$1*/ mo hosting! Everything you need to succeed online with us!

Border Patrol Agent Acquitted in Mexican Teen’s Death

An Arizona jury Wednesday acquitted a U.S. Border Patrol agent of manslaughter in the shooting of a Mexican teen through a border fence, sparking a protest in downtown Tucson following the second loss for federal prosecutors in the second trial over the 2012 killing.

Jurors in Tucson found Lonnie Swartz not guilty of involuntary manslaughter but didn’t come to a decision on voluntary manslaughter. The verdict comes months after Swartz was acquitted of second-degree murder by another jury that had deadlocked on manslaughter charges, allowing prosecutors to pursue the case again.

“My client is very relieved. He has had to live with the burden of this case hanging over his head for years. He is glad that it is finally over,” Swartz’s attorney, Sean Chapman, said in an email to The Associated Press.

Protests in Tucson

Outside the courthouse, a small group of activists protested the verdict, and one man was detained, media outlets reported.

The protest grew later in the day as scores of demonstrators shut down an intersection, snarling traffic in downtown and prompting authorities to briefly close several freeway ramps.

One sign protesters carried said, “Abolish Border Patrol,” while another read, “No justice, no peace” in both English and Spanish.

“We fully respect the jury’s decision, and we thank every member of the jury for the time and attention given to this trial,” Elizabeth A. Strange, first assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona, said in a statement. “This was a difficult case, and I commend the trial team and law enforcement officers who assisted in the prosecution.”

Agents rarely charged

Border Patrol agents are rarely criminally charged for using force. But the killing of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez sparked outrage on both sides of the border and came at a time when the agency was increasingly scrutinized for its use of force.

Prosecutors said Swartz was frustrated over repeated encounters with people on the Mexico side of the border fence who throw rocks at agents to distract them from smugglers. They say he lost his cool and fatally shot Elena Rodriguez. Swartz fired about 16 rounds, and the boy was hit at least 10 times in the back and head.

Swartz has said he was following his training and defending himself and other law enforcement officers from rocks, which he said could be deadly.

Prosecutors acknowledge that Elena Rodriguez was throwing rocks at agents while two smugglers made their way back to Mexico, but they said that wasn’t justification for taking his life.

Chapman said Elena Rodriguez endangered the lives of the agents and a police officer who was on scene.

Troops at the border

The verdict comes as President Donald Trump has deployed troops to the border to support U.S. authorities in response to a migrant caravan from Central America. The troops have been given authority to protect Border Patrol agents and other personnel, even though there have been no instances of violence against U.S. authorities.

Swartz still faces a civil rights lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the teen’s mother.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office said prosecutors haven’t decided whether to try Swartz again on the voluntary manslaughter charge.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

GOP in Congress Seeks to Address Gender Disparity in Its Ranks

For congressional Republicans, this month’s elections ushered in the year of the woman — literally. 


West Virginia’s Carol Miller will be the only Republican woman entering the 435-member House as a newcomer in January. She’ll join what may be the chamber’s smallest group of female GOP lawmakers since the early 1990s — as few as 13 of at least 199 Republicans. Democrats will have at least 89. 


Numbers like those have Republicans searching for answers to the glaring gender disparity in their ranks — and fast. The concern is that Democrats’ lopsided edge among female voters could carry over to 2020, when President Donald Trump will be seeking a second term and House and Senate control will be in play. If the current trend continues, Republicans risk being branded the party of men. 


“You will see a very significant recruiting effort occur” for female candidates, said David Winston, a pollster who advises GOP congressional leaders. “It’s a natural conclusion. An environment has got to be created where that can be a success.” 


Evidence of the GOP gender gap was just as clear in the 100-member Senate, where Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn will be the only Republican freshman. If Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith wins a runoff later this month there will be record-setting seven GOP women in the Republican-run Senate. But even that record is less than half the class of 17 Democratic women, which includes two freshmen. 


The search for answers leads to some familiar places. Trump’s fraught history with women, combined with the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, helped motivate Democratic women to seek office but did not appear to have the same effect with GOP women, politicians and analysts say. More broadly, the president’s brash style doesn’t sit well many female voters or potential candidates.  

“Women don’t like the tweets,” said Sarah Chamberlain, president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a moderate GOP group. “I don’t know how to tone down the rhetoric. If I could have a fantasy, one wish, that would be my one wish.” 


Women backed Democratic candidates over Republicans on Election Day by a telling 57 percent to 41 percent, according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate conducted by The Associated Press. Women broke by similar margins in the crucial suburbs, where Democratic victories in swing districts helped power the gains they needed to win House control. Men supported Republicans over Democrats, 51 percent to 46 percent. 


Strategists note the issue isn’t just about current personalities; it’s about party infrastructure. 


“We as a party have to make recruiting women candidates who can win a high priority,” said Andrea Bozek, spokeswoman for Winning for Women, a fledging GOP group that tries bolstering female Republican candidates. She added, “Unless people in leadership really make it a priority, I don’t think it will happen.” 


A record number of women ran for the House as major-party candidates this year. But Democrats outnumbered Republicans by nearly 3 to 1, according to AP data, and Democratic women were more likely to win their primaries. 


Of those contenders who ran in November, 183 were Democrats, the most ever, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Fifty-two were Republicans, a near-record but far smaller than the number of  female Democrats running. 


That partisan imbalance was made greater by Democrats’ superior campaign infrastructure for helping female candidates. 


Winning for Women, created in early 2017, says it spent more than $1 million helping female candidates for the recent election. That and other GOP groups assisting female candidates couldn’t match Democrats’ 33-year-old Emily’s List, a well-financed organization that poured tens of millions into primaries and general elections and provided recruiting, training and other services to female candidates. 

“Democrats have been doing a much better job of getting women elected,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics. 


Asked to explain her success against other female candidates’ defeats, West Virginia’s Miller sent an email lauding Trump and other Republicans and GOP women’s groups and saying “liberal special interests” had spent heavily to defeat Republican women. Officials at the White House and the GOP did not provide answers to requests for comment. 


Republicans have displayed a sensitivity this year to their overwhelmingly male numbers. That includes hiring a female prosecutor to question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s chief accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, when she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and its all-male Republicans about her allegations of sexual misconduct against him. 

Within days of the elections, Republicans vaulted women into congressional leadership positions. 


Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, will be No. 3 House GOP leader next year, that chamber’s highest-ranking Republican woman ever. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, will be vice chairwoman of the Senate GOP conference, a lower-tier post, making her the first Republican woman in a Senate leadership job in eight years. 


Cheney said Republicans must better communicate that their policies on national security, the economy and health care are best for men and women. She called it “fundamentally offensive and paternalistic” to think women’s votes are driven by their gender. 


Asked on CBS’s Face the Nation last week whether Trump’s rhetoric alienated women, Ernst said, “We could do a better job of communicating clearly that we support women.”  

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

Right-Leaning Nonprofit Paid Whitaker More Than $1.2 Million

Before joining the Justice Department, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker earned more than $1.2 million from a right-leaning nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors, according to the nonprofit’s tax filings. Whitaker’s earnings represented a sizable chunk of the charity’s revenue.

Financial disclosure forms released Tuesday show Whitaker received $904,000 in income from the Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust from 2016 through nearly the end of 2017. He also received $15,000 from CNN as a legal commentator, according to the documents released by the Justice Department.

The nonprofit group, known as FACT, styles itself as a nonpartisan government watchdog promoting ethics and transparency. The tax-exempt group is supposed to serve the public interest without supporting or opposing specific candidates for office. However, its challenges and its website have focused largely, though not exclusively, on Democrats and their party.

Whitaker used his role as president and executive director of FACT in 2016 as a platform to question the ethics of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

From 2014 through 2016, FACT paid out nearly 30 percent of its total revenue to Whitaker. In 2015 alone, Whitaker’s $252,000 salary made up half of what the group brought in. Whitaker’s salary also grew each year from $63,000 in 2014 to as much as $502,000 in 2017, according to the tax filings and public financial disclosures released by the Justice Department.

Separately, Whitaker is also facing criticism about whether he violated federal law because a campaign committee set up for his failed 2014 U.S. Senate bid accepted $8,800 in donations this year, while Whitaker was serving as a top Justice Department lawyer.

On Wednesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., called for an investigation into whether Whitaker violated the Hatch Act, a statute that generally prohibits executive branch employees from accepting or soliciting campaign donations.

Whitaker’s campaign committee, which still carries about $49,000 in debt, hadn’t received any contributions between 2015 through 2017, according to Federal Election Commission data.

The campaign committee, Whitaker for U.S. Senate Inc., also reported paying $500 to Whitaker’s old law firm, Whitaker, Hagenow & Gustoff, for space rental on Febraury 2. The campaign paid a $228 reimbursement to Christopher Hagenow — an Iowa legislator and founding partner of the law firm — for data services that same day.

Several news outlets, including The Associated Press, and outside groups had requested Whitaker’s financial disclosure forms from the Justice Department after President Donald Trump ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and elevated Whitaker to the agency’s top post on Nov. 7.

Those documents show Whitaker began revising his public disclosures the day he was appointed acting attorney general. He revised the forms four more times, including on Tuesday.

In a disclosure form Whitaker completed when he joined the Justice Department in September 2017, he reported receiving $1,875 in legal fees from a company called World Patent Marketing. Whitaker has come under scrutiny for his involvement with the company, which was accused of misleading consumers and is under investigation by the FBI.

Whitaker also disclosed his partial interest in a family farm in Ely, Iowa, that he valued at between $100,000 and $250,000. The forms also included disclosures of $20,000 to $30,000 in credit card debt in 2017.

FACT drew its funds from 2014-2016 mainly from Donor’s Trust, another nonprofit designed to provide anonymity to conservative and libertarian donors. Though such tax-exempt groups can legally withhold the identity of their contributors and generally do so, there may be a distinct irony when a group dedicated to transparency keeps its funding sources in the shadows.

Whitaker’s appointment has been criticized by Democrats who have challenged its constitutionality and are concerned that he will interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

On Tuesday, the Senate’s top Democrat, Sen. Charles Schumer, asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate communications between Whitaker and the White House and to look into whether Whitaker had access to confidential grand jury information in Mueller’s probe.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the second-ranking Justice Department official, had been overseeing the special counsel’s Russia investigation until Whitaker’s appointment. Whitaker is now overseeing the investigation.

Schumer and other Democrats have said they are concerned about Whitaker’s past criticism of the Mueller probe, which is looking at Russian interference in the 2016 election and ties to Trump’s campaign.

Whitaker’s past public statements have included an op-ed article in which he said Mueller would be straying outside his mandate if he investigated Trump’s family finances. In a talk radio interview he maintained there was no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

Trump: US Interests Outweigh Harshly Punishing Saudis for Killing Journalist

U.S. President Donald Trump says turning his back on Saudi Arabia, despite its responsibility for killing a U.S.-based journalist, “would be a terrible mistake.”

Any human rights concerns are outweighed by U.S. national security and economic interests, the president said. 

“We’re staying with Saudi Arabia,” Trump announced, noting the kingdom’s mutual opposition to Iran and Riyadh’s purchases of American military equipment that mean, according to the president, “hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment.”

Russia and China “are not going to get that gift,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn before departing for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We’ve kept oil prices down,” Trump said, claiming they would soar if the U.S.-Saudi relationship was broken up.

“I’m not going to destroy the world economy and destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia,” he added.

​’Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t’

Asked about a reported conclusion by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman most likely knew about or ordered the plot to kill dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul, Trump replied: “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t” and stated, concerning the CIA’s finding: “They have nothing definitive.”

The president denied that his decision to avoid harshly punishing the Saudis for the Oct. 2 killing had anything to do with his personal business interests.

“I don’t make deals with Saudi Arabia. I don’t make money from Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. “Being president has cost me a fortune.” 

WATCH: US-Saudi Arabia relations

​Earlier in the day, in a statement issued by the White House, Trump said he understood that some lawmakers in Congress — who “for political or other reasons” — wanted to pursue sanctions against Riyadh for the killing. “They are free to do so,” he said.

“I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America,” Trump said.

But the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Bob Menendez, sent a letter to Trump Tuesday reminding him U.S. law requires him to examine whether the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s death.

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requires the president to determine if a foreign official is responsible for a human rights violation.

The act is named for Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky who was apparently beaten to death in prison in 2009  after accusing Russian officials of tax fraud.

“I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” Senator Corker tweeted Tuesday. He added that  Congress will consider “all the tools at our disposal” to determine the role of the crown prince in the Khashoggi killing.

Khashoggi lived in the United States, writing opinion articles for The Washington Post that were critical of the crown prince and Riyadh’s involvement in the long-running Yemen conflict.

His editor at the newspaper, Karen Attiah, described Trump’s statement as “full of lies and a blatant disregard for his own intelligence agencies. It also shows an unforgivable disregard for the lives of Saudis who dare criticize the regime. This is a new low.”

U.S. intelligence community

Veterans of the U.S. intelligence community are also expressing their disdain with the president’s stance.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who has repeatedly clashed with Trump, after Tuesday’s statement said on Twitter that Trump “excels in dishonesty,” so now it is up to Congress to obtain and declassify the CIA findings on Khashoggi’s death.

“No one in Saudi Arabia — most especially the Crown Prince — should escape accountability for such a heinous act,” Brennan wrote.

Former CIA officer Ned Price wondered Tuesday “how appointed intelligence leaders could continue to serve after this betrayal is beyond me.” 

A Saudi prosecutor cleared the crown prince of wrongdoing last week while calling for the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects indicted in the killing. The prosecutor said a total of 21 people have been detained.

Turkish officials concluded that Khashoggi was tortured and killed, with his body then dismembered.

Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday that Ankara might formally seek a U.N. investigation of the killing if cooperation with Riyadh reached an impasse.

VOA’s Chris Hannas and Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

Congress to Probe Ivanka Trump’s Private Email Use in WH

New revelations about the extent of Ivanka Trump’s personal email use in the White House will be getting a hard look from House Democrats when they take power in January.

The House Oversight and Government Reform committee began looking into private email use last year after reports by Politico revealed that Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, and other White House officials had been using private email for government purposes in possible violation of the Presidential Records Act and other federal record-keeping laws.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the likely incoming chairman of the Oversight panel, said Tuesday that he will resume that bipartisan investigation, which was dropped by Republicans. And he will pressure President Donald Trump’s administration to turn over records about the use of private email for public business by Ivanka Trump, Kushner and other senior officials.

“My goal is to prevent this from happening again — not to turn this into a spectacle the way Republicans went after Hillary Clinton,” Cummings said. “My main priority as Chairman will be to focus on the issues that impact Americans in their everyday lives.”

The issue resurfaced this week when The Washington Post reported that the president’s daughter, while a top White House adviser, sent hundreds of emails about government business from a personal email account last year. The emails were sent to White House aides, Cabinet members and Ivanka Trump’s assistants, many in violation of public records rules, according to the Post.

In comments to reporters, the president, who has spent years railing against Clinton’s use of private email for public business while secretary of state, sought to downplay — and differentiate — his daughter’s email use from his former opponent’s.

“They aren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton,” Trump said, adding: “What Ivanka did, it’s all in the presidential records. Everything is there.”

A spokesman for Ivanka Trump’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, didn’t dispute the Post report. The spokesman, Peter Mirijanian, said no classified information was transmitted in the messages, no emails were deleted and the emails have since been “retained” in conformity with records laws. He also said Ivanka Trump did not set up a private server for the account, which he said was “never transferred or housed at Trump Organization.”

Mirijanian said that while transitioning into the government, Ivanka Trump “sometimes used her private account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family.”

“When concerns were raised in the press 14 months ago, Ms. Trump reviewed and verified her email use with White House Counsel and explained the issue to congressional leaders,” he said. He did not say which congressional leaders were briefed.

On Tuesday, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a fierce defender of the president as the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, also downplayed the matter.

“There are over 30,000 BleachBit reasons why the Hillary Clinton email scandal isn’t even close to the Ivanka email issue,” Meadows tweeted, referring to a computer program used to delete emails from her server.

The House Oversight investigation into private email used by Trump White House officials was launched in early 2017 with the support of then-Republican chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz. After Chaffetz retired from Congress, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina joined with Cummings in demanding that the White House provide the identities of staff members who had used their personal emails to conduct official business.

In October 2017, the White House dispatched counsel’s office lawyers Stefan Passantino, Uttam Dhillon and Daniel Epstein to brief bipartisan committee staff, but the attorneys refused to identify any officials who had used private email for official business. The lawyers only said that several White House employees had “confessed” to failing to following the Presidential Records Act, according to a letter summarizing the briefing released by Cummings earlier this year.

The White House lawyers said they couldn’t provide additional information on specific employees while an internal review was under way, according to the letter.

But the White House lawyers said they would share the findings of the internal review with the committee once it concluded, according to a separate letter sent to the White House by Gowdy.

Cummings has said the committee never received that information, and Democrats have said Gowdy dropped the issue and never followed up.

The discovery of the extent of Ivanka Trump’s email use was prompted by public records requests from the liberal watchdog group American Oversight. The group’s executive director, Austin Evers, said in a statement that “The president’s family is not above the law,’” and he called on Congress to investigate.

“For more than two years, President Trump and senior leaders in Congress have made it very clear that they view the use of personal email servers for government business to be a serious offense that demands investigation and even prosecution, and we expect the same standard will be applied in this case,” he said.

The emails the group uncovered include correspondence between Ivanka Trump and Small Business Administration chief Linda McMahon and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

Poll Gives Trump High Marks Only on Economy

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows most American voters approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of the economy.

Fifty-three percent of the voters surveyed approved of the way he has overseen the economy, his most favorable rating ever on the issue, the poll found. Forty-two percent said they did not approve of his economic policies.

More than half of voters, 54 percent, disapprove of Trump’s overall job performance, compared to 41 percent who believe he is doing a good job.

On foreign policy, 42 percent of voters give Trump high marks, while 53 percent disapprove of his handling of those issues.

Just over 40 percent of voters agree with the way he addresses immigration issues, compared to 56 percent who do not.

Trump also did not fare as well for his handling of race-related issues. The poll found that 35 percent of voters agreed with his approach to race relations, while 59 percent did not.   


Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

Top Senate Democrat Wants Probe of Whitaker’s White House Contacts

The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer, called Tuesday for the Justice Department’s internal investigator to review communications between acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and the White House.

Senate Minority Leader Schumer said he wants the Justice Department’s inspector general to look into Whitaker’s interactions with the White House since last year when he was named chief of staff to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

President Donald Trump picked Whitaker earlier this month to become the country’s top law enforcement official after ousting Sessions, whom he had long assailed for removing himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-running investigation of alleged 2016 Trump campaign links with Russia.

Whitaker, before joining the Justice Department, had been critical of Mueller’s probe, saying a replacement attorney general, such as he is now, could cut funding to the probe so that it “grinds almost to a halt.”

Schumer said he wants the Justice Department’s inspector general to look into whether Whitaker, in the top echelon of the agency before Trump appointed him as head of it for as long as 210 days, had access to confidential grand jury information obtained in Mueller’s investigation and whether he shared any of it with Trump or other White House officials.

“I am also concerned that Mr. Whitaker, who has thus far declined to recuse himself from the Special Counsel investigation, may intend to interfere in or obstruct the investigation in other ways,” Schumer wrote.


Several Democratic lawmakers, along with some Republicans, have said that Whitaker, because of his attacks on the Mueller investigation as a television analyst, should, like Sessions, remove himself from oversight.

Sessions had delegated authority over the probe to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but Whitaker now has assumed control.

Whitaker has taken no public action against the investigation, but also has not commented publicly about how he views it.

Schumer’s call for a Justice Department inspector general’s investigation, came a day after three other Democratic senators sued to block Trump’s appointment of Whitaker, claiming he was named to undermine Mueller’s investigation.

Going to court

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii filed the lawsuit in a federal court in Washington, the fourth suit contesting Whitaker’s appointment. The lawmakers and other critics of the investigation have contended that the nomination of Whitaker, as head of a Cabinet-level agency, was subject to Senate confirmation.

“President Trump is denying senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official,” Blumenthal said in a statement.  “The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test. In selecting a so-called ‘constitutional nobody’ and thwarting every senator’s constitutional duty, Trump leaves us no choice but to seek recourse through the courts.”

Senator Whitehouse said, “The stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice – a lackey whose stated purpose, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president.  Unless the courts intercede, this troubling move creates a plain road map for persistent and deliberate evasion by the executive branch of the Senate’s constitutionally mandated advice and consent. Indeed, this appointment appears planned to accomplish that goal.”

The Justice Department has defended Whitaker’s appointment as legal.

“There are over 160 instances in American history in which non-Senate confirmed persons performed, on a temporary basis, the duties of a Senate-confirmed position,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said.  “To suggest otherwise is to ignore centuries of practice and precedent.”

In an interview with Fox News that aired Sunday, Trump said he was unaware of Whitaker’s CNN commentary opposing the Mueller investigation before naming him to head the Justice Department, bypassing Rosenstein.

Trump dismissed concerns about how Whitaker will deal with the Mueller investigation, but said that he, as president, would not intervene.

“It’s going to be up to him,” Trump said.  “I think he’s very well aware politically.  I think he’s astute politically. He’s a very smart person.  A very respected person. He’s going to do what’s right. I really believe he’s going to do what’s right.”

Asked by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace whether he would overrule Whitaker if he decides to curtail the Mueller investigation, Trump replied, “I would not get involved.”


Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

Ivanka Trump Often Conducted US Business on Private Email in 2017, Watchdog Says

Ivanka Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter and one of his key advisers, last year sent hundreds of messages to White House aides and government officials via her private email account, often in violation of federal records rules, a liberal Washington watchdog has concluded.

American Oversight said that through much of 2017 Ivanka Trump often discussed or passed on official White House business through a private email account she shared with her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House adviser to his father-in-law.

Ivanka Trump’s use of private email for government business bears some similarity to one of President Trump’s most prominent and enduring attacks on his 2016 opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for her use of a private email server housed in her New York home while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. Clinton was cleared of wrongdoing, but political analysts believe the FBI’s lengthy investigation of classified material found on the former diplomat’s email server contributed to her upset loss.

The Presidential Records Act requires that all White House communications and records be preserved for documentation. But some White House officials were apparently taken aback at the extent of Ivanka Trump’s use of private email and her explanation that she was not aware of government rules.

Her emails were subsequently reviewed by her personal attorney, Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell, to determine which messages should be permanently stored as part of White House records.

A spokesman for the lawyer acknowledged she had used private email while working for her father at the White House, but drew a distinction with Clinton’s use of a private email server.

“While transitioning into government, after she was given an official account but until the White House provided her the same guidance they had given others who started before she did, Ms. Trump sometimes used her personal account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family,” the spokesman said.

But he added, “Ms. Trump did not create a private server in her house or office, no classified information was ever included, the account was never transferred at Trump Organization, and no emails were ever deleted.”

Austin Evers, American Oversight’s executive director, said it is hard to accept Ivanka Trump’s contention that she did not know the government rules about not using private email when conducting government business.

“There’s the obvious hypocrisy that her father ran on the misuse of personal email as a central tenet of his campaign,” Evers said. “There is no reasonable suggestion that she didn’t know better. Clearly everyone joining the Trump administration should have been on high alert about personal email use.”

To this day at political rallies, President Trump often ridicules Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” because of the email controversy from the campaign two years ago, a description that still generates calls from his most fervent supporters to “Lock her up!”

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

White House Journalists Invite Historian, Not Comic, to Headline Dinner

Months after comic Michelle Wolf angered Trump administration officials with her blistering routine at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the group said on Monday it would feature a historian, not a comedian, at next year’s event.

The WHCA said Ron Chernow, who has written biographies of presidents George Washington and Ulysses Grant and founding father Alexander Hamilton, has been asked to speak on freedom of the press at next year’s black-tie affair in April.

“Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to the basics,” Chernow said in a statement released by the WHCA. President Donald Trump has repeatedly derided some media organizations as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.”

The decision breaks with the association’s long-standing tradition of having a comic roast the president and the press at the dinner, and it drew a sharp response from Wolf.

“The @whca are cowards. The media is complicit. And I couldn’t be prouder,” she said on Twitter.

Presidents traditionally have been given the floor to make their own humorous remarks before the comic speaks. But President Donald Trump, who frequently found himself the target of jokes when he attended before he ran for office, including by then-President Obama, has refused to attend the dinner his first two years in office.

Wolf angered Trump administration officials last April with jokes that many felt were caustic and overly personal, saying of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway “all she does is lie” and ridiculing press secretary Sarah Sanders’ eye makeup.

It was not the first time comics at the dinner have riled their targets. Stephen Colbert, Wanda Sykes and Seth Meyers have spoken at the dinner and also had their detractors.

But Wolf’s jabs at Trump administration officials prompted the New York Times to question in a headline last April: “Did Michelle Wolf kill the White House Correspondents’ Dinner?”

Although the dinner has become a high-profile event on Washington’s social calendar, it is primarily a fund-raiser to earn money for college journalism scholarships, journalism awards and to pay for other programs sponsored by the WHCA, which represents journalists covering the White House.

“While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian,” Chernow said, “I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

Rift Widens Between Trump, Former US Intel Bosses

The chasm between U.S. President Donald Trump and elders of the intelligence community is widening.

Trump, repeating a criticism he made in a television interview the previous day, took to Twitter on Monday to again exclaim that the United States “should have captured Osama bin Laden long before we did.”

In the Fox News Sunday interview, the president labeled retired U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven, the leader of the operation that killed the al-Qaida founder, “a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer,” referring to his 2016 Democratic Party opponent and his predecessor as president.

McRaven has repeatedly criticized Trump’s presidency, calling it an embarrassment and a humiliation of the United States on the world stage that has divided the country.

After Trump’s broadcast remarks, McRaven declared he did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else in the previous presidential election, but said he is “a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for.”

He added that he admires all presidents, regardless of political party, “who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the Nation together in challenging times.”

McRaven, a former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, said he stands by his comment that Trump’s attack on the media “is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime.”

Others with inside knowledge of the 2011 operation in Pakistan against bin Laden are coming to McRaven’s defense.

Former intelligence officials push back

Former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael Morell tweeted that a correction is needed following Trump’s implication that the terrorist leader should have been nabbed faster.

A former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency, retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, in reaction to Trump’s attack on McRaven, taunted the president on Twitter for not capturing the current leaders of al-Qaida and the Islamic State terror group, who are in hiding.

The Navy SEAL who is credited with having fired the head shot that killed bin Laden on Monday tweeted that the bin Laden mission was bipartisan.

“The president is simply wrong and pushing an idea that I think is not helpful,” said retired Army General Stanley McChrystal on CNN about Trump asserting previous administrations were tardy in eliminating the al-Qaida head.

Trump’s criticism “is symptomatic of the crisis of leadership we have today,” added McChrystal, who headed the Joint Special Operations Command for five years.

“This president owes Admiral McRaven and all of the SEALs involved in that operation an apology for what he’s saying,” said former CIA Director and ex Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on MSNBC. “He’s undermining his position as Commander-in-Chief. Not only with those that conducted the operation, but with the entire military.”

One senator from Trump’s party is also coming to McRaven’s defense. In a tweet, Marco Rubio of Florida, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed gratitude for the retired admiral’s service.

​McRaven, who recently quit as the chancellor of the University of Texas for health reasons, has also defended former CIA Director John Brennan, another Trump critic, whose security clearance was revoked by the president.

The official Twitter account of the Republican party on Monday claimed McRaven has been critical of Trump since during the 2016 presidential campaign and was reportedly on Hillary Clinton’s short list as her running mate in that race — something the retired admiral and campaign officials have denied.

A contentious relationship

Trump has had a contentious relationship with the U.S. intelligence community from the start of his presidency, most notably rebutting its consensus Russia attempted to influence the election on his behalf.

He has also alleged a “deep state” conspiracy of shadowy figures from the intelligence community and other elements of the federal government is intent on thwarting his agenda, pursuing a “witch hunt” linking him to Moscow and leaking to the media what the president asserts is false information.

Trump on Saturday countered media reports that the CIA had concluded the Saudi crown prince had ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying who is really responsible may never be known.

The biggest current source of tension between the president and the U.S. intelligence community is over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a former senior CIA officer, Paul Pillar.

“The relationship was already bad and we had already seen before this week most of the implications of that bad relationship,” Pillar, a non-resident senior fellow at Georgetown University, told VOA News.

Trump’s denial of the CIA’s conclusions about the crown prince are, by implication, “a criticism of the intelligence analysis on the subject. But the administration will have a hard time winning a battle of public perceptions on this one,” according to Pillar.

“The general perception,” he said, “is that the implausible and ever-shifting Saudi cover stories show the Saudis are hiding something and the analysis of outside observers conforms with what reportedly is the intelligence analysis about [the crown prince’s] involvement.”

Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

Build a better website in under an hour. Start for free at us!

    $.99* .COM Domain! You be you with us!     Web Hosting $3.95