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Federal Grand Jury Indicts Four Ex-Cops In Floyd Murder​

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd's arrest and death, accusing them of willfully violating the Black man's constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air.

A three-count indictment unsealed Friday names Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao. Chauvin was convicted last month on state charges of murder and manslaughter and is appealing. The other three are set for state trial on Aug. 23. It's not clear what will happen in this case, but generally the state charges play out before federal charges do.

The indictment sends a strong message about the Justice Department's priorities. Floyd's May 25 arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked mass protests nationwide that called for an end to racial inequalities and police mistreatment of Black people.

When President Joe Biden was elected, he promised he'd work to end disparities in the criminal justice system. The indictments were handed down about a week after federal prosecutors brought hate crimes charges in the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and announced two sweeping probes into policing in two states.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said the federal charges against the officers show the Justice Department "does not excuse it nor allow police to act as though as what they do is acceptable behavior in the line of duty."

"What we couldn't get them to do in the case of Eric Garner, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and countless others, we are finally seeing them do today," Sharpton said.

Floyd, 46, died after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, even as Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn't breathe. Kueng and Lane also helped restrain Floyd — state prosecutors have said Kueng knelt on Floyd's back and Lane held down Floyd's legs. State prosecutors say Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.

Lane, Thao, and Kueng made initial court appearances Friday via videoconference in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, and remain free on bond. Chauvin is held in state custody as he awaits sentencing on the state charges and hasn't yet appeared in federal court.

While all four officers are charged broadly with depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority, the indictment breaks down the counts. A count against Chauvin alleges he violated Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure and from unreasonable force by a police officer.

Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd's neck. It's not clear why Lane, who held down Floyd's legs, is not mentioned in that count, but evidence in the state's case shows that Lane had asked twice whether Floyd should be rolled on his side. All four officers are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care.

Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment, stemming from the use of force and neck restraint of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, argued during his murder trial that Chauvin acted reasonably and Floyd died because of underlying health issues and drug use. He has filed a request for a new trial.

Nelson had no comment on the federal charges. Kueng's attorney also had no comment. A message left for Thao's attorney wasn't immediately returned, and Lane's attorney was unable to talk when reached by The Associated Press, and messages left later were not returned.

Ben Crump and the team of attorneys for Floyd's family said the civil rights charges reinforce "the strength and wisdom" of the Constitution. "We are encouraged by these charges and eager to see continued justice in this historic case that will impact Black citizens and all Americans for generations to come," the attorneys said in a statement.

To bring federal charges in deaths involving police, prosecutors must believe an officer acted under the "color of law," or government authority, and willfully deprived someone of their constitutional rights. That's a high legal standard. An accident, bad judgment or simple negligence on the officer's part isn't enough to support federal charges; prosecutors have to prove the officer knew what he was doing was wrong in that moment but did it anyway.

The indictment in Floyd's death says Chauvin kept his left knee on Floyd's neck as he was handcuffed and unresisting. Thao and Kueng allegedly were aware Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck, even after Floyd became unresponsive, and "willfully failed to intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin's use of unreasonable force." All four officers are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of liberty without due process, including the right to be free from "deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs."

The other indictment, against Chauvin only, alleges he deprived a 14-year-old boy of his right to be free of unreasonable force when he held the teen by the throat, hit him in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the boy's neck and upper back while he was prone, handcuffed and unresisting.

According to a police report from that 2017 encounter, Chauvin wrote that the teen resisted arrest and after the teen, whom he described as 6-foot-2 and about 240 pounds, was handcuffed, Chauvin "used body weight to pin" him to the floor. The boy was bleeding from the ear and needed two stitches.

That encounter was one of several mentioned in state court filings that prosecutors said showed Chauvin had used neck or head and upper body restraints seven times before dating back to 2014, including four times state prosecutors said he went too far and held the restraints "beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances."

Bob Bennett, an attorney for the teenager, said the "familiar behavior" from Chauvin showed Floyd wasn't his first victim.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the state charges, said the federal government is responsible for protecting the civil rights of every American and "federal prosecution for the violation of George Floyd's civil rights is entirely appropriate."

Chauvin was convicted on state charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Experts say he will likely face no more than 30 years in prison when he is sentenced June 25. The other officers face charges alleging they aided and abetted second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Any federal sentence would be served at the same time as a state sentence.

At the White House on Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden didn't have a direct reaction to the indictments. She added that the George Floyd case was "a reminder of the need to put police reform in place through our legislative process."

Why Trump Will Suffer Legal Torment For Years To Come

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Acquitted by the Senate of inciting the U.S. Capitol insurrection last month, Donald Trump faces more fallout from the unrest, including a lawsuit from a congressman Tuesday. But his biggest legal problems might be the ones that go much further back.

In one of what is expected to be many lawsuits over the deadly riot, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) accused Trump on Tuesday of conspiring with far-right extremist groups that were involved in storming the Capitol.

Trump, who made a fiery speech to supporters prior to the riot, could also be hit with criminal charges — though courts, wary of infringing free speech, have set a high bar for prosecutors trying to mount federal incitement cases.

But riot-related consequences aren't the only thing Trump has to worry about.

With his historic second Senate trial behind him, here's a look at the legal road ahead for Trump.

Criminal Investigations

Atlanta prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into whether Trump attempted to overturn his election loss in Georgia, including a January 2 phone call in which he urged the state's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to reverse Biden's narrow victory.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat elected last November, announced the probe Feb. 10. In the call, Trump told Raffensberger: "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have" to get to erase Biden's lead, and argued that Raffensberger could alter the results, an assertion the Republican secretary of state firmly rejected.

Details of the call, such as Trump's focus on the vote total, "lets you know that someone had a clear mind, they understood what they were doing," Willis told MSNBC last week. "When you're pursuing the investigation, facts that like that might not seem so important become very important."

Willis' office declined to identify who was under investigation but said it was focusing on "the matters reported on over the last several weeks," including Trump's call. The Washington Post obtained a recording of the call and published it January 5.

Trump spokesperson Jason Miller described the Georgia inquiry as the continuation of a "witch hunt" — a term Trump himself has used to describe some investigations — and the "Democrats' latest attempt to score political points" at Trump's expense.

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Karl Racine, the attorney general for Washington, D.C., has said district prosecutors could charge Trump under local law that criminalizes statements that motivate people to violence.

But the charge would be a low-level misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Federal prosecutors in Washington, meanwhile, have charged some 200 Trump supporters with crimes related to the riot, including more serious conspiracy charges. Many of the people charged said they acted in Trump's name.

But the bar is very high to charge Trump with any crimes related to the riot. There has been no indication that Trump would be charged in the riot though prosecutors have said they are looking at all angles.

Trump could also be sued by victims, though he has some constitutional protections, including if he acted while carrying out the duties of president.

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, is in the midst of an 18-month criminal investigation focusing in part on hush-money payments paid to women on Trump's behalf, and whether Trump or his businesses manipulated the value of assets — inflating them in some cases and minimizing them in others — to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.

Vance's office hasn't publicly said what it is investigating, citing grand jury secrecy rules, but some details have come out in court fights mounted by Trump's lawyers over prosecutors' access to his tax records. Trump's lawyers have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court twice to block a subpoena for the records, with a ruling on the latest challenge expected in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Vance's prosecutors have been speaking with Trump's former lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen about the payoffs he arranged to porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign so they wouldn't go public about alleged affairs with Trump, as well as Trump's relationship with lenders Deutsche Bank and Ladder Capital and other issues.

Last month, Vance's office sent subpoenas to local governments in the New York City suburbs seeking information about a sprawling Westchester estate Trump owns there, and 158 acres of land he donated to conservation land trust in 2016 to qualify for an income tax deduction.

Vance, whose term expires at the end of the year, hasn't announced if he will seek reelection, leaving questions about the future of any Trump-related prosecutions.

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Trump no longer has the cloak of immunity from federal prosecution he did while in office, although federal prosecutors in New York who had been looking into the hush-money payments have essentially abandoned that probe.

The same U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan also appears to have moved on from its investigation of Trump's inaugural committee. That inquiry examined the committee's spending, including whether foreigners illegally contributed to inaugural events.

A major donor to the inaugural, Imaad Zuberi, pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and failing to register as a foreign agent. He's scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in Los Angeles.

___

Civil Litigation

New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil investigation focuses on some of the same issues as Vance's criminal probe, including possible property value manipulation and tax write-offs Trump's company, the Trump Organization, claimed on millions of dollars in consulting fees it paid, including money that went to Trump's daughter Ivanka.

James' office issued subpoenas to local governments in November 2019 for records pertaining to Trump's estate north of Manhattan, Seven Springs, after Cohen provided Congress with Trump financial statements that listed the 213-acre property was worth $291 million in 2012 — far higher than the $56.5 million value that a Trump-commissioned appraisal placed on it in 2015.

James, also a Democrat, is also looking at similar issues relating to a Trump office building in New York City, a hotel in Chicago, and a golf course near Los Angeles. Recently, her office has won a series of court rulings forcing Trump's company and a law firm it hired to turn over troves of records.

Investigators have yet to determine whether any law was broken. If criminal wrongdoing is uncovered, James' office could pursue charges through a county district attorney or with a referral from Gov. Andrew Cuomo or a state agency.

___

Revisiting The Russia Probe

The Justice Department, under attorney general nominee Merrick Garland, could still pursue matters left uncharged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While campaigning for the White House, Biden said he would not direct the Justice Department to pursue charges against Trump, nor stand in the way of investigations it might take up on its own. In one of his first acts as president, Biden issued an executive order requiring all executive branch political appointees to sign a pledge that they won't interfere with Justice Department investigations.

Mueller's report included multiple accusations of Trump obstructing justice, including firing FBI Director James Comey over his unwillingness to say Trump was not personally under investigation; pressuring Comey to end an investigation into Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn; and instructing White House counsel Don McGahn to have Mueller removed amid media reports that his team was investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice.

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Private Lawsuits

Trump's election loss could hasten the resolution of lawsuits brought by two women who've accused him of sexual misconduct.

Lawyers for Summer Zervos, a restaurateur who worked with Trump as a contestant on The Apprentice, asked New York's high court last week to dismiss as moot Trump's appeal that argued a sitting president can't be sued in a state court.

Zervos came forward during Trump's 2016 campaign with allegations he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping when she sought to talk to him about her career in 2007. Trump denied her allegations and retweeted a message calling her claims "a hoax," leading Zervos to file the defamation lawsuit against him.

A defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist who accused Trump last year of raping her in the mid-1990s, is on hold as an appeals court weighs Trump's argument that the United States government, rather than Trump as an individual, should be the defendant.

Government lawyers have argued that statements he made about Carroll — including that she was "totally lying" to sell a memoir — fell within the scope of his work as president because Carroll was, in effect, questioning his fitness to hold public office.

A ruling in Trump's favor would allow the Justice Department to represent him in the matter and could put taxpayers on the hook for any payout that might result. It's unclear whether the department would maintain that position under Biden.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, unless they come forward publicly as Zervos and Carroll have.

Following Paranoid Facebook Rant, HHS Flack Caputo On Leave

The Trump administration health official embroiled in a furor over political meddling with the coronavirus response is taking a leave of absence, the government announced Wednesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that Michael Caputo was taking the time "to focus on his health and the well-being of his family."

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Whistleblower Puts DHS Nominee Wolf Under Sharp Scrutiny

A whistleblower's complaint and a tight timeline are making it increasingly unlikely that the Senate will confirm Chad Wolf as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security before the election.

Donald Trump formally sent the nomination late Thursday to the Senate after announcing his intention to appoint Wolf in a tweet last month. But Republican senators, who are fighting to keep their majority in November, appear in no rush to launch a heated confirmation that will force uncomfortable questions about whether agency actions were driven by Trump's political agenda.

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Democrats Accuse Trump Of ‘Fanning The Flames’ Of Violence

Democrats have charged Donald Trump with aiming to inflame tensions and incite violence after he praised supporters who clashed with protesters in Portland, Oregon, where one man died overnight, and announced he will travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid anger over the shooting of another Black man by police.

Trump unleashed a flurry of tweets and retweets the day after a man identified as a supporter of a right-wing group was shot and killed in Portland, where a large caravan of Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters clashed in the city's streets. Trump praised the caravan participants as "GREAT PATRIOTS!" and retweeted what appeared to be the dead man's name along with a message to "Rest in peace."

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Supreme Court Orders Montana To Fund Religious Schools

States can't cut religious schools out of programs that send public money to private education, a divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

By a 5-4 vote with the conservatives in the majority, the justices upheld a Montana scholarship program that allows state tax credits for private schooling in which almost all the recipients attend religious schools.

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International Criminal Court Condemns Trump’s ‘Unacceptable Attempt To Interfere’ With Prosecutions

The International Criminal Court has condemned the Trump administration's decision to authorize sanctions against court staff, saying it amounted to "an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court's judicial proceedings."

An executive order by Donald Trump announced Thursday authorizes sanctions against ICC staff investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

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Far-Right Extremists Arrested In Floyd Protest Plot

Three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities say was a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.

Federal prosecutors say the three white men with U.S. military experience are accused of conspiring to carry out a plan that began in April in conjunction with protests to reopen businesses closed because of the coronavirus.

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Sen. Graham Seeks Subpoenas To Hype ‘Obamagate’ Conspiracy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham is scheduling a vote that would allow him to subpoena more than 50 current and former officials who were involved in the Justice Department's investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, as Donald Trump and his allies have launched a broad election-year attack on the investigation as a "deep state" conspiracy.

Graham, a close ally of Trump, is effectively turning the investigation on the investigators, asking the officials for documents, communications, and testimony about the FBI's investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

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Trump Is Playing A Deadly Numbers Game — And Losing

Donald Trump likes to talk about the most, the best, the thing that nobody has ever seen.

Now he is trying to make a virtue of a lower number, arguing that the efforts of his administration have warded off a far greater death toll than otherwise would have been seen.

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Pelosi Warns That Trump’s Lies Are Costing Lives

As Donald Trump spoke during his daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a stark warning for Americans to "ignore the lies" and "insist on the truth" while the U.S. assesses next steps in the crisis.

Pelosi's scathing outline of Trump's monthslong handling of the virus outbreak contrasted with his eagerness to reopen the economy.

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Pentagon Says 109 Troops Have Suffered Brain Injuries From Iran Strike

The number of U.S. service members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries has shot up to more than 100, the Pentagon said Monday, as more troops suffer the aftereffects of the Iranian ballistic missile attack early last month in Iraq.

The department said the latest total is 109 military members who have been treated for mild TBI, a significant increase over the 64 reported a little over a week ago.

The number of injuries has been steadily increasing since the Pentagon began releasing data on the injuries about a week after the Jan. 8 attack at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. Pentagon officials have warned that the number would continue to change.

The department said 76 of the service members have returned to duty, while 26 are in Germany or the United States for treatment, and another seven are on their way from Iraq to Germany for evaluation and treatment.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Pentagon reporters more than a week ago that the department was studying ways to prevent brain injuries on the battlefield and to improve diagnosis and treatment.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it’s possible, in some cases, that symptoms of TBI from the Iranian missile attack won’t become apparent for a year or two. He said the Army is in the early stages of diagnosis and therapy for the troops.

In a statement Monday, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah credited medical professionals with provide care “which has enabled nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty. We must continue to address physical and mental health together.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump Fires Sondland And Vindman Over Impeachment Inquiry

Taking swift and harsh action against those who crossed him, Donald Trump on Friday ousted two government officials who had delivered damaging testimony during his impeachment hearings. Trump made the moves just two days after his acquittal by the Senate.

First came news that Trump had ousted Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, the decorated soldier and national security aide who played a central role in the Democrats’ impeachment case. He was escorted out of the White House complex Friday, according to his lawyer, who said he was asked to leave in retaliation for “telling the truth.”

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” David Pressman, an attorney for Vindman, said in a statement. The Army said in a statement that Vindman and his twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, who also was asked to leave his job as a White House lawyer on Friday, had been reassigned to the Army.

Next came word that Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, also was out.

“I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Sondland said in a statement.

Alexander Vindman’s lawyer issued a one-page statement that accused Trump of taking revenge on his client.

“He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril,” Pressman said. “And for that, the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit — has decided to exact revenge.”

The White House did not respond to Pressman’s accusation.

“We do not comment on personnel matters,” said John Ullyot, spokesman for the National Security Council, the foreign policy arm of the White House where Vindman was an expert on Ukraine.

Vindman’s status had been uncertain since he testified that he didn’t think it was “proper” for Trump to “demand that a foreign government investigate” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s dealings with the energy company Burisma in Ukraine. Vindman’s ouster, however, seemed imminent after Trump mocked him Thursday during his post-acquittal celebration with Republican supporters in the East Room and said Friday that he was not happy with him.

“You think I’m supposed to be happy with him?” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “I’m not. … They are going to be making that decision.”

Vindman, a 20-year Army veteran, wore his uniform full of medals, including a purple heart, when he appeared late last year for what turned out to be a testy televised impeachment hearing. Trump supporters raised questions about the immigrant’s allegiance to the United States — his parents fled the Soviet Union when he was a child —and noted that he had received offers to work for the government of Ukraine, offers Vindman said he swiftly dismissed.

“I am an American,” he stated emphatically.

Trump backers cheered Vindman’s removal, while Democrats were aghast.

“The White House is running a two for one special today on deep state leakers,” Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, wrote on Twitter.

A Twitter account used by Trump’s reelection campaign, @TrumpWarRoom, claimed Vindman leaked information to the whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s call ignited the investigation, and “colluded with Democrats to start the partisan impeachment coup.”

Former Trump NSC official Tim Morrison testified that others had brought concerns that Vindman may have leaked something. Vindman, in his own congressional testimony, denied leaking any information.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the firing was another example of how the “White House runs away from the truth.”

“Lt. Col. Vindman lived up to his oath to protect and defend our Constitution,” Schumer said in a statement. “This action is not a sign of strength. It only shows President Trump’s weakness.”

Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, recalled how Vindman in testimony before the House impeachment panel said that he reassured his worried father that would be “fine for telling the truth.”

“It’s appalling that this administration may prove him wrong,” Clinton said in a tweet.

At last fall’s hearing, when the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, addressed him as “Mr. Vindman,” the Iraq War veteran replied: “Ranking member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman please.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper was asked what the Pentagon would do to ensure that Vindman faces no retribution. “We protect all of our service members from retribution or anything like that,” Esper said. “We’ve already addressed that in policy and other means.”

Alexander Vindman is scheduled to enter a military college in Washington, D.C., this summer, and his brother is to be assigned to the Army General Counsel’s Office, according to two officials who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pressman said Vindman was among a handful of men and women who courageously “put their faith in country ahead of fear” but have “paid a price.”

“There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House,” Pressman said. “Lt. Col. Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”

Justice Department Urges Prison For Flynn

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn deserves up to six months in prison, the Justice Department said Tuesday, reversing its earlier stance.

Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States, including about his request that Russia not escalate tensions with the U.S. in response to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for election interference.

At the time, he was the closest Trump associate to agree to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He met repeatedly with prosecutors over the following months as they investigated whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election.

He was to have been sentenced in December 2018. But the hearing was upended when a sharp rebuke from a judge raised the prospect that he might send Flynn to prison even though prosecutors hadn’t sought that punishment. Flynn asked for the hearing to be postponed so he could continue cooperating with the government in hopes of avoiding prison and proving his value as a witness.

The case has taken a tumultuous turn since then.

The Justice Department opted not to have Flynn testify in the Virginia trial of a former business associate, denying him a chance to be credited for that cooperation.

He also fired his lawyers and replaced them with new ones who have taken a strikingly contentious stance toward Mueller’s investigation and accused prosecutors of withholding documents and other information that they said was favorable to Flynn. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected each of the defense arguments in a lengthy opinion earlier this month.

Flynn is one of a half dozen Trump associates charged in the Mueller investigation. All six have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty in a jury trial.

Flynn’s lawyers have until Jan. 13 to respond. Sentencing is set for Jan. 28.

Rep. Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, Battling Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer

Reprinted with permission from American Independent Foundation

As a civil rights activist at 25, John Lewis was beaten so badly his skull was fractured and the TV images from an Alabama bridge in the 1960s forced a nation’s awakening to racial discrimination. As a congressman today at 79, Lewis is facing a foe like none before: advanced pancreatic cancer.

The veteran Democrat congressman from Georgia has fought many struggles in his lifetime. Yet, he said, “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” announcing Sunday in Washington that the cancer was detected earlier this month and confirmed in a diagnosis.

Lewis has had many battles, and this he views as one more dawning. He was arrested at least 40 times in the civil rights era, several more times as a congressman since being elected in 1986 and only recently he has been rallying to help reunite immigrant families separated by the Trump administration.

The youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis made clear that he has no plans to step aside from power while he undergoes treatment.

He said being elected to Congress “has been the honor of a lifetime” and that he will continue working for his constituents from Capitol Hill.

“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” he said.

Added Lewis: “I have a fighting chance.”

He declined to say where he would receive cancer treatment or what that would entail. But he said he may not always be around the halls of Congress in the coming weeks.

“I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon,” he said in asking for prayers.

Lewis also said he was “clear-eyed about the prognosis” even as doctors have told him that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases. He added that “treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were.”

The American Cancer Society estimates 3% of patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer are alive five years after being diagnosed.

Sometimes called the “conscience of the Congress,” Lewis led hundreds of protesters in the 1965 Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. He was at the head of the march when he was knocked to the ground and beaten by police. The nationally televised images forced the country’s attention on the racial inequalities being fought by King and so many others.

Lewis turned to politics in 1981, when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council.

In 2011 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, who had marched with Lewis hand in hand in Selma on the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday attack.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was among those who sent her best wishes to Lewis after the announcement of his illness.

“We are all praying for you following this diagnosis. John, know that generations of Americans have you in their thoughts & prayers as you face this fight.” She said in a statement. “We are all praying that you are comfortable. We know that you will be well.”

Pentagon Probing Company That Got Border Wall Deal Via Fox News

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The Defense Department’s internal watchdog is investigating a $400 million border wall contract awarded to a firm that used multiple appearances on Fox News to push for the job.

The Pentagon’s inspector general sent a letter Thursday to House Homeland Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson telling him the contract awarded to North Dakota-based firm Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. would be audited. Thompson, D-Miss., asked for the review last week, in part over concerns the proposals did not meet operational requirements and prototypes came in late and over budget.

Tommy Fisher, the head of the family business, said Thursday there would be “nothing to find” in an audit.

“We were told we were the lowest price and the best value,” he said. “We look forward to working with the Army Corps of Engineers.”

The border wall is one of Trump’s top priorities. He campaigned on a promise to build a “big beautiful wall” between the U.S. and Mexico,” said Mexico would pay for it, and promised to build 450 to 500 miles by the end of 2020. Mexico is not paying for the wall and, as of Nov. 1, Trump had built 78 miles.

Trump’s effort to push through funding, using money from the Pentagon after Congress refused to fund the wall has been met with resistance and lawsuits. A federal judge this week blocked the administration from spending some Defense Department money on the the barrier.

The company was awarded a contract Dec. 2 to build 31 miles of wall in Arizona, part of a series of contracts to push out increased mileage. Fisher had made a number of appearances on Trump’s favorite cable news channel — Fox News — talking about his desire to win a contract. His firm, though, has little experience with such construction and a previous proposal was rejected.

Fisher said his company could do the work for $13 million a mile. He said the next closest bid was $20 million a mile.

A letter from the Army Corps when Fisher was awarded the contract said the company’s proposal was both technically acceptable, and the best priced.

Two administration officials familiar with the matter told The Associated Press this year that Trump aggressively pushed the Fisher firm’s bid with the heads of Homeland Security and the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages wall contracts. The interference in federal contracting by Trump concerned some overseeing the process but, the officials said, Trump insisted Fisher could get the wall up faster and cheaper than other bidders. Thompson had said one of his concerns was that officials from Homeland Security, the department managing border security, had toured a private barrier built by the company shortly before the contract was awarded.

The Pentagon watchdog said it was assessing how to complete the audit and would formally announce it soon.

Thompson said he was pleased.

“The company had never been awarded a construction contract before and their wall prototype was late and over budget,” he said in a statement. “Given the President’s multiple endorsements of this company and the amount of taxpayer money at stake, I remain concerned about the possibility of inappropriate influence on the Army Corps’ contracting decision.”

The award was the second-largest contract in the company’s history. Previously, Fisher built highways, sold heavy equipment and did excavation work. The company unsuccessfully sued the government in April when it was not awarded a similar contract.

Judge Allows South Carolina GOP To Cancel Primary For Trump

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A judge on Wednesday upheld the South Carolina Republican Party’s decision not to hold a 2020 presidential primary, a move taken by several states in erecting hurdles for the long-shot candidates challenging Donald Trump.

In her order, Circuit Judge Jocelyn Newman wrote the law “does not give Plaintiffs a legal right to a presidential preference primary, and the Court will not substitute its own judgment for that of the General Assembly or the SCGOP.”

Earlier this year, former South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis sued state Republicans, saying the party’s decision to skip a primary deprives him and others “of the ability to vote for the candidate of their choice in South Carolina’s famous (and particularly influential) ‘First in the South’ primary.”

South Carolina is among several states that have canceled Republican primaries and caucuses next year, an effort that helps Trump consolidate his support as Democrats work to winnow their large candidate field. The move, taken September in South Carolina by the state party’s executive committee, is not unusual for the party of the White House incumbent seeking reelection.

Challengers have emerged to Trump, including former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh. Mark Sanford, a former congressman and governor from South Carolina, entered the race but left after two months.

In years past, both Republicans and Democrats have cut state nominating contests when an incumbent president from their party sought a second term. In 1984, South Carolina GOP leaders opted to call off their primary as President Ronald Reagan sought reelection. In 2004, the GOP again canceled the state’s primary, with leaders deciding instead to endorse President George W. Bush’s reelection.

The South Carolina Democratic Party didn’t hold presidential primaries in 1996 or in 2012, when Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were their incumbents.