Gregg Re


President Trump will resume hosting campaign rallies sometime in the next two weeks, returning one of the president’s most potent weapons to his arsenal as the 2020 campaign season enters a pivotal stretch, Fox News is told.

Trump had suspended the rallies, which energize his base and allow his team to collect a treasure trove of voter data, in early March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Americans are ready to get back to action and so is President Trump,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told Fox News. “The Great American Comeback is real and the rallies will be tremendous. You’ll again see the kind of crowds and enthusiasm that Sleepy Joe Biden can only dream of.”

As late as March 9, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, remarked that going to campaign rallies may not be a bad idea.

“You know, I can’t comment on campaign rallies,” Fauci told reporters. “It really depends. We are having as we all said — this is something in motion. This is an evolving thing. … If you want to talk about large gatherings in a place you have community spread, I think that’s a judgment call, and if someone decides they want to cancel it, I wouldn’t publicly criticize them.”

Days later, the president pulled the plug. “I’m not going to do it if I think it’s going to be negative at all,” Trump said. “I don’t want people dying.”

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Bojangles Coliseum, Monday, March 2, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Monday’s announcement that the rallies would resume comes as some polls show the president’s support significantly trailing rival Joe Biden.

“CNN Polls are as Fake as their Reporting,” Trump tweeted early Monday. “Same numbers, and worse, against Crooked Hillary. The Dems would destroy America!”

The change-up also follows statements by many Democrats in charge of big cities — including several who once insisted on strict quarantine measures — championing the nationwide mass demonstrations over the in-custody death of George Floyd, sans social distancing. Epidemiologists, too, have abruptly changed their tune, even though they once said lockdown measures were so important that they justified widespread unemployment and business closures.

“We spent the last couple of months being hectored by public health experts and earnestly righteous media personalities who insisted that easing lockdown policies was immoral, that refusing to social distance or wear masks was nigh upon murderous,” Jonah Goldberg wrote for the G-File. “They even suggested that protests were somehow profane. But now that the George Floyd protests are serving as some kind of Great Awokening, many of the same are saying ‘never mind’ about all of that. Protests aren’t profane, they’re glorious and essential—if they agree with what you’re protesting about.”

More and more states are now reopening pursuant to federal guidelines and local leaders’ assessments, and the nonenforcement of quarantine measures during the Floyd protests has left governors with little room to argue for extending the lockdowns.

Nevertheless, the left-wing taxpayer-funded radio station NPR ran a story late Monday suggesting that the rallies will be dangerous. NPR did not indicate that the Floyd protests would be dangerous in posts covering those demonstrations.

“We spent the last couple of months being hectored by public health experts and earnestly righteous media personalities who insisted that easing lockdown policies was immoral, that refusing to social distance or wear masks was nigh upon murderous,” Jonah Goldberg wrote for the G-File. “They even suggested that protests were somehow profane. But now that the George Floyd protests are serving as some kind of Great Awokening, many of the same are saying ‘never mind’ about all of that. Protests aren’t profane, they’re glorious and essential—if they agree with what you’re protesting about.”

More and more states are now reopening pursuant to federal guidelines and local leaders’ assessments, and the nonenforcement of quarantine measures during the Floyd protests has left governors with little room to argue for extending the lockdowns.

Nevertheless, the left-wing taxpayer-funded radio station NPR ran a story late Monday suggesting that the rallies will be dangerous. NPR did not indicate that the Floyd protests would be dangerous in posts covering those demonstrations.

Prior to suspending rallies in March, the Trump campaign had previously been eyeing, but had not yet announced, a rally in Tampa, Florida, on March 25.

The massive events are often an opportunity for Trump to hone attack lines against his opponents — but also present chances for them to hit back. At a campaign rally in late February, for example, Trump calls Democrats’ criticisms of his coronavirus response “their new hoax.”

Biden and other Democrats then falsely accused Trump of calling the virus itself a hoax. Several fact-checkers, including The Washington Post, make clear that Trump was referring to the Democrats’ response to the virus.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Gregg Re, John Roberts

Source: Fox News: Trump to resume trademark campaign rallies after coronavirus hiatus

D.C. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan issued an order Tuesday indicating he’ll soon accept “amicus curiae,” or “friend of the court” submissions, in the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn — drawing immediate scrutiny and a planned ethics complaint against Sullivan, who had previously refused to hear amicus briefs in the case.

Sullivan’s order indicated that an upcoming scheduling order would clarify the parameters of who specifically could submit the amicus briefs, which are submissions by non-parties that claim an interest in the case. Sullivan specifically said he anticipated that “individuals and organizations” will file briefs “for the benefit of the court,” as he prepares to rule on the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

“Judge Sullivan, who denied leave to file amicus briefs when he knew third parties would have spoken favorably of Flynn, now solicits briefs critical of Flynn,” independent journalist Michael Cernovich wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening. “This is a violation of the judicial oath and applicable ethical rules. We will be filing a complaint against Sullivan. … [He] is acting as a politician, not a judge.”

Sullivan had previously held in the Flynn case that “[o]ptions exist for a private citizen to express his views about matters of public interest, but the Court’s docket is not an available option.”

Will Chamberlain, a lawyer and the editor-in-chief of Human Events, noted that case law in the circuit generally prohibits trial court judges from second-guessing the government’s decision not to prosecute a defendant.

Fox News is told that movement on Cernovich’s ethics complaint was underway Tuesday night, and that Cernovich also was considering filing his own amicus brief. (Cernovich has also sought to intervene in the case of Trump associate Roger Stone to obtain jury questionnaires, after issues of apparent juror bias surfaced — an ongoing effort supported by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.)

Flynn’s legal team indicated in a filing Tuesday that a sealed amicus brief has already been submitted by a left-wing group known as the “Watergate Prosecutors,” urging Sullivan not to toss out Flynn’s guilty plea despite the Justice Department’s request. That group was featured in an October 2019 Washington Post opinion piece, and listed Jill Wine-Banks — who previously advanced unsubstantiated collusion theories involving the Trump campaign and Russia — as one of its members.

Wine-Banks was also explictly named as a member of the group seeking to file an amicus brief in the Flynn case.

“Mueller can prove conspiracy with Russia beyond any doubt,” Wine-Banks previously wrote. She also claimed in 2017 that Flynn would receive “immunity for kidnapping as well as his federal crimes.”

Late Tuesday, President Trump retweeted a post by the Twitter user Techno_Fog calling Wine-Banks a “Trump/Russia collusion nutter.” The post concluded, sarcastically: “Good job Judge Sullivan!”

Wine-Banks did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

The Federalist’s Sean Davis responded: “This is who Emmet G. Sullivan, the judge in Flynn’s case, is allowing to hijack a case which both the defense and the government prosecution wish to dismiss because the case was tainted by corruption from the beginning. Pathetic.”

Davis added that Sullivan was letting “left-wing lawyers write his final order against Flynn for him.”

Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, echoed those arguments. “The proposed amicus brief has no place in this Court,” Powell wrote. “No further delay should be tolerated or any further expense caused to him and his defense.”

Judge Emmet Sullivan has a reputation for punishing Justice Department overreach, including during the case against then-Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens. (AP, File)

In his brief order Tuesday, Sullivan quoted his fellow judge on the D.C. District Court, Amy Berman Jackson, who previously admonished the parties in the Stone case that allowing amicus submissions does not mean that the criminal case will become a “free for all.”

Flynn’s case, however, has sometimes seemed like just that. In a fireworks-filled sentencing hearing in December 2018, for example, Sullivan himself appeared open to the idea that Flynn could be charged with a death penalty-eligible offense.

“I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense,” Sullivan said during that hearing. He added that Flynn’s allegedly unregistered work with Turkey “arguably” had undermined “everything this flag over here stands for.” (Flynn was never charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which had gone largely unenforced until recently.)

In a bizarre moment, Sullivan then asked the government’s attorneys whether they had considered charging Flynn with treason. The prosecutors said they had not, and Sullivan later walked back his comments after a brief recess.

Then, last December, Sullivan accused Flynn’s legal team of plagiarism in a filing, saying they had “lifted verbatim portions from a source without attribution.” Powell shot back that the claim “made no sense,” and that she relied on one of her own cases as well as a brief primarily written by a friend whom she cited.

On the recommendation of U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen, who served as an FBI agent for more than a decade, the Justice Department last Thursday moved to drop its case against Flynn. The stunning development came after internal memos were released raising serious questions about the nature of the investigation that led to Flynn’s late 2017 guilty plea of lying to the FBI as his legal fees mounted.

One of the documents was a top official’s handwritten memo debating whether the FBI’s “goal” was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.” Other materials showed efforts by anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok to pursue Flynn on increasingly flimsy legal grounds.

It would not be unprecedented for the government to successfully move to dismiss a case after securing a conviction. In fact, Sullivan himself tossed the conviction of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens in 2009, when it emerged the government had not produced a slew of exculpatory “Brady” material.

Powell has raised similar issues in the Flynn case. Fox News has chronicled numerous representations by the lead prosecutor in the Flynn case, Brandon Van Grack, concerning the government’s supposed compliance with “Brady’ requirements — representations that now appear to have been inaccurate, as a mountain of striking exculpatory evidence has emerged.

FILE – In this June 7, 2017, file photo, then-FBI acting director Andrew McCabe listens during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Van Grack withdrew from the case entirely two days after Fox News published the article on his apparent misrepresentations to the court.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that President Obama was aware of the details of Flynn’s intercepted December 2016 phone calls with Russia’s then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, surprising then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in a White House meeting.

Obama’s unexpectedly intimate knowledge of the details of Flynn’s calls, which the FBI acknowledged at the time was not criminal or even improper, raised eyebrows because of his own history with Flynn — and because top FBI officials secretly discussed whether their goal was to “get [Flynn] fired” when they interviewed him in the White House on January 24, 2017, according to newly released documents.

Obama personally had warned the Trump administration against hiring Flynn, and made clear he was “not a fan,” according to multiple officials. Obama had fired Flynn as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014; Obama cited insubordination, while Flynn asserted he was pushed out for his aggressive stance on combating lslamic extremism.

On January 5, 2017, Yates attended an Oval Office meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey, then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-CIA Director John Brennan and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, according to the newly declassified documents, including an FD-302 FBI witness report. They were discussing Russian election interference, along with national security adviser Susan Rice and other members of the national security council.

“It was at this meeting that Obama gave guidance to key officials who would be tasked with protecting his administration’s utilization of secretly funded Clinton campaign research, which alleged Trump was involved in a treasonous plot to collude with Russia, from being discovered or stopped by the incoming administration,” Hemingway wrote.

After the briefing, Obama asked Yates and Comey to “stay behind,” and said he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Russia’s ambassador about sanctions. Obama “specified that he did not want any additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information.”

A previous memo from Rice stated that Biden also stayed behind after the main briefing had ended.

At that point, the documents showed, “Yates had no idea what the president was talking about, but figured it out based on the conversation. Yates recalled Comey mentioning the Logan Act, but can’t recall if he specified there was an ‘investigation.’ Comey did not talk about prosecution in the meeting.”

The exhibit continued: “It was not clear to Yates from where the president first received the information. Yates did not recall Comey’s response to the president’s question about how to treat Flynn. She was so surprised by the information she was hearing that she was having a hard time processing it and listening to the conversation at the same time.”

Yates, who was fired by the Trump administration after taking the extraordinary step of refusing to defend its travel ban executive order in court, later said she was concerned Flynn would be vulnerable to blackmail because of his interactions with Russia.

The Logan Act, an obscure statute, has never been used successfully in a criminal prosecution; enacted in 1799 in an era before telephones, it was intended to prevent individuals from falsely claiming to represent the United States government abroad. In its motion to dismiss Flynn’s case on Thursday, the DOJ noted that the law was an unserious dead letter.

The Washington Post newsroom also struggled with the relevance of any potential issue with Flynn’s overseas calls, a bombshell transcript uncovered by the Twitter user Techno_Fog revealed this weekend — before an op-ed columnist went ahead and published the “red meat.”

During the interview with FBI agents Strzok and Joe Pientka in the White House, Flynn said “not really” when asked if he had sought to convince Kislyak not to escalate a brewing fight with the U.S. over sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, according to a contested FD-302 witness report prepared by the FBI. Flynn also demurred when asked if he had asked Russia to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that condemned Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, according to the FBI. The Obama administration abstained in that vote.

At various points, Flynn also suggested to Strzok and Pientka that such conversations might have happened or that he could not recall them if they did, according to the 302. The 302 indicated that Flynn apparently was aware his communications had been monitored, and at several points he thanked the FBI agents for reminding him of some of his conversations with Russian officials.

Pientka was scrubbed from the FBI website after Fox News asked the bureau about him last December, and Republican lawmakers (including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and GOP Reps. Jim Jordan and Mike Johnson) are seeking to question him. The FBI told Fox News last year that reporting Pientka’s name was irresponsible and endangered his life for no journalistic purpose; sources tell Fox News that Pientka still holds a senior post in the bureau’s San Francisco field office.

But, Fox News has previously determined that Pientka was also intimately involved in the probe of former Trump aide Carter Page, which the DOJ has since acknowledged was riddled with fundamental errors and premised on a discredited dossier that the bureau was told could be part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Fox News’ Bill Mears and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Flynn judge to allow ‘amicus’ submissions, delaying immediate resolution and drawing planned ethics complaint

Brandon Van Grack, a top Justice Department prosecutor and former member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, is no longer handling the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, it emerged Thursday afternoon.

Just minutes after that news surfaced, Justice Department sources told Fox News that the DOJ was dropping the Flynn case entirely. That move came on the recommendation of U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen, who served as an FBI agent for more than a decade and had been evaluating the Flynn case.

Van Grack is also withdrawing from other unrelated cases as well, raising questions about his future at the DOJ. No explanation was given for Van Grack’s abrupt withdrawal from the Flynn case, which was recorded in a brief filing with the court on Thursday. An administration official tells Fox News that Van Grack is still at DOJ and has not resigned.

But Van Grack’s removal from the cases came just days after Fox News reported that explosive, newly unsealed evidence documenting the FBI’s efforts to target Flynn — including a top official’s handwritten memo debating whether the FBI’s “goal” was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired” — called into question whether Van Grack complied with a court order to produce favorable evidence to Flynn.

Since February 2018, Van Grack — who now heads the DOJ’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) unit — has been obligated to comply with D.C. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s standing order in the Flynn case to produce all evidence in the government’s possession “that is favorable to defendant and material either to defendant’s guilt or punishment.”

The order also requires the government to submit favorable defense evidence to the court, including possible “impeachment evidence” that could undermine witnesses, even if the government believes the evidence “not to be material.” (Sullivan still has the ultimate authority over what to do with Flynn’s case, even after the DOJ withdrawal, given that a guilty plea has been entered.)

Van Grack has long informed Sullivan that the government’s so-called “Brady” obligations, referring to prosecutors’ duty to turn over exculpatory materials to defendants, have been met. In an October 2019 filing, Van Grack denied governmental misconduct and assured the court that the government “has complied, and will continue to comply, with its discovery and disclosure obligations, including those imposed pursuant to Brady and the Court’s Standing Order.”

In that same October 2019 motion, Van Grack elaborated on those claims, telling Sullivan that the government had not “affirmatively suppressed evidence” or hid Brady material. He denied that the government was “aware of any information that would be favorable and material to [Flynn] at sentencing.”

Van Grack further dismissed arguments by Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, that “General Flynn was targeted and taken out of the Trump administration for concocted and political purposes” as “conspiracy theories.”

What Van Grack didn’t inform the court about – and didn’t provide to Flynn – was the newly unsealed January 4, 2017 “Closing Communication” from the FBI Washington Field Office, which recommended the FBI close its investigation of Flynn, as its exhaustive search through government databases “did not yield any information on which to predicate further investigative efforts.”

FILE – In this Dec. 1, 2017, file photo, Michael Flynn, center, arrives at federal court in Washington. A judge set a sentencing hearing for Michael Flynn after rejecting arguments from the former Trump administration national security adviser that prosecutors had withheld evidence favorable to his case. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Van Grack also failed to provide evidence to Flynn’s attorneys that anti-Trump former FBI agent Peter Strzok then immediately intervened and instructed the FBI case manager handling the Flynn investigation to keep the probe open, followed by indicators that the bureau would seek to investigate Flynn for possible violations of an obscure 18th century law known as the Logan Act — which has never been utilized in a modern prosecution.

Another Strzok text mentions that the FBI’s “7th floor” – meaning FBI leadership – may have been involved in the decision to keep the Flynn case alive.

Instead, Van Grack characterized Flynn’s alleged false statements as critical to the FBI’s “legitimate and significant investigation into whether individuals associated with the campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump were coordinating with the Russian government in its activities to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”

He argued to Sullivan that Flynn’s “conduct and communications with Russia went to the heart of that inquiry.” And Van Grack said that Flynn’s alleged “false statements to the FBI on January 24, 2017, were absolutely material.”

But by that time, the FBI had already cleared Flynn of any improper ties, coordination, or communication with Russia. Just a day before Flynn’s January 2017 White House interview, the Washington Post ran a story declaring that the FBI “had reviewed Flynn’s calls with Russian ambassador but found nothing illicit,” citing unnamed “U.S. officials.”

Former special counsel Robert Mueller is sworn in before testifying to the House Judiciary Committee about his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool Photo via AP)

Shedding light on internal FBI deliberations, notes from the then-assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division Bill Priestap — written before the Flynn interview and after discussions with then-FBI Director James Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Fox News is told — show discussions of whether their “goal” at the White House interview was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”

These unsealed notes further suggest that agents planned in the alternative to get Flynn “to admit to breaking the Logan Act” when he spoke to then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition period.

The Logan Act has never been used in a modern criminal prosecution and has a questionable constitutional status; it was enacted in 1799 in an era before telephones and was intended to prevent individuals from falsely claiming to represent the United States government abroad.

“Any criminal investigation grounded in Logan Act questions is an obvious political pretext to attack the Trump Administration,” GOP Reps. Jim Jordan and Mike Johnson wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Monday, in a letter seeking in-person interviews and key documents. “FBI attorney Lisa Page admitted to Congress the Justice Department saw the Logan Act as an ‘untested’ and ‘very, very old’ statute.”

FILE – In this June 7, 2017 file photo, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill in Washington. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday, March 16, 2018, that he has fired former FBI Deputy Director McCabe, a longtime and frequent target of President Donald Trump’s anger, just two days before his scheduled retirement date. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

This new evidence puts Van Grack at risk for accusations that he was misleading Sullivan as to the materiality of Flynn’s statements to FBI agents Strzok and Joe Pientka when they interviewed him in the White House on January 24, 2017.

DOJ regulations first spotted by the Twitter user Techno Fog state that prosecutors like Van Grack, “with limited exceptions … should be granted access [by FBI agents] to the substantive case file and any other file or document” that they “have reason to believe may contain discoverable information related to the matter being prosecuted.” The regulations state that prosecutors can “personally review the file or documents or may choose to request production of potentially discoverable materials from the case agents.”

Van Grack’s withdrawal means he won’t appear at the next hearing in the case — unless Sullivan decides to order him to appear to explain himself.

Flynn earlier this year moved to withdraw his guilty plea for making false statements to the FBI regarding his communications with Russia’s ambassador. His legal team, at the time, said that the move was “because of the government’s bad faith, vindictiveness and breach of the plea agreement.”

On Thursday, the DOJ concluded that Flynn’s calls with the ambassador “were entirely appropriate on their face.”

In December 2017, and on the brink of financial ruin, Flynn was forced to put his home in Old Town Alexandria, Va.—located just outside Washington D.C.—on the market with an asking price of $895,000 to pay his mounting legal bills.

According to Zillow, the townhouse sold for $819,995 in September 2018. Powell confirmed the sale of the house to Fox News. That financial pressure, coupled with the FBI’s failure to turn over exculpatory evidence, may have contributed to his guilty plea.

Flynn was accused of giving equivocal and evasive answers to FBI agents in the White House, but no transcript of the conversation exists. Instead, after-the-fact FBI notes of the interview with Strzok and Pientka were the primary evidence — even though the notes indicated that Strzok and Pientka didn’t think Flynn was lying. Strzok was later removed from Mueller’s team when his anti-Trump text messages surfaced.

Transcripts did exist, however, showing Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador. The FBI freely and publicly admitted to reviewing those transcripts and clearing Flynn of any wrongdoing, prior to the White House interview.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson and Wilson Miller contributed to this report.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Mueller prosecutor withdraws from Flynn case after questions surface concerning his compliance with court order

A billionaire Republican megadonor has purchased a “sizable” stake in Twitter and “plans to push” to oust CEO Jack Dorsey among other changes, according to new reports, raising the prospect of a shocking election-year shakeup of the social media platform that conservatives have long accused of overt left-wing political bias.

Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. has already nominated four directors to Twitter’s board, Bloomberg News reported, citing several sources familiar with the arrangement. The outlet noted that unlike other prominent tech CEOs, Dorsey didn’t have voting control over Twitter because the company had just one class of stock; and he has long been a target for removal given Twitter’s struggling user growth numbers and stock performance.

Singer, who opposed President Trump’s campaign in 2016, has since changed his tune, raising the prospect that some of the changes to Twitter could make the platform a friendlier place for pro-Trump users. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Singer donated $24 million to Republican and right-leaning groups in the 2016 election.

“As you know, Paul was very much involved with the anti-Trump or as they say ‘Never Trump,” and Paul just left [the White House] and he’s given us his total support and it’s all about unification,” Trump said in 2017. “So, I want to thank Paul Singer for being here and coming up to the office. He was a very strong opponent and now he’s a very strong ally and I appreciate that.”

Twitter has long rankled not only conservatives but also independent-minded commentators and left-of-center activists. In 2018, feminist Meghan Murphy slammed Twitter for the “dangerous” banning and silencing of users who didn’t follow the platform’s guidelines. Murphy was banned after writing that “men aren’t women,” in defiance of Twitter’s stated views on gender.

“I don’t want to draw a line that ends up silencing people who have political ideas, or who are talking about ideologies, or who are challenging popular discourse that has been deemed offensive,” Murphy told The Hill.

Twitter did not immediately reply to a request for comment. “We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” Twitter’s website read.

Meanwhile, Jordan Peterson, the Canadian professor who famously protested legislation that would punish professors for refusing to use students’ custom pronouns, began development recently on a “free speech” alternative to Twitter called Thinkspot.

And, California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes last year filed a major lawsuit seeking $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages against Twitter and a handful of its users, accusing the social media site of “shadow-banning conservatives” to secretly hide their posts, systematically censoring opposing viewpoints, and totally “ignoring” lawful complaints of repeated abusive behavior.

“Twitter is a machine,” Nunes’ personal attorney, Steven S. Biss, told Fox News. “It is a modern-day Tammany Hall. Congressman Nunes intends to hold Twitter fully accountable for its abusive behavior and misconduct.”

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Billionaire Republican buys major Twitter stake, may oust CEO amid GOP concerns of bias, reports say

Bernie Sanders unexpectedly released a fact-sheet Monday night explaining that he’d pay for his sweeping new government programs through new taxes and massive lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry, as well as by slashing spending on the military, among other methods.

The move sought to head off complaints from Republicans and some rival Democrats that his plans were economically unrealistic, especially after a head-turning CBS News interview in which the frustrated Vermont senator said he couldn’t “rattle off to you every nickel and every dime” about his proposed expenditures.

He released his plan on his website just minutes after promising to do so during a CNN town hall.

However, the fact-sheet highlighted for the first time that many of Sanders’ expected cost-saving measures relied on conjecture and best-case scenarios. For example, Sanders’ document asserts that a “modest tax on Wall Street speculation … will raise an estimated $2.4 trillion over ten years” and, in one fell swoop, make all “public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition-free … and cancel all student debt over the next decade.”

The proposal specifically would place a “0.5 percent tax on stock trades – 50 cents on every $100 of stock – a 0.1 percent fee on bond trades, and a 0.005 percent fee on derivative trades.”

The National Review has likened a tax on so-called “Wall Street speculation” to a de facto tax on savings, saying the Sanders plan is untested and “would mean paying $25 to the federal government every time you traded $5,000 worth of stock — or five times what you’d pay the typical online brokerage in fees. … Over the long term, that imposes serious costs on actively traded funds such as the ones containing many Americans’ retirement funds.”

Meanwhile, housing for everyone would cost $2.5 trillion over ten years, and would be paid entirely by a “wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent,” raising a total of $4.35 trillion, according to Sanders’ fact-sheet. Similarly, “universal childcare and pre-school to every family in America” would be provided with a wealth tax on the “top 0.1 percent,” again raising more than $4 trillion. The taxes would target wealthy individuals’ “net worth,” not simply their income.

Sanders’ plan did not discuss the possible stock market ramificiations of a major seizure of some of this wealth, much of which is held in markets and other investments. The plan also did not discuss how the government would be able to reliably obtain the money, given that many investments could quickly be liquidated or transferred elsewhere before his administration took office.

Instead, Sanders’ proposal said only that it would eventually establish a “national wealth registry and significant additional third party reporting requirements,” buff up IRS funding and, and “include enhancements to the international tax enforcement.”

The plan would require the IRS “to perform an audit of 30 percent of wealth tax returns for those in the 1 percent bracket and a 100 percent audit rate for all billionaires,” and would include a “40 percent exit tax on the net value of all assets under $1 billion and 60 percent over $1 billion for all wealthy individual seeking to expatriate to avoid the tax.”

A new “income inequality tax on large corporations that pay CEOs at least 50 times more than average workers” would take care of $81 billion in past-due medical debt, Sanders further claimed.

Sanders’ projections also stated without providing details that his Green New Deal plan would create “20 million new jobs,” thus ensuring $2.3 trillion in “new income tax revenue.”

Additionally, Sanders cited “economists” as he promised that by “averting climate catastrophe we will save: $2.9 trillion over 10 years, $21 trillion over 30 years and $70.4 trillion over 80 years.”

No information was provided to validate that assertion, although the Trump administration’s National Climate Assessment found that it was possible climate change could reduce the size of the U.S. economy by 10 percent by the end of the century, assuming no substantial changes in technology (including carbon-reducing innovations) or policy occur in the meantime.

Sanders claimed to be able to raise “$3.085 trillion by making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.” He has repeatedly suggested on the campaign trail that he would direct the Justice Department to pursue the fossil fuel industry, although it was unclear how successful that legal strategy would be.

“If we do not act, the U.S. will lose $34.5 trillion by the end of the century in economic productivity,” Sanders alleged — putting the consequences of climate change in stark economic terms.

On health care, Sanders has previously vowed to provide benefits, including health care, even to illegal immigrants. It’s unclear how many people that unprecedented proposal would cover, especially given that such a plan would likely lead to a rise in immigration to the United States and that the number of illegal immigrants presently in the country is unknown. The issue is not mentioned at all in Sanders’ fact-sheet.

Instead, although some nonpartisan estimates have put the cost of Sanders’ “Medicare-for-all” proposal at over $32 trillion, Sanders’ fact-sheet simply calls for “proposed a menu of financing options that would more than pay” for the program.

Among the available options: “creating a 4 percent income-based premium paid by employees, exempting the first $29,000 in income for a family of four,” as well as imposing a 7.5 percent “income-based premium paid by employers, exempting the first $1 million in payroll to protect small businesses.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders I-Vt. speaks at a campaign event in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. Sanders urged his supporters to vote in the primary, which is already underway. Democratic primary voting in Texas ends March 3, along with other states who, all together, will decide one third of the delegates in the contest. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Other savings would come from eliminating “health tax expenditures, which would no longer be needed under Medicare for All,” and “raising the top marginal income tax rate to 52% on income over $10 million.”

Reducing defense spending by “$1.215 trillion” would be achievable by “scaling back military operations on protecting the global oil supply,” Sanders’ fact-sheet continued. Defense spending is slated to total $934 billion from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021.

As the numbers were released, Sanders doubled down on his comments praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s “literacy program,” saying it was a positive outcome from the violent Cuban Revolution that literacy rates quickly rose.

The pro-Castro remarks had drawn scrutiny even from Democratic lawmakers, especially in Florida, which has a large Cuban-American population.

“As the first South American immigrant member of Congress who proudly represents thousands of Cuban Americans, I find Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments on Castro’s Cuba absolutely unacceptable,” wrote Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. “The Castro regime murdered and jailed dissidents, and caused unspeakable harm to too many South Florida families. To this day, it remains an authoritarian regime that oppresses its people, subverts the free press, and stifles a free society.”

Other Democrats pointed out that Cuba’s literacy was on the rise pre-Castro, and asserted that the literacy program amounted to an indoctrination effort. Even so, on Monday, Sanders refused to apologize for his remarks at the CNN town hall, when pressed by moderator Chris Cuomo.

“Truth is truth,” Sanders said to applause. “If you want to disagree with me, if somebody wants to say — and by the way, all of those congresspeople that you mention, just so happen to be supporting other candidates — accidentally no doubt, coincidentally. But, you know, the truth is the truth. And that’s what happened in the first years of the Castro regime.”

Also at the town hall, after arguing that people should not be judged solely by their skin color, Sanders promised that his vice president “definitively” would not be an “old white guy.”

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Bernie Sanders reveals ‘major plans’ to be funded by new taxes, massive lawsuits, military cuts

After an opening salvo of back-and-forth arguments from President Trump’s attorneys and Democrats’ impeachment managers on Monday, Senate impeachment trial proceedings are set to begin at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday with the expectation they will stretch well into a wild night on Capitol Hill — even as key procedural questions, including the timeline for debate and whether additional witnesses will testify, remain undecided and hotly contentious.

In a surprise move Monday night, a detachment of high-profile House Republicans announced that they would formally join the president’s legal team, including Reps. Doug Collins, Mike Johnson, Jim Jordan, Debbie Lesko, Mark Meadows, John Ratcliffe, Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin. The last-minute show of force underscored the fluid nature of the Senate trial, which is also set to feature full-throated arguments against impeachment from constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz and Bill Clinton independent counsel Ken Starr.

“We are not planning for them to present statements on the Senate floor,” a senior administration official told Fox News, referring to the latest additions to Trump’s defense team, headed up by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow. “The group will continue to give critical guidance on the case because of their strong familiarity with the facts and evidence.”

Jordan Sekulow told Fox News’ “Hannity” on Monday night that his father and the rest of Trump’s legal team were “champing at the bit and ready to go.” He maintained that executive privilege, a longstanding constitutional principle protecting executive branch deliberations from disclosure, by itself defeated the “obstruction of Congress” article of impeachment, while Democrats had only hearsay evidence and speculation to support their “abuse of power” charge. Neither “obstruction of Congress” nor “abuse of power” are federal crimes, and they have no established definition.

Democrats have seethed openly ever since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., failed in her gambit to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hand before the House would turn over the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Pelosi had sought a commitment allowing Democrats to call witnesses prior to arguments in the trial — but, with just hours to go until the proceedings commenced, McConnell, R-Ky., dashed those hopes.

McConnell specifically revealed Monday that he wanted a condensed, two-day calendar for each side to give opening statements, at 12 hours per day. After the four days of opening arguments, senators would be allowed up to 16 hours for written questions to the prosecution and defense, followed by four hours of debate. Only then would there be votes on calling other witnesses, likely next week. At the end of deliberations, the Senate would then vote on each impeachment article.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said in a statement Monday night that McConnell’s resolution, overall, “aligns closely with the rules package approved 100-0 during the Clinton trial. If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts.” Romney was among a small number of Republican senators who said they wanted to consider witness testimony and documents that weren’t part of the House impeachment investigation.

Democrats, however, were incensed by the speedy timeline. Some took to calling McConnell “Midnight Mitch,” the latest in a string of unintentionally flattering nicknames. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called McConnell’s rules package a “national disgrace,” adding, “it’s clear Sen. McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through.”

Even before McConnell’s announcement, congressional Democrats apparently were off-balance: “The House managers have absolutely no idea what the structure of the trial two days before the trial begins,” one source with House Democrats working on the impeachment trial complained to Fox News late Sunday.

“It is completely unfathomable,” fumed another source with the Democrats. “Is Sen. McConnell going to have 12-hour trial days which run until 2 or 3 in the morning?”

McConnell is expected to kick off the afternoon’s proceedings by introducing his proposed resolution for the parameters for the trial, which he has said will pass with at least 53 votes. Senators will not be directly speaking out in the debate over McConnell’s resolution, which is slated to last for approximately two hours — only members of Trump’s defense team, and the seven Democrats serving as House impeachment managers, are expected to participate.

Schumer likely will then present his counter-proposals to McConnell’s motion, followed by another two hours of debate among the managers and Trump’s counsel. Potential proposals include requests to subpoena specific witnesses — including, perhaps, Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas or former National Security Adviser John Bolton — or to adjust debate time.

Then, at approximately 6 p.m. ET or even later, Fox News is told to expect a closed Senate session of indeterminate length after the debates. When the Senate returns to open session, lawmakers — including two leading Democratic presidential contenders, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — likely will vote in turn on any amendments to McConnell’s proposal, then McConnell’s proposal itself.

McConnell’s proposal also was said to include a so-called “kill switch,” allowing Trump’s team to move to dismiss the articles of impeachment in the Senate quickly.

In a sign of the prevailing give-no-ground mentality ahead of the trial, Trump’s legal team traded blows with House prosecutors on Monday, asserting that the president did “absolutely nothing wrong” and urging the Senate to reject an impeachment case it called “flimsy” and a “dangerous perversion of the Constitution.”

House Democrats impeached the president for “abuse of power” related to his administration’s withholding of U.S. military aid to Ukraine while he suggested the country investigate rival Joe Biden’s dealings in Ukraine. The aid was eventually released, and Ukrainian officials have denied feeling any undue pressure. The administration’s refusal to comply with Democrats’ probe, citing executive privilege, led to the “obstruction of Congress” count.

“It is a constitutional travesty.”

— President Trump’s legal team, on the impeachment proceedings

The 110-page filing from the White House condemned the “rigged” House impeachment process, calling the majority vote to impeach there a “brazenly political act … that must be rejected.”

The White House’s legal argument hinged in part on Trump’s assertion he did nothing wrong and did not commit any recognized crime, as well as on poking holes in the hearsay witness testimony offered by Democrats.

For example, the White House pointed out that EU ambassador Gordon Sondland had said he “had come to believe” that aid to Ukraine was linked to an investigation of Biden, “before talking to the president.” Additionally, Trump’s lawyers pointed out that Sondland admitted having “no evidence” other than his “own presumption,” and that he was “speculating” based on hearsay that the Trump administration ever linked a White House meeting with Ukraine’s leaders to the beginning of an investigation.

“After focus-group testing various charges for weeks, House Democrats settled on two flimsy Articles of Impeachment that allege no crime or violation of law whatsoever—much less ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ as required by the Constitution,” the lawyers wrote. “It is a constitutional travesty.”

Additionally, the White House released Justice Department legal opinions meant to bolster its case that defying subpoenas from Congress did not amount to “obstruction of Congress.”

One opinion, dated Sunday, said Trump administration officials were free to disregard subpoenas sent last fall before the House of Representatives had formally authorized an impeachment inquiry. That approval, the memo said, was necessary before congressional committees could begin their own investigations and issue subpoenas for documents and testimony.

A copy of a Senate draft resolution to be offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., regarding the procedures during the impeachment trial of President Trump. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

Meanwhile, the prosecution team of House managers was spending another day on Capitol Hill preparing for the trial, which will take place under heavy security. The Democrats made their way through crowds of tourists in the Rotunda to tour the Senate chamber.

In their own filing Monday, House prosecutors replied to Trump’s “not guilty” plea by making fresh demands for a fair trial in the Senate. “President Trump asserts that his impeachment is a partisan ‘hoax.’ He is wrong,” the prosecutors wrote in their reply.

They wrote that the president can’t have it both ways — rejecting the facts of the House case but also stonewalling congressional subpoenas for witnesses and testimony. “Senators must honor their own oaths by holding a fair trial with all relevant evidence,” they wrote.

No president has ever been removed by the Senate. The current Senate, with a 53-47 Republican majority, is not expected to mount the two-thirds voted needed for conviction. Even if it did, the White House team has argued it would be an “unconstitutional conviction” because the articles of impeachment were too broad.

Administration officials have argued that similar imprecision applied to the perjury case in Clinton’s impeachment trial.

The White House has also suggested the House inquiry was lacking because it failed to investigate Biden or his son Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine in a lucrative role while his father was overseeing Ukraine policy as vice president. Should Democrats insist on calling witnesses like Parnas and Bolton, Republicans have openly suggested that they might then push for a subpoena the Bidens.

In a show of confidence, Trump tweeted a video late Monday touting his achievements in office, including the nation’s historically low unemployment rate, booming stock market and rising wages, with the note: “THE BEST IS YET TO COME!”

Fox News’ Caroline McKee, Chad Pergram, John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re or email him at

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Senate impeachment trial set to begin as Trump adds last-minute reinforcements to defense team

Speaking to reporters just hours after dozens of Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, President Trump on Tuesday night vowed that the situation “will not be a Benghazi” — a pointed reference to the deadly 2012 embassy attack in Libya on the Obama administration’s watch, after officials at the embassy had requested enhanced security for weeks.

“It’s been handled very well,” Trump said as he walked into New Year’s Eve celebrations at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “The Marines came in. We had some great warriors come in; they did a fantastic job. They were there instantaneously, as soon as we heard. They came immediately. It’s in great shape. This will not be a Benghazi. Benghazi never should have happened. This will never, ever be a Benghazi. … As soon as we saw there was a potential for a problem, they got in.”

Trump added: “Things are in great shape. … I want to thank the Iraqi government. They really stepped up.”

“This will not be a Benghazi. Benghazi never should have happened.”

— President Trump

Iran, Trump said, “should want peace more than anybody,” and any conflict “would go very quickly.” But, Trump said he did not see such a fight materializing, even as he unequivocally pointed the finger at Iran for the embassy breach.

Meanwhile, multiple media outlets, including The New York Times, inexplicably opted to describe the embassy attackers simply as “Iraqi mourners.”

Separately, Trump told reporters he was not worried about what he called Democrats’ impeachment “hoax,” pointing out that Ukraine’s leader has said he felt no pressure from the White House to launch any political investigations.

Trump slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as “a highly overrated person” and said he would be happy to have a Senate trial, although he emphasized he didn’t really care one way or the other.

The president went on to defend his brief suspension of foreign aid to Ukraine this year — which Democrats have claimed was an attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden — by asking why other countries did not provide anything near the level of foreign aid that the U.S. regularly provided: “Why is it always the United States? Nobody ever covers that, but I think it’s a big factor.”

In this photo provided by U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) 19.2, preparing to deploy from Kuwait on Tuesday. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Robert G. Gavaldon via AP)

The president also said he had a strong relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has signaled he might soon give Trump a Christmas present in the form of renewed missile tests.

“I hope his Christmas present is a beautiful vase,” Trump said. “Look, he likes me, I like him. We get along. He’s representing his country, I’m representing my country, we have to do what we have to do. But, he did sign a contract, he did sign an agreement talking about denuclearization.”

Security forces standing guard while protesters burned property in front of the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Trump didn’t disclose his New Year’s resolution, though — saying he thought those should generally be kept private.

“Happy New Year,” Trump said. “We’re gonna have a great year.”

A U.S. official told Fox News earlier in the day that “Iraqi security forces did participate” in protecting the embassy — and Trump made clear he expected Iraq to secure U.S. personnel.

“[W]e expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!” Trump wrote in a Tuesday afternoon tweet blaming Iran. He also spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, stressing again the need to protect U.S. facilities in Iraq.

Trump explicitly warned Iran on Twitter that the country “will pay a very BIG PRICE!” after the embassy attack. “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” he wrote. “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”

Militants smashed a main door at the embassy and set fire to a reception area in one of the worst attacks on the embassy in recent years. Fox News has learned more than 100 Marines have arrived at the embassy to bolster security.

The U.S. Army’s AH-64 Apache helicopter from 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, conducting overflights of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Khalil Jenkins, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs via AP)

Additionally, the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division’s alert brigade has been issued orders to deploy rapidly to Kuwait amid the unrest in Baghdad, three U.S. defense officials told Fox News. At least 500 paratroopers already were making their way to Kuwait, Fox News was told.

The alert brigade of roughly 4,000 paratroopers, known as the DRB—the Deployment Ready Brigade — has been told to pack their bags for a possible deployment in the days ahead. Within that alert brigade, three rifle battalions had a certain alert sequence, 18 hours, 36 hours and 54 hours for the third. The entire brigade had a 96-hour alert window to deploy.

Some of the paratroopers already have left their base in Fort Bragg, N.C., to fly overseas in Air Force C-17 cargo planes, according to officials. The U.S. Army, as a matter of course, has kept an alert brigade of roughly 4,000 paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne for crisis response. Roughly 5,000 U.S. troops had been deployed to Iraq, among the roughly 60,000 U.S. troops deployed to the entire region. The Pentagon has added some 14,000 since May as the threat from Iran increased, officials said.

Protesters smashing a window inside the U.S. embassy compound Tuesday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman has been in the Gulf of Oman, along with a strike group armed with hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles, in addition to the dozens of strike aircraft aboard Truman.

The crowd attacked the embassy following funerals for 25 Iranian-backed fighters killed in U.S. airstrikes Sunday in Iraq and Syria – -retribution for an American defense contractor killed in Iraq Friday, according to U.S. defense officials.

A U.S. Apache helicopter gunship also flew over the embassy and dropped flares in a “show of force,” attempting to disperse the crowd.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper later confirmed additional forces were being sent, as the military released images of those forces deploying from Kuwait.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re or email him at

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Trump vows Iraq ‘will not be a Benghazi’ after Iran-backed embassy raid

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who is suing the government in a bid for reinstatement, argued in a court filing in Washington, D.C., federal district court on Monday that his politically charged anti-Trump messages were protected by the First Amendment — even though he sent them on bureau-issued phones while playing leading roles in the probes into both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“Firing an employee for the content of his or her non-public communications is unconstitutional, irrespective of any balancing of interests” including damage to the FBI’s reputation and other factors, Strzok argued in his response brief, which also slammed Trump’s “unpresidential tweets.”

Because it was the DOJ that had leaked his anti-Trump text messages, Strzok argued, his texts should be considered private speech, and he should not be held to the tougher legal standard under the 1968 Supreme Court case Pickering v. Board of Education that applies to public statements by government employees.

Strzok, once the FBI’s head of counterintelligence, said he was entitled to “develop a full factual record through discovery,” and that it would be premature to dismiss the case at this early stage. He went on to argue that the DOJ’s position would “leave thousands of career federal government employees without protections from discipline over the content of their political speech.”

Strzok’s filing was a response to the Justice Department’s no-holds-barred motion to dismiss his lawsuit for reinstatement in November. The DOJ told the court that Strzok had even admitted to conducting FBI business on his personal iMessage account and assured them that the materials were secure — even though his wife accessed his phone and determined he was having an affair with Lisa Page, then an FBI lawyer also involved in the Clinton and Russia probes.

In its filing, the DOJ included an August 2018 letter to Strzok from the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which said in part that Strzok had engaged in a “dereliction of supervisory responsibility” by failing to investigate the potentially classified Clinton emails that had turned up on an unsecured laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner as the 2016 election approached.

The situation became so dire, OPR said, that a case agent in New York told federal prosecutors there that he was “scared” and “paranoid” that “somebody was not acting appropriately” and that “somebody was trying to bury this.”

The case agent flagged to New York prosecutors that potentially classified Clinton emails had been found on Anthony Weiner’s unsecured laptop after the investigation was publicly closed, and that senior FBI officials didn’t seem interested in returning his calls on the subject.

The New York prosecutors then immediately relayed their concerns to the DOJ, effectively going over Strzok’s head — and leading, eventually, to then FBI Director James Comey’s fateful announcement just prior to Election Day that emails possibly related to the Clinton probe had been located on Weiner’s laptop.

Additionally, DOJ and OPR noted that although Strzok claimed to have “double deleted” sensitive FBI materials from his personal devices, his wife had found photographs and a hotel reservation “ostensibly” used for a “romantic encounter.” Strzok didn’t consent to turning over the devices for review, according to OPR, even as he acknowledged using Apple’s iMessage service for some FBI work.

“[My wife] has my phone. Read an angry note I wrote but didn’t send you. That is her calling from my phone. She says she wants to talk to [you]. Said we were close friends nothing more,” one of Strzok’s text to Page read, according to the filing.

Strzok, a veteran counterintelligence agent, was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team after his anti-Trump texts with Page came to light. He was fired from the FBI last August.

“One more thing: She might be our next president,” Page wrote to Strzok on Feb. 24, 2016 ahead of the FBI’s interview with Clinton. “The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear. You think she’s going to remember or care that it was more [DOJ] than [FBI]?”

“Agreed…,” Strzok responded.

Strzok also told Page that “It’s clear he’s [Trump’s] capturing all the white, poor voters who the mainstream Republicans abandoned in all but name in the quest for the almighty $$$$.”

He separately wrote to Page, “God Hillary should win 100,000,000-0.” Strzok called Bernie Sanders “an idiot like Trump,” and also congratulated Page when Clinton secured the Democratic Party nomination.

“God Hillary should win 100,000,000-0.”

— Anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok, in a text to Lisa Page.

“Congrats on a woman nominated for President in a major party! About damn time!” he wrote.

Page, meanwhile, is also suing the FBI and DOJ, alleging that the government’s publication of her salacious text messages with Strzok constituted a breach of the Federal Privacy Act.

In the complaint filed earlier this month, the 39-year-old Page said she suffered numerous damages because of the disclosure, including a “permanent loss of earning capacity due to reputational damage” and “the cost of therapy to cope with unwanted national media exposure and harassment” at the hands of Trump.

Page’s complaint also sought reimbursement for “the cost of childcare during and transportation to multiple investigative reviews and appearances before Congress,” the “cost of paying a data-privacy service to protect her personal information,” and attorney’s fees.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has faulted senior FBI officials, including Strzok and Page, saying their communications created the appearance of impropriety and tainted the FBI’s reputation, even though he could not conclude that bias had specifically motivated investigative decisions.

Horowitz found a slew of misconduct throughout the Russia probes, including the falsification of a document by an FBI lawyer to obtain a surveillance warrant to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page.

U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting his own criminal probe into FBI and DOJ misconduct, has said he disagrees with Horowitz’s assessment that the FBI’s opening of a probe into the Trump campaign was properly predicated.

“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham said this month.

Fox News’ Bill Mears contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re or email him at

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Strzok claims anti-Trump texts protected by 1st Amendment, administration violated his rights

Amid repeated chants of “Lock him up!” and “Green New Deal,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., issued a full-throated endorsement of Bernie Sanders at a spirited rally in Minneapolis’ Williams Arena on Sunday night, saying a “mass movement of the working class” is needed to take down President Trump and end “Western imperialism,” as she put it.

“I am excited for President Bernie Sanders!” Omar thundered at the conclusion of her remarks, as rock music blared throughout the University of Minnesota venue.

At no point did either Omar or Sanders attempt to stop attendees from shouting “Lock him up” whenever Trump was invoked. Last year, CNBC’s John Harwood had predicted that “any serious Democratic candidate will make a point of shutting down” such chants directed at the president.

Omar’s endorsement was a break from the rest of the state’s delegation of Democrats, which endorsed Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s more moderate campaign. It also constituted a youthful shot in the arm for Sanders’ left-wing presidential bid, which has remained competitive with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren’s campaigns.

“Here in Minnesota, we don’t just welcome refugees — we sent them to Congress,” Omar said to applause. “Right now, achieving that universal dream feels more out of reach than it ever has in my lifetime.”

Then, pointedly refusing to mention President Trump’s name, Omar continued: “The current occupant of the White House likes to talk about making America great. But, every action, and virtually every word out of his mouth, is an attack on the very values and ideals that make this country a beacon of hope for me and the people around the world.”

Later on, still without mentioning the president’s name, Omar incorrectly claimed that Trump called neo-Nazis “very fine people” — a suggestion that White House officials repeatedly stressed was taken out of context. And, in a nod to the “send her back” chant that erupted at a Trump rally earlier this year, Omar remarked, “None of us are going back. We’re here to stay.”

Even as she accused Trump of “coddling” white supremacy, Omar insisted that Sanders’ proposals — such as free college and government-sponsored health care for everyone, including illegal immigrants — were not “radical.”

“These are values that have been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for decades,” Omar claimed, referring to the United Nations document. “But, here is the cold truth: We can’t achieve any of these goals if we don’t build a movement that is representative of all of our aspirations, all of our pain, and all of our shared trauma.”

Omar also appeared to defend her decision to vote “present” on a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, saying it was an effort to combat using genocides selectively as a “political” football.

And Omar, who has been criticized by members of her own party for her past anti-Semitic statements, emphasized Sanders’ Jewish faith in announcing her support.

“I am proud to stand with the son of a Jewish refugee who survived genocide,” Omar said, referring to Sanders. “The acknowledgment of pain and suffering is personal for both of us. The fight for human rights is undeniable. And when we recognize injustices of the past and present, whether it is genocide against Jewish people, Armenians or Rwandans or Bosnians or Native Americans or more.”

Sanders has been endorsed by other members of the so-called progressive “squad” of Democrats, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. (The only member of the “squad” not to endorse Sanders is Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley.)

“I am proud to stand with the son of a Jewish refugee who survived genocide.”

— Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar

Days before the endorsements were announced, the longtime Vermont senator suffered a heart attack on Oct. 1, prompting fears that his health issues could derail his presidential ambitions.

Sanders was introduced at the arena by a spirited University of Minnesota college student who complained that fellow students “are being put” into debt. The student acknowledged that he personally was not in much debt, but very much felt the pain of those who were.

Taking the microphone, Sanders praised Omar as an “extraordinary woman who 30 years ago was in a refugee camp in Kenya.”

“Thank you, Ilhan Omar,” Sanders said, his voice cracking.

Then, he unloaded a series of superlatives, punctuated by audible boos. “It gives me no pleasure to tell all of you what you already know: that today, tragically, we have a president of the United States who is a pathological liar — who is running the most corrupt administration in history, who has obstructed justice, who has used his office for personal gain, who has threatened to withhold national security funds from an ally in order to improve his political chances.”

Before calling Trump a racist, sexist, bigoted homophobe, Sanders remarked, “This is a president who deserves to be impeached, and will be impeached.”

As the crowd erupted in a “Lock him up” chant — in a reference to the “Lock her up” chants at Trump rallies, typically directed at Hillary Clinton — Sanders stood by the microphone and didn’t try to interrupt.

But, minutes later, Sanders appeared to call for an end to divisiveness while reading from his prepared remarks.

“We are going to do exactly the opposite of what Trump is doing,” he said. “He is trying to divide us up. We are going to bring our people together… around an agenda that works for all of us, not just the one percent.”

“People say that Ilhan and I make an odd political couple. But in fact, there is really nothing odd about it at all,” Sanders continued. “Ilhan and I share a common link as the descendants of families who fled violence and poverty, and who came to this country as immigrants. But that is not just my story, or Ilhan’s story — that is the story of America.”

He also said he and Omar both were working to eliminate “all student debt in America,” and make all public colleges “tuition-free.”

Fox News’ Andrew Craft contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re or email him at

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Ilhan Omar, at Bernie Sanders rally, calls for ‘mass movement of the working class’ amid ‘Lock him up’ chants

Responding to a torrent of complaints from Republicans that the impeachment inquiry against President Trump is secretive and one-sided, a lawyer for the anonymous whistleblower who raised alarms about the presidents’ dealings with Ukraine said Sunday his client is willing to answer written questions submitted by House Republicans.

But, late Sunday, House Oversight Committee ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, seemingly rejected the offer from whistleblower attorney Mark Zaid, saying “written answers will not provide a sufficient opportunity to probe all the relevant facts and cross examine the so-called whistleblower.”

“You don’t get to ignite an impeachment effort and never account for your actions and role in orchestrating it,” Jordan said.

Zaid responded by calling Jordan’s response a “deliberate deflection.”

The whistleblower attorney’s surprise offer, made to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, would allow Republicans to ask questions of the whistleblower, who spurred the impeachment inquiry, without having to go through the committee’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

“Obviously, per House rules GOP is beholden to DEMs,” Zaid tweeted. “We, however, are not.”

Zaid, a longtime Trump critic, tweeted that the whistleblower would answer questions directly from Republican members “in writing, under oath & penalty of perjury,” part of a bid to stem escalating efforts by Trump and his GOP allies to unmask the person’s identity.

Queries seeking “identifying info” about the whistleblower won’t be answered, he said.

“Obviously, per House rules GOP is beholden to DEMs. We, however, are not.”

— Whistleblower attorney Mark Zaid

“We will ensure timely answers,” Zaid wrote. “We stand ready to cooperate and ensure facts – rather than partisanship – dictates any process involving the #whistleblower.”

Zaid, when asked by Fox News if Nunes’ team had reached out, said there was “no substantive response.”

Nunes’ office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment, and it was not clear if Jordan was speaking for Nunes.

This past September, Schiff, who long pushed unsubstantiated claims that the Trump team had conspired illegally with Russians, promised testimony from the whistleblower “very soon.” But, in recent weeks, he’s shifted course and suggested the testimony was unnecessary. In the meantime, it emerged that Schiff’s panel spoke with the whistleblower before the whistleblower complaint was filed, contrary to Schiff’s previous claims.

Trump repeatedly has demanded the release of the whistleblower’s identity, tweeting Sunday that the person “must come forward.” The whistleblower raised concerns about Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he suggested Zelensky review Joe and Hunter Biden’s dealings there. The younger Biden routinely secured lucrative roles both domestically and abroad, with little relevant expertise, while his father was a powerful senator and, later, vice president.

The whistleblower’s secondhand account of the call has been providing a road map for House Democrats investigating whether the president and others in his orbit pressured Ukraine to probe political opponents, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Reveal the Whistleblower and end the Impeachment Hoax!” Trump tweeted.

Trump later Sunday pushed the news media to divulge the whistleblower’s identity, asserting that the person’s accounting of events was incorrect. The whistleblower’s complaint has been corroborated in part by people with firsthand knowledge of the events who have appeared on Capitol Hill — but key inconsistencies also have emerged.

For example, the complaint stated that Trump made a “specific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike” — a request that did not appear in the declassified transcript of the call released by the Trump administration.

“They know who it is. You know who it is. You just don’t want to report it,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “You know you’d be doing the public a service if you did.”

U.S. whistleblower laws have existed to protect the identity and careers of people bringing forward accusations of criminal wrongdoing by government officials, but many Republicans have argued — citing career Justice Department officials — that nothing criminal occurred during Trump’s call.

Republicans are said to have eyed a political opportunity in unmasking the CIA official, who the intelligence community’s inspector general said could have “arguable political bias.”

Zaid acknowledged in a statement last month that his client “has come into contact with presidential candidates from both parties” — but insisted that the contact involved the politicians’ roles as “elected officials – not as candidates.”

And, Fox News reported in October that the whistleblower told the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) that bias against the president might be alleged against him or her for a third, previously unreported reason. Fox News previously reported the whistleblower was a registered Democrat and had a prior work history with a senior Democrat, but the third potential indicator of bias remained unclear.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Sunday he had not yet discussed the whistleblower’s offer with Nunes, but stressed that the person should answer questions in a public appearance before the committee.

“When you’re talking about the removal of the president of the United States, undoing democracy, undoing what the American public had voted for, I think that individual should come before the committee,” McCarthy told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

“We need an openness that people understand this,” he added.

Zaid said his team had addressed the issue of alleged bias with Republican members of the committee and had stressed the need for anonymity to maintain the safety of the whistleblower and that person’s family, “but with little effect in halting the attacks.”

“Let me be absolutely clear: Our willingness to cooperate has not changed,” tweeted Andrew P. Bakaj, another attorney representing the whistleblower. “What we object to and find offensive, however, is the effort to uncover the identity of the whistleblower.”

Bakaj wrote Saturday that “their fixation on exposing the whistleblower’s identity is simply because they’re at a loss as to how to address the investigations the underlying disclosure prompted.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re or email him at

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Rep. Jordan rejects whistleblower’s offer to provide written answers to GOP questions

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