Politics Trump blasts ‘human scum’ who investigated his administration as Justice Department drops criminal case against Michael Flynn by Hunter Walker White House Correspondent•
WASHINGTON — During an appearance in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon President Trump excoriated the administration of President Barack Obama as “human scum” who attempted to undermine him by “targeting” former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump made his comments after a reporter asked about the Justice Department’s announcement earlier today that it is dropping its criminal case against Flynn. The president also railed against the media and argued “the Pulitzer Prizes should all be returned.”
“He was an innocent man. He is a great gentleman. He was targeted by the Obama administration and he was targeted in order to try and take down a president,” Trump said of Flynn, who was facing prison time after pleading guilty more than two years ago on charges related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Trump went on to allude to the charges against members of his former campaign team and other allies that emerged from Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. He called the situation a “disgrace” and suggested it was a partisan effort.
“It’s treason,” Trump said. “So I’m very happy for General Flynn.”
The initial investigations began in 2016 while Obama was still in office. Mueller ultimately concluded the Kremlin mounted an extended effort to boost Trump’s campaign and identified multiple instances where Trump could have been seen as obstructing the investigation and documented multiple contacts between Trump’s team and associates of the Russian government. However, Mueller did not uncover evidence that Trump’s campaign worked with the Kremlin.
In the Oval Office, Trump suggested officials involved in investigating his administration and campaign wanted to pressure his allies to lie.
“It’s a disgrace. The Obama administration Justice Department was a disgrace and they got caught. They got caught, very dishonest people but much more. … It’s treason. It’s treason,” Trump said. “So I’m very happy for General Flynn.”
Trump made his comments when he took questions from reporters while meeting with Texas Gov. Greg Abboott about the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesperson for Obama did not respond to a request for comment.
Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, had the shortest tenure as White House national security adviser in history. He resigned in February 2017, less than a month after Trump took office, when information surfaced indicating that he had lied to the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI and made a deal to cooperate with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.
In December 2018, as federal prosecutors prepared to sentence Flynn, Mueller filed a memo that indicated the former national security adviser had provided “substantial assistance” to the Russia probe and a separate criminal investigation. Mueller recommended Flynn receive a sentence that potentially didn’t include any jail time.
However, in more than a year since then, Flynn has not been sentenced amid legal wrangling that included him firing his initial attorneys and hiring Sidney Powell, a veteran attorney and conservative activist. In January of this year, Powell filed motions to have Flynn’s case dismissed due to alleged government misconduct.
Federal prosecutors were fighting back against those motions. That same month Attorney General William Barr appointed Jeffrey Jensen, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, to review Flynn’s case. Jensen subsequently shared documents with Powell including notes and emails from FBI officials. Those documents included notes suggesting the FBI conducted the interview with Flynn to “get him to lie.”
Powell, Flynn’s attorney, argued the documents showed “appalling” behavior by the FBI agents and an “abuse of authority.” She did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.
U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea filed a motion to dismiss the case against Flynn in D.C. District Court on Thursday. The motion cited the recently revealed documents and argued they show the FBI’s 2017 interview of Flynn “was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn.”
“The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue. Moreover, we [do] not believe that the Government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt,” She wrote.
The D.C. District Court still must formally approve the government’s request to dismiss the case.
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Tom Brenner/AP, AP
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But Joe Arpaio had trouble explaining misspent millions and hundreds of uninvestigated sex crime cases, and numerous civil rights violations during his long tenure as Maricopa County sheirff.
Arpaio was voted out the same day Trump was voted in. The new Maricopa sheriff is Paul Penzone, who seeks to live up to his sworn duty to enforce the laws of Arizona as well as defend the U.S. Constitution. That includes a situation where, in Penzone’s words “the governor, acting under his authority in a constitutional manner, executes an executive order.”
“You can’t pick and choose which laws to enforce when you’re in law enforcement,” Penzone told The Daily Beast.
He is not one of the Arizona sheriffs who declared they would not enforce Gov. Doug Ducey’s “stay home, stay safe” emergency COVID-19 restrictions. Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb and Mohave County Sheriff Douglas Schuster are among at least a half-dozen sheriffs in other states who have made similar declarations, deeming stay-at-home and business shutdown orders unconstitutional.
The so-called constitutionalist stance is embraced by Gerard “Jerry” Sheridan, Arpaio’s former chief deputy. Sheridan is seeking to unseat Penzone in November.
“The Sheriff of a county is elected by and reports only to the citizens in the county,” Sheridan tweeted. “No governor or mayor can tell him how to do his job. Sheriff Penzone of MCSO drop your snitch line to catch law abiding citizens doing Constitutional things.”What Sheridan calls a ”snitch line” is an online system that Penzone set up that allows people to report violations of the pandemic restrictions. Snitch is a pejorative used by criminals to describe people who cooperate with law enforcement. One longtime street rhyme is “snitches get stitches.” And here is someone using the word in an effort to get elected a county’s top lawman.
Professor Researching Coronavirus Killed In Suspected Murder Suicide: Police by Nina Golgowski•A research professor at the University of Pittsburgh who was on the verge of making “very significant findings” about the new coronavirus, according to his school’s officials, was killed in a suspected murder-suicide over the weekend, authorities said.Bing Liu, 37, was found shot multiple times in his townhouse in Ross Township, Pennsylvania., on Saturday afternoon following what’s believed to have been a “lengthy dispute regarding an intimate partner,” a detective with the Ross Police Department told HuffPost Wednesday.Liu, who the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported was married and without children, had been alone in his home when authorities say Hao Gu, 46, entered the property and shot him multiple times. Gu is believed to have then taken his own life inside of his car a short distance away, police said. “We have found zero evidence that this tragic event has anything to do with employment at the University of Pittsburgh, any work being conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and the current health crisis affecting the United States and the world,” Police Det. Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp said in an email.
Liu is being remembered as a prolific scientific researcher who co-authored more than 30 publications — four of which were published this year — and had been using his expertise in systems biology to help make medical advancements in fighting the new coronavirus, officials at his school said.
“Bing was on the verge of making very significant findings toward understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie SARS-CoV-2 infection and the cellular basis of the following complications,” according to a university statement. “We will make an effort to complete what he started in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence.”
Liu received his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in computer science at the National University of Singapore and completed his postdoctoral studies at Carnegie Mellon University, according to the University of Pittsburgh.
“He was a very talented individual, extremely intelligent and hard-working,” Ivet Bahar, the head of the computational and system biology department in Pitt’s School of Medicine, told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “This is someone who we’re going to miss very much at the department.”
Like Liu, Gu also had a promising background with roots in Asia. He was a software architect in Pittsburgh for power management company Eaton, which has offices globally. He had worked for Eaton for the past 16 years, a company spokesperson told HuffPost.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Gu earned a computer science degree at East Tennessee State University as well as a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s in science, pattern recognition and intelligent control at Tongji University in Shanghai.
The case has been forwarded to federal authorities for review, as neither Liu or Gu were U.S. citizens, the Ross Police Department said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
WASHINGTON — Breaking with the leader of his own party, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., called Thursday for “tens of millions” of diagnostic coronavirus tests to be administered to Americans before the country can begin to return to normal.
Those comments came a day after President Trump downplayed diagnostic testing as part of its post-pandemic reopening. “By doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad,” Trump said on Wednesday.
It was not clear if Alexander would want those millions of tests to be deployed daily or weekly, though the latter seemed to be the case. Either would be a drastic improvement over the current state of affairs. The U.S. currently administers about 200,000 tests per day, an insignificant number in a nation of 328 million.
But it is impossible to administer tests that do not exist. Those “tens of millions of tests” he deemed necessary, Alexander acknowledged, amount to “many more than our current technologies can produce.”
A former governor of Tennessee, Alexander appeared to break with Republican governors in Texas, Florida and Georgia who have begun to open up their states without having tested statistically significant portions of their populations.
“All the roads back to work, and back to school, lead through testing,” Alexander, the Senate Health Committee chairman, said during a hearing of the committee that was intended to promote the development of new testing technologies.
So far, 7,759,771 tests for the coronavirus have been conducted across the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a public data clearinghouse. But because multiple tests are administered to those infected with the virus, the number of people who have been tested is far lower than that.
About 75,000 Americans have died from complications related to COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the coronavirus.
Although a reliable conservative, Alexander has never been a close ally of the president, and his planned retirement at year’s end leaves him free to speak without fearing the consequences of a presidential tweet.
This story was updated on May 7, 2020.
WASHINGTON – How long does it take for a small business to get a Paycheck Protection Program loan aimed at keeping them afloat through the COVID-19 pandemic? Are lenders required to process PPP applications on a first-come, first-served basis? And how are independent contractors treated?
Restaurants, retailers and scores of other small business owners continue to wrestle with questions about PPP, which was created under the CARES Act, a massive relief package that President Donald Trump signed into law in March.
As of early May, the PPP has issued more than $500 billion in the program to support the nation’s 30 million small businesses walloped by coronavirus-related shutdowns. The mission is to ensure that small firms, a pillar of the U.S. economy, can keep as many workers on their payrolls as possible.
The Small Business Administration program offers firms employing 500 or fewer workers low-interest loans of up to $10 million to cover their costs while they’re shuttered.
The loan, designed to cover eight weeks of expenses, does not have to be paid back if at least 75% of the money is spent keeping or rehiring workers. Otherwise, it carries a 1% interest rate and must be repaid within two years.
While the SBA has approved nearly 4 million loans since it was launched April 3, businesses point to a myriad of challenges in the PPP’s rollout: technical glitches, an avalanche of requests, confusing guidance and a temporary exhaustion of money.
The program also has been criticized for enabling scores of publicly traded companies, such as restaurant chains and hotel groups, to receive loans thanks to a controversial provision benefiting the hospitality industry.
USA TODAY reporters Ledyard King and Paul Davidson interviewed several experts to answer some of those questions:
How long does it take to get a loan?
Some small businesses have been approved in as quickly as a few hours while others waited a couple of weeks, says Ami Kassar, CEO of MultiFunding, a small business loan adviser. Many still haven’t gotten cleared. Once an applicant is approved, the program requires that they receive the money within 10 days but that doesn’t always happen, Kassar says. While some approved small business owners have gotten the cash in two or three days, others waited up to two weeks or are still waiting.
Why is it taking so long?
First of all, the SBA has never processed anything close to this volume of loans before. Last year, they handled about $28 million in loans, or about 5% of the PPP total.
Additionally, a stampede of applications from millions of small businesses overwhelmed bank and SBA online systems. During the program’s first weeks, smaller community banks seem to be processing loans more quickly than larger national banks that have been flooded with requests, Kassar says.
If I applied for a loan in the first round and didn’t get an answer, do I have to reapply for the second round?
No. You’re already in the queue. You may be near the front if you applied shortly after the program got up and running April 3, but that depends on whether your application is complete and accurate and how your lender may be prioritizing loan applications.
When does the clock start running on these eight-week loans?
The day the money is deposited into the business’ bank account, said Paul Merski with the Independent Community Bankers of America. Businesses that want to delay using the money right away because they don’t think they’ll be able to open in eight weeks don’t have that option.
Could a business owner struggling to reach the 75% payroll threshold provide raises or bonuses to workers simply to qualify?
Yes, as long as no worker covered by the loan earns more than $100,000 on an annualized basis as spelled out in the application, according to Holly Wade, director of research for the National Federation of Independent Business. What they can’t do is count independent contractors in their payroll numbers, she said.
Can the money be applied retroactively to pay past wages or other costs?
No. Both Merski and Wade said SBA rules require the money be spent prospectively.
Could a small business making masks, hand sanitizer or other products in high demand during the crisis receive a PPP loan even though they’re making a profit?
Yes. The primary criteria for getting the loan is the company must have employed no more than 500 workers for whom it paid salaries and payroll taxes or paid independent contractors and that it was operating on Feb. 15. Loss of revenue is not a requirement though the application form requires businesses to certify that “current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations.” Congress was trying to get the money to small businesses quickly, without making SBA verify the financial status of each applicant.
The average small business has fewer than 10 employees. So why does it seem larger companies and franchises are getting priority in loan approvals over mom-and-pop stores?
This is a big criticism of the program. Although the SBA must process the loans on a first-come, first-served basis, there’s no such requirement for lenders who review the applications before sending them on the SBA.
Some big banks have been accused in lawsuits of giving priority to requests for larger loans that carry heftier fees and come from bigger companies that have deeper relationships with the bank and are more likely to purchase other products and services. To partly address the issue, $60 billion of the second round of PPP funding is to be set aside for community-based lenders, smaller banks and credit unions to assist smaller businesses.
What about businesses in trendy areas, such as Manhattan or San Francisco, where high rents and other expenses make it especially tough to meet the 75% threshold?
The program doesn’t make an exception and the pending bill doesn’t either. Restaurants have been especially vocal that the PPP parameters hurt heavy cash-flow businesses like theirs that depend on steady revenues and full houses to maintain their payrolls whenever they reopen.
Could the owner of a nail salon or small restaurant who was drawing a paycheck from their business prior to the crisis apply for unemployment for themselves while still seeking a PPP loan to keep the business going?
Yes, as long as the loan is used exclusively to keep the other employees on the payroll, Wade said. Depending on their situation, it might make more sense to roll their salary into the loan request (and not take unemployment) if it help them meet the 75% payroll threshold so they don’t have to repay the loan.
Are self-employed workers or independent contractors eligible for a PPP loan?
Yes. The PPP allows both to apply. If they want it to be forgiven, Wade said any salary they draw cannot be equal to the entire size of the loan and must be tied to net profits from last year (not what they paid themselves). But both are at a disadvantage because the window for submitting their applications didn’t start until April 10 (a week after most small businesses) so they are further behind in line for the assistance.
What about business owners worried they might not survive even with a PPP loan? Would they still have to pay back the part of the loan that’s not forgivable if they close forever or go bankrupt?
Probably not, according to Wade. „There’s no personal guarantee of collateral requirement to this loan,” she said. „If they have to declare bankruptcy, the loan presumably goes away.”
However, if they stay in business but their sales are reduced, they are responsible for repaying the loan, Kassar says.
Are there any other programs small businesses can take advantage of?
Yes, the SBA also offers Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance (which provides emergency grants of up to $10,000 and loans up to $2 million) and another program to help with debt relief. You can learn more about these options on the SBA Web site.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Small business loans: We have the answers to your PPP questions
Seoul (AFP) – North Korea condemned the South Friday for holding military drills, saying the situation was returning to before the diplomatic rapprochement of 2018, as leader Kim Jong Un — whose health was the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks — reached out to traditional ally Beijing.
Kim sent Chinese leader Xi Jinping a diplomatic communication congratulating him for China’s „success” in controlling the novel coronavirus epidemic, the state news agency KCNA reported.
The nuclear-armed North has closed its borders to try to protect itself from the disease that first emerged in its giant neighbour, and insists it has not had any cases even as the virus has swept across the world.
Kim told Xi he was as pleased with China’s successes as his own, KCNA reported, adding he „sent militant greetings to every member of the Communist Party of China”.
Rumours swirled for weeks about Kim’s health after he failed to appear at the April 15 celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather, the North’s founder — the most important day in the country’s political calendar, until he reappeared at the weekend at a factory opening.
Kim’s temporary disappearance triggered a series of unconfirmed reports and fevered speculation over his condition, while the United States and South Korea insisted they had no information to believe the conjectures were true.
China is the North’s key diplomatic backer and main provider of trade and aid.
Pyongyang’s nuclear talks with Washington have been largely at a standstill since Kim’s summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi broke up without a deal more than a year ago.
The North’s relations with Seoul have since entered a deep freeze, despite Kim holding three summits with the South’s President Moon Jae-in in 2018.
Pyongyang lashed out at Seoul on Friday for holding air-sea military drills in the Yellow Sea this week.
„Everything is now going back to the starting point before the north-south summit meeting in 2018,” a defence ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by KCNA.
The exercise „awakened us once again to the obvious fact that the enemies remain enemies all the time”, he said, adding the situation „demands a necessary reaction from us”.
Don’t forget past, Jewish leader warns Germans on eve of WW2 anniversary
BERLIN (Reuters) – Many young Germans have failed to learn the lessons of history, and anti-Semitism is becoming entrenched in the land responsible for the Holocaust, a Jewish leader warned, a day before the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe.
As Germany’s leaders prepare to lay wreaths to mark the „Day of Liberation” on May 8 – the day in 1945 when German generals signed an unconditional surrender – many Jews are worried about the popularity of the far right.
„Germany’s government knows its enduring responsibility for the Nazi era,” Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung paper.
„But if you interpret Germany as a country, with all its residents, and ask us if they have also understood and learned from history, then I must say that I have never been convinced, and at the current time I am certainly not,” he said.
Schuster also said he was worried that a certain amount of anti-Semitism appeared to have become an accepted fact of life in Germany, the paper said.
Last year an anti-Semitic gunman attacked a synagogue and a kebab shop in the eastern city of Halle, killing two people.
Some 1,800 criminal incidents were committed against Jews in 2018, mostly by individuals espousing far-right views, the government has said.
Schuster said there was a dangerous amnesia about history among younger people.
„In their minds, World War Two is as far away as the empire, there is no longer a reference point. If about half of young people don’t know the term ‘Auschwitz’, something’s wrong,” he said.
The German government expressed alarm at a survey by ComRes market research institute in 2018 which showed that 40% of Germans between 18 and 34 thought they know nothing or little about the Holocaust, more than the European average of 33% — one of several surveys with similar results in recent years.
In the past decade or so, Germans have tended to focus more on their own suffering during World War Two, which Nazi Germany started.
In particular, some prominent members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the third-biggest parliamentary party, have suggested history teaching should focus more on German victims.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Alison Williams)