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Democrats Prepare For Trump With One Of The Earliest Resistance Movements Ever To Greet A New President

 

David Weigel
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) is one of nearly 70 Democratic lawmakers boycotting President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, one of many protests planned to greet the dawn of his presidency.© J. Scott Applewhite/AP Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) is one of nearly 70 Democratic lawmakers boycotting President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, one of many protests planned to greet the dawn of his presidency.  

When Donald Trump takes the presidential oath of office on Friday, thousands of protesters will be marching his way from an “Occupy the Inauguration” rally at Malcolm X Park. They’ll be joined by members and supporters of Democratic Socialists of America who will start their march near the White House. And 1,000 miles away, Democratic donors and strategists will be listening to a panel discussion on “the actions that Trump may take in his first 100 days in office” and the “moral responsibility” to resist.

Democrats and the broader left, recuperating from an election few of them thought they could lose, are organizing one of the broadest — and earliest — opposition campaigns ever to greet a new president. It began with protests in the hours after Trump’s victory, but it become bolder since, marked most dramatically by nearly 70 Democratic members of Congress boycotting the inauguration itself.

“To borrow the words of Joe Hill: Don’t mourn. Organize,” said New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, who’s embracing a vocal role in the Democrats’ anti-Trump resistance. “We should be humble about the fact that Trump found a way to address real concerns that people had, while never forgetting that he got 3 million votes less” than Hillary Clinton.

Part of the response, so far, has been a steady run of public protests, many of them endorsed by Democrats. It’s a marked change from 2001, when protests of the incoming administration of George W. Bush were dominated by the political fringe, and a contrast even with 2009, when Tea Party protests were egged on by conservative organizations but only slowly joined by elected Republicans. In his farewell speech, President Obama departed from the usual homilies and urged activists to find their causes.

“If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing,” said Obama. “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”

This year, in his enhanced role as a messenger for congressional Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) successfully encouraged 70-odd rallies on Jan. 14 in support of the Affordable Care Act, organized on the ground by Democrats and labor groups. Local branches of the Working Families Party, which endorsed Sanders (and De Blasio) in 2016, have organized “Resist Trump Tuesdays,” in which activists have protested inside the offices of Republican legislators or filled the galleries of state legislatures. According to WFP spokesman Joe Dinkin, 450 community planning meetings took place the week before the inauguration.

“We’re making the Trump nominations the first big fight of the new year,” said Dinkin. “Thousands of people are coming out to encourage Democrats not just to vote against them, but to use every procedural tool to slow them down.”

Those tools are more limited than the ones used by previous out-of-power parties, thanks to a Democratic-backed 2013 reform of the filibuster that Republicans opposed but have not undone. But Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told the Washington Post last week that the reform was the right thing to do, and that Democrats who opposed nominees had to be ready to stand and debate them.

Across the left, activists have tried to anticipate and adapt to the tactics of the right. They’ve highlighted legislation in at least five states that would increase the penalties for public protest, including a North Dakota bill that would legally protect a driver “who negligently causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic.” Earlier this month, the progressive group American Family Voices identified and exposed a conservative video sting artist who was trying to offer cash for violent protests. This weekend’s “Democracy Matters” donor conference in Miami, organized by David Brock, will include several discussions on how to reverse-engineer the right, such as one on “how the Trump administration presents opportunities for impact litigation to hold the President accountable to the law.”

In December, a group of former congressional staffers released an easily-updated guide to effective protest and lobbying tactics, titled “Indivisible.” Over 26 pages, available for free online, they delineated what had gotten their attention in Congress, spelled out simple steps like subscribing to a member of Congress’s schedule, and recapped how the Tea Party had beaten Democrats in 2009 and 2010.

“We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress,” they wrote in the guide’s introduction. “We saw them organize locally and convince their own [members of Congress] to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism — and they won.”

Ezra Levin, one of the drafters of the guide, acknowledged that the protests had not stopped the entire Obama agenda. But they shifted the national conversation and turned lesser-known Democratic goals into controversies.

“They were extraordinarily effective at causing members of Congress who were with them to be even more with them, and causing members who supported the Obama administration to be less vocal in their support,” said Levin. “You can run down the progressive goals that those protests helped stop. Cap-and-trade. Card check. Immigration reform. Obamacare would have been very different; it was watered down as a result of that opposition.”

After winning power in 2010, Republicans took several steps to limit the effectiveness of the tactics that had beaten Democrats. They hold fewer public town halls, and more telephone or online forums that cannot easily get out of hand. In key states, they also drew maps that packed most reliable Democrats into safe, urban districts. Most of the Jan. 14 health care rallies took place in safe blue territority, far from the rural areas where Trump cracked the Electoral College.

But at home in New York, and at work in Washington, Trump will be in close proximity to hundreds of thousands of active Democrats. De Blasio, whose constituents will soon include the family of the 45th president, will address a rally at New York’s Trump hotel on Thursday night. Resistance, he said, started with Democratic confidence that their progressive politics had won the popular vote, and confidence that Republicans would not act on the pro-infrastructure, anti-elite economic policies Trump had used to win the election. Republicans had won on theory, and Democrats would confront them with reality.

“Of course we’re about to do to them what they did to us, with those ridiculous town hall meetings,” said De Blasio. “Yes, that was a classic progressive technique, and yes, shame on anybody who’s too thrown off by people screaming at a town hall meeting to begin with. But if that’s what it takes, let’s scream at the town hall meetings. Let’s put the people who could die right in front of them.”

(TheWashington Post)

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg Sues Hundreds Of Hawaiians To Force Property Sales To Him |The Republican News

 

Dan Mangan
© Provided by CNBC Aloha! Now sell me your land!

Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly is suing hundreds of Hawaiians to compel them to sell the billionaire small plots of land they own that lie within a 700-acre property that Zuckerberg purchased on the island of Kauai two years ago for $100 million.

Zuckberberg-controlled companies filed eight so-called “quiet” title lawsuits in a Kauai court on Dec. 30 requesting the forced sales at public auction to the highest bidder, which would allow him to make his secluded beach-front land on the island’s north shore even more private, according the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper.

Currently, owners of the lands, which have been in their families for generations, have the rights to travel across Zuckerberg’s property to get to their own lands. Their lands make up slightly more than eight acres.

Many of the defendants in the suits by the social media mogul are living, but some are dead. The defendants may hold just a tiny fraction of ownership in the parcels because they are several generations removed from the original owners, according to the paper’s story on the cases.

The defendants had 20 days to respond to the suits, or they forfeited their rights to a say in the proceedings.

Zuckerberg’s lawyer, Keoni Shultz of the firm Cades Schutte, in a statement to CNBC said, “It is common in Hawaii to have small parcels of land within the boundaries of a larger tract, and for the title to these smaller parcels to have become broken or clouded over time.”

“In some cases, co-owners may not even be aware of their interests,” Shultz said. “Quiet title actions are the standard and prescribed process to identify all potential co-owners, determine ownership, and ensure that, if there are other co-owners, each receives appropriate value for their ownership share.”

The cases target a dozen small plots of so-called “kuleana” lands that are inside the much larger property that Zuckerberg bought on Kauai. Kuleana lands are properties that were granted to native Hawaiians in the mid-1800.

Some of the people who own, or who are believed to own, lands targeted by Zuckerberg’s suits are descendants of the original owners of the kuleana land.

One suit, according to the Star-Advertiser, was filed against about 300 people who are descendants of an immigrant Portuguese sugar cane plantation worker who bought four parcels totaling two acres of land in 1894.

One of that worker’s great-grandchildren, Carlos Andrade, 72, lived on the property until recently, the paper said. But the retired university professor told the Star-Advertiser that he is helping Zuckerberg’s case as a co-plaintiff in an effort to make sure the land is not surrendered to the county if no one in his extended clan steps up to take responsibility for paying property taxes on the plots.

Andrade, in a letter to his known relatives, said he believed selling to Zuckerberg would ensure that the relatives get “their fair share” of their ancestor’s investment in the property — while avoiding further dilution of the value of individual property shares due to the clan increasing in size, the paper reported.

In the same letter, Andrade estimated that a large majority of his relatives are unaware that they have an ownership stake in the land.

CNBC

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Mexico Extradites Top Drug Lord ‘El Chapo’ To U.S. (Video) |The Republican News

 

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexico extradited top drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to New York on Thursday, ending a career that included two jail breaks and a leading role in a national drug war, the day before Donald Trump assumes the U.S. presidency.

Guzman, 59, was one of the world’s most wanted drug kingpins until he was captured in January 2016. Six months earlier, he had broken out of a high-security penitentiary in central Mexico through a mile-long tunnel, his second dramatic prison escape.

“The government … today handed Mr Guzman Loera to the U.S. authorities,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, referring to a court decision on Thursday rejecting a legal challenge by his lawyers against extradition.

Guzman is charged in six separate indictments throughout the United States. He faces charges ranging from money laundering to drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder in cities that include Chicago, Miami and New York.

His career began in the opium and cannabis farming hills of the northern state of Sinaloa but he grew to oversee perhaps the world’s largest transnational cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine smuggling organization.

Guzman’s career was violent and his ambition to control more trafficking routes was a key dynamic in Mexico’s decade-long drug war from which his organization emerged mostly victorious.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers during a presentation in Mexico City, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo/File Photo Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted by soldiers during a presentation in Mexico City, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo/File Photo  

The U.S. Justice Department thanked Mexico for “extensive cooperation and assistance in securing the extradition of Guzman Loera to the United States.”

Juan Pablo Badillo, a lawyer for the smuggler, said he was surprised at the extradition and said four appeals were outstanding against Guzman’s extradition.

“The transfer is not in line with the law,” Badillo said.

Guzman departed Ciudad Juarez to New York at 3.15 pm local time, one U.S. official said. The Mexican court system said in a statement Guzman would be tried in Texas and California.

It was not immediately clear if the timing of the move was an olive branch to Trump or a last-minute gift to outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama.

Trump has regularly insulted Mexico and threatened to tear up the NAFTA trade agreement that underpins its economy.

“This was a surprise for us. They are trying to placate Trump,” said a Mexican law enforcement official who asked not to be named.

Another Mexican official said the timing was firstly in recognition of Obama’s efforts to work with Mexico on Guzman, but also to show good will to Trump in sending a source of such valuable information on the criminal underworld to the United States, a Mexican official said.

Mexico is expecting to have to negotiate hard to limit the economic pain of Trump’s protectionist policies, and is sending its foreign minister to meet his aides next week.

Guzman was being held in a prison in the infamously violent border city of Juarez in the northern state of Chihuahua where his Sinaloa cartel beat the rival Juarez cartel into submission.

His lawyers had sought to block his extradition to the United States.

“It’s a good thing to finally get him to the U.S. side,” said a senior U.S. law enforcement official based in Mexico.

He said he did not think Mexico put “a whole lot of thought” into the timing of the extradition, that comes the day before Trump’s inauguration, “but it certainly isn’t a bad thing.”

(Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez in Ciudad Juarez and Mexico City bureau; Writing by Frank Jack Danie; Editing by James Dalgleish) 

REUTERS

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This is What Donald Trump Will Do Starting On Day One |The Republican News

 

By Anita Kumar
President-elect Donald Trump arrives for a news conference on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at Trump Tower in New York.© Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS President-elect Donald Trump arrives for a news conference on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at Trump Tower in New York.

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump will begin his presidency with a flurry of executive orders on illegal immigration, the environment and ethics as he works quickly to try to make good on campaign promises and dismantle his predecessor’s legacy.

But he will leave the bulk of his significant actions until Monday — the first full business day following his inauguration Friday — as he kicks off a week in which he is expected to confer with Republican lawmakers, swear in new Cabinet secretaries and talk with foreign leaders.

“I’d say to America, ‘Buckle your seat belt.’ This is going to be a very quick start out of the gate,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a member of Trump’s transition team. “It’s going to be fast-paced. Mr. Trump is not someone to dillydally.”

Staff from his legislative and policy teams, as well as his counselor’s office, were meeting this week to determine which issues to introduce Friday and next week, transition spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Trump made many grandiose promises during the campaign of what he wanted to accomplish immediately upon taking office. But after the election he streamlined his list and members of his transition team say he is working to deliver on:

—Withdrawing from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

—Canceling restrictions on energy production, including shale energy and clean coal.

—Altering visa programs.

—Restricting members of his administration from becoming lobbyists for five years after they leave government and banning them from lobbying foreign governments.

He also is likely to sign an executive order banning funding to international family planning groups that provide abortions. It was implemented by President Ronald Reagan, rescinded by Bill Clinton, restored by George W. Bush and rescinded again by Barack Obama.

Trump is expected to spend much of the weekend celebrating with his family, including with his wife, Melania, and their 10-year-old son, Barron, before those family members return to New York, where they plan to live until the summer. Other members of his family, including his adult children, Ivanka, Don, Eric and Tiffany, are also expected to be at the White House.

The Trumps will attend the traditional swearing-in, parades and balls Friday as well a prayer service Saturday morning at the Washington National Cathedral.

“He is going to make Monday of next week Day One. … It’s going to let the inaugural and the lunch and the parade, all the swearing in and inaugural activities play out Friday and Saturday “ said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., a vice chair of Trump’s transition team. “And then be ready Monday morning to start with rolling back some of the executive orders.”

Trump expects to sign four or five executive orders Friday and more throughout next week. He will continue to name ambassadors and assistant and deputy secretaries. He had hoped to swear in new Cabinet members on his first day, though he’s unlikely to have more than a handful confirmed by the Senate by then.

Ken Duberstein, Reagan’s chief of staff in his second term, said the first few days in the White House were “always a whirlwind” and that much of what a president was doing was behind the scenes, including hiring and meeting new staff. “It’s a fresh start, a clean slate,” he said. “You have to start filling up your teams.”

Trump said recently that he would nominate a Supreme Court justice within the first two weeks of taking office, saying he has already spoken with several candidates from his initial list of 21 possible nominees that he released during the presidential campaign. Transition officials say the announcement may come in the third week.

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will meet with House and Senate Republicans late next week at a retreat in Philadelphia to talk about legislation, particularly how to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, which would take congressional approval.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a member of Trump’s team, said he wanted Trump to start working with Congress right away on delaying Obama administration rules on overtime pay and retirement investment advisers that he said could hurt working Americans. He also wants Trump to craft a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, make changes to the tax code and improve K-12 education.

Presidents traditionally sign some executive orders on Inauguration Day, though they don’t always come to fruition. Obama, for example, signed one that required the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison. White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged this week for the first time that Obama would not succeed in that goal.

Others are expecting Trump to immediately direct the government to deport 2 million convicted criminals who he says are in the United States illegally. But some transition officials say he may wait to tackle any deportation of immigrants brought to the country illegally who came as children or who have children who are citizens or legal residents, until he can tackle the whole immigration issue.

Other possible executive orders: approving the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, removing a requirement that the government take climate change into consideration when making decisions, withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, and suspending the Syrian refugee resettlement program.

During the campaign, Trump made numerous other pledges but not all could be accomplished so easily. Rule changes will require justification following a Reagan-era court case mandating that regulation changes aren’t done on a whim — and a lengthy legal process.

Those include easing rules on fracking on federal land, ending federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities that do not enforce immigration laws, and ensuring immigrants in the United States convicted of illegal re-entry receive “strong mandatory minimum sentences.”

Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, cautioned Americans not to pay too much attention to how presidents traditionally start their terms. For example, Trump may not worry about being disciplined enough to have a single message each day like his predecessors.

“All the rules are different for Donald Trump,” he said. “He cares less about tradition, not swayed by arguments that it’s always done this way. He was elected to change Washington and wants to change Washington.”   (Tribune Washington Bureau)

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FBI, 5 Other Agencies Probe Possible Covert Russian Aid To Trump |The Republican News

 

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon
President-elect Donald Trump speaks during the presidential inaugural Chairman's Global Dinner, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Washington.© Evan Vucci President-elect Donald Trump speaks during the presidential inaugural Chairman’s Global Dinner, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Washington.

 

WASHINGTON — The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said.

The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.

Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.

On Jan. 6, the director of national intelligence released a declassified report that concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign to “undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process,” damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects and bolster Trump’s. The campaign included the hacking of top Democrats’ emails and fake news distributed by Russian sources.

The president-elect, who will be inaugurated Friday, has said he believes Russia was involved with the hacking, and he has called allegations that he or his associates were involved a “political witch hunt” and a “complete and total fabrication.”

Trump has yet to say whether FBI Director James Comey will be retained. The rest of Trump’s newly appointed intelligence and law enforcement chiefs will inherit the investigation, whose outcome could create national and international fallout.

Trump’s presidential transition team did not respond to a request for comment about the inquiry.

A key mission of the six-agency group has been to examine who financed the email hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The London-based transparency group WikiLeaks released the emails last summer and in October.

The working group is scrutinizing the activities of a few Americans who were affiliated with Trump’s campaign or his business empire and of multiple individuals from Russia and other former Soviet nations who had similar connections, the sources said.

U.S. intelligence agencies not only have been unanimous in blaming Russia for the hacking of Democrats’ computers but also have concluded that the leaking and dissemination of thousands of emails of top Democrats, some of which caused headaches for the Clinton campaign, were done to help Trump win.

Trump and Republican members of Congress have said they believe Russia meddled in the U.S. election but that those actions didn’t change the outcome. However, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she believes that Russia’s tactics did alter the election result.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has opened its own investigation into Russia’s involvement in the campaign. That panel will have subpoena power.

FBI Director Comey refused at a recent Senate hearing to comment on whether the bureau was investigating Russia’s hacking campaign for possible criminal prosecutions. Spokespeople for the FBI, the Justice Department and the national intelligence director declined to comment.

The BBC reported last week that the joint inquiry was launched when the CIA learned last spring, through a Baltic ally, of a recording indicating the Russian government was planning to funnel funds aimed at influencing the U.S. election.

Another source of information was the former longtime British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, who was hired to gather opposition research about Trump for a Republican client and later a Democrat. Early last summer, Steele became alarmed about information he was receiving from a network of Russian sources describing a web of Trump’s business relationships with wealthy Russians and alleged political ties to the Kremlin, according to two people who know him. These sources also declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Steele’s reports also alleged that Russian consulates in New York, Washington and Miami were used to deliver “tens of thousands of dollars” to Kremlin-hired operatives using fictitious names as if they were legitimate Russian-American pensioners. That “ruse” was designed to give Russia “plausible deniability,” Steele’s reports suggested. However, Russia does not operate a consulate in Miami.

Steele, who had worked previously with the FBI and was well-regarded, fed the bureau information in July and September suggesting collusion between Trump associates and Moscow in the hacking of Democratic computers, they said. Eventually, he met in Italy with an FBI official to share more information alleging that a top Trump campaign official had known about the hacking as early as last June, the sources said. About a month after the election, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona gave FBI Director Comey a copy of a 35-page compilation of Steele’s reports.

BuzzFeed posted the 35 pages of allegations online, acknowledging the report had obvious errors and had not been corroborated. Several news organizations, including McClatchy, had the document earlier but had resisted publishing any of the allegations because of the lack of verification.

Trump and Putin have branded Steele’s dossier as “fake news.” On Jan. 11, at his only news conference as president-elect, Trump dismissed it as “nonsense” and “crap.” On Tuesday, Putin accused soon-to-depart Obama administration officials of trying to undermine Trump’s “legitimacy,” suggesting that the White House had released Steele’s dossier. The Russian leader said those who had prepared the dossier were “worse than prostitutes.”

Steele’s information has been treated as unverified intelligence by the working group because most of it came from purported Kremlin leaks and virtually all of it is extremely difficult to corroborate, the people familiar with the investigation said.

The BBC reported that the FBI had obtained a warrant on Oct. 15 from the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing investigators access to bank records and other documents about potential payments and money transfers related to Russia. One of McClatchy’s sources confirmed the report.

Susan Hennessey, a former attorney for the National Security Agency who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said she had no knowledge that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant had been issued. However, she stressed that such warrants are issued only if investigators can demonstrate “probable cause” that a crime has been committed and the information in Steele’s dossier couldn’t have met that test.

“If, in fact, law enforcement has obtained a FISA warrant, that is an indication that additional evidence exists outside of the dossier,” she said.

One episode that Steele’s reports described from multiple sources referred to a late-summer meeting in Prague between Russian government representatives and Michael Cohen, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, the president-elect’s vast business operation. But the FBI has been unable to establish that Cohen was in Prague during that period, the two sources familiar with the working group said.

Cohen has denied ever traveling to the Czech Republic, although he told The Wall Street Journal that he did so in 2001.

For months, Trump has voiced positive sentiments toward Putin. In early January, he tweeted that “only ‘stupid’ people, or fools” would think it’s bad to have good relations with Russia.

“When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!” he tweeted last week. During the campaign in July, he displayed ignorance that Russian-backed separatists had invaded Crimea in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and he called on Russia to hack away to uncover thousands of emails that Clinton had never made public after using a private server while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last July, Trump’s campaign associates successfully changed the Republican Party’s platform to weaken a provision advocating more military support for the Ukrainian government in its fight to defend itself against the Russian-backed incursion in Crimea.

___

(Stone is a McClatchy special correspondent.)  (Tribune Washington  Bureau)

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Obama Commutes Bulk Of Chelsea Manning’s Sentence |The Republican News

 

By CHARLIE SAVAGE
People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a gay pride parade in San Francisco, California June 28, 2015.© REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a gay pride parade in San Francisco, California June 28, 2015.

 

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday largely commuted the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of an enormous 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted the administration and made WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures, famous.

The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.

The act of clemency could be seen as a reversal, at least in part, of the Obama administration’s unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaking: The administration has brought charges in about nine cases, about twice as many as under all previous presidents combined.

At the same time that Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Ms. Manning, a low-ranking enlisted soldier at the time of her leaks, he also granted a pardon to Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of the highest-ranking officials ensnared in the leak crackdown.

General Cartwright had pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters when questioned by F.B.I. agents in an investigation into leaks of classified information about cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.

In addition, Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar López Rivera, who was part of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that carried out a string of bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s; the other members of that group had long since been freed. Mr. Obama also granted 63 other pardons and 207 other commutations — mostly of drug offenders.

Under the terms of Mr. Obama’s commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed on May 17 of this year rather than in 2045. A senior administration official said the 120-day delay was part of a standard transition period for commutations to time served, and was designed to allow for such steps as finding a place to live after her release.

The commutation also relieved the Department of Defense of the difficult responsibility of Ms. Manning’s incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria — including sex reassignment surgery — that the military has no experience providing.

In recent days, the White House had signaled that Mr. Obama was seriously considering granting Ms. Manning’s commutation application, in contrast to a pardon application submitted on behalf of the other large-scale leaker of the era, Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who disclosed archives of top-secret surveillance files and is living as a fugitive in Russia.

Asked about the two clemency applications on Friday, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, discussed the “pretty stark difference” between Ms. Manning’s case for mercy and Mr. Snowden’s. While their offenses were similar, he said, there were “some important differences.”

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” he said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”

He also noted that while the documents Ms. Manning provided to WikiLeaks were “damaging to national security,” the ones Mr. Snowden disclosed were “far more serious and far more dangerous.” (None of the documents Ms. Manning disclosed were classified above the merely “secret” level.)

Ms. Manning was still known as Bradley Manning when she deployed with her unit to Iraq in late 2009. There, she worked as a low-level intelligence analyst helping her unit assess insurgent activity in the area it was patrolling, a role that gave her access to a classified computer network.

She copied hundreds of thousands of military incident logs from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which, among other things, exposed abuses of detainees by Iraqi military officers working with American forces and showed that civilian deaths in the Iraq war were probably much higher than official estimates.

The files she copied also included about 250,000 diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world showing sensitive deals and conversations, dossiers detailing intelligence assessments of Guantánamo detainees held without trial, and a video of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in which two Reuters journalists were killed, among others.

She decided to make all these files public, as she wrote at the time, in the hope that they would incite “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.” WikiLeaks disclosed them — working with traditional news organizations including The New York Times — bringing notoriety to the group and its founder, Julian Assange.

The disclosures set off a frantic scramble as Obama administration officials sought to minimize any potential harm, including getting to safety some foreigners in dangerous countries who were identified as having helped American troops or diplomats. Prosecutors, however, presented no evidence that anyone was killed because of the leaks.

At her court-martial, Ms. Manning confessed in detail to her actions and apologized, saying she had not intended to put anyone at risk and noting that she had been “dealing with a lot of issues” at the time she made her decision.

Testimony at the trial showed that she had been in a mental and emotional crisis as she came to grips, amid the stress of a war zone, with the fact that she was not merely gay but had gender dysphoria. She had been behaving erratically, including angry outbursts and lapsing into catatonia midsentence. At one point she had emailed a photograph of herself in a woman’s wig to her supervisor.

Prosecutors said that because the secret material was made available for publication on the internet, anyone — including Al Qaeda — could read it. And they accused Ms. Manning of treason, charging her with multiple counts of the Espionage Act as well as with “aiding the enemy,” a potential capital offense, although they said they would not seek her execution.

Ms. Manning confessed and pleaded guilty to a lesser version of those charges without any deal to cap her sentence. But prosecutors pressed forward with a trial and won convictions on the more serious versions of those charges; a military judge acquitted her of “aiding the enemy.”

In her commutation application, Ms. Manning said she had not imagined that she would be sentenced to the “extreme” term of 35 years, a term for which there was “no historical precedent.” (There have been only a handful of leak cases, and most sentence are in the range of one to three years.)

“I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public,” she wrote. “I have never made any excuses for what I did. I pleaded guilty without the protection of a plea agreement because I believed the military justice system would understand my motivation for the disclosure and sentence me fairly. I was wrong.”

After her sentencing, Ms. Manning announced that she was transgender and changed her name to Chelsea.

The military, under pressure from a lawsuit filed on her behalf by Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union, has permitted her to partly transition to life as a woman, including giving her cross-sex hormones and letting her wear women’s undergarments and light cosmetics.

But it has not let her grow her hair longer than male military standards, citing security risks, and Ms. Manning said she had yet to be permitted to see a surgeon about the possibility of sex reassignment surgery.

Until recently the military discharged transgender soldiers. In June, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter changed that policy and said the military would instead provide treatment for them, eventually including such surgery if doctors said it was necessary.

But President-elect Donald J. Trump mocked that change as excessively “politically correct,” raising the possibility that he will rescind it.

Even if he does, Ms. Manning will soon no longer be subject to the military’s control.

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Prince William Reportedly Leaving Pilot Duties For Full-Time Royal Life |The Republican News

 

Lauren Le Vine

By Chris KJackson:Getty Images


“In what is described as a ‘big shift’ in Prince William’s approach to his royal role, the duke will leave his job with the East Anglian Air Ambulance this summer,” The Times reported on Sunday. William will reportedly end his career as an air-ambulance helicopter pilot based in Norfolk, and he and his family will officially call Kensington Palace their home. Prince George and Princess Charlotte will attend school in London following the move from Anmer Hall.

Fans of The Crown know that William’s grandfather, Prince Philip, faced a similar decision after his wife became Queen Elizabeth II. After they were first married, Philip served in the Royal Navy. As King George VI’s health became progressively worse, however, Philip was forced to take an open-ended leave from the Navy. His career officially ended when the king died, and Elizabeth ascended the throne. Philip became the Queen’s consort, and he looked for other ways to fill his time.

He took over management of the royal estates, helped plan Elizabeth’s coronation, and embarked on what would become the patronage of more than 800 charities in the following decades. He also took up flying, reportedly hoping to receive his pilot’s license faster than anyone else in history. Philip’s aviation-related aspirations rankled the government. He was forced to curtail riskier in-air behaviors, which frustrated Philip. Although he continued to pilot planes, his situation mirrors William’s in that they both had to remain grounded when it came to putting their royal duties first.

Now, just like his grandfather, William is reportedly stepping away from risky piloting. He’s also said to be increasing his royal duties, albeit remaining in the background to let his father Prince Charles, the heir-apparent to the throne, take a leading role. “William is believed to be acutely conscious that his emergence as a full-time royal should not overshadow his father’s role as heir to the throne,” The Timeswrites. While William likely always knew a time would come when he would have to shift his focus from being an air-ambulance pilot to a full-time royal, he is reportedly saddened at leaving his career behind.

“I know he has really loved living in Norfolk and being just one of the lads at work. He loves the banter,” a friend reportedly told The Times. Another royal source told the outlet, “He will really miss the flying. He does love it.”  (Vanity Fair)

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