Category Archives: LAW

Justice Department emails reveal support for Sally Yates after she refused to enforce Trump's travel ban

sally yates justice department

  • A Freedom of Information Act request from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch revealed emails sent to former acting Attorney General Sally Yates from several Justice Department employees.
  • One of the emails from a prominent prosecutor who is now on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team appeared to be supportive of Yates’ decision not to enforce President Donald Trump’s original travel ban earlier this year.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent lawsuit filed against the US Justice Department for the release of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ emails revealed mess, including a prominent prosecutor who praised Yates’ decision not to enforce President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban earlier this year.

Judicial Watch released emails sent from multiple Justice Department employees to Yates during her tenure as acting attorney general in the first week of the Trump administration. On January 27, Trump implemented an executive order intended to temporarily bar refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US.

Yates, a former deputy attorney general under the Obama administration, refused to defend Trump’s order, saying his administration’s justification for the ban — that it was a national-security issue and not a religious one — was indefensible. Yates was promptly fired.

Yates outlined her reasoning for not enforcing Trump’s executive order in a letter to Justice Department lawyers: “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right,” Yates wrote. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

Some of Yates’ colleagues within the department applauded her decision. One email with the subject line, “Executive order” was sent three days after Trump’s travel ban went into effect: “Thank you Yates. Ive [sic] been civil/appellate for years and have never seen administration with such contempt for democratic values and the rule law,” read the employee’s email. “The Presidents order unconstitutional embarrassment and applaud you for taking principled stand against defending it.”

Another email from prosecutor Andrew Weissmann reveals that he also supported Yates’ decision. “I am so proud,” Weissmann wrote. “And in awe. Thank you so much.”

Weissman later joined special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in the high-profile investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Some Trump supporters in recent days have sought to highlight alleged political biases among members of Mueller’s investigative team in order to call their credibility into question as the Russia probe heats up.

Four former Trump associates have been charged, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian operatives.

SEE ALSO: Mueller just abruptly reversed course on his bail agreement with Manafort

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'Keep calm and tackle hard': FBI director sends out motivational email to agents after Trump's fiery tweets

christopher wray

  • FBI Director Christopher Wray reportedly sent a motivational email to FBI employees.
  • The message comes a day after Trump unleashed on the bureau’s reputation, describing it as  “in Tatters.”
  • “Keep calm and tackle hard,” Wray wrote in the email.

FBI Director Christopher Wray sent a motivational email to the FBI’s 35,000 employees on Monday, following President Donald Trump’s tirade against the agency on Sunday, The New York Times reported.

Wray reportedly wrote that he was “inspired by example after example of professionalism and dedication to justice demonstrated around the bureau” and encouraged employees to “continue to keep focused on our critical mission.”

“It is truly an honor to represent you,” Wray said.

Although The Times notes that Wray did not specifically mention Trump in his email, it comes a day after Trump unleashed on the agency and its former director, James Comey, who testified in May that Trump asked him to drop the bureau’s ongoing investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.

“I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!,” Trump tweeted Sunday.

In a separate tweet, Trump portrayed the FBI as an embattled agency with a tarnished reputation: “After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness,” Trump tweeted.

Following his tweets, Thomas O’Connor, the president of the FBI Agents Association, released a statement saying that the bureau’s agents “put their lives on the line” and that they performed their duties “with unwavering integrity and professionalism and a focus on complying with the law and the Constitution.”

Trump, who fired Comey in May, has previously assailed the FBI under Comey’s tenure, calling his replacement “someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.”

“We find ourselves under the microscope each and every day — and rightfully so. We do hard work for a living,” Wray’s email continued.

“Keep calm and tackle hard,” the email concluded, according to The Times.

SEE ALSO: FBI agents and James Comey fire back after Trump called their integrity into question

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Trump could be forced to testify on sexual-harassment allegations — and if he lies he could be impeached

Summer Zervos

  • Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of sexually harassing her in 2007, is suing him for defamation because he called her and other accusers liars.
  • Trump’s lawyers will argue in a New York court on Tuesday that the lawsuit should be thrown out because he is a sitting president.
  • But former President Bill Clinton was deposed while he was a sitting president over allegations of sexual harassment by Paula Jones. Later, when he was found to have lied under oath, he was impeached by the House of Representatives.
  • “People are going to find out who this guy really is,” Mindy McGillivray, one of Trump’s accusers, told Business Insider.

While everyone’s talking about special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into the Trump campaign’s communication with the Russian government, the president’s lawyers are preparing for an altogether different case.

On Tuesday, in a New York state Supreme Court hearing, they’re expected to try to have a defamation case against the president dismissed. If they fail, the president could be forced to testify on allegations that he sexually harassed more than a dozen women.

The suit was filed by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” who claimed last year that Trump “very aggressively” kissed her, groped her breasts, and began “thrusting” his genitals at her in a 2007 meeting at The Beverly Hills Hotel. Her claim is that Trump damaged her reputation when he called her a liar.

The hearing comes amid a torrent of scrutiny around sexual misconduct by powerful men in the US following bombshell revelations regarding years of alleged sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The allegations cost Weinstein his job and, subsequently, women have come forward with a variety of allegations against high-profile journalists, lawmakers, and executives.

Trump’s lawyers are expected to argue that the suit against him should be thrown out or delayed until after his term on the grounds that a sitting president can’t be sued in state court. Part of their reasoning is that a trial could distract Trump from his official business as president.

The experience of another US president — Bill Clinton — shows that this argument may not hold up. Clinton’s experience also shows how, if Trump lies under oath, he could be impeached.

Clinton v. Jones

US President Donald Trump

“The precedent is not on Trump’s side,” says Susan Low Bloch, a professor at Georgetown University’s law school and an expert in constitutional law.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1997, in Clinton v. Jones, that sitting presidents are not in fact immune from civil-law litigation over something that happened before they took office. The ruling specifically pertained to federal lawsuits. Trump’s lawyers say this case is different because it was filed in a state court.

Trump’s legal team is also expected to argue on Tuesday that the president’s statements referring to his accusers as “liars” amounted to political speech and should therefore be protected from legal action.

“All of the statements occurred on political forums — a campaign website, on Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, in a presidential debate, and at campaign rallies — where the listeners expect to hear public debate, taken as political opinion rather than a defamatory statement,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a court filing last month.

This argument could be tough to win, unless Trump’s defense can prove that Zervos is a limited public figure, Bloch said.

Zervos’ lawyer, Gloria Allred, said Trump should have to defend what he said in court. Allred has also subpoenaed his campaign for all documents related to the many women who have accused him of sexual harassment.

“We believe that President Trump should be accountable for his statements,” she said in July. “No one enjoys a license to defame based on power, wealth or privilege.”

Zervos was one of 13 women who accused Trump last year of unwanted physical contact over a period spanning more than 30 years. Trump has denied Zervos’ claims, saying he “vaguely” remembers her and that he never met her at a hotel. He later called Zervos and his other accusers “liars” during several campaign appearances and on Twitter.

Zervos, through Allred, declined an interview. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Lying about Lewinsky

clinton

If the court decides the suit can move forward, Trump will likely be deposed, meaning he will have to give sworn statements concerning the allegations against him.

Former US President Bill Clinton faced a similar situation as a sitting president when he was sued by Paula Jones, who had accused him of sexual harassment when he was the governor of Arkansas. As part of that suit, Clinton gave a sworn deposition in 1998 in which he denied a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Clinton later admitted to the affair, after Lewinsky provided grand-jury testimony on her relationship with the president and produced evidence: a dress stained with semen matching Clinton’s DNA.

Kenneth Starr, an independent counsel at the time, concluded that Clinton committed perjury — an impeachable offense — when he denied the affair with Lewinsky. Starr submitted his findings to the US House of Representatives, which voted to impeach Clinton. But the Senate later acquitted him of all charges, and he remained in office.

Like Clinton, Trump could face impeachment if he lied under oath. In that case, it would ultimately be up to Congress to decide whether he was telling the truth.

Trump faces a litany of sexual-harassment allegations

More than a dozen women came forward before the presidential election last year accusing Trump of unwanted sexual advances.

Among them was Jessica Leeds, who said Trump groped her on a flight in the 1980s. She said he grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. “He was like an octopus,” she told The New York Times. “His hands were everywhere.”

Kristin Anderson said Trump slipped his hand up her skirt and touched her vagina through her underwear at a New York City nightclub in the early 1990s. Jill Harth said Trump pushed her against a wall, put his hand up her skirt, and tried to kiss her at a dinner in the early 1990s.

Mindy McGillivray said Trump grabbed her buttocks in 2003 when she was 23 years old and working at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s oceanfront resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

“Donald is over 6 feet tall and very intimidating,” McGillivray told Business Insider. “I was vulnerable — a young mother.”

Natasha Stoynoff said she was interviewing Trump in 2005, one year after his marriage to Melania, when he allegedly forced himself on her. “Within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat,” she wrote last year in People magazine.

Also in 2005, then 22-year-old Rachel Crooks said she introduced herself to Trump outside an elevator in Trump Tower in Manhattan and that he kissed her on the mouth.

These women and others all came forward following the release of an “Access Hollywood” videotape in which Trump bragged about being able to grab women “by the pussy.” Trump later downplayed the remarks as “locker-room talk” and denied all the allegations of sexual harassment. The New York Times reported this week that Trump has since suggested to lawmakers that it is not him on the tape, citing people who are close to the president or aware of his private conversations.

‘Totally phoney’

Trump also threatened to sue all his accusers.

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign — total fabrication,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in October 2016. “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Trump hasn’t yet filed any suits against his accusers, but he still publicly maintains his innocence.

When asked about the Zervos subpoena in October, which demands all campaign communication regarding Trump’s accusers, Trump called it “fake news.”

“All I can say is it’s totally fake news, just fake,” he said. “It’s fake. It’s made-up stuff, and it’s disgraceful what happens, but that happens in the world of politics.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later reaffirmed that the Trump administration’s official position is that all of Trump’s accusers are lying.

Trump accuser says the truth will come out

McGillivray, one of the women who said she was groped by Trump, says it’s the president who is lying.

She told Business Insider that she was terrified to talk publicly about the incident in 2003 when she says Trump grabbed her buttocks.

“I was a nervous wreck,” McGillivray said. “But I felt like this was a time to be courageous. The guy’s a liar and I wanted people to know that.”

McGillivray told her story to the Palm Beach Post in October, and said she subsequently became the target of a barrage of death threats online. She and her daughter fled their home in Florida for three weeks to escape the national attention.

Regardless of what happens with Zervos’ suit, McGillivray said she’s confident that Americans will ultimately find out the truth about the sexual-harassment allegations against Trump.

“People are going to find out who this guy really is,” she said.

SEE ALSO: 22 powerful men in politics and media accused of sexual misconduct in the wake of Harvey Weinstein

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Trump slams 'rigged system' for going after Michael Flynn and not Hillary Clinton

donald trump

  • President Donald Trump on Saturday night complained that the life of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn was “destroyed” over lying to the FBI, while “nothing happens” to Hillary Clinton.
  • Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of lying to the FBI as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

President Donald Trump on Saturday complained of a “Rigged system” that he said was destroying the life of his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, while “nothing happens” to his former Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

“So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday ‘interrogation’ with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times…and nothing happens to her?” Trump said on Twitter. “Rigged system, or just a double standard?”

He complained in a following tweet that there was “No justice!” in the Department of Justice’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s emails.

“Many people in our Country are asking what the ‘Justice’ Department is going to do about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from the United States Congress, deleted and ‘acid washed’ 33,000 Emails?”

Earlier on Saturday, Trump had taken to Twitter to defend Flynn, who had pleaded guilty the previous day to one count of making false statement to investigators in January about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during Trump’s transition to the presidency.

“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” he wrote. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

Flynn was forced to resign in February after reports that he had spoken to Kislyak about US sanctions on Russia on December 29 — the same day then-President Barack Obama had imposed sanctions. Trump told reporters at the time that he was forced to fire Flynn because he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations with Kislyak. Trump said nothing at the time, however, that he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI in a January interview.

Trump’s Saturday tweet was widely perceived by legal experts as inadvertently bolstering an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump, as it appears to indicate he was aware Flynn had lied to the FBI at the time of Flynn’s firing.

Experts said if Trump knew that Flynn was in the FBI’s crosshairs when he asked former FBI Director James Comey, whom he later fired, to consider “letting Flynn go” the day after Flynn resigned, that could strengthen the obstruction case federal prosecutors are building against him.

Natasha Bertrand and Sonam Sheth contributed reporting.

SEE ALSO: Top Trump transition official in private email: Russia ‘has just thrown’ the election to Trump

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Kate Steinle's death at the hands of a Mexican national became a flashpoint in the immigration debate — here's the story behind her killing

jose ines garcia zarate

  • The unauthorized immigrant who killed Kate Steinle in 2015 was acquitted by a jury on Thursday of murder and manslaughter charges.
  • The verdict sparked outrage among immigration hardliners and critics of so-called “sanctuary cities,” who argued that Steinle’s death could have been prevented if the city of San Francisco had not released Garcia Zarate from jail shortly before the shooting.
  • But the facts of Garcia Zarate’s case are more complicated — San Francisco officials and federal authorities have each blamed the other for Garcia Zarate’s release.

The surprise acquittal of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate in the shooting death of San Francisco woman Kate Steinle set off a firestorm of outrage Thursday night, as top conservatives and critics of so-called “sanctuary cities” pinned blame for Steinle’s death on illegal immigration and insufficiently aggressive deportation policies.

Garcia Zarate, a 45-year-old Mexican national who was homeless and living in the US illegally when he fired the shot that killed Steinle, was acquitted by a jury on murder and manslaughter charges. The jury convicted him of the lesser charge of being a felon in possession of a gun, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in state prison.

Steinle, 32, was fatally shot while she walked along Pier 14 of the San Francisco Bay with her father in July 2015. The bullet that pierced her back had ricocheted off the concrete ground after it was fired by Garcia Zarate from a handgun belonging to a federal ranger that had been stolen four days earlier.

Garcia Zarate’s defense attorneys argued that the shooting was an accident — they said he found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt or cloth under a pier bench and unintentionally discharged it.

Lead attorney Matt Gonzalez has argued that the weapon was a SIG Sauer with a “hair trigger in single-action mode” — a model well-known for accidental discharges even among experienced shooters. Gonzalez told the jury, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, that Garcia Zarate had never handled a firearm before, was frightened by the noise of the gunshot, then flung the weapon into the bay where it was later found by a diver.

Prosecutors, however, alleged that Garcia Zarate brought the weapon to the pier deliberately to do harm, and intentionally aimed and shot Steinle after firmly pulling the trigger. They said Garcia Zarate then threw the weapon into the bay and fled the scene.

San Francisco’s ‘sanctuary’ policies were closely scrutinized after Steinle’s death

jose ines garcia zarate kate stienleBeyond the shooting itself, perhaps the most controversial aspect of Garcia Zarate’s case involves his previous criminal activity and history of deportations, and how San Francisco and federal authorities handled his custody before he ever picked up the gun and shot Steinle.

At the time of Steinle’s death, Garcia Zarate had been convicted of nonviolent drug crimes and deported five times since the early 1990s.

He faced a sixth deportation in 2015, and was in Justice Department (DOJ) custody that March after serving 46 months in prison for a felony re-entry into the US, but instead of transferring him into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation, the department transferred him to the San Francisco County Jail for prosecution of a 1995 marijuana charge.

San Francisco prosecutors, who had long ago deprioritized marijuana charges, dismissed the decades-old charge and released Garcia Zarate on April 15, 2015. Due to San Francisco’s policy of limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities — which some refer to as a “sanctuary” policy — the city did not inform ICE when they released Garcia Zarate.

As a result of the case, both the DOJ and the city of San Francisco have changed several policies. The DOJ announced in 2016 it would no longer release potentially deportable detainees to local jails without first allowing ICE to take custody. San Francisco, meanwhile, has adjusted its policy to notify ICE if they are releasing suspected undocumented immigrants who face charges of serious or violent felonies.

“This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had simply turned the alien over to ICE as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets,” ICE Director Thomas Homan said in a statement on Thursday. “It is unconscionable that politicians across this country continue to endanger the lives of Americans with sanctuary policies while ignoring the harm inflicted on their constituents.”

But ICE has faced criticism of its own over not seeking a judicial warrant to legally obtain custody of Garcia Zarate when it discovered he had been transferred into San Francisco’s custody. The agency has argued that obtaining judicial warrants are unnecessary and would place too much burden on ICE officials and federal courts.

Though the agency did issue a request to the city to detain Garcia Zarate until ICE officials could pick him up, their detainer requests are not signed by a judge and are therefore not legally binding. San Francisco’s policy is to ignore such requests if they are not accompanied by judge-signed warrants, and the city has cited federal court cases concluding that such detentions violate inmates’ Fourth Amendment rights.

The right has used Steinle’s death as evidence of the perils of illegal immigration

Kate SteinleGarcia Zarate’s deportation and criminal history made him an effective target for immigration hardliners, who argued that Steinle would still be alive were it not for an insecure border and lenient treatment toward suspected undocumented immigrants in local jails.

President Donald Trump immediately seized on the verdict on Thursday as evidence of the perils of “Illegal Immigration.” Trump frequently villainized Garcia Zarate and cited Steinle’s death during his presidential campaign, using the case to bolster his argument for a border wall and aid his crusade against “sanctuary cities.”

Early on Friday, Trump also falsely claimed on Twitter that Garcia Zarate had previously committed violent crimes and had illegally entered the US six times due to lax border security under the Obama administration.

“The Kate Steinle killer came back and back over the weakly protected Obama border, always committing crimes and being violent, and yet this info was not used in court. His exoneration is a complete travesty of justice. BUILD THE WALL!” Trump tweeted.

In fact, Garcia Zarate had never been convicted of a violent crime before Steinle’s shooting — his previous convictions were for nonviolent drug crimes and illegal entry. Lax border security, too, does not appear to be a factor since Garcia Zarate was caught by border patrol agents each time he entered the country under the Obama administration.

In contrast, Steinle’s family has expressed nuanced views on immigration and “sanctuary” policies. They have both condemned  Trump for “sensationalizing” Steinle’s death to advance anti-immigration policies, and expressed frustration with San Francisco officials, who they believe went too far in refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

SEE ALSO: The mysterious death of a border patrol agent may have been an accident, Texas sheriff says, not an attack as Trump suggested

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The mysterious death of a border patrol agent may have been an accident, Texas sheriff says, not an attack as Trump suggested

border patrol flag

  • The death of Rogelio Martinez, a 36-year-old border patrol agent, has prompted speculation of an “attack” and fueled calls from top Republicans for increased border security.
  • A Texas sheriff who responded to the November 18 incident, however, said it’s more likely Martinez and his partner were sideswiped by a tractor-trailer.
  • The unions aren’t accepting that explanation.

The sudden, mysterious death of a border patrol agent that some have blamed on undocumented immigrants or drug traffickers was more likely a truck accident, a Texas sheriff said.

Rogelio Martinez, 36, died November 18 shortly after first responders found him and his partner badly injured near a drainage culvert along Interstate 10 in Van Horn, Texas. Authorities said both men suffered traumatic head injuries, and that Martinez’s partner has no memory of the incident.

Top Republicans — including President Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and the state’s Gov. Greg Abbot — immediately seized on Martinez’s death as evidence that the US-Mexico border is insufficiently secured. They called his death an “attack” or an “ambush.”

“Border Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt,” Trump tweeted November 19. “We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!”

But Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo, who was one of the first responders to the scene on the night of the incident, told the Dallas Morning News that he believes it’s more likely that a tractor-trailer accidentally sideswiped the two agents as they stood near the culvert.

rogelio martinez border patrolOfficials from the federal Customs and Border Protection agency have said that Martinez and his partner were “responding to activity” near the culvert before they were injured.

Interstate 10 — the southernmost cross-country highway in the US — is just feet away from the culvert. Carrillo said it’s heavily traveled by truckers, and such accidents are common.

“If this was an assault, believe me, as sheriff, I’d be the first one out there emphasizing safety in our community and with our deputies, pairing them up,” Carrillo told the newspaper. “But from what I know and see, that was not the case here.”

Labor unions representing border patrol agents have told media that Martinez and his partner were attacked with rocks.

“The injuries to Martinez could not have happened the way the media has been trying to portray,” Stuart Harris, vice president of the Border Patrol Council Local 1929, told the Dallas Morning News. “Agent Martinez was ultimately murdered. The agents were tracking footprints and were ultimately ambushed, and assaulted by, I don’t know who, but it could have been illegal immigrants or drug traffickers.”

Harris added that the injuries Martinez sustained were “far more severe” than an accident could have caused, and he said he doubted that the same accident could happen to both agents.

The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward for information that could lead to the case’s resolution. Special agent-in-charge Emmerson Buie Jr. said at a press conference that the incident is being investigated as a “potential assault” but they could not rule out other causes.

Carrillo said he is eager to see what Martinez’s full autopsy report will reveal, though the El Paso medical examiner’s office said it may take weeks.

“Just because you die doesn’t mean all is lost,” Carrillo said. “The body can tell a story.”

SEE ALSO: The mysterious death of a Border Patrol agent is prompting new calls for Trump’s border wall

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NOW WATCH: One of these prototypes could become Trump’s border wall

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The bitcoin exchange Coinbase has been ordered to hand the IRS info on 14,355 of its highest-rolling customers

taxes

  • On Wednesday, a court ordered Coinbase to hand over information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about users that made transactions over $20,000 between 2013 and 2015.
  • That request includes information on 14,355 Coinbase customers across 8.9 million transactions, according to the court order. 
  • The order comes nearly a year after the IRS first requested records on all of Coinbase’s transactions between 2013 and 2015 as part of its efforts to catch tax evaders.

Just hours after wild fluctuations in bitcoin prices put Coinbase’s servers on the fritz, the cryptocurrency exchange is facing a new challenge: the US government. 

Coinbase must turn over information about thousands of its users to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a US district court ruled on Wednesday.

As one of the leading exchanges for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether, Coinbase has seen billions of dollars exchanged on its platform— some of which the IRS believes is not being accurately reported by taxpayers.

The court order requires Coinbase to hand over info on all customers who made a transaction worth $20,000 or more between 2013 and 2015. Coinbase has estimated that this request would total 8.9 million transactions between 14,355 different account holders, according to the court order.  

Among the information requested are the names, birth dates, addresses, tax IDs, transaction logs and account invoices of the Coinbase users.

That sounds like a lot of information but it’s actually a major narrowing from the IRS’s initial summons in November 2016, which sought information about every single transaction on the exchange during the period. Coinbase argued that this was an invasion of its customers’ privacy. The company initially ignored the request, before the IRS filed a petition to enforce the summons in March of this year. 

An “unprecedented victory for the industry”

A blog post from Coinbase Wednesday celebrated the ruling as a partial success, calling it an “unprecedented victory for the industry.” 

“The government’s own lawyers noted at the hearing that the IRS is not accustomed to having to fight for records in this context, and most companies just turn records over without going to court,” David Farmer, director of business operations at Coinbase, wrote in the blog.

Farmer wrote that the final number of people whose records were ordered on Wednesday is 97% lower than when the IRS first requested information.

Despite the celebration, Farmer suggested in the blog that Coinbase may not obey the request, or may challenge the order further. “In the event that we ultimately produce the documents under this Court order, we intend to notify impacted users in advance of any disclosure,” Farmer wrote. 

Wednesday’s court order denied Coinbase’s request for an “evidentiary hearing,” which Coinbase could have used to argue that the IRS showed bad faith in requesting the documents it asked for. 

Bitcoin is one of the most popular iterations of blockchain technology. Find out exactly how blockchain works with Business Insider’s special explainer.

SEE ALSO: Bitcoin’s price is collapsing and people can’t trade because 2 big exchanges have crashed

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The ex-cop who killed Walter Scott is using his 'Swiss cheese memory' as a defense — and citing Jeff Sessions' own memory lapses as an example

walter scott

  • Michael Slager, the former South Carolina police officer who fatally shot Walter Scott in the back as he was running away, is being sentenced next week.
  • Federal prosecutors are seeking an enhanced sentence due to Slager’s alleged obstruction of justice, when he lied to investigators about the shooting.
  • Slager’s defense is citing recent testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions as proof that one can offer differing accounts of an event due to stress-related memory lapses — not lies.

A former South Carolina police officer who faces sentencing next week for fatally shooting an unarmed black man is citing recent testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions as an example of how a person’s apparently evolving memories are attributable to stress, not lies.

Michael Slager pleaded guilty last May to committing federal civil rights violations when he fired eight rounds into the back of 50-year-old Walter Scott as the South Carolina man fled a traffic stop in April 2015. Scott’s death attracted national attention after a bystander’s video of the incident went viral, inflaming the ongoing debate over racial bias and excessive force in policing.

Federal prosecutors are seeking an enhanced sentence for obstruction of justice, accusing Slager of lying about the shooting when he told investigators that Scott had charged him and attempted to steal his Taser — a false claim that the bystander’s video later refuted.

Slager’s attorneys, however, are fighting the enhanced sentencing by arguing that Slager’s contradicting stories were caused by his memory faltering under stress, and not a deliberate attempt to mislead.

“A Swiss cheese memory is a symptom of stress, not an indicator of lying,” Slager’s attorneys wrote in a court filing, first citing testimony from a forensic psychiatrist, then using Sessions as an example.

‘I don’t recall’

jeff sessionsMembers of the House Judiciary Committee grilled Sessions in November over his wavering accounts of whether he was aware of contact between members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia.

Sessions had previously testified twice that he was “not aware” of any such communication. Those assertions were called into question when recently unsealed court documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller showed that Sessions had been aware of a young campaign adviser’s desire to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sessions had been presiding over the March 31, 2016 meeting at which the adviser, George Papadopoulos, had pitched the idea. Sessions, however, maintained in his recent testimony that his story has “never changed,” and that he has “always told the truth.” His repeated “I don’t recall” refrain has since become the subject of widespread mocking on social media and derisive video mash-ups.

“I had no recollection of this [March 31] meeting until I saw these news reports,” Sessions testified. “I do now recall the March 2016 meeting that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said during that meeting.”

Slager’s lawyers, in their court filing submitted last week, seized upon Sessions’ argument as an example of how a person under pressure could feasibly offer up several different versions of their story without purposely lying.

Michael Slager

“Like Sessions, Slager never lied or misled anyone,” Slager’s attorneys argued in a court filing. “Like Sessions, he answered the questions that were asked. When he had his memory refreshed, he added the refreshed recollection to his testimony. When he failed to remember certain items, it can be attributed to the stress or chaos of the event during which the memory should have been formed.”

The move appears to be somewhat of a taunt to the Justice Department, which is prosecuting Slager. If the prosecutors continue to call Slager a liar, they could risk appearing to call Sessions, the head of their department, a liar.

“Unlike Slager, who had been in what he perceived as a life and death struggle before he made his statements, Sessions had time to prepare for his Congressional testimony, yet still often got it wrong,” the filing said.

It continued: “Why? According to Sessions, he was working in chaotic conditions created by the Trump campaign. This was undoubtedly stressful, though not as stressful as having shot a man to death, or dealing with the aftermath of that, or facing the death penalty or life in prison. As Sessions made clear in his statement, a failure to recall, or an inaccurate recollection, does not a liar make.”

Read the full court filing below:

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Homicides have hit a new high in Mexico — but that's not the only sign of growing insecurity

Mexico protest Guerrero Ayotzinapa 43

  • The number of homicides in Mexico has risen steadily over the past three years, particularly in areas where drug-related crime is high.
  • While much of the violence is related to organized crime, the Mexican government has been criticized for its heavy-handed response, which has led to some high-profile cases of abuse.
  • The country’s deteriorating security situation promises to play a significant role in the presidential election next year.

Mexico’s 2,764 homicide victims in October is the most recorded in any month over the last 20 years, according to data collected by the country’s federal government.

The new data puts 2017 on pace to be the most violent year in Mexico since the government began releasing homicide data in 1997.

Federal data also showed that 2,371 homicide investigations, which can include more than one victim, were opened in October — the highest monthly total over the past two decades.

Mexico homicides

The 23,968 homicide victims reported though October this year are nearly 27% more than the 18,895 recorded over the same period last year.

This year’s total through 10 months was almost 55% more than the 15,480 recorded over the same period in 2015.

Mexican federal data may in fact undercount the number of homicides in the country, however.

Civil-society groups have suggested that state governments, which submit crime data to the federal government, may misrepresent or manipulate the number of intentional killings.

“We don’t know if October was the most violent month in the last two decades. [Federal government] numbers are sufficiently poor to maintain some skepticism,” Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said after the data was released.

“If you want to make comparisons between different periods, you have to contrast using the homicide rate, not the absolute number.”

While 2017’s homicide numbers look set to exceed the violent years between 2008 and 2012, when drug-related violence was raged across much of the country, this year’s homicide rate per 100,000 people remains below those years.

2010 and 2012 were both above 18 homicides per 100,000 people, while 2011 approached 20 per 100,000. The rate fell after 2012, bottoming out at just under 13 per 100,000 in 2014. It has risen since: 2016 saw 16.8 homicides per 100,000 people, while 2017 is at 16.9 homicides per 100,000 people through October.

Mexico homicide rates

Not all of Mexico’s deadly violence is related to drugs and organized crime, but areas where criminal groups have traditionally been active have seen already elevated homicide numbers increase.

Through October, the strategically valuable border state of Baja California saw a 94% increase in homicide victims compared to the same period last year.

Chihuahua, also a valuable border state, saw a 35% increase. Veracruz, a Gulf coast state that has been a hotbed for criminal activity, saw a 31% increase.

Sinaloa, the heartland of the cartel of the same name, had a nearly 42% increase, while Guerrero, a heavily contested hub of opium production, had a nearly 14% increase through October.

Baja California Sur, home to popular resorts in Los Cabos, has seen the most severe increase in homicides. Its 536 homicides victims through October this year were 223% more than during the same period last year and almost 400% more than during the first 10 months of 2015.

Baja California Sur’s spiraling violence was underscored on Monday, when the head of the state’s human-rights commission, Silvestre de la Toba, and his son were gunned down.

‘Security needs to remain an utmost priority’

While homicides have steadily risien, overall crime has also risen. During the first 10 months of 2017, the Mexican federal government recorded a 13% increase in reported crimes compared to the same period last year. Violent crimes other than homicide are up as well.

Attempted homicides with a firearm over the first 10 months of this year increased 39% compared to the same period last year, according to Mexican news site Animal Politico. In 66.1% of the 20,878 homicide cases opened through October this year, the crime was committed with a firearm.

Violent robberies are up 38% so far this year, with over 50,000 more reported through October than were reported over the same period last year. Within that category, violent robberies of businesses increased 62%.

Ecatepec Mexico police crime arrest

Extortion cases were up more than 12% through October — though many instances of extortion go unreported. Sexual attacks were also up more than 10% through the first 10 months of the year. Mexico, along with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, is experiencing severe crisis levels of femicide, or homicides specifically targeting women, according to the UN.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has faced mounting criticism over crime rates that have steadily risen over the past three years and his government’s ineffective response. Peña Nieto has pushed for reforms to the country’s current security system, including a “Single Command” plan that would centralize public-security authority and reduce the autonomy of municipal police.

In an appearance before legislators this week, Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong touted the government’s coordinated efforts to capture 108 of the 122 criminal suspects who are considered the country’s most dangerous and defended federal security forces against charges of excessive force and other abuses.

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto gives a speech during the opening of the World Cancer Leaders' Summit in Mexico City, Mexico November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Osorio Chong drew attention to the problem of undermanned and underpaid police forces and responded to criticism of a security law that would formalize the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.

While critics fear the measure could shield military personnel who have committed abuses, Osorio Chong said the law “was to protect citizens” and would determine when and under what conditions the military could be deployed domestically.

Growing criticism of Peña Nieto’s handling of the security situation in the country comes as the president and his party prepare for the upcoming presidential election, scheduled for the middle of next year.

Crime is just one issue that will influence voters, but Peña Nieto himself has acknowledged its importance.

“It has to be said, we’re still not satisfied, and we still have lots more to achieve,” Peña Nieto said in a speech earlier this month. “Security needs to remain an utmost priority for the government.”

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Capitol Police are reportedly investigating leaked nude photo of a Texas GOP lawmaker

Joe Barton

  • A sexually explicit image of Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas surfaced on the internet on Tuesday.
  • Barton says the Capitol Hill police are investigating.
  • Barton reportedly once warned a woman that he would contact the police if she didn’t stop communicating with other women he was previously romantically involved with.

The Washington Post on Wednesday said it had reviewed a 2015 recording of Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas warning a woman who received “inappropriate photographs and videos” of him that he might report the matter to the Capitol Hill police. An anonymous Twitter account published a lewd photo photo of Barton on Tuesday.

In a recording of the call, The Post said, Barton confronted the woman after she was discovered to have communicated with other women who were romantically involved with Barton. The woman is also believed to have forwarded explicit materials from Barton to the other women.

“I want your word that this ends,” Barton said in the recording, according to The Post. “I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don’t want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time.”

Barton reportedly continued, saying he would detail all of their exchanges to the police, including material he said he did not want to be publicly disclosed.

“You still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career,” Barton reportedly said.

If the woman shared explicit images of Barton, that may violate Texas laws prohibiting “revenge porn,” in which people publicize such material without consent as a form of retaliation, The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday. Violators could face a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.

On Wednesday, Barton said in a statement that the Capitol Police would launch an investigation into the incident. The Capitol Police could not be reached by Business Insider for comment Wednesday evening.

“When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation,” Barton said, according to The Post.

The woman said she was in contact with Barton for five years, beginning in 2011, after she published a message on his Facebook page, according to The Post. Among the sexually explicit material he sent the woman was reportedly a video of him masturbating, which The Post said appeared to be the source of the photo released on Twitter on Tuesday. The woman interviewed by The Post said she did not publish the photo.

Barton, who said the two had a consensual relationship, was still married when they became romantically involved, according to The Post.

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