Roger Stone remains a convicted felon, and rightly so”.“The work of the special counsel’s office – its report, indictments, guilty pleas and convictions – should speak for itself,” he wrote.“But I feel compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office ...“Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”Trump commuted Stone’s sentence on Friday night, sparking outrage from Democrats and some senior Republicans.Stone was a former campaign adviser to the president, convicted in November 2019 of seven crimes including obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering.He was sentenced in February to 40 months in prison and was due to surrender on Tuesday, until the president commuted his sentence.Speaking on Sunday to CNN’s State of the Union, the House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats in the House will pursue legislation to restrict clemency powers related to the president’s own conduct. “It’s a threat to our national security,” she said.The 2017-19 Mueller investigation uncovered evidence of communications between Stone and WikiLeaks related to the release of hacked Democratic party emails during the 2016 election, discovered in a separate inquiry into Russian intelligence officers charged with hacking the emails and staging their release.The partially released Mueller report in April 2019 described Russian efforts to tamper with the election and the Trump campaign’s receptivity to certain “Russian offers of assistance to the campaign”.It outlined actions by Trump that may have amounted to obstruction of justice and concluded: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”Mueller also concluded he did not have the power to charge Trump even if he thought it was warranted.Mueller wrote: “The special counsel’s office identified two principal operations directed at our election: hacking and dumping Clinton campaign emails, and an online social media campaign to disparage the Democratic candidate.“We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel – Stone among them. We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government …“The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. [And] that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”> Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy> > Robert MuellerTrump has repeatedly attempted to discredit Mueller and his investigations.Mueller has kept his counsel since he testified in Congress in July last year. It was a muted affair, and many perceived Trump was emboldened in his efforts to seek assistance in his current election campaign from the Ukraine.This led to the historic impeachment of the president, and Trump’s ultimate acquittal by the Senate earlier this year.On Saturday Mueller wrote: “Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy. It was critical that they be investigated and understood.” ‘Historic corruption’ – RomneyRepublicans largely stayed silent on the issue on Saturday, however Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who was also the lone GOP senator to vote to convict the president during his impeachment trial earlier this year, attacked Trump’s move.“Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” Romney tweeted.Senator Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, a Republican, also called the move to commute the sentence a mistake.Toomey pointed to the backing that the US attorney general, William Barr, had given to the Stone prosecution. Barr, who has faced allegations of using the justice department to defend the president and his associates, had said earlier this month that he regarded the prosecution of Stone as “righteous”.But most Republicans who did speak out about the decision supported it. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump confidant, said Stone was convicted of a nonviolent, first-time offense and the president was justified in commuting the sentence.Graham, chair of the Senate judiciary committee, tweeted on Sunday that he would now grant Democrats’ request to call Mueller to give evidence to the committee, as he was willing to defend the Russia investigation in a newspaper.Graham is leading an investigation by Republicans on the judiciary committee into the origins of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and links to the Trump campaign, and alleged misconduct by US intelligence officials.Democrats say the investigation is a move to appease President Trump ahead of November’s election.• Associated Press contributed to this report. Additional reporting by Mark Oliver.

7/12/2020 2:09:24 PM
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