Thai court disbands opposition party over illegal loan

A supporter of Thailand’s Future Forward Party cries as they watch a live television broadcast of a court verdict at their party’s headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 3:25 PM PT — Friday, February 21, 2020

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has dissolved an opposition political party, which had previously challenged the country’s military establishment. On Friday, the court announced the Future Forward Party violated campaign finance rules by accepting an illegal loan from its founder.

The court also ruled that members of the party’s executive committee will be banned from politics for the next 10 years.

The founder of the opposition party apologized to supporters for not being able to live up to his campaign promises.

“They wanted to destroy us, (but) this is the time to prove them wrong. We have to become stronger. They want to tread us into the ground, therefore, this is the time to stand firm. It’s not the time to be sad or cry. We don’t have time for that.” – Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Future Forward Party leader

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit speaks during a press conference after a Thai court ordered to dissolved his political party in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Future Forward has said its finances have been unfairly scrutinized due, in part, to its criticism of the country’s military rule.

“The Future Forward Party is the latest in a long line of opposition political parties in Thailand to be banned,” stated Philippine lawmaker Francisca Castro. “It is increasingly apparent that any party which seeks to threaten the military and the establishment’s political hegemony will not be tolerated.”

Supporters of Future Forward Party display placards after a Thai court ordered to dissolve the political party in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Original Article

Appeals court blocks N.C. voter ID law for general elections, claim it’s discriminatory

File- This photo shows a NC Voter ID rules posted at the door of the voting station at the Alamance Fire Station in Greensboro, N.C. (Andrew Krech/News & Record via AP)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 5:50 AM PT — Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A North Carolina appeals court has blocked a voter ID law, which was scheduled to take effect during this years general elections. A three judge panel unanimously made the decision Tuesday after claiming the law was enacted with discriminatory intent.

This comes amid an over years-long battle between Democrats and Republicans in the state to pass some form of voter ID laws. The state passed a more stringent voter ID bill in 2013, but it was shot down by the state’s courts due to similar concerns over discrimination.

The most recent law was passed by North Carolina voters in November 2018. The rule was blocked by a state court for the 2020 primary elections last July. At the time, however, it still had the green-light to be implemented during the generals.

Many left-wing activists have argued the rules would disproportionately target minority voters who may find it more difficult to to obtain state sanctioned forms of ID.

“Illegal voter ID bill; the latest bad faith attempt in a string of failed efforts by the North Carolina General Assembly to impede the right to vote of African Americans and Latinos in this state,” stated Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the North Carolina’s NAACP.

However, many Republicans have argued the laws are necessary to protect electoral integrity.

Republicans have also said the bill is considered lenient compared to how strict voter ID laws can be. This new legislation allows for exemptions, which makes it possible to obtain state sanctioned IDs for free and would allow people to fill out provisional ballots if they do not have a photo ID on them at the time they cast their vote.

State Republicans have not yet said whether they plan on challenging the ruling in court.

RELATED: Joe Biden keeps telling voters to ‘go vote for someone else,’ raises concerns of his electability

Original Article

FISA court review order leaves out key FBI players implicated in Horowitz report

closeFISA judge demands more answers on FBI warrantsVideo

FISA judge demands more answers on FBI warrants

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn weighs in on fallout from IG report on FISA abuse.

Earlier this month, the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ordered the FBI to re-verify all previous warrant applications involving the FBI attorney who falsified evidence against the former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. However, Fox News has learned the court did not order the FBI to double-check warrant applications involving other officials who made key omissions and errors in warrant applications as the bureau sought to surveil Page.

The FISC's failure to request a comprehensive evaluation of previous submissions has stunned court-watchers who have questioned whether enough is being done to deter future misconduct by the FBI. In the past, the FISC has gone so far as to prohibit some FBI agents from appearing before the court after finding impropriety.

In response to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's long-awaited report into FBI surveillance abuses released earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray has claimed that the agency "embraces the need for thoughtful, meaningful remedial action." Congressional Republicans, however, remain unconvinced that the bureau will solve the problem on its own.

“The deceptive actions of a few high-ranking officials within the FBI and the Department of Justice have eroded public trust in our federal institutions,” Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, stated earlier this month as he introduced a bill to reform the FISC in response to the Horowitz report. “They flattened internal guardrails, deceived the FISA court, and irreparably damaged the reputation of an innocent American.”

Horowitz found specific evidence of oversights and errors by several top FBI employees as they sought to obtain a warrant to surveil Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). For example, an unidentified FBI supervisory special agent (SSA) mentioned in the IG report was responsible for ensuring that the bureau's "Woods Procedures" were followed in the Page warrant application.

According to the procedures, factual assertions need to be independently verified, and information contradicting those assertions must be presented to the court. But Horowitz found several instances in which the procedures were not followed.

Former Trump adviser Carter Page. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former Trump adviser Carter Page. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Horowitz's report leaves little doubt that the unnamed SSA is Joe Pientka — a current bureau employee. (The FBI has requested that Fox News not name Pientka, or any agent in a sensitive position.)

The inspector general also noted than an unnamed "Case Agent 1," was "primarily responsible" for some of the "most significant" errors and omissions in the FISA warrant applications and renewals submitted to the FISC to extend the monitoring of Page.

Nevertheless, FISC Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer ordered the FBI only to identify "all other matters currently or previously before this Court that involved the participation of the FBI OGC [Office of General Counsel] attorney" mentioned in Horowitz's report.

Additionally, Collyer ordered the FBI to "describe any steps taken or to be taken by the Department of Justice or FBI to verify that the United States’ submissions in those matters completely and fully described the material facts and circumstances" and to advise whether the attorney's conduct "has been referred to the appropriate bar association(s) for investigation or possible disciplinary action.

Those were apparent references to ex-FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who Horowitz found to have doctored an email from the CIA. The FBI reached out to the CIA and other intelligence agencies for information on Page; the CIA responded in an email by telling the FBI that Page had contacts with Russians from 2008 to 2013, but that Page had reported them to the CIA and was serving as a CIA operational contact and informant on Russian business and intelligence interests.


Clinesmith then allegedly doctored the CIA's email about Page to make it seem as though the agency had said only that Page was not an active source. And, the FBI included Page's contacts with Russians in the warrant application as evidence he was a foreign "agent," without disclosing to the secret surveillance court that Page was voluntarily working with the CIA concerning those foreign contacts.

Collyer has separately sought updates from the FBI concerning details in the IG report but has ordered a re-review of any other FISA applications that were previously reviewed.

However, details in the IG report reveal that the pervasiveness of apparent misconduct in the FISA process extended far beyond Clinesmith.

The unnamed "SSA 1" in the IG report was given a supervisory role on the Russia investigation team, overseeing agents and reporting directly to since-fired anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok. The special agent created the electronic sub-file to which the reports by ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele would be uploaded. According to Horowitz, these reports were used to support the probable cause in the Page FISA applications.

Then, on Sept. 23, 2016, Yahoo News published an article describing U.S. government efforts to determine whether Page was in communication with Kremlin officials. The article seemed to closely track information from one of Steele’s reports. As a result, one FBI case agent who reported to SSA 1 believed Steele was the source, according to Horowitz.


SSA 1 apparently thought the same, as his notes from a meeting held on Sept. 30, 2016, said: “Control issues — reports acknowledged in Yahoo News.” When questioned by Horowitz's office, the agent explained he was concerned — but not sure — that Steele was the Yahoo News source.

The drafts of the Page FISA application, however, tell a different story. Horowitz found that until Oct. 14, 2016, drafts state that Steele was responsible for the leak that led to the Yahoo News article. One draft specifically states that Steele “was acting on his/her own volition and has since been admonished by the FBI.”

IG report confirms Steele dossier used to justify spying on Carter PageVideo

These assertions, which could have pointed to political motivations for Steele to make his information public weeks before the 2016 presidential election, were changed to the following: Steele’s “business associate or the law firm that hired the business associate likely provided this information to the press.”

Horowitz found no facts to support this assessment.

On Oct. 11, 2016, Steele met with then-State Department official Jonathan Winer and Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Kavalec. Steele informed Kavalec that the overseers of a Russian cyber-hacking operation targeting the 2016 U.S. elections were paying the culprits from “the Russian Consulate in Miami.” Kavalec later met with an FBI liaison and explained to them that Russia did not have a consulate in Miami. SSA 1 was informed of Steele’s incorrect claim on Nov. 18, 2016, but the FISA court was never provided this information, according to the IG report.

Additionally, SSA 1 was aware of Page’s denials to an FBI confidential human source (CHS) that he knew Russian officials Igor Sechin and Igor Divyekin – officials that Steele alleged Page had met in Moscow in July 2016. In fact, Horowitz found that SSA 1 “knew as of October 17 that Page denied ever knowing Divyekin."


"This inconsistency was also not noted during the Woods Procedures on the subsequent FISA renewal applications, and none of the three later FISA renewal applications included Page’s denials to the CHS," Horowitz wrote, referring to the FBI's practice of reverifying facts in its FISA application before seeking renewals.


SSA 1 also was responsible for “confirming that the Woods File was complete and for double-checking the factual accuracy review to confirm that the file contained appropriate documentation for each of the factual assertions in the FISA application," according to Horowitz.

But Horowitz found numerous instances “in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application targeting Carter Page were inaccurate, incomplete or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed."

In particular, the FBI misled the FISC by asserting that Steele’s prior reporting "has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings.” Horowitz's review found there was no documentation to support this statement; SSA 1 told Horowitz they “speculated.”

SSA 1 was also aware, according to Horowitz, that Steele had relayed his information to officials at the State Department, and he had documentation showing Steele had told the team he provided the reports to his contacts at the State Department. Despite this, the FISC was informed that Steele told the FBI he “only provided this information to the business associate and the FBI.”


Republican calls for more accountability may not go unanswered for long. Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham announced this month that he did not "agree" with the IG's assessment that the FBI's probes were properly predicted, highlighting Durham's broader criminal mandate and scope of review.

Durham is focusing on foreign actors as well as the CIA, while Horowitz concentrated his attention on the Justice Department and FBI.

"Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened," Durham said in his statement, adding that his "investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department" and "has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S."

Wilson Miller contributed to this report.

Original Article

House Dems raise prospect of new impeachment articles, in court battle over McGahn testimony

closeCan President Trump continue to count on support from evangelicals?Video

Can President Trump continue to count on support from evangelicals?

Christianity Today calls for Trump's removal following impeachment; reaction from Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for President Trump's re-election campaign, and Scott Bolden, former chair of the D.C. Democratic Party.

The lawyer for House Judiciary Committee Democrats revealed in a Monday court filing that there is a possibility lawmakers could pursue even more articles of impeachment against President Trump — despite having already adopted two of them last week following a grueling, historic and bitterly partisan debate.

The prospect of additional articles — while perhaps unlikely — was floated as part of a court battle over Democrats' bid to compel testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

Shortly before a 4 p.m. deadline imposed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the committee counsel filed a brief making their case for why they still want to hear from McGahn, despite having already voted for impeachment.

Democrats originally sought McGahn's testimony in connection with his claims to then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team that Trump wanted him to have Mueller fired. Trump’s critics claimed this request constituted obstruction of justice.


While the Mueller probe never factored into the impeachment articles that were adopted, House Democrats' counsel Douglas Letter argued that McGahn's testimony is still vital — and could even be relevant to "consideration of whether to recommend additional articles of impeachment" against Trump.

“If McGahn’s testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the Articles approved by the House, the Committee will proceed accordingly—including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment,” the brief stated, noting that they still have “ongoing impeachment investigations.”

The filing did not detail what potential additional articles could be considered, beyond the already-adopted articles alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Regardless, the brief stated that even if McGahn’s testimony does not lead to new articles of impeachment, it could be used in an upcoming Senate trial — which is on hold pending Speaker Nancy Pelosi transmitting the articles to the chamber — in relation to the obstruction of Congress allegations that Trump is currently facing.

The White House has asserted longstanding executive privilege to bar McGahn from supplying documents and testimony to House investigators back when they were probing the Russia issue, saying internal White House deliberations must remain protected. The case was later tied into impeachment as the House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., refocused on that inquiry.

Eric Shawn: The president vs. Congress with Don McGahn in the middleVideo

In an opposing court filing, the Justice Department claimed Monday that the McGahn case should be dismissed precisely because of its connection to the impeachment process.

"[T]he article of impeachment addressing purported obstruction of Congress relies in part on the judicial proceedings in this very case," the DOJ said in a brief submitted earlier Monday morning.

"Indeed, if this Court now were to resolve the merits question in this case, it would appear to be weighing in on a contested issue in any impeachment trial," the DOJ argued, before concluding that the court "should decline the Committee's request that it enter the fray and instead should dismiss this fraught suit between the political branches for lack of jurisdiction."

Alternatively, the DOJ argued that impeachment eliminates the committee's need for expedited consideration. The committee had previously claimed that "speedy judicial action is needed to avoid hampering the House's impeachment investigation," but the DOJ says this "justification no longer applies," so there is no need for anything to take place prior to the already scheduled Jan. 3 oral arguments.


The committee disagreed, citing the upcoming Senate trial and “ongoing impeachment investigations,” as well as the public’s “significant interest ‘in immediately removing a sitting president whose continuation in office poses a threat to the Nation’s welfare.’”

Both sides also faced late-afternoon deadlines in a separate case where the House Judiciary Committee is seeking the secret grand jury material from Mueller’s investigation. Such material is generally secret, according to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which specify certain exceptions including judicial proceedings.

In that case, DOJ lawyers told the court Monday that the House committee request for Mueller grand jury materials is no longer relevant, as the impeachment articles did not involve the Russia probe.

“Neither article of impeachment adopted by the House, however, alleges high crimes or misdemeanors stemming from the events described in the Mueller Report. Accordingly, nothing appears to remain of the Committee’s alleged need for the grand-jury materials in the Mueller Report,” their filing said.

Fox News' Bill Mears and Gregg Re contributed to this report.

Original Article

FISA court judge demands info about FBI lawyer linked to Carter Page warrant

closeFISA court orders FBI to fix wiretaps amid IG reportVideo

FISA court orders FBI to fix wiretaps amid IG report

Fox News contributor Sara Carter, American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp, and conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza share their reaction.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s presiding judge has sent another directive to the Justice Department, ordering officials to identify previous surveillance requests from an FBI lawyer linked to the 2016 warrant from former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

In an order unsealed Friday, Judge Rosemary Collyer asked the Justice Department to identify steps to ensure the accuracy of those filings and whether the unnamed DOJ lawyer was ever disciplined.

DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz recently identified in a scathing public report numerous mistakes and omissions in the warrant used against Page that launched the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.


Carter Page: There's been no real action to address FISA abuseVideo

The letter unsealed Friday was dated Dec. 5, which was four days before Horowitz’s report was released.

Collyer had earlier this week ordered DOJ to identify by January 10 what steps it was taking to correct problems with the FISA warrant process. The FBI had promised to work with DOJ to comply.

Sources have said the unidentified FBI lawyer in question has since resigned his post, and the Horowitz report said he faces possible criminal prosecution.

In a rare public order earlier this week, Collyer strongly criticized the FBI over its surveillance-application process, giving the bureau until Jan. 10 to come up with solutions, in the wake of findings from Horowitz.

Horowitz said he did not find significant evidence that FBI agents were involved in a political conspiracy to undermine Trump's candidacy in 2016. However, the report did find numerous errors and inaccuracies used by FBI agents to obtain permission to monitor Page's phone calls and emails.

While Collyer's order earlier this week did not specify exactly what reforms the FBI needed to implement to its policies for obtaining permission to wiretap people under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, the order did say that the FISA court will weigh in on whether the reforms are deemed sufficient.


The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court deals with some of the most sensitive matters of national security: terror threats and espionage. Its work, for the most part, cannot be examined by the American public, by order of Congress and the president. Its work is mostly secret, and its structure largely one-sided.

It was also revealed Friday that Collyer, who is also a senior judge on the DC federal court, will resign her position as presiding judge on the FISA court at year’s end. Her current term was set to expire in March 2020.

Chief Justice John Roberts will replace Collyer with James Boasberg, a colleague of Collyer on the FISA court and DC federal bench. He was named to the FISA court in 2014 and is one of 11 judges on the rotating FISA court.

Sources say Collyer, 74, is leaving for unspecified personal reasons.

Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.

Original Article

Woman spurned in alleged Ilhan Omar affair cut off by court in bizarre divorce proceedings

closeRep. Omar introduces $1 trillion housing plan, says affordable housing is basic human rightVideo

Rep. Omar introduces $1 trillion housing plan, says affordable housing is basic human right

Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar's Homes for All Act pledges to build 12 million new public and private housing units.

A local judge granted a divorce Thursday to a D.C. doctor who accused Rep. Ilhan Omar of having an affair with her husband, in a court hearing that ended abruptly after the wife brought up the controversial Minnesota congresswoman.

Superior Court Judge Darlene Soltys had just applauded Beth and Tim Mynett for reaching a divorce settlement amicably when Beth Mynett spoke up.

“[Through] extensive documentation and his own words, Tim acknowledged he has been engaged in an extramarital romantic relationship with Ilhan Omar, which proceeded and precipitated the divorce,” Beth Mynett, a doctor and mother, said.

But Tim Mynett and his lawyer seemed stunned by Beth Mynett’s sudden speech and immediately asked that she stop.


“I’m almost finished,” said Beth Mynett, who filed for divorce in August in bombshell court papers alleging her marriage fell apart because Tim Mynett fell in love with Omar while working for her and had carried on an extramarital affair with the freshman Democrat.

The judge broke up the speech and called the attorneys for both Mynetts to the bench and put on sound to drown out their conversations. Then the court hearing abruptly ended without a formal announcement of adjournment.

Both parties left with their lawyers and declined comment. A court clerk came into the hallways afterward with paperwork looking for the Mynetts but was surprised to find them already long gone.

Both Tim Mynett and Omar have denied any affair.

The divorce case had been rescheduled at least two times prior. The late-morning hearing at the family division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia was delayed as both Mynetts and their lawyers huddled in a private room to work out the terms of the settlement.

Rep. Omar files for divorce amid affair allegationsVideo

Important to Beth Mynett was that Tim withdraw his counterclaim where he denied the affair with Omar, said he had “been unhappy for the better part" of his relationship with his wife, and accused her of launching a “negative campaign” to ruin his career and damage his relationship with their son and his stepdaughter. While the details of the settlement were not immediately available, courtroom discussion Thursday seemed to indicate the settlement agreement included such a withdrawal.

Lawyers for both sides had also worked out an agreement resolving all the issues of custody, finances and attorney fees. Both Mynetts had signed off on the settlement paperwork at the courthouse and seemed pleased with the outcome.


But it wasn't over. As Tim Mynett waited inside the courtroom, Beth Mynett sat outside in the hallway and practiced her planned speech.

Around 12:30 p.m., they appeared before Soltys for a brief hearing to have the settlement finalized.

Soltys asked both parties a series of questions, including whether Beth Mynett thought there was any hope for reconciliation.

“Absolutely, not,” she said.

Mynett also wanted to have her maiden name restored.

“I no longer want to have Mr. Mynett’s name attached to me,” Beth said.

Soltys signed off on all the paperwork.

“So that takes care of everything. The divorce is now final,” Soltys declared roughly 10 minutes into the court hearing.

Rep. Omar dismisses questions about alleged affair, campaign funds as 'stupid'Video

The hearing was moving so swiftly that the judge praised the Mynetts. Soltys said she often sees couples with prolonged court fights and gave the pair kudos for working out the details of their divorce settlement behind the scenes and working to co-parent their child.

“You should be real pleased with yourself,” the judge said.

Then just as the hearing was to wrap up, Beth Mynett spoke up. She wanted to let the court know under threat of “perjury” that it was “appropriate and just” that her ex withdrew his counterclaim against her.

She went on to say she was "devoted" to her marriage and her husband indeed had "happiness" during their 13 years together and seven years of marriage. But her speech was cut short after mentioning Tim Mynett's alleged affair with Omar.

Tim Mynett worked for Omar and his business, E Street Group, got $370,000 of her campaign funds, according to The New York Post, which broke the news of the initial divorce filing.

Conservative watchdogs have filed campaign finance complaints against Omar seeking a probe into whether she used the campaign funds to rendezvous with her alleged lover.

Omar filed for divorce from her husband in October and blamed the media and political foes for killing her marriage.

“Ilhan and Ahmed [Hirsi] have been the object of speculation and innuendo from political opponents and the media,” according to a statement from Omar’s lawyer published by The New York Post.


“This has taken a significant toll on Ilhan, Ahmed and their three children. As with all marriages, this is intensely personal and a difficult time for their family,” the statement said.

“Just like any other family navigating this kind of transition, Ilhan wishes to have their privacy respected for themselves and their children and will not be commenting any further," it added.

Original Article

Horowitz testifies before Senate committee after FISA court rebukes FBI

closeHorowitz: Report 'doesn't vindicate anyone'Video

Horowitz: Report 'doesn't vindicate anyone'

Horowitz faces questions on IG report; Anna Kooiman has the details.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday, in the aftermath of his report examining the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe and problems with the process used to obtain a warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Horowitz previously testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Wednesday’s hearing comes a day after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) rebuked the FBI in a rare public order that referenced his report. Horowitz had revealed that there were 17 inaccuracies and omissions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant applications for Page, which included a doctored email and the failure to include exculpatory information about Page that may have impacted the FISC’s decision to grant the warrants.


“The FBI's handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the [Office of Inspector General] report, was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor described above," Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote in her four-page order. "The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable."

Horowitz’s report also described how the FBI relied on information gathered by former British spy Christopher Steele as part of opposition research for Fusion GPS on behalf of the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee. Steele’s information helped lead officials to approve seeking a FISA warrant for Page, even though the information had not been vetted as required by FBI policy.


The report said that while there were clear problems with the FBI’s FISA process, Horowitz did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that the Russia probe itself was launched due to political bias, although he noted that the threshold to start the probe was low. Additionally, when asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the inspector general made it clear that the question of possible bias “gets murkier” when discussing the FISA process.

Former FBI Director James Comey, who led the bureau at the time, insisted he was unaware of any impropriety at the time, but told “Fox News Sunday” he “was wrong” when he defended the FBI’s FISA process in the past. Still, he defended his former subordinates by claiming that no one committed any intentional misconduct, despite Horowitz calling for accountability and making referrals for further investigation. At the same time, Comey admitted that there was “real sloppiness,” and that as director, he was ultimately responsible.

Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly and Bill Mears contributed to this report.

Original Article

FISA court slams FBI over surveillance applications, in rare public order

closeWhat is the future of the FBI following revealing IG report on FISA applications?Video

What is the future of the FBI following revealing IG report on FISA applications?

Reaction and analysis from Kira Davis, Tomi Lahren, and Rep. Matt Gaetz.

In a rare public order Tuesday, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court strongly criticized the FBI over its surveillance-application process, giving the bureau until Jan. 10 to come up with solutions, in the wake of findings from Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.

The order, from the court's presiding judge Rosemary M. Collyer, came just a week after the release of Horowitz's withering report about the wiretapping of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

"The FBI's handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the [Office of Inspector General] report, was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor described above," Collyer wrote in her four-page order. "The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable."

Horowitz said he did not find significant evidence that FBI agents were involved in a political conspiracy to undermine Trump's candidacy in 2016. However, the report did find numerous errors and inaccuracies used by FBI agents to obtain permission to monitor Page's phone calls and emails.

While Collyer's order did not specify exactly what reforms the FBI needed to implement to its policies for obtaining permission to wiretap people under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, the order did say that the FISA court will weigh in on whether the reforms are deemed sufficient.

"The [FISA court] expects the government to provide complete and accurate information in every filing with the court," Collyer wrote. "Without it, the [FISA court] cannot properly ensure that the government conducts electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes only when there is a sufficient factual basis."

This is a developing story; check back for updates.

Original Article

Supreme Court to review congressional, state subpoenas for Trump financial records

closeSupreme Court to take up case on President Trump's financial recordsVideo

Supreme Court to take up case on President Trump's financial records

Supreme Court to hear subpoena fights over financial records; John Roberts has the details.

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether President Trump can be shielded from congressional and state subpoenas for his personal banking and accounting records, in what could be a major test of separation powers between the executive branch, Congress, and the states.

At issue is the extent a sitting president can be subject to congressional oversight– under "valid legislative purposes"– of his private business dealings before he took office. The high court will also look at the extent a sitting president can be subject to state and local grand jury investigations and prosecutions.

The justices held a private conference Friday, where they considered a New York state subpoena, and two other related appeals involving separate congressional subpoenas. A lower federal court had separately ruled Trump must comply with the subpoenas, but his personal lawyers had asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

"We are pleased that the Supreme Court granted review of the President’s three pending cases," Counsel to the President Jay Sekulow said in a statement. "These cases raise significant constitutional issues. We look forward to presenting our written and oral arguments."

One case involves requests for documents sought by the House Oversight and Reform Committee after the president's former attorney, Michael Cohen, testified that Trump underreported or overstated the extent of his financial holdings to the government. Cohen is serving a three-year federal prison sentence for lying to Congress and financial-related offenses.

A second subpoena involves House Financial Services Committee and House Intelligence Committee requests for 10 years of records from various banks that did business with Trump, his adult children, and his businesses. The committee is probing lending practices by major financial institutions, and allegations of Russian money laundering.

Meanwhile, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. has empaneled a state grand jury seeking eight years of tax records relating to allegations of hush money payments to two women claiming prior sexual affairs with Trump, allegations he has denied.


Lawyers for the House committees had urged the high court to intervene now, saying the Democrat-led panels are actively pursuing the extent of any foreign interference in U.S. politics, which may be key to legislative safeguards ahead of next year's elections.

The subpoenas are separate from the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump, headed for a vote in the full House next week

Oral arguments will likely be scheduled for March, with a ruling on the merits by early July, just four months before the presidential election.

Fox News' John Roberts and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This is a developing story, check back for more updates.

Original Article

Trump secures 50th appellate court appointment, with another Ninth Circuit judge confirmed

closeTrump administration secures another judicial victoryVideo

Trump administration secures another judicial victory

Confirmation of President Trump's latest judicial pick tilts balance of 11th Circuit Court; reaction from Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network.

The Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday afternoon confirmed Lawrence VanDyke to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, marking President Trump's 50th successful appellate court appointment in just three years in office, and his second to the historically liberal Ninth Circuit in as many days.

By contrast, President Barack Obama nominated a total of 55 circuit judges who were confirmed over eight years — and Obama's nominees were, on average, approximately ten years older. The White House has dramatically transformed the Ninth Circuit, a powerful court with jurisdiction over nine states that has long been a thorn in the president's side.

Of the 30 active seats on the Ninth Circuit, 10 have now been appointed by Trump, and 14 by Republican presidents. Only nine of the court's 19 semi-retired "senior status" judges were appointed by Democrats, with 10 by Republicans. That's a major change from early last year, when only six judges on the Ninth Circuit were chosen by Republicans.

"FIFTY CIRCUIT COURT JUDGES!" tweeted Carrie Severino, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network's chief counsel and policy director. "Despite unrelenting Democratic obstruction and smear campaigns," she wrote, Trump and his Senate allies "have answered the call of the American people."

VanDyke's confirmation, by a 51-44 vote, came just 24 hours after Patrick Bumatay, an openly gay Filipino man, was also seated on the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit. Both nominees were fiercely opposed by Democrats, including the senators from their home states — Nevada Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto for VanDyke, and California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris for Bumatay.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has long drawn the ire of President Trump, who has called it "disgraceful." It's now being transformed. (AP)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has long drawn the ire of President Trump, who has called it "disgraceful." It's now being transformed. (AP)

But, the White House has long ignored the so-called "blue slip" process of seeking advice from home-state senators in the judicial confirmation process, as it pressed ahead with its goal of transforming the federal appellate bench for generations.

"As the 9th Circuit shifts to become more conservative and better parallels the Supreme Court's ideological baseline, I could only imagine fewer liberal 9th Circuit decisions and fewer overturned 9th Circuit decisions generally," legal scholar and judicial data guru Adam Feldman, who blogs at Empirical SCOTUS, told Fox News.

The confirmations have not been easy for the White House — or its nominees. VanDyke, a deputy assistant attorney general in the environmental and natural resources division, broke down in tears during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in October, as he disputed suggestions that he would not be fair to members of the LGBTQ community.


The ostensibly nonpartisan American Bar Association (ABA), which rated VanDyke unqualified, sent a letter to committee leadership alleging that people they interviewed expressed this concern, and that VanDyke himself "would not say affirmatively that he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community."

“There was a theme that the nominee lacks humility, has an ‘entitlement’ temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful,” the letter added.

The ABA did note that VanDyke, a Harvard Law School graduate and former solicitor general for Montana and Nevada, is "clearly smart." VanDyke is a former Nevada solicitor general who also waged an expensive campaign for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court in 2014.

Trump judicial nominee Lawrence VanDyke brought to tears during Senate hearingVideo

"I did not say that," VanDyke told Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tears welling up in his eyes. "No, I did not say that. I do not believe that. It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God. They should all be treated with dignity and respect, senator."

VanDyke also said that he was not given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations during his ABA interview. He said when he was confronted with the concerns about his views, he began to answer but was told they were running out of time, and described himself as “much more hurt than I’ve ever been to get that” assessment from the ABA.

That interview was conducted by Marcia Davenport, the lead evaluator. Hawley noted that Davenport once contributed to the campaign of a judicial candidate who was running against VanDyke.

"I find that absolutely unbelievable," Hawley said, stating it "probably explains the totally ad hominem nature of this disgraceful letter."


Conservative groups came to VanDyke's defense: "Even for the ABA, this is beyond the pale," the Judicial Crisis Network's Carrie Severino said in a statement, accusing the ABA of "bias against conservative nominees to the judiciary."

Bumatay, the nominee confirmed to the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday, served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California. He was confirmed in a 53-40 party-line vote, and received a “Qualified” rating from the ABA.

Senate confirms President Trump's nominee to be a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 53-46 in a party-line voteVideo

He was nominated last year, but the Senate never took up his confirmation, and it eventually expired.

“Patrick Bumatay lacks the knowledge and experience necessary for the 9th Circuit," Feinstein said. "He also acknowledged working on the separation of immigrant families while at the Justice Department and refused to answer questions about other controversial issues."

The conservative Americans for Prosperity (AFP), however, praised Bumatay's credentials.

“In Patrick Bumatay, the President has nominated a highly qualified and experienced individual, committed to supporting and defending the Constitution – rather than seeking to legislate from the bench," Casey Mattox, AFP's vice president for legal and judicial strategy, said in a statement. "We applaud Chairman Graham and the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for their support of Bumatay and Senator McConnell for his continued commitment to confirming fair and qualified nominees to the federal bench.”


Speaking to top Republican lawmakers and Justice Department officials in the East Room of the White House in November, Trump celebrated the appointment of his 150th federal judge, which he called a "profoundly historic milestone and a truly momentous achievement." As of Dec. 11, Trump has appointed a total of 120 judges to federal district courts, which sit below appellate courts — with dozens more in the pipeline.

Promise made, promise kept: Trump has confirmed more than 150 judgesVideo

The event featured a series of humorous moments as Trump's onetime rivals took the microphone. Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example, fondly recalled the time Trump had given out his personal phone number on the campaign trail and compared him to a "dog" — and how the two quickly settled their score shortly after Trump took office.

"The defining moment of your president was the Kavanaugh hearing," Graham said. "This room would be empty if we had failed Brett Kavanaugh. Brett Kavanaugh lived a life we should all be proud of. He worked hard. And the way he was treated was the worst experience I've had in politics. A lot of people would have pulled the plug on him. Mr. President, thank you, for not pulling the plug."

Trump singled out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for a standing ovation, saying his impact in methodically confirming judges in the Senate was "truly amazing." Trump went on to joke that it was "so easy" to get Supreme Court justices confirmed, in a nod to the contentious Brett Kavanaugh hearings last year.

"Generations from now, Americans will know that Mitch McConnell helped save the constitutional rule of law in America — it's true," Trump said.

Fox News' Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.

Original Article

Supreme Court offers sympathetic ear to insurers over $12B in ObamaCare claims

closeSupreme Court to hear arguments in private insurers’ suit against US governmentVideo

Supreme Court to hear arguments in private insurers’ suit against US government

USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy fellow Christen Young weighs in.

Private health insurers are poised to prevail Tuesday at the Supreme Court over claims the federal government owes them billions of dollars from a now-defunct financial incentive program in the Affordable Care Act.

It is the fifth time the justices have heard legal challenges to the 2010 Affordable Care, but the current issue has little of the partisan rancor of previous disputes, such as individual mandates and contraception coverage.


At issue now is whether Congress appropriately limited funding to private companies after earlier promising them a financial stopgap against losses.

Health providers in six states say they are the victims of a federal "bait-and-switch," by agreeing to participate in an Obamacare program designed to expand coverage plans to uninsured and underinsured customers.

Those companies say they are owed $12 billion in subsidies from the pooled funds, to compensate for losses. But the Trump administration argues Congress properly made the choice to stop funding, and that the companies were never in a contractual relationship with the government.

Chief Justice John Roberts suggested the insurers went into the so-called "risk corridor" program with its eyes wide open.

"You make a case at some length about the reliance of the insurance companies, they were basically seduced into this program, but they have good lawyers," he said. "I would have thought at some point they would have sat down and said: well, why don't we insist upon an appropriations provision before we put ourselves on the hook for $12 billion?"


But Justice Elena Kagan was skeptical.

"Are you saying the insurers would have done the same thing without the promise to pay?" she asked, turning aside the government's argument. Insurance firms "pay in, that's obligatory. We [the government] commit ourselves to paying out. It turns out, if we feel like it. What kind of a statute is that?"

The original funding program was designed as a safeguard to lure private insurers into the health market exchanges, amid initial uncertainty over how many people would participate and how much it would cost. Those companies with customers with more expensive medical needs would be reimbursed, while companies with lower costs would pay into the pool.

But Congress in 2016 let the program expire amid concern over the program's rising deficits, and stopped further government payments.

At issue in the high court's subdued oral arguments was what further financial obligation the government had, and the limits of "must pay" reimbursement in the initial language of the law.

Justice Samuel Alito wondered whether courts should offer "special solicitude for insurance companies" to bring these kinds of cases.

Justice Stephen Breyer countered, "Why does the government not have to pay its contracts, just like anybody else?"

Justice Brett Kavanaugh worried about the broader implications.

"If we were to rule for you, everyone will be on notice going forward, private parties and Congress itself, that "shall pay" doesn't obligate actual payments," he said. "If we rule against you, Congress also will be on notice going forward that it needs to include 'subject to appropriations' kind of language in any mandatory statute. My question is, if we rule against you, are there other existing statutory problems lurking out there in the interim?"

The consolidated cases argued Monday are: Maine Community Health Options v. U.S. (18-1023); Moda Health Plan, Inc. v. U.S. (18-1028); Land of Lincoln Mutual Health v. U.S. (18-1038). A ruling is expected by spring 2020.

There are currently a range of legal challenges to other provisions of the ACA, including executive orders by the Trump administration seeking to eliminate or reduce sections of the law.

And the Supreme Court is likely to be confronted in coming months with another Obamacare case, one with far greater implications.

A federal judge in Texas late last year struck down the law’s individual mandate, and with it the entire ACA. A federal appeals court is now expected to issue a ruling shortly, and the justices could then put it on the docket and rule on the merits next year.


Texas and 19 other states had brought suit, saying when Congress eliminated the tax penalty for Americans who fail to purchase health insurance, the main funding mechanism of the law made the entire law invalid.

The Trump administration is no longer defending the law in court, leaving it to about 21 other states and the Democratic-led House of Representatives to serve as main plaintiffs.

Original Article

Supreme Court leaves Kentucky ultrasound law in place

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The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before abortions.

The justices did not comment in refusing to review an appeals court ruling that upheld the law.


The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the law on behalf of Kentucky’s lone remaining abortion clinic. The ACLU argued that “display and describe” ultrasound laws violate physicians’ speech rights under the First Amendment.

The federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the Kentucky law, but its sister court in Richmond, Virginia, struck down a similar measure in North Carolina.

Doctors’ speech also has been an issue in non-abortion cases. The federal appeals court in Atlanta struck down parts of a 2011 Florida law that sought to prohibit doctors from talking about gun safety with their patients. Under the law, doctors faced fines and the possible loss of their medical licenses for discussing guns with patients.

In Kentucky, doctors must describe the ultrasound in detail while the pregnant woman listens to the fetal heartbeat. Women can avert their eyes and cover their ears to avoid hearing the description or the fetal heartbeat. Doctors failing to comply face fines and can be referred to the state’s medical licensing board.


The law was passed in 2017 and was signed by the state’s anti-abortion governor, Republican Matt Bevin. He narrowly lost his reelection bid last month. But Republicans remain in control of the state legislature.

Original Article

Supreme Court temporarily blocks Trump administration request to resume federal executions

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The Supreme Court on Friday blocked the Trump administration from resuming federal executions in an attempt to put to death four convicted murderers. The executions were slated to begin next week.

The justices upheld a lower court ruling imposed last month after inmates claimed executions by lethal injection would violate federal law.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C., had imposed a temporary injunction on executions, saying they would conflict with federal law. That ruling was upheld Monday by a three-judge federal appeals court.


In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen at sunset in Washington. The Supreme Court is preventing the Trump administration from re-starting federal executions next week after a 16-year break. The court on Friday denied the administration's plea to undo a lower court ruling in favor of inmates who have been given execution dates. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen at sunset in Washington. The Supreme Court is preventing the Trump administration from re-starting federal executions next week after a 16-year break. The court on Friday denied the administration's plea to undo a lower court ruling in favor of inmates who have been given execution dates. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Attorney General William Barr announced in July that the federal government would resume executions after a 16-year break, using a single drug — pentobarbital — to put inmates to death. A legal battle has drawn out over that time over the drugs used for lethal injections.

Federal executions were all but halted after the government found it difficult to obtain the three-drug cocktail needed for such injections.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the legal battle would continue.

"While we are disappointed with the ruling, we will argue the case on its merits in the D.C. Circuit and, if necessary, the Supreme Court,” she said in a statement.

In a two-page statement, three justices — Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch — wrote they expected the Trump administration to prevail in court.

"The Court has expressed the hope that the Court of Appeals will proceed with 'appropriate dispatch,' and I see no reason why the Court of Appeals should not be able to decide this case, one way or the other, within the next 60 days," Alito said.

Federal government to resume capital punishment for first time since 2003Video


The government had scheduled the execution of Danny Lee, who was convicted of killing a family of three — including an 8-year-old — on Monday. Wesley Ira Purkey had been scheduled to be put to death Dec. 13 for the murder and dismemberment of a 16-year-old girl and the slaying of an 80-year-old woman who suffered from polio.

Executions for Alfred Bourgeois, who beat, tortured and molested his 2-year-old daughter, and Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people — including two children, were scheduled for January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article