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A PAC Backed by Giuliani Henchmen Spent Millions for Member Who Targeted Ukraine Ambassador

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 20:00

Drew Angerer/GettyA former member of Congress who pushed for political changes in Ukraine that aligned with Rudy Giuliani’s investigative efforts there got millions of dollars in political support from a pro-Trump super PAC financed in part by Giuliani allies.The more than $3 million that the group, America First Action, spent supporting former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) included huge ad buys that appear to have pushed the boundaries of laws restricting super PAC coordination with political campaigns, according to a Daily Beast review of federal campaign finance and television broadcasting records. And they could severely complicate the former congressman’s attempt to win back office in 2020. The expenditures made by America First Action came during the 2018 election cycle, during which Sessions was fighting desperately to hold on to his House seat in a race he would go on to lose to Democrat Colin Allred. The PAC, which has President Donald Trump’s official imprimatur, has raised millions of dollars to fulfill that task. And during that election season, $325,000 of that came from a company called Global Energy Producers LLC, a firm run by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The Soviet-born businessmen were, at the time of their donation to the PAC, helping Giuliani solicit dirt on President Donald Trump’s political opponents from officials in Ukraine. That work, which is now at the center of an impeachment inquiry against the president, included trying to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, removed from her post on grounds that she was badmouthing Trump. Rudy’s Ukraine Henchmen Made Big Donation to Pro-Trump PACTrump allies have also alleged that Yovanovitch was blocking key corruption investigations in the country—most importantly, for their purposes, a probe into the Ukrainian business activities of Hunter Biden, the youngest son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. According to the Associated Press, the Giuliani clique continued pressed for Yovanovitch’s removal early this year. She was recalled from her post in May.Sessions’ role in the saga began in the spring of 2018. On May 9, Parnas posted photos to Facebook showing him and a business associate, David Correia, posing with the then-congressman in the Capitol complex. Two days later, Sessions shot off a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo questioning the fitness of Yovanovitch. “I have received notice from close companions that Ambassador Yovanovitch has spoken privately and repeatedly about her disdain for the current administration,” he wrote in claims that mirrored allegations from Giuliani and his associates. Six days after the letter was sent, Global Energy Producers made its donation to American First. The following month, Parnas and Fruman each donated the legal maximum to Sessions’ campaign.Sessions’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this story. But the former congressman has denied that he pressed for Yovanovitch’s removal at the behest of Giuliani, Parnas, or anyone else.“I do know both these gentlemen,” Sessions told BuzzFeed News and the Overseas Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in response to a joint investigation into Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman. “They are Republicans. They are people who have an interest in foreign affairs. They have a strong interest in America not backing away from Ukraine.”Lawyer Claims Congress Is ‘Harassing’ Rudy Giuliani’s Allies—by Asking Them for Ukraine DocumentsAmerica First spokesperson Kelly Sadler said there was no understanding when GEP donated to the group that it would be supporting Sessions’ candidacy, or that the money provided by Parnas’ and Fruman’s company would go towards a specific candidate.But as investigations into what Trump and Giuliani were doing in Ukraine continue to ramp up, Sessions’ opponents are demanding that he further explain the reasoning for his letter to Pompeo and whether he was rewarded financially for writing it. “At the moment, it seems to me he was playing the role of the useful idiot,” his Democratic opponent this time around, businessman Rick Kennedy told The Daily Beast in an email. “Sessions and the incumbent Bill Flores represent everything that is wrong with our politics today. They’re both ordained by big donors to sit in a seat in Congress to represent [the donors’] interests. The donors move candidates around like pieces on a chess board to try to get their representatives in and their agendas through.”Kennedy said he doesn’t buy Sessions insistence that he was not doing Giuliani’s bidding. “He wrote a letter without understanding the broader context or strategy, and he got a couple of big donations for it,” the Democrat said in his email.Sessions, who was one of the most endangered Republican incumbents during the 2018 cycle, was one of fifteen House candidates that benefited from America First’s eight-figure independent expenditure campaign. The group ultimately dropped more than $3.1 million supporting Sessions and attacking Allred, according to Federal Election Commission data. Only one other House candidate got more America First air support last year.Super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with the campaigns of federal political candidates they support. But America First’s extensive television ad buys on Sessions’ behalf appear to have employed a tactic that good government groups say pushes the boundaries of—and could even violate—federal laws barring such coordination.The tactic revolves around the use of a shared vendor. The Sessions campaign employed an ad-buying firm called America Media & Advocacy Group, while America First used a company called Red Eagle Media Group. Public records indicate that the groups are effectively the same entity, with shared staff and office space.In fact, the same official, America Media executive Jon Ferrell, signed Federal Communications Commission paperwork for both entities as they took out late-October ad buys in an effort to shore up Sessions’ political prospects. Vendors are legally permitted to work for both a political campaign and a supportive super PAC provided they “firewall” off the services they provide to each, and Sadler said that the group had taken pains to establish just such boundaries. “We have hired political professionals, both in-house and externally, who have worked in this field for years and take these obligations seriously,” she wrote. “Any suggestion otherwise is false and likely politically motivated."The Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit campaign finance watchdog, filed an FEC complaint against the National Rifle Association last year under similar circumstances, arguing that the legally required firewall is farcical when the same executive oversees ad buys for both a campaign and an allied super PAC.“It appears that the coordination scheme pioneered by the NRA has also been adopted by the president’s super PAC,” said Brendan Fischer, CLC’s director of federal and FEC reforms. “The NRA used common vendors to coordinate potentially tens of millions of dollars with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election, and Trump’s super PAC appears to have replicated the scheme in 2018.”Indeed, even as he was approving America First ad buys supporting Sessions’ candidacy, Ferrell was signing other FCC forms as an “agent for Pete Sessions for Congress.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. 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California governor signs law capping rent increases

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 19:56

California will limit rent increases for some people over the next decade after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Tuesday aimed at combating a housing crisis in the nation's most populous state. Newsom signed the bill at an event in Oakland, an area where a recent report documented a 43% increase in homelessness over two years. Sudden rent increases are a contributing cause of the state's homeless problem, which has drawn national attention and the ire of Republican President Donald Trump.

New book says Homeland Security acting head Kevin McAleenan pushed family separation policy for migrants

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 19:33

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan was one of the drivers of the Trump administration’s now abandoned policy of separating migrant families at the southern border — a position he has since disavowed as “not worth” the ensuing public relations disaster — according to a new book on the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

View 2020 BMW M8 Gran Coupe Photos

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 19:01

Chevy Colorado Will Look a Little Cooler for 2021

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 18:45

All Colorados get different badging and a tweaked front end, and the ZR2 and Z71 off-road models benefit from a new color.

Sanders Will Limit Events After Heart Attack: Campaign Update

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 18:40

(Bloomberg) -- Bernie Sanders says he will “change the nature of the campaign” after a heart attack last week, scaling back the number of rallies and appearances in early primary states.“We were doing, in some cases, five or six meetings a day, three or four rallies and town meetings and meeting with groups of people,” he told reporters outside of his Burlington, Vermont, home after visiting his cardiologist Tuesday. “I don’t think I’m going to do that.”Sanders also acknowledged that the heart attack would likely raise questions about his age. “Everything that happens every day weighs on how people think about you. You look at the totality of who a candidate is,” he said.Democrats’ November Debate Will Be in Georgia (6:31 p.m.)The fifth Democratic presidential debate will be held in Georgia on Nov. 20, the Democratic National Committee said Tuesday.The forum co-hosted by the Washington Post and MSNBC will have a higher bar to qualify than previous debates. Candidates must have contributions from 165,000 donors, up from the 135,000 threshold for the Oct. 15 debates in Ohio. And the donors must be geographically dispersed, with a minimum of 600 per state in at least 20 states.There will also be a change in the polling requirements: Candidates can either show 3% support in four qualifying national or single-state polls, or have at least 5% support in two qualifying single-state polls released between Sept. 13 and Nov. 13 in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada.Eight candidates have already qualified: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.The exact location hasn’t yet been determined. -- Laura LitvanSanders’s Daughter-in-Law Dies of Cancer (6:19 p.m.)Bernie Sanders’s daughter-in-law, Raine Riggs, has died just days after being diagnosed with cancer. She was 46.Riggs, a neuropsychologist who lived in Pennsylvania, died Saturday, the same day Sanders returned to his home in Vermont to recover from a heart attack. Her obituary, on the web site of Lee & Martin Funeral Home in Burgettstown, said she was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer two days before her death.She met Bernie Sanders’ son Levi while the two worked at an emergency food shelter in Vermont. They had three children, the obituary said. She was the director of behavioral medicine at Dartmouth Medical School for several years and also owned Riggs Geriatric Psychology in Windsor, Vermont.Levi Sanders lost a 2018 bid for a U.S. House seat in New Hampshire. -- Laura LitvanWarren Sticks by Account of Being Fired (5:15 p.m.)Elizabeth Warren stood by her story that she was forced out of a teaching job in 1971 because she was pregnant, after the conservative news website Washington Free Beacon disputed her account.“All I know is I was 22 years old, I was 6 months pregnant, and the job that I had been promised for the next year was going to someone else,” Warren told CBS News in an article published Monday night. “The principal said they were going to hire someone else for my job.”She also defended her account on Twitter on Tuesday, telling her 3.3 million followers she wanted to speak out about her experience because such discrimination “still happens in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.”At campaign events, Warren cites the event as a key milestone in her life story, saying the principal of a New Jersey public school “showed me the door” after her first year when she was visibly pregnant. The Free Beacon found “minutes” at the time that say Warren was approved by the school board to teach the following year.Her exit from the job occurred in an era when women were often fired or pushed out of jobs for being pregnant. In 1978, Congress sought to outlaw the practice by passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.Warren Inches Ahead of Biden in Polling Average (4:51 p.m.)Elizabeth Warren inched ahead of Joe Biden to top the RealClearPolitics polling average of Democratic candidates for the first time on Tuesday.Warren squeaked past Biden by a mere 0.2% in the aggregate of polls, averaging 26.6% to his 26.4%. The boost was the result of a Quinnipiac Poll where she was on top with 29%, followed by the former vice president with 26%, but still within that poll’s 4.7 percentage-point margin of error.Warren had long been trading places with Bernie Sanders for second or third place, while Biden enjoyed a comfortable lead. She decisively overtook Sanders in mid-September and has been eroding Biden’s edge since then.Polling averages are considered a more reliable gauge of a candidate’s standing than single surveys because they rely on a fuller set of data. -- Emma KineryTrump Feuds With Minneapolis Mayor Over Rally (11:55 a.m.)President Donald Trump is feuding with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey over who should pay the bill for the police deployment at a campaign rally in the city this week.The city told the Target Center, where the Oct. 10 rally is scheduled to be held, that it would have to pay the $530,000 security costs, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. The arena, according to the Star Tribune, then allegedly told the Trump campaign that it would have to cover the bill or would not be allowed to hold the rally there.In response, Trump fired off a tweet accusing Frey of trying to block his visit and calling him a “lightweight.” And Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, issued a statement accusing the mayor of “abusing the power of his office” while the campaign’s lawyers sent the city a lawyer threatening a lawsuit.Frey responded with a tweet: “Yawn ... Welcome to Minneapolis where we pay our bill, we govern with integrity, and we love our neighbors.”Parscale later said in a statement that the dispute had been settled and that the campaign “has not agreed to pay any additional funds.” The Trump campaign still owes nine cities at least $841,219 in total for police security for previous rallies, according to a report from the Center for Public Integrity. -- Emma KineryBiden Unveils Proposal to Boost College Access (5:30 a.m.)Joe Biden unveiled an education plan Tuesday that focuses on making colleges more affordable and strengthening pathways to the middle class that do not require a bachelor’s degree.The proposal calls for a $750 billion investment in educational opportunities after high school that would be financed, according to the campaign “by eliminating the stepped-up basis loophole and capping the itemized deductions the wealthiest Americans can take to 28%.”It would provide two years of community college tuition free while also helping students in the two-year institutions with textbook and transportation costs and other expenses.The plan also includes a $50 billion investment in work force training, doubling the maximum value of Pell grants and increasing the number of students eligible to qualify for the grants. It would also halve payments on undergraduate federal student loans and revamp the public loan service forgiveness program. The proposal also calls for investment in historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions, including $18 billion in grants to those schools.“It’s about our economy because when students like mine get the chance to learn, we’re all better off,” Jill Biden said on a conference call with reporters Monday night. The former vice president’s wife, who still teaches English at Northern Virginia Community College, helped shape the plan.Many of Biden’s primary rivals, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have rolled out plans for higher education. Warren proposes to cancel 95% of student debt while Sanders says his plan would eliminate all student debt and abolish tuition for public colleges and universities. -- Tyler PagerCOMING UPThe Human Rights Campaign Foundation will host a town hall at the University of California at Los Angeles devoted to LGBTQ issues on Friday. Candidates scheduled to attend are: Warren Cory Booker, Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Julián Castro and Tom Steyer. Sanders, who has been recovering from a heart attack, also is scheduled to appear, but his campaign hasn’t said whether he still plans to attend.The fourth Democratic debate is scheduled for Oct. 15th at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. Twelve candidates are slated to take part: Biden, Warren, Sanders, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar and O’Rourke, as well as Tulsi Gabbard, Steyer and Andrew Yang.The United Food and Commercial Workers union will host forums in Iowa with Democratic presidential candidates on Oct. 13. Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris and Michael Bennet have confirmed that they will attend.(An earlier version corrected the name of the funeral home in second paragraph of item on Sanders’s daughter-in-law.)\--With assistance from Tyler Pager, Emma Kinery and Laura Litvan.To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Korte in Washington at gkorte@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at, Max Berley, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Federal prosecutor: Chicago officers 'betrayed their badges'

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 18:06

Two Chicago police officers lied to judges to obtain search warrants and then stole cash and drugs from the properties they searched, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday during opening statements of the officers' corruption trial. Sgt. Xavier Elizondo and Officer David Salgado have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges alleging they paid informants to lie to judges for search warrants. Elizondo is also accused of attempting to destroy evidence, while Salgado also faces lying to the FBI allegations.

Hillary Clinton to Trump on a 2020 rerun: 'Don't tempt me. Do your job.'

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 17:51

Responding to President Trump’s sarcastic suggestion that Hillary Clinton should run for president again in 2020, Clinton tweeted back: "Don’t tempt me. Do your job.”

Minneapolis mayor responds to Trump: I don't have time to be 'tweeting garbage out'

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 17:27

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey hit back at President Trump regarding the use of the Target Center for a Thursday campaign rally.

Minneapolis mayor fires back at Trump: Doesn’t have time to be ‘tweeting garbage out’

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 16:59

After President Trump criticized Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey over security costs for a campaign rally on Thursday, Frey said he doesn’t have time to be “tweeting garbage out.”

Details emerge about people taken to hospital after Disney World Skyliner incident

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 16:43

After Walt Disney World Resort's new aerial cable car system, the Skyliner, stranded passengers for hours on Saturday, Disney is testing the service.

Israel unveils the remains of 5,000-year-old city

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 16:25

Israeli archaeologists on Sunday unveiled the remains of a 5,000-year-old city they said was one of the biggest from its era in the region, including fortifications, a ritual temple and a cemetery.

The Russian Navy is Building New (Heavily Armed) Nuclear-Powered Submarines

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 16:10

How should NATO respond? Would the same old Cold War tactics work?

A White House official who listened in on Trump's Ukraine call described it as 'crazy' and 'frightening'

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 15:33

The official was also "visibly shaken" by the conversation, ABC News reported, citing notes taken by the whistleblower.

Hong Kong 'won't rule out' Chinese help over protests: leader

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 14:43

Hong Kong's under-fire leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday said China intervening to end months of pro-democracy protests is an option following a particularly violent week of unrest that paralysed the city. Hong Kong was virtually locked down over the three-day holiday weekend, with the majority of subway stops closed. It is also the position of the central government (in Beijing) that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own.

Police bust multi-billion pound drug smuggling gang after 50 tonnes of product are brought into the UK

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 14:37

Britain's biggest ever drug smuggling gang has been smashed after billions of pounds worth of narcotics was brought into the UK, the National Crime Agency believes. Officers arrested 13 men aged between 24 and 59 on Tuesday across the country in dawn raids. The NCA seized 351 kilos of cocaine, 92 kilos of heroin, 250 kilos of cannabis and 1,850 kilos of hemp/hashish, with a total street value of more than £38 million, in three consignments in September 2018. Investigators believe more than 50 tonnes of drugs worth billions of pounds were imported from the Netherlands, between February 2017 and October 2018, hidden in lorries carrying vegetables and juice. Jayne Lloyd, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, said: "We suspect these men were involved in an industrial-scale operation - the biggest ever uncovered in the UK - bringing in tonnes of deadly drugs that were distributed to crime groups throughout the country. "By working closely with partners here and overseas, in particular the Dutch National Police, we believe we have dismantled a well-established drug supply route." The gang are believed to have imported billions of pounds worth of drugs  Credit: AFP The arrests were made in London, Manchester, Stockport, St Helens, Warrington, Bolton, Dewsbury, and Leeds. Four men and two women from the Netherlands, who were arrested in April this year as part of the same investigation, are awaiting extradition to the UK. "We have got the top people in the group," said Ms Lloyd. "We believe it's probably the biggest conspiracy that's been seen in the UK." Investigators believe the arrests have disrupted the flow of drugs into the UK to be sold on by "county lines" gangs, who often use children as dealers. "Taking out this suspected organised crime group... will make, hopefully, a huge impact in relation to protecting the public and the economy," said Ms Lloyd. "You can see from where they've been arrested that the potential was that significant amounts of drugs coming into the UK would go to various areas in the UK. "We would be looking at vulnerable individuals who would then supply the commodity on behalf of other organised crime groups." The investigation is linked to an earlier NCA operation where 13 people were jailed after the seizure of more than 100kg of heroin in 2015.

Germany holds Syrian crash truck hijacker for attempted murder

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 14:34

German authorities Tuesday held on suspicion of attempted murder a Syrian man who hijacked an articulated lorry and smashed it into cars stopped at a traffic light in the city of Limburg, injuring several people. The 32-year-old will remain in custody, suspected of attempted murder and bodily harm as well as a traffic offence, Frankfurt prosecutors told AFP. Unconfirmed media reports said the Syrian national arrived with the massive migrant influx to Germany in 2015 and that his residency permit had expired on October 1.

Warren stands by account of once being fired for pregnancy

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 14:31

Elizabeth Warren is standing by her account of being fired from a teaching job nearly 50 years ago because she was pregnant — an anecdote that she routinely recounts at campaign events but one that some conservatives charge has been embellished to make the narrative more compelling for her presidential run. In a campaign speech she repeats at town halls while crisscrossing the country, the Massachusetts senator tells of graduating from the University of Houston and being hired by the Riverdale Board of Education in New Jersey as a speech pathologist during the 1970-71 school year. On Monday, though, Fox News reported on a video of a 2007 interview Warren gave at the University of California at Berkeley where she offered a different account of leaving teaching — suggesting it was by choice.

Mystery oil spills blot more than 130 Brazilian beaches

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 14:05

The source of large blots of oil staining more than 130 beaches in northeastern Brazil remained a mystery Tuesday despite President Jair Bolsonaro's assertions they came from outside the country and were possibly the work of criminals. Tamar, a group dedicated to the protection of sea turtles, said the oil spill was "the worst environmental tragedy" it has encountered since its formation in 1980. The patches of oil began appearing in early September and have now turned up along a 2,000 kilometer (1,200 mile) stretch of Atlantic coastline.

Hong Kong's undercover medics reveal hidden toll of protests

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 13:44

With Hong Kong's summer of protests now stretching into the fall and clashes becoming increasingly ferocious, medical professionals have quietly banded together to form the Hidden Clinic and other networks to secretly treat the injuries of many young demonstrators who fear arrest if they go to government hospitals. The Hidden Clinic says it has clandestinely treated 300-400 protesters with an array of injuries: broken and dislocated bones, gaping wounds and exposure to tear gas so prolonged that they were coughing up blood. It also says the severity of the injuries has increased sharply in the past week, with hard-core protesters and police increasingly tough on each other.