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McConnell releases impeachment trial rules, sparking new outcry from Democrats

McConnell releases impeachment trial rules, sparking new outcry from DemocratsSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the rules for a Senate impeachment trial on Monday evening.

POSTED JANUARY 20, 2020 7:40 PM

Putin to meet mother of Israeli backpacker jailed over hash

Putin to meet mother of  Israeli backpacker jailed over hashRussian President Vladimir Putin plans to meet with the mother of an Israeli tourist who was jailed in Russia for carrying a few grams of hashish, the Kremlin said Wednesday. The Russian leader is set to meet with Naama Issachar's mother while he is visiting Israel on Thursday, Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy Land, are also taking part in the meeting that will focus on “the humanitarian aspect” of the case, Ushakov told reporters Wednesday.

POSTED JANUARY 22, 2020 9:49 AM

Arizona mother admits killing her 3 children, police say

Arizona mother admits killing her 3 children, police sayOfficials described the mother, who was not identified, as a 22-year-old woman who recently moved to Arizona from Oklahoma.

POSTED JANUARY 21, 2020 10:19 PM

Attorney: Due to a conflict of interest, William Barr must recuse himself from Lev Parnas' criminal case

Attorney: Due to a conflict of interest, William Barr must recuse himself from Lev Parnas' criminal caseAn attorney for Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Monday, requesting the he recuse himself from Parnas' criminal case.Parnas was arrested last October and charged with campaign finance violations. In the letter, which was also filed in New York federal court, attorney Joseph Bondy said Barr has a conflict of interest and asked that a special prosecutor from outside the Justice Department handle Parnas' case. "Federal ethics guidelines bar federal employees from participating in matters in which their impartiality could be questioned, including matters in which they were personally involved or about which they have personal knowledge," Bondy wrote.Bondy cited several reasons why Barr should recuse himself, noting that the reconstructed transcript released by the White House of President Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows Trump telling Zelensky that Barr could help him facilitate an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. Last week, Parnas told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that Barr knew about efforts in the Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, saying, "Attorney General Barr was basically on the team." Read Bondy's letter here.More stories from After rejecting amendments, Senate adopts impeachment trial rules White House budget office releases heavily redacted Ukraine emails as Senate rejects OMB subpoenas Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow's odd impeachment rant about 'lawyer lawsuits' may stem from a misheard phrase

POSTED JANUARY 20, 2020 10:35 PM

Hong Kong on high alert to tackle coronavirus outbreak

Hong Kong on high alert to tackle coronavirus outbreakHong Kong's government is on high alert to deal with a new flu-like coronavirus that has killed nine people in mainland China, the city's commerce secretary, Edward Yau, said on Wednesday. The outbreak has rattled financial markets as investors recall the huge impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China. Yau is part of a delegation on a mission to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos to convince global business and political leaders that the Asian financial hub is back on track after more than seven months of protests, even as it faces a potentially more damaging crisis.

POSTED JANUARY 22, 2020 1:55 AM

Halkbank Hit With U.S. Demand for Millions in Contempt Fines

Halkbank Hit With U.S. Demand for Millions in Contempt Fines(Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s Halkbank should pay millions of dollars in fines for its continued failure to respond to U.S. sanctions-evasions charges, federal prosecutors in New York said.In a court filing Tuesday, the government asked a federal judge to impose a daily $1 million fine that would double each week the bank refuses to appear in the case.Prosecutors charged the bank in October with aiding a yearslong scheme to help Iran evade U.S. economic sanctions and access $20 billion in frozen oil revenue. Since then, the bank has refused to accept service of the indictment or answer the case, leading prosecutors to deem it a fugitive from justice.The U.S. pursuit of Halkbank, which is owned by the Turkish government, has been a sore point in relations between the two countries. Manhattan federal prosecutors previously won the conviction of a senior Halkbank executive in a case Turkish President Recep Erdogan likened to an “international coup attempt.”Read More: Halkbank Threatened with U.S. Contempt in Iran Sanctions Case“Halkbank has consistently sought to avoid responsibility for its role in a massive sanctions-evasion and money-laundering scheme that gave the Government of Iran access to billions of dollars’ worth of restricted oil proceeds,” the U.S. said in Tuesday’s filing.The U.S. argued that Halkbank improperly ignored an initial summons, “intentionally frustrated” efforts to serve the summons and indictment, attacked the charges in the press and failed to show up for a required court appearance.Andrew Hruska, a U.S. lawyer for Halkbank, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment on the sanctions request.A judge in December denied Halkbank’s request that it be allowed to make a “special appearance” to argue for the charges’ dismissal without submitting itself to the court’s jurisdiction. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman denied the request, leaving Halkbank with a choice between answering the charges and defending against them or not participating in the case in any way.While Halkbank does almost no business in the U.S., it has some ties to the nation’s financial system, which the government could limit or sever.In its initial filing, the U.S. provided conflicting statements about the amount of the proposed fine. In one section the daily $1 million fine was said to double at the end of each week the bank fails to comply. In another section the government said the fine would double every day. In a corrected filing, prosecutors made clear the fine should double only each week.The case is U.S. v. Halkbank, 15-cr-867, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).(Updates with amount of requested fine)To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in federal court in Manhattan at rvanvoris@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at, Joe Schneider, Steve StrothFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

POSTED JANUARY 21, 2020 4:12 PM

Trump staffers planned the Ukraine aid freeze the night before his call to Zelensky, further undermining defense

Trump staffers planned the Ukraine aid freeze the night before his call to Zelensky, further undermining defenseThe new documents undermine a pillar of Trump's impeachment defense — his claim that he didn't withhold Ukraine aid to pressure Ukraine.

POSTED JANUARY 22, 2020 8:29 AM

The brazen (and careless) Russian assassination team behind the Salisbury poisonings has been spotted in Europe, again

The brazen (and careless) Russian assassination team behind the Salisbury poisonings has been spotted in Europe, againThey keep failing to kill their targets. And they leave lots of evidence behind them.

POSTED JANUARY 22, 2020 10:34 AM

Saudi Crown Prince Appeared to Taunt Jeff Bezos Over Secret Affair Before Enquirer Exposé

Saudi Crown Prince Appeared to Taunt Jeff Bezos Over Secret Affair Before Enquirer ExposéCrown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Jeff Bezos a photograph of a woman loosely resembling the one he was having an affair with months before the National Enquirer published a report exposing the liaison, according to a United Nations investigation.Two United Nations special rapporteurs released a statement Wednesday detailing forensic evidence linking MBS to the Bezos hack, which suggests the future king of Saudi Arabia may have been threatening the owner of The Washington Post and founder and CEO of Amazon.Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night denied allegations of a politically motivated hack when it emerged that the UN was expected to formally request a response to the extraordinary claim that malware was sent from MBS’ personal WhatsApp account to Bezos.The alleged hack took place in May 2018, a few months after Jamal Khashoggi began writing columns critical of the Saudi regime for the Post. Four months later, Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered inside a Saudi consulate. The CIA concluded that MBS had personally ordered his assassination.Two UN special rapporteurs released a statement Wednesday laying out forensic evidence personally linking MBS to the hack on Bezos, which would later lead to a special edition of the National Enquirer dedicated to discrediting the newspaper boss.Bezos Investigation Finds the Saudis Obtained His Private DataThe statement was drafted by Agnes Callamard, a UN expert on extrajudicial killings who has been probing the murder of Khashoggi, and David Kaye, who has been investigating violations of press freedom.They wrote: “Mr. Bezos was subjected to intrusive surveillance via hacking of his phone as a result of actions attributable to the WhatsApp account used by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” In a detailed timeline of the hack, the UN report says MBS messaged Bezos on Nov. 8, 2018, weeks after the murder of his columnist Khashoggi.“A single photograph is texted to Mr. Bezos from the Crown Prince’s WhatsApp account, along with a sardonic caption. It is an image of a woman resembling the woman with whom Bezos is having an affair, months before the Bezos affair was known publicly,” the report read.Bezos’ phone appears to have been compromised on the day that an encrypted video downloader was sent from the prince’s WhatsApp account to Bezos in May 2018.The two men had been chatting on the messaging app after they met at a dinner in Los Angeles and exchanged numbers. Almost immediately after Bezos opened the video file, the report says, “a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos’ phone began, continuing and escalating for months.”The UN report on the hacking was drawn up by Anthony Ferrante, a cybersecurity expert at FTI Consulting who conducted a forensic analysis of Bezos’ phone.In the firm’s technical report, which was obtained Wednesday by Motherboard, analysts wrote that cellular traffic from Bezos’ phone spiked 29,156 percent just hours after he opened the video file. FTI researchers said they found no malware in it, but were unable to determine the contents of the downloader because of encryption.While they were not able to identify the exact malware used, the UN report concludes, “Experts advised that the most likely explanation for the anomalous data egress was use of mobile spyware such as NSO Group’s Pegasus or, less likely, Hacking Team’s Galileo, that can hook into legitimate applications to bypass detection and obfuscate activity.”The FTI report pointedly noted that in 2016 Saud al-Qahtani, the Saudi spymaster who oversaw the killing of Khashoggi and handled cybersecurity issues for the Saudi government, purchased a 20 percent stake in Hacking Team, a security firm that offers offensive hacking services to authoritarian governments. “Customers of Hacking Team,” the FTI report said, “had asked the company to create the capability to infect devices via a video sent in WhatsApp.”According to the FTI report, the image of the woman that Bezos received was part of meme with the caption: “Arguing with a woman is like reading the Software License agreement—in the end you have to ignore everything and click I agree.” The analysts reported the Nov. 8, 2018, message was unlike any the Post owner had received from MBS before and “this was after the relationship [with girlfriend Lauren Sanchez] would have been obvious to persons with access to private texts, calls, and images on Bezos’ phone, but months before the relationship was known or reported publicly.“The photo and caption were sent precisely during the period Bezos and his wife were exploring divorce,” it states, adding, “Memes such as this were available on the Internet, however the content of the text was not typical of any past communication from MBS, making it likely it was sent with reference to Bezos’ personal life events at that time.”The Bezos hack came to light after private texts showing that he was engaged in an extramarital relationship were published by the National Enquirer. In response, the world’s richest man set out to uncover how the tabloid magazine had gotten access to the most private messages on his phone.American Media Inc. (AMI), which owns the National Enquirer, publicly stated that its source was Michael Sanchez, the estranged brother of the woman dating Bezos, but last March, Bezos’ experienced security consultant Gavin de Becker wrote an op-ed in The Daily Beast explaining that his investigation had found that the Saudi government had obtained access to the phone.Not only that, AMI had threatened to release a trove of embarrassing photos of Bezos—also taken from his phone—unless he agreed to make a public statement claiming that the report about his affair was not “instigated, dictated, or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.”The media company was trying to strong-arm Bezos into shutting down reports that the Saudis were somehow involved.“I’ve seen a lot. And yet, I’ve recently seen things that have surprised even me, such as the National Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, being in league with a foreign nation that’s been actively trying to harm American citizens and companies, including the owner of The Washington Post,” De Becker wrote in The Daily Beast.After the bombshell op-ed, AMI doubled down on its claim that Michael Sanchez, an associate of Trumpworld insiders including Roger Stone and Carter Page, had been the “single source” of their midweek special edition, which exposed Bezos’ relationship with the TV host Lauren Sanchez.The targeting of Bezos and The Washington Post fits into a pattern of Saudi aggression against critics, which includes blackmailing, discrediting, and even killing those who speak out against the regime.Iyad El-Baghdadi, founder of the Kawaakibi Foundation and editor in chief of the website; Arab Tyrant Manual, who lives in exile in Norway, wrote in The Daily Beast early last year that MBS had been targeting Bezos. “There’s mounting evidence that the de facto ruler of the kingdom has been trying to punish Bezos for the fierce coverage by his newspaper, The Washington Post,” he wrote.David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, told The Daily Beast that while the allegations about the Bezos hack were inevitably eye-catching, it shouldn’t obscure the threats to political speech posed by the rapidly expanding availability of commercial surveillance tools like the ones made by NSO Group or Hacking Team. “There’s a fundamental problem right now with this industry that can export its technology, sell, and transport it with very little constraint. On the user side, it can be used with very little legal framework [and] little rule-of-law standards,” said Kaye, who in June called for a moratorium on the sale of surveillance tech. “Imagine if you’re Omar Abdulaziz or another activist. What tool do you have to protect yourself?” Kaye said.As well, Kaye said, the UN officials’ statement on Wednesday was no surprise to the Saudi government. Last week, he said, they sent a letter informing the kingdom of the allegations through the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Then, on Monday—a day before The Guardian broke the story—they sent the Saudis a draft of their Wednesday statement. As far as Kaye knows, Saudi Arabia has yet to formally respond. The procedure Kaye outlined typically allows 60 days for an accused government to issue a response before proposing an investigation. There are different forms an investigation can take, but Kaye said he and Callamard hope it will include both his prior work on the explosion of commercial surveillance and her prior work investigating the Khashoggi slaying. “This is just one incident of an abuse by many, many governments,” Kaye said.Kaye said their involvement started in November, after a source he declined to describe further provided them with the forensic report into the Bezos hack. He said they contacted four infosec experts to stress-test it. “It was a kind of vetting to make sure the allegations are credible enough to raise with the government of Saudi Arabia and to go public with them,” he said. After The Guardian and the Financial Times reported Tuesday night that MBS’ phone was implicated, Saudi Arabia’s U.S. embassy said reports “that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

POSTED JANUARY 22, 2020 9:54 AM

AOC criticises Democratic Party: ‘We don’t have a left party in the United States’

AOC criticises Democratic Party: ‘We don’t have a left party in the United States’New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained that the Democratic party does not represent the political left in the United States, calling the organisation a “centre or centre-conservative” party that “can’t even get a floor vote” on nationalising health care.She said: “We can’t even get a floor vote on Medicare for All — not even a floor vote that might get doubled down.”

POSTED JANUARY 21, 2020 10:32 AM

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