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Republican senators proposed legislation on Dec. 10 that would stop federal regulators from manipulating banks to choke off certain industries.

It’s an updated version of legislation proposed in 2016 in response to Operation Choke Point, a program under President Barack Obama that pressured banks and other financial institutions to withhold services from sellers of firearms, “payday” lenders, and other lawful business enterprises.

“This bill safeguards the American people and small businesses from being unconstitutionally cut off from their financial institutions for not falling in line with the political whims and leanings of whoever is in control of the executive branch,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who sponsored the legislation, in a press release.

“Under the previous administration, government officials at agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) abused their power to become a partisan arm of the administration,” he said.

In addition to Cruz, co-sponsors of the Financial Institution Customer Protect Act of 2019 include Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Kennedy (R-La.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

The FDIC was especially active in the Obama-era program, as was revealed in a court case against FDIC for its involvement. The agency’s Atlanta regional director, Thomas Dujenski, said in an email cited in court documents, “I literally cannot stand pay day lending.” All banks in the Atlanta region terminated services to the temporary lenders.

Similarly, the agency’s Chicago regional director, Anthony Lowe, testified that he and other regional directors were told by officials in the FDIC’s Washington office that “if a bank was found to be involved in payday lending, someone was going to be fired.”

The newly proposed legislation “prohibits a federal banking agency from formally or informally suggesting, requesting, or ordering a depository institution to terminate either a specific customer account, or group of customer accounts, or otherwise restrict or discourage it from entering into or maintaining a banking relationship with a specific customer or group of customers” unless the agency has a “material reason to do so” that “is not based solely on reputation risk to the institution,” according to Cruz’s statement.

“The ‘material reason’ criterion shall be satisfied if an agency believes that a specific customer or group of customers poses a threat to national security, including any belief that they are involved in terrorist financing,” according to the statement.

The House of Representatives approved a companion bill to the present proposal in 2018. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) sponsored the measure.

There are more than 56,000 licensed firearms dealers in the United States and nearly 8,000 individuals are permitted to buy and sell firearms as pawnbrokers, according to the San Francisco-based Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Payday lenders typically make loans up to $1,000, with repayment to be made within two weeks. Annual interest rates can run as high as 400 percent. There are an estimated 23,000 pay-day lenders in the United States.

One in three college-aged individuals has considered seeking payday loans, despite the short repayment periods and high annual interest costs, according to a 2018 survey by CNBC.

“Federal regulators are supposed to enforce the law, not act as partisan hacks trying to impose their own agenda on the businesses they oversee,” Kennedy said in the press release.

“This legislation prevents federal banking agencies from discriminating against lawful businesses, large or small, just because their customers or practices don’t adhere to the same political views of whoever controls the administration,” he said.

“No bureaucrat should abuse the public trust by using their regulatory powers to impose their own personal preferences on the American people,” Lee said in the press release. “It is vital that government power be wielded transparently and accountably, and that those targeted by government be made aware of their penalization and its justification, and have the ability to challenge that action.”

“Obama-era policies, such as Operation Choke Point, represented a direct assault on Second Amendment rights,” Hyde-Smith said in the press release. “This strong legislation would act to protect those rights, as well as the spirit of free enterprise that makes the American economy so strong.”

Author: Mark Tapscott

Source: The Epoch Times: GOP Bill Aims to Protect Businesses From Being Targeted for Political Reasons

WASHINGTON—Judicial Watch made public on Oct. 21 a 2012 email chain showing multiple senior U.S. State Department executives used then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unsecured private email to discuss the most sensitive details of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died in the assault, which within hours was attributed by the Obama White House to an internet video that critically portrayed Islam and its founder, Mohammed.

While Judicial Watch first sought the emails released on Oct. 21 in a 2014 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, they weren’t released to the nonprofit government watchdog until earlier in October by a federal court and only after the group threatened to expand its litigation in the case against the State Department.

It was this FOIA litigation that led to the public disclosure of Clinton’s use of the private email system, according to Judicial Watch.

Hundreds of other State Department and White House documents sought in the 2014 suit were previously released, but only after years of litigation and discovery, which continues and may soon include deposing Clinton and Cheryl Mills, her former chief of staff.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who has heard much of the Judicial Watch litigation seeking the documents, has called Clinton’s private email system “one of the gravest modern offenses against government transparency.”

The first email in the long chain, dated Sept. 29, 2012, was from Jacob Sullivan, Clinton’s then-senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, to Clinton and copied to Mills.

The email was also forwarded to Philippe Reines, who was Clinton’s then-deputy assistant secretary of state for communications. The occasion for Sullivan’s email was Clinton’s need for Benghazi information to use in a forthcoming telephone call to an unidentified U.S. senator.

After first apologizing for a briefing that apparently angered Clinton, Sullivan then said “the White House and [then-White House national security adviser] Susan [Rice] were not making things up. They were going with what they were told by the IC [intelligence community].

“The real story may have been obvious to you from the start (and indeed I called it an assault by heavily armed militants in my first statement), but the IC gave us very different information. They were unanimous about it.”

Sullivan’s comment that “the real story may have been obvious to you from the start” indicates Clinton suppressed her initial view that the attack had been planned beforehand and instead, for several days afterward, she publicly attributed it to “spontaneous” protests sparked by the internet video.

Family members of the Benghazi casualties reportedly said Clinton repeated the internet video claim during an emotional meeting three days after the attack, when the remains were returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

In doing so, Clinton was following the lead of President Barack Obama and Rice, who had said on multiple broadcast news programs on Sept. 16, 2012, that the attack was a response to the internet video.

Sullivan told Clinton and Mills in the memo made public on Oct. 21 that the internet video explanation came directly from talking points provided to Rice by “a very senior official at CIA” and “the Intelligence Community (IC)” the day before her appearance on the news shows.

The first IC talking point stated that “currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement accompanying the release of the Sullivan email chain that “the State Department wanted to hide the Benghazi connection to the Clinton email scheme. Rather than defending her email misconduct, the Justice Department has more than enough evidence to reopen its investigations into Hillary Clinton.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at mark.tapscott@epochtimes.nyc.

Author: Mark Tapscott

Source: The Epoch Times: Watchdog Says Benghazi Coverup Discussed on Emails to Clinton’s Unsecured Server

WASHINGTON—Judicial Watch filed an ethics complaint on July 23 asking for an investigation into allegations of multiple crimes committed by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tied to a 2009 marriage to her own brother.

In a hand-delivered letter, the nonprofit government watchdog told the chairman of the House Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), David Skaggs, that there is “substantial, compelling and, to date, un-refuted evidence” that the Minnesota Democrat may have committed “immigration fraud, marriage fraud, perjurious statements on her Minnesota divorce filings, and falsifications on her tax returns.”

Skaggs was appointed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Mass.) as chairman of the OCE board of directors. Alison Hayward, attorney and former George Mason University law professor, was appointed vice chairman by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Omar is a Somali refugee who fled with her family from her war-torn country to the United States in 1992 and was granted asylum in 1995. She became a U.S. citizen in 2000, was elected to the Minnesota legislature in 2016, and then elected to Congress in 2018.

Omar is one of the four radical Democrats known as “The Squad,” which also includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). They have clashed repeatedly with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Donald Trump.

Earlier this year, Omar was ordered by Minnesota state election officials to pay a fine of $500 and reimburse her campaign committee for $3,469 in illegal expenditures in 2016 and 2017, including a $1,500 payment to a law firm that assisted her in responding to some of the allegations now raised by Judicial Watch.

In its complaint filed with the OCE, Judicial Watch said Omar’s actions “would also breach the Code of Ethics for Government Service, to which all federal officeholders are subject, [stating,] ‘Any person in government service should uphold the Constitution, laws, and legal regulations of the United States and all governments therein and never be a party to their evasion.’

“Rep. Omar’s actions in this suspected immigration fraud, marriage fraud, perjurious statements on her Minnesota divorce filings, and falsifications on her tax returns, merit your immediate investigation.”

Judicial Watch said it based its complaint on evidence compiled over a three-year period by investigative reporters David Steinberg and Preya Samsundar and Scott Johnson of Power Line, a conservative blog based in Minnesota.

The complaint continued, stating that Omar “married her biological brother, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, a citizen of the United Kingdom, in 2009, presumably as part of an immigration fraud scheme.

“The couple legally divorced in 2017. In the course of that divorce, Ms. Omar submitted an ‘Application for an Order for Service by Alternate Means’ to the State of Minnesota on Aug. 2, 2017, and claimed, among other things, that she had had no contact with Ahmed Nur Said Elmi after June 2011.

“She also claimed that she did not know where to find him. The evidence developed by Mr. Steinberg and his colleagues demonstrates with a high degree of certainty that Ms. Omar not only had contact with Mr. Elmi, but actually met up with him in London in 2015, which is supported by photographic evidence.

“Ms. Omar signed the ‘Application for an Order for Service by Alternate Means’ under penalty of perjury. The very document that Ilhan Omar signed on Aug. 2, 2017, bears the following notation directly above her signature: ‘I declare under penalty of perjury that everything I have stated in this document is true and correct. Minn. Stat. Section 358.116.’

“Of particular importance are archived photographs taken during a widely reported trip by Ilhan Omar to London in 2015, posted to her own Instagram account under her nickname ‘hameey,’ in which she poses with her husband/presumed brother, Ahmed Elmi.

“These photographs from 2015 are documentary evidence that in fact she met up with Mr. Elmi after June 2011 and before the date she signed the divorce document in August 2017, thereby calling into question the veracity of her claim that she had not seen Mr. Elmi since June 2011.”

Judicial Watch said it appears Omar and her brother married in part “to assist his emigration to the United States from the United Kingdom” and to obtain federally backed student loans.

Elmi and Omar attended North Dakota State University at the same time.

There is no guarantee that the OCE will do anything with the information provided by Judicial Watch. The office, which doesn’t have authority to issue subpoenas, has no more than 89 days to make a determination if a violation of law or regulation was committed.

At least three of the four voting board members are required to then forward the office’s determination to the House Ethics Committee. Even then, the ethics committee may do nothing.

Author: Mark Tapscott

Source: The Epoch Times: House Ethics Complaint Seeks Immigration, Tax Fraud Probe of Rep. Ilhan Omar

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