FBI chief Christopher Wray opens internal probe of Michael Flynn case

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday ordered an internal investigation of the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The move follows the Justice Department’s decision this month to drop its prosecution of Flynn, who pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI. President Trump alleges the Flynn case was part of a conspiracy by “dirty cops” to “take down” his presidency.

“FBI Director Christopher Wray today ordered the Bureau’s Inspection Division to conduct an after-action review of the Michael Flynn investigation,” the FBI said in a statement first reported by Fox News.

The FBI’s internal-affairs Inspection Division reportedly will handle the review.

Justice Department leaders moved to drop the case against Flynn after they determined FBI agents had no legitimate reason to interview Flynn in late January 2017. During that interview, Flynn allegedly lied about two December 2016 contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn says he did not intentionally lie and was seeking to withdraw his plea.

Before the interview, the FBI nearly closed an investigation into Flynn on Jan. 4, 2017, after finding no evidence that Flynn was a Russian agent, according to newly released documents.

But FBI official Peter Strzok and his mistress, then-FBI attorney Lisa Page, with whom he traded anti-Trump text messages, intervened to keep the case open citing the never-used Logan Act of 1799, which bans ordinary citizens from conducting foreign diplomacy. The law is widely considered unconstitutional.

President Barack Obama learned of Flynn’s calls with Kislyak before then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who ran day-to-day operations at the Justice Department. Yates, who became a Democratic superstar when fired by Trump for refusing to defend a travel ban on a group of predominately Muslim countries, was stunned to learn about the Flynn-Kislyak calls directly from Obama at a Jan, 5, 2017, meeting, rather than from her subordinates, according to recently released documents.

The FBI’s interview of Flynn in late January 2017 occurred outside of standard protocol. Former FBI Director James Comey publicly acknowledged he sent agents including Strzok to interview Flynn days into Trump’s administration without informing the White House counsel’s office. Senior Justice Department leaders also were cut out of the decision, which Yates said frustrated her.

A handwritten note released this month from former FBI counterintelligence director Bill Priestap — following a meeting with Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — said regarding Flynn: “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

Flynn’s defenders point out that his calls with Kislyak were made with the knowledge of other Trump transition officials, and that the FBI had transcripts.

In pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, Flynn avoided charges for working as an unregistered agent of Turkey and agreed to cooperate with investigators in the Russia probe. A subsequent investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.

Trump fired Flynn less than one month into his administration, initially saying he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak. Pence recently said he’s inclined to believe Flynn did not intentionally lie.

Democrats allege that the Justice Department wrongfully dropped its prosecution of Flynn in a politically motivated decision. A federal judge still must approve the Justice Department’s request.

Trump said this month that “human scum” atop the FBI persecuted Flynn as part of a broader “hoax” accusing him of colluding with Russia.

Source: Read Full Article

North Korea ousts spy chief, head of Kim Jong Un’s security: report

North Korea has axed its spy chief as well as the long-running head of Kim Jong Un’s security — signs of a major shakeup during the ongoing mystery over its dictator’s status.

Jang Kil Song was ousted as head of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), the North’s military intelligence agency, according to The Korea Herald, citing a report by South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

The RGB is behind the Hermit Kingdom’s most high-profile attacks as well as spy missions, including those against the US, the report says. Seoul blames it for the 2010 torpedoing of a South Korean naval vessel, Cheonan, in which 46 sailors were killed, the paper said.

Kil Song is understood to have been replaced by Rim Kwang Il, an army general, the Yonhap News agency also said, citing the same annual report, “Information on key figures in North Korea.”

No reason was given for the switch.

The army general who has led the team protecting dictator Kim since 2010 was also replaced, The Korea Herald said. Yun Jong Rin was understood to have been replaced as commander of the Supreme Guard by relative newcomer Kwak Chang Sik, the report said.

The reports emerged as the nation’s despot continues to stay uncharacteristically out of sight amid rumors over his health.

After not being seen for three weeks, missing key national events, he appeared at a red-ribbon event on May 1 to prove he was alive — instead sparking wild rumors it was a body double.

Related Video

Kim Jong Un once filmed talking to possible body doubles

As of Thursday, he had again not been seen for 13 days since the event.

South Korean officials, however, believe the recent personnel changes show Kim has been trying to tighten his grip on power by placing key aides in major posts, the report says.

“This indicates the generation shifts and (Kim’s) focus on performance-based personnel reshuffle,” a South Korean government official told the paper.

“It can be seen that Kim has consolidated power in the country as well.”

It was unclear what position was being held by Kim Yo Jong, the dictator’s 32-year-old sister, who is rumored to be heir apparent of the regime, the report said.

She could be either part of the Organization and Guidance Department, Propaganda and Agitation Department, or has a post that has not been yet known, the report said.

Source: Read Full Article

Angela Merkel's chief of staff denies she has dropped plans to retire

Has Angela changed her mind? Merkel’s chief of staff is forced to deny Chancellor has dropped plans to retire next year amid speculation she may run for a fifth term after being praised for her handling of coronavirus crisis

  • Helge Braun said: ‘She has said that this is her last term in office and I believe nothing has changed about that’ 
  • Merkel said she would not seek re-election in 2021 after governing for 15 years 
  • But her success handling coronavirus crisis might mean she would run again 

Angela Merkel’s chief of staff was forced to deny rumours that the German Chancellor will run for a fifth term.

Merkel has led the country for 15 years in four different terms but said she would not seek re-election in autumn 2021.

But a German newspaper speculated that Merkel might run again following her success handling the coronavirus crisis.

Angela Merkel has led Germany for 15 years in four different terms but said she would not seek re-election in autumn 2021

The disease has killed 1,400 people in Germany and infected more than 95,000.

German politicians – who were not named in the report – told Bild they were ‘really glad’ that Merkel is still in charge.

Helge Braun, Merkel’s chief of staff, said: ‘I don’t think this is any time to discuss something like that.

‘She has said that this is her last term in office and I believe nothing has changed about that.’

Merkel returned to work on Friday after two weeks of self isolation because a doctor who gave her a vaccination tested positive for coronavirus. 

Helge Braun, Merkel’s chief of staff, said: ‘She has said that this is her last term in office and I believe nothing has changed about that.’ Pictured: Merkel and Braun last month

This graph shows the daily number of deaths added to the tally in Germany. Today’s figure of 92 was far lower than in recent days 

The doctor had visited Merkel, 65, last month to vaccinate her against the pneumococcus bacteria.

Germany today saw sharp falls in both its daily death toll and its new infection count, offering fresh hope that the coronavirus lockdown is working. 

The number of infections rose by 3,677 – the smallest since March 22 – to bring the overall tally from 91,714 to 95,391.   

Meanwhile the death toll jumped by only 92, the lowest in a week, taking the total from 1,342 to 1,434. 

The resulting fatality rate of 1.5 per cent remains lower than many of Germany’s neighbours, although it has risen every day for more than two weeks. 

Source: Read Full Article

Police chief: Test first responders for coronavirus, not NBA players

A California police chief pleaded with White House officials to “stop testing NBA players” for coronavirus and to screen first responders instead, according to a report.

Vacaville Police Chief John Carli made the urgent request Friday as an hour-long conference call wrapped up between the International Association of Chiefs of Police and officials from the White House and Department of Homeland Security, ABC News reports.

“If we’re quarantining [our] people for 14 days … we’re going to lose our first responders,” Carli said on the call. “And we have to, at a national level, get the support down to the local level. Stop testing NBA players, and start testing our first responders.”

Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert was the first NBA player to be diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 12. Since then, eight teams have been screened for the illness, leading to 13 additional cases among players, coaches and staffers, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Despite the availability of testing for some in the NBA, Carli said his department has been forced to rely on “backchannels” at a nearby hospital in order to get his officers tested.

“Somebody needs to make a decision at the very high level so that we’re not having to have these decisions made [this way],” Carli said on the call, which was reviewed by ABC News.

Carli’s call for action came as a New Jersey State Police official complained that federal privacy laws were putting officers’ health at risk since they do not provide exact locations of confirmed coronavirus cases.

“We’ve already had a case where a positive test was out breaking the quarantine, driving around with just a mask on,” the unnamed police official said.

Another top cop on the call, a police chief in Norwood, Massachusetts, said what his officers now face on a daily basis is largely unrecognizable from their duties just three weeks ago.

“Our core mission at this point is not only public service but sustainability,” Chief Bill Brooks said. “I need the police department to be operational and healthy 60 days from now.”

Police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the country have lost “significant portions” of their workforces due to quarantine and confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the report, including several thousand Department of Homeland Security employees out of work in recent weeks.

In New York, NYPD officials said there were 98 confirmed cases of as Sunday, with twice as many cops calling in sick as usual.

“The belief is, with very limited information, that it wasn’t contracted at work but from family members,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters.

Elsewhere, in Dallas, some cops “are clamoring” to be tested for the bug despite relatively low risks of exposure, Dr. Alex Eastman said during Friday’s conference call.

But only about one of every 10 cops potentially exposed to COVID-19 need to be tested, said Eastman, who suggested those on the call take a long-term outlook.

“There’s going to be a rough few weeks, maybe [even] a couple of months,” Eastman said. “But we’re going to get through this.”

Source: Read Full Article

European Commission chief admits leaders 'underestimated coronavirus'

‘We underestimated coronavirus,’ EU admits: Ursula von der Leyen says ‘measures that seemed drastic two weeks ago need to be taken now’ as the bloc shuts its borders

  • European Commission chief said coronavirus ‘will keep us busy for a long time’
  • She said ‘those of us who are not experts’ had ‘underestimated’ virus’s impact
  • European leaders are banning travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

European leaders ‘underestimated’ the impact of coronavirus, the EU’s top official admitted today as the bloc agreed to shut its borders. 

Ursula von der Leyen said that ‘measures which seemed drastic two or three weeks ago need to be taken now’ as much of the continent goes into lockdown. 

The European Commission chief admitted that the virus ‘will keep us busy for a long time’, in an interview with Bild which was published today. 

European leaders are banning travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days to contain the spread of the virus and many governments are taking their own drastic measures.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, pictured in Brussels yesterday, admitted that political leaders had ‘underestimated’ the impact of coronavirus 

Lithuanian border guards stand next to trucks on the border with Poland, with borders now being shut across Europe 

Trucks were tailing back for more than six miles on the A12 motorway from the German town of Frankfurt (Oder) – not the famous Frankfurt – towards the border with Poland

‘I think that all of us who are not experts initially underestimated the coronavirus,’ von der Leyen said.  

‘We understand that measures that seemed drastic two or three weeks ago, need to be taken now,’ she added. 

But she rejected the language of French president Emmanuel Macron, who likened the outbreak to war this week, and ordered almost the entire population to stay at home for at least two weeks.

‘I will not personally use that term but I understand the motivation of the French president as the coronavirus is a worrying enemy,’ she said. 

Germany’s economy minister Peter Altmaier said the United States under Donald Trump had taken the threat of the virus even more lightly.

‘The outbreak of the crisis was probably underestimated even more so in the US than in some countries in Europe,’ Peter Altmaier told regional press group Funke.

‘That is the reason we very much hope that the US will manage to control the situation, also in our own interest,’ he added.

‘No-one hopes that the US economy would fall into an uncontrolled recession.’

Lorries were stuck in queues of nearly 40 miles on the Lithuanian-Polish border yesterday

EU President of Council Charles Michel chaired the coronavirus meeting with leaders of EU member countries via teleconference on Tuesday evening

Foreign motorists were protesting at the Austrian border checkpoint in Hegyeshalom, northwestern Hungary on Tuesday after a 12 mile queue of cars sat waiting on the Austrian side of the border

The decision to close borders is the most significant emergency measure yet from the EU, which has scrambled to come up with a unified response to the epidemic. 

The 27 leaders met by video conference to agree the ban on non-essential travel to the bloc. 

The idea was strongly backed by France, hoping to persuade member states that they need not close doors to each other.

Von der Leyen had proposed the bloc’s Schengen passport-free zone impose the measure, a drastic and unprecedented move, and that fellow EU states outside the zone follow suit.

The ban will be in effect for an initial period of 30 days and will not affect Europeans returning home, social workers, cross-border workers, or citizens of former EU member Britain.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said states ‘agreed to impose an entry ban’ into the bloc.  

‘Germany will implement it immediately,’ added the leader of Europe’s biggest economy, which had initially closed its national borders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pictured at a press conference on Tuesday evening, said she had spoken with EU leaders and heads of state about closing the external borders of the 27-state bloc

‘This is an exceptional measure that shouldn’t last longer than necessary,’ Sweden’s interior minister Mikael Damberg told a Stockholm press conference. 

After the talks, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he had ‘firmly condemned uncoordinated measures to control internal EU borders, which are not helpful in terms of health and hurt the economy.’

Several EU countries have closed their frontiers or imposed new health screening controls that slow cross-border freight traffic, despite calls from Brussels for a single European plan. 

Italy, Spain, France and now Belgium have opted for widespread lockdowns, ordering citizens to stay at home for all but essential trips. 

The Netherlands has taken a looser stance, hoping to build collective immunity. Britain initially took a lighter touch but has ramped up its containment measures in recent days.  

A journalist is protected by a mask and gloves as he attends the EU press conference this evening. EU leaders announced they would be banning most travel into the bloc for the next 30 days with immediate effect

There were empty seats as the EU’s press conference got underway on Tuesday. Earlier in the day EU leaders had met with each other over teleconference to discuss a new travel ban to stop the spread of coronavirus

Source: Read Full Article

NRA chief blasts ‘communist’ Cuomo over New York gun laws

MARYLAND — National Rifle Association boss Wayne LaPierre blasted “communist” Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday — accusing him of abusing his office to try to destroy the powerful gun-lobby group.

LaPierre also sounded off against New York Attorney General Letitia James after her office announced an investigation into the NRA’s finances in 2019.

“[Cuomo’s] actions have forced many former business partners to abandon us in what is being described as the most outrageous abuse of power to which they have ever been subjected,” LaPierre told the Conservative Political Action Conference.

New York state blacklists banks and insurers from doing business with the pro-gun group — drawing a federal lawsuit from the NRA in 2018 and the ire of President Trump.

“Cuomo and James are inspired by a pure political vendetta, motivated by an unbridled and burning hatred of the NRA, our members and everything that we stand for,” LaPierre said to loud boos from the crowd as the annual conservative summit.

“They’re willing to use and abuse the full power of government in an attempt to crush us like something that you would see in communist China.”

In a statement to The Post, Cuomo accused the NRA of being afraid of him and said he wouldn’t back down from the fight after LaPierre’s “unhinged rant.”

“The NRA are a bunch of political bullies‎ who control ‎politicians in Washington and across the country, but they don’t control me, and they don’t control New York, and that’s why they’re scared,” Cuomo said.

“I’m sick and tired of the bloodshed and the politicians saying they’ll remember the victims of senseless gun violence in their thoughts and prayers,” he added.

“If the NRA goes away, I’ll remember them in my thoughts and prayers.”

Source: Read Full Article