Attorney General

NY attorney general will decide when to release body camera video in police officer-involved civilian deaths – CNN

(CNN)New York Attorney General Letitia James said Sunday that her office will now decide when to publicly release body camera footage of police-involved deaths of unarmed civilians to avoid a repeat of what happened in the wake of Daniel Prude’s death in Rochester.

“Up until now the release of footage has been up to the discretion of local authorities, but this process has caused confusion, delays, and has hampered transparency in a system that should be as open and available to the public as quickly as possible, publicizing the footage, as soon as we have shown it to the deceased family,” James said in a press conference Sunday.
James traveled to Rochester to make the announcement on what would’ve been Daniel Prude’s 42nd birthday. She met with his family before the press conference and told reporters she promised them justice.
Prude was having a mental health episode on March 23 when his brother called Rochester police for help, according to his family. Prude’s death and police body camera footage of the fatal encounter prompted protests in Rochester and accusations of a cover-up.
Last week, the city released 325 pages of internal emails, police reports and other documents that show a concerted effort by police and city officials to delay the release of incriminating body camera footage of Prude’s encounter with police.
The documents included other examples of possible attempts by police and city officials to control the narrative around Prude’s death in custody.
The attorney general announced earlier this month that she’s empaneling a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death.
James said that regardless of the grand jury investigation’s outcome, her office will seek an order from the presiding judge to release the grand jury minutes to the public.
Under the new policy, which takes effect immediately, James says she will tell the public when her office opens an investigation into a police-involved death of an unarmed civilian. The public will see the body camera footage as soon as the family of the deceased victim sees it, she said.
James did say the timing of the video release will still be dependent on applicable security and privacy laws, and other privacy concerns.
Police departments typically agree with the fast release of raw body camera footage because it usually tells an entire unedited picture of the police interaction, said Betsy Brantner Smith, a retired police officer and spokeswoman for the National Police Association.
“From a national perspective, police departments aren’t that unhappy about the release of body worn camera. There’s always kind of a perception that’s wrong, that police want to hide the body camera. And generally speaking, we want it out there as soon as possible,” Smith told CNN. “In an officer-involved shooting, releasing a body worn camera is going to help show what really happened.”
Smith was wary of the timing of the attorney general’s move, cautioning against politicizing police work as the country experiences increasing tensions between police and the public in the wake of police custody deaths like Prude and George Floyd.
“The attorney general of any state is supposed to be the top law enforcement officer in that state, you know, obviously not law enforcement officers out on patrol, but they are the ones that their interest is supposed to be in the interest of the people and the crime victims, and that relationship with law enforcement, you know, boots on the ground law enforcement, needs to be a cooperative one,” Smith told CNN. “Any police officer needs trust in their attorney general, and any state attorney general needs trust in their police. So, we have to make sure that those relationships don’t get politicized.”
CNN reached out to police unions in Rochester and New York City but has not heard back.

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Attorney General

NY attorney general to form grand jury to probe Daniel Prude’s death – Daily Mail

NY Attorney General Letitia James forms a grand jury to investigate the death of Daniel Prude who suffocated after a ‘spit hood’ was placed over his head – leading to the suspension of seven Rochester officers

  • New York Attorney General Letitia James said her office is forming a grand jury to investigate the death of Daniel Prude
  • Prude is a black man who died after Rochester police officers used a ‘spit hood’ to restrain him
  • The hood was designed to protect police from being hit by bodily fluids  
  • Prude’s family said that he had been spiraling into crisis in the hours before police handcuffed him on a street 

By Reuters and Maxine Shen For

Published: | Updated:

New York Attorney General Letitia James said on Saturday her office would form a grand jury to investigate the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died after Rochester police officers used a mesh hood to restrain him. 

‘The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish. My office will immediately move to empanel a grand jury as part of our exhaustive investigation into this matter,’ James said in a statement. 

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said In a statement Saturday: ‘Earlier this week, I called for the investigation into Daniel Prude’s death to be expedited. Today, I applaud Attorney General Tish James for taking swift, decisive action in empaneling a grand jury — justice delayed is justice denied and the people of New York deserve the truth.’ 

NY Attorney General Letitia James (left) said her office will form a grand jury to investigate Daniel Prude’s death, after NY State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right) demanded answers

Gov. Cuomo tweeted a message applauding James for quickly calling for a grand jury

Protests have broken out in Rochester, after footage of Daniel Prude’s arrest was made public. Prude was shown with a ‘spit hood’ over his head and died days later

James decision comes just two days after Cuomo said Thursday, ‘Last night, I watched the video of Daniel Prude’s death in Rochester. What I saw was deeply disturbing and I demand answers.’ 

Cuomo also asked that the conclusion to Prude’s case be expedited ‘For the sake of Mr. Prude’s family and the greater Rochester community,’ Rochester First reported.

Rochester, a city of 200,000 people in the northwest corner of the state, erupted with protests this week after the Prude family released body camera footage from the arrest of Daniel Prude in March.

The footage, released Wednesday, showed a group of officers putting a mesh hood over Prude’s head – apparently to prevent his spit from possibly transmitting the novel coronavirus – as he kneels naked and restrained on the street.

Prude’s (pictured) family called 911 for help with Prude’s erratic behavior claiming he was going through a mental health crisis

Protesters are seen in Rochester Friday night while marching for justice in Prude’s death. Police were seen firing pepper balls at protesters who shielded themselves with umbrellas

Protesters are seen walking past a bus shelter which was set on fire during demonstrations Friday night in Rochester

Rochester police are seen reacting as flares were set off during the protests Friday night

The video footage also shows officers forcing Prude’s face down on the ground. Prude can be heard shouting, ‘Take this … off my face!’ and ‘You’re trying to kill me!’ in response to the hood. Officers are heard saying ‘Calm down’ and ‘stop spitting.’

He died a week later at the hospital.

Seven police officers were suspended on Thursday over the arrest. 

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide caused by ‘complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint’, with intoxication by the drug PCP, a contributing factor.

Rochester officials have faced questions over why the officers were not disciplined until the videotape became public five months later. On Friday, the Rochester police union chief defended the officers, saying they followed their training in responding to Prude, who was having a psychotic episode. 

Prude’s brother had called 911 for help for Prude’s erratic behavior, with his family saying that he had appeared to be spiraling into crisis in the hours before police handcuffed him on a street. 

Having police respond can be a ‘recipe for disaster,’ The National Alliance on Mental Illness said in a statement Friday.

The organization called Prude’s death ‘yet another harrowing tragedy, but a story not unfamiliar to us,’ and added that ‘People in crisis deserve help, not handcuffs.’

Protests are expected again on Saturday in Rochester, New York State’s third largest city, after nearly 1,000 demonstrators marched downtown on Friday night. 

Activists have marched every night since Prude’s arrest video was made public. Friday night’s protest resulted in 11 arrests, police said.  

‘This is just the beginning,’ Ashley Gantt, a protest organizer, told the AP by email after James’ announcement. ‘We will not be stopped in our quest for truth and justice. It is always necessary to do what’s right.’ 

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General Postmaster

Postmaster General Reassures Election Officials He’ll Prioritize Mail Ballots – NPR

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies this week during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

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Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies this week during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy promised some of the nation’s top election officials on Thursday that mailed ballots would be the U.S. Postal Service’s top priority this autumn.

DeJoy and the Postal Service have been engulfed in a political firestorm following operational changes he ordered — and now has paused — which slowed the throughput of mail and raised some fears that they might constrain voting by mail.

On Thursday, DeJoy told the election officials that he is forming a task force to look at each mail processing plant and assess what it might need to process the quantity of election mail anticipated this year, said New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, who is the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, or NASS.

DeJoy alluded to such a task force in a public statement earlier this month.

Louis DeJoy Vows Post Office Can Handle Mail-In Ballots, In Senate Hearing

“Over and over again, both [DeJoy] and his senior staff reiterated that the election is their highest priority,” Toulouse Oliver said in an interview with NPR after the call. “And they are actively putting into place processes and procedures to make sure every single piece of election mail, especially ballots, are going to be treated like gold.”

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican; Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat; and Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican, were also on the call with DeJoy.

Ashcroft took the place of Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who missed the call due to Hurricane Laura.

Because of the decentralized nature of the U.S. election system, these state officials, who hold leadership positions within NASS, represent the interests of the highest-ranking election officials in the nation. As NPR reported, the officials requested the meeting more than two weeks ago but did not hear back from DeJoy’s office immediately.

A month to forget for the USPS

The postmaster general has been battling controversy as anger about nationwide mail delays turned into fears about an election in which as many as half of all ballots could be received or delivered by mail.

In congressional hearings Aug 21. and Monday, Democrats accused DeJoy of attempting to sabotage the election. Citing the delays in service around the country, some called for his resignation.

“If any other CEO had this kind of plummeting record, I can’t imagine why he would be kept on,” said House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

The Most Important Mail You'll Ever Send: A Ballot

DeJoy has defended himself and the Postal Service, calling the allegations about sabotage outrageous.

He has sought to assure questioners that the Postal Service has enough capacity to accommodate even a scenario in which every single American voted by mail — which is not expected — and said he was freezing the operational changes that have slowed the mail so far until after Election Day.

The Postal Service processes and delivers more than 470 million pieces of mail per day, and so DeJoy argues that a theoretical surge of even 150 million ballots ahead of Election Day would be possible to incorporate into normal service.

On Thursday, Toulouse Oliver said DeJoy seemed surprised in the call by the intensity of the backlash and the level of scrutiny his agency is receiving in general.

She told him that comes with the territory in election administration.

“Those of us who’ve been running elections for years, we understand that as we go into an election, often there will be brand-new scrutiny on a process that we do regularly, that that really raises the level of attention to that issue,” Toulouse Oliver told NPR.

Presidential criticism not discussed

One reason for critics’ antipathy toward DeJoy is the rhetoric used by President Trump about voting by mail, which he disparages often even as he also uses it. DeJoy is a Republican fundraiser and supporter of Trump’s, and some critics alleged he was helping the president kneecap the Postal Service — which the postmaster general denies.

Trump also has said that states’ expansion of voting by mail in response to the coronavirus disaster will lead to increased fraud or even foreign nation ballot counterfeiting — ideas the FBI flatly rejected on Wednesday.

Trump’s remarks weren’t discussed specifically on DeJoy’s call with state elections leaders, but the participants did talk about the politicization of mail voting generally.

Pending Postal Service Changes Could Delay Mail And Deliveries, Advocates Warn

DeJoy also testified before the House Oversight Committee on Monday that he had tried to relay to members of the president’s campaign team that attacks on the Postal Service are “not helpful.”

If the postmaster general has stabilized the immediate political situation by stopping the operational changes he ordered earlier this year, he also has drawn newfound scrutiny given the repeated assurances he has made about the Postal Service’s intentions and capacity.

On Thursday’s call, the election officials requested a consistent line of communication with Postal Service leadership as Election Day draws nearer.

“In this time of really toxic partisan rhetoric, the Postal Service is now a part of that conversation,” Toulouse Oliver said. “We all agreed that that it’s really important for the highest levels of the Postal Service, and those of us that are chief election officials, to be able to cut through that rhetoric and have that one-on-one direct communication, even if the communication is tense or challenging.”

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General Milley

General Milley Apologizes for Trump Photo Op Role – The New York Times

President Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square, current and former military leaders say, has started a moment of reckoning in the military.




‘It Was a Mistake,’ Milley Says of Participating in Trump Photo Op

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the top military official in the United States, apologized for his role in President Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square after the authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters.

As senior leaders, everything you do will be closely watched, and I am not immune. As many of you saw the result of the photograph of me at Lafayette Square last week, that sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society. I should not have been there. My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it. We who wear the cloth of our nation come from the people of our nation, and we must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic.

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Gen. Mark A. Milley, the top military official in the United States, apologized for his role in President Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square after the authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters.CreditCredit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Helene Cooper

WASHINGTON — The country’s top military official apologized on Thursday for taking part in President Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square for a photo op after the authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the area of peaceful protesters.

“I should not have been there,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a prerecorded video commencement address to National Defense University. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

His first public remarks since Mr. Trump’s photo op, in which federal authorities attacked peaceful protesters so that the president could hold up a Bible in front of St. John’s Church, are certain to anger the White House, where Mr. Trump has spent the days since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis taking increasingly tougher stances against the growing movement for change across the country.

On Wednesday, the president picked another fight with the military, slapping down the Pentagon for considering renaming Army bases named after Confederate officers who fought against the Union in the Civil War.

The back and forth between Mr. Trump and the Pentagon in recent days is evidence of the deepest civil-military divide since the Vietnam War — except this time, military leaders, after halting steps in the beginning, are now positioning themselves firmly with those calling for change.

Mr. Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square, current and former military leaders say, has started a critical moment of reckoning in the military.

“As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from,” General Milley said. He said he had been angry about “the senseless and brutal killing of George Floyd” and repeated his opposition to Mr. Trump’s suggestions that federal troops be deployed nationwide to quell protests.

General Milley’s friends said that for the last 10 days, he had been agonized about appearing — in the combat fatigues he wears every day to work — behind Mr. Trump during the walk across Lafayette Square, an act that critics said gave a stamp of military approval to the hard-line tactics used to clear the protesters.

The general believed he was accompanying Mr. Trump and his entourage to review National Guard troops and other law enforcement personnel outside Lafayette Square, Defense Department officials said.

In the days after the photo op, General Milley told Mr. Trump that he was angered by what had happened. The two had already exchanged sharp words last Monday, when General Milley engaged the president in a heated discussion in the Oval Office over whether to send active-duty troops into the streets, according to people in the room.

General Milley argued that the scattered fires and looting in some places were dwarfed by the peaceful protests and should be handled by the states, which command local law enforcement.

Mr. Trump acquiesced, but he has continued to hold out the threat of sending active-duty troops.

Last week, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper called a news conference to announce that he, too, opposed invoking the 1807 Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty troops across the country to quell protests, a line that a number of American military officials said they would not cross.

The president, aides say, has been furious with both Mr. Esper and General Milley since then. Defense Department officials say they are unsure how long either will last in their respective jobs, but they also note that Mr. Trump can ill afford to go into open warfare with the Pentagon so close to an election.

Since last Monday, General Milley has spoken with lawmakers, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, both Democrats. He has also spoken with many of his predecessors, as well as with Republican congressional leaders, according to people with knowledge of the conversations. In most of the exchanges, General Milley said he deeply regretted the park incident.

A combat veteran who peppers his speech with references to the history of warfare, General Milley has usually gotten along with Mr. Trump, mixing banter and bluntness when he speaks to his boss, officials say. The general went against the wishes of his own father — who fought at Iwo Jima as a Marine — when he joined the Army.

In the tumultuous hours and days since the walk across Lafayette Park, General Milley has taken pains to mitigate the damage. Two days after the episode, General Milley released a letter that forcefully reminded the troops that their military was supposed to protect the right to freedom of speech. He added a handwritten codicil to his letter, some of it straying outside the margins: “We all committed our lives to the idea that is America — we will stay true to that oath and the American people.”

During his speech on Thursday at National Defense University, General Milley, after expressing his disgust over the video of the killing of Mr. Floyd, spoke at length about the issue of race, both in the military and in civilian society.

“The protests that have ensued not only speak to his killing, but also to the centuries of injustice toward African-Americans,” he said. “What we are seeing is the long shadow of our original sin in Jamestown 401 years ago, liberated by the Civil War, but not equal in the eyes of the law until 100 years later in 1965.”

General Milley called on the military to address issues of systemic racism in the armed forces, where 43 percent of the enlisted troops are people of color but only a tiny handful are in the ranks of senior leadership.

“The Navy and Marine Corps have no African-Americans serving above the two-star level, and the Army has just one African-American four-star,” he said, referring to officers who are generals and admirals. “We all need to do better.”

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General statue

General Lee statue set to come down in Virginia – ABC News

ABC News’ Terry Moran reports from Richmond, Va,. where Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) has ordered the removal of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue.

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Attorney General

Attorney General Barr ordered authorities to clear protesters near White House, DOJ official says – CNN

Washington (CNN)Attorney General William Barr on Monday evening ordered authorities to clear a crowd of protesters that had gathered near the White House, according to a Justice Department official, minutes ahead of President Donald Trump‘s televised address from the Rose Garden.

Barr and other top officials from agencies responsible for securing the White House had previously planned to secure a wider perimeter around Lafayette Square, a federally owned green space just north of the building, in response to fires and destruction caused by protestors on Sunday night.
That plan, developed earlier Monday, would have cleared the area later used for the President’s walk to the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op by 4 p.m. ET, the official said.
But it never happened. When Barr arrived at Lafayette Square just after 6 p.m. in a scene that was captured on news cameras and elicited heckles from the large, peaceful crowd, the attorney general saw that the area had not been emptied, and told police to clear the area, the official said.
If federal law enforcement was met with resistance by the protesters, crowd control measures should be implemented, Barr had said, according to the official.
The Washington Post first reported Barr’s direct involvement.
Barr had been told that police believed protestors were gathering rocks to throw at law enforcement, and while he was in the park, water bottles were thrown in his direction, the official said. CNN did not witness any water bottles being thrown at the attorney general. Camera footage shows him standing and watching the crowd for several minutes, flanked by a security detail and two senior department officials.
Just before 6:24 p.m., police broadcast their first warning for the crowd to distance. A CNN correspondent reporting from the rooftop of a nearby hotel heard three warnings broadcast over the next 10 minutes as authorities moved closer to the crowd.
At 6:35 p.m., authorities began charging the crowd in lockstep with their shields raised, some using their batons to strike the protestors as gas canisters were deployed.
Trump walked over to the church shortly after 7 p.m.

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Attorney General

Attorney General Barr defends decision to drop Michael Flynn case – CBS News

Published on 08-May-2020

Attorney General William Barr is weighing in on the Justice Department’s stunning decision to drop the case against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI in 2017. Now Barr is defending the move in an interview with CBS senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge. She joins CBSN to explain the latest developments.

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Fauci General

Fauci, Top U.S. General Throw Cold Water On Trump’s Coronavirus Claim – Forbes


Two high ranking government officials — Dr. Anthony Fauci and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley — pumped the brakes on the controversial theory COVID-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, even as President Trump and other administration officials rally around the claim without any public evidence. 


Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks during … [+] the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 22, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images


The unsubstantiated claim that the virus spread from a lab in Wuhan, China, has emerged as a powerful political claim as the Trump administration turns to deflecting attention away from claims the White House faltered in its handling of the outbreak and casting blame onto China.

During a White House event on Thursday, President Trump said, without providing specifics, he had a “high degree of confidence” the virus came from a lab in Wuhan.

In an interview with National Geographic published Monday, Fauci said there was no scientific evidence to support the lab theory and that all signs indicate that the virus “evolved in nature and then jumped species.”

During an on-camera press briefing Tuesday at the Pentagon, Milley said, “we don’t know” whether it began in a Chinese lab or a wet market and added “the weight of evidence is that it was natural and not manmade.”

Fauci and Milley’s comments come as President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have claimed there is evidence to support the theory.

Pompeo said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that there is a “significant amount of evidence [the virus] came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

Crucial quote

Milley added there was still not “conclusive evidence” as to whether or not the virus was accidentally or deliberately released in Wuhan, China, but that “the weight of evidence is that it was probably not intentional.”

Chief critic

A Chinese newspaper controlled by the government came out forcefully against Pompeo’s claims. In an editorial, the newspaper wrote Monday that Pompeo had “stunned the world with groundless accusations.” 

“Since Pompeo said his claims are supported by ‘enormous evidence,’ then he should present this so-called evidence to the world, and especially to the American public who he continually tries to fool,” the editorial said. 

Key background

The idea of a lab-leaked virus bubbled up in February among conservative media—including Fox News—and right-wing lawmakers, including Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who has been one of the most vocal proponents of the theory. But the claim the virus originated in a lab has gained new life in recent weeks with reports that officials inside the government were investigating the claim. Last week, the New York Times reported that senior Trump administration officials, led by Pompeo, have pushed U.S. spy agencies to dig up evidence supporting the lab theory even though most intelligence agencies remain skeptical of the lab claim. While officials and many scientists say the theory is technically possible, no public evidence has emerged to support the claim. 

Further reading

Dr. Fauci again dismisses Wuhan lab as source of coronavirus (CBS News) 

Report: Trump Officials Pressured Spy Agencies To Link Covid Outbreak To Wuhan Lab (Forbes)

Pompeo: ‘Enormous Evidence’ Linking Wuhan Lab To Covid Outbreak (Forbes)

Trump Claims To Have Seen Evidence Linking Coronavirus To Wuhan Lab After Intelligence Chief Says Virus Not Manmade (Forbes)

The Controversial Rumor COVID-19 Originated In A Wuhan Lab Creeps Into The GOP Mainstream (Forbes)

Trump Officials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs (New York Times NYT)

Republicans See Attacking China As A Winning Strategy (Forbes)

A Virologist Explains Why It Is Unlikely COVID-19 Escaped From A Lab (Forbes)

No, COVID-19 Coronavirus Was Not Bioengineered. Here’s The Research That Debunks That Idea (Forbes)

Chinese lab conducted extensive research on deadly bat viruses, but there is no evidence of accidental release (Washington Post)

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