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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said she will not withdraw her defamation suit against journalist Roberto Saviano, in an interview published Tuesday, despite criticism that her position of power makes it an unfair trial.
The far-right leader told the Corriere della Sera daily she was confident the case would be treated with the necessary "impartiality".
Meloni sued anti-mafia reporter Saviano for alleged defamation after he called her a "bastard" in a 2020 televised outburst over her attitude towards vulnerable migrants.
Meloni's Brothers of Italy party was in opposition at the time, but took office last month after a nationalist campaign that promised to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.
Press freedom watchdogs and supporters of Saviano have called for the trial, which opened this month, to be scrapped.
"I don't understand the request to withdraw the complaint on the pretext that I am now prime minister," Meloni said.
"I believe that all this will be treated with impartiality, considering the separation of powers."
She added: "I am simply asking the court where the line is between the legitimate right to criticize, gratuitous insult and defamation."
Saviano, best known for his international mafia bestseller "Gomorrah", faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
The case dates back to December 2020 when Saviano was asked on a political TV chat show for a comment on the death of a six-month-old baby from Guinea in a shipwreck.
He blasted Meloni, who in 2019 said that charity vessels which rescue migrants "should be sunk".
Saviano is not the only journalist Meloni is taking to trial.
One of the country's best-known investigative reporters, Emiliano Fittipaldi, said last week the prime minister has sued him for defamation.
That trial is set to start in 2024.
Watchdogs say such trials are symbolic of a culture in Italy in which public figures intimidate reporters with repeated lawsuits, threatening the erosion of a free press.
© 2022 AFP
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will put the Respect for Marriage Act on the Senate floor late Monday afternoon. It is expected to pass, thanks to about a dozen Republicans who are expected to vote to protect, at least at the federal level, the marriages of same-sex and interracial couples.
The Respect for Marriage Act merely states the federal government is required to recognize any marriage that was legal in any state it was entered into. An amendment to the bill goes a long way in codifying the right to anti-LGBTQ discrimination by faith-based organizations, but LGBTQ activists see it as a win to protect marriages after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called for cases that would help him overturn several laws, including the right to intimate contact and the right to marriage for same-sex couples.
The bill also ensures states, even if they ban marriage equality, will recognize any legal marriage that happened before any possible ban or that happened in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.
"It is very disappointing that these 12 Republican senators would side with the Democrats and ultra-liberal Senator Chuck Schumer to put the vast majority of Americans who believe in and support marriage between a man and a woman in jeopardy," Graham wrote in an obvious and ugly lie on Facebook over the weekend.
He then listed the Senators' names, and add links to their contact information on their government websites.
Graham's false claim that somehow anyone who believes in or supports marriage between a man and a woman would be put "in jeopardy" by this bill is a dangerous falsehood.
Graham didn't stop there.
"The deceptively-named Respect for Marriage Act that Senator Schumer is trying to push through is just a smokescreen to give more protections to same-sex marriage—and it doesn’t protect the religious liberties of those who support traditional marriage. In fact, it would make individuals, churches, academic institutions, and organizations who stand with marriage between a man and a woman in danger of persecution and legal attacks because of their convictions," Graham added, which, again is false.
As NCRM has previously reported, all the religious protections that people of faith currently enjoy would be unchanged – if not strengthened – contrary to numerous false claims of far right extremists and religious extremists, like Graham.
The bill and its accompanying amendment do such a good job of protecting religious liberties that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, has issued a statement supporting it.
Despite decades of demonization by the right, same-sex marriage has become extremely popular, and not one of the false claims Graham and the religious right made before Obergefell has come true.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is the original sponsor of the bill, and Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, an original co-sponsor, is taking the lead for the Democrats.
A joint press release that also includes Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Thom Tillis (R-NC), states an amendment to the bill, which Republicans fought for, ensures no religious rights will be impacted.
The amendment, their statement says, “Protects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or Federal law, including but not limited to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and prevents this bill from being used to diminish or repeal any such protection.”
Why Graham is telling his flock something greatly different is par for the course.
“The bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals and ministries and is really the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act,'” Graham said two weeks ago in an egregiously false statement.
“Its sponsors remarkably claim it protects religious freedom. It does not. This disastrous bill sends a message to America that if you don’t agree with the left’s definition of marriage, you are a bigot,” Graham added, again, falsely.
Should the Respect for Marriage Act pass it heads back to the House for a final vote, as the House's version is slightly different. President Biden has promised to sign it into law.
Nov. 29, 2022
Beto O’Rourke returned a $1 million donation from embattled cryptocurrency leader Sam Bankman-Fried four days before Election Day, his campaign told The Texas Tribune this week.
Bankman-Fried founded FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange that was valued at $32 billion before collapsing abruptly in a matter of days earlier this month, setting off an industrywide panic. Many customers of the popular crypto platform may lose all or part of the money they invested. O’Rourke’s team said they returned the million-dollar donation a week before FTX filed for bankruptcy and Bankman-Fried stepped down as its chief executive, but that the decision was made prior to Nov. 4 and took time to execute.
Chris Evans, a spokesperson for O’Rourke’s campaign, said the reimbursement of one of the largest checks to O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign was unrelated to the scandals linked to Bankman-Fried’s now flailing cryptocurrency exchange.
He said the money, which was received on Oct. 11, was returned because the donation was unsolicited. Unlike other large donations, O’Rourke had not talked with Bankman-Fried prior to the donation, and the large sum took the campaign by surprise, Evans said.
“This contribution was unsolicited and the campaign’s upcoming [Texas Ethics Commission] report will show that it was returned back on November 4, prior to the news stories that would later come out about the donor,” he said.
FTX has been under scrutiny since September when Bloomberg reported how interconnected the company was with Alameda Research, a trading firm which Bankman-Fried also founded. On Nov. 2, two days before O’Rourke’s campaign said they gave the donation back, CoinDesk reported that much of Alameda’s assets were made up of a cryptocurrency token issued by FTX, its sister company. That report largely set off a run on FTX that culminated with its filing for bankruptcy on Nov. 11.
FTX is now being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice over whether it used billions of dollars in customer funds to prop up Alameda Research. The Texas State Securities Board is also looking into whether FTX illegally offered unregistered securities to Texans through its yield-bearing cryptocurrency accounts.
Nonetheless, his quiet return of the donation means O’Rourke has dodged the ethical headache bearing down on other candidates nationwide and in Texas who took money from the tech billionaire and his associates.
Bankman-Fried was O’Rourke’s top donor during the fundraising cycle spanning from July 1 to Sept. 29, but even without his donation O’Rourke was a formidable fundraiser, coming in at around $77 million for his entire campaign. O’Rourke had at least three other seven-figure donors, including the Democratic megadonor George Soros.
O’Rourke also received $100,000 from Nishad Singh, FTX’s director of engineering. O’Rourke’s campaign did not respond to a question about whether they also returned that donation.
Prior to FTX’s collapse, Bankman-Fried, 30, was seen as a cryptocurrency wunderkind and a positive influence on the industry who was anxious to shape its regulation. He and others tied to FTX were prolific political donors to both Democratic and Republican candidates. Bankman-Fried is one of President Joe Biden’s biggest donors, contributing more than $5 million to his campaign in 2020.
In total, Bankman-Fried donated $40 million to Democrats, according to Open Secrets, while another FTX executive, Ryan Salame, donated $23 million to Republicans.
Aside from O’Rourke, a number of Texas congressional candidates also received money from Bankman-Fried or his affiliates.
Jasmine Crockett, an incoming Democratic freshman to the U.S. House who’s currently a Dallas state representative, received $2,900 from Gabriel Bankman-Fried, Sam Bankman-Fried’s brother, according to federal campaign finance records.
Crockett, who was part of a competitive primary election to replace longtime Dallas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, also benefited from $1.4 million in spending from the Protect our Future super PAC, a political action committee that was mostly funded by Sam Bankman-Fried.
Crockett did not return a request for comment.
U.S. Rep.-elect Greg Casar, a Democrat and former Austin City Council member, received a total of $6,800 in donations from Singh and Gabriel Bankman-Fried, according to records.
Casar did not return a request for comment.
Donors tied to FTX also gave to Republican candidates. Salame donated to U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Amarillo; U.S. Rep.-elect Monica De La Cruz, R-McAllen; and Cassy Garcia, who challenged longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar for his Laredo-based South Texas district.
Salame gave $12,900 to Jackson and $1,000 each to De La Cruz and Garcia. He also donated $5,000 to Texas Red, a political action committee affiliated with Jackson.
Representatives for De La Cruz, Garcia and Jackson did not return a request for comment.
Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who defeated O’Rourke earlier this month, has been critical of Bankman-Fried’s donations to the Democrat.
“This Madoff-Style evaporation of customer's money should be a crime,” he tweeted. “Candidates who received this tainted money should return it so that innocent customers of FTX can get some of their money back.”
Politicians across the country have struggled over what to do with funds they received from Bankman-Fried and others tied to FTX.
Major Democratic figures like U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have said they would give the donations they got from Bankman-Fried to charity. Durbin received $2,900 and Gillibrand received $16,600. Republicans, like U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, have also opted to donate their contributions to charity.
“What we’ve seen in the past with donations from people who’ve raised controversy in the news is generally politicians try to separate themselves from those people. They don’t want to be seen as beneficiaries of their largesse,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Here’s a guy who took a bunch of money and ‘We’re going to give his money back’ doesn’t always play that great. So we often see this kind of thing, an equal amount being donated to a charity that the candidate supports.”
As more politicians start giving the donations back, Libowitz said, it increases the pressure on those who haven’t opted to do so.
Jon Taylor, a political scientist at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said giving the money back is the smart political move.
“It will assuage your guilt and make you sleep better at night and it looks good to do so,” he said.
But he said it is also important for politicians to put distance between themselves and the controversial figure.
“You stiff-arm him and essentially say, ‘Yeah I got a contribution from him and I didn’t know him well and I’m not familiar with this cryptocurrency stuff and I’m really sorry for all the people who lost their money and I’m going to do my part with the small donation I got for my campaign,’” he said.
Disclosure: University of Texas at San Antonio has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/11/29/beto-orourke-sam-bankman-fried-ftx/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.