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Posts tagged ‘The Washington Times’

Harry Reid, Mike Lee Caught Up in Corruption Probe.


Image: Harry Reid, Mike Lee Caught Up in Corruption Probe

By Melanie Batley

The FBI and Utah state prosecutors working on a corruption investigation say they have uncovered accusations of financial wrongdoing by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and GOP Sen. Mike Lee, but the Justice Department has so far declined to act on their recommendation for a full federal investigation.

Two district attorneys, one Democrat and one Republican, told The Washington Times, ABC News, and The Salt Lake Tribune this week that they have found evidence of possible financial wrongdoing by the lawmakers relating to suspect campaign contributions and other financial transactions.

“There are allegations, but they are very serious allegations and they need to be looked at by somebody,” Sim Gill, a Democrat and chief prosecutor in Salt Lake County, told The Washington Times. “If true, or even if asserted, they truly should be investigated and put to rest, or be confirmed.”

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“The most appropriate entity to review those types of things, if they would, would be the Department of Justice,” Davis County District Attorney Troy Rawlings, a Republican, told ABC News. “Basically to look at their own. To look at allegations of conduct or misconduct involving federal officials.”

Rawlings told the Times, “Based on what we know today, we were surprised that the DOJ ran away.”

And Gill told the Tribune, “We cannot fully do justice to the things we’re coming across. It clearly raises concerns that can only be addressed — either to confirm [the allegations] or to put them to rest — by other entities.”

Reid and Lee both have ties to the online poker world, the reports say, and the investigation is looking at whether both or either politician sought or received money or other benefits from donors, fundraisers, or both in connection with doing political favors or taking official actions, according to the Times.

Jeremy Johnson, an official at a St. George, Utah, bank that processes hundreds of millions of dollars for one of the world’s largest online poker companies, said he and others started arranging tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to state and federal political campaigns, including Reid’s, ABC News reported.

Johnson claims he was instructed by online poker figures to hide illegal contributions to the campaigns of Reid and Lee in 2010 by finding “straw donors” who were reimbursed from poker accounts in the bank for money they supposedly contributed.

He also claimed that online poker industry officials hosted a fundraiser for Reid at which he promised to introduce federal legislation to legalize online poker if he was re-elected, which he ultimately did, even though he had had a longstanding public opposition to the legalization of Internet poker. Reid’s aides dispute there was any link in the timing of when Reid shifted his position on the matter, according to The Times.

ABC calls Johnson a “controversial figure” who is awaiting trial on 86 internet fraud charges alleging he scammed consumers out of millions of dollars.

Prosecutors are also looking at whether Lee provided accurate information when he bought, then sold a Utah home to a campaign contributor and federal contractor, leaving his mortgage bank to absorb large losses, the Times reported.

The FBI and state investigators have collected more than 100,000 bank records, emails, and other documents and interviewed more than 200 witnesses as part of the bipartisan probe, ABC News reports.

People familiar with the probe told the Times that the FBI and local investigators have been frustrated for months by the Justice Department’s inaction on the matter, and the concerns were recently escalated to FBI headquarters.

The concerns have also prompted discussions about whether to seek a special prosecutor who would bypass the Justice Department and U.S. attorney’s office and look at the evidence independently. In the meantime, the FBI cannot use a federal grand jury to gather evidence without the permission of the Justice Department or a special prosecutor.

“In this case, DOJ risks creating the perception of a cover-up rather than let agents use the normal tools and follow the evidence wherever it leads — a Republican, Democrat, Senate or not,” a senior FBI official based in Washington told the Times.

The evidence that was uncovered came out during an investigation focused on former Utah GOP Attorney General John Swallow and state officials, which continue to be the focus of the case, according to ABC News. But the prospectors said they may be forced to consider expanding it to include issues on the federal level if the Justice Department doesn’t step in.

“If somebody commits crimes and there’s a nexus to the state of Utah and we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, it doesn’t matter who they are,” Rawlings told ABC News. “Even a U.S. senator. And no, we’re not afraid of that. That’s our job.”

Reid’s spokesman, Adam Jentleson, called the statements by the district attorneys “a publicity stunt” and said Reid “has never been contacted in regards to this investigation.” He also said the questions about the investigation submitted by ABC News were “nothing but a fever-brained witch hunt.”

Lee’s office also said he had not been contacted about the investigation by the prosecutor’s office or the FBI.

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Watchdog: Holder Lets Prosecutors Get Away With Misconduct.


Image: Watchdog: Holder Lets Prosecutors Get Away With Misconduct

By Drew MacKenzie

A government watchdog group has attacked the Justice Department for failing to discipline hundreds of federal prosecutors who have committed serious misconduct during their cases, The Washington Times reported.

The Project on Government Oversight revealed that there were 650 cases of mostly “reckless” or “intentional” infractions from 2002 to 2013, including one incident in which a prosecutor actually had a “close personal relationship” with a defendant.

Calling them “bad apples,” POGO claimed Attorney General Eric Holder’s office hasdeclined to name the government attorneys involved, allowing them to get away with and continue their actions.

Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Montana Sen. John Tester, a Democrat, introduced a bill on Thursday calling for closer scrutiny of possible prosecutorial misconduct by handing the Justice Department’s independent inspector general the authority to examine such cases.

“Current law invites undue influence from the attorney general’s office into the process and should be changed to ensure the integrity of investigations of misconduct within the Justice Department,” said Lee.

According to the Times, the Justice Department’s office of professional responsibility is given the power to probe cases of misconduct.

“The lack of transparency insulates the Justice Department from meaningful public scrutiny,” said Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director. “Our findings raise serious concerns that the attorney general’s office isn’t aggressively overseeing or disciplining its bad apples.”

Justice spokeswoman Emily Pierce told the newspaper that it has not released the names because of Privacy Act issues. But she noted that defense attorneys and judges are informed about what actions, if any, are taken to resolve misconduct accusations.

“The department takes all allegations of attorney misconduct seriously, and that is why the office of professional responsibility thoroughly reviews each case and refers its findings of misconduct to relevant state bar associations when the rules of the state bar are implicated,” she said.

“As the POGO report itself points out, the department has set a higher standard for its attorneys than do many state bars.”

The watchdog group based its findings on records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Justice Department documents, and data from the GovernmentAttic.org website, said the Times.

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Boehner Snub at CPAC Highlights Party Rift.


Image: Boehner Snub at CPAC Highlights Party Rift

By Elliot Jager

The absence of an invitation to House Speaker John Boehner to take part in this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference reflects a rift between “movement ” and “establishment” conservatives, The Washington Times reported.

The conference, which takes place in Maryland on March 6-8, will hear from establishment figures such as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, among others.

Boehner, though, seems to symbolize the rift between movement and government conservatives who are increasingly divided over tactics for promoting the conservative agenda, according to the Times.

He last addressed the gathering in 2010.

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Tea party activist Jenny Beth Martin has initiated a “Fire the Speaker” petition that has garnered 93,000 signatures.

Party strategist Ford O’Connell said, “There are not enough curse words in the English language to describe how movement conservatives think of John Boehner.” He added, “They see him as only slightly better than President Obama.

“John Boehner is wise not to attend CPAC because he does not want to become a distraction and fodder for the news media by highlighting the rift between establishment conservatives and the movement conservatives,” O’Connell said.

Republican strategist Mike McKenna said Boehner’s opponents are overwrought.

“In about two years, folks on the right are going to be complaining about whoever the next speaker is and remembering Boehner fondly. They are angry at the world. For some reason, they have focused some of this anger at Boehner. I have no clue why.”

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More Gun Buyers OK’d Under Obama Than Clinton or Bush.


More gun purchases are being approved after federal background checks under the Obama administration than the previous presidential tenures of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, The Washington Times reported.

Figures obtained by the newspaper reveal that nearly everyone who applies for a gun from a federally licensed dealer and is vetted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is handed the weapon, regardless of what party is in power.

The security system was introduced in 1998 to prevent potential buyers with criminal records or mental illness from obtaining guns. Sales of firearms by private sellers don’t require background checks unless required by state law.

In 1999 and 2000, during Clinton’s presidency, 0.83 percent of applicants, fewer than one in 100, were denied firearms, according to statistics obtained by the Times under the Freedom of Information Act. And from 2001 to 2008 under Bush’s tenure, the percentage of refusals was even less at 0.67 percent, also less than 100.

Under the current Obama administration, the average denial rate is just 0.46, or fewer than one in 50 applicants, which is nearly half of Clinton’s numbers and also much lower than Bush’s.

The statistics show that the percentage of denials was even lower than 0.46 in the six months directly after the Sandy Hook school massacre by deranged shooter Adam Lanza.

The rampage resulted in an outcry from gun control advocates, including President Barack Obama, for stricter gun controls and an expansion of the background check system.

Astonishingly, there were just over 171,028,000 federal background checks carried out on potential gun buyers run from Jan. 1, 1999, to June 30, 2013 — with about 1,024,000 denied. The factors that prevent would-be buyers getting firearms include a criminal history, illegal immigration, or a dishonorable discharge from the military.

Thomas Baker, assistant professor of criminology at the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the number of gun applicants has increased rapidly in recent years because of the fierce political controversy surrounding gun controls that could result in them being barred from getting a weapon.

And he noted that people unlikely to be approved for a gun purchase are getting around the federal system by buying firearms privately.

“The unfortunate fact is that political rhetoric on gun control is likely increasing firearm purchases by those legally prohibited from owning firearms, too,” said Baker. “The only difference is that with the private-sale loophole, these sales go entirely undetected.”

Earlier this week in New Hampshire, a bill that would have expanded background checks for gun sales and transfers to include gun shows, the Internet, and flea markets was killed by the state’s Legislature, The Associated Press reported.

The bill would have required most private sellers to conduct background checks through federally licensed dealers. State Rep. Richard Meaney, a Republican, said the bill infringed upon New Hampshire gun owners’ Second Amendment rights.

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By Drew MacKenzie

Report: US Press Freedom Declines Under Obama.


Image: Report: US Press Freedom Declines Under Obama

By Melissa Clyne

Freedom of the press in the United States has plunged during the Obama administration, according to the 2014 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

“The U.S. under President Obama, who once promised to run the ‘most transparent’ administration in the country’s history, fell from 32nd to 46th in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, a drop of 13 slots,” The Washington Times reports.

The report reviews the state of media freedoms in 180 countries. Major declines occurred in the United States, the Central African Republic, and Guatemala, while marked improvements took place in Ecuador, Bolivia, and South Africa, according to the index compiled by the press advocacy group.

Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway continue to lead the index for press freedoms and government openness, while Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea “continue to be the biggest information black holes, again occupying the last three positions.” Syria also ranked near the bottom.

The rating was based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure, according to Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

“It makes governments face their responsibilities by providing civil society with an objective measure, and provides international bodies with a good governance indicator to guide their decisions,” Deloire said in a statement.

The report cited the handling of three events as major contributors to the declining rating for reporter freedoms the United States, according to The Washington Times.

• Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of top secret information related to U.S. spying programs;

• Army Pvt. Bradley Manning’s leak of classified documents to WikiLeaks;

• The Justice Department’s handling of a probe of The Associated Press and other media organizations suspected of receiving leaked data.

Freedom of the press is increasingly under siege as governments around the globe are targeting journalists — to get to their sources and those people who leak sensitive information, according to the report.

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Senate Conservatives Fund Wants Boehner to Resign.


House Speaker John Boehner must be ousted, the Senate Conservatives Fund says.

The Washington Times reports the group, a super-PAC founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, plans to put the pressure on GOP lawmakers by keeping track of which ones back their efforts to boot the Ohio Republican.

The group’s decision comes amid anger that GOP leaders are gearing up to support a bill increasing the nation’s borrowing limit without any givebacks.

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In an email to supporters, reported by The Washington Post, the fund said, “Republicans are giving up because they know that winning is impossible when their leaders are determined to lose. These leaders have telegraphed weakness to the Democrats and sabotaged conservative efforts so many times that Republicans now have no leverage. There’s only one solution.

“John Boehner must be replaced as Speaker of the House.”

The email went on to say that Boehner “has chosen to ignore us and help President Obama enact his liberal agenda.”

“Unless we install a new leader who will actually go on offense, Democrats will never fear us and we will never have any leverage,” it continued.

On Tuesday, Boehner allowed a vote on a raise in the debt limit without any conditions. It passed by 20 votes with all but two Democrats supporting it. However Boehner was joined by just 27 of his Republican colleagues in favor of the bill.

Boehner’s decision ignored factions of his party that called for tying the measure to defunding of Obamacare and including benefits for military retirees.

The mission of the Senate Conservatives Fund is to elect “true conservative leaders.”

Related articles:

  • Senate Conservatives Fund Leader Stirs Up Republican Anger
  • DeMint Turns His Senate Conservatives Fund Into Super-PAC

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By Bill Hoffmann

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