Day: February 16, 2020

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Should cars be banned in downtown LA?


Banning cars from downtown streets is beginning to catch on in major U.S. cities, with New York and San Francisco moving to free up space for transit vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

But the trend hasn’t come to Los Angeles — yet.

A proposal introduced by Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar could change that. The councilman asked city officials last week to study the feasibility of a ban on driving and parking along a 1.5-mile stretch of Broadway between 1st and 12th streets.

Broadway is “an ideal street to go car-free,” Huizar said, because narrower roadways and expanded space for pedestrians have already begun to transform the iconic corridor. Eliminating private cars could make the street safer and more efficient for a streetcar that the city plans to build, officials said.

If approved, the ban would be the biggest transportation change along Broadway since the region’s streetcars were ripped out after World War II and the Metro subway opened in 1993.

Broadway would be the first major street in Los Angeles to go car free. Last month, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s office proposed a dramatic overhaul of Hollywood Boulevard along the Walk of Fame that could include far less space for private cars.

Business owners, residents and tourists along Broadway said the proposal intrigued them but was short on details. To succeed, they said, the car ban would need buy-in from residents, theater operators, hotels, restaurateurs and small businesses trying to hang on as rents rise.

“Some ideas are great and can still have unintended consequences,” said Blair Besten, the executive director of the Historic Core business improvement district, who said she was intrigued by the proposal. “We will need to reflect on how it will impact a major urban center.”

The study will include an analysis of how the city could ensure access to residential parking garages and commercial loading zones for bars, restaurants and retail stores.

Numbered cross streets would not be closed to traffic at Broadway, so cars, trucks and other vehicles could still cross Broadway at intersections with traffic signals, Huizar’s motion said. Fire trucks, police cars and buses would still be allowed.

It will take time to collect feedback from city departments and from the community, so “it is premature at this point to offer a specific timetable, what the final recommendations will be or what is expected to be the final cost,” Huizar spokeswoman Laura McKinney said in an email.

Huizar, first elected to the City Council in 2005, must step down in November because of term limits. He hopes that his successor “will take up the baton after his term ends,” McKinney said.

Broadway was the heart of pre-World War II Los Angeles, and later became the region’s premier shopping destination for Latino families before falling into disrepair at the end of the 20th century.

If the changes were approved, city planners face the challenge of redesigning a street long oriented toward the automobile, while still retaining the energy that families remember, said James Rojas, an urban planner who worked at the May Co. department store on Broadway in high school.

“Broadway is part of the cultural DNA for people whose families have been here for generations,” Rojas said. “You have to find a way to make this major change and still keep the vibrancy, the interest, the activity.”

Some workers spilling out into the sunshine for their lunch hour said they feared that a car ban on Broadway, one of downtown’s few two-way streets, could send traffic spilling onto parallel routes, like Main and Spring streets. Car lanes there have been reduced to make space for protected bike lanes.

“Traffic is already really bad,” said Jorge Rivera of Montebello as he and two other construction workers split a tray of sopes at a sidewalk table near the Orpheum Theatre. The changes could be nice for tourists, he said, but many workers who need trucks and tools “can’t just stop driving.”

Broadway is one of the busiest downtown streets for pedestrians, which means good business at lunchtime, said Cristy Alvarez. The food truck operator did a brisk business selling hot dogs, Fritos and soda to office workers and sweaty tourists near the Globe Theatre.

Alvarez said she had watched with alarm as mom-and-pop businesses at the Grand Central Market closed down. Many were replaced by their pricier, hipster counterparts: Cold-pressed juice instead of aguas frescas; hand-scooped $1 ice cream edged out by a Santa Barbara creamery.

Perhaps, she said, the city could carve out space for a few loncheras in the pedestrian-only zone. Food trucks, she said, are “here to make food, not traffic.”

Outside the Grand Central Market, tourist Anna Roy said Denver has seen that a pedestrianized street can be a success. The 16th Street Mall, which allows buses and pedestrians, has streets and sidewalks designed by I. M. Pei and has been closed to car traffic since 1982.

Roy and her boyfriend had taken a “very hairy” scooter ride from their Airbnb in South Park that morning, unsure whether the sidewalk or the street was safer, she said.

“It would be a lot more relaxing if cars weren’t part of the equation,” said Roy, 32, as she ate a coddled egg on toast from the breakfast restaurant Eggslut. And, she said, as drivers honked in the background, it would be quieter.

On a sell-out night at the historic Orpheum a decade ago, the parking lots nearby would be full, said Steve Needleman of Anjac Fashion Buildings, a real estate firm that owns the theater, as well as office space, residential buildings and parking lots downtown.

Today, at least half of the audience arrives by Uber, Lyft or subway, Needleman said. That change in consumer habits, plus the surge of people walking and shopping at night, opened his mind to the idea of closing Broadway to cars after years of being “adamantly against it,” he said.

The plan has downsides, Needleman said, including the possibility of parking lot operators losing business. “But looking at what is best for Broadway, we have to give it a shot,” he said.

Needleman is also the chairman of Los Angeles Streetcar Inc., the nonprofit that plans to build a trolley line between the Civic Center and the Staples Center.

Earlier plans for the streetcar did not include a separate lane, meaning the vehicles would have been at the mercy of traffic congestion, accidents and idling vehicles. The average estimated speed was 6 mph. Without private cars, the line would operate more efficiently, Needleman said.

The streetcar is slated to receive $200 million through the sales tax Measure M in 2053. The city “is in discussions with Metro to expedite this funding,” McKinney said, and Needleman said Los Angeles Streetcar Inc. is pursuing a private partnership and a federal grant to build the project more quickly.



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Elton John breaks down in tears and leaves stage after suffering pneumonia…


Music legend Elton John was forced to leave the stage in tears after being unable to sing due to illness.

Elton, 72, had been performing in Auckland, New Zealand as part of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour when his voice gave in.

After pushing on for as long as possible, the visibly distressed star was left with no choice but to call it quits.

Fighting back tears, the Oscar winning singer managed a heartfelt ‘sorry’ before being helped back to his dressing room.

According to fans online, Elton reportedly said: “My voice has completely gone, I’m so sorry.”

As he did, the understanding crowd cheered and supported him.

Taking to Twitter to explain his situation, Elton wrote: “I want to thank everyone who attended the #EltonFarewellTour gig in Auckland tonight.

Elton John has been diagnosed with walking pneumonia

“I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia earlier today, but I was determined to give you the best show humanly possible.

“I played and sang my heart out, until my voice could sing no more. I’m disappointed, deeply upset and sorry. I gave it all I had.”

The I’m Still Standing singer added in a later post: “Thank you so much for your extraordinary support and all the love you showed me during tonight’s performance.

“I am eternally grateful. Love, Elton xx”

Elton John was escorted off stage in Auckland after being unable to sing

Walking pneumonia is a less severe version of pneumonia.

The illness is a bacterial infection that is often found in an individual’s lower and upper respiratory tract.

In total, Elton cut the show short by an hour due to the illness.

He is still set to play two more gigs in Auckland, one Tuesday and Thursday.

Elton John is currently on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour

The mammoth global trek is will see Elton play 270 dates over two years.

The tour is due to reach the UK in November 2020.

In October last year, Elton was forced to cancel a show in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis due to illness.

In a statement at the time, the venue said: “Due to illness, Elton John’s concert slated for tonight, Saturday, October 26, 2019 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse has been rescheduled for Thursday, March 26, 2020.

“We do apologise for any inconvenience caused by this necessary change and wish Elton a speedy recovery.”



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Woman arrested over sex tape that sank ally of France's Macron…


Paris (AFP) – French police have arrested the girlfriend of a Russian activist who released a sex video of a prominent ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, prosecutors said on Sunday.

Pyotr Pavlensky’s girlfriend was arrested on Saturday evening on charges of invasion of privacy and publishing images of a sexual nature without consent, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

Her arrest stemmed from the release by Pavlensky, a protest artist best known before now for nailing his scrotum to Red Square in Moscow, of a video of a man masturbating accompanied by screengrabs of racy text messages sent to a woman.

Pavlensky claimed the messages were sent by former government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, who was the candidate of the ruling Republic on the Move party (LREM) for Paris mayor in next month’s municipal elections.

His girlfriend, who was not named by investigators, is suspected of having received the video.

Griveaux dropped out of the race on Friday in the wake of the video’s release, saying he wanted to protect his family.

Pavlensky, who claimed political asylum in France in 2017, was detained on Saturday.

Investigators said his arrest was over a fight at a Paris apartment on December 31 in which two guests apparently suffered stab wounds and he is accused of wielding a knife.

However, they may also question him over the sex tape.

– ‘Family values’ –

On Friday, Pavlensky told AFP on Friday that he had posted the footage online in order to expose the “hypocrisy” of 42-year-old Griveaux and planned to post more material on a newly created “political porn platform”.

Griveaux “is someone who constantly brings up family values, who says he wants to be the mayor of families and always cites his wife and children as an example. But he is doing the opposite,” he told the Liberation daily.

Politicians from across the French spectrum took a different view of the matter, however, calling the video an intolerable invasion of Griveaux’s privacy.

Macron’s LREM, which is poised for a drubbing in the municipal elections according to opinion polls, has been left scrambling to find another candidate to try topple Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a Socialist.

Pavlensky has a track record of causing outrage.

His Red Square protest made global headlines in 2013 and two years later doused the doors of the FSB secret police headquarters with petrol and set them on fire.

In October 2017, he set fire to the offices of the Bank of France on Place Bastille, site of the attack on an infamous prison at the start of the French revolution in 1789 — later receiving a jail sentence for the stunt.



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'SHE WANTS BACK IN'…


Billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign on Saturday downplayed a report that he is considering 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as his pick for vice president.

The Drudge Report, citing a source close to Bloomberg’s campaign, reported that Clinton was under consideration after internal polling found that a Bloomberg-Clinton ticket would be a “formidable force.”

TRUMP WARS WITH BLOOMBERG: RIVALS GO FULL NEW YORKER WITH EPIC BOUT OF INSULTS

The conservative news aggregator, which came to prominence in the 90s for first reporting the Monica Lewinsky scandal, reported that Bloomberg would consider changing his residence to a home he owns in Colorado or Florida, “since the electoral college makes it hard for a POTUS and VPOTUS from the same state.”

But the Bloomberg campaign quickly tamped down that report but fell short of denying it outright.

“We are focused on the primary and the debate, not VP speculation,” Bloomberg communication director Jason Schechter said in a statement.

A source familiar with Clinton’s thinking said the former Secretary of State hasn’t closed the door on politics and would seriously consider joining a VP ticket.

“She wants back in,” the source told Fox News.

The spotlight has increased on Bloomberg in recent days as he has shifted up the polls. He entered the race late — and is skipping the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary, Nevada caucuses, and South Carolina primary — the four early voting states that kick off the nominating calendar in order to focus on the Super Tuesday states in March.

BLOOMBERG PLAYS DEFENSE AS THE MEDIA TRUMPET OPPO RESEARCH

The RealClearPolitics average of national polls currently has him in third place behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Vice President Joe Biden.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

There has been considerable speculation about Clinton’s political future, and she said last year she was under “enormous pressure” to run again. But recently on “The Ellen Show”, she poured cold water on speculation she could be on the ticket again in November as VP.

“Well that’s not going to happen, but no, probably no,” she said.

Fox News’ Kelly Phares and Mark Meredith contributed to this report.



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As Harvey Weinstein's fate heads to jurors, who will they believe?


a man and a woman looking at the camera: Defense attorneys (from left) Arthur Aidala, Donna Rutunno, and Damon Cheronis hold a press conference outside Manhattan Criminal Court on February 14, 2020 in New York. They are representing Harvey Weinstein.

Defense attorneys (from left) Arthur Aidala, Donna Rutunno, and Damon Cheronis hold a press conference outside Manhattan Criminal Court on February 14, 2020 in New York. They are representing Harvey Weinstein.

© Alec Tabak/New York Daily News/TNS

NEW YORK — One by one, the women shook, cried, stammered and struggled to recount the horrors they said Harvey Weinstein inflicted upon them.

Annabella Sciorra wept as she told jurors the mogul had barged through her front door and forced her onto a bed. Mimi Haley hung her head as she recalled a night when she didn’t want to have sex with Weinstein, but simply “laid there” out of a fear that she couldn’t escape a producer who physically dwarfed and overpowered her.

Jessica Mann, exhausted by her marathon testimony about a tumultuous and complex relationship with Weinstein, had to be helped from the stand as she sobbed between panicked breaths.

During three weeks of testimony, the former Hollywood titan sat in relative silence. He scribbled on a notepad or stared at the jury as his attorneys scrutinized each accuser’s motives and behavior, confronting them with cordial emails they wrote to the mogul while trying to recast each woman’s account as nothing more than an edited version of a consensual affair.

When a jury of seven men and five women convene next week to decide Weinstein’s fate, experts say they will have to determine which framing of the case they will follow: The tearful words the accusers delivered, the praise-heavy missives they later sent to Weinstein calling him a “genius” or seeking his help finding work — or the prosecution’s assertion that both conditions can exist at the same time.

In her closing arguments Friday, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the jury that Weinstein had underestimated his accusers.

“He made sure he had contact with the people he was worried about as a little check to make sure that one day, they wouldn’t walk out from the shadows and call him exactly what he was: an abusive rapist,” she said. “He was wrong.”

The prosecution’s final argument was designed to undercut the seeds of doubt painstakingly planted by Weinstein’s attorneys. They have repeatedly seized on the fact that Haley and Mann kept in contact with Weinstein after their alleged assaults, while also insisting the women were not victims, but opportunists seeking connections and acting roles.

Illuzzi-Orbon made the point Friday that rape can occur within otherwise consensual and committed relationships. Even still, the accusers’ continued communication with Weinstein — coupled with gaps in their testimony about the dates and times of the attacks — could sway the jury toward an acquittal, legal experts say.

“I think the most important part is the emails … that’s tough to refute at that moment. They were saying something other than they were saying now,” said Dmitriy Shakhnevich, a criminal defense attorney who now teaches at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.

To overcome that correspondence, Shakhnevich said prosecutors will have to hope jurors focus on the testimony of forensic psychologist Barbara Ziv, who attempted to knock down so-called rape myths — including the notions that victims always fight back against their rapists, or that the truthfulness of a rape allegation can be evaluated by how an accuser behaves afterward.

Mann’s consensual sexual interactions with Weinstein after the alleged attack may be a sticking point for one or more jurors, said Wendy Murphy, a professor of sexual violence law at New England Law in Boston and a former sex crimes prosecutor.

Even when the laws around rape are clear and the evidence is powerful, she said, there may be jurors who will “have a tough time valuing what happened to that woman’s body as a serious enough cry to warrant a criminal conviction” because of a “historic disrespect for women in this country, and rape victims in particular.”

Illuzzi-Orbon said that Weinstein kept in contact with his victims in order to control and isolate them. The Miramax co-founder dangled roles in front of his accusers, she said, some of whom were trying to establish their acting careers.

The prosecution outlined the ways in which the accounts of abuse were strikingly similar: Interactions with Weinstein that fluctuated between validating and humiliating. The producer’s rapid changes in demeanor, which could sometimes swing from friendly to menacing in a matter of moments. And efforts to trick and trap the accusers in ways they said appeared premeditated.

“When you have to trick somebody to be in your control,” Illuzzi-Orbon said, “then you know that you don’t have consent.”

In her closing arguments Thursday, lead defense attorney Donna Rotunno implored the jury to focus on the evidence presented at trial rather than the maelstrom of negative press Weinstein has received between the start of the #MeToo movement and his trial.

In all, more than 90 women have come forward with sexual assault allegations against Weinstein.

“You may have had a gut feeling that Harvey Weinstein was guilty,” Rotunno said. “Throw that gut feeling right out the window.”

Weinstein’s jury was chosen specifically for their professed ability to ignore media coverage and decide the case based only on evidence heard in court. But that doesn’t mean jurors won’t be biased against Weinstein when they make their decision.

Take Bill Cosby’s rape case, Murphy said. By her evaluation, the comedian had a good chance of winning his mistrial under Pennsylvania law.

“Had he been a run-of-the-mill guy, if he hadn’t been the subject of so many news stories, he would have walked,” Murphy said.

Rotunno also argued that Weinstein’s accusers made the choice to go to his apartment or his hotel room, that they made the choice to engage in sex with him, and that they should take responsibility for those choices.

Illuzzi-Orbon rebuffed those claims.

“If you take the short way home and walk through a dark park and get robbed, nobody’s going to say, ‘You shouldn’t have been walking through the dark park,’” Illuzzi-Orbon said.

Weinstein, 67, faces five felony charges in the New York trial, including rape, criminal sexual assault and predatory sexual assault. He faces a minimum of 25 years in prison and could be locked away for the rest of his life if convicted on the last charge.

The charges stem from accusations by Haley, a former employee of Weinstein’s production company who alleges he forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006, and Mann, a former aspiring actress who testified that the producer raped her in a New York hotel room in 2013.

To earn a conviction on the predatory sexual assault charge, prosecutors must convince jurors that Weinstein assaulted Haley or Mann, as well as Sciorra, the “Sopranos” actress.

The nature of the predatory sexual assault statute could also work against the prosecution, Shakhnevich said. To convict on either of those two counts, jurors must believe Weinstein assaulted Sciorra and Haley or Sciorra and Mann. While Shakhnevich described Sciorra as the prosecution’s strongest witness because she cut contact with Weinstein after the date of the alleged assault, the jury cannot legally convict on her accusation alone.

Three other women testified that Weinstein assaulted them. Those alleged crimes were either too old to prosecute or happened outside the jurisdiction of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, but the allegations of one of the women, Lauren Young, about an assault that she said occurred in a Beverly Hills hotel, led prosecutors to file charges against Weinstein in Southern California.

Weinstein has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to all charges. Jury deliberations are expected to begin Tuesday.

In a direct rebuke of the defense’s argument that Weinstein’s accusers sought attention through their involvement in the sensational case, Illuzzi-Orbon said they were instead “compelled by their own morality.”

“Would they put themselves through the stress? Did it look like they were having fun up there? Did it look like that was a party, was that a premiere?” Illuzzi-Orbon said. “Or did it look like that was horrible and grueling?”

———

(Newberry reported from New York, and Queally from Los Angeles.)

———

©2020 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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Couple Tests Positive for Virus After Hawaii Visit…



Couple Tests Positive for Virus After Hawaii Visit...

(Second column, 2nd story, link)


Related stories:
Xi urges more policing, web crackdown…
Questions complicate efforts to contain…
France Reports First Death Outside Asia…
Disease modelers: Maybe 4,400,000 cases…





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Barr's internal reviews and re-investigations feed resentment, suspicion inside Justice Department…


WASHINGTON – The Justice Department in the Trump era has repeatedly tasked U.S. attorneys from far-flung offices to parachute into politically explosive cases in Washington, raising concerns among current and former officials that agency leaders are trying to please the president by reviewing and reinvestigating cases in which he is personally or politically invested.

After a tumultuous week for federal law enforcement in which Attorney General William Barr declared he could not do his job if the president kept tweeting about criminal cases, and officials revealed they had dropped one politically charged case while adding new prosecutors to others, several current and former officials expressed alarm at what they characterized as a troubling pattern.

“The power to investigate is the power to destroy,” said Gregory Brower, a former U.S. attorney and former senior FBI official. The current approach to sensitive cases, he said, “gives the appearance of politics coming into play whenever the president has a perceived political enemy. . . . The ability to simply point to a pending investigation against a person can have devastating effects on that person and can have a potential political benefit to the person orchestrating the investigation.”


On Friday, prosecutors said they would no longer pursue a criminal case against Andrew McCabe, the former acting FBI director who has long been a target of President Donald Trump’s vitriol.

The decision infuriated the president, according to a senior White House official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail internal discussions. Trump ranted privately to associates about the announcement, telling one he’s always known McCabe was a “bad guy.”

While the president is angry over the decision not to charge McCabe with lying to investigators during a leak investigation, he is unlikely to fire Barr over the matter, people familiar with the matter said.

Aides have urged the president not to say much publicly about the McCabe decision, and so far he has mostly heeded that advice. On Saturday morning, Trump fired off a tweet summarizing the Justice Department inspector general’s findings that McCabe misled investigators on four separate occasions about authorizing a media disclosure and stating, incorrectly, that the “IG RECOMMENDED MCCABE’S FIRING.”


Inspector General Michael Horowitz made a criminal referral of McCabe’s conduct to prosecutors, but did not specifically advise that he be fired. McCabe was fired in 2018 just as he was about to retire, costing him significant pension benefits.

Trump advisers viewed the president’s tweet as the best they could have hoped for on the subject, the senior White House official said.

Shortly after the McCabe announcement on Friday, officials said that Barr had assigned Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney in St. Louis, to review and “assist” prosecutors currently handling the case of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is still awaiting sentencing after having pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Jensen appointment marks the latest iteration of an unusual trend inside the Justice Department of tasking outside U.S. attorneys with reviewing, managing, or reinvestigating work that would otherwise not be in their portfolio. Much of the effort seems aimed at re-examining the work of special counsel Robert Mueller III, whose probe of possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign infuriated the president, or to target the president foes.

In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Utah’s U.S. Attorney, John Huber, to investigate old corruption allegations against Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Trump’s opponent in the 2016 campaign, on issues that had been covered previously by other federal prosecutors. That assignment came amid pressure from Republican lawmakers for appointment of a second special counsel.

The next year, the Justice Department tasked the U.S. attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, to oversee the turnover to Congress of internal FBI documents about Clinton.

Last year, Barr tapped Connecticut’s U.S. attorney, John Durham, to investigate how U.S. intelligence agencies investigated Russian interference in the last presidential election.

More recently, Barr assigned Scott Brady, the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh to take information from Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who wants to provide the Justice Department with material alleging wrongdoing related to former vice president Joe Biden and his family.

And now, the top federal prosecutor from St. Louis is working on the Flynn case that has long been handled by federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia.

Taken together, the moves have fueled suspicion inside and outside the department.

Such decisions are not unprecedented. In 2009, President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder, expanded an investigation Durham was conducting into the treatment of detained terror suspects, and at the time, many in the intelligence community bristled at the idea that conduct that had been investigated once already would be investigated again.

But it is highly unusual to do this as often as the Trump administration has.

“If this Justice Department had done it once, you might understand, but they have done it over and over, and it’s only ever to re-examine an outcome that the president didn’t like,” said Matthew Miller, a former spokesman for Holder, who said the practice does “enormous harm” to the department’s reputation. “When you are constantly launching politically motivated probes, the public can’t tell which investigations are legitimate and which are political, and ultimately they question everything. And that is clearly part of the goal.”

​A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Inside the Justice Department and at U.S. attorney’s offices around the country, career employees took a wide range of views on Barr’s recent actions – particularly his extraordinary Thursday interview with ABC News, when he said Trump’s commentary makes it “impossible for me to do my job.”

Some inside the department were heartened by his remarks. “Finally,” one career Justice Department employee told The Washington Post.

But others were more skeptical – wondering if Barr and Trump had orchestrated the interview as a means to provide the attorney general with political cover to continue executing influence over the cases Trump has fixated on most. That cynicism only grew deeper when it was revealed new prosecutors had been added to the Flynn case.

People close to the attorney general say his frustration with Trump is genuine, and that Barr had privately expressed his concerns to the president more than once in recent weeks. When those efforts did not seem to have the desired effect, Barr decided to speak out publicly, these people said.

Current and former officials said the move to add new prosecutors to the Flynn case seemed to be part of a new pattern of Justice Department political leadership spinning up inquiries that might help Trump and his friends and hurt their perceived foes.

David Laufman, a former chief of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, said such reviews are “enormously demoralizing, certainly for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C., and I would imagine throughout the Department of Justice and U.S. attorneys offices nationwide.”

Laufman said he was baffled at why the various U.S. attorneys accept such missions. “Why would they be associating themselves with investigations that are evocative of the manner in which repressive regimes throughout history have behaved?”

Representatives for Durham, Jensen and Huber did not respond to questions for this report. A spokeswoman for Brady declined to comment.



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Clinton could get her revenge against Trump…


“Watch for smoke signals from Chappaqua,” a Democratic friend said recently. “She wants back in.”

She — there is only one political she — might be getting what she wants.

The report that Hillary Clinton could become Michael Bloomberg’s running mate is one of those times when it is no exaggeration to use the word bombshell. Earthquake would also work, assuming the political marriage actually happens.

For now, it’s a trial balloon, as demonstrated by the timing and the way the idea was leaked. A big red banner on the Drudge Report blaring “EXCLUSIVE” is designed to shock and awe the political system, then gauge the fallout.

Bloomberg, remember, is a numbers guy and his team conducts polls relentlessly. Drudge says they’ve already tested the tag-team idea quietly and, liking what they saw, now want to go public and test it more broadly.

It won’t take long to figure out which way the wind is blowing. It is such a big, bold stroke that, while it comes out of the blue, the public reaction will be swift.

My guess is that this marriage of convenience gets consummated fairly quickly. Bloomberg needs immediate help to win the nomination, with March a make-or-break month.

Clinton, as the world knows, is desperate to get revenge on Donald Trump and will almost certainly seize another chance at the White House, even if it means being relegated to stand-by equipment.

While Bernie Sanders and his committed clan will be loud exceptions, enough Democrats, I believe, will support a Bloomberg-Clinton ticket as the best chance to defeat Trump.

If all that comes to pass, the general election would be a combustible clash that will make the 2016 election look like a walk in the park. It won’t exactly be a Trump-Clinton rematch, but close enough that the faint of heart should start searching for safe and quiet refuge.

Clinton, of course, is a human lightning rod and her relationship to voters is obviously complicated. The 2016 results perfectly captured the love her/hate her split, as she won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College.

It was her second defeat, with Barack Obama besting her in the 2008 primaries, and it looked as if her political obituary was complete. Her disgraceful whining that Russia helped Trump steal the election marked her as a sore and bitter loser and even among her fans there has been little appetite for a third Oval Office run.

Although she and her camp dropped hints that she was not closing the door, no draft Hillary movement emerged.

Instead, in the three years since Trump shocked the world by beating her, Democrats had moved on. In her absence, some 25 candidates sought the 2020 nomination, and there were no pilgrimages spotted at her home in Chappaqua seeking her endorsement.

Even more infuriating, Sanders, her unforgiven arch rival from 2016, has become the front runner.

And now comes Bloomberg, offering to save her from boredom and ignominy. It’s not an offer she can refuse.

His reasons are pure business and driven by math. The former New York mayor’s bid for the presidency is unique beyond measure, as is his fortune, but time is not his friend.

He started late and had the unorthodox idea of skipping the first four states while pouring hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ads and staff into the Super Tuesday states that vote March 3d.

Bloomberg’s aim has been clear — become the so-called moderate alternative to Sanders and his socialist agenda. Mr. Moneybags has shown some life in recent polls, and the decline of Joe Biden has opened a space for him.

However, the surprising rise of Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg has complicated his path forward and forced him to do something dramatic. Inviting Clinton to join him would be the ultimate Hail Mary and immediately change the conversation about him, which has been mostly focused on his wealth and his racially tinged comments about stop-and-frisk and redlining.

In fact, he needs an outsized haul of delegates in a hurry or he’ll run out of time and states where he could win enough support to have a realistic chance of being the nominee.

Consider that some two-thirds of pledged delegates will have been awarded by the end of March. Bloomberg’s best hope — prevailing at a brokered convention — depends on having something reasonably close to the 1,991 delegates needed for a majority on the first ballot.

Starting with a second ballot, when 771 super delegates can also vote, the minimum needed to win grows to 2,375 delegates.

A final clincher for Bloomberg among primary voters could be Barack Obama’s blessing. As I wrote last week, the former president has let it be known he wants to stop Sanders and endorsing Bloomberg was emerging as a logical possibility.

The two men have supported each other in the past and while their policies are not identical, there would be no major differences, certainly in these circumstances. Obama, too, would love nothing more than to help end Trump’s presidency.

If the Clinton proposal comes to fruition and gives Bloomberg an instant boost, expect Obama to move quickly to help secure the nomination.

So the wedding planners have been alerted and, if bride and groom make their deal, a lavish affair will soon commence. Fortunately for the groom, he can afford an endless number of food tasters.

Political psychic 

Reader Thomas Crovatto ought to play the Lottery. He emailed this letter last Wednesday, writing:

“It is my guess that if Bloomberg wins the nomination, he will name Clinton as his running mate. If he wins in 2020, he will serve one year and then step down due to old age, and Voila! Hillary Clinton will finally take her place in the Oval Office.

“And as soon as the news comes out that Obama and Clinton are pulling for Bloomy, their media handmaidens will be all in to defeat Trump.”

Andrew McCabe won’t be prosecuted

Of course he won’t. A perk of being former deputy FBI director is that you’re too big to jail, no matter how many times you lie under oath.

Bern can have de Blas

The news that Mayor Bill de Blasio is going to start campaigning for Bernie Sanders is New York’s gain and Sanders’ loss.

For the first time in modern history, the mayoralty has become something close to a no-show job. Even when he’s in town, de Blasio is usually missing in action at important times, such as during the recent disruptions of the transit system by far-left hooligans.

When he does show up, it’s merely to throw ever more gobs of money at problems and pretend he has fixed everything.

The oddity is that it’s now clear he only wanted the job as a political stepping stone. In reality, being mayor is the best job he’ll ever get, and he threw it away with displays of ingratitude and indifference.

Bernie can have him.



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The implausible ticket?


As outlets from CNBC to the New York Post to the U.K.‘s Daily Mail played up Saturday’s story, Bloomberg’s campaign downplayed the report, but didn’t deny it.

“We are focused on the primary and the debate, not VP speculation,’ Jason Schechter, the campaign’s communications director, said in a statement.

Drudge also reported that the billionaire was looking to change his residency from New York, where Clinton also resides, to “homes he owns” in Colorado or Florida. Although subject to interpretation, the Constitution’s 12th Amendment states that presidential and vice presidential candidates shall not be an inhabitant of the same state.

By Saturday afternoon, Drudge was linking from his own homepage to the report carried in the Daily Mail citing Drudge’s own as yet unconfirmed scoop.

News of the possible Bloomberg-Clinton ticket drew swift reaction online, with Trumpworld figures relishing the idea.

“I can think of absolutely NOTHING that would make @realDonaldTrump and his supporters happier,” conservative commentator Candace Owens tweeted. “Do it, @HillaryClinton. Make our day.”

Others, including former Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller, threw cold water on the prospect of Bloomberg selecting the Democratic 2016 presidential candidate as his running mate, calling it a “smokescreen” to ensure other Democratic candidates don’t receive attention.

“Crooked would add partisan lightning rod dynamic Bloomberg *currently* avoids in the general,” Miller wrote.

Some also pointed out that Drudge had recently lost some legitimacy in Trumpworld after running a series of stories criticizing the president. Could it be a way to get back onside with the president and his supporters — or was it typical Drudge mischief-making?

Others, meanwhile, noted the report clouded the news cycle after the New York Times and Washington Post released deep-dive stories on Saturday morning that detailed Bloomberg’s philanthropy-for-influence network and history of alleged sexist comments respectively.

By Saturday afternoon, Clinton had not publicly responded to the report.

But earlier this month, Clinton told Ellen DeGeneres in an interview that she “probably” wouldn’t be asked to be a vice presidential candidate. “Never say never,” Clinton said, but “it’s not going to happen.”

Meanwhile, Trump himself has yet to weigh in two of his pet subjects on Saturday: gossip concerning his erstwhile political nemesis, and his newer rivals on the 2020 trail.



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EXCLUSIVE: BLOOMBERG CONSIDERS HILLARY RUNNING MATE


Hillary Clinton speaks onstage at ‘Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton discuss their new book ‘The Book of Gutsy Women’ at The Wilshire Ebell Theatre on November 05, 2019 in Los Angeles,

Emma McIntyre | Getty Images

Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is considering Hillary Clinton as a vice presidential running mate after positive internal polling about the potential pairing, according to the Drudge Report, which cited sources close to the Bloomberg campaign.

According to Drudge, in such a partnership Bloomberg would change his official residence from New York to Colorado or Florida. The constitution suggests there may be limitations in both members of a presidential ballot residing in the same state.

Jason Schechter, director of communications for the Bloomberg campaign, said in a statement to CNBC: “We are focused on the primary and the debate, not VP speculation.” A spokesperson for Clinton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, losing to Donald Trump in an election that served him 304 electoral votes and Clinton 227. Helping Trump’s victory were his wins in key industrial and Rust Belt states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Those states are likely to be key in the 2020 election as well.

Clinton was asked earlier this year by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres if she would consider running as vice president in the 2020 presidential election.

“Well, that’s not going to happen,” Clinton said at the time. “But no, probably no.”

Clinton has been less coy when addressing the current field of Democratic candidates. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hillary Clinton slammed Sen. Bernie Sanders, her main competitor in the 2016 Democratic primary, saying “nobody likes him” and accusing him of supporting sexist attacks against his rivals.

Bloomberg has recently has been asked to answer for accusations the company he founded, Bloomberg LP, was discriminatory toward women.

Bloomberg, a late contender in the presidential race, has been pouring money into ads and online memes to support his run. Those efforts appear to have born fruit, with him rising in the polls.



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