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Judge Slaps Roger Stone With Social Media Restriction For Violating Order

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Roger Stone has repeatedly risked his pre-trial freedom as he awaits the court battle over the charges brought against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And once again on Tuesday, he skirted free of ending up in jail even as Judge Amy Berman Jackson found that he had violated her court order limiting his public comments about the case against him.

Instead of revoking his bail, Judge Jackson banned him from posting on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook while his trial is pending.

“The clarity of my order is undisputed,” said Jackson. “It didn’t take a week before the defendant was emailing BuzzFeed, calling a witness in this investigation a liar.”

She said Stone’s lawyer had to “twist himself into a pretzel” to argue that his client’s posts didn’t cross the line.

Stone has been charged with lying to Congress, obstructing justice, and intimidating a witness. He has denied the charges.

She had previously placed him under a gag order to prevent him from discussing the case publicly after he posted an image of her on Instagram next to crosshairs. However, he is still allowed to raise funds for his defense.

That gag order remains in place. But Jackson said she has to “help” Stone out because he’s shown he’s unable to follow “simple orders.”

Prosecutors have said that Stone has violated the gag order multiple times since it has been issued, leading to the judge’s new social media ban.

 

Despite No Evidence, Trump Stands By Outrageously False Voter Fraud Belief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump stands by his belief that millions of people voted illegally in the U.S. election, the White House said on Tuesday, despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

“The president does believe that,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

State officials in charge of the Nov. 8 election have said they found no evidence of widespread voter fraud and there is no history of it in U.S. elections. Even House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior Republican in Congress, said he had seen no evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

Republican Trump won the Electoral College that decides the presidency and gives smaller states more clout in the outcome, but he lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by about 2.9 million.

Trump has repeatedly said he would have won the popular vote, too, but for voter fraud. He has never substantiated his claim.

The comments were the latest in a series of distractions in the opening days of the Trump administration that run the risk of overshadowing his legislative goals and efforts to advance policy proposals.

On Saturday, the day after his inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, Trump complained about media coverage of the crowds that attended his swearing-in ceremony and described journalists as “among the most dishonest people on Earth.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Timothy Ahmann; editing by Grant McCool)

IMAGE: Citizens vote on a basketball court at a recreation center serving as polling place during the U.S. general election in Greenville, North Carolina, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Obama Sanctions Russia, Expels 35 Diplomats For Meddling In 2016 Election

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to a campaign of harassment against American diplomats in Moscow, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

The move against the diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco is part of a series of actions announced on Thursday to punish Russia for a campaign of intimidation of American diplomats in Moscow and interference in the U.S. election.

The Obama administration was also announcing on Thursday a series of retaliatory measures against Russia for hacking into U.S. political institutions and individuals and leaking information to help President-elect Donald Trump and other Republican candidates, two U.S. officials said.

Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has called for better relations with Russia. It was not clear if he will be able to immediately overturn the measures announced on Thursday.

The Russian diplomats would have 72 hours to leave the United States, the official said. Access to the two compounds, which are used by Russian officials for intelligence gathering, will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday, the senior U.S. official added.

“These actions were taken to respond to Russian harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats that we have assessed to be not consistent with diplomatic practice,” the official said.

The State Department has long complained that Russian security agents and traffic police have harassed U.S. diplomats in Moscow, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

“By imposing costs on the Russian diplomats in the United States, by denying them access to the two facilities, we hope the Russian government reevaluates its own actions, which have impeded the ability and safety of our own embassy personnel in Russia,” the official said.

The U.S. official declined to name the Russian diplomats who would be affected, although it is understood that Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, will not be one of those expelled.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Alistair Bell)

IMAGE: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via REUTERSRussian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via REUTERS

Here We Are, On The Brink Of What Comes Next

For 45 minutes on Christmas Eve, I watched love, in all of its diversity, play out in front of me.

Thanks, 2016. I needed that.

I was parked in the arrivals lane at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, nearly an hour early for my daughter and her family. It is not my habit to arrive so ridiculously early to pick up relatives or friends, but some things one doesn’t leave to chance. Laying eyes on my one year-old grandson the very second the revolving doors release him ranks way up there.

The police officer who would normally order us drivers to circle the airport like pilots waiting for permission to land was in a jolly enough mood to let a number of us linger. I didn’t know this was his plan as he approached my car, so I rolled down my window and launched into the usual please-sir-just-a-minute-more round of begging, which he promptly cut off with a wave of his hand.

“Just pull closer to the curb,” he said, “and don’t make any noise.”

Aside from laying on my horn (an unthinkable act for a born-and-bred Midwesterner), I’m not sure what racket our good officer thought I could conjure from the seat of my hermetically sealed car — beyond blasting Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka,” I mean, which is my habit under normal circumstances. However, there is nothing normal about post-election 2016, so I nodded at the officer like a toddler who’s just been asked whether she wants more chocolate and wished him a very merry Christmas.

“If you celebrate,” I quickly added.

He nodded and waved me closer to the curb. “I’ll celebrate as soon as we get all you people out of here.”

Ho-ho-ho.

In the ensuing 45 minutes, I sat behind the wheel and watched strangers of every size and shade embrace fellow humans. The smallest children shouted as they ran, their arms poised for the scoop skyward. Young adults greeted loved ones with older versions of the same faces. Reunited couples kissed like no one was watching, including two people who were surely my age or older, bless their determined hearts.

I rolled down my window to listen to the joy unfolding in front of me, ignoring the blast of cold air and basking instead in the sense of relief. Too often since Election Day, I’ve been one of the despondent millions openly bemoaning what 2016 has wrought and wanting it over. Watching so much love unfolding in front of me caught me up short and reminded me that I’ve never been the sort to wish away my days. Especially now, when I’m months away from turning 60 and feeling the steady march toward 62, which was my mother’s age when she died.

So, between chipper smiles at the ever-so-patient officer, I started to make a mental list of reasons to be grateful for 2016. I’m a Clevelander, so of course I thought of the Cavaliers’ NBA championship and how the Cleveland Indians made it to the World Series. You might think the latter is an odd thing to appreciate, considering the outcome, but after 54 years without a national championship, I wasn’t sure we were even up to dealing with so much good luck in one year. Go, Tribe!

On a larger scale, I take heart that more than 20 million Americans now have health care coverage because of Obamacare — and that number is growing daily during this current enrollment period, which ends Jan. 31. If Republicans plan to repeal it, they must name their victims. Those with pre-existing conditions, for example? Young adults under the age of 26, for another? Maybe preventive care for senior citizens?

Speaking of transformative moments, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be a major party’s nominee for president. Am I disappointed that she didn’t win? Shaken to the marrow of my bones is a more accurate description, but that neither negates the milestone nor diminishes my will to call out the dangerous deeds of the next president every chance I get.

You may disagree.

But for now, for just this moment, let’s celebrate that here we are, you and I, on the brink of another year. May we cherish those who keep us human and acknowledge our incredible luck that we’re still here.

We all know at least one person who didn’t make it. That alone should keep us trying.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: U.S. President Barack Obama waves from the door of Air Force One as he ends his visit to Cuba, at Havana’s international airport, March 22, 2016.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria