Justice Department Sends Confidential Comey Memos to Congress

(WASHINGTON) — After months of resisting, the Justice Department has provided Congress with copies of several memos written by former FBI Director James Comey.

The move comes as House Republicans have escalated criticism of the department, threatening to subpoena the documents and questioning officials. In a letter sent to three Republican House committee chairmen Thursday evening, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that the department is sending a classified version of the memos and an unclassified version. The department released Boyd’s letter publicly but did not release the memos.

Justice officials had allowed some lawmakers to view the memos but had never provided copies to Congress. Boyd wrote that the department had also provided the memos to several Senate committees.

Comey is on a publicity tour to promote his new book, “A Higher Loyalty.” He revealed last year that he had written the memos after conversations with President Donald Trump, who later fired him.

In a Senate hearing in June, he told Congress that “I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function.”

Details from some memos were made public in media accounts in the days after he was fired. At the Senate hearing, Comey detailed his conversations with Trump.

According to Comey, one memo recounts a February request from Trump, during a private meeting in the Oval Office, that Comey end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Boyd wrote in the letter that the department “consulted the relevant parties” and concluded that releasing the memos would not adversely affect any ongoing investigations. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.

He said the decision to allow the release of the memos “does not alter the department’s traditional obligation to protect from public disclosure witness statements and other documents obtained during an ongoing investigation.”

Comey said in an interview Thursday with CNN that he’s “fine” with the Justice Department turning his memos over to Congress.

“I think what folks will see if they get to see the memos is I’ve been consistent since the very beginning right after my encounters with President Trump and I’m consistent in the book and tried to be transparent in the book as well,” he said.

Last week, the GOP chairmen of three House committees demanded the memos by Monday. The Justice Department asked for more time, and the lawmakers agreed.

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Comey attacks Trump’s integrity, questions his marriage in new book

Bret Baier to interview James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey describes President Trump as "untethered to truth" and "ego-driven" in his forthcoming book "A Higher Loyalty," according to excerpts obtained by The Associated Press and other news outlets Thursday.

In the book, which hits shelves April 17, Comey goes so far as to question the strength of Trump’s marriage to his wife, Melania, after revealing that Trump asked him to investigate salacious allegations about his actions with Russian prostitutes.

"It bothered [President Trump] if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true," Comey writes, according to the New York Post. Later on, Comey muses: "In what kind of marriage, to what kind of man, does a spouse conclude there is only a 99 percent chance her husband didn’t do that?"

The claim was repeated in a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and published by BuzzFeed News in January 2017, shortly before Trump’s inauguration.

That’s not the only personal jab at Trump: The 6-foot-8 Comey describes the president as shorter than he expected with a "too long" tie and "bright white half-moons" under his eyes that he suggests came from tanning goggles. He also says he made a conscious effort to check the president’s hand size — briefly a subject of mockery among Trump’s Republican rivals on the campaign trail — saying it was "smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so."

The book adheres closely to Comey’s public testimony and written statements about his contacts with the president during the early days of the administration and his growing concern about the president’s integrity, the excerpts suggest.

Comey’s account lands at a particularly sensitive moment for Trump and the White House. Officials there describe Trump as enraged over a recent FBI raid of his personal lawyer’s home and office, raising the prospect that he could fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, or try to shut down the probe on his own. The Republican National Committee is poised to lead the pushback effort against Comey, who is set to do a series of interviews to promote the book, by launching a website and supplying surrogates with talking points that question the former director’s credibility.

Trump has said he fired Comey because of his handling of the FBI’s investigation into his Clinton’s email practices. Trump used the investigation as a cudgel in the campaign and repeatedly said Clinton should be jailed for using a personal email system while serving as secretary of state. Democrats, on the other hand, have accused Comey of politicizing the investigation, and Clinton herself has said it hurt her election prospects.

Comey writes that he regrets his approach and some of the wording he used in his July 2016 press conference in which he announced the decision not to prosecute Clinton. But he says he believes he did the right thing by going before the cameras and making his statement, noting that the Justice Department had done so in other high profile cases, the excerpts show.

Every person on the investigative team, Comey writes, found that there was no prosecutable case against Clinton and that the FBI didn’t find that she lied under its questioning.

He also reveals for the first time that the U.S. government had unverified classified information that he believes could have been used to cast doubt on Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s independence in the Clinton probe, according to the excerpts. While Comey does not outline the details of the information — and says he didn’t see indications of Lynch inappropriately influencing the investigation — he says it worried him that the material could be used to attack the integrity of the probe and the FBI’s independence.

Comey’s book will be heavily scrutinized by the president’s legal team looking for any inconsistencies between it and his public testimony, under oath, before Congress. They will be looking to impeach Comey’s credibility as a key witness in Mueller’s obstruction investigation, which the president has cast as a political motivated witch hunt.

He provides new details of his firing. He writes that then-Homeland Security secretary John Kelly — now Trump’s chief of staff — offered to quit out of a sense of disgust as to how Comey was dismissed, as well as his first encounter with Trump, a January 2017 briefing at Trump Tower in New York City. Kelly has been increasingly marginalized in the White House and the president has mused to confidantes about firing the chief of staff.

Comey also writes extensively about his first meeting with Trump after his election. Others in the meeting included Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn, who would become national security adviser, and incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer. Comey was also joined by NSA Director Mike Rogers, CIA Director John Brennan and DNI Director James Clapper.

After Clapper briefed the team on the intelligence community’s findings of Russian election interference, Comey said he was taken aback by what the Trump team didn’t ask.

"They were about to lead a country that had been attacked by a foreign adversary, yet they had no questions about what the future Russian threat might be," Comey writes. Instead, he writes, they launched into a strategy session about how to "spin what we’d just told them" for the public.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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What to believe, and not believe, about Russia’s claims on the Sergei Skripal nerve agent poisoning

Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to London, laid out Moscow’s position on the Salisbury nerve agent attack on Thursday.

Needless to say, it is the diametric opposite of the British government’s account.

So what to believe? To help navigate the cacophony of claim and counter claim surrounding the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, we look at Mr Yakovenko’s key claims – and how they stand up to scrutiny.

Claim: ‘We never had Novichok’

This one is difficult to believe.

At least three former Soviet scientists have described working on the Foliant program – the codename given to the covert project to develop the Novichok family of nerve agents – in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1992, a…

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Spring breaker, 17, vanishes in Gulf of Mexico

An Alabama family is remaining optimistic after their teenage son disappeared in a riptide while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico during a spring break vacation.

Jevon Lemke, 17, was pulled underwater on Sunday around 2 p.m. off the coast of Fort Morgan near Gulf Shores, Fox 10 reported. His body hasn’t been recovered.

Search and recovery operations were reportedly paused due to rough waters, but resumed on Monday. The Fort Morgan Fire Department and other agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, have been searching for the teen.

Fire Chief Glenn Stevens said that Lemke was one of many people who were caught in rough waters on Sunday, noting that a record-setting 11 different "swimmer in distress" calls came in.


Lemke’s family had traveled to Alabama from Reedsville, Wisconsin for spring break. The teen’s father, Chris, along with his wife, Carrie, are planning to stay in the south until Jevon’s body is found.

"We plan to stay until there’s no hope in finding Jevon," Chris told Fox 10. "I hope that happens… I don’t want to be greedy, I don’t want to take away from people, but I just want to find my son. That’s all."

The couple told the station that when Jevon was pulled under, he was actually trying to save them as "they were in distress when he went under."

"Selfless… He was selfless. He didn’t think about himself first – it was others. Always," the couple said, adding Jevon was "a good kid" who was in the process of applying to colleges.

The family asks that anyone in the area to "just keep watching for [Jevon]."

"If you’re a fisherman or anything just keep watching for him. I know he’s probably not alive. But I want to take him back to Wisconsin. That’s all that I ask," Chris said. "If you have a plane – please if you’re going over just check for me. That’s all we ask."

Rescue efforts will resume once the waters calm down, according to Fox 10.

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John Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster as White House national security adviser, Trump says

President Trump announced Thursday that Ambassador John Bolton will replace Gen. H.R. McMaster as his National Security Adviser effective April 9.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9,” Trump tweeted.

The president’s announcement comes after months of speculation over whether McMaster would resign, or be fired from his post.

But on Thursday evening, a White House official said that the president and McMaster “mutually agreed” that he would resign from his post. The two have been discussing this for some time, the official said, noting that the timeline was expedited as they both felt it was important to have a new team in place, instead of constant speculation.

A White House official said the decision was not related to any one moment or incident, but rather the result of ongoing conversations between the two.

Bolton has served as a Fox News contributor.

“After thirty-four years of service to our nation, I am requesting retirement from the U.S. Army effective this summer after which I will leave public service. Throughout my career it has been my greatest privilege top serve alongside extraordinary servicemembers and dedicated civilians,” McMaster said in a statement.

He added: “I am thankful to President Donald J. Trump for the opportunity to serve him and our nation as national security adviser. I am grateful for the friendship and support of the members of the National Security Council who worked together to provide the President with the best options to protect and advance our national interests.”

McMaster said he was “especially proud” to have served with National Security Council staff, who he said “established a strong foundation for protecting the American people, promoting American prosperity, achieving peace through strength, and advancing American influence.

“I know that these patriots will continue to serve our President and our nation with distinction,” McMaster said.

White House chief of staff John Kelly said McMaster is “a fine American and Military officer.”

“He has served with distinction and honor throughout his career in the U.S> Army and as the National Security Advisor,” Kelly said Thursday. “He brought and maintained discipline and energy to our vital interagency processes. He helped develop options for the president and ensured that those options were presented fully and fairly. A true solider-scholar, his impact on his country and this government will be felt for years to come.”

Bolton, who served as U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001 to 2005, will take over for McMaster next month.

A White House official said Bolton is one of the strongest voices and experts on the full range of national security issues and challenges facing the U.S.

McMaster’s retirement comes just one week after the president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Twitter, and after other high profile administration departures. Earlier this month, Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn resigned.

Fox News’ Kristin Brown contributed to this report.

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At Least 4 Dead After Pedestrian Bridge Collapses at Florida International University

At least four people were killed after a newly-installed pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University in the Miami area on Thursday, trapping multiple cars underneath, officials said.

There were at least nine people taken to hospitals as more than 100 firefighters scoured the scene of the bridge collapse for any “viable victims,” a Miami-Dade County fire and rescue official said during a press conference Thursday. Eight vehicles were were trapped under the bridge when it collapsed.

Here’s what we know about the FIU bridge collapse:

What happened?

The new 950-ton bridge to Sweetwater, which was installed at FIU on Saturday, collapsed Thursday afternoon onto Southwest Eighth Street — killing at least four people and injured at least 9, according to the Associated Press.

Two people are in critical condition and the other eight victims transported to Kendall Regional Medical Center were being treated for various injuries including “bruises and abrasions to broken bones,” Dr. Mark McKenney said Thursday at the press conference, according to the AP.

Video posted on social media showed the collapsed bridge with vehicles stuck underneath it.

In a statement, FIU officials said they were involved in ongoing rescue efforts. “We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge,” a statement said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted that he was on the way to FIU to be briefed by local law enforcement and university officials. In an earlier tweet, Scott said he had spoked to Miami Dade County Police Chief Juan Perez about the bridge collapse and that he will continue to communicate with authorities.

What caused the bridge to collapse?

It was not immediately clear what caused the deadly bridge collapse.

The Miami Herald reports that the 174-foot-long bridge was installed with the intention of giving pedestrian access from FIU’s campus to its newer dorms and off-campus housing.

According to the Herald, the bridge was not open to the public yet and was scheduled to be finished in 2019. The Associated Press reports that the support towers of the $14.2 million bridge were built at each end while the main part of the span was built by the side of the road before it was positioned over the seven-lane highway.

Munilla Construction, one of the companies that worked on the bridge, called the accident a “catastrophic collapse” and promised to conduct “a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong.”

“MCM is a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist,” the company said in a tweet.

How did officials respond?

President Donald Trump said Thursday evening he was monitoring the “heartbreaking” situation unfolding in Florida.

Florida’s lawmakers also expressed sympathy for the victims of the collapse and called for an investigation into what led to the incident.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, whose district touches the area affected by the bridge collapse, said he also spoke with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao about the upcoming investigation.

“I am shocked and horrified by the FIU Pedestrian Bridge collapse. I am praying for the victims and families of this tragedy,” he said in his statement.

As first responders continued to search for victims on Thursday evening, officials vowed to investigate the situation. Scott clarified that the bridge was a FIU project, not a Florida Department of Transportation project, and that investigations would take place on the local, state and federal levels.

“There will clearly be investigations to find out exactly what happened and why this happened,” he said during a news conference Thursday evening. “We will hold anybody accountable if anybody has done anything wrong.”

Before its collapse, the bridge had been a source of pride for local officials and the university. FIU President Mark Rosenberg reflected on the project and said he hoped the bridge could still be a way to “galvanize the community” in hope.

“I want you all to know that this bridge, five days ago we were celebrating, that it was in the process of being erected. This bridge was about collaboration, was about hope, was about opportunity, was about determination,” Rosenberg said at the news conference. “This bridge was about strength and unity. About being good neighbors with the city of Sweetwater.”

In fact, the bridge project was meant to address concerns about pedestrians unsafely crossing the busy highway.

“This bridge was going to provide a safe transportation for pedestrians to cross between the university and the City of Sweetwater,” said Orlando Lopez, mayor of Sweetwater.

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Trump agrees to meet with Kim Jong Un in what would be first meeting between U.S. president and North Koreans

President Trump has accepted an extraordinary invitation by North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un to meet this spring, a senior South Korean official announced at the White House on Thursday, signaling a potential diplomatic breakthrough in long-stalled efforts to end the nuclear impasse on the Korean peninsula.

Any face-to-face meeting, if it takes place, would be historic — the first ever between the leaders of two longtime adversaries that fought one bitter war and have repeatedly threatened to fight another. Leaders of the two nations have never even shared a phone call.

Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s national security director, said in an unusual news conference on the White House lawn that the North Korean ruler had expressed "his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible" and that Trump had agreed to do so May.

Kim has not left North Korea since taking power in 2011, and only a few foreign leaders have visited the country, which has struggled under multiple United Nations and other sanctions for its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Chung made the announcement after briefing Trump’s top national security aides, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

Chung said he was delivering a message to the White House that the North Korean ruler had given him and Suh Hoon, chief of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, this week in Pyongyang, the North’s capital. White House aides denied reports that he had delivered a letter.

The South Korean official said that Kim had agreed to "refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests" and that the North Koreans understood that the U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises that are scheduled for this spring "must continue."

In the past, North Korea has relentlessly denounced those military exercises as a provocation and a pretext for a U.S. invasion, and responded with ballistic missile tests and other threats. The Pentagon had delayed this spring’s planned exercises so they wouldn’t coincide with last month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Chung praised Trump’s "leadership," saying the president’s "maximum-pressure policy, together with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture."

South Korea, the U.S. and their allies "remain fully and resolutely committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," he said, adding that they would "not repeat the mistakes of the past."

Several White House officials stood on the edge of the scrum of reporters as Chung spoke for 2½ minutes by the White House driveway, illuminated by television lights on a bitterly cold winter night. Neither he nor the group of White House aides answered questions as they walked back into the West Wing after the brief announcement.

It was difficult to recall another announcement of such potential significance being made at the White House — but on the lawn — and by a foreign official, not one of the president’s aides.

"Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!," he wrote.

The U.S. and its allies have tried since the early 1990s to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, but every set of negotiations ultimately failed. The chances for success this time appear at least as daunting.

North Korea has successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile in September that appears capable of reaching the continental United States, and U.S. officials say it is fast closing in on the ability to put a nuclear warhead on it.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Trump "will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain."

The South Koreans said that during their meetings on Monday and Tuesday, Kim had offered to freeze further nuclear or ballistic missile tests while talks proceed, and to denuclearize if he was convinced his country faced no military threat and his dynastic government was secure.

Talks also could buy Kim time, with the potential of alleviating punishing economic sanctions that have cut deeply into the country’s foreign reserves, while nothing in place truly curtails his nuclear ambitions.

Another issue is how well prepared Trump could really become ahead of a meeting with Kim. The stakes may be higher than in any of his other meetings with world leaders, and Trump has never been keen to learn the details of vexing issues.

Some members of the administration urged caution, saying that multiple diplomatic attempts to curb North Korea’s nuclear program since the early 1990s all have failed, and that Kim’s government may be seeking to get out of onerous sanctions or buy time to make a more advanced warhead.

Saying the Trump administration had to be "very clear-eyed," he said the first step would be "to have some kind of talks about talks" to set the parameters of any negotiations.

4:14 p.m.: This article was updated with details from the announcement at the White House.

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Georgia lawmakers yank tax break for Delta after airline cuts ties with NRA

The potential Delta tax breaks in Georgia an example of crony capitalism?

Georgia lawmakers voted to nix a tax benefit for Atlanta-based Delta as part of a broader tax package approved Thursday, following the airline’s decision to sever ties with the National Rifle Association.

The bill — which includes a sweeping income tax cut — cleared the state House on an overwhelming 135-24 vote, after being approved in the state Senate on a 44-10 vote. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

The final version dropped an earlier amendment that would have renewed a jet fuel tax exemption worth $50 million that was taken off the books in 2015.

“Businesses have every legal right to make their own decisions, but the Republican majority in our state legislature also has every right to govern guided by our principles,” Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle, who very publicly threatened to pull the airline tax break earlier this week, said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, serving his last year in office, said he plans to sign the tax package, though he initially pushed for the airline tax break.

Georgia Lt. Gov. threatens Delta for cutting off the NRA

Deal said he would still pursue a jet fuel tax exemption separately.

The rejection of the tax break for now, though, marked a swift rebuke from state lawmakers, who had been weighing the restoration of the benefit until this week. It was originally pitched as an “airline tax break,” rather than one that would only benefit Delta.

But in the wake of the Atlanta-based airline’s decision to end its relationship with the NRA, Cagle, who is running to succeed Deal in November, warned that he would block any legislation that could prove to be beneficial to them.

“I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with the @NRA,” Cagle, who heads the Georgia State Senate, tweeted on Monday. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

Last weekend, Delta, which employees 33,000 Georgians, announced its decision to cut ties with the gun rights group, after the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting on Feb. 14 that left 17 dead. Delta announced that it would end NRA’s contract for “discounted rates through our group travel program.”

“Delta’s decision reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings,” read the statement posted to the Delta News Hub. “Out of respect for our customers and employees on both sides, Delta has taken action to refrain from entering this debate and focus on its business. Delta continues to support the 2nd Amendment.”

Delta tweeted last Saturday that they “will be requesting that the NRA remove our information from their website.”

Delta added: “Delta supports all of its customers but will not support organizations on any side of any highly charged political issue that divides our nation.”

Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy and New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo both have invited Delta to move its headquarters to their states in the midst of the company’s disagreement with the legislature.

United Airlines also notified the NRA that it would no longer offer a discounted rate for the NRA’s annual meeting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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North Korea spy chief, accused in deadly attacks on South Korea, to lead Olympic delegation at closing ceremony

North Korea hard-line general to attend Olympics finale

A former North Korean intelligence chief, believed to be the mastermind behind a deadly attack on South Korea, will lead the Hermit Kingdom’s high-level delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics’ closing ceremony — acting the part of diplomat in the same country he spent his life trying to topple.

Kim Yong Chol will join an eight-member delegation to South Korea for a visit expected to last three days, South Korea’s Unification Ministry announced Thursday. Kim, the vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, and other high-level North Korean officials are set to arrive Sunday for the closing ceremony, where President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, will be leading the U.S. delegation.

Kim’s visit to the South is sure to stir up controversy after he was accused of carrying out atrocities against South Koreans during his time as the head of North Korean military intelligence.

Kim Yong Chol will be leading the North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics’ closing ceremony.

Kim, 72, is believed to have plotted the attack on Cheonan, a South Korean warship, and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 that left 46 sailors dead. He’s also accused of planting landmines across the Demilitarized Zone, according to Yonhap News Agency. Two South Korean soldiers have been severely wounded by landmines — though North Korea vehemently denied any involvement.

During Kim’s time in the intelligence agency, which is called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea was suspected of carrying out the 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. The department is tasked with carrying out cyber warfare and intelligence operations against other countries.

The North Korean general is also blacklisted under the unilateral sanctions in South Korea and the U.S. The South’s Unification Ministry said Thursday the blacklist status shouldn’t be an issue because the sanctions don’t include a travel ban.

Kim Yong Chol is accused of carrying out several attacks on South Korea, including one that killed 46 sailors.

It’s unclear if Trump will meet with Kim when they cross paths at the closing ceremony.

Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and other North Korean officials attended the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang for a three-day visit. She became the first member of the Kim family to travel to South Korea.

Kim Yong Chol is currently the vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee.

That visit racked up a $223,237 bill spent on housing the delegation in a five-star hotel, food and transportation, Reuters reported.

In comparison, the Hermit Kingdom spent about $50,000 to train and prepare 22 North Korean Olympics athletes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Evidence Linking Alleged Florida Shooter To White Supremacist Group Is Really Thin

WASHINGTON ― Law enforcement officials in Florida have reportedly not yet found ties between the Parkland school shooting suspect and the white supremacist paramilitary group Republic of Florida, despite claims from the group’s leader. Those claims were widely circulated by news outlets on Thursday.

As of Thursday evening, it was seemingly too soon to say what might have motivated Nikolas Cruz, 19, to allegedly shoot at least 17 people to death at his former high school. It was likewise too soon to say whether Cruz held any white supremacist views. So far, though, the evidence linking him to this specific white supremacist group is thin. (We will update this story if that changes.)

Jordan Jereb, an ROF leader, told the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday that Cruz participated in training exercises with the group, but that the group hadn’t ordered Cruz to carry out the school shooting. Multiple media outlets, including HuffPost, picked up the ADL’s report and repeated the claim that Cruz was an ROF member. In several reports, Jereb, an obscure white nationalist figure, was the sole source.

“We are still doing some work, but we have no known ties between the ROF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter,” a Leon County Sheriff’s Office spokesman told the Tallahassee Democrat. The sheriff’s office has arrested Jereb at least four times since January 2014 and has been monitoring ROF’s membership, The Associated Press reported.

By Thursday evening, Jereb appeared to be backing down from his claim.

“There was a misunderstanding because we have MULTIPLE people named Nicholas in ROF,” a user named @JordanJereb posted on Gab, a social media platform popular among fascists and racists. “Are you really going to blame ME for the lying jew media? We know they are liars. Fuck em,” the user wrote. (HuffPost messaged the user, who had posted about ROF months before Wednesday’s shooting, but was not immediately able to confirm his identity.)

HuffPost has not found evidence that Cruz was affiliated with ROF — or that he had even interacted with anyone in the group. Jereb did not respond to repeated requests for proof of Cruz’s involvement with ROF. Cruz’s Facebook and Instagram were taken down after the shooting. On one of his since-deleted Instagram profiles, Cruz wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and shared pictures of an assortment of guns and knives.

The FBI and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the shooting, declined to comment.

The existing reporting on the supposed ties between Jereb and Cruz is inconsistent. Jereb told the Miami Herald he has never personally met Cruz. But ABC reported that three former classmates of Cruz identified him as part of the ROF. The former classmates claimed that Cruz was “often seen with Jereb.” Jereb’s last address listed in public records is in Tallahassee, 430 miles from where the shooting took place. ABC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on how it verified the identities of Cruz’s former classmates.

A spokesman for the ADL, which first reported the supposed tie between the ROF and Cruz, told HuffPost on Thursday that “it is for law enforcement to 100% confirm that he was a part of this group.”

“Given what we found today and the timing of the case, there is no doubt the information raises a red flag and should be investigated further,” the spokesman said.

As reports of Cruz’s supposed link to ROF appeared in the media, members of an “alt-right” white supremacist forum claimed the entire story was an attention-grab by Jereb, or possibly a hoax aimed at tricking media outlets into pushing a false narrative.

Jereb already comes across as a caricature of a Florida white nationalist, and he has been seeking attention for his views for years. “Jereb was a weird character even in the extremist underworld to which he so badly wanted to belong,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, wrote in 2014. Most white supremacists avoid the SPLC, but Jereb “wanted desperately to be mentioned in these pages,” the group wrote. “He flooded us with pleas for attention.”

The SPLC has not been able to confirm any ties between Cruz and ROF, Heidi Beirich, the director of the group’s intelligence project, told HuffPost. “It may seem odd that Jereb would bring attention to his group by claiming a connection to Cruz, but Jereb has always been somewhat of a publicity seeker,” Beirich said.

In 2016, Jereb was arrested for allegedly threatening a high-ranking staffer of Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). The Tallahassee Democrat reported at the time that Jereb was “known to ride a bike through neighborhoods wearing para-military garb. He has filmed numerous run-ins with law enforcement.”

On Thursday afternoon, members of The Right Stuff, a white supremacist forum, claimed that the story of Cruz being tied to ROF was false. “Started out as an inside joke until Jordan Jereb literally told the media that it was true and that he was affiliated with a school shooter,” a TRS user posting under the name “Jordan Fash” wrote.

Fash posted screenshots of an ABC reporter messaging a user named “Ethan” on Instagram asking for information about Cruz. Ethan told the reporter that Cruz was an ROF member. “It was common knowledge he did rallies with ROF, I frequently saw him conversing with Jordan Jereb in person,” the user said.

The ABC reporter declined to comment. ABC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on how it reported its story.

It didn’t take long for other far-right extremists to latch onto a possible reporting flub as a way to attack the entirety of the mainstream media. Cameron Padgett, the campus fixer for Richard Spencer’s college speaking engagements, tweeted that the media “will do anything to smear white people.”

In his quotes to the media, Jereb elevated anti-feminist and anti-Semitic views, and claimed that Cruz “probably used that training [with ROF] to do what he did”— an apparent effort to raise the profile of ROF, a fringe white supremacist group.

There tends to be an information vacuum after a mass shooting, and trolls and propagandists often take advantage of the confusion in order to promote their own interests. After the shooting at a Texas church last year, right-wing conspiracy theorists were quick to claim that their political enemies — everyone from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to anti-fascist protesters — were somehow connected to the shooter. Trolls will also routinely claim that Sam Hyde, a real-life comedian, is behind a mass shooting before the real shooter has been identified. In the immediate aftermath of a shooting, it’s easy for false information to spread rapidly.

In 1999, Bill White, a former leader of the National Socialist Movement, injected himself into the conversation surrounding the Columbine High School massacre by suggesting that shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold might have visited White’s extremist website before the rampage. White, who identified as an anarchist at the time, managed to garner national attention for his obscure website, which urged kids to build bombs, blow up schools and slaughter football players.

Ashley Feinberg contributed reporting.

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Family Health Care and Aesthetic Clinic

Medical services for humans begin at birth. Vaccinations are important for babies who grow until early teens taking vaccines as medical practitioner advises. Vaccines are immunity against diseases prone to strike children and adults. Vaccines for adults curb new sickness e.g. Hepatitis. Thus, medical services are general home services important for children, male and female adults, and elders. There is medical and aesthetic clinic that takes care of medical emergencies and keeping up with the body beautiful.

In the old times, medical help was limited and therefore there were different treatment centers for different purposes. Paediatricians, gynecologists, general physicians, and dermatologists give medical help to people in need. How good it would be today that all of the medical requirements are available at one place and with special care. There are many clinics and one is Curamed medical and aesthetic clinic.

Medical care is obtainable at Curamed from minor to major health conditions. Minor illness could be home wounds, homesickness, and disorders of any kind. Major health problems could be life-threatening. There is urgent medical help for important cases. Medical examination and check-ups at Curamed help patients get better early and soon.

Aesthetic cares are important for a beautiful world around us. We feel happy in a beautiful world. Aesthetic care helps people keeping up with beauty, health, and well-being. Different skin ailments such as wrinkles, acne, scars, acne, oily and dull skins exist in people who look ahead for treatment at an aesthetic clinic. Scars, dullness, and dark areas around eyes intercepts with the body beautiful. These are giving away their existence by specialized medical treatment at the clinic.

Curamed is treating people of all ages to good health. An appointment is required to be booked prior to meeting a professional for consultations. Details to book an appointment and contacts are on the clinic’s website.

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I Am Moving into My New Condo Soon

My friend sent me the link for a website about the New Futura condo development. This was no surprise because she had been trying to get me to move for a couple of years now. While I was not thrilled with where I was living, I did not want to move somewhere else that made me feel the same way. The only way I was going to move would be if I got very happy to be coming home. So far, I had not found a place that called to me like that.

All of that changed when I looked at the website link that she had emailed to me. I always humored her when she sent me a link, and I would be quite witty in my reply back on why I could definitely not move to where ever she wanted me at that particular moment. However, that did not happen this time. Read More

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Regulators Bullish On Cryptocurrency, Yet Experts Predict Years Of Uncertainty

The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on Tuesday to address the voracious growth of cryptocurrency markets. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Christopher Giancarlo offered a bullish perspective on blockchain-based assets. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton delivered a resounding warning to blockchain startups when he said: “I believe every ICO I’ve seen is a security.” Regulators urged congress to create new federal policies.

When Virginia Senator Mark Warner optimistically compared bitcoin adoption to cell phones, the bitcoin community rejoiced. “It was clear from today’s hearing that they also understand, as Senator Warner suggested, that it may be as transformational as mobile telephony, that Americans have a right to own and use cryptocurrencies and tokens,” Jerry Brito, executive director of the nonprofit Coin Center, told International Business Times in an email.

However, most cryptocurrency experts predict months of regulatory uncertainty, followed by years of confusion as congress hammers out new laws.

I was an early investor in cell phones back in the '80s, and I believe #blockchain has the potential to be just as transformational as cell phones. As our government begins to look at #crypto, I don't think you can separate #cryptocurrencies from the technology they're based on. pic.twitter.com/EneUMfcgJ3

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) February 6, 2018

Partisan gridlock continues to plague congress. Disagreements over financial policies currently threaten to cripple the federal government. Perianne Boring, the founder of a Washington, DC-based blockchain industry trade association called the Chamber of Digital Commerce, estimates it will take years for congress to shape a regulatory infrastructure for the cryptocurrency market.

“The feds and the states are literally suing each other over who has jurisdiction over what,” Boring told IBT. “Even on the strictly federal level you have a patchwork of regulatory bodies that look at this through their own lenses…for example FINCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network), which said it views bitcoin as a digital currency, and the IRS, which views it as property. Both part of the same Treasury Department.”

The plethora of applicable laws are cumbersome for businesses and confusing for individual users. Boring would prefer a cohesive federal solution. “A big part of what we’re doing is helping build a regulatory framework that helps promote innovation but also addresses consumer protection issues, protecting the retail investor,” she said. The CDC’s Token Alliance, which includes more than 160 blockchain experts, plans to publish a “best practices” guide to help businesses self-regulate and build trust. This falls in line with CFTC commissioner Brian Quintenz’s advice to “self-regulate” while lawmakers sort this out.

Self-regulation is necessary in the meantime, but hardly enough. Business Insider reported the initial coin offering boom raked in $5.6 billion in 2017. Many of these projects are considered “scams” by both regulators and bitcoin veterans. Cryptocurrency newbies are often swindled by questionable investment schemes wrapped in high-tech buzzwords. Boring believes education, plus cooperation between regulators and technologists, is key.

Blockchain Education Day session #2 smart contracts briefing on Capitol Hill featuring @circlepay @SymbiontIO @Microsoft @NLawGlobal pic.twitter.com/i75u9y090j

— Perianne Boring (@PerianneDC) July 11, 2017

Some of token sale projects self-regulate by limiting access to wealthy investors. Many cryptocurrency veterans worry this contradicts bitcoin’s decentralization ethos and threatens to simply recreate elitist economic structures. Broader education could help curb such wealth inequality. “If we are able to overcome this education gap, then we’ll see more people being able to use blockchain-based assets,” Boring said. “It’s hard to say how we should regulate this technology, or definitively what it is, because it is still so young. Just look at the maturation over the past three years.”

According to CoinMarketCap, bitcoin sold for roughly $222.53 on Feb. 9, 2015, yet now costs closer to $8,246.62. The community grew to include millions of users around the world, some of which see bitcoin as a global store of value or a conduit for censorship resistant commerce across borders. Meanwhile, OnChainFX estimates the value of ether tokens grew 18,837 percent over the past two years. Now Canada is exploring Ethereum’s potential for recording government contracts. Russia is tinkering with an Ethereum-based voting platform. Cryptocurrency is more than just money. Unlike paper bills, software is programmable.

This complexity makes harmonious regulation tricky at best. States such as Tennessee, Florida, Arizona and Nebraska have all taken disparate, albeit relatively welcoming, legal approaches to smart contracts. “Blockchain technology can take on this chameleon effect,” Boring said. “We shouldn’t apply laws that were written in the ‘30s or the ‘70s and expect that to work in the 21st century…It’s going to be quite a while until the industry is ready for retail consumers.”

Despite the hard road ahead, cryptocurrency experts are generally optimistic about the approach outlined in Tuesday’s congressional hearing. “It’s always exciting to have regulators come out with a positive outlook on this technology,” Elizabeth Rossiello, founder and CEO of the Nairobi-based blockchain startup BitPesa, told IBT. “It influences regulators around the world…I was recently at Davos [ World Economic Forum ] introducing regulators from my [African] jurisdictions to other regulators, sharing the progress that has been made.”

Incredible to meet @UNCTADKituyi and share @BitPesa's success in Africa with Kenyan Minister of ICT @mucheru and Energy @ketercharles at the Global Blockchain Business Council @GBBCouncil meeting in @Davos. Important discussions on power of transparent regulation for innovation! pic.twitter.com/3RGg2dku9U

— Elizabeth Rossiello (@e_rossiello) January 24, 2018

The World Bank ran a blockchain-pilot program for Kenyan bonds in 2017, while Japan and Singapore passed crypto-friendly legislation. The United Kingdom’s central bank is also busy exploring cryptocurrency’s potential use cases. American lawmakers may be late to the game, yet have so much to gain from the blockchain industry. “We’re seeing, one by one, the map turn green,” Rossiello said. “It takes some time for regulators.”

For now, cryptocurrency is still extremely risky. Regardless, incumbent tech companies keep flocking to the cryptocurrency boom. Telegram, makers of the messaging app with 180 million users, is planning a $2 billion ICO this year. Many experts are cautious about such ventures. All cryptocurrencies are not created equal. It takes a high level of technical expertise to find the rare, promising initiatives. “We are still in the very early days of the industry. Buyers beware,” Boring said. “If you don’t understand what you are buying, you should not buy it.”

Editor’s note: This is not investment advice. Any following statements are not legal pronouncements or endorsements regarding any specific technology. This article is merely an illustrative reflection of the opinions expressed by interviewed experts.

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Putin rips U.S. list targeting Russia’s elite as ‘unfriendly act’

The Trump administration has provided the Treasury Department with a list of about 210 Russians deemed close enough to Russian President Vladimir Putin to be targets for new sanctions.

The list, released late Monday night, fulfills a congressional demand that Washington punish the Kremlin for interference in the 2016 U.S. election. President Trump reluctantly signed the bill in August.

The White House stopped short of recommending that the Treasury Department place those named under sanctions at this point. However, it places those named under risk of future targeting.

Putin’s entire administration is on it, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky, who recently issued an order to ban the satirical movie "The Death of Stalin" from Russian theaters, also made the list. Senior political figures named include Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika.

And then there are the 96 names of Russia’s richest "oligarchs," wealthy business leaders, bankers and state oil and gas company chiefs, many of whom are in Putin’s closest circles. Yuri Milner, a Silicon Valley investor, is named.

The unusual scope and breadth of the list show that the Trump administration is sticking to a policy that is anti-globalization and putting America first, said Fyodor Lukyanov, a Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst and editor of Russia in Global Affairs magazine.

If the Obama White House tried to move the Russian elite into a globalized world, the Trump administration is sending a signal with this list of doing the opposite, Lukyanov said.

Putin, at a summit in Moscow for Syria, said sarcastically it was "a pity" his name wasn’t on the list. He went on to call the list an "unfriendly act," which essentially put "all 146 million Russians on the list."

"The list shows that all Russian establishment, be it political or business … they are all potential targets," Lukyanov said. "It’s not about politics. That’s about business, and the business is about America’s interest first, whether it’s corporate or state interests."

"The United States has crudely violated all possible principles of international relations, making cooperation with Russia in various areas virtually impossible," Russian media quoted Franz Klintsevich, the deputy head of Russia’s Federation Council’s Committee on Defense and Security, as saying.

As for his inclusion on the list, "I am pretty much indifferent," Peskov said, adding that the entire administration’s last names were included on the list. "It’s also worth noting that all these people are effectively being called enemies of the United States."

2:15 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Vladimir Putin describing the the list as an "unfriendly act."

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Lawmakers scramble on immigration as government shutdown paused

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday sought a way forward on an immigration deal including protection for “Dreamer” immigrants and border security before federal funding runs out again next month.

On Monday, the Republican-led Congress passed a measure signed into law by President Donald Trump to fund the federal government through Feb. 8 following a three-day shutdown. But they will have to return to thorny budget issues that have now become intertwined with contentious immigration policy.

“We don’t have a lot of time in which to get it done,” Republican U.S. Senator Mike Rounds told MSNBC.

Trump himself has vacillated on immigration between tough rhetoric demanding a U.S. border wall and a softer tone urging a “bill of love” for Dreamers, prompting Democrats and some Republicans to call him an unreliable negotiating partner.

“Nobody knows for sure that the Republicans & Democrats will be able to reach a deal on DACA by February 8, but everyone will be trying,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter, referring to when government funding would next run out.

“The Dems have just learned that a Shutdown is not the answer!” Trump added, after calling for “a big additional focus put on Military Strength and Border Security.”

As federal employees returned to work on Tuesday they faced a new furlough in 17 days if lawmakers and Trump do not find another short-term fix or a longer term budget.

A funding bill easily passed after Senate Democratic leaders accepted a pledge by Republicans to hold a debate later over the fate of the Dreamers and related immigration issues.

Many Republicans have said they want to help Dreamer immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

Trump canceled former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that shielded them from deportation. Without congressional action, the program will end in March.

Rounds, along with U.S. Senator Angus King, an independent often aligned with Democrats, said any immigration solution was likely to focus on Dreamers and extra border security.

“We can’t try to do comprehensive immigration in three weeks,” King told MSNBC, adding on CNN that lawmakers were likely to pass another stopgap bill to fund the government.

Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney, however, indicated the White House might be looking for a bigger deal.

“We want a large agreement. We want a big deal that solves the reason that we have a DACA problem in the first place,” Mulvaney said on CNN.

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Health Benefits of Choosing a Chiropractor in Salinas

How can you make a well informed decision when choosing a Salinas Chiropractor? It can be difficult unless you have a reference from family or friends. Before getting into that, however, it’s important to discuss the health benefits of having chiropractic work done in the first place!

Such appointments are known to improve and even restore the health of some individuals. Injuries can worsen over time and some to the point where a complete recovery becomes impossible. This is obviously something that should be avoided at all costs. Some cases, involving chronic pain, can also benefit from short term relief (as well as avoiding long term damage).

Beyond the health benefits, however, there are several other considerations that need to take place. For example, will the chiropractor take your insurance? This is crucial as, otherwise, the bills can tally up fairly quickly. Read More

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How To Find The Latest News

There are a lot of places you can look for the latest news. You need to know where these places are if you want to find news that is up to date and actually true. Here’s more information on finding the news you’re looking for.

The news that you’re going to find when you look online may or may not be the truth. When you are looking for news sites, make sure you stick with the top ones. And, when you read a story, make sure you find reference materials elsewhere that back up what you read. Some news stories will have links in them to where they got the information so you can look into that if need be. Either way, there are a lot of websites for local, national, and international news so use a search engine site to find the news sites that are out there.

If you’re going to get the local paper, you may be able to find it by going to a local gas station, grocery store, or anywhere that sells the paper. Some places have machines outside of them that sell it for a couple of quarters. You may also be able to call the company that makes the newspapers to sign up for a subscription that will be cheaper than if you were to buy the paper a day at a time. There are not as many paper publications out there due to the internet, but big and small cities sometimes still have their own newspapers they put out.

Finding the latest news is not that hard, especially now that the internet is so easy for everyone to access. You can find many website out there with news on them. You can also find local publications like newspapers that cover where you live if you’d like to go that route.

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Mueller facing new Republican pressure to resign in Russia probe

Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta now being investigated by Mueller

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is facing a fresh round of calls from conservative critics for his resignation from the Russia collusion probe, amid revelations that have called into question the FBI’s own actions and potentially Mueller’s independence.

This week’s bombshell that a controversial anti-Trump dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign has Republicans asking to what extent the FBI – which received some of the findings and briefly agreed to pay the same researcher to gather intelligence on Trump and Russia – used the politically connected material.

Hill investigators also are looking into a Russian firm’s uranium deal that was approved by the Obama administration in 2010 despite reports that the FBI – then led by Mueller – had evidence of bribery involving a subsidiary of that firm.

Critics question whether Mueller’s own ties to the bureau as well as fired FBI director James Comey now render him compromised as he investigates allegations of Russian meddling and collusion with Trump officials in the 2016 race.

“The federal code could not be clearer – Mueller is compromised by his apparent conflict of interest in being close with James Comey,” Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who first called for Mueller to step down over the summer, said in a statement to Fox News on Friday. “The appearance of a conflict is enough to put Mueller in violation of the code. … All of the revelations in recent weeks make the case stronger.”

Outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., a former federal prosecutor who endorsed Trump last year, also suggested Friday that Mueller consider stepping aside.

“If the facts that you just laid out are true, then somebody with Bob Mueller’s integrity will step aside and should — if in fact those facts, as you laid them out, are true,” Christie said on “Fox & Friends,” in response to various conflict-of-interest allegations.

Christie on anti-Trump dossier: We all knew Dems did this

The special counsel’s office declined Fox News’ request for comment.

This is not the first time Mueller has faced calls to step down.

Congressional Republicans over the summer raised concerns over Mueller’s relationship with Comey, whom Trump ousted from the FBI director in May. Reps. Franks and Andy Biggs, both Republicans from Arizona, had called for Mueller’s resignation for that reason.

President Trump has called Mueller’s relationship with Comey “bothersome,” though hasn’t said much about Mueller’s role lately even as he seizes on the latest revelations about the Fusion GPS dossier to try and turn the tables on Democrats in the Russia scandal.

“It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC!” he tweeted Friday.

Congressional Republicans over the summer raised concerns over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s, at left, relationship with former FBI Director James Comey, at right.

But the Wall Street Journal editorial board cited the dossier development in calling for Mueller’s resignation on Thursday, saying the “troubling question is whether the FBI played a role” in aiding a “Russian disinformation campaign.”

“Two pertinent questions: Did the dossier trigger the FBI probe of the Trump campaign, and did Mr. Comey or his agents use it as evidence to seek wiretapping approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Trump campaign aides?” the editorial board wrote, before turning to Mueller’s role:

“The Fusion news means the FBI’s role in Russia’s election interference must now be investigated—even as the FBI and Justice insist that Mr. Mueller’s probe prevents them from cooperating with Congressional investigators. Mr. Mueller is a former FBI director, and for years he worked closely with Mr. Comey. It is no slur against Mr. Mueller’s integrity to say that he lacks the critical distance to conduct a credible probe of the bureau he ran for a dozen years. He could best serve the country by resigning to prevent further political turmoil over that conflict of interest.”

Another potential issue is Mueller’s supervision of a bribery probe involving a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom, which eventually got approval from the U.S. to buy a Canadian mining company that controlled a swath of American uranium reserves. . At the time of the probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel, was a U.S. attorney and Mueller was FBI director. Republicans want to know how that deal was approved despite the evidence gathered in the bribery probe.

“The whole reason for independent counsels is to have the public trust, the professionalism and the diligence of the investigation, but they have to guard against actual conflicts of interest and apparent conflicts of interest,” said former high-ranking Justice Department official James Trusty, who served under the Bush and Obama administrations. “There may be some tipping point, though, separating facts from rumors, and we may be close to the tipping point.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller with security guards in June 2017. (Reuters)

Earlier this week, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called for a separate special counsel to investigate the Uranium One deal.

Grassley, however, stopped short of suggesting he didn’t trust Mueller.

“There might be reasons to wonder his involvement because of his involvement with the previous administration during this period of time. There’s no way that I can make any accusations against Mr. Mueller because he is a man of high ethical standards,” Grassley told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday.

Other Republicans have sought to protect Mueller from interference.

There are currently two pieces of legislation in the Senate, with bipartisan sponsorship, that would ensure a judicial check on the executive branch’s ability to remove a special counsel. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., are behind the bills, along with Democratic senators.

Comey’s attorney, David Kelley, also has disputed the characterizations of the Mueller-Comey relationship interviews in the past.

“Bob and Jim have a congenial relationship as former colleagues. Both served long legal careers that involved overlapping time spent within the Department of Justice, and that’s pretty well documented. But beyond that, they’re not close, personal friends,” Kelley told the Washington Post this summer. “They’re friends in the sense that co-workers are friends. They don’t really have a personal relationship.”

Kelley told Fox News on Friday that he stands by those comments.

Mueller, meanwhile, has been criticized by Republicans for the makeup of his investigate team, which includes several Democratic donors.

“As these various Russian related allegations swirl, I think Mueller increasingly regrets his decision to pick a staff in which half of the prosecutors had either given to, or participated, in Democratic causes,” Trusty said. “That was an unforced error.”

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How To Keep Up With The Latest News

It is important to know what is going on in the world at any given time. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by checking the news. This includes local news, national news, and world news. Staying informed about current events can help you better understand what is happening around you.

These days, there are a ton of different methods that you can use to keep up with the latest news. Years ago, the only options were to subscribe to newspapers or to watch the news on TV. Both of those are still viable options. However, the Internet has made it easier than ever to gain access to the news.

One simple way to stay informed is by following reputable news organizations on social media. Keep in mind, a lot of fake news gets shared through social networks. You can avoid falling for any fake stories by sticking with news organizations that have a solid reputation within the industry. Avoid fringe news outlets or news shows that are opinion-based. Instead, look for news outlets that provide accurate, unbiased coverage.

If you want to be informed at all times, consider installing a news app on your phone. You can install apps from individual news outlets. Alternatively, there are also apps that are designed to allow you to read headlines from all of your favorite news organizations at a glance. This can be a convenient way to see everything that is happening right now without having to check multiple websites, saving you a lot of time in the process.

Keeping up with the latest news is an important part of being a responsible citizen. Staying informed about what is happening in your local community as well as in the world at large can help you better understand today’s society.

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Trump goes on rampage against the media, sitting Arizona senators at Phoenix rally

A defiant President Trump rallied with his base for more than hour Tuesday in Arizona, trashing the media over its coverage of his response to the recent violence in Charlottesville while criticizing the state’s Republican senators for not getting behind him.

The president also signaled during the rally he could soon pardon Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff in Maricopa County famous for his tough stance against illegal immigration, ahead of the sheriff’s upcoming sentencing.

But Trump was most animated when defending himself against accusations he wasn’t forceful enough in condemning the white supremacists and racists who were protesting in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month. He blamed the media for distorting his comments.

At one point, the president pulled a piece of paper out of his coat and re-read his initial statements condemning the racists involved the protests.

“Did they report that I said that racism is evil?” Trump asked of the media. The crowd yelled, “no!”

“You know why?” Trump asked. “Because they are very dishonest people.”

A 32-year-old counter-protestor was killed in Charlottesville after police said a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a crowd. After the violence, the president faced criticism for blaming “both sides” for the unrest instead of just white nationalists.

As Trump continued to rail against the media’s coverage of him, the crowd began chanting: “CNN sucks.”

The events in Charlottesville cast a shadow over the rally, with Phoenix’s Democratic mayor, Greg Stanton, asking Trump last week to delay his rally in wake of the violence.

The Charlottesville violence led cities across the country to consider removing Confederate statues, something Trump railed against on Tuesday.

“They’re trying to take away our culture, they’re trying to take away our history,” he said.

A crowd of protesters formed outside the convention center on Tuesday, but the president bragged that there were far more Trump supporters in attendance.

“All week, they’re talking about the massive crowds that are going to be outside,” Trump said. “Where are they?”

He then mocked liberal protesters who have been demonstrating.

“You know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks and they’ve got clubs and they’ve got everything,” Trump said.

Referring to the far-left militant protest group, Trump exclaimed: “Antifa!”

Leading up to the rally, it was believed Trump could announce a pardon at the rally for Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff convicted of a misdemeanor charge for not obeying a 2011 order from a judge to stop his anti-immigrant traffic patrols. Earlier Tuesday, the White House said the president would not be announcing a pardon at the rally.

But Trump suggested a pardon – which would be his first as president – could happen soon.

“I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine,” Trump said. “But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. Is that OK?”

Without specifically naming them, Trump dinged the state’s two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, with whom he has sparred recently.

McCain, a frequent Trump critic who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, recently irked the president by voting against the Senate’s recent plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

“One vote away – I will not mention any names,” Trump said of McCain.

Flake, who has sparred with Trump on immigration, has been promoting a book that argues the GOP is in “denial” about the president.

Speaking of Flake, Trump said: “And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime. So I won’t talk about him.”

During his speech, Trump vowed to follow through on his promise to crack down on illegal immigration. He also said he isn’t giving up on repealing ObamaCare and expressed optimism about reforming the country’s tax codes.

Tuesday’s rally came a day after he announced plans to send more troops to Afghanistan – an announcement he highlighted during his speech. “Did anybody watch last night?

High-ranking administration officials and other recognizable conservatives warmed up the crowd before the president spoke, including Mike Pence, the vice president, and Ben Carson, the secretary of the Housing and Urban Development.
Several of them painted a picture of a divided country.

"Our lives are too short to let our differences divide us," Carson said. "Our differences are nothing compared to our shared humanity and the values that unite us."

Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., and evangelist Franklin Graham both delivered prayers before Trump’s speech.

"We come tonight as a troubled nation,” Graham said. “We’re broken spiritually, we’re divided politically, we’re divided racially."

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Trump ‘entirely correct’ to blame both sides for Charlottesville violence, White House says

The White House is circulating talking points to sway conservatives to defend President Trump after his controversial remarks on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The White House told allies Tuesday that President Trump was “entirely correct” to blame “both sides” for the protest violence in Charlottesville, fighting back at critics of his response, Fox News has learned.

A memo of talking points obtained by Fox News stated that during his remarks in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday, the president was “entirely correct – both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.”

The memo also stated that Trump “with no ambiguity” condemned the hate groups that descended upon Charlottesville for the “Unite the Right” rally, and added the president has been “a voice for unity and calm,” and that he’s “taking swift action to hold violent hate groups accountable.”

It ended by saying both leaders and the media “should join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division.” The memo was distributed to allies of the White House in an effort to try to get conservatives on board to defend Trump.

While speaking to the media Tuesday during what were supposed to be brief remarks without questions from the press, Trump declared that “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence that took place on Saturday. He also said “there are two sides to a story.”

Placing blame “on many sides” was Trump’s initial response to Saturday’s events, but two days later, the president specifically condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

After Trump’s reiteration Tuesday that both protesters on the far left and far right were to blame, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke tweeted, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

White House officials apparently were caught off guard by his remarks Tuesday. Trump had signed off on a plan to not answer questions from journalists during an event touting infrastructure policies, according to a White House official speaking to The Associated Press. Once behind the lectern and facing the cameras, Trump overruled the decision.

Trump’s advisers had hoped Tuesday’s remarks might quell a crush of criticism from Republicans, Democrats and business leaders. But the president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort and renewed questions about why he seemed to struggle to unequivocally condemn white nationalists.

Members of his own Republican Party have pressured him to be more vigorous in criticizing bigoted groups, and business leaders have begun abandoning a White House jobs panel in response to his comments.

When asked to explain his Saturday comments about Charlottesville, Trump looked down at his notes and again read a section of his initial statement that denounced bigotry but did not single out white supremacists. He then tucked the paper back into his jacket pocket.

Fox News’ Ed Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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What to know about Mueller’s use of a grand jury in the Russia probe

News broke yesterday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has begun using a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., as part of his investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with associates of President Donald Trump.

But what exactly does a federal grand jury do, and what does it mean that Mueller has started utilizing one in the nation’s capital?

Here’s what you need to know.

How is a grand jury different from a common jury?

Common juries –- the ones often depicted in dramatic movie scenes and TV shows –- are responsible for deciding whether a defendant is guilty of a crime. Grand juries, however, have a different role. They’re generally responsible for deciding whether a defendant should be charged with a crime in the first place.

Grand juries operate in secret, and prosecutors present their case by laying out evidence to support it, including by using in-person witness testimony.

Comprised of between 16 and 23 members of the public, grand juries usually last for 18 months, although that period can be extended under certain circumstances.

In order to indict a defendant on any charges, prosecutors must convince the grand jury that there is “probable cause” to believe a crime was committed.

What kind of authority does a grand jury have?

To help determine whether such “probable cause” exists, grand juries have special authority to take their own investigative steps, which are often guided by prosecutors.

Federal authorities can use grand juries as a tool in their investigations and use their authority to issue subpoenas to demand that uncooperative suspects, witnesses, and companies hand over private documents or testify behind closed doors.

It’s standard-operating procedure for a single grand jury to handle multiple matters over its lifespan. They may indict an alleged drug trafficker on a Monday, and then approve a subpoena for evidence in another case on Wednesday.

In some cases, prosecutors will use a grand jury for the sole purpose of collecting evidence in an investigation even when it’s not yet clear that a crime was likely committed.

Where does the Russia probe fit in?

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors were using a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, to collect evidence in the federal probe of Trump associates and any potential ties they could have to Russian operatives.

But in mid-May, after Mueller became special counsel and started putting together his team, the entire federal probe became based out of an office building in downtown Washington, D.C.

Then, weeks ago, Mueller’s prosecutors began using a federal grand jury that sits in the federal courthouse in Washington, just a few blocks away from their offices.

In certain circumstances, federal authorities might seek to impanel a special grand jury to focus on one specific matter.

There is no indication, however, that Mueller has been using a special grand jury for the Russia probe.

There is also no indication that the grand jury his team is now using in Washington was specifically impaneled for the Russia investigation.

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California high speed rail likely to face more environmental challenges after high court ruling

The Cedar Viaduct of California’s high-speed rail project is under construction in Fresno. (Gary Reyes / TNS)

California’s high-speed train project is likely to continue to be buffeted by environmental challenges as a result of a decision by the state’s top court.

In a 6-1 ruling last week written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the California Supreme Court decided that federal rail law does not usurp California’s tough environmental regulation for state-owned rail projects.

The decision has broad significance, lawyers in the case said.

It clears the way for opponents of the $64-billion bullet train to file more lawsuits as construction proceeds and also allows Californians to challenge other rail uses, such as the movement of crude oil from fracking.

A federal court could later decide the matter differently, ruling that U.S. law trumps state regulation.

But lawyers in the field said they expect a similar case pending in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to be dismissed and expressed doubt that the U.S. Supreme Court would review last week’s ruling.

The high-speed rail line is supposed to run between San Francisco and Anaheim.

So far there have been about a half a dozen lawsuits challenging environment impact reports for two rail segments in the Central Valley. Three of the suits are still pending.

More lawsuits are expected when the rail authority finalizes plans for construction in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.

The Central Valley litigation already has been unexpectedly contentious, involving farmers who lost large portions of their fields.

But legal experts expect an even bigger firestorm of lawsuits when environmental impact reports are released for the Silicon Valley and parts of Los Angeles, possibly next year. The reports will reveal where the lines will be built.

“There are likely to be a lot of people bent out of shape in those areas,” said Stuart Flashman, who has represented several groups and individuals fighting high-speed rail. “There are already threats of lawsuits involving the Angeles National Forest. It means the High-Speed Rail Authority is nowhere near out of the woods.”

Rail authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley said the agency is reviewing what the Supreme Court ruling would mean for the project.

The matter of whether the bullet train project must abide by the California Environmental Quality Act has lingered for years.

In 2014, the state asked the federal Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, to exempt the project from any legal injunctions that could stop construction.

The board went even further, saying that the project was exempt from state law. The decision triggered a federal lawsuit by rail opponents, the case now pending in the 9th Circuit.

The rail authority in the meantime has followed both federal and state environmental laws.

The California Supreme Court ruling came in lawsuits filed by two environmental advocacy groups — Friends of the Eel River and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics — against the North Coast Railroad Authority and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Co., a private company that contracts with the authority.

Mitch Stogner, executive director of the North Coast Railroad Authority, said the group has not decided whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

He also said he did not know whether the High-Speed Rail Authority, which lacks standing to appeal the decision, would be inclined to help finance a fight to the high court. The High-Speed Rail Authority weighed in as a friend of the court.

State lawmakers created the North Coast Railroad Authority in 1989 to provide freight service on a 314-mile line of decayed tracks in Napa, Sonoma and Humboldt counties.

The railroad now hauls livestock feed, building materials, wood products and liquefied petroleum gas, Stogner said, on just 62 miles of the line, from Lombard to Windsor in Sonoma County.

Amy Bricker, who represented the river group in the case, said it was concerned that restarting rail operations in the Eel River canyon would pollute the wild and scenic waterway and encourage gravel mining.

But Stogner said there have been no plans to run freight through the canyon because the tracks there would be too costly to repair.

“It is a red herring,” he said

Golden Gate University Law School professor Helen Kang, who runs an environmental law clinic that represented the anti-toxics group, said the ruling means that ”you have to be able to comply with federal and state law at the same time.”

“If there is no conflict, there is no preemption,” she said.

In general, federal laws take precedence over, or preempt, state laws — a doctrine based on the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In a dissent to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Justice Carol Corrigan said the majority had created a novel legal theory to get around the fact that states may not impose regulations that interrupt rail service.

The decision “will displace the longstanding supremacy of federal regulation in the area of railroad operations by allowing third party plaintiffs to thwart or delay public railroad projects,” Corrigan wrote.

UC Davis Law Professor Richard Frank said the California Supreme Court almost always decides that state laws are not preempted by federal ones, while federal courts are more likely to say the opposite.

He called last week’s ruling “very obtuse” and “turgid” and said it probably will not end the legal fight over whether federal rail regulations supersede state laws because the decision provided “little guidance to policy makers and practitioners.”

The court said that federal law trumps state law only for privately owned railroads, not those owned by California, Frank noted.

“It is going to generate more time consuming litigation,” Frank said.

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It’d Be Pretty Easy For Trump To Pardon His Family Members. He Could Even Tweet It.

WASHINGTON ― There’s a normal process for your average federal convict seeking a presidential pardon. There are petitions to prepare, letters to solicit, character affidavits to notarize, background checks to be conducted and federal prosecutors to be consulted. The whole process, controlled by the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, can take years, and there’s a very slim chance the president will ultimately grant a pardon.

However, if your dad is the president and you’re hoping to head off a potential indictment, you could just ask him to send a tweet.

President Donald Trump has, via Twitter, floated the possibility that he’ll use pardons as a means of shutting down indictments that may grow out of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference with the 2016 election. If Trump is learning more about the process, as media reports indicate, he may be surprised by how easy it would be for him to pardon his family members or former campaign aides.

Trump pardoning his own family members before they’ve even been indicted would be virtually unprecedented in the modern era. Former officials in the Office of the Pardon Attorney who spoke with HuffPost this week pointed to President Gerald Ford’s pardon of former President Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal as the most relevant pre-indictment presidential pardon in recent U.S. history.

“Nixon is the most high-profile one, where no charges had even been brought, and I think that would be the most logical analogue,” said Margaret Love, who served as U.S. pardon attorney from 1990 to 1997.

But constitutionally, experts say, it’s all aboveboard. The consequences of those pardons would be political, not legal. Normally it would be “political suicide to pardon a family member,” in the words of Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane. But the normal rules of politics don’t seem to apply to President Trump.

“You just have to stand up against the political storm that would result,” Love said.

Other presidents have pardoned their family members and aides. President Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother Roger for selling cocaine to an undercover officer, while President George W. Bush commuted the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, sparing him a stint in federal prison. But neither Clinton’s pardon nor Bush’s clemency grant came before an indictment. Roger Clinton had already served a year in prison in the 1980s, and Libby’s commutation came after he was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison.

While there have been some pre-indictment pardons, those have typically affected entire groups of people, like when President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty for undocumented immigrants or when President Jimmy Carter pardoned hundreds of thousands of draft dodgers.

While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017

The pardon clause of the Constitution gives the president very wide authority. While the president can seek advice on pardons from any source he wants, the Office of the Pardon Attorney has handled most such cases since 1893.

The Office of the Pardon Attorney plays a crucial role in typical cases. One of the major benefits for presidents is that OPA vets all of the pardon applications for the White House, reducing the risk that a pardon could backfire.

“In the normal case, the White House won’t touch a case unless it’s gone through that administrative process at DOJ,” says Samuel Morison, a former lawyer in the Office of the Pardon Attorney. “It protects them from being embarrassed if it goes through DOJ, and it also gives them some political cover. If there’s criticism, they can say, well, DOJ told us to do it.”

Love said that the process at DOJ has served presidents well dating back to the 19th century.

“It’s always thought that it’s protective of the president,” she said. “The only time the president has gotten into trouble is when he avoids the process.”

If Trump does decide to preemptively pardon his son Donald Trump Jr., or his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, it’s highly unlikely their cases would be vetted by the Office of the Pardon Attorney. The cases would more likely be handled entirely by the White House Counsel.

“If anybody like that who is closely related to Trump wants a pardon, I doubt very much they’re going to bother filing a pardon application with the Office of the Pardon Attorney,” Morison said. “I don’t represent any of those people in a pardon matter, but if I did, I would tell them, ‘Why would you do that? Just go straight to the White House.’”

OPA doesn’t even accept applications from individuals who haven’t been convicted of a crime, Morison said.

There’d be very little required of Trump if he decided to grant any pardons. The White House could issue a fairly short statement, and the form wouldn’t really matter, Love said. Trump could do it in a tweet if he wanted, as USA Today wrote in January. (The biggest restriction might be Twitter’s character limit: The key portion of Ford’s letter pardoning Nixon ran to 442 characters. If Trump were to write something similar, he’d need to split it into a few tweets.)

“The president can do this pretty much in any form he wants, as long as it’s a public announcement,” Love said. The pardon doesn’t even need to be a written document, she added: “Stick your head out the window, yell it out in the street.” It just needs to be a matter of record that the pardon was issued.

Of course, the really remarkable thing is not that the words “Twitter” and “presidential pardon” are being mentioned in the same sentence. It’s the fact that Trump would consider issuing a preemptive pardon for a member of his family at all.

“We truly are in uncharted waters here,” Love said.

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