DOJ tries to fire US attorney who investigated Trump allies

The United States Department of Justice moved abruptly on Friday to fire Geoffrey Berman, the attorney in Manhattan overseeing key prosecutions of President Donald Trump’s allies and an investigation of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

But Berman said he was refusing to leave his post and his ongoing investigations would continue.

“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning my position,” Berman said in a statement.

His statement came hours Attorney General Bill Barr said Berman was stepping down from his position and that Trump intends to nominate Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton to replace him.

The standoff set off an extraordinary clash between the Justice Department and one of the nation’s top districts, which has tried major mob and “terrorism” cases over the years.

It is also likely to deepen tensions between the Justice Department and congressional Democrats who have pointedly accused Barr of politicising the agency and acting more like Trump’s personal lawyer than the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Barr did not explain the move in the statement he issued late on Friday.

Hours later, Berman issued his own statement saying he had learned that he was being pushed out through media reports. He vowed to stay on the job until a Trump nominee is confirmed by the Senate. The investigations he oversees will continue, he added.

The Associated Press news agency, citing people familiar with the matter, said federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Giuliani’s business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent.

The office has also prosecuted a number of Trump associates, including Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who served a prison sentence for lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes.

Berman has also overseen the prosecution of two Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were associates of Giuliani and tied to the Ukraine impeachment investigation.

The men were charged in October with federal campaign finance violations, including hiding the origin of a $325,000 donation to a group supporting Trump’s re-election.

A Republican who contributed to the president’s election campaign, Berman worked for the same law firm as Giuliani and was put in his job by the Trump administration. But as US attorney for the Southern District of New York, he won over some sceptics after he went after Trump allies.

Berman was appointed by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January 2018, months after Preet Bharara was fired after refusing to resign along with dozens of other federal prosecutors appointed by President Barack Obama.

Three months later, FBI agents raided Cohen’s offices, an act the president decried as a politically motivated witch hunt.

The following April, in the absence of a formal nomination by Trump, the judges in Manhattan federal court voted to appoint Berman to the position permanently.

He has taken a direct hand in other investigations that have angered Trump.

His office subpoenaed Trump’s inaugural committee for a wide range of documents as part of an investigation into various potential crimes, including possible illegal contributions from foreigners to inaugural events.

And weeks before the 2018 midterm election, Berman announced insider trading charges against an ardent Trump supporter, Republican Representative Chris Collins, who represented western New York. Collins has since resigned.

Under Berman’s tenure, his office also brought charges against Michael Avenatti, the combative lawyer who gained fame by representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits involving Trump.

Avenatti was convicted in February of trying to extort Nike after prosecutors said he threatened to use his media access to hurt Nike’s reputation and stock price unless the sportswear giant paid him up to $25m.

Bharara, the former attorney in Manhattan, said the timing and manner of the move to replace Berman were strange.

“Why does a president get rid of his own hand-picked US Attorney in SDNY on a Friday night, less than 5 months before the election?” Bharara wrote on Twitter.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

US to release Hezbollah financier

The US will release convicted Hezbollah financier Kassim Tajideen three years into his five-year sentence due to his poor health and risks of COVID-19 infection from prison, according to court documents.

On May 28 Washington Federal District Court Judge Reggie Walton granted Tajideen’s emergency request for compassionate release, which said his age and “serious health conditions” leave him particularly vulnerable as the coronavirus spread through the US prison system.

Tajideen, 64, could be back in Lebanon within weeks.

According to a June 11 court filing by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he was released from the federal prison in Cumberland, Maryland after a two-week coronavirus quarantine and moved to a county detention centre while awaiting departure.  

“At this time, a charter flight to Lebanon has been scheduled for July 2020 and Mr Tajideen is on the manifest,” ICE said in a court filing.

Scientists’ Warning: Consumerism is the Leading Cause of the Environmental Crisis

The Most Revolutionary Act

Consumerism exists to sustain a widely adopted economic model built on the imperative of constant economic growth. A new study identifies consumerism in the wealthiest countries as the foremost cause of climate change, biodiversity loss and ecological collapse. Alternative economic systems are there and need to be embraced by public and political discourses.

A new study1 published in Nature Communications, led by Dr Thomas Wiedemann of the University of New South Wales, Australia, stresses that the issue of overconsumption especially in the wealthiest countries lays at the roots of the current environmental crisis, more so than population growth.

The study highlights that “it is clear that prevailing capitalist, growth-driven economic systems have not only increased affluence since World War II, but have led to enormous increases in inequality, financial instability, resource consumption and environmental pressures on vital earth support systems”. “The strongest pillar of…

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COVID19 Cold War: Will the 2nd Wave Come from Vaccine Trials

The Most Revolutionary Act

In the fast-track system, a pharmaceutical company hardly examines the results of a phase one trial before moving on to phases two and three.

In the fast-track system, a pharmaceutical company hardly examines the results of a phase one trial before moving on to phases two and three. | Photo: NIAID

By Dady Chery
Telesur

An FDA “fast-track” designation has essentially accorded a carte blanche to a set of vaccines that are financed by CEPI, an alliance of Bill Gates with the six biggest pharmaceutical companies

If the English-language press had done its job, and not parroted press releases that promote vaccination as the only escape from the social isolation we’ve endured the last three months, the public would be asking many questions about the ongoing protests and their relation to the logistics of vaccine trials. To test a vaccine, typically a pharmaceutical company recruits healthy volunteers for several phases of a clinical trial with a defined endpoint.

I have previously noted that an FDA “fast-track” designation has essentially accorded a carte blanche to…

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Successful Mass Protest During Repression

The Most Revolutionary Act

United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP

Directed by Jim Hubbard (2012)

Film Review

This documentary traces the history of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), one of the few successful mass protest organizations during the repressive Reagan era. Between 1981, when the AIDS epidemic was first recognized, and 1987, 40,000 Americans died of AIDS. During this time Reagan refused to utter the word AIDS, much less advocate for research, prevention and treatment. Prior to 1987, 80% of patients diagnosed with AIDS would be dead in two years.

ACT-UP first formed in New York City in 1987, the same year the first anti-AIDS drug AZT became available. By 1996, the year the life-saving Triple Cocktail* became available, they had 147 chapters across the US.

The film mainly focuses on the New York City chapter, and their Monday night meetings attended by hundreds of activists. Most former ACT-UP members believe the…

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