Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

Bob Weinstein Gets Emotional on “Depraved” Harvey

October 14, 2017
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Bob Weinstein

The Weinstein Co. exec insists he had no idea about “the type of predator that he was” and is sickened by Harvey’s seeming lack of remorse. “I want him to get the justice that he deserves.”

For nearly 30 years, Bob Weinstein has lived in the shadow of his older brother Harvey Weinstein. While Harvey, 65, was the very public face of Miramax and then The Weinstein Company from Sundance to Cannes to Hollywood, palling around with stars and schmoozing Oscar voters, Bob, 62, has served on TWC’s board and tended to Dimension, their genre label, turning out movies like the Scream and Scary Movie franchises, that routinely made more money than all but Harvey’s biggest hits.

Now, in the wake of the dozens of allegations charging Harvey with three decades of sexual harassment, abuse and even rape, Harvey is out, fired from the company he co-founded with Bob in 2005. And Bob, thrust into an unaccustomed limelight, is forced to try to pick up the pieces amid the growing chaos. He insists that the company — which is expected to undergo a name change — can survive. But four of his fellow board members have resigned, and his COO David Glasser and other key members of his 150-employee staff have yet to commit to stay with the company. Amid widespread predictions that the Weinstein Co. will be forced to shut down or sell all or parts, he maintains, “There is a plan to come out on the other side.”

But right now, even as he struggles to right the company (of which he and Harvey both own about 20 percent each), he’s also coping with his own sense of shame and betrayal, expressing sympathy for Harvey’s victims while also questioning whether he should have done more in the face of Harvey’s alleged abusive behavior. Bob, who worked mostly in Los Angeles while Harvey presided over TWC’s New York offices, says he’s barely spoken to his brother over the past five years. “I could not take his cheating, his lying and also his attitude toward everyone,” he says. While he says he knew his brother was unfaithful to wife Georgina Chapman, Bob insists he had no idea about “the type of predator that he was” and is sickened by Harvey’s seeming lack of remorse. “I have a brother that’s indefensible and crazy,” says Bob, adding, “I want him to get the justice that he deserves.”

Amid the chaos and uncertain future at TWC, Bob agreed to a 45 minute phone interview with The Hollywood Reporter. During the talk, he often became emotional when discussing his brother and the company they co-founded. He refused to discuss certain specifics, such as the claim in The New York Times that he and the board were aware of Harvey’s settlements with women during Harvey’s most recent contract negotiation, or the fate of certain TWC movies, such as the year-end title The Current War. But he opened up on the personal aspect of the scandal and said he believed the motion picture Academy should expel his “sick and depraved” brother.

How do you assess what has happened?

I find myself in a waking nightmare. My brother has caused unconscionable suffering. As a father of three girls I say this with every bone in my body — I am heartbroken for the women that he has harmed. I’m a fighter. For my entire adult life, I fought for the films I want to see the light of day. I have fought for my employees, who have dedicated their lives to achieving the vision of this company that me and my brother founded. But I cannot fight what is indefensible.

The members of the board, including myself, did not know the extent of my brother’s actions. I know him on a personal level better than anyone. It’s hard to describe how I feel that he took out the emptiness inside of him in so many sick and depraved ways. It’s a sickness but not a sickness that is excusable. It’s a sickness that’s inexcusable. And I, as a brother, understood and was aware as a family member, that my brother needed help and that something was wrong.

I was also the object of a lot of his verbal abuse — at one time physical abuse. And I am not looking for one bit of sympathy from anyone. I do not put myself in the category at all of those women that he hurt. But it’s a complicated situation when it’s your brother doing the abusing to you as well. I saw it and I asked him to get help for many years. And that’s the truth. He avoided getting the help. We begged him.

This hurts, but I don’t feel an ounce of remorse coming from him, and that kills me too. When I heard his written, lame excuse… Not an excuse. When I heard his admission of feeling remorse for the victims and then him cavalierly, almost crazily saying he was going to go out and take on the NRA, it was so disturbing to me. It was utter insanity. My daughters all felt sick hearing this because we understood he felt nothing. I don’t feel he feels anything to this day. I don’t.

Steve Bannon; Harvey Weinstein

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One question that is on everybody’s mind: He is your brother, how in the world did you not know this was going on? 

First of all, let me tell you something that people don’t know. For the last five years, I’ve probably talked to my brother ten times on any personal level. That’s the fracture that’s gone on. Since Dimension started, we ran two separate companies. So many of the people that he does business with — actors, actresses — I’ve never even met and they know it. I wanted to lead a separate existence. So we were leading two separate divisions.

I actually was quite aware that Harvey was philandering with every woman he could meet. I was sick and disgusted by his actions. But that’s the extent of what [I knew]. I said, “Harvey, you’re just cheating. Why do you constantly cheat?” I could see it. But I wasn’t in the room with him.

For me, I thought he was literally just going out there cheating in a pervasive way. It wasn’t like he even had a mistress. It was one after another and that I was aware of. But as far as being in a room and hearing the description in The New York Times? No way. No F-in way was I aware that that was the type of predator that he was. And the way he convinced people to do things? I thought they were all consensual situations.

I’ll tell you what I did know. Harvey was a bully, Harvey was arrogant, he treated people like shit all the time. That I knew. And I had to clean up for so many of his employee messes. People that came in crying to my office: “Your brother said this, that and the other.” And I’d feel sick about it.

Why did you tolerate his behavior?

Because it didn’t rise to a certain level. I would often counsel people and say, “You know what, you have a choice here. Leave. Leave, please leave.” I don’t know why some of them stayed. So I would just try to mend a broken fence. There is no mending this. This is not a broken fence. [But] I will not quit and leave the business that I built, rightfully so, and leave the films and filmmakers that I was involved in.

When you guys were negotiating Harvey’s 2015 employment contract…

That I’m not gonna [discuss]. I’m sorry, I’m not gonna be litigated in this article. There is an investigation going on, let that investigation take its course.

Do you think Harvey should be kicked out of the Academy?

Yes, I do. I was gonna actually write [to the Academy]. And I will do it. I am gonna write a note to them saying he definitely should be kicked out of the Academy.

You issued a statement earlier today saying that the company is not for sale despite reports that it could be shut down or its parts sold off. If it’s not for sale, what is the plan to salvage this company?

We are thinking about how to do that. We had an employee meeting the other day, all 180 of the employees. And me and [COO] David Glasser addressed them all. Talk about emotions cascading. These innocent people are hurt, so many of them not knowing anything about my brother’s behavior.

But I was touched because — and I did not know this was coming — they said, “We don’t want Harvey to have the last word on this company. We want to stay. We believe in the films, we believe in you, Bob, David Glasser, we believe in ourselves. And we definitely don’t want to let him win.” And that’s a part of the human story that nobody is hearing.

I know they’re saying “Shut this company down.” Well, they didn’t shut Fox News down, they didn’t shut NBC down. My brother is the one that should pay with everything. And I mean literally — whether it’s criminal or otherwise — I will be supportive of all of that. But I don’t think the people that are the employees of this company or the company itself should pay.

Harvey was the face of the company. That’s what he loves. It’s actually part of his whole thing, being famous. This brother is not that brother. This brother made just as much money, ran a successful division, more successful financially than Harvey’s. But I’m a different guy and I run it differently and people know it and they know I can be successful and we don’t need to do any of the Harvey stuff. And there is a plan. All I’m trying to do right now is go forward, figure out a plan, me and David Glasser and the board members have an idea of what we’d like to do, that we think would be the responsible thing to do for all the critics, rightfully so, with regards to the TWC side and yet for people to keep their jobs. And the pieces of the business that still can be resurrected and continue, we think that they should.

Michael Moore

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Do you have a new name for the company?

We’re coming up with one. And it won’t be familial, I promise you that.

Any effort to keep the company going will depend on financial backing. Aren’t the finances of this company in trouble?

We have good enough finances, the banks gave us their support today.

What does that mean?

With scandal, sometimes people can just say “We don’t want to be associated.” They’re supporting us. And in terms of surviving, we have enough good product and things on our slate. We are moving quickly, and there are people interested in participating financially on the condition, rightfully so, that Harvey Weinstein is out for good.

But you have people like Lin-Manuel Miranda trying to get In the Heights extricated from the company. You have Disney dropping you guys from producing Artemis Fowl. Apple and Amazon have scrapped big TV projects. Collaborators are turning their backs on you. How do you survive that?

We will, is my answer, and there are a lot of things in process with regards to a lot of those kinds of things that will get resolved in an amicable way and a good financial way. I really don’t want to get into the particulars of any one situation. All I can say is that there is a plan to come out on the other side. And also the other side that makes the public rightfully feel happy that what Harvey stood for exists no longer. The public deserves that. The victims deserve that. Everybody deserves that.

Those bankers, they look at my slate and they know that I’ve made them money for many, many years. And lately I have had a cold hand, there is no two ways about it, on the Dimension side, but I have a fuckin’ great slate coming up and they’re aware of it. And this is a business where all the sudden you walk into Stephen King’s It one day. And things change. It is that kind of business. I have Six Billion Dollar Man, I’m closing a deal on it. I have Paddington 2, Paddington 3 is coming two years later. I’m back in the wheelhouse of what I’ve done.

And when I’m back on, there is money to be made, there’s jobs to be had. Harvey knew how to take credit, win his awards. But for me, there are no Academy Awards. Bob’s not going to the Golden Globes or the Oscars unless somebody invites me.

Weiner, left, and Russell

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There have been reports that Jay-Z might buy Harvey’s stake in the company…

I’d love nothing more than that, but as far as I know, that is not a fact.

There are predictions for a raft of civil litigation against the company and against Harvey personally. How can the company withstand that?

That’s for lawyers and people like that to go deal with. That’s what they do. And things end up getting resolved, they do. My hope is that the community will allow us the time to get it right for those that deserve to continue on. That’s all I can say and that’s what I’m trying to do. But it’s going take time. I cannot do it in a week.

Has anyone in Hollywood reached out to you with support?

Yes, they have. David Glasser had a meeting with David Hutkin, who is the CFO, and the banks have been supportive. They want to see us succeed and they see that there is a product line of many movies on my side. TV shows that have been done. That they say this company can still be viable. And there have been other people that have been supportive, other companies that are doing business with us, that are sticking by us.

What about the talent agencies? They are going to be key to any company going forward. Have they expressed support?

There have been men and women, actresses, actors, directors, but especially women I would say, who are so properly disgusted with my brother’s actions. Their attitude is when there is finally the entire divorce, when there’s the plan in place, when there is the separation in place…

I have a reputation that’s different than Harvey, obviously, and I work differently than him. And David Glasser is his own man. We have our own status in the industry. And they’re saying we will give the two of you a chance. You have to make the separation. [With] my brother having contractual financial rights in this company, the divorce is going to be as speedy as we can make it. It’s in process.

But Harvey’s going to fight his firing.

Anybody can do what they want to do. I cannot control other people’s actions. But he was fired by the board, okay? I was on that board. I fired him. He can fight. It will be a losing fight.

He may be fired but he still maintains his ownership interest in the company, correct?

That is correct and we are going to seek to sever that. It can’t be done that quickly. But I am on it 24/7 and so is David Glasser and so is the board of directors that remain and so are the shareholders. This is being dealt with.

Given your relationship with Harvey, there is a contingent out there who believe that you were responsible for the leak of this information, especially the internal HR memo that made it to The New York Times. Is that true?

That’s totally untrue. I could take a lie detector test on that. I didn’t and, you know, Harvey is suspicious of everybody. People that are liars — lying to his wife, to his children, to everyone — well, they have to turn around and say, “Who stabbed me?” It’s unbelievable that even to this moment he is more concerned with who sold him out. I don’t hear concern or contrition for the victims. And I want them to hear that. Harvey has no remorse whatsoever. I have spoken to him two times [since news broke], hoping to hear “Oh my God, what have I done?” I didn’t hear that.

What did you hear?

I heard a guy who still was fighting to get back and I was disgusted by it. Do you know how disgusted I am? I divorced my brother five years ago. Literally. And those that know me personally in this company understood how I could not take being around him on any level. And certainly my daughters and my family knew it. I could not take his cheating, his lying and also his attitude toward everyone. I had to divorce myself to survive. Nobody is perfect. I’m not perfect. If I made mistakes, I apologize to everyone for not standing up stronger and sooner. But if you want to take my head and the company’s and everybody else’s…. If I lose at the end of the day, then I lose it. But I’ll fight for what I believe is right. And I’ll apologize for my own lack of strength at times.

Do you believe that the 2015 incident with model Ambra Battilana and the NYPD investigation derailed the deal for ITV to acquire the company’s TV division?

Again, this is where I draw the line in terms of getting into a specific. I don’t want to comment on that kind of specific.

I’ll ask a general question then: do you believe that Harvey’s antics hurt the business in the past?

I’m being honest. I don’t know what hurt or didn’t. I haven’t had a relationship with him as a brother for many, many years. But I’m ashamed that he is my brother, to be honest, and I am ashamed that these are his actions. I’m not thinking at this moment about dissecting what may or may not have affected any past situation. I’m so in the here and now and feel sick.

Mira Sorvino came out and told her story [in The New Yorker]. I have been a personal friend of Mira for the last several years. We reconnected when I rented a house in Malibu. Mira, her husband and her kids have come over and spent many hours together with us. [But] she never told me. And now I literally was texting with her, and she said, “Are you mad at me?” And I said, “Mad at you? I’m so proud of you, but I feel sick that you had to hold that kind of thing in.”

[Harvey] should never be allowed back, ever. Ever. He lost his rights. He didn’t lose his rights to be rehabilitated as a human being. But as far as being in this town again? I mean, give me a break.

What do you think Harvey will do with the rest of his life?

He lived for this business and he lived for the outside [persona]. There were no insides to this, as far as I can see. So unless there becomes an inner person inside there, I have no idea what he’ll do.

Will you cooperate with any police investigation?

A hundred percent if it came to that. If I had anything to offer, I would. A hundred percent.

There have been stories that once, when Harvey got physical with you, he broke your nose?

He didn’t break my nose but he got physical and there were several people there, and he assaulted me. And I should’ve done something then.

Why did you not?

All I can tell you is it’s like asking any other victim why they didn’t stand up. I regret that beyond all measure. I live with that. That was a defining moment for me of cowardice on my own part. Not easy to live with. It doesn’t absolve me of my own cowardice, but this is the thing that happens, this is the nature of that whole syndrome. And it’s disgusting on every level. But hopefully, the more it’s talked about — I was happy when people started to come out. It made other people braver.

Well, you’ve had some anger issues in the past as well… 

Yes, but I’ve done my work. Without getting into details, I’ve done enough work, and I’ve faced my own self. There are those that do the work and those that don’t. I did it. I’m not that guy and that’s not the way I operate.

Any last thing you’d like the entertainment community to hear from you with regard to this situation?

I’m mortified and disgusted by my brother’s actions. And I am sick for the victims. And I feel for them. I feel for them.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/bob-weinstein-gets-emotional-depraved-harvey-saving-company-his-waking-nightmare-1048905

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FBI terrorism unit says ‘black identity extremists’ pose a violent threat

October 10, 2017

Leaked report, citing concerns of retaliation over ‘perceptions of police brutality against African Americans’, prompts fears of crackdown on activists

By Sam Levin
The Guardian

The US government has declared “black identity extremists” a violent threat, according to a leaked report from the FBI’s counter-terrorism division.

The assessment, obtained by Foreign Policy, has raised fears about federal authorities racially profiling activists and aggressively prosecuting civil rights protesters.

The report, dated August 2017 and compiled by the Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, said: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Incidents of “alleged police abuse” have “continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement”.

The FBI’s dedicated surveillance of black activists follows a long history of the US government aggressively monitoring protest movements and working to disrupt civil rights groups, but the scrutiny of African Americans by a domestic terrorism unit was particularly alarming to some free speech campaigners.

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“When we talk about enemies of the state and terrorists, with that comes an automatic stripping of those people’s rights to speak and protest,” said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It marginalizes what are legitimate voices within the political debate that are calling for racial and economic justice.”

The document has emerged at a time of growing concerns about Donald Trump’s links to the far right and white nationalists, and increasing anxieties about his administration’s efforts to further criminalize communities of color and shield police from scrutiny. Anti-Trump protesters and Black Lives Matter activists have continued to face harsh prosecutions and close federal monitoring.

The FBI did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on Friday, but defended its tracking of “black identity extremists” in a statement to Foreign Policy, claiming the “FBI cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights”

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/06/fbi-black-identity-extremists-racial-profiling

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The FBI’s New U.S. Terrorist Threat: ‘Black Identity Extremists’

By  JANA WINTERSHARON WEINBERGER

Foreign Policy

As white supremacists prepared to descend on Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, the FBI warned about a new movement that was violent, growing, and racially motivated. Only it wasn’t white supremacists; it was “black identity extremists.”

Amid a rancorous debate over whether the Trump administration has downplayed the threat posed by white supremacist groups, the FBI’s counterterrorism division has declared that black identity extremists pose a growing threat of premeditated violence against law enforcement.

“The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” reads the report, marked for official use only and obtained by Foreign Policy.

The August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, was the catalyst for widespread anger and violence, the FBI report says, concluding that continued “alleged” police abuses have fueled more violence.

“The FBI assesses it is very likely incidents of alleged police abuse against African Americans since then have continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement,” the report states.

Some 748 people have been shot and killed by police so far in 2017, including at least 168 African-Americans.

The report, dated Aug. 3 — just nine days before the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville turned deadly — appears to be the first known reference to “black identity extremists” as a movement. But former government officials and legal experts said no such movement exists, and some expressed concern that the term is part of a politically motivated effort to find an equivalent threat to white supremacists.

A former senior counterterrorism and intelligence official from the Department of Homeland Security who reviewed the document at FP’s request expressed shock at the language.

“This is a new umbrella designation that has no basis,” the former official said. “There are civil rights and privacy issues all over this.”

The concept of “black identity extremists” appears to be entirely new. FPfound only five references to the term in a Google search; all were to law enforcement documents about domestic terrorism from the last two months. One of those online references is to law enforcement training on identifying “domestic terror groups and criminally subversive subcultures which are encountered by law enforcement professionals on a daily basis.”

Among the six acts of premeditated violence linked to black identity extremists — it excludes violence toward police carried out in the normal course of their duties — the reports cites the July 2016 shooting of 11 police officers in Dallas. The shooter, Micah Johnson, was reportedly angry at police violence.

“Based on Johnson’s journal writings and statements to police, he appeared to have been influenced by BIE ideology,” the FBI report states. The attack took place during a Black Lives Matter protest of police shootings, though the BLM movement is not mentioned by name in the report.

Yet those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement have voiced concerns about FBI surveillance.

DeRay McKesson, an activist involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, told FP that the FBI visited his house in the run-up to the Republican National Convention. “I spoke about the FBI visit to my house and the houses of other activists in our final meeting with [President Barack] Obama,” he said.

“There is a long tradition of the FBI targeting black activists and this is not surprising,” McKesson said.

The FBI declined to comment on the report itself and did not respond to specific questions, but in an emailed statement to FP, the bureau defended its tracking of “black identity extremists,” saying that “the FBI cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

In its August report, the FBI said it expects further attacks by black identity extremists, driven by both the perception and the reality of unfair treatment at the hands of police officers.

“The FBI further assesses it is very likely additional controversial police shootings of African Americans and the associated legal proceedings will continue to serve as drivers for violence against law enforcement,” the report says.

Some experts and former government officials said the FBI seemed to be trying to paint disparate groups and individuals as sharing a radical, defined ideology. And in the phrase “black identity extremist” they hear echoes of the FBI’s decades-long targeting of black activists as potential radicals, a legacy that only recently began to change.

“They are grouping together Black Panthers, black nationalists, and Washitaw Nation,” said the former homeland security official. “Imagine lumping together white nationals, white supremacists, militias, neo-Nazis, and calling it ‘white identity extremists.’”

The FBI is linking the people discussed in the report based only on them being black, rather than on any sort of larger ideological connection, the official said.

“The race card is being played here deliberately.”

“The race card is being played here deliberately.”

Michael German, a former FBI agent and now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program, said manufacturing this type of threat was not new. He has criticized earlier FBI reports on “black separatists,” arguing that they conflated radical groups operating in the 1970s with attacks in 2010 and later, even though there was no obvious connection.

The use of terms like “black identity extremists” is part of a long-standing FBI attempt to define a movement where none exists. “Basically, it’s black people who scare them,” German said.

Even former officials who view the government’s concerns about black separatists as legitimate balked at the term “black identity extremist,” and point out that the threat from individuals or groups who want to establish their own homeland is much less than from the far right.

In 2009, Daryl Johnson, then a Department of Homeland Security intelligence analyst, warned of the rise of right-wing extremism, setting off a firestorm among congressional critics. Johnson, who left the department in 2010, said he could think of no reason why the FBI would create a new category for so-called black identity extremists. “I’m at a loss,” he replied, when asked about the term.

“I have no idea of why they would come up with a new term.”

There have been concerns about rising violence among black separatist groups in recent years, he said, but it does not approach the threat of right-wing extremism. “When talking about white supremacists versus black supremacists, there are way more white supremacists,” Johnson said.

For historians and academics who have looked at the history of FBI surveillance of black Americans, the report also smacks of the sort of blatant racism the bureau has worked hard to leave behind. From the time J. Edgar Hoover took over the anti-radical division in the FBI at the height of the first “red scare” in 1919, the bureau began systematically surveilling black activists.

“Black protests get conflated for the bureau [with communism], and it begins there,” said William Maxwell, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who has researched the FBI’s monitoring of black writers in the 20th century.

What followed, according to Maxwell, was decades of FBI pursuit of black radicals in the belief, often mistaken, that they were part of a larger subversive movement. “It’s deep in the bureau’s DNA,” he said.

Lately, that seemed to be changing. As FBI director, James Comey famously kept a copy of the Martin Luther King Jr. wiretap order on his desk as a reminder of the bureau’s past abuses and made new agents learn the history of the FBI’s pursuit of the civil rights leader.

The FBI also appeared to be focusing more attention on the threat of white supremacists. In May, the FBI warned that white supremacist violence was growing, according to a report obtained and published by FP. That same report noted that white supremacists were responsible for more attacks in the United States than any other extremist group, including Islamic extremists.

Critics, however, accuse President Donald Trump of shifting attention away from right-wing violence. This year, the Trump administration decided to focus the Department of Homeland Security’s “countering violent extremism” program on Islamic terrorism and deprioritized funding to counter white supremacist groups.

“To hear there is a new initiative targeting black identity extremists is surprising given that shift,” said Alvaro Bedoya, the executive director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law.

Maxwell, the Washington University professor, had an even darker view. “It’s classic Hoover-style labeling with little bit of maliciousness and euphemism wrapped up together,” he said.

“The language — black identity extremist — strikes me as weird and really a continuation of the worst of Hoover’s past.”

In a sense, the FBI’s desire to identify a unifying ideological underpinning to what are often individual violent acts is not surprising, said David Garrow, a historian who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of MLK. “Security agencies want to perceive a threat that is political, a threat that ideological,” Garrow said, “but what we’re actually witnessing is men, almost entirely men, acting out in violent criminal ways and grasping at some chimera of political justification.”

But the document itself smacks of incompetence more than conspiracy, according to Garrow, who reviewed a copy of the report provided by FP. “The immediate instinct is to think [the FBI] are a threat,” he said. “My immediate instinct is to wonder whether they are minimally competent.”

Garrow, who has reviewed decades’ worth of FBI documents for his work, warned against seeing this report as proof that the FBI is illegally targeting black Americans.

“They are often so clueless,” he said of the FBI. “I don’t find them a threat.”

But the former homeland security official said the report’s tendency to lump together different groups that have no obvious connection will make it harder for law enforcement to identify real threats. “It’s so convoluted — it’s compromising officer safety,” the former official said.

And even though the report mentions in a footnote that “political activism” and “strong rhetoric” by themselves don’t amount to extremism and “may be constitutionally protected,” it identifies anger with police or “anti-white rhetoric” as indicators of a potential “violent threat.”

“Just the term ‘black identity extremist’ is protected,” the former official said. “You can identify all you want.”

The FBI, however, defended the classification in its statement to FP.

“Domestic terrorism groups differ from traditional criminal groups in that they take action for a different purpose, to bring attention to a social or political cause,” the FBI wrote. “Therefore, their existence as a group has a legitimate purpose, at least in part. Their legitimate activity may include acts of protest, advocacy, and civil disobedience.”

The FBI says there are “nine persistent extremist movements” in the United States at present. Those include “white supremacy, black identities, militia, sovereign citizens, anarchists, abortion, animal rights, environmental rights, and Puerto Rican Nationalism.”

The FBI’s New U.S. Terrorist Threat: ‘Black Identity Extremists’

Pence plans to visit Las Vegas on Saturday — Investigation continues

October 7, 2017

How did Las Vegas shooter get his arsenal? Easily, and legally

October 3, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Paul HANDLEY | In the United States, there are few barriers for someone without a criminal record to build up their own personal arsenal of weapons. Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock had dozens of guns, apparently all legal.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Twenty-three guns in his hotel room. Nineteen more at home. Piles of ammunition, and devices that converted assault rifles to automatic weapons that fired like machine guns.How did Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock, who shot and killed 59 people from his 32nd story hotel window, amass an arsenal of firearms? In the United States, and particularly in states like Nevada, it’s easy. And totally legal.

Although the country is notorious for its lax gun laws, there are some restrictions on multiple sales of handguns. But if someone wants to build up a cache of rifles the way Paddock did, they could do so without anyone noticing.

Most gun sales are by federally-licensed vendors who must put buyers through background checks. The FBI will run their name through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which refers to three databases of offenders.

Those databases are not always perfect, relying on often spotty reporting from the states. Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine people in an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, cleared a handgun purchase background check just weeks before, despite having a drug conviction on his record.

– No apparent red flags –

But if a person’s record is clean — and Paddock evidently did not raise any red flags — he can buy as many guns as he wants.

There are some controls, points out Laura Cutilletta, the legal director at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Licensed gun dealers, who handle perhaps 60 percent of all firearm sales, have to report multiple handgun sales to the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco. “Multiple” means two or more guns to the same purchaser within five business days.

Even then, Cutiletta says, “There is no requirement that law enforcement investigate.”

Three states — California, New York and New Jersey — prohibit sales of more than one handgun in 30 to 90 days, with slight variations between them.

Beyond that, the country is an open market, with private sellers of used guns not having to run background checks, and no restrictions on long gun purchases.

In Nevada, where gun laws are particularly lax and enforcement more so, it would have been easy for Paddock to accumulate all the guns he had unnoticed.

“There is no way that AFT or the FBI would know,” said Cutiletta.

– Easy to convert to automatic –

But what stood out in Sunday’s massacre, when Paddock unloaded his guns on a crowd of 22,000 at a country music concert, was the rapid pace of fire.

According to reports, he had modified some of his guns to work like automatic weapons, like machine guns, able to shoot many hundreds of rounds a minute with one trigger pull.

Automatic weapons have been banned in the United States for three decades.

But converting a semi-automatic weapon, including the AR-15 and AK-47-type assault rifles widely available in US gun shops, into an automatic weapon is easy.

For $40 you can buy a trigger crank, a small device that can be attached to the trigger. It can make the gun fire three or four times with each turn of the crank, significantly faster than using a finger to pull the trigger.

For as little as $99, you can get a bump stock, a spring-loaded stock that, with one pull of the trigger, keeps the weapon firing using its own recoil. It can enable the weapon to fire at a rate of 600 rounds a minute or more.

Trigger cranks and bump stocks are completely legal, they even come with ATF certifications that they do not constitute an illegal conversion of the guns. According to reports Paddock had two weapons with bump stocks.

Reports citing law enforcement authorities say Paddock also had a large stock of ammunition. That side of the business is also little-regulated, with only restrictions on certain types of ammunition like armor-piercing bullets.

by Paul HANDLEY

Las Vegas Shooting Updates: More Than 50 Dead

October 2, 2017

• More than 50 people were killed and more than 200 were injured in a shooting at a concert near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, the police said.

• The police said they killed a gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, at the hotel. They said they believed he was the only attacker. They said they were “confident” they had located a female person of interest described as his “companion” and “roommate.”

• Automatic gunfire can be heard in videos from the grounds of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a country music event. Concertgoers were seen running and ducking for cover. Thousands of people fled.

At least two police officers have died.

Two off-duty Las Vegas police officers were killed in the shooting, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said at a news conference.

Two other officers responding to the scene were wounded, the sheriff said. One of them is in critical condition.

Continue reading the main story

Additionally, an off-duty officer from Bakersfield, Calif., who was attending the concert was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening.

Photo

A woman covered with blood at the festival. CreditDavid Becker/Getty Images

More than 20 people killed and more than 100 injured.

“Now as far as number of victims, I cannot give you an accurate number at this point,” Sheriff Lombardo said. “We have well in excess of a hundred-plus injured and excess of 20-plus that have died.”

The sheriff described the gunman as a “local resident.”

Police hunt for gunman’s ‘companion.’

The police are looking for a woman described as the gunman’s “companion” and identified as Marilou Danley.

Photo

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department released this photo of Marilou Danley, the gunman’s “companion.” CreditLas Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

The authorities have called her a “person of interest” and the shooter’s “roommate.”

‘We do not believe there are any more shooters.’

‘We have numerous victims right now.’

“We have numerous victims right now. I don’t have a number,” Sgt. Jeff Clark, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said at a news conference.

The police say one gunman is dead.

“One suspect is down,” the police said via Twitter several hours after the attack was first reported.

SWAT teams were sent to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, where at least one gunman was believed to be located, according police radio traffic.

The authorities later confirmed there were no other gunmen.

“This is an active investigation. Again, please do not head down to the Strip at this time,” a post on Twitter read.

Las Vegas shooting: 20 killed, 200 wounded in mass shooting — Shooter killed by police

October 2, 2017

Police say at least 20 people have been killed in a mass shooting in Las Vegas. Dozens of victims have been admitted to a nearby hospital. Police report one suspect “down” and don’t believe that there are more shooters.

— Officials in Las Vegas say at least 20 people were killed in a mass shooting late Sunday. More than 100 victims have suffered injuries, at least a dozen of them critical injuries.

— Police report that at least one suspected shooter “is down” after officers “engaged” him. Authorities do not believe that there are any more shooters. They are looking for the suspect’s female “companion” and two vehicles registered to him.

— The sheriff says reports of shootings at other sites on the Strip were false.

All updates in UTC

0935 Mandalay Bay’s parent company has tweeted that, at the request of law enforcement, it has “put hotels in the vicinity on lockdown to ensure guest safety.”

Our thoughts & prayers are with the victims of last night’s tragic events. We’re grateful for the immediate actions of our first responders.

0930 Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has responded to the attack on Twitter, calling the shooting a “tragic & heinous act of violence.”

A tragic & heinous act of violence has shaken the  family. Our prayers are w/ the victims & all affected by this act of cowardice.

0900 Disturbing video has emerged from the scene.

Gunfire rings out at Mandalay Bay

0835 In a media briefing, Sheriff Joe Lombardo drastically raised the death toll in the shooting from two to more than 20. He said at least 100 people had been injured.

“I cannot give you an accurate number,” Lombardo told reporters.

Briefing with @ regarding the Strip shooting. At least 20 dead, 100 injured. The shooter was local.

Lombardo said police had identified the shooter, who they believe acted alone, as a local resident but did not give further information. He said police were looking for the man’s roommate for further questioning, as well as two vehicles registered to the suspect.

The sheriff said the shooter fired on the audience at the music festival from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where officers later “engaged” and killed him. “We are comfortable that the primary aggressor in this event is expired or passed away,” Lombardo said.

Lombardo called on anyone who had footage of the attack to submit it to law enforcement, including the FBI, which is assisting in the investigation. The Red Cross is fielding phone calls from people seeking information on missing relatives.

The sheriff said reports of related shootings at multiple sites on the Strip were false: “The scene is static.”

0750 Flights have resumed at McCarran Airport, but delays will continue.

Limited flight activity has resumed at @LASairport. Please monitor flight status with your airline. Expect on going delays.

0732 Officers do not believe that there are any more shooters.

At this time we do not believe there are any more shooters. More information to come shortly from @.

0730 Police have confirmed that at least two people have died and two dozen suffered injuries in Sunday’s shooting.

0700 Police reported one suspect “down.”

Please do not livestream or share tactical positions of our officers on scene. This may put emergency responders in danger.

0640 As reports circulated online of police deploying to multiple venues, officers asked social media users not to share their “tactical positions.”

UPDATE: Flights in and out of @LASairport have been temporarily halted in response to reported shooting incident on Las Vegas Strip.

“We want people to steer clear of the area,” an officer told a short media briefing.

0520 The first reports started circulating that an active shooter or shooters had targeted fans at the Route 91 Harvest Festival of country music across from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the iconic Las Vegas Strip.

mkg/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

http://www.dw.com/en/las-vegas-shooting-20-victims-suspect-dead-live-updates/a-40772461

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SEC Discloses Edgar Corporate Filing System Was Hacked in 2016

September 21, 2017

The SEC disclosed that hackers penetrated its electronic system for storing public-company filings and may have traded illegally on the information.

Breach may have allowed trading that profited from nonpublic information, regulator says

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WASHINGTON—The top U.S. markets regulator disclosed Wednesday that hackers penetrated its electronic system for storing public-company filings last year and may have traded on the information.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s chairman, Jay Clayton, revealed the breach in an unusual and lengthy statement issued Wednesday evening that didn’t provide many details about the intrusion, including the extent of any illegal trading.

The SEC said it was investigating the source of the hack, which exploited a software vulnerability in a part of the agency’s Edgar system, a comprehensive database of filings made by thousands of public companies and other financial firms regulated by the SEC.

The commission said the hack was detected in 2016, but that regulators didn’t learn about the possibility of related illicit trading until August, when they started an investigation and began cooperating with what the SEC called “appropriate authorities.”

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to comment on the SEC disclosure.

The commission’s disclosure follows a major breach of Equifax Inc. that affected 143 million Americans and warnings from executives of the New York Stock Exchange and Bats Global Markets Inc. that a planned data repository of all U.S. equity and options orders could become a juicy target for hackers.

“Cybersecurity is critical to the operations of our markets and the risks are significant and, in many cases, systemic,” Mr. Clayton said in a written statement. “We also must recognize—in both the public and private sectors, including the SEC—that there will be intrusions, and that a key component of cyber risk management is resilience and recovery.”

The intrusion shows how confidential information that can yield easy trading profits has increasingly become a target of hackers.

The SEC in December sued three Chinese traders who allegedly earned more than $4 million in illegal gains after they stole information from the computer systems of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, which represent Wall Street banks and Fortune 500 companies.

The SEC’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system, or Edgar, is used by investors who access the online system to view companies’ earnings statements and other disclosures on material developments at companies. Some companies purchase and resell electronic feeds of the filings that cater to electronic and algorithmic traders.

Mr. Clayton’s statement didn’t identify the precise date of the intrusion or what sort of nonpublic data was obtained. The agency said the hackers exploited a vulnerability in part of the Edgar system that allows companies to test the accuracy of data transmitted in new forms. Many corporate filings are made public as soon as they are received through Edgar, although other forms may have to be reviewed first by SEC staff.

The SEC’s statement also didn’t explain why the SEC waited to reveal the breach until Wednesday.

SEC officials have sometimes indicated they could take enforcement action against a public company that misled investors about a significant hack that affected share prices.

Mr. Clayton, who is due to testify before the Senate Banking Committee next week, is sure to face questions about his own agency’s cyber vulnerabilities.

“We face the risks of cyber threat actors attempting to compromise the credentials of authorized users, gain unauthorized access to filings data, place fraudulent filings on the system, and prevent the public from accessing our system through denial of service attacks,” Mr Clayton said. “We also face the risks of actors attempting to access nonpublic data relating to our oversight, or enforcement against, market participants, which could then be used to obtain illicit trading profits,” he added.

The Edgar system, which was launched to equalize access to information among retail and sophisticated investors, has occasionally caused headaches for the commission. Academic researchers found in 2014, for instance, that hedge funds and other rapid-fire investors got earlier access to market-moving documents from Edgar than other users of the standard, web-based system, giving them a potential edge on other traders. The SEC later said it fixed the problem.

The system has also been exploited by traders who submitted fake corporate filings. In 2015, a 37-year-old man in Bulgaria filed a fake takeover offer for Avon Products Inc., which succeeded in sending the beauty-product company’s shares soaring but netted the mastermind just $5,000, regulators alleged.

Mr. Clayton’s statement acknowledged that the planned data repository, known as the Consolidated Audit Trail, could be targeted by cyber thieves looking to steal personal information of stockbrokers’ customers. The audit trail has been in the works for nearly seven years and the SEC approved its final design last year. However, exchange executives have recently cited the Equifax hack as evidence that the audit trail should be pared back, even if that takes away information that could help regulators spot manipulative traders more quickly.

Stock and options exchanges, as well as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees brokers, are due to begin reporting data to the repository in November.

Robert Cook, chief executive of Finra, also has questioned whether the audit trail should be scaled back in light of the Equifax data breach. Speaking Wednesday at a banking luncheon in Washington, Mr. Cook questioned whether the database designed to help regulators sort through flash crashes and spot market manipulation should include personal information about stockbrokers’ customers.

“Especially post-Equifax when we are trying to win back investor confidence in the markets, it seems to be a useful question to ask whether we’ve got the right approach here or we need to revisit it,” he said.

Write to Dave Michaels at dave.michaels@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/sec-discloses-edgar-corporate-filing-system-was-hacked-in-2016-1505956552

Did Obama Know about Comey’s Surveillance?

September 20, 2017

The media is less interested in Obama Administration wiretapping than in how Trump described it.

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This week CNN is reporting more details on the Obama Administration’s 2016 surveillance of people connected to the presidential campaign of the party out of power. It seems that once President Obama’s appointee to run the FBI, James Comey, had secured authorization for wiretapping, the bureau continued its surveillance into 2017. CNN reports:

US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.

The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.

Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

This means the wiretapping was authorized more than ten months ago and perhaps more than a year ago.

It was presumably a tough decision for a judge to issue a secret warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, enabling the administration to spy on someone connected with the presidential campaign of its political adversaries.

One would presumably only approve such an order if the request presented by the executive branch was highly compelling and likely to produce evidence that the subject of the wiretap was in fact working with Russia to disrupt U.S. elections.

Roughly a year later, as the public still waits for such evidence, this column wonders how this judge is feeling now, especially now that CNN has reported that at least two of its three sources believe the resulting evidence is inconclusive.

One would also presume—or at least hope—that seeking to wiretap associates of the leader of the political opposition is not an everyday occurrence in any administration. At the very least, it seems highly unlikely that such a decision would be made by a mid-level official. CNN notes,

“Such warrants require the approval of top Justice Department and FBI officials, and the FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

It seems reasonable for the public to know exactly which officials made this decision and who else they consulted or informed of their surveillance plans. Was the President briefed on the details of this investigation?

And as for the information showing suspicion, where did the FBI come up with that? A September 7 column from the Journal’s Kim Strassel raises disturbing questions, based on recent events and a Washington Post story from last winter. Ms. Strassel writes:

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation took a sharp and notable turn on Tuesday, as news broke that it had subpoenaed the FBI and the Justice Department for information relating to the infamous Trump “dossier.”

That dossier, whose allegations appear to have been fabricated, was commissioned by the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS and then developed by a former British spook named Christopher Steele. ..

The Washington Post in February reported that Mr. Steele “was familiar” to the FBI, since he’d worked for the bureau before. The newspaper said Mr. Steele had reached out to a “friend” at the FBI about his Trump work as far back as July 2016. The Post even reported that Mr. Steele “reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work.”

Oddly, even though CNN is the source of this week’s news, the media outlet seems less interested in President Obama’s knowledge of the surveillance activities that occurred on his watch and against his political adversaries than in how President Trump has described them.

CNN’s scoop doesn’t even mention Mr. Obama except in the context of Mr. Trump’s accusations of wiretapping against the former president that appeared on Twitter in March. CNN has followed up with another story saying that Mr. Trump’s accusations have still not been proven.

That’s true, although Mr. Trump’s argument may be getting stronger. And whatever Donald Trump’s tweets say, Americans deserve to know how our government came to spy on people associated with the presidential campaign of the party out of power.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/did-obama-know-about-comeys-surveillance-1505852932

With Trump Meeting, Malaysia’s PM Seeks to Put 1MDB Scandal Behind Him — Four out of five Malaysians aged 18-35 cited corruption as the most serious issue facing the country

September 10, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR — In a room packed with Malaysian civil servants, foreign ministry secretary general Ramlan Ibrahim raised his right hand as he read out an anti-corruption pledge.

He was among thousands of state officials nationwide to take such an oath in the past several weeks, part of an anti-graft campaign called by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“The citizens are becoming more informed … they ask for public service which is more efficient, transparent and fair,” Ramlan said after the event in Putrajaya, the administrative capital.

The campaign comes as Najib prepares to meet President Donald Trump in the United States this week, where the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are pursuing investigations into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund the prime minister oversaw.

Najib must also call a general election by mid-2018 although some commentators have suggested he could do so this year itself.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has arrested dozens of top officials under the anti-graft campaign, including officers at national oil company Petronas and state-controlled palm oil firm Felda. More than 600 arrests were made just this year, MACC data showed.

The actions are unusual in the Southeast Asian country, where corruption is seen as widespread. Four out of five Malaysians aged 18-35 cited corruption as the most serious issue facing the country, according to a survey released last month by the Global Shapers Community, a programme under the World Economic Forum.

But critics say the campaign ignores the elephant in the room: 1MDB.

The state fund is being investigated in at least six countries for money-laundering and misappropriation of funds, including an alleged $681 million transfer into the prime minister’s personal account.

Malaysia’s attorney-general closed the 1MDB probe in January 2016, and cleared Najib of any wrongdoing.

The U.S. Justice Department has sought to seize about $1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds. Its lawsuits say those involved included Najib’s step-son Riza Aziz and his close associate Jho Low.

In court filings last Tuesday, the FBI, which is conducting a criminal investigation, alleged that potential witnesses in the case fear for their safety and need protection.

But investigations into 1MDB in Malaysia appear to have shut down. MACC had “a roomful” of files on 1MDB, a former MACC official told Reuters, but the commission could not pursue it once Malaysia’s attorney-general declared the case closed.

REOPEN CASE

“In a way, this campaign is the MACC trying to show that it is doing its job. Even if they cannot secure a conviction (against their targets), the MACC can show that it has done all it could to stamp out major corruption,” said the former official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Cynthia Gabriel, director of the Kuala Lumpur-based Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), said there was “enough substance” for MACC to reopen the case on 1MDB.

MACC declined to comment on whether the commission would reopen its 1MDB investigation.

“No comment on that, we are very fair in investigating anybody here, whoever they are,” deputy chief commissioner Azam Baki told reporters in Putrajaya.

Anti-corruption campaigners say they fear Trump’s invitation to Najib to visit the United States may affect the investigations in the United States.

“Territorial influence and geopolitical interests of the United States appears to have hollowed out its commitment to fight international corruption, much to the detriment of the future of Malaysia and the world,” Gabriel said.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Trump’s invitation was “particularly inappropriate”, given Najib’s use of repressive laws to stifle critics.

“There’s little doubt that Najib will use this White House visit to burnish his credentials going into next year’s election in Malaysia, and redouble his repression of critics using the stamp of approval from this visit,” HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson told Reuters.

Najib has said he hopes his visit will drum up more trade and investment for Malaysia.

“I would like to see this as a two way mutually beneficial partnership,” he told reporters on Friday. “I hope the U.S. sees Malaysia as a reliable partner on issues such as trade and investment, security partnership, counter terrorism and I also hope that U.S. companies see us as among the best countries to invest in.”

A government source said a defense agreement was also on the table, although no details were immediately available.

“STINKS TO HIGH HEAVEN”

Senior leaders of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) are concerned the party may suffer election losses from the string of graft scandals linked to Najib, a source aware of discussions within the party said.

Image result for Obama, Najib playing golf, photos

With Najib and the MACC’s clean-up campaign, the source said, the party hopes to appease Malaysians frustrated with the corruption and draw back foreign investors who fled as the probe into 1MDB expanded.

Besides diverting attention from 1MDB, critics say Najib is also using MACC’s anti-graft campaign to target political opponents such as Lim Guan Eng, an opposition leader who is the top elected official in Penang province. He has been charged with abuse of power in the purchase of a bungalow.

“You are going after all sorts of offences, but the biggest one, it stinks to high heaven,” said Lim, the secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party. “Everyone can smell it, except you.”

(Additional reporting by Joseph Sipalan; editing by Praveen Menon and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Malaysia — Troublemakers ignited two flare, threw chairs and flung shoes and slippers on to the stage when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was speaking. The fracas forced organisers to escor Dr Mahathir our of the venue. Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, August 13, 2017.

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Malaysians tell Peace and Freedom the real problem is the corrupt government of Prime Minister Najib Razak and the 1 MDB scandal….

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that state fund 1MDB has cleared over 3 billion ringgit (S$947.1 million) in debt over the past two years. He had chaired 1MDB’s advisory board until it was dissolved in May 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

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Victoria’s Secret Angel Miranda Kerr walks the runway in 2012.

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Trump Drafted Letter on Why He Wanted Comey Out — “You’ve told me three times I’m not under investigation but you won’t tell the world, and it’s hampering the country.”

September 2, 2017

Before firing FBI director, Trump wrote he should go for not publicly clearing him in Russia probe

President Trump shaking hands at the White House on Jan. 22 with FBI director James Comey, whom he fired in May.
President Trump shaking hands at the White House on Jan. 22 with FBI director James Comey, whom he fired in May. PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER/PRESS POOL/GETTY IMAGES

The weekend before he fired FBI Director James Comey, President Donald Trump drafted a letter to him laying out the reasons why he didn’t want him to stay in the job, a senior Trump administration official said Friday.

Mr. Trump, who worked on the draft at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., in early May, wanted Mr. Comey to publicly state the president wasn’t personally under investigation in connection to Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election—an assurance the director had previously given the president privately, a person familiar with the matter said.

Paraphrasing the letter, the administration official said Mr. Trump wanted this message sent: “You’ve told me three times I’m not under investigation but you won’t tell the world, and it’s hampering the country.”

Mr. Comey, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, confirmed that during his stint at the FBI, Mr. Trump wasn’t under investigation. The president’s actions—including firing Mr. Comey—are now being examined by special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the Russia probe after the FBI director was fired on May 9.

Mr. Trump sought to take action because he saw the lingering investigation as a weight on his presidency, underscored by conversations with some foreign leaders who would bring up the Russia probe, according to the administration official. The president wrote the four-page letter with the help of a senior White House aide, Stephen Miller.

“It was the president’s ideas. Miller was the scrivener,” the administration official said.

Ultimately, the letter was never sent to Mr. Comey. Mr. Trump instead shared the draft with various White House aides and gave it to top Justice Department officials in a meeting at the White House on Monday, May 8, the official said.

The next day, Mr. Trump sent Mr. Comey a four-paragraph letter telling him he had been fired, invoking letters he had received from the Justice Department leadership citing damage the former director had done to the FBI’s credibility during an investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email practices.

Last month, with the White House’s consent, the Justice Department turned over the draft letter to Mr. Mueller, two administration officials said. The New York Times  on Friday first reported on the letter.

One part of Mr. Mueller’s probe is whether the president obstructed justice in firing Mr. Comey. The administration official said nothing in the letter suggests the president wanted to scuttle the entire Russia investigation, which is also examining foreign hacks of political parties and the spread of false news stories damaging to Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Trump drafted the letter just days after Mr. Comey’s testimony to Congress on May 3 defending his handling of the Clinton email investigation in 2016.

Mr. Trump was “offended” by the testimony, and complained about an “arrogance” shown by Mr. Comey that wasn’t appropriate given his position, the administration official said.

“It makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had some impact on the election” won by Mr. Trump last November, Mr. Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee in May. “But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.”

The next day, a Thursday, Mr. Trump asked top aides about firing Mr. Comey, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

On Friday May 5, just before leaving for his Bedminster golf course, Mr. Trump dressed down two of his top aides—White House counsel Don McGahn and Steve Bannon, then his chief strategist—over Attorney General Jeff Sessions ’ decision, two months earlier, to recuse himself from the Russian investigation.

White House reporters captured part of the argument on camera, including a video shot from outside the windows of the Oval Office that showed Mr. Bannon pointing and shouting.

Mr. Trump tweeted the next day that he was at his golf course, because it was too “expensive and disruptive” to return to Trump Tower in Manhattan. “Meetings!” he wrote on Twitter .

Aides said the Bedminister trip was mostly supposed to include time for golf and relaxation. The weather didn’t cooperate, and Mr. Trump continued to be bothered by Mr. Comey’s testimony. By Sunday, he was working up the letter with Mr. Miller and other aides.

On May 8, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, shared his own concerns about Mr. Comey’s leadership with the president at the White House. Mr. Trump asked Mr. Rosenstein to detail his assessments in a memo.

The president fired Mr. Comey the following day, and the White House initially portrayed the Rosenstein memo as the central reason for the dismissal.

In response to that characterization, the deputy attorney general issued strong objections and pressed the White House to correct the record, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

By the end of the week, Mr. Trump acknowledged in an interview with NBC News that he had intended to fire Mr. Comey, regardless of the memo from the deputy attorney general.

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘you know, this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia, is a made-up story,’” Mr. Trump said in an interview with NBC News. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com and Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com

Appeared in the September 2, 2017, print edition as ‘President Drafted Letter on FBI Firing.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-drafted-letter-on-why-he-wanted-comey-out-1504303851?mod=e2tw

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