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White House, Democrats agree to try for coronavirus relief deal on evictions, unemployment by week’s end – The Washington Post

The White House and Democratic leaders agreed to try to finalize a deal to address lapsed unemployment benefits and eviction restrictions by the end of this week and hold a vote in Congress next week, suddenly trying to rush stalled talks in the face of growing public and political unrest.

Senior White House officials said Tuesday that they made “very concrete offers” to Democrats related to unemployment benefits and eviction protections, and after days of bickering both sides now appear to be trying to secure a compromise.

The agreement on a timeline came in a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

The four have been meeting almost daily for a week. Their agreement Tuesday on a specific timeline to reach an overall deal constituted the most concrete progress yet. It suggests that the White House has backed off efforts to pass a stand-alone extension of unemployment benefits — and will also stand down, at least for now, on more recent threats to act unilaterally through executive orders if no deal can be reached with Congress.

“I may not have to sign [executive orders]. Progress is being made,” President Trump told reporters at the White House.

Pelosi and Schumer also pointed to signs of progress in earlier comments to reporters.

“We agree that we want to have an agreement,” Pelosi said, adding: “This takes time, and it takes specificity.”

For example, even though Mnuchin offered an eviction moratorium until the end of the year, the White House offer did not include other homeowner and rental assistance that Democrats have demanded, so the housing portion of the talks remains unresolved, a Democratic aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the talks.

“Chuck and I are master negotiators,” Pelosi said in a PBS interview Tuesday evening.

The four will meet again on Wednesday.

The talks came as Senate Republicans on Tuesday began to emphasize that they will need to stay in Washington until a fresh round of pandemic relief aid is enacted, worried about facing the wrath of voters if they go home without one with deaths from the novel coronavirus rising and the economic recovery stalled.

About 30 million jobless Americans lost $600-a-week enhanced unemployment benefits on Friday, and a moratorium on rental evictions also recently expired.

The Senate had been scheduled to adjourn for its August recess starting next week, but that is not looking feasible.

Trump has maintained that he could act unilaterally on virus relief if no deal is reached, claiming he has the power to step in and address the eviction issue, among other things — although it’s not clear how that would work.

The White House and lawmakers are struggling to close the significant divide that remains between the Democrats’ starting, $3.4 trillion offer, and a $1 trillion GOP package that did not have unified support of the Senate Republican Conference.

Pelosi has not publicly backed down from her support for the Democrats’ bill, but Mnuchin scoffed at the idea that Republicans would be adopting that proposal.

“We’re not doing anything close to $3.4 trillion. That’s just ridiculous,” Mnuchin said.

“We really went down issue by issue by issue, slogging through,” Schumer said. “They made some concessions which we appreciated; we made some concessions which they appreciated. We’re still far away on a lot of the important issues, but we’re continuing.”

It was unclear what concessions had been made on either side, and Meadows contended that the concessions made by the administration were “far more substantial” than those the Democrats offered.

Schumer also said the Democrats had requested a meeting with the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, for Wednesday to discuss delays in delivering mail.

Earlier, at a lunch with Senate Republicans, Meadows and Mnuchin said that Trump was prepared to enact some sort of executive order on pandemic relief, and no senators raised any objections to that plan, according to people briefed on the meeting.

White House officials eager to break the logjam had stepped up their talk in recent days of Trump acting unilaterally on key administration priorities, including the expiration of unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions.

Meadows has eyed taking money already approved by Congress and redirecting it for federal unemployment benefits, according to three people aware of internal administration deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private matter. The White House Counsel’s Office is assisting Meadows in the review of the legality of the repurposing of some of these funds, two of the people said. The president has said publicly that he is exploring the matter.

But the strategy faced significant hurdles, legal and otherwise, and some people in close communication with the White House said the idea was being studied largely to give the president greater leverage in the negotiations with Democrats.

The talks picked up urgency as GOP senators acknowledged the problematic issue of returning to their home states without relief for their beleaguered constituents.

“How do you think it looks for us to be back home when this is unresolved?” said Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), who is running for reelection in November. “This is the most important thing we need to be doing.”

“Real people are sitting back home and wondering why all the Kabuki games, why can’t we just do it?” said Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of the party leadership who help draft provisions related to education and health funding in the Senate Republican proposal, said there are multiple areas of agreement with Democrats where negotiations could bear fruit.

“I think on testing, we’re close. On schools, in reality, we would be close if they wanted to be close. On child care. Hopefully on vaccine,” Blunt said.

He added that there were some issues — such as aid to state and local governments — where the parties remain far apart.

Republicans acknowledged their own divisions.

“I think I’ve made it very clear for some time now if you’re looking for a total consensus among Republicans you’re not going to find it, because we do have divisions about what to do,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters.

He said it was unlikely that the bill would pass Congress with broad support, as earlier virus relief did.

“It’s not going to produce a ‘Kumbaya’ moment like we had in March or April where everybody voted aye, but the American people in the end need help,” McConnell said. “And wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team who have to sign it into law, and the Democrats’ not insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House, is something I’m prepared to support, even if I have some problems with certain parts of it.”

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White House makes random coronavirus testing mandatory for staff – CBS News

Relief bill stalled over jobless benefits


Relief bill stalled over jobless benefits

07:54

Washington — The White House is conducting mandatory random COVID-19 testing for employees, according to a notice described by a staffer. Employees received an email Monday morning notifying them of the required testing.

Random testing has already been taking place for staffers at the White House complex, the person explained, but “today’s announcement makes it mandatory if you’ve been selected.”

It’s unclear how the mandate might be enforced, but the email said that “failure to report to testing will be considered a refusal to test.”

Politico first reported that the random testing is mandatory.

Such mandatory random testing does not apply to the White House press corps, many of whom attend briefings with the president without even a temperature check. 

The president and vice president are tested for the virus regularly, as are those who work closely with them. 

The White House testing policy highlights the disparity between the speed and availability for those who work in the White House, and the rest of the country. Lags in testing times mean many Americans wait for more than a week to get results back.

The president has also downplayed the value of testing as a tool to fight the virus, incorrectly claiming the U.S. has so many cases because it conducts more tests, not because the virus is so widespread and prevalent.

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

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Senior House Democrat James Clyburn says Donald Trump ‘doesn’t plan to have an election’ – Daily Mail

Senior House Democrat James Clyburn on Sunday doubled down on his comments comparing Donald Trump to a dictator, suggesting the president ‘doesn’t plan to leave the White House’.   

The House Majority Whip  told CNN: ‘I don’t think he plans to leave the White House. He doesn’t plan to have fair and unfettered elections. I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue to hold onto office. 

‘And that is why the American people had better wake up. I know a little bit about history, and I know how countries find their demise. It is when we fail to let democracy, and the fundamentals of which is a fair, unfettered election.’

Trump had on Thursday suggested delaying the November election until ‘people can properly, securely and safely vote’. In March last year South Carolina Democrat Clyburn said the Trump family are among the ‘greatest threats to democracy’ in his lifetime. 

Senior House Democrat James Clyburn, pictured, on Sunday doubled down on his comments comparing Donald Trump to a dictator

Trump had on Thursday suggested delaying the November election until ‘people can properly, securely and safely vote’. In March South Carolina Democrat Clyburn said the Trump family are among the ‘greatest threats to democracy’ in his lifetime

¿I don¿t think he plans to leave the White House. He doesn¿t plan to have fair and unfettered elections. I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue to hold onto office,¿ Democratic Rep. James Clyburn says about Pres. Trump. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/q0CgdTwWcX

— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) August 2, 2020

Clyburn had told PBS on Friday: ‘I have been saying now for about three years that this president doesn’t plan to have an election. He’s not planning to give up the office. 

‘He thinks that the American people will be duped by him, like the people of Germany was duped by Adolf Hitler.’ 

He added Sunday: ‘I feel very strongly that this man has taken on strong-arm tactics’ before comparing Trump to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. 

Clyburn is the third-ranking Democrat in the House. In March last year he said: ‘Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany. And he went about the business of discrediting institutions to the point that people bought into’ it.

‘Nobody would have believed it now. But swastikas hung in churches throughout Germany. We had better be very careful.’ 

Trump has, of late, refused to say if he’ll accept what happens in November.

Asked by Axios’ Jonathan Swan, in an interview to air Monday on HBO, the president wouldn’t say if he would accept the will of the voters but did argue Hillary Clinton hadn’t accepted the 2016 election.

Donald Trump’s Senior Campaign Advisor Jason Miller said Sunday that the president does not want to delay the November elections. ‘The election is going to be on November 3rd and President Trump wants the election to be on November 3rd,’ he told Fox News Sunday

His senior campaign adviser insisted Sunday morning that the president wants to hold the elections on the typical date of November 3, even though he suggested last week that they be postponed.

‘The election is going to be on November 3rd and President Trump wants the election to be on November 3rd,’ Jason Miller told Fox News Sunday.

Miller said instead that it is Democrats who want to move the election date by expanding mail-in voting measures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

‘The problem here, and what I think President Trump was doing a good job in highlighting, is the fact that these Democratic governors are the ones who want to go and move the election,’ Jason told Fox News host Chris Wallace.

‘These Democratic legislators who want to extend the election,’ he lamented.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell shot down Trump’s suggestion to delay the November 3 contest

Even some of Trump’s top Republican allies disagreed. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (left) and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (right) said the election should not be delayed

WHO DOES DECIDE WHEN U.S. VOTES? 

The White House has little to no say in the timing of the election – it has already been set down by Congress . 

The Constitution sets a limit on the president’s term of January 20 and puts the responsibility for choosing a new one on the Electoral College – made up of the states’ electors. 

It then spells out that Congress has to pick the date for choosing the electors, which must be the same across the country.

Initially states did not all choose the electors by popular vote, but as they did, and with the advent of instant communication in the form of the telegraph, it became clear there had to be a national election date. 

In 1845, Congress set the date of the presidential election itself for the first time, as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. 

It has not been changed since, and would need an act of Congress to change it. Given the Democrats’ hold on the House that seems impossible.

But there is some room for the White House to pressure states to put off elections for a few weeks.

The constitutional requirement that they choose their electors does not set a date – but in 1948 Congress did, as ‘the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.’

In theory, states could delay their elections to closer to that date – but that would take the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis and appears highly unlikely to happen.

Miller’s comments came a few days after Trump said Thursday morning that he wanted the election delayed until ‘people can properly, securely and safely vote.’  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, among other top Republicans shot down the president’s proposal.

During a call with reporters hosted by Trump’s campaign on Saturday, Senator Marco Rubio said he is ‘not concerned about mail-in voting in Florida,’ which is the president’s main argument for changing the date of the general election.

Trump does not have the power to delay the election. 

That would take an act of Congress and even the president’s top allies on Capitol Hill made it clear Thursday that would not happen.

McConnell pointed out elections hadn’t been delayed in the past and did not need to be now. 

‘Never in the history of the country through wars, depressions, and the Civil War have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time. 

‘And we’ll find a way to do that again this November 3,’ McConnell told a local Kentucky television station.

He confirmed he expected the election to take place on November 3.

 ‘That’s right. We’ll cope with whatever the situation is in the election on November 3 as already scheduled.’

Other Republicans agreed. 

‘I don’t believe we should delay the elections. Delaying the election probably wouldn’t be a good idea. 

‘I think we can be able to safely vote in person in November,’ said Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally on Capitol Hill. 

Senator Rick Scott, another Trump ally, said he ‘doesn’t agree with delaying the election.’ 

Joe Biden has warned that Trump could seek to nullify and try to delegitimize November’s contest should he lose. 

‘Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,’ Biden said at a virtual fundraiser in April. 

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White House willing to cut a stimulus deal without ‘liability shield,’ breaking with McConnell – The Washington Post

The White House is willing to cut a deal with Democrats that leaves out Senate Republican legislation aimed at protecting employers, hospitals and schools from coronavirus-related lawsuits, according to two people with knowledge of internal White House planning.

The White House wants and is pushing for the “liability shield” as a top priority but would be willing to sign off on a deal that lacks the legal protections, those people said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) controls the Senate floor and could shoot down any deal that leaves out what he has said is a necessary component of any stimulus package.

One of the people familiar with the administration’s thinking said the measure was “considered important but not absolutely essential.”

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Friday that the liability shield was McConnell’s priority but that Trump wanted unemployment insurance extended.

“That’s a question for Mitch McConnell … that’s his priority,” McEnany said, when asked if the administration would insist on a liability shield. “This president is very keenly focused on unemployment insurance.”

The dealmaking flexibility conflicts with the ultimatum McConnell has given Democrats that any congressional stimulus package must make it significantly harder for workers and customers to sue employers and businesses for damages related to the coronavirus.

McConnell has said he will not bring up legislation for a vote in the Senate if it does not include the liability measure. “We’re not negotiating over liability protection,” McConnell told CNBC on Tuesday. “We’re not negotiating with Democrats over that.”

This “red line,” as McConnell calls it, has appeared to be a major obstacle in negotiations. Congressional Democrats have strongly objected to granting such legal protections, arguing it would give businesses and employers wide latitude to endanger their workers without fear of repercussion.

But White House officials are less attached to the issue, seeing the shield as something the administration can live without in the stimulus package, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private strategy.

On Wednesday, President Trump told reporters that the White House wants to move quickly to approve a partial extension of unemployment benefits and an extension of a federal eviction moratorium, which expired on Friday. Trump did not mention the liability shield.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also floated a partial stimulus package that would include the eviction moratorium and a reduced extension in unemployment benefits. Congressional Democrats have rejected the piecemeal approach, and Mnuchin has said the two parties remain “far apart” on a broader package.

“We want to work on the evictions so that people don’t get evicted. We’ll work on the payments for the people,” Trump said on the White House lawn on Wednesday. “And the rest of it, we’re so far apart, we don’t care. We really don’t care. We want to take care of the people.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Thursday that the liability shield “remains a red line for the leader in my discussions with him earlier today.” Meadows added, “Certainly, Secretary Mnuchin and I see that as being part of a broader package,” but he said the White House supports a temporary extension in unemployment benefits without the liability protections.

Any deal between the White House and congressional Democrats that does not include the liability shield could pose a challenge for McConnell, who has for months made it his No. 1 priority. The White House has publicly said several times that it considers the liability shield a top priority, and Meadows has expressed openness to including it in a short-term deal.

“If we can do that along with liability protection, perhaps we put that forward, get that passed as we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come,” Meadows said Sunday on ABC News.

Mnuchin also said earlier this month, “The president’s committed to do what we need to do in the next bill to protect kids, protect jobs, protect liability.”

A White House spokesperson reaffirmed that the liability shield remains a top priority and declined to comment on the state of negotiations.

Tensions between the White House and congressional Republicans have emerged throughout stimulus negotiations. Top Senate Republicans, for instance, rejected Trump’s repeated calls for a payroll tax cut. Congressional Republicans have also expressed concern that the administration is giving away too much to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in negotiations. For example, congressional Republicans have complained about Mnuchin originally agreeing in March to the $600-per-week increase in federal unemployment benefits.

The liability shield, co-written by McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), would only allow workers and consumers to sue employers for damages if they can prove a business was “grossly negligent” in actions that led to them contracting the virus.

On top of that requirement, the legislation provides immunity from legal claims if the employer makes “reasonable efforts” to comply with government guidelines, such as the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on safely reopening and those set by states. Some worker advocacy groups have criticized these rules as too lax, saying they could be met without enforcing safety guidelines.

The proposal would also deter lawsuits over coronavirus-related claims by funneling such cases through the federal court system. It would create new documentation and verification requirements for plaintiffs — including a list of people they met with in the 14-day period before the onset of virus symptoms — while giving employers the right to countersue over “meritless” allegations. It would also allow the Justice Department to sue attorneys with a “pattern” of coronavirus lawsuits.

McConnell has stressed that the shield would apply not just to private businesses, but also to schools, universities, hospitals, nonprofit organizations and similar establishments. The American Council on Education, a higher-education lobbying group, has written to lawmakers in support of McConnell’s legislation, as have other education groups.

Congressional Republicans and business organizations have characterized the liability shield as a necessary step for reopening the economy. The measure also has been strongly backed by Larry Kudlow, the president’s senior economic adviser. Republican lawmakers say Democrats only oppose the idea out of loyalty to trial lawyers who benefit from filing lawsuits.

“Nobody should have to face an epidemic of lawsuits on the heels of the pandemic that we already have related to the coronavirus,” McConnell said earlier in July.

Workers’ groups and Democrats have said the liability shield will have devastating consequences for employees who are already facing unsafe conditions in workplaces across the country. They note that Trump’s Labor Department has cited just a handful of employers for workplace safety violations during the pandemic, despite thousands of complaints.

Hugh Baran, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, said the standard for employer wrongdoing set forward in the GOP proposal is so high “a worker could never expect to meet it.”

But conditions for workers around the country remain unsafe. Close to 900 health-care workers have died of the coronavirus by treating patients in nursing homes, hospitals and similar settings. Tens of thousands of meatpacking workers have contracted the coronavirus and 86 of them had died as of late May. The McConnell-Cornyn package would prevent families of workers from filing lawsuits seeking financial compensation for loved ones lost to covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“Essentially you get complete, blanket immunity as a matter of law even if you do nothing at all to protect your workers,” Baran said. “It puts us all at risk of infection.”

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White House, Senate GOP Set To Cut Additional Unemployment Benefits By $400/Week – Forbes

Trump Meets With Cabinet Members, Members Of Congress On Stimulus Payments

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 20: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters while hosting (2nd L-R) … [+] Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Republican congressional leaders in the Oval Office at the White House July 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump and the congressional leaders talked about a proposed new round of financial stimulus to help the economy during the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)


Getty Images

Senate Republicans and the White House have gone back-and-forth on the rate of unemployment checks under the next stimulus bill proposal, expected to release today. According to a report from the Washington Post, the two sides have come to a consensus, agreeing to a $200 a-week addition to unemployment insurance.

It’s down from $600 a week, which was passed under the CARES Act. The higher rate of unemployment provided a significant safety net to the more than 50 million people that have filed for unemployment during the COVID-19 crisis. JPMorgan Chase

JPM
recently found that cutting the additional unemployment protections could lead to a 29% decline in the rate of unemployed spending.

The Republicans want to use the $200 a-week payment for a length of time, providing them with the opportunity to then implement a way to provide benefits that would ensure 70% of income, prior to losing the job. States would have two months to install the program that would allow the capability to provide the 70% of income strategy.

Republican plans for unemployment have ranged from ending the additional checks to only providing $100 more per week ($400 per month). But as coronavirus cases have worsened, as has unemployment, it could force them into negotiations on this particular point of the stimulus bill.

The decision to focus on reducing the benefit will surely become a point of contention in negotiations with Democrats. In the May passing of the Democrat-led HEROES Act in the House of Representatives, the unemployment check of $600 extra per week would extend through January 2021.

Senate Democrats have signaled that they would support a measure closer to the House bill than the lowering of benefits, which has been suggested by the White House and Senate Republicans.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said there’s been no negotiations between the Senate Democrats and Republicans, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to roll out the GOP stimulus plan today.

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Frat house outbreak leaves 93 infected with coronavirus at University of Washington – New York Post

July 3, 2020 | 8:34pm | Updated July 4, 2020 | 12:36am

A coronavirus outbreak at the University of Washington’s off-campus frat houses has left at least 93 students sickened with the illness, the school announced Friday.

Eighty-nine of the infected students at the Seattle school live on Greek Row, while the other four came into close contact with frat house residents.

“What is occurring north of campus provides lessons for students as they consider their return to campus this fall,” Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, chair of the UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, said Tuesday,  when the outbreak was first reported.

Gottlieb warned that in order to establish some semblance of “normalcy” — with socializing and attending classes — students must wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

“If we don’t, measures such as what are now required on Greek Row will be inevitable,” he said.

While the university’s official coronavirus count related to Greek Row is 93, the school’s student-led interfraternity council said 117 fraternity members residing in 15 separate houses have self-reported testing positive.

The university said it’s working to confirm the increased tally.

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Watch live: House Judiciary hearing on political interference at Justice Department – Vox.com

House Judiciary Committee Democrats will try to spotlight what they say is the improper politicization of Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department at a hearing Wednesday.

Two current Justice Department prosecutors whom Democrats have characterized as “whistleblowers” will appear to testify. One is Aaron Zelinsky, who worked for special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and developed a reputation as a tenacious prosecutor. Zelinsky plans to testify about interference with the sentencing of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone — a spectacle that unfolded in public view earlier this year.

“What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the President,” Zelinsky plans to say, according to his impassioned opening statement.

John Elias, a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s antitrust division, will also testify. Elias plans to say that, under Barr, the antitrust division launched inappropriate investigations of mergers in the marijuana industry. He will also testify that the division started investigating a deal between car companies and the state of California on fuel emissions shortly after President Trump tweeted complaints about the deal.

Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general from the George H.W. Bush Administration, will also testify. Ayer called for Barr’s resignation in an article in The Atlantic earlier this year.

A witness invited by committee Republicans — former Attorney General Michael Mukasey — will also testify. He will likely attempt to argue that the Trump Justice Department’s actions are not so unusual. The hearing began shortly after noon Eastern, and a livestream is embedded below.

What Zelinsky’s testimony tells us

Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser to Donald Trump, was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team on seven counts of obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering. The charges related to Stone’s alleged efforts to hide the truth about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign from congressional investigators. (Witness testimony and email evidence showed Stone attempting to get in contact with Julian Assange about potential email releases that could harm the Clinton campaign, but whether Stone had any success here remains murky.)

Stone was convicted at a trial last November on all counts, and in February, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, then led by Timothy Shea, had to recommend a sentence for him.

The first step in that process is to calculate the range of time Stone’s offenses would merit according to the federal sentencing guidelines. After that, prosecutors can recommend a more specific sentence, though none of this is binding on the judge, who actually gets to make a decision.

In any case, Zelinsky’s team drafted a memo making the sentencing guidelines calculations. But, Zelinsky’s statement reads, “just two days later, I learned that our team was being pressured by the leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office” to change those calculations — with the goal of having a lower guidelines sentence range for Stone.

“We were told by a supervisor that the US Attorney had political reasons for his instructions, which our supervisor agreed was unethical and wrong,” Zelinsky says. “However, we were instructed that we should go along with the U.S. Attorney’s instructions, because this case was ‘not the hill worth dying on’ and that we could ‘lose our jobs’ if we did not toe the line.”

Zelinsky’s team refused to make the changes, though. After Zelinsky threatened to withdraw from the case, his supervisors then approved his initial sentencing memo, and it was submitted. But then Trump tweeted furiously about this alleged “miscarriage of justice,” and Barr decided that the US attorney’s office had to submit a new memo with a lower guidelines sentence calculation. The office did so — leading Zelinsky and the three other prosecutors on his team to withdraw from the case (with one resigning from the Justice Department entirely).

“The Department of Justice treated Roger Stone differently and more leniently in ways that are virtually, if not entirely, unprecedented,” Zelinsky will say. He adds that he was told by his supervisors that Shea “was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break,” that the sentencing instructions “were based on political considerations,” and that Shea was “afraid of the President.”

As for Stone himself, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ended up sentencing him to three years and four months in prison. But many have wondered whether he’d end up serving any time — President Trump recently quote-tweeted a message calling for Stone’s pardon, and wrote that Stone “can sleep well at night!”

Still, no pardon has yet materialized, and the date Stone must surrender to federal custody — June 30 — is fast approaching. This Tuesday, however, Stone’s lawyers filed a motion asking to delay his surrender date, due to Covid-19 concerns. Jackson has not yet ruled on that motion.

Another witness will testify about politicized antitrust investigations

The hearing will also feature testimony from Justice Department antitrust prosecutor John Elias, who, according to his prepared opening statement, will say he is appearing in a “whistleblower” capacity.

“Based on what I have seen, and what my colleagues saw and described to me, I was concerned enough to report certain antitrust investigations launched under Attorney General Barr to the Department of Justice Inspector General,” Elias will say. “I asked him to investigate whether these matters constituted an abuse of authority, a gross waste of funds, and gross mismanagement.”

Elias will focus on two topics. First, he says, since Barr took office as attorney general, the antitrust division has gotten very interested in investigating mergers in the cannabis industry — nearly a third of all full merger investigations in the 2019 fiscal year were cannabis-related, Elias will say.

However, these “were not bona fide antitrust investigations.” He says that the head of the antitrust division, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, admitted in a meeting that these investigations “were motivated by the fact that the cannabis industry is unpopular ‘on the fifth floor’” of the department — where Barr’s offices are. “Personal dislike of the industry is not a proper basis upon which to ground an antitrust investigation,” Elias says.

Second, Elias will testify about an antitrust investigation into an agreement between California state regulators and four auto companies about emissions standards. President Trump was greatly annoyed by this agreement, and sent tweets criticizing it on August 21, 2019.

“The day after the tweets, Antitrust Division political leadership instructed staff to initiate an investigation that day,” Elias will say. The investigation stretched on several months, went nowhere, and was eventually closed.


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House Judiciary Dems file brief in Flynn case, accuse DOJ of ‘corruption’ in dropping charges – Fox News

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee jumped into the Michael Flynn case Wednesday, filing an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief arguing for why Judge Emmet Sullivan should not sign off on the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case.

The committee claimed that the DOJ’s decision had signs of “corruption” and was influenced by President Trump. The brief cited the case against former Trump associate Roger Stone and the Mueller report as evidence for why further examination of the department’s action was needed.

COURT-APPOINTED ATTORNEY SAYS JUDGE SHOULD BLOCK DOJ MOVE TO DROP FLYNN CASE

“Few things are more corrosive to the rule of law — and the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system — than the injection of partisanship, favoritism or corruption into prosecutorial decisions,” the brief said. “In this case, the impropriety is barely concealed.”

The court filing followed another brief by retired Judge John Gleeson, who Sullivan appointed to file a brief on the issue. Both briefs cited language in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that says case dismissals may be requested “by leave of court” in claiming that not only was judicial oversight of the DOJ’s motion permitted, but necessary.

“When considered in light of the well-established supervisory role of federal courts, the history of Rule 48(a)’s enactment powerfully demonstrates that Rule 48(a) contemplates a role for the federal judiciary in detecting — and preventing — politically motivated dismissals of criminal charges,” the Democrats argued.

They went on to claim that Attorney General Bill Barr’s history makes review of the motion an even greater importance. They cited Barr’s summary of the Mueller report that Democrats said “clearly minimized the Special Counsel’s findings about the president and his associates,” the decision to reverse course regarding the DOJ’s sentencing recommendation for Trump adviser Roger Stone and Barr’s failure to testify before them to address these matters.

FLYNN JUDGE EMMET SULLIVAN SET TO EXPLAIN WHY HE HAS NOT DISMISSED CASE

“And, here, the need for judicial oversight is even more pronounced because Attorney General Barr has stonewalled congressional oversight at every turn,” the brief said, “depriving the House Judiciary Committee of any opportunity to question Barr about his mischaracterization of the Mueller Report, his role in the sentencing of Roger Stone, or the policies he has put in place to facilitate the improper politicization of prosecutorial decisionmaking.”

The committee referenced Trump’s statements in support of Stone prior to the DOJ’s change in sentencing recommendations and in support of Flynn prior to the motion to dismiss as evidence that the DOJ’s decision was politically influenced.

“The Department’s decision to request dismissal of this case is thus the latest in a series of decisions that ‘represent a systemic breakdown of impartial justice at the Department of Justice and suggest overt political bias, including corruption,’” they said.

Still, they recognized the possibility that there was nothing wrong with the motion to dismiss, and called for a hearing so the judge could take a closer look.

OBAMA KNEW DETAILS OF FLYNN CASE, SHOCKING TOP DOJ OFFICIAL, DOCS SHOW

“There may be a perfectly legitimate explanation for the government’s change of heart. But the facts currently available to the public, the Committee, and this Court evoke corruption,” they concluded. “Without an evidentiary hearing, this Court — and the American people — can only speculate about the true reasons underlying the department’s decision.”

The DOJ moved to dismiss the case against Flynn — Trump’s first national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI before trying to withdraw that plea — claiming the FBI interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”

The motion to dismiss came after unsealed FBI notes revealed that there had been a question regarding what the purpose of Flynn’s interview was: whether the aim was to find out the truth or to get him to lie and thus subject him to being prosecuted or fired. Flynn ended up facing charges and being terminated from the NSA job.

“General Flynn was set up by the Comey cabal,” a Republican spokesperson for the Judiciary Committee said in a statement in response to the brief. “It’s amazing how House Democrats, who were once so concerned about civil liberties, are willing to ignore their principles for sake of their obsession with removing President Trump from office and destroying the lives of his associates.”

In a tweet following the filing of the brief, Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., accused Barr of politicizing the Justice Department and called the motion to dismiss “flagrant in its injustice.”

Fox News reached out to the Justice Department for comment, but they did not immediately respond.

In an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, though, Barr claimed that Sullivan was encroaching on the Justice Department’s authority.

FLYNN JUDGE EMMET SULLIVAN SET TO EXPLAIN WHY HE HAS NOT DISMISSED CASE

“The argument is that it’s always been understood that decisions whether to pursue an individual through the prosecution process or holding them criminally accountable is vested in the executive branch and not the courts,” Barr said. “And he is essentially, in our view, trying to set himself up as an alternative prosecutor.”

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Before any evidentiary hearing takes place, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Friday over whether Sullivan can refuse to grant the motion. Flynn asked the Circuit Court for a writ of mandamus – in which the higher court orders the lower court judge to fulfill their duties – that would force Sullivan to grant the dismissal.

Sullivan said in a court filing that mandamus is inappropriate at this stage because there remains the possibility he could still dismiss the case on his own.

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White House is considering a Trump speech to the nation on race and unity – CNN

(CNN)After a weekend of massive peaceful protests around the country, White House officials are currently deliberating a plan for President Donald Trump to address the nation this week on issues related to race and national unity, as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson hinted in an interview with CNN on Sunday and a senior administration official said was under serious consideration.

Many allies of the President spent the last week distraught as they watched Trump fumble his response to the police killing of George Floyd, only to follow his perceived silence on the resulting racial tensions with a federal law enforcement crackdown on the protesters near his fortified doorstep.
Aides and allies were not comforted by the backlash over his decision to have federal officers aggressively clear Lafayette Park in front of the White House to facilitate a widely-panned attempt at a photo-op in front of St. John’s Church. And the rest of the week continued on a downward spiral, as protests across the country grew and Trump faced an onslaught of well-known conservatives, generals and former Trump administration officials who excoriated his response and called for new leadership come November.
Carson suggested during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that the President this week would further address Floyd’s killing and the tensions it exposed.
“I believe you’re going to be hearing from the President this week on this topic in some detail. And I would ask you maybe to reserve judgment until after that time,” Carson said.
Despite the belief by many aides and allies that this was one of the worst weeks of Trump’s tenure, a source close to the White House said there has been a more optimistic shift in the last two days.
The shocking job numbers released Friday showing a better-than-expected picture kicked off the weekend, and while the White House has struggled to come up with any sort of consistent messaging in response to Floyd’s death while in police custody, and the movement it touched off, officials are starting the week with new resolve and new talking points.
Allies and advisers believe that the lack of violence over the weekend allows the President to double down on his “law and order” message, painting the relative calm as a direct result of his push for “domination” in the streets, a source close to the White House told CNN.
Additionally, some in and around the White House now believe they were given a gift by protesters over the weekend, as chants of “defund the police” permeated the streets. This source said there are plans to link Democrats to this effort in the hope of siphoning off more moderate voters who may view it as extreme.
Trump spent Sunday morning linking former Vice President Joe Biden to the “defund the police” movement, and his campaign has already begun to hammer Biden and other Democrats over what the President’s team has tried to frame as their tolerance of destruction and lawlessness.
“Defund the Police” is the push by some activists for a sizable chunk of a city’s police budget to instead be invested in communities, especially marginalized ones where much of the policing occurs.

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White House fortifies security perimeter ahead of continued protests – CNN

(CNN)The People’s House continued to be fortified from the public Thursday, as workers erected a perimeter of tall metal fencing around the White House complex.

After law enforcement forcefully dispersed peaceful protesters so President Donald Trump could participate in a photo opportunity with a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, workers were seen constructing fencing around Lafayette Park and at the intersection of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue beside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building late Monday evening.
And on Thursday, construction of additional fencing along the White House complex began before dawn — perhaps a sign of security concerns ahead of expected continuing protests this weekend.
By Thursday afternoon, the fencing extended down 17th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution Avenue.
The 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue closed to vehicular traffic in 1995 shortly after the Oklahoma City Bombing, but it is normally open to pedestrians, a symbol of freedom in the nation’s capital. Secret Service does close the area frequently — but temporarily — for a number of routine security reasons, including suspicious packages and presidential movements.
Secret Service declined to comment on the purpose of the fencing or how long it was expected to stand.
“The US Secret Service does not comment on our protective means and methods for operational security reasons,” a spokesperson said.
Last Friday and over the weekend, protests near the White House became violent at times, with looting and fires nearby, including at St. John’s church. Trump was rushed to a bunker for nearly an hour amid intense protests on Friday evening, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Trump claimed Wednesday it was an “inspection,” rather than a retreat for his own safety.
Protests in the area were largely peaceful Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday she is concerned that the fencing may not be temporary, and that “it’s a sad commentary that the (White) House and its inhabitants have to be walled off.”
“I’m one of those people who grew up in Washington, DC, and has been very accustomed to being able to have access to all of our federal facilities, going up on the Capitol grounds … from being able to walk all around the Supreme Court, to walk in front of the White House, on both sides, and now all of that is under threat,” Bowser said during a news conference.
Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent and CNN law enforcement contributor, said Secret Service is preparing for the possibility that protests that could again become tense amid additional events over the next week, including funeral and memorial services honoring George Floyd in Minneapolis, Houston and North Carolina.
“The White House has been a target of protest activity and tangential agitators,” Wackrow said, noting that there were still some pockets of escalation on Tuesday and Wednesday.
In constructing additional fencing, Secret Service, he said, “is having situational awareness of what the future is going to potentially bring,” as well as looking “at some of the gaps that are potentially present” on the grounds.
A truck containing stacked metal fencing was parked on 17th Street before 6 a.m. Thursday, workers installing the fence beside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Later in the morning, the fencing extended well past the Eisenhower Executive Office Building toward Constitution Avenue. And existing fencing constructed earlier this week at the intersection of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue was reinforced with concrete barriers behind the fence, which, Wackrow said, would prevent vehicles from approaching crowds.
It’s not the first time fencing of this magnitude has gone up around the White House. During the inaugural parade every four years, fencing extends from the Capitol to the White House.
And Secret Service, Wackrow said, has significant experience with protests — there’s a protest of some form or fashion at the White House 365 days a year.
However, he added: “The tenor of these protests has been different from what we’ve seen in the past.”
The combination of the killing of George Floyd and systematic racism and injustice in the US, paired with consistent good weather in Washington, and the fact that more than 40 million Americans are out of work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, is heightening the protest activity.

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