Judge Lets Anti-Corruption Case Against Donald Trump Move Forward

Washington, United States: A lawsuit that accuses President Donald Trump of violating the constitution by maintaining his interest in a hotel that does business with foreign governments has been allowed to proceed by a US judge.

It marked the first time a judge has interpreted anti-corruption clauses in the constitution known as emoluments clauses and applied them to a sitting president, news reports said.

US District Judge Robert Messitte in Maryland ruled Wednesday that the case -- which centers on money Trump makes from the Trump International Hotel in Washington -- can now move to the evidence-gathering stage.

If the ruling stands -- the Justice Department can appeal -- it would mean the plaintiffs will seek to examine Trump business records.

Trump has refused to disclose such information and in particular his income tax returns, in a break with the practice of previous presidents.

The clauses at stake bar a president from receiving financial benefits from foreign or domestic governments.

The plaintiffs in the case are the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, as Washington is known.

They say Trump violates the clauses by profiting from the hotel, which is just down the street from the White House and popular with foreign and US state government delegations.

"Sole or substantial ownership of a business that receives hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars a year in revenue from one of its hotel properties where foreign and domestic governments are known to stay (often with the express purpose of cultivating the president's good graces) most definitely raises the potential for undue influence, and would be well within the contemplation of the clauses," Judge Messitte wrote.

The Justice Department had sought to have the case thrown out on grounds the clauses did not apply to the hotel.

It argued that the clauses were designed to prevent a president from taking bribes, not from engaging in business.

But the judge ruled that this was too narrow an interpretation of what an emolument is.

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"Gave Up Nothing" At Meeting With Putin, Says Donald Trump

Washington: U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he "gave up nothing" at last week's private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin but remained elusive about their conversation as fellow Republicans and other critics questioned any potential deals.

Following the two leaders' summit in Helsinki, Trump previously said they discussed a range of issues, including efforts to denuclearize North Korea, the Middle East peace efforts and cyber attacks but has not given any details.

Russian officials have said Putin made concrete proposals to Trump during their one-on-one talk regarding conflict in Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said the two discussed the Syrian crisis.

But top U.S. intelligence officials and members of Congress have said they do not know what was discussed and have not been briefed.

"I gave up NOTHING, we merely talked about future benefits for both countries," Trump wrote on Twitter.

Despite the fierce criticism, Trump has extended an invitation for Putin to visit Washington for a second meeting this autumn.

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'Duck boat' capsizes in Missouri, kills at least 11: police

(Reuters) - At least 11 people drowned on Thursday when an amphibious “duck boat” capsized and sank in stormy weather on a lake in Missouri with 31 people, including children, on board, as divers searched for other possible victims, police said.

Seven people were taken to hospital following the incident on the “Ride the Ducks” amphibious vehicle on Table Rock Lake, near Branson, Missouri, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader told reporters.

At least 11 people were killed in the incident as divers finished their search effort for the night and will start again in the morning, the sheriff said later in a news conference.

https://s3.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?m=02&d=20180720&t=2&i=1285101371&r=LYNXMPEE6J097&w=1200Rescue personnel are seen after an amphibious "duck boat" capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, U.S. July 19, 2018 in this still image obtained from a video on social media. SOUTHERN STONE COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT/Facebook/via REUTERS

Emergency crews responded to the incident shortly after 7 p.m. (0000 GMT) after thunderstorms rolled through the area, the fire district said on Twitter.

Video footage shot by an eyewitness who was on shore showed strong waves tossing two duck boats side to side. The video clip was posted online by KY3.

“Our number one priority is the families and our employees that were affected by this tragic accident; as of this time right now we are assisting the authorities as they continue with their search and rescue operation,” said Suzanne Smagala-Potts a spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, which owns the Ride The Ducks operation in Branson.

She could not confirm how many crew members were aboard the boat.

Duck amphibious vehicles are used on sightseeing tours around the world and have been involved in a number of fatal accidents in the past two decades.

The company that builds ducks, Ride the Ducks International LLC, agreed in 2016 to pay a $1 million fine after one of the vehicles collided with a bus in Seattle, killing five international students.

The company admitted to failing to comply with U.S. vehicle manufacturing rules.

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Nikki Haley calls Human Rights Council UN's 'greatest failure' in bid to justify US exit

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has launched another attack on the UN human rights body, calling it a failure for listing such countries as China and Cuba among its members. She had no qualms about Saudi Arabia, though.

Haley was speaking at the Heritage Foundation think tank, explaining the reasons for the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, which had drawn almost unanimous condemnation, on Wednesday. She singled out Cuba, China and Venezuela as the countries whose presence supposedly tarnishes the council's credibility.

FILE PHOTO Los Angeles, California

 

Pointing at the Council's membership criteria as one of its two major problems, along with its supposed bias against US ally Israel, Haley said that since she took office and up until now "its members included some of the worst human rights violators – the dictatorships of Cuba, China and Venezuela all have seats on the Council."

She took particular aim at Venezuela, slamming the council for inviting the Latin American country's President Nicolas Maduro, who she labelled a "dictator," to address the body in 2015. Haley said it was no wonder Maduro received a standing ovation, as "62 percent of Council members were not democracies."

Accusing the Council of being fixated on Israel, Haley argued that it turns a blind eye to the situation in Venezuela, Cuba and China. She also included Zimbabwe, which is not a member of the HRC.

"[The Human Rights Council] has focused its attention unfairly, and relentlessly on Israel meanwhile it ignored the misery, inflicted by regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe and China."

She ultimately summed up her opinion of the UNHRC by branding it the UN's "greatest failure."

"Judging by how it has fallen short of its promise, the Human Rights Council is the UN's greatest failure. It has taken the idea of human dignity… and it has reduced it to just another instrument of international politics," she said.

Choosing the "undemocratic" UNHRC members to pick on, Haley preferred to step around Saudi Arabia, another major US ally, and its highly problematic record. The ultra-conservative kingdom has been embroiled in the bloodshed in Yemen, leading the three-year bombing campaign that resulted in numerous civilian casualties and prompted human rights activists to call for Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman's arrests for alleged war crimes.

 
© Fayez Nureldine 

In its recent report, Human Rights Watch said that at least 87 "apparently unlawful" raids were conducted by the Saudi-led coalition since the onset of the campaign that claimed about 1,000 civilian lives, destroying homes and civilian infrastructure. Internally, despite loosening some of its decades-old restrictions and allowing women to drive and go to stadiums, Riyadh continues its crackdown on dissent and is not in a hurry to abolish barriers that impede girls and women from making some basic decisions without the prior consent of a male relative.

The US formally announced its decision to quit the UNHRC in June, dismissing the international body as the "protector of human rights abuses and cesspool of political bias" for its criticism of Israel's clampdown on Palestinians. Its seat was taken by Iceland in a landslide vote in July.

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Migrants In US Custody Describe Life In 'Ice Boxes' And 'Dog Pounds'

During their detention last month in a US Customs and Border Protection facility in Laredo, Texas, Karen and her two young sons were constantly cold. The family, which fled violence in Honduras, slept on a hard floor in a holding cell without mattresses, she said, their clothes still wet from crossing the Rio Grande.

"I can only hold one at a time to keep them warm. Whoever I am not holding is cold," she said in one of more than 200 sworn statements filed this week in a long-running lawsuit challenging conditions for children in immigration custody.

The statements, which were taken in June and July and identify immigrants only by their first names, provide a rare window into life in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. Migrants like Karen and her children who crossed into the United States illegally, as well as those who applied for asylum at the border, are often held in such facilities before being released or transferred to longer-term detention centres.

A nursing mother named Serafin, who said she fled Mexico after a cartel member threatened to rape her and kill her baby, said she was given too little food at a facility in San Ysidro, California.

"I am not producing enough breast milk to feed my baby because I am not eating enough," she said in her statement. "My daughter cries a lot because she is hungry."

A woman named Mayra said her 9-year-old son became fearful after their detention in Nogales, Arizona, where he saw children separated from their parents.

"He saw someone bound with chains and asked me whether I would be chained in the same way," she said. "He wonders when we will get to the United States. I do not tell him that we are already here. He wouldn't believe that the United States would treat us this way."

4ronbkrgFew immigrants said that conditions were adequate, most described cold temperatures, too little food.

LONG-RUNNING LAWSUIT

The statements were taken by attorneys for plaintiffs in a case brought against the U.S. government in 1985 on behalf of 15-year-old Jenny L. Flores. A 1997 settlement in the lawsuit set standards for humane treatment of children in detention and ordered their prompt release in most cases.

This week, the plaintiffs filed papers alleging that the detention conditions described in the declarations violate the humane treatment standards set out in the settlement, including speedy release of children.

"We now see many in CBP custody for three to six days," up from two to three days in prior months, said Peter Schey, the lead attorney for plaintiffs in the Flores case.

Reuters was unable to speak directly to the migrants who gave declarations because they weren't fully identified in the filing, and most of them are still in detention.

CBP referred requests for comment on the migrant statements to the Department of Justice, which declined to comment. In the past, CBP has defended conditions in its facilities.

In a report filed in the Flores case last month, CBP juvenile coordinator Henry Moak Jr. said that the department makes extensive efforts "to ensure all minors in CBP custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors."

He said parents and children he interviewed had "received meals and snacks; had access to drinking water, functioning toilets, and functioning sinks; and were held in rooms that were maintained at an appropriate temperature."

He also noted, however, that CBP should ensure that food was not kept past its expiration date and that custodial data was consistently entered into records.

Moak referred requests for comment to CBP.

'ICE BOXES' AND 'DOG POUNDS'

Reports of harsh conditions in CBP facilities have surfaced repeatedly for years, including again recently when the government began separating children and parents. The new declarations are remarkable both for the number of detainee voices and the consistency of detail in what they report.

While a few immigrants said that conditions were adequate, most described cold temperatures, too little food, difficult separations from their children and crowded cells without enough sleeping mats. They said latrines were dirty and lacked privacy and that lights stayed on day and night.

James Tomsheck, who served as assistant commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for internal affairs from 2006 to 2014, told Reuters that the facilities were designed for brief stays.

oejtjgm8Reports of harsh conditions in CBP facilities have surfaced repeatedly for years. (Reuters)

"There is no question that the amount of time persons are being held at these, what are designed to be temporary detention facilities, has become much longer than it was intended."

Detainees refer to some of the facilities as "hieleras," Spanish for "ice boxes" because they are so cold. Larger spaces with indoor fencing are referred to as "perreras" or "dog pounds."

Children in the facilities were often held in separate cells from their parents, according to the statements.

A woman named Leydi, held in Chula Vista, California, described watching young children trying to touch their parents through metal fences.

"The mothers tried to reach their children, and I saw children pressing up against the fence of the cage to try to reach out," she said. "But officials pulled the children away and yelled at their mothers."

John Sandweg, acting director of ICE from 2013 to 2014, said the problems stem from the fact that holding areas were designed to lock up adults for just a few hours while CBP processed paperwork.

"They're inappropriate, frankly, for children," he said.

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CELAC and EU call for end of U.S. blockade of Cuba

The foreign ministers of the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) called Tuesday for the end of the blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, since "it has caused undue humanitarian consequences for the Cuban people." 

"We reiterate our rejection of the application of those coercive measures of a unilateral nature with extraterritorial effect," the ministers said in the statement signed after a meeting in Brussels of the EU and CELAC foreign officials. 

The ministers also reaffirmed their rejection of the application of the extraterritorial provisions of the Helms-Burton Act, approved by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, which states that any non-U.S. company operating in Cuba may be subject to legal reprisals. 

In this regard, representatives of the EU and CELAC stressed that the United Nations General Assembly had adopted a resolution condemning this blockade, which was only opposed by the United States and Israel. 

"These measures are damaging the legitimate development of commercial ties between Cuba, the European Union and other countries," concluded the EU and CELAC foreign ministers. 

Edited by Pavel Jacomino
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Majority of Americans think Trump mishandling Russia: Reuters/Ipsos poll

(Reuters) - More than half of Americans disapprove of the way U.S. President Donald Trump is handling relations with Russia, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after his controversial summit and joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, Trump’s performance at the Helsinki summit, where Trump refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and cast doubt on the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies, did not seem to have an impact on his overall approval rating.

Forty-two percent of registered voters said they approved of Trump’s performance in office in the latest opinion poll, compared with a daily average of between 40 and 44 percent so far in July.

The poll found that 55 percent of registered voters disapproved while 37 percent approved of his handling of relations with Russia.

Among Republicans, 71 percent approved of his handling of Russia compared to 14 percent of Democrats.

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Trump still enjoys broad support among Republican voters despite criticism from party leaders about his words and actions while standing alongside the Russian leader answering questions from reporters, the poll results showed.

Trump surprised even his supporters when he praised the Russian leader during the news conference for his “strong and powerful” denial of meddling.

On Tuesday, Trump attempted to calm the political storm following his remarks, saying he misspoke at the news conference and had full confidence in U.S. agencies. But he appeared to veer from his script to add: “It could be other people also - there’s a lot of people out there,” he said.

A majority of registered voters, 59 percent, agree with the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia attempted to influence the U.S. election, the Reuters/Ipsos poll found. But only 32 percent of Republicans think that is true compared to 84 percent of Democrats.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll also revealed a distinct split among Republican and Democratic voters over whether Russia should be considered an adversary of the United States.

Overall, 38 percent of registered voters agreed that Russia is an enemy of the United States. About the same percent considered Russia “a competitor” while 8 percent said it was “a friend.”

However, half the Democrats said it was an enemy while only about one in three Republicans considered it so.

Forty percent of Democrats described Russia as an imminent threat while only 14 percent of Republicans agreed.

Overall, 27 percent of registered voters considered Russia an imminent threat. Only North Korea got a higher response on that question, 31 percent.

The poll also asked Americans whether they think authorities will find evidence of an illegal relationship between the Trump administration and Russia. A slim majority, 51 percent, said it was likely, while 77 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of Republicans did.

The same general split was true when asked if Trump or someone from his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Overall, 52 percent of registered voters agreed. But 81 percent of Democrats said that was true versus 19 percent of Republicans.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll gathered responses from 1,011 registered voters throughout the United States, including 453 Republicans and 399 Democrats. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 4 percentage points.

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Maduro Highlights Fidel Castro's Legacy in Sao Paulo Forum

Havana, Jul 17 (Prensa Latina) Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro highlighted today the legacy of Fidel Castro's resistance and struggle at the 24th Meeting of Sao Paulo Forum.

In a plenary session devoted to the thought of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, during the last day of the three-day meeting, the President pointed out Fidel's commitment to unity and the defense of social justice and the dignity of the people.

At Havana's Conventions Center, Maduro also mentioned the example of the Cuban leader (1926-2016) as a creator and promoter of projects marked by justice, democracy and dignity, regardless of what those processes are called.

During his speech, the Venezuelan leader addressed the situation in his country, subjected to internal and external aggression, with the United States government as a protagonist, a crusade that includes the danger of a military aggression.

We have resisted the violence and the attacks of the most powerful empire, said Maduro, who recalled the interest of the powers, and in particular of Washington, in seizing the great resources of the South American country, including oil and gold.

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