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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 351)

For Trump, a Risky Decision Other Presidents Had Avoided

WASHINGTON — President Trump was deep in discussion with political advisers going over campaign plans at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida just before 5 p.m. on Thursday when he was abruptly summoned to another meeting. A while later he returned just as mysteriously, jumping back into the conversation without offering a clue to what was going on.

In those few minutes, according to multiple people briefed on the events, Mr. Trump had made one of the most consequential foreign policy decisions of his presidency, giving final authorization to a drone strike halfway around the world that would eliminate one of America’s deadliest enemies while pushing the United States to the edge of an escalating confrontation with Iran that could transform the Middle East.

The military operation that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the Iranian security and intelligence commander responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops over the years, was unlike the ones that took out Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, terrorist leaders caught after long manhunts. General Suleimani did not have to be hunted; a high-ranking official of the Iranian government, he was in plain sight for years. All that was required was a president to decide to pull the trigger.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama never did. Mr. Bush’s administration made a conscious decision not to kill General Suleimani when he was in the cross hairs and Mr. Obama’s administration evidently never made an effort to pursue him. Both reasoned that killing the most powerful general in Iran would only risk a wider war with Iran, alienating American allies in Europe and the Middle East and undermining the United States in a region that had already cost plenty of lives and treasure in the last two decades.

But Mr. Trump opted to take the risk they did not, determined to demonstrate after months of backing down following previous Iranian provocations that he would no longer stand by while General Suleimani roamed freely. “He should have been taken out many years ago!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday.

The question was why now? “This guy has been killing Americans in Iraq since 2003,” said Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets.org and an Iraq war veteran. “I was in one of his attacks in Taji in 2011. They were dropping 240-millimeter rockets on us. So this is not a surprise that he’s involved in killing Americans.”

“But the question is what was different last night?” he added. “The onus is on Trump to prove something was different, or this is no different than another weapons of mass destruction play.”

Aides said Mr. Trump was angry about a rocket attack last week by forces linked to Tehran that killed an American civilian contractor and stewed as he watched television images of pro-Iranian demonstrators storming the American Embassy in Baghdad in the days that followed, neither of which would normally result in such a seemingly disproportionate retaliation.

But senior officials said the decision to target General Suleimani grew out of a new stream of Iran threats to American embassies, consulates and military personnel in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. General Suleimani had just left Damascus, the Syrian capital, where he was planning an “imminent” attack that could claim hundreds of lives, officials said.

“We’d be negligent if we didn’t respond,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Friday in his Pentagon office. “The threat of inaction exceeded the threat of action.”

Still, officials offered scant details and only general explanations for why these reported threats were any different than the rocket attacks, roadside bombings and other assaults carried out by General Suleimani’s Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps over the years. “Size, scale and scope,” General Milley said without elaboration.

National security experts and even other officials at the Pentagon said they were unaware of anything drastically new about Iranian behavior in recent weeks; General Suleimani has been accused of prodding Shiite militias into attacking Americans for more than a decade.

The drone strike came at a fraught time for the president, who faces a Senate trial after being impeached by the House largely along party lines last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. While advisers insisted politics had nothing to do with the decision, the timing was bound to raise questions in an era marked by deep suspicion across party lines.

General Suleimani was not a particularly elusive target. Unlike bin Laden or al-Baghdadi, he moved about quite freely in a number of countries, frequently popping up meeting with Iranian allies or visiting front-line positions in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. He traveled with an air of impunity. His fans distributed photographs of him on social media, and he occasionally gave interviews. One former senior American commander recalled once parking his military jet next to General Suleimani’s plane at the Erbil airport in northern Iraq.

“Suleimani was treated like royalty, and was not particularly hard to find,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior C.I.A. operations officer with extensive counterterrorism experience overseas. “Suleimani absolutely felt untouchable, particularly in Iraq. He took selfies of himself on the battlefield and openly taunted the U.S., because he felt safe in doing so.”

That public profile made him the face of the Iranian network across the Middle East, the so-called Axis of Resistance, which includes groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen and a range of militias in Syria and Iraq who share Iran’s animosity toward Israel and the United States. General Suleimani wanted to show that he could be anywhere and everywhere, an American official said, knowing he could be a target but obsessed with proving he had his hand in everything.

If General Suleimani acted untouchable, for years he was. One night in January 2007, American Special Operations commandos tracked him traveling in a convoy from Iran into northern Iraq. But the Americans held their fire and General Suleimani slipped away into the darkness.

“To avoid a firefight, and the contentious politics that would follow, I decided that we should monitor the caravan, not strike immediately,” Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the head of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, recalled in an article last year.

Until now, Mr. Trump had shied away from military action against Iran too. While he talked tough after Iran was blamed for various attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Trump declined to use force, at one point even calling off a planned airstrike with only 10 minutes to go.

An American official who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations said the president’s advisers worried that he had indicated so many times that he did not want a war with Iran that Tehran had become persuaded the United States would not act forcibly. But the official acknowledged that the strike was a huge gamble and could just as likely prompt an outsize reaction from both Iran and Iraq.

Westlake Legal Group iraq-embassy-baghdad-airport-attack-1578026455663-articleLarge-v6 For Trump, a Risky Decision Other Presidents Had Avoided United States Special Operations Command Trump, Donald J Terrorism Targeted Killings Suleimani, Qassim Defense and Military Forces central intelligence agency Baghdad (Iraq)

Maps: How the Confrontation Between the U.S. and Iran Escalated

Here’s how the situation developed over the last eight days.

The operation culminated three years of rising tension since Mr. Trump took office and followed through on his pledge to withdraw from the nuclear agreement that Mr. Obama brokered with Iran in 2015. As part of a “maximum pressure” campaign, Mr. Trump reimposed sanctions on Tehran to strangle its economy while Iran tested the American president with a string of provocative actions.

The mission to target General Suleimani was set in motion after a rocket attack last Friday on an Iraqi military base outside Kirkuk killed an American civilian contractor, according to senior American officials. The military’s Special Operations Command spent the next several days looking for an opportunity to hit General Suleimani. Military and intelligence officials said the strike drew on information from secret informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft and other surveillance tools.

The option that was eventually approved depended on General Suleimani’s arrival at Baghdad International Airport. If he was met by Iraqi officials, one American official said, the strike would be called off. But the official said it was a “clean party” and the strike was authorized.

Mr. Trump, who was spending the holiday season at Mar-a-Lago, participated in multiple meetings on the operation and aides said that he did not struggle with the decision, unlike over the summer when he changed his mind citing possible civilian casualties. “It was a very straightforward decision by the president to make the call on this,” Robert C. O’Brien, his national security adviser, told reporters.

As late as Thursday, officials were still weighing other less inflammatory options, including strikes against Iranian ships, missile batteries or militias in Iraq, one official said. But aides noted that Mr. Trump has grown wary of warnings that bold actions will result in negative consequences since in some cases those have not materialized, notably in his trade war.

The president kept the discussions to a tight circle that included Mr. O’Brien; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Defense Secretary Marc T. Esper; Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director; Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff; and Eric Ueland, the president’s legislative liaison. Left out of the loop was the White House communications operation.

Mr. Pompeo has been one of the administration’s most persistent Iran hawks and the public face of the sanctions campaign against Iran since Mr. Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement brokered by Mr. Obama.

As a congressman, Mr. Pompeo assailed the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton over the deadly attack on an American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and he has been obsessed with embassy security in the Middle East, and in Iraq in particular, according to former officials and associates. The violent protests in recent days at the Baghdad Embassy spooked the secretary, officials said, prompting him to cancel an important trip to Ukraine.

The administration did not offer a legal justification for the strike but appeared to be relying on the claim that it was a matter of self-defense under international law and pursuant to the president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief. “We had the right to self-defense,” Mr. O’Brien said.

The strike was particularly unusual in that it targeted a top official in a national government. Since the late 1970s, an executive order has banned “assassinations.” But that constraint, while still in place on paper, has eroded in the fight against terrorism. Legal teams under presidents of both parties have argued that the term “assassination,” which is not defined by federal law or the order, does not cover killing terrorists and other people deemed to pose an imminent threat to the United States because that would instead be self-defense.

Against that backdrop, it may be relevant that last year, Mr. Trump designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization — the first time that the United States had so designated part of another nation’s government.

However the lawyers rationalized it, General McChrystal, who passed on taking the shot at General Suleimani 13 years ago, said Mr. Trump was right to take it now. “The targeting was appropriate given Suleimani’s very public role in orchestrating Iranian attacks on the U.S. and our allies,” he said in an email.

But the general added a somber warning: “We can’t consider this as an isolated action. As with all such actions it will impact the dynamics of the region, and Iran will likely feel compelled to respond in kind. There is the potential for a stair-step escalation of attacks and we must think several moves ahead to determine how far we will take this — and what the new level of conflict we are prepared to engage in.”

Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Peter Baker reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from Palm Beach, Fla. Edward Wong and Charlie Savage contributed reporting from Washington, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon.

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Sen. James Risch on Soleimani kill: Trump ‘did what he had to do’

Westlake Legal Group ENC3_132225700265750000-1 Sen. James Risch on Soleimani kill: Trump 'did what he had to do' fox-news/world/world-regions/iraq fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/us-regions/west/idaho fox-news/us/terror/counter-terrorism fox-news/shows/the-story fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/media/fox-news-flash fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc Charles Creitz article 814a3e5b-31cd-582c-a8a5-3db9bcbb741d

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch, R-Idaho, defended President Trump’s decision to order the drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

The Story” host Martha MacCallum reported that shortly before Risch joined the program, an Iraqi official claimed five people were killed in a new airstrike that targeted vehicles carrying members of an Iranian-backed militia. She asked Risch if he had been briefed on the report and if he had any information for the public.

Risch said he did have information about the latest reported airstrike, but added that he would wait to share it with the American people until it is declassified or released in a formal statement.

FLASHBACK: CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER COMPARES IRAN POLICIES OF TRUMP, ‘SUPINE’ OBAMA

“The actual attack took place about an hour and 45 minutes ago,” he said, “But, look, the president acted on very specific information that he had that came from the intelligence agencies. That information was rock-solid.”

Risch said Trump is not customarily inclined to take offensive action or risk military escalation, but that he “had to do what he had to do” when he ordered Thursday’s deadly drone strike on Soleimani at the Baghdad International Airport.

“This president hates doing this sort of thing. He doesn’t like doing kinetic attacks,” he said. “We hope that the Iranians will step back, take a breath, and understand they have been escalating this for a long time.”

Risch said that if Trump took no action Thursday and Soleimani orchestrated new attacks, Democrats and critics would bash the president for not taking out the Iranian officer.

He added that he is certain America is safer thanks to the airstrike against Soleimani and that critics in the media are simply spreading “vitriol” against the president as they routinely do.

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In that regard, MacCallum played a clip of author and liberal journalist Jonathan Alter, who said on MSNBC that Soleimani “deserved” to be droned, but that it was an example of the “right decision, wrong commander-in-chief.”

“The hate and the vitriol amongst most of the Democrats and, for that matter, some — not all — of the national media, there is no bounds to this,” Risch said in response, going on to call some of Trump’s critics “deranged,” and claiming they will never give him credit for any action.

Westlake Legal Group ENC3_132225700265750000-1 Sen. James Risch on Soleimani kill: Trump 'did what he had to do' fox-news/world/world-regions/iraq fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/us-regions/west/idaho fox-news/us/terror/counter-terrorism fox-news/shows/the-story fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/media/fox-news-flash fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc Charles Creitz article 814a3e5b-31cd-582c-a8a5-3db9bcbb741d   Westlake Legal Group ENC3_132225700265750000-1 Sen. James Risch on Soleimani kill: Trump 'did what he had to do' fox-news/world/world-regions/iraq fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/us-regions/west/idaho fox-news/us/terror/counter-terrorism fox-news/shows/the-story fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/media/fox-news-flash fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc Charles Creitz article 814a3e5b-31cd-582c-a8a5-3db9bcbb741d

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Carlos Ghosn Was Aided in Flight From Japan by Former Green Beret

Westlake Legal Group 03ghosnjapan-1-facebookJumbo Carlos Ghosn Was Aided in Flight From Japan by Former Green Beret Renault SA Nissan Motor Co Japan Ghosn, Carlos Fugitives cameras

TOKYO — Carlos Ghosn was aided in his escape from Japan by an American security consultant who accompanied him on the flight out of the country, a person familiar with the matter said, while a Turkish charter jet company said on Friday that its planes were used illegally to pull off the plan.

The Japanese news media also reported on Friday that surveillance camera footage showed the disgraced auto industry mogul leaving his Tokyo home by himself on Sunday, a day before he turned up in Beirut, Lebanon.

With the new details, a clearer — if still imperfect — picture is emerging of how Mr. Ghosn, Japan’s most prominent criminal defendant, managed to evade authorities. The American consultant, a former United States Green Beret named Michael Taylor, was introduced to the disgraced auto executive by Lebanese intermediaries months ago, said the person, who asked not to be identified to discuss a sensitive issue.

Turkish media outlets have reported that Mr. Taylor and another American were the only people listed as passengers on a manifest for the flight that carried Mr. Ghosn from Japan to Turkey. On Friday, MNG Jet, an aircraft charter company, said one of its employees had falsified records to remove Mr. Ghosn’s name from the official documentation for two flights.

Taken together, the disclosures paint a picture of a dash across Japan to a waiting plane. Still, most of the details of his getaway remain unconfirmed by authorities in Japan, Turkey or Lebanon.

Mr. Ghosn — who has maintained that he is innocent — was facing four charges of financial wrongdoing in Japan and was set to go on trial sometime this year. But he escaped instead, saying that he did not trust what he called the “rigged” Japanese justice system to give him a fair trial. He built and once ran the Nissan-Renault auto alliance, one of the world’s biggest car-making empires, but was arrested in November 2018.

News outlets in Turkey reported this week that Mr. Ghosn left on a plane from Osaka, Japan, late Sunday aboard a business jet and landed at Istanbul Ataturk Airport. He then switched planes and flew to Beirut, the reports said.

Mr. Taylor, a former member of an Army Special Forces team, works as a security consultant. He was once hired by The New York Times to assist in the rescue of David Rohde, then a Times reporter, who was kidnapped by militants in Afghanistan and held for seven months in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Mr. Rohde ultimately escaped on his own in June 2009.

Mr. Taylor was indicted in 2012 for his role in a plan to obstruct a federal fraud investigation into bid rigging of Defense Department contracts. He served time in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud, but the government returned $2 million that had been taken from him, as well as two Land Rovers, according to court records.

Mr. Taylor’s involvement in Mr. Ghosn’s escape was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The news accounts of Mr. Ghosn’s flight match the records of a Bombardier business aircraft operated by MNG Jet that took off from Osaka just after 11 p.m. local time and landed in Istanbul about 12 hours later, according to data from FlightAware, a flight tracking service.

MNG Jet said it had no indication the two flights were connected. It said that it filed a criminal complaint in Turkey on Wednesday and that it “hopes that the people who illegally used and/or facilitated the use of the services of the company will be duly prosecuted.”

The company said the employee who falsified flight records had confessed to acting alone, without management’s knowledge. MNG Jet did not disclose the employee’s name.

Five people — four pilots and MNG Jet’s operations manager — have been sent to pretrial detention by a Turkish court, according to local media reports, and an official at the ground services provider Havas said prosecutors had released two of its employees.

The jet company has also transported gold out of Venezuela, helping the government there in its efforts to raise cash, according to Caracas Capital, an investment bank that has been tracking the gold shipments. The movement of MNG’s jets through Venezuela were confirmed by online flight trackers.

MNG is the “go-to company if you want to have something done,” said Russ Dallen, the managing partner at Caracas Capital.

It is not clear how Mr. Ghosn, who was under heavy surveillance in Tokyo, eluded the authorities and make his way to Osaka, which is roughly 300 miles west of Tokyo.

In Japan on Friday, news outlets reported that Mr. Ghosn walked out of his Tokyo home alone on Sunday but never came back. The news reports cited anonymous sources with knowledge of footage of the cameras surrounding his rented house in a central district of the city.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Mr. Ghosn, after leaving his home, met up with a group that helped his escape to Lebanon, according to the national broadcaster NHK and the economic daily Nikkei Shimbun.

The footage described in the news reports was from security cameras installed in front of the two-story house in the city center, the outlets reported. Three surveillance cameras had been installed above the doorway of Mr. Ghosn’s house as part of a bail agreement that placed tight restrictions on his movements.

Amie Tsang contributed reporting from London. Jack Begg contributed research.

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Heidi Klum opens up about ‘amazing’ return to ‘AGT: The Champions’: ‘The whole audience chanted my name’

Westlake Legal Group HeidiKlum1 Heidi Klum opens up about 'amazing' return to 'AGT: The Champions': ‘The whole audience chanted my name’ Julius Young fox-news/person/heidi-klum fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 5e23ad8d-a0d1-53a4-85fb-378869fe2edc

Heidi Klum made her return to “America’s Got Talent” in a huge way.

The model spoke with Entertainment Tonight ahead of the premiere of the upcoming “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” season and raved about making her return to the franchise after leaving the program in 2018.

“It feels so good to be back and everyone has been so amazing,” Klum said of returning to the judge’s table. “You know, there were welcome signs everywhere, the whole audience was chanting my name. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I was going beet red.”

HEIDI KLUM TALKS ‘MAGICAL’ WEDDING TO TOM KAULITZ

“It was just really sweet,” she continued. “I didn’t expect it for everyone to be this welcoming.”

Klum said she couldn’t contain herself when one performer left her “mind blown,” prompting the 46-year-old to press her coveted golden buzzer – though she wouldn’t spill the beans on which contestant it was for.

DWYANE WADE SAYS GABRIELLE UNION WAS FIRED FROM ‘AGT,’ PRAISES WIFE FOR ‘STANDING UP FOR WHAT SHE STANDS FOR’

“I’m like, ‘How come this person is not a star already that we have not heard of this person yet again?'” she recalled. “I’m actually so honored and proud that I got to push my buzzer for this person and hopefully help them launch it or go to the next step.

“I mean fingers and toes crossed that my golden buzzer is gonna win this thing,” Klum added, noting: “I know I’ve said it before, but this time mark my words – this is it.”

SOFIA VERGARA MET WITH ‘AGT’ EXECS ABOUT OPEN JUDGE SPOT: SOURCE

Klum’s return to “AGT: The Champions” will mark a reunion with Howie Mendel and Simon Cowell. She’ll also be joining Alesha Dixon, a newcomer to the American version of the show.

Dixon has served as a judge on the British iteration since 2012. She credited that experience for allowing her to get acclimated to the role “pretty quickly”

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“I’m kind of learning everyone’s personalities and character traits,” Dixon said. “They’re all super easy and the blend is nice, because you never know when you put a panel together like how the chemistry is gonna be.”

“America’s Got Talent: The Champions” makes its season two return on Jan. 6 on NBC.

Westlake Legal Group HeidiKlum1 Heidi Klum opens up about 'amazing' return to 'AGT: The Champions': ‘The whole audience chanted my name’ Julius Young fox-news/person/heidi-klum fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 5e23ad8d-a0d1-53a4-85fb-378869fe2edc   Westlake Legal Group HeidiKlum1 Heidi Klum opens up about 'amazing' return to 'AGT: The Champions': ‘The whole audience chanted my name’ Julius Young fox-news/person/heidi-klum fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 5e23ad8d-a0d1-53a4-85fb-378869fe2edc

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With a War Against Iran Brewing, Don’t Listen to the Hawks Who Lied Us Into Iraq

Westlake Legal Group mlhyWNylv4b5uTRrRUzmRjzmLiDpiBJABf690wnvgbQ With a War Against Iran Brewing, Don’t Listen to the Hawks Who Lied Us Into Iraq r/politics

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Rod Stewart, son Sean allegedly involved in New Year’s Eve altercation with resort employee, report says

Rod Stewart allegedly punched a children’s party staffer at a swanky Florida resort on New Year’s Eve, according to a police report.

An unnamed employee who was working in the kids area at a private party at the fancy Breakers Resort in Palm Beach complained to police that the “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” singer “threw a punch,” striking him or her in “the left ribcage area,” after the singer’s son Sean, 39, had shoved the worker a report from Palm Beach Police Department states.

The victim alleges the incident began after the “Maggie May” singer, his son and their group, which included a few children, had tried to enter a private event at a children’s area at the resort.

ROD STEWART POSES WITH 4 MOTHERS OF HIS CHILDREN: ‘A MOTHERS’ REUNION!’

The event staffer told police that he or she had “observed a group of people near the check-in table of the private event who were trying to enter the area but were unauthorized to do so.

“The group began to get loud and cause a scene and refused to follow … instructions to leave,” according to the police report.

The victim, whose name is redacted in the police report, then alleges that Sean got “about nose-to-nose” from his or her face and “shoved” him or her backward after being told “he [Sean] needed to back up and create some space.”

ROD STEWART’S DAUGHTER RENEE: ‘IT’S JUST NOT COOL TO TALK ABOUT YOUR PARENTS’

Then rock legend Rod “stepped toward [the victim] and threw a punch, striking [the worker] in [his or her] left ribcage area,” says the report.

The police were called and officers quizzed Rod and Sean, with the British star telling cops that “he and his family approached the check-in table and attempted to have the children in their group gain access.”

After they were denied access, Rod says the worker “became argumentative with his family, which in turn caused them to become agitated.” The police report adds that Rod, “apologized for his behavior in the incident.”

Sean also spoke with the police, confirming “he had become agitated when they were not allowed access to the event,” the report adds.

Westlake Legal Group rod-stewart Rod Stewart, son Sean allegedly involved in New Year’s Eve altercation with resort employee, report says New York Post Mara Siegler fox-news/entertainment/genres/rock fox-news/entertainment/events/scandal fox-news/entertainment/events/in-court fox-news/entertainment/events/arrest fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fnc/entertainment fnc e2225455-3327-57eb-923a-eb5c2e0540a4 article

A source close to Rod Stewart told Page Six that it was “an unfortunate quick, brief misunderstanding.”  (Getty)

ROD STEWART: I WAS ALWAYS A GENTLEMAN

Video cameras at The Breakers picked up the Stewart standoff, with the report stating Sean and Rod appeared to be “the primary aggressors” and that the footage, “show[s] evidence that Roderick Stewart did intentionally strike [the victim] against [his or her] will.”

There were two witnesses, both employees of The Breakers, who saw the incident and have signed sworn statements. The victim intends to prosecute, according to the report, and both Rod and Sean could be charged with simple battery. They have been issued a notice to appear in Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Complex on Feb. 5.

While reps for Rod declined to comment, a source close to the star tells us, “It was an unfortunate quick, brief misunderstanding and they apologized. No one was detained and there were no injuries.”

Westlake Legal Group GettyImages-485287422 Rod Stewart, son Sean allegedly involved in New Year’s Eve altercation with resort employee, report says New York Post Mara Siegler fox-news/entertainment/genres/rock fox-news/entertainment/events/scandal fox-news/entertainment/events/in-court fox-news/entertainment/events/arrest fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fnc/entertainment fnc e2225455-3327-57eb-923a-eb5c2e0540a4 article

Rod Stewart and Sean Stewart are seen on August 26, 2015 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Bauer-Griffin/GC Images via Getty Images)

ROD STEWART SECRETLY BATTLED PROSTATE CANCER FOR THREE YEARS: REPORT

In 2002, Sean, who appeared on the reality show “Celebrity Rehab,” was sentenced to three months in jail after kicking an unconscious person outside a restaurant in LA. In 2010, he was arrested for driving on a suspended license. In 2015, he was arrested for riding the luggage carousel at the Miami airport.

Plus, in 2007, he was arrested for allegedly throwing bricks at a couple after being denied entrance to a party. The four felony charges were dropped in 2008. According to E!, his lawyer “chalked the whole thing up to a case of mistaken identity.”

This article originally appeared in Page Six 

Westlake Legal Group GettyImages-1194566521 Rod Stewart, son Sean allegedly involved in New Year’s Eve altercation with resort employee, report says New York Post Mara Siegler fox-news/entertainment/genres/rock fox-news/entertainment/events/scandal fox-news/entertainment/events/in-court fox-news/entertainment/events/arrest fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fnc/entertainment fnc e2225455-3327-57eb-923a-eb5c2e0540a4 article   Westlake Legal Group GettyImages-1194566521 Rod Stewart, son Sean allegedly involved in New Year’s Eve altercation with resort employee, report says New York Post Mara Siegler fox-news/entertainment/genres/rock fox-news/entertainment/events/scandal fox-news/entertainment/events/in-court fox-news/entertainment/events/arrest fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fnc/entertainment fnc e2225455-3327-57eb-923a-eb5c2e0540a4 article

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A Shocked Iraq Reconsiders Its Relationship With the U.S.

Westlake Legal Group 03iraq-facebookJumbo A Shocked Iraq Reconsiders Its Relationship With the U.S. United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Suleimani, Qassim Iraq Iran Baghdad International Airport (Iraq)

BAGHDAD — American oil workers were fleeing Iraq on Friday, as fears grew of war between the United States and Iran. At sermons in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, worshipers chanted, “Death to America!”

And in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad, where antigovernment protesters have gathered for months, a banner went up with a pointed message to both Iran and the United States: “Keep your conflicts away from Iraq.”

Iraqis awoke to the news on Friday that Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran, the architect of Iran’s dominating influence over Iraq, had been killed in an American drone strike near the Baghdad airport, along with several others.

Even before the shock of the brazen killing wore off, Iraqi factions were weighing their responses. Militias with ties to Iran vowed bloody revenge. The prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, condemned the attack as “an outrageous breach to Iraqi sovereignty” and said Parliament would meet to discuss the future of the United States presence in Iraq.

Anti-government protesters, who have been protesting Iran’s stifling influence in the country, were worried their movement could be snuffed out by pro-Iran militias. And throughout the country, there was the familiar feeling that Iraq was a mere bystander in the broader geopolitical conflict between the United States and Iran taking place on Iraqi soil.

More broadly, the events raised a single, overarching question: can the United States maintain a cooperative security relationship with Iraq given the upheaval the assassination has provoked? The question was already coursing through the halls of power in Baghdad, even as the Trump administration said Friday that it was rushing new troops to the region in response to the crisis.

The airstrike on General Suleimani “was a clear breach of the terms of the American forces’ presence,” Mr. Abdul Mahdi said.

He said that Parliament would meet in the coming days to consider “appropriate measures to preserve the dignity of Iraq and its security and sovereignty,” including whether to ask the Americans to leave.

It could well turn out that the killing of General Suleimani, intended as a shot against Iran, could accelerate one of Iran’s long-term objectives: pushing the United States military out of Iraq.

“I think in his death he put the final nail in the coffin of the U.S. military presence in Iraq,” said Mohammad Shabani, a doctoral researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London who focuses on Iran-Iraq relations. “If Iran can erase the U.S. military presence in Iraq and all it has to do is give up five Iranian military men, would Iran do it? I think the answer is yes.”

The United States has nearly 5,000 troops in Iraq on a handful of bases.

But whether they stay or go, the American power in Iraq was only likely to be diminished.

“One sure result of the U.S. strike is that the era of U.S.-Iraq cooperation is over,” Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former American diplomat, wrote on Twitter. “The U.S. diplomatic & mil presence will end b/c Iraq asks us to depart or our presence is just a target or both. The result will be greater Iranian influence, terrorism and Iraqi infighting.”

More than 16 years after the American invasion of Iraq, a devastating conflict that cost close to $1 trillion and claimed about 5,000 American lives, Iran is the dominant power in Iraq, and its grip on Baghdad was on vivid display this week, even before General Suleimani’s killing.

When American airstrikes attacked the bases of a pro-Iranian militia on Sunday, killing at least 24 of its fighters, Iraqi officials spoke in one voice condemning the United States for violating Iraqi sovereignty, but few criticized the militia for carrying out the attack that killed an American contractor and precipitated the airstrikes.

When militia fighters marched on the American embassy on Tuesday to attack it, Iraqi security forces stepped aside to let them pass.

And as they lay siege to the embassy, setting fire to buildings and effectively blockading embassy personnel in the embassy overnight, Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi found that he was powerless to get them to leave.

For 24 hours, he held almost constant emergency meetings with the militia leaders, urging them to withdraw, according to officials involved in the meetings.

“Please, you are putting me in a critical situation,” he begged, according to Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf. “We are a state, and we have to conduct ourselves as a state. We have to protect these embassies.”

He finally persuaded the militia leaders to withdraw their forces only by threatening to leave his job and “leave the country to chaos,” according to Iraqi officials familiar with the exchanges.

Experts said that if the Trump administration had a strategy to work with the Iraqi government to achieve stability and sovereignty — through diplomatic and economic engagement — the killing of General Suleimani in a drone strike early Friday would have provided a measure of leverage.

Kenneth M. Pollack, a former C.I.A. official who is an expert on Iraq and Iran at the American Enterprise Institute, said the assassination means that, at least for a time, “Iraqi politicians will be less fearful of Iran and more willing to listen to the Americans.” The Iranians in Iraq, he said, having lost their leader, will be on their heels, trying to figure out what to do next.

But, he said, the United States seems to have no policy on Iraq beyond using the country as a base to confront Iran.

“I have been talking to my friends at State and there is no effort to use this to push Iraq in a better direction,” he said. He called the killing “a tactical move directed at Iran without a wider regional strategy.”

Iran, on the contrary, is deeply embedded in Iraq on many levels.

“The United States has only one color, it is the military color, that is all that it spends its money on,” said Qais al-Khazali, the leader of a pro-Iranian militia. “But Iran has many colors — in culture, in politics, in religion, in many spheres.”

On the streets, some Iraqis celebrated General Suleimani’s demise. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted an image of Iraqis waving their country’s flag, describing them as, “dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Suleimani is no more.”

The reality on the streets, where antigovernment protests have swelled, with calls for an end to Iran’s influence, was something else, though, as fear of what may come outweighed any jubilation over the killing of General Suleimani.

Faiq al-Shakhe, a member of Parliament, said the demonstrators showed, “no signs of happiness or celebration.” Instead, he said, they were worried about a violent response from Iran-aligned militias, who have already killed many protesters and may now, more than ever, see them as agents of the United States.

“It was a wrong act from America because America should have coordinated with the Iraqi government,” said Ameer Abbas, a protester, who shared the widespread view that the American attack was a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

Another protester, Mustafa Nader, said, “we are all against foreign interventions, whether from Iran, Saudi Arabia or the United States. We do not have a personal problem with Iran, but if America were to intervene at the same level as Iran, you will see as much objection as there has been against Iran, and maybe stronger.”

Emma Sky, a former adviser to American forces in Iraq and a senior fellow at Yale, said the American-Iraqi relationship “is going to be really damaged” by the killing. “I think there will be more calls for the U.S. to withdraw troops,” she said.

She said Americans will be hard pressed to justify a continued presence in Iraq because of the perception that its objectives are not aimed at promoting a stable Iraq, but containing Iran.

“The U.S. doesn’t have a policy on Iraq,” she said. “It has a policy on Iran.”

While Iraq’s Parliament is sure to take up the issue of the American troop presence, few expect the government to actually expel the Americans. Many Iraqi leaders still view an American presence as vital to its security, and depend on American training of the Iraqi security forces and, for better or worse, as a counterweight to Iranian influence.

Still, the Americans are left with few vital defenders in Iraq.

“No one is going to speak up for us, despite all we’ve done and in spite of the mistakes — and God knows we’ve done some bad ones,” said Ryan Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Iraq and now the diplomat in residence at Princeton University. “All we’ve given Iraq, and the Shia in particular, were things they could never have dreamed of before 2003. But that was then and this is now.”

Falih Hassan reported from Baghdad, Tim Arango from Los Angeles and Alissa J. Rubin from Paris. Ben Hubbard contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

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How Will Iran Respond To Trump’s Assassination Of Soleimani?

Westlake Legal Group 5e0fc20524000041245a4dfe How Will Iran Respond To Trump’s Assassination Of Soleimani?

The assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani ordered by President Donald Trump is the most aggressive escalation yet in the conflict between the United States and Iran, risking violent retaliation and volatility across the Middle East. While U.S. officials now warn of a potential Iranian response, analysts say there are a variety of forms that such a reprisal may take.

As head of Iran’s Quds Force elite military unit, Soleimani was the central figure in Iran’s foreign clandestine operations and its network of military proxies. Iran’s Supreme National Security Council held an emergency meeting on Friday following the U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei attending in a show of how important Soleimani’s death is to the Iranian government.  

Khamenei has vowed “forceful revenge” against the U.S. for Soleimani’s death, while other Iranian officials condemned the attack and similarly promised retribution. Already backed into a corner by Trump’s maximum pressure campaign of economic sanctions, analysts expect that Iran will retaliate but say a traditional military conflict isn’t something Tehran considers advantageous.

“Iran has known for a very long time that it can’t win in any kind of conventional military warfare with the United States, but it has proven to be very sophisticated at asymmetric warfare,” Ellie Geranmayeh, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told HuffPost.

Iran’s conventional military forces lag behind those of the United States and Israel, another adversary, and it’s much more adept at relying on insurgent-style attacks and proxies to exert its influence. Iran cultivated a wide network of pro-Iranian militias under Soleimani’s leadership, and it’s possible that after his death those become the primary actors in responding to his killing.

The U.S. has a wide range of interests, assets and allies that could all become targets for an Iranian response. These range from embassies and consulates to shipping routes and oil facilities, according to Naysan Rafati, Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group. Iran may additionally target U.S. partners in the Middle East, which would threaten to draw more actors into the conflict. The U.S. and other nations have already put embassies on security alert, and on Friday, American defense officials announced the deployment of over 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East to counter threats from Iran. 

Iran and its proxies could also seek to target U.S. personnel in the region or carry out their own assassinations, an extreme option that would almost certainly lead to further escalations in the conflict.

With “the U.S. president coming out in a tweet to publicly condone the assassination of an Iranian official, you are now basically opening up space for a huge range of possible targeted killings and retaliation from Iran,” Geranmayeh said. “The very public nature in which the U.S. is boasting about the assassination is cornering Iran into a position where they have to respond in kind.” 

But Iran is also wary that an overt attack against the U.S. or its interests abroad could result in airstrikes on Iranian soil, experts say, and could opt for a more indirect approach. Many of the attacks against American-affiliated entities in the past year have come from Iranian-linked militias and allowed Tehran a degree of plausible deniability. These militias also have varying degrees of independence, and given that the leader of the Iranian-linked Popular Mobilization Forces was also killed in Thursday’s airstrike, they may seek reprisal on their own that may further complicate the situation. 

“Some of these groups have their own reasons now to act with or without instruction from Tehran,” Rafati said. “You have a wide array of possible actors, either acting on guidance from Iran or on their own initiative, across a very fragile regional chessboard.”

Military action is also not Iran’s only avenue for responding to Soleimani’s death. Since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018 and has since imposed harsh economic sanctions, Iran has continually threatened to no longer comply with the agreement to curb its nuclear program and has taken provocative but largely reversible steps to increase its uranium enrichment. Prior to Soleimani’s death, Iran was expected to issue a statement on its nuclear plans next week and may use the opportunity to announce a more aggressive move away from the nuclear deal and towards weapons-level enrichment.

There is also the potential for Iran to carry out cyber attacks against the U.S. as a means of avoiding conventional conflict, although the country likely lacks the capability to carry out a large scale operation against infrastructure or heavily secured targets. 

Whatever Iran’s response, analysts warn that the assassination of Soleimani creates a situation where deescalation is unlikely. Although the U.S. intended the killing to be a deterrent against Iran’s foreign influence operations, in the short term it may bring increased threats to Americans abroad, heighten the possibility of open conflict with Iran, and draw the U.S. further into foreign entanglements. 

“In the past week things have moved so fast,” Geranmayeh said. “It’s not clear to me how we have a cooling off period.”

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Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe announces retirement at end of term

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., on Friday announced he will retire at the end of his term, adding his name to the growing list of Republicans opting to not seek re-election ahead of the 2020 elections.

In a statement, Roe, 74, said “serving East Tennesseans these past 11 years has been the honor of my life.”

He said he would only serve five or six terms because he “never intended this job to be a second career.”

Roe, a physician for over 30 years and currently serving as the top-ranking Republican on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said his legislative goals in Congress were to increase access to health care, improve the electronic health records system and improve resources at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Westlake Legal Group AP20003619904150 Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe announces retirement at end of term Louis Casiano fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/tennessee fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives fox-news/politics/2020-house-races fox news fnc/politics fnc article a49dc8a0-a6c4-503c-b2c9-c23ec57d0f30

In this 2018, file photo, House Veterans Affairs Chair Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., speaks during a subcommittee hearing about the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act on Capitol Hill in Washington. Roe on Friday announced that he will retire at the end of the 116th Congress. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

“I’ll leave Congress at the end of the year knowing that our nation’s heroes are better served today because of our work,” he said. “I am still hopeful that, before the 116th Congress adjourns, we will pass important reforms that improve outreach to veterans in crisis to address the suicide epidemic.”

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He said he ran for Congress with the hope that his experience as a physician could positively influence health care policy. He opposed President Barack Obama’s signature legislative victory the Affordable Care Act.

“We have made great progress in reversing some of the most damaging effects of this law,” Roe said.

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“The challenges we are facing now are as complex as ever, and I still have a lot of fire in my belly,” he added. “I look forward to finishing my term strongly for the East Tennesseans that I love representing and working with President Trump in favor of the free-market, conservative policies so many of us hold dear.”

Roe joins fellow Tennessean Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is also retiring at the end of his term. Roe’s seat is in a GOP-leaning district. Names being floated to run include state Reps. David Hawk, Jeremy Faison and Timothy Hill and state Sen. Jon Lundberg.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group AP20003619904150 Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe announces retirement at end of term Louis Casiano fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/tennessee fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives fox-news/politics/2020-house-races fox news fnc/politics fnc article a49dc8a0-a6c4-503c-b2c9-c23ec57d0f30   Westlake Legal Group AP20003619904150 Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe announces retirement at end of term Louis Casiano fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/tennessee fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives fox-news/politics/2020-house-races fox news fnc/politics fnc article a49dc8a0-a6c4-503c-b2c9-c23ec57d0f30

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Women Lured By Modeling Gigs, Coerced Into Porn, Win $13M In Lawsuit

Westlake Legal Group facebook-default-wide Women Lured By Modeling Gigs, Coerced Into Porn, Win $13M In Lawsuit

One by one, amateur models came across the Craigslist ad that promised to help launch their careers. And one by one, those women learned they were expected to do more than just pose for pictures.

A California judge has ruled that the owners of a San Diego-based pornographic website has to pay $13 million in damages after they defrauded 22 women in order to get them to perform in explicit videos. The women were told the videos would never be posted to the Internet. They were told no one would ever find out their true identity. According to San Diego Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright, those were lies.

“Defendants take considerable, calculated steps to falsely assure prospective models that their videos will never be posted online, come to light in the United States, or be seen by anyone who might know them,” Enright wrote.

In the scheme, the website GirlsDoPorn and other affiliated sites would offer thousands of dollars to women to participate in a pornographic video. They would fly a woman to San Diego, take her to a hotel room, and pressure her to sign a contract quickly without reading it. Sometimes they would ply her with alcohol and marijuana.

The women were told that the videos would only be shipped on DVDs to customers overseas. If the women were unsure about participating, they would be connected with so-called “reference models” to reassure them. Those models were paid to lie about where the videos would be released.

Despite those promises, the court said, GirlsDoPorn did exactly the opposite — publishing the videos on their paid subscription websites and posting some to popular free pornographic websites. Models’ names and numbers were posted to a site called PornWikiLeaks. Online trolls would spread that information to the women’s social circles, including friends, family and employers.

“Defendants immediately benefitted from doxxing of their models,” the judge said. “Publication and dissemination of the models’ names and personal information increased views and traffic to Defendants’ tube channels, increased name ID for their brand, and boosted subscription sales.”

“As a result, Plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer far-reaching and often tragic consequences,” Enright wrote. “They have experienced severe harassment, emotional and psychological trauma, and reputational harm; lost jobs, academic and professional opportunities, and family and personal relationships; and had their lives derailed and uprooted. They have become pariahs in their communities. Several Plaintiffs have become suicidal.”

The online leaks actually helped build the case against the websites, said attorney Brian Holm, one of the attorneys for the women. Holm told NPR that they contacted the women whose names appeared on PornWikiLeaks, and kept hearing the same stories. The lawsuit was initially filed on behalf of four women; after some initial media attention, Holm and the attorneys were flooded with calls. Ultimately 22 women were part of the lawsuit against the sites.

GirlsDoPorn had argued that each model signed legally binding documents releasing all rights to the videos and consenting to publication online. But the judge said those weren’t enforceable contracts because they “contain vague, incomprehensible language,” and because the women’s signatures were obtained through “fraud, intimidation, and coercion.”

“When a Plaintiff asked for time to read the documents or inquired about their 25 contents, Defendants became ill-tempered and told them that there was no time,” Enright wrote.

“It is outrageous. Reprehensible. Every polite phrase that you can use to describe conduct.” said attorney Ed Chapin, managing partner of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, which worked on the case. Chapin told NPR that in addition to offering financial compensation, the websites also have to take down the Internet postings and let the women know that “friends and loved ones may see it — so if you want to be paid money, then you’ve got to understand what the potential problems are.”

The defendants include website owners include Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe, as well as porn actor Ruben Andre Garcia. While the trial was going on, the men were charged with sex trafficking crimes by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. Wolfe and Garcia were taken into custody in October; Pratt disappeared before he could be arrested. According to Holm, he is still a fugitive.

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