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Westlake Legal Group > News Media (Page 71)

First U.S. Lawmaker To Endorse Trump Gets 26-Month Prison Sentence

A judge on Friday sentenced former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), an early and staunch ally of President Donald Trump, to 26 months in prison after he pleaded guilty last September to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. 

Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, used his position as the largest shareholder in the Australian biotechnology company Innate Immunotherapeutics to illegally give other stockholders an inside tip that a test of the company’s main product had failed.

“You were a member of the [company’s] board ― that has legal significance. You owed a duty to Innate and you betrayed that duty,” U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick said during the sentencing, according to Matthew Russell Lee of InnerCityPress.com.

“It makes people believe the market is rigged,” Broderick added.

Federal prosecutors earlier this week urged a sentence of close to five years.

Collins cried as he spoke to the court shortly before his sentencing.

“I have no excuse. I tarnished my reputation,” he told the judge, as reported by The Washington Post.

“It’s hard to look at my wife ― she had her credit card canceled. My daughter had her brokerage account canceled. I apologize to the FBI for lying to them. I’ll be paying the consequence for that here momentarily,” Collins said.

Before the criminal investigation, Collins had used his Trump endorsement to raise his profile in Washington. He bragged about the clout he gained from his early backing of Trump, claiming it made him “significantly more visible.” And he was an early adopter of Trump’s bullying and blustering style, a copycat routine that has become popular throughout the GOP.

Collins, who represented a district that covers much of western New York, committed the crime that sent him to prison while he was visiting the White House for a June 22, 2017, congressional picnic. He received an email from the CEO of Innate Immuno announcing that the company’s main drug on which the company’s future hinged had failed a key test. Collins then called his son, another shareholder, from the South Lawn of the White House to tell him about the news and to plan for them to dump the stock.

The next morning Collins, his son and the father of his son’s fiancée sold their stock in the company before the drug test failure was announced and while a freeze on trading was in place for the company’s shares in Australian stock markets. They each saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling early. The company stock plunged 92% after Innate Immuno publicly announced the drug’s failed test.

Well before Collins broke the law, his odd position as the largest shareholder of Innate Immuno attracted attention. The Wall Street Journal and The Buffalo News both reported in January 2017 on suspicious trades Collins and other House Republican lawmakers made as Congress passed a bill that included provisions beneficial to Innate Immuno and other biotechnology firms. He also reportedly bragged to colleagues about how many “millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo.”

Westlake Legal Group 5e20cbce24000051006c42b1 First U.S. Lawmaker To Endorse Trump Gets 26-Month Prison Sentence

John Normile via Getty Images After seeing his political profile soar as an early backer of President Donald Trump, former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) is headed to prison.

An investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics in 2017 found that Collins violated House ethics rules by providing nonpublic information to investors and visiting the National Institutes of Health in his official capacity to discuss Innate Immuno drug trials.

Collins, 69, was indicted and arrested for wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to the FBI on Aug. 8, 2018. After his arrest, Collins initially said he would not run for reelection in 2018. But he reversed course, ran for his seat and won by less than one percentage point. He had won reelection in 2016 with 67% of the vote. His resignation from office became official last Oct. 1.

Collins was first elected to his House seat in 2012. A former mechanical engineer and business owner, he served as Erie County executive from 2007 to 2011.

Throughout the investigation into his illegal conduct, Collins struck a Trumpian pose as an innocent targeted as part of a “partisan witch hunt.”

He attacked The Buffalo News for “making up fake news on folks [the paper] can’t beat at the ballot box.” He called his then-colleague Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Buffalo-area Democrat who has since died, a “despicable human being” for filing an ethics complaint against him. And he attacked investigations into his activities as a “partisan witch hunt.”

In the wake of Collins’ guilty plea, his lawyers argued in court for a lenient sentence, saying that his actions were impulsive and that he has suffered enough by losing his political career.

Collins’ son and the father of his son’s fiancée also pleaded guilty in the case and await sentencing

Quickly joining Collins in early 2016 as Trump’s second official backer on Capitol Hill was then-Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) ― who also now faces prison time. Hunter pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws in December, gave up his House seat earlier this week and awaits sentencing. Like Collins, Hunter initially characterized the charges facing him as a “witch hunt.”

Reporter Carla Herreria contributed to this story.

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Trade deals, Trump impeachment trial showcase ‘Washington whiplash’ at its finest

Westlake Legal Group JohnRobertsImpeach011720 Trade deals, Trump impeachment trial showcase 'Washington whiplash' at its finest fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/politics/executive/economic-policy fox-news/columns/capitol-attitude fox news fnc/politics fnc Chad Pergram article 9ff6a12a-b263-596e-bda8-0561638c5571

Only in Washington could you have such a juxtaposition.

During the 2016 campaign, President Trump railed against what he termed as “unfair” trade deals. He held particular enmity for NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, ratified in 1993. The President viewed NAFTA as the genesis of trade packages which undercut American workers – especially at the core of his political base in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Late Thursday morning, the Senate awarded Trump the most significant, most bipartisan policy achievement of his presidency. By an overwhelming 89-10 vote, the Senate ratified the USMCA, a new trade accord between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

But the juxtaposition was coming.

TRUMP LEGAL TEAM MEMBER BLASTS HOUSE DEMS FOR TRYING TO PUT IMPEACHMENT JURORS ‘ON TRIAL’

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the Senate’s President Pro Tempore as the most senior member of the majority party, presided over the vote. Grassley, 86,  was especially happy about the USMCA for farmers and the agriculture industry in his state. But Grassley was perched on the dais for another reason as well. He was waiting for something else.

Nanoseconds after the Senate aligned with the House on the USMCA, the Senate was about to initiate the Trump impeachment trial. In his role as President Pro Tempore, Grassley was there to swear in U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts to preside over the trial.

This was a unique case of Washington whiplash. Congress awards the President perhaps his most-sought-after legislative victory. Seconds later, it was onto the grave consequences of impeachment.

Waiting at the other end of the U.S. Capitol for the Senate to wrap up the USMCA was a coterie of seven House members. They milled about in the Speaker’s Ceremonial Office, just off the House floor, anticipating a cue from the Senate, which had cleared its docket of legislative business. The vote on the USMCA concluded, and that meant it was time for the House’s impeachment managers — prosecutors tapped by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to present their case.

One could distill the quintessence of a bicameral Congress into what unfolded next at the Capitol. What the Founders scribbled down on parchment two-and-a-half centuries ago in the Constitution respirated into a real-life showcase of Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. That portion of the Constitution dictates the responsibilities of the House. The final charge the Founders assigned the House in that constitutional alcove was “the sole Power of Impeachment.”

Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution spells out the role of the Senate. The Founders punctuated that segment of the Constriction with two paragraphs about the Senate holding “the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”

And once word traveled across the Capitol that the Senate was ready, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving gave the go signal. Irving escorted the seven impeachment managers across the Capitol, past the House chamber, by the Will Rogers statue area where TV reporters often do their live shots, through Statuary Hall which once served as the House chamber, past the formal Speaker’s Office, through the Capitol Rotunda in the center of the building, along the corridor near the Old Senate Chamber and the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before arriving in the Ohio Clock Corridor just outside the Senate chamber.

PELOSI HANDS OUT SOUVENIR PENS, DEMS SLAMMED FOR GLOATING AS HOUSE DELIVERS TRUMP IMPEACHMENT ARTICLES

This was where members and officers of the House and Senate metamorphosed the words of the Constitution into a sentient tableau.

“I was struck by the deep, steep sense of solemnity. There was a knot in my stomach when the Chief Justice came into the chamber and then pronounced the name, Donald John Trump,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “The difference in the reference to President Trump struck me as really distinguishing this proceeding from any other.”

This proceeding has not been seen in more than two decades involving a sitting President.

“God bless you,” whispered Grassley to Roberts after he swore in the Chief Justice to preside over the trial.

Multiple people in the Senate chamber noted how jarring it was to see and hear Roberts take charge of the Senate. The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who oversaw President Clinton’s trial, was a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and festooned his robe with four gold stripes to mimic the Lord Chancellor in “Iolanthe.” There were no such embellishments by Roberts; just a solid, dark robe, perhaps matching the seriousness of the occasion – and setting the tone for the trial.

The outcome of Clinton’s trial was mostly — mostly — a foregone conclusion: the Senate would acquit the 42nd President. However, then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., indicated to me in an interview late last fall that he wasn’t 100 percent certain the Senate would exonerate the President when the trial started.

Few see any mathematical path to the Senate marshaling the 67 votes required to convict Trump. That may be true. But what we really don’t know are the political reverberations of the trial and what it means in an election year. Will the trial embolden the President’s supporters? Will there be some new revelation that diminishes support for Trump? Will voters penalize Democrats for overplaying their hand? Will Democrats make inroads with voters? Will ballots cast by senators facing competitive reelection bids exact a price at the polls?

The other juxtaposition is that the trial comes right at the time of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. The conventional wisdom is that Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg get a boost with four Democratic senators running for president tied down in Washington. But frankly, nobody knows how this could resonate with voters.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

On Tuesday, we find out the exact parameters for a Senate trial. McConnell will likely propound a resolution setting up 24 hours for the House to present its case, 24 hours for the President’s team to rebut the House and then 16 hours for written questions from Senators. Then the question about witnesses may arise. In 1999, the framework was more cut and dried. All 100 senators were on board with a resolution setting up the guidelines for the trial. Here, Democrats may try to make motions or ask for votes. One could even see Trump, stewing in the White House, watching the trial, getting on the phone to a friendly GOP senator, and pushing for dismissal.

Everyone presumes the trial will consume the next five or six weeks of traffic in Washington. But, things happen. Another flare-up with Iran. A natural disaster. A national tragedy. We’ll juxtapose those potential events with a Senate trial. And that means another case of Washington whiplash.

Westlake Legal Group JohnRobertsImpeach011720 Trade deals, Trump impeachment trial showcase 'Washington whiplash' at its finest fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/politics/executive/economic-policy fox-news/columns/capitol-attitude fox news fnc/politics fnc Chad Pergram article 9ff6a12a-b263-596e-bda8-0561638c5571   Westlake Legal Group JohnRobertsImpeach011720 Trade deals, Trump impeachment trial showcase 'Washington whiplash' at its finest fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/politics/executive/economic-policy fox-news/columns/capitol-attitude fox news fnc/politics fnc Chad Pergram article 9ff6a12a-b263-596e-bda8-0561638c5571

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Trump Rolls Back Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Nutrition Rules on Her Birthday.

Westlake Legal Group TyWxAttJtAAnnYSD8zfke-qrZTG-TtxPUk-CdPLn4y0 Trump Rolls Back Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Nutrition Rules on Her Birthday. r/politics

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Former Gitmo commander found guilty of obstructing justice in civilian’s 2015 death

A federal jury on Friday convicted former Naval Station Guantanamo Bay commander Capt. John Nettleton of obstructing justice and other offenses during the Navy’s investigation of a civilian’s death in 2015.

Nettleton, 54, was also found guilty of making false statements, concealing information and falsifying records as the military probed Christopher M. Tur’s death, the Justice Department (DOJ) said. He could face up to 75 years in prison, but it’s likely he will serve much less time based on sentencing guidelines. His sentencing has not been scheduled yet.

Westlake Legal Group Nettleton-AP Former Gitmo commander found guilty of obstructing justice in civilian's 2015 death Melissa Leon fox-news/world/world-regions/cuba fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/florida fox-news/us/terror/guantanamo fox-news/us/military/navy fox-news/us/military fox-news/us/crime fox-news/politics/justice-department fox news fnc/us fnc article 4c6eeb9f-ee3e-5555-bcee-e50170deb9ce

Navy Capt. John R. Nettleton, then-commanding officer of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, spoke during a Battle of Midway commemoration ceremony on June 3, 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Goff/U.S. Navy via AP)

Tur, 42, was the loss-prevention safety manager at the station’s Naval Exchange, a shopping complex operated by the Navy. He was found dead in the Guantanamo Bay waters off the base on the southeastern coast of Cuba on Jan. 11, 2015. An autopsy later revealed he was injured — including fractured ribs and a cut to his head — prior to drowning, the DOJ said.

On Jan. 9, the night he disappeared, Tur confronted Nettleton, who was serving as commanding officer, at a party at the Officer’s Club, where he alleged that his wife, Lara, was having an affair with Nettleton, according to evidence presented at trial, the Justice Department said.

The men had “consumed several alcoholic drinks,” the indictment said.

NAVY MAY ARM NEW DESTROYED WITH CONVENTIONAL MISSILE ABLE TO HIT ANYWHERE ON EARTH IN AN HOUR

Tur later went to Nettleton’s house the same night and a “physical altercation” ensued, and Tur was injured. Nettleton’s daughter said she heard noises and came downstairs to see her father on the ground and Tur standing over him before he left and wasn’t seen again. A friend of Tur’s said he received a call from the man not long after that and Tur told him he had been at the captain’s house and had “just knocked the skipper out.”

Tur was reported missing on Jan. 10.

During the Navy’s investigation into Tur’s death, Nettleton failed to report that the man had accused him of having the affair, that the two had a fight or that Tur was injured in the altercation, according to the DOJ.

GUANTANAMO BAY PRISON COMMANDER FIRED OVER ‘LOSS OF CONFIDENCE IN HIS ABILITY TO COMMAND’

Nettleton denied the affair, but it was later determined that it took place, according to prosecutors in Jacksonville, Florida. Tur’s wife also admitted to the affair when she testified during the trial.

The former commander continued to make false statements and not report relevant information to the case while authorities searched for Tur’s body and later, during the investigation into his death, the Justice Department said.

“Captain Nettleton dishonored his oath and impeded the investigation into a civilian’s tragic death, preventing much-needed closure for the family and friends of the deceased,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said.  “Today’s verdict demonstrates the department’s steadfast commitment to holding accountable those who abuse their positions of public trust and obstruct justice.”

WHAT IS GUANTANAMO BAY?

Tur’s siblings issued a statement Friday thanking prosecutors and the jury but added “unfortunately this trial has brought us more questions. … We will not stop until we have answers.”

Tur’s blood had been found inside the entry of Nettleton’s base residence and on a paper towel in the backyard, the investigation found.

“By deliberately misleading NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] during the investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Tur, Captain Nettleton delayed justice and wasted valuable Department of the Navy resources,” NCIS Special Agent in Charge Matthew Lascell said. “NCIS is dedicated to holding those who unlawfully impede investigations accountable for their actions.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Nettleton commanded the Navy base but had no role in the operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, which is located on the base and run by a joint task force. His was named commanding officer at Guantanamo Bay in June 2012.

Tur came to Guantanamo in May 2011 with his wife and two children.

Fox News’ Sam Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group John-Nettleton-US-NAVY Former Gitmo commander found guilty of obstructing justice in civilian's 2015 death Melissa Leon fox-news/world/world-regions/cuba fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/florida fox-news/us/terror/guantanamo fox-news/us/military/navy fox-news/us/military fox-news/us/crime fox-news/politics/justice-department fox news fnc/us fnc article 4c6eeb9f-ee3e-5555-bcee-e50170deb9ce   Westlake Legal Group John-Nettleton-US-NAVY Former Gitmo commander found guilty of obstructing justice in civilian's 2015 death Melissa Leon fox-news/world/world-regions/cuba fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/florida fox-news/us/terror/guantanamo fox-news/us/military/navy fox-news/us/military fox-news/us/crime fox-news/politics/justice-department fox news fnc/us fnc article 4c6eeb9f-ee3e-5555-bcee-e50170deb9ce

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Democrats Can Qualify for the Next Debate by Winning a Single Delegate in Iowa

There will be two ways for Democratic candidates to qualify for their party’s next presidential debate, scheduled for Feb. 7, the Democratic National Committee announced on Friday. All six candidates who qualified for this past week’s debate have qualified for the next.

The candidates can meet the same thresholds they had to last time: Collecting donations from 225,000 people and earning either 5 percent support in four qualifying polls or 7 percent in two polls of New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina voters. Iowa polls will no longer count, because the Iowa caucuses take place on Feb. 3.

But the caucuses will open up the second path: Even if candidates don’t meet the D.N.C.’s polling and donor thresholds, they can qualify for the debate by winning any of the 41 pledged delegates at stake in Iowa. A single delegate will do.

This could provide a window for candidates like Andrew Yang, who made the cut for every debate except for the most recent one, after falling short in qualifying polls.

It will also be the first opportunity to qualify for former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York; because he isn’t fund-raising, the donor threshold kept him out of the last debate, even though he met the polling threshold. But winning any delegates in Iowa will be tough for him given that he has chosen not to campaign there, or in the three other early-nominating states.

Westlake Legal Group 2020-presidential-candidates-promo-1548014688187-articleLarge-v54 Democrats Can Qualify for the Next Debate by Winning a Single Delegate in Iowa Presidential Election of 2020 democratic national committee Debates (Political)

Who’s Running for President in 2020?

The field of Democratic presidential candidates has been historically large. Here’s who’s in and who’s out.

Delegates will be awarded at the congressional district level as well as the state level in Iowa, meaning that candidates who are polling poorly statewide could still win a delegate or two if they perform disproportionately well in a particular district. Candidates need at least 15 percent support in one place — whether that place is a district or a state — to be eligible for delegates.

Since the first debate last June, the D.N.C.’s debate thresholds have drawn periodic criticism as more and more candidates have been excluded.

All six have met the criteria for the next debate. Other candidates have until Feb. 6 to do so — meaning someone could potentially qualify less than 24 hours before taking the stage.

The criteria announced on Friday are for the coming debate in New Hampshire, which will be hosted by ABC News, WMUR-TV and Apple News on Feb. 7, four days before the New Hampshire primary. The D.N.C. has not released its criteria for the two subsequent debates, which will take place later in February in Nevada and South Carolina.

Reid J. Epstein contributed reporting.

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3 Alleged Members Of Hate Group ‘The Base’ Arrested In Georgia

Westlake Legal Group the-base-lane-helterbrand-kaderli_wide-96805f371d46ebf1ec30cbf48845688af8145e46-s1100-c15 3 Alleged Members Of Hate Group 'The Base' Arrested In Georgia

Suspected The Base members (from left) Luke Austin Lane, Jacob Kaderli, and Michael Helterbrand are accused of plotting “to overthrow the government and murder a Bartow County couple,” according to police in Floyd County, Ga. AP hide caption

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AP

Westlake Legal Group  3 Alleged Members Of Hate Group 'The Base' Arrested In Georgia

Suspected The Base members (from left) Luke Austin Lane, Jacob Kaderli, and Michael Helterbrand are accused of plotting “to overthrow the government and murder a Bartow County couple,” according to police in Floyd County, Ga.

AP

Police have arrested three men in North Georgia who are suspected of belonging to a violent white supremacist group called The Base, saying they were plotting to commit murder and belonged to a criminal street gang.

They’re the second trio of suspected Base members to be arrested this week; the FBI announced Thursday that it arrested three other men in Maryland.

The Floyd County, Ga., Police Department says Luke Austin Lane, 21; Michael John Helterbrand, 25; and Jacob Kaderli, 19, were “allegedly involved in a white supremacist group with plans to overthrow the government” and murder a married couple whom they identified as having high-profile roles in the far-left group Antifa.

The FBI’s Atlanta office “conducted the bulk of the preliminary investigation” into the group, police say. They add that while other arrests have been made around the U.S., the Georgia case is important because a “training camp and leadership was based at a home” in the town of Silver Creek in Floyd County.

The Base was founded in mid-2018 and “seeks to accelerate the downfall of the United States (US) government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethno-state,” according to an affidavit prepared by local law enforcement.

The FBI successfully placed an undercover federal agent within The Base’s membership in Georgia, police say.

The agent interviewed online with Lane last July to gain access to the members-only chat room, the affidavit states. The next month, the agent was invited to meet in person with Lane and Kaderli. They searched him to make sure he was not carrying any recording devices, and then asked him to follow them to a 105-acre lot owned by Lane and his father.

There, the agent was welcomed as a member. The affidavit alleges that Lane gave him “a black Balaklava hood and a Velcro Base logo patch to welcome [him] as a new member of The Base.”

Lane and Kaderli allegedly then told the agent that the next day’s training would “include ‘retreating under fire’ drills and moving-and-shooting drills,” the affidavit states. The stated purpose of the drills was allegedly to prepare The Base’s members for the “Boogaloo” – a name its members use to refer to what they see as the inevitable “collapse of the United States and subsequent race war.”

Two months later, in October, the agent met with Lane, Kaderli and a person “who crossed into the United States illegally,” identified simply as “TB Member” in the document. They spoke about their opposition to Antifa “and ultimately a veiled plan to murder an unspecified victim or victim,” the affidavit reads.

“Any engagement in anti-fascist activity will carry the death penalty,” the TB member is quoted as saying.

The Georgia arrests were announced on the heels of those of three other alleged members of The Base in Maryland, who had built an assault rifle and accumulated ammunition – and who also allegedly discussed attending a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va., slated for Monday. The Maryland trio includes Canadian national Patrik Jordan Mathews, who entered the U.S. illegally last year.

Lane allegedly told the undercover agent on Dec. 6 that he was crafting a plan to kill two local Antifa members. During a planning meeting on Dec. 13, Lane also said he wanted to kill the person identified as TB Member and another member based in Maryland because of concerns that they would connect Lane to the planned murders, if they were carried out.

Lane, Kaderli and the undercover agent drove on Dec. 14 to the intended victims’ property in Bartow Country, Ga., in order to plan for the killings. Lane later laid out an elaborate plan to gain entry into the home and kill the couple. Helterbrand was brought up to speed at a later meeting, and said “this is what I’ve been fantasizing about for about two years now,” the document states.

The group’s plans were slowed because Helterbrand said he needed six weeks to recover from back surgery. They agreed to carry out their plan in late February. The affidavit ends with a description of another reconnaissance mission to the intended victims’ house on Jan. 12.

The Base is allegedly organized into regional chapters, acting in a decentralized way so that those not involved in a particular criminal act could have plausible deniability.

Its members also actively agitate on social media networks. For example, one post mentioned in the affidavit said, “No need to wait until all conditions for revolution exist – guerrilla insurrection can create them. Insurgency begins as a terrorist campaign.”

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Supreme Court to Consider Limits on Contraception Coverage

Westlake Legal Group 17dc-scotus-contraception-facebookJumbo Supreme Court to Consider Limits on Contraception Coverage Women and Girls United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Supreme Court (US) Obama, Barack Freedom of Religion Birth Control and Family Planning Alito, Samuel A Jr

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether the Trump administration may allow employers to limit women’s access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act.

The case returns the court to a key battleground in the culture wars, but one in which successive administrations have switched sides.

In the Obama years, the court heard two cases on whether religious groups could refuse to comply with regulations requiring contraceptive coverage. The new case presents the opposite question: Can the Trump administration allow all sorts of employers with religious or moral objections to contraception to opt out of the coverage requirement?

President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March 2010. One section of the law requires coverage of preventive health services and screenings for women. In August 2011, the Obama administration required employers and insurers to provide women with coverage at no cost for all methods of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

But the Trump administration has said that requiring contraception coverage can impose a “substantial burden” on the exercise of religion by some employers. The regulations it has promulgated made good on a campaign pledge by President Trump, who has said that employers should not be “bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs,” and it added an exception for employers who said they had moral objections to certain forms of birth control.

The states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey challenged the rules, saying, they would have to shoulder much of the cost of providing contraceptives to women who lost coverage under the Trump administration’s rules.

In May, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, blocked the regulations, issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction.

That requirement that employers and insurers provide women with coverage of contraception at no cost has had a large practical effect, Judge Patty Shwartz wrote for the Third Circuit. “Cost is a significant barrier to contraceptive use and access,” she wrote. “The most effective forms of contraceptives are the most expensive. After the A.C.A. removed cost barriers, women switched to the more effective and expensive methods of contraception.”

Judge Shwartz added that expanding the Trump administration’s exceptions would have predictable consequences.

“Because the rules allow employers to opt out of providing coverage for contraceptive services,” she wrote, “some women may no longer have insurance to help offset the cost for these and other contraceptives.”

The coverage requirement, sometimes called the contraceptive mandate, has been the subject of much litigation, reaching the Supreme Court twice.

In 2014, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the court ruled that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception violated a federal law protecting religious liberty. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said there was a better alternative, one that the government had offered to nonprofit groups with religious objections.

That accommodation allowed the groups not to pay for coverage and to avoid fines if they informed their insurers, plan administrators or the government that they wanted an exemption. Insurance companies or the government would then pay for the coverage.

Many religious groups around the nation challenged the accommodation, saying that objecting and providing the required information would make them complicit in conduct that violated their faith. An eight-member court considered that objection in 2016 in Zubik v. Burwell but was unable to reach a definitive ruling and instead returned the case to the lower courts, instructing them to consider whether a compromise could be reached.

In urging the Supreme Court to hear its appeal, Trump v. Pennsylvania, 19-454, the administration said the new exceptions were authorized by the health care law and required by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Lawyers for Pennsylvania and New Jersey responded that the administration lacked statutory authority to issue the regulations and had not followed proper administrative procedures.

The court agreed to also hear a second appeal, from an order of nuns who had intervened in the case, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, No. 19-431. The two cases will be consolidated for a single hour of argument and will probably be heard in April.

The second case presents the separate issue of whether the nuns have standing to appeal. The Third Circuit ruled that they did not because a separate court order allowed them to decline to provide contraception coverage to their workers.

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Iran says it’s been banned from hosting international soccer matches

Iran has been banned from hosting international soccer matches, the country’s soccer federation told Iranian media.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation said the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced the decision in a letter, the Mehr News Agency reported.

The AFC did not say if the move was related to Tehran’s downing of a Ukrainian commercial passenger plane last week, which killed all 176 people on board, or continued heightened tensions with the United States.

Iranian soccer officials pushed back on the move.

FOUR FORMER IRANIAN HOSTAGES: PRESIDENT TRUMP, THANK YOU FOR YOUR ACTIONS AND YOUR STRENGTH

Westlake Legal Group Iran-Soccer-Fans-Getty Iran says it's been banned from hosting international soccer matches Louis Casiano fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/sports/soccer fox-news/newsedge/sports fox news fnc/world fnc article 49c2488d-7439-5264-a254-1df03b562911

Iranian fans support their national football team during 2022 FIFA World Cup Asia qualifications Group C soccer match between Iran and Cambodia at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran.  The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has banned the country from hosting international matches. (Photo by Stringer /Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Iran is fully ready to host various teams as it has repeatedly proven during the past several years,” Amirmahdi Alavi, a spokesman for the Iranian federation, told the news outlet.

He cited Iran’s hosting of the 2018 AFC Champions League in  Azadi Stadium in Tehran as a success. The remarks come after a Saudi Arabian television host said AFC officials cited security issues for the announcement, Mehr News reported. No specifics were offered.

The AFC did not respond to messages from Fox News on Friday.

Saudi teams did not travel to Iran last season because of severed diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern regional powers in 2016. Games were relocated to the United Arab Emirates.

Iran has four teams in the AFC Champions League. The Iranian federation said it would meet with the AFC to discuss its opposition to the decision.

The move comes as tensions between Washington and Tehran have reached a fever pitch following the Jan. 3 killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike. Iran retaliated with a strike of its own on Iraqi military bases where American troops were housed.

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Iran is also dealing with the fallout from the shooting of the Ukrainian jetliner, saying it accidentally fired on the plane after initially denying any involvement.

Iran came under scrutiny last year for its prohibition on women attending live games. Tehran reversed course in October, when it lifted the draconian ban and began to allow women to attend international soccer matches on Iranian soil.

Westlake Legal Group Iran-Soccer-Fans-Getty Iran says it's been banned from hosting international soccer matches Louis Casiano fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/sports/soccer fox-news/newsedge/sports fox news fnc/world fnc article 49c2488d-7439-5264-a254-1df03b562911   Westlake Legal Group Iran-Soccer-Fans-Getty Iran says it's been banned from hosting international soccer matches Louis Casiano fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/sports/soccer fox-news/newsedge/sports fox news fnc/world fnc article 49c2488d-7439-5264-a254-1df03b562911

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6 Suspected Neo-Nazis Arrested In Lead-Up To Virginia Gun Rally

Six neo-Nazis have been arrested just days before a gun rally in Virginia is expected to draw thousands, including far-right extremists.

Three Georgia men were arrested Friday on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and participating in a criminal street gang as members of The Base, a white supremacist group that seeks to start a race war. The suspects are Luke Austin, Michael Helterbrand and Jacob Kaderli, The Associated Press reported.

The men are accused of seeking out antifascists to kill, and were planning to “overthrow the government and murder a Bartow County couple,” the Floyd County Police Department said in a statement.

Westlake Legal Group 5e22244b22000031003f7b04 6 Suspected Neo-Nazis Arrested In Lead-Up To Virginia Gun Rally

Floyd County Police Department Left to right: Luke Austin Lane, Jacob Kaderli and Michael Helterbrand are all suspected neo-Nazis who allegedly planned to target and kill antifascists.

Atlanta Antifascists, a group that works to confront and expose fascists throughout Georgia, told HuffPost the news of the arrests “underscores that organized white supremacists remain a threat to our communities.”

“Targeting people as members of our group has become a favorite pastime of violent white supremacists,” Atlanta Antifascists said. “Many of these people are not even connected to organized antifascism at all — they simply have become caught in the crosshairs. This is part of a concerted attempt by fascists to create a general attitude of terror and paranoia. We extend our solidarity to all members of the community targeted by white supremacy and fascism and encourage everyone to watch out for each other and keep each other safe.”

The arrests came a day after three other suspected neo-Nazis affiliated with The Base were arrested in Maryland. One of the men, Patrik Mathews, fled Canada earlier last year after his white supremacy ties were discovered. A former reservist in the Canadian Army, Mathews trained as a combat engineer and is an explosives expert.

Westlake Legal Group 5e2098e72200003200472e1c 6 Suspected Neo-Nazis Arrested In Lead-Up To Virginia Gun Rally

RCMP Patrik Mathews fled Canada after his white supremacy ties were discovered.

Authorities said Mathews is a top recruiter for the terrorist group and was allegedly planning to start violence at Monday’s gun rally in Virginia along with accomplices Brian Lemley and William Bilbrough IV. Police found guns and more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition during the arrests.

Monday’s rally in Richmond is expected to draw thousands of people who oppose recent gun control bills introduced in the state legislature, including one that would require universal background checks for firearm purchase and another that would limit people from buying more than one handgun per month. 

“We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies of threats of violence surrounding the demonstration planned for Monday, January 20,” Northam said in a tweet. “This includes extremist rhetoric similar to what has been seen before major incidents, such as Charlottesville in 2017.” 

Organizers of the rally, anti-gun control group Virginia Citizens Defense League, falsely accused Democratic leaders of inviting violent groups to the rally following the temporary ban on guns.

“[Democrats] would love for it to degenerate to ‘violence, rioting, and insurrection’ in order to smear gun owners,” the group said in a statement. “Has the Democrat leadership actually invited violent groups to attend for the purpose of disrupting our peaceful assembly?” 

Hours after the statement, three of the suspected neo-Nazis were arrested. The VCDL did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Joe Biden’s Poll Numbers Are Steady, but Are They Immovable?

Westlake Legal Group 17pollwatch-facebookJumbo Joe Biden’s Poll Numbers Are Steady, but Are They Immovable? Trump, Donald J Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Polls and Public Opinion Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

Welcome to Poll Watch, our weekly look at polling data and survey research on the candidates, voters and issues that will shape the 2020 election.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign has been defined by what it’s not as much as by what it is. He hasn’t made waves with big-ticket policy proposals, and he has mostly avoided skirmishing with his Democratic rivals.

And so, nine months into his campaign, Mr. Biden is in a remarkably similar position to where he was when he began: He’s the presumptive front-runner, despite a lack of agenda-setting plans or breathless enthusiasm from supporters.

Poll results can help us understand why. For one thing, Democratic voters appear to want a candidate who they think has a good chance of beating President Trump more than one whose policy views sync up perfectly with their own.

In a Monmouth University poll last month, this question was put to likely Democratic primary voters nationwide: Would you prefer a strong nominee who could defeat Mr. Trump, even if you disagree with that candidate on most issues — or a candidate with whom you see eye to eye, but who would have difficulty overcoming the president?

Almost twice as many respondents chose the candidate with a better chance of winning.

Polls suggest that Mr. Biden’s support is built largely on these very voters, who are seeking an experienced leader to reverse the Trump administration’s policies.

In a CNN poll last month, 40 percent of likely Democratic voters who responded said they thought Mr. Biden would be the strongest candidate against Mr. Trump. Only 16 percent pointed to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mr. Biden’s closest rival.

Democrats across demographics tend to agree that beating Mr. Trump is the main priority. As a result, Mr. Biden has built a remarkably broad coalition of voters, with support cutting across race, gender and educational background.

But a degree of insecurity still lingers. The former vice president has faced strikingly few challenges from his rivals or from debate moderators in recent months — a boon to his candidacy that could evaporate if his opponents’ tactics change.

“A core part of his support has never been driven by enthusiasm for him — it’s driven by a sense that he’s the safe choice,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“Unlike Sanders, whose core support is very much gung-ho for him and knows what they signed up for, Biden’s supporters are looking for the strongest candidate,” Mr. Murray added. “He has so far survived that examination, but that doesn’t mean it can’t change over the next few weeks.”

Indeed, Mr. Biden’s support dipped for weeks in the fall amid a surge from Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was seen as possibly more capable of uniting the moderate and left wings of the Democratic Party. But her polling numbers began to waver after her support for “Medicare for all” drew criticism, and much of Mr. Biden’s support appeared to stabilize.

Democratic voters have grown more liberal over the past two decades, but moderates now feel more alienated from an increasingly ideological Republican Party than they did a generation ago. As a result, moderate voters still tend to lean Democratic, and they make up a big enough share of the party to play a decisive role in choosing its nominee.

“You have a lot of Democrats who are not beholden to an ideological position but feel comfortable with him,” Mr. Murray said of Mr. Biden. “They’re coming from all walks of life.”

About as many women support Mr. Biden as do men, and he is the most popular candidate among black Democratic voters — a key constituency, particularly in the primaries. (Mr. Sanders has encroached on that lead, however, and now trails by less than 10 points among African-American voters and other nonwhite voters, according to some national polls.)

Just as crucially, Mr. Biden’s numbers are as strong among white voters without college degrees as they are among those with a higher education. That puts him at a distinct advantage over Ms. Warren and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., two of his strongest opponents.

And while Mr. Biden’s supporters tend to be slightly more moderate than other candidates’ backers, they are generally paying attention to the same issues. They are most likely to list health care as their main policy concern, with climate change second, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this week. Those results are consistent with the party’s voters at large.

Mr. Biden has also benefited from the fact that Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to be looking for a leader with solid political experience, according to a multilevel analysis of voter preferences published this month by Monmouth. Mr. Biden, who was first elected to the Senate 48 years ago, is by far the most popular candidate among Democrats who prioritize experience in a nominee: Forty-four percent of such voters back him, the Monmouth analysis found.

Finding an experienced leader matters particularly to voters of color, especially women of color, the study found.

Mr. Biden’s one major vulnerability is among young people. Polls of Iowa, New Hampshire and the nation at large consistently find him polling below 20 percent among voters under 50.

And if he does not rack up decisive victories in the earliest-voting states over the coming two months, he could be vulnerable to the growing challenge of Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, who entered the race in late November and is not competing in the earliest states.

Polls show that Mr. Bloomberg is strongest among older voters, black people and moderate or conservative Democrats — all crucial elements of Mr. Biden’s coalition.

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