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US Monthly Headline News January 2019 Page 1

The man who knows too much: Lev Parnas is the smoking gun on Ukraine scandal

Parnas says Trump, Pence, Pompeo, Bolton and Giuliani all knew. He is why no witnesses will testify in the Senate
By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Revelations this week by Rudy Giuliani's henchman Lev Parnas in interviews with MSNBC, CNN and the New York Times blew Iran out of the headlines and landed on Capitol Hill like a bomb. Here was an insider in the Ukraine conspiracy not only willing to talk, but to provide documents to back up allegations he has made about Trump's shakedown of Volodymyr Zelensky to get dirt on his potential Democratic opponent,  Joe Biden.

Parnas is the reason Republicans are so scared of opening the Senate trial of Trump to witness testimony. According to Parnas, everyone was in on the Ukraine scheme. Trump himself, of course, but also Vice President Mike Pence was in on it. So was Attorney General William Barr, so was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and so were Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and national security adviser John Bolton. At the very center of the scheme, according to Parnas, was the man he worked for, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Parnas has letters, text messages, contemporaneous notes, travel documents and more to back up his recollections of what happened as Trump tried to muscle Ukraine into aiding his re-election campaign by announcing an investigation of Biden. Trump was obviously getting ready to pound Biden with Ukraine conspiracy allegations the same way he pounded Hillary Clinton about her emails in 2016. Hey, it worked once! Why not?

Justice Department releases 176 more pages of Mueller documents to CNN and BuzzFeed

By Katelyn Polantz, Gregory Wallace, Sara Murray, Caroline Kelly, Erica Orden and Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) CNN has received another 176 pages of notes from major witness interviews during former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation -- this time spanning the interviews with more obscure but well-connected witnesses, as well as with some of Mueller's main targets, including George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Paul Manafort. This is the fourth time CNN has gotten documents like these from the Justice Department regarding the Mueller investigation, as part of a lawsuit in conjunction with BuzzFeed News.

The previous releases fleshed out details that Mueller summarized in his final report regarding President Donald Trump's and his campaign's actions. The memos so far have revealed, for instance, how top Trump campaign officials witnessed the candidate and other Trump campaign officials pushing for the release of stolen Democratic emails and supported a conspiracy theory that Ukraine had hacked the Democrats in 2016.

The memos, called 302s by the FBI, were typed up by agents or prosecutors after they questioned each witness. Friday's release landed with large chunks of the witness memos redacted and with several pages withheld from the public. The Justice Department has kept many of the memos heavily redacted as it continues to release them this year.

Kushner interview notes missing
Despite a court order, the Justice Department is holding back Mueller memos regarding the interviews conducted with the President's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. CNN and BuzzFeed have won access to thousands of pages of Mueller's witness memos. A judge ordered that the news organizations get access to the same group of documents the House saw, including the Kushner memos, this month.

Barr dropped into Giuliani meeting at Justice Department in previously undisclosed encounter

By Evan Perez and David Shortell, CNN

(CNN) Attorney General William Barr briefly attended a meeting at the Justice Department last fall between top criminal prosecutors and President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a department official said Friday. The meeting reveals a previously undisclosed interaction between two men the President depends on to defend him. Justice officials have sought to distance the department and Barr from Giuliani since it became clear in recent months that the former New York mayor is the subject of an investigation by Manhattan federal prosecutors. Giuliani was a part of a team of defense attorneys representing a Venezuelan client when they met with Justice Department officials.

The two men are said not to be close despite their roles as top legal advisers to the President. Barr has kept a notable distance even while Trump mentioned them both together in a July phone call in which he urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to work with Giuliani and Barr to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden. Justice officials have said Barr has never spoken to Giuliani about Ukraine and hasn't taken any action to investigate the Bidens. The Giuliani meeting at the Justice Department in September became public months ago in the wake of the arrest of two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were working on Giuliani's Ukraine mission for the President.

Some at FBI reportedly agreed with Tim Cook that Apple offered plenty of help during investigation into terrorist's iPhone, contradicting Attorney General Barr

By Lisa Eadicicco

On Monday, Attorney General Barr said Apple had not provided any "substantive assistance" with unlocking two iPhones belonging to a Saudi shooter who killed three people at Navy base in Florida last month. Now, a new report from The Wall Street Journal suggests that some in the Federal Bureau of Investigation disagree with those remarks.

Some officials within the bureau were surprised at Barr's words because they felt that Apple had provided adequate help with the investigation, the Journal reports. Another concern among some agents is that the push for Apple to create a backdoor that would enable access to private data stored on iPhones could also sour the bureau's relationship with the tech giant, the report also says.

The report comes after Barr held a press conference on Monday, where he called on Apple and other tech firms to help the FBI gain access to two iPhones used by the shooter, Mohammad Alshamrani. Apple has since pushed back against Barr's claims that the tech giant hasn't provided "substantive assistance," saying that it has shared "many gigabytes" of information with the FBI.

'Faithless elector': Supreme Court will hear case that could change how presidents are chosen

A ruling could come in the spring — just as the 2020 presidential race is heating up.
By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Friday to take up an issue that could change a key element of the system America uses to elect its president, with a decision likely in the spring just as the campaign heats up. The answer to the question could be a decisive one: Are the electors who cast the actual Electoral College ballots for president and vice president required to follow the results of the popular vote in their states? Or are they free to vote as they wish?

A decision that they are free agents could give a single elector, or a small group of them, the power to decide the outcome of a presidential election if the popular vote results in an apparent Electoral College tie or is close. "It's not hard to imagine how a single 'faithless elector,' voting differently than his or her state did, could swing a close presidential election," said Mark Murray, NBC News senior political editor.

Equifax Breach: How To Apply For A $20,000 Payout Before The Deadline

By Kate O'Flaherty

Equifax has promised a payout of up to $20,000 for customers affected by the massive breach that took place in 2017, which exposed information including 147 million people’s social security numbers. The opportunity to apply for an Equifax breach compensation payout was announced back in July 2019, and the deadline to file your claim is fast approaching. Also last year, it emerged that Equifax would be fined $700 million, with $425 million of that money earmarked for people affected by the 2017 breach. This week, an Equifax restitution fund for customers totalling $380.5 million was confirmed. An additional $125 million will be added if needed to cover out of pocket claims. The deadline to apply is January 22, so time is running out. Here’s how you can file your claim now.

How to claim your Equifax breach compensation

The first step is to find out if you are eligible for compensation. You can check using this simple tool set up by Equifax.

The United States' main allies are abandoning Trump as his threats to world leaders backfire

By Adam Bienkov

President Donald Trump's decision to assassinate Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani has exposed a growing rift between the US and its historically closest allies in Europe. The attack was met with a remarkable level of criticism by European leaders. The UK threatened to cut back on its long-standing defense alliance with Trump, and Germany suggested openly that the importance of its relationship with the US was declining. Trump responded by threatening European leaders with a new trade war if they remained committed to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Yet rather than bring US allies into line, Trump's threats merely highlighted the declining importance that many European leaders now place in the transatlantic alliance. Here's how Trump's international allies are increasingly abandoning the president as his administration alienates them.

UK threatens to cut defense ties

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was endorsed by Trump when he entered office and has previously been keen to stay close to the Trump administration. Trump's order to kill Soleimani, however, has triggered a remarkable turnaround in the UK prime minister's approach to the US. In the immediate aftermath of Soleimani's assassination in a drone strike in Iraq, an operation the US did not warn the UK would take place, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declared that the conflict was "in none of our interests," adding that the only winners of an Iranian war would be the Islamic State terrorist group. Johnson also spoke out against the US policy, urging Trump to "dial this down" and warning that targeting Iranian cultural sites, as Trump threatened, would be a war crime.

Trump surrounded himself with yes-men who treated him like a cult leader. As his impeachment trial looms, that could prove a disaster.

By Kieran Corcoran

As President Donald Trump heads closer to becoming only the third president in US history to weather an impeachment trial in the Senate, a familiar pattern is emerging in the associations that got him in this position. At the same time, expectations that he could speed through the process with a fast, clean acquittal are beginning to evaporate. A striking interview with a figure from the Ukraine pressure campaign underpinning the case of impeachment helps illustrate how Trump finds himself in this bind.

Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, gave a long interview to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow this week in which he described at great length the mechanics and experience of enacting shadow foreign policy on behalf of the White House. Pursued by federal prosecutors on unrelated charges of campaign-finance violations, Parnas broke his silence for reasons he is yet to fully explain. According to Maddow, he seems motivated mainly by fear, and perhaps the prospect of lenient treatment.

Speaking out now, he told Maddow he felt like somebody who had just emerged, blinking, from a cult.
   —Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 17, 2020

He described a sense of unthinking idolatry when doing Trump's bidding and belief that the president would help protect him. He told The New York Times that he "thought by listening to the president and his attorney that I couldn't possibly get in trouble or do anything wrong." Parnas even had a shrine to Trump in his house.

Trump adds Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz to impeachment defense team

By Kaitlan Collins and Pamela Brown, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump is adding three seasoned lawyers to his impeachment legal defense team, people familiar with the matter said, including Kenneth Starr, the hard-charging prosecutor whose work led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Alan Dershowitz, the constitutional lawyer, and Robert Ray, Starr's successor at the Office of Independent Counsel during the Clinton administration, are also joining the team, the people said. The three are expected to join a legal team headed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and outside attorney Jay Sekulow, who are still expected to deliver statements on the President's behalf on the Senate floor. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Trump's longtime personal counsel Jane Raskin will also supplement the President's impeachment legal team, a person familiar with the matter said.

Trump's impeachment trial over the Ukraine scandal officially began on Thursday. The outcome is all but determined, as the two-thirds vote required to remove the President would need 20 Republican senators to break rank. The White House did not mount a formal defense during the House's investigation as it refused to cooperate with the Democratic-led probe. A spokesman for Trump's legal team said Dershowitz will present oral arguments at the Senate trial.

Belated investigation into Justice leak and James Comey raises concern of political motives

By Evan Perez and David Shortell, CNN

Washington (CNN)Justice Department prosecutors are investigating a media leak tied to the FBI's Hillary Clinton email probe, a person familiar with the matter said, an unusually belated move that is prompting questions about political motivations since the new inquiry could involve one of the President Donald Trump's most vocal critics, James Comey. The former FBI director in 2017 told Congress about a piece of classified evidence that played a role in his decision to unilaterally announce no charges against Clinton in a press conference that usurped the role of his superiors at the Justice Department. Before that testimony, news reports had described the classified information.

But in recent months, investigators in the Washington US Attorney's office have been looking into possible legal violations in the disclosure of that information. Investigators have interviewed witnesses about the media disclosure, according to another person familiar with the matter. It's not clear who the target of the probe is. But Comey's role in the matter raises the prospect that prosecutors could end up examining his conduct as part of the probe. The New York Times first reported the new investigation.

FBI arrests 3 alleged white supremacists. They planned to attend Virginia pro-gun rally, official says

By David Shortell, CNN

(CNN) The FBI arrested three alleged members of a white supremacist group early Thursday, including two men accused of possessing a machine gun, over 1,000 rounds of ammunition and body armor parts, according to the Justice Department. The three were arrested at residences in Delaware and Maryland and taken into custody without incident, FBI spokesman Dave Fitz said. The men, who the Justice Department says are members of the international white supremacist group known as The Base, were believed to be planning to attend a pro-gun rally in Virginia's capital of Richmond on Monday that is expected to draw a significant crowd of extremists, according to a law enforcement official. They're charged with multiple firearms and immigration-related offenses and are expected to make an initial appearance in Maryland federal court later Thursday. Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, is accused of transporting a machine gun, as well as transporting a firearm and ammunition with intent to commit a felony. Lemley and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, are also accused of transporting and harboring an alien -- 27-year-old Patrik Jordan Mathews, a Canadian citizen and former combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserve. Like Lemley, Mathews is charged with transporting a firearm and ammunition with intent to commit a felony. A criminal complaint filed in court also charges Mathews with being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

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