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US Justice Department commits to prosecute activists that damage pipelines

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The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday pledged to prosecute protesters who damage energy infrastructure in a move that could escalate tensions between climate activists and the administration of President Donald Trump.

The DOJ said it was committed to vigorously prosecuting those who damage “critical energy infrastructure in violation of federal law.” Attempts to “damage or shut down” pipelines deprive communities of services, and can put lives at risk, cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and threaten the environment, a department official said in a statement sent to Reuters.

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The statement was in response to a letter sent last month to Attorney General Jeff Sessions by 84 U.S. Representatives asking whether domestic terrorism law covers activists who shut oil pipelines in October last year. The DOJ said it was reviewing the letter.

The DOJ did not say whether it would investigate or prosecute the protesters who broke fences in four states last year and twisted shut valves on several pipelines importing crude from Canada that carry the equivalent of as much as 15 percent of U.S. daily oil consumption. The group Climate Direct Action said at the time the action was in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has protested Energy Transfer Partners LP’s Dakota Access Pipeline.

Last month’s letter to Sessions, spearheaded by Representative Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, and signed by at least two Democrats, said that when a protester burns a hole in an operating pipeline it risks igniting the contents and “killing not only the perpetrator but other innocent victims.” The letter had no details on any protesters who had ever actually taken a blowtorch to a live pipeline.

Five of the protesters, who say they only turned off valves on the pipelines, responded to Buck this week in a letter saying that their actions were nonviolent and were the “last resort in a desperate and necessary effort to avert catastrophic climate change.”

States brought charges against the protesters. Ken Ward, who closed an emergency valve on a pipeline bringing oil sands crude from Canada, was sentenced to 32 days with most of it to be spent in community service.

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The DOJ’s statement on the protesters is an escalation of the department’s stance from the days of the administration of former President Barack Obama, a Democrat. In 2016, the DOJ along with the Army Corps of Engineers gave a temporary victory to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe by refusing to approve an easement for Dakota Access. Trump moved to open Dakota Access early in his presidency.

Angst over pipeline projects could escalate later this month. Nebraska regulators are set to decide then whether TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline, a project that has galvanized environmentalists but which Trump supports, should go forward.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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Here’s why Trump contradicted his own White House on the Supreme Court rulings

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Following the Supreme Court's pair of 7-2 decisions rejecting President Donald Trump's claim to have absolute immunity from subpoenas, he blasted the ruling on Twitter, claiming he being unfairly targeted and the victim of "prosecutorial misconduct." However, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany released a statement saying that "President Trump is gratified by today’s decision."

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‘They deserve it’: Republican strategist tells GOP it’s their own fault for going down with Trump because ‘they know better’

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Republican strategist Susan del Percio said that there is no excuse for GOP members who failed to do the right thing and fight back against President Donald Trump when they had the opportunity.

Speaking to MSNBC's Joy Reid Thursday, del Percio called Trump "the anchor" around the GOP's necks, "dragging them down."

"But, you know what, they deserve it," she continued. "There are Republicans out there that deserve this because they know better. They should have been better on impeachment. They should have been holding him accountable all along. Now they are scared and worried about themselves. Well, boohoo, you brought it on. there's no excuse."

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‘The monarch has taken a body blow’: Ex-prosecutor explains why Court ruling is devastating for Trump

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On MSNBC Thursday, former federal prosecutor John Flannery broke down the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling against President Donald Trump on immunity from subpoenas.

"I think what it says is that the monarch has taken a body blow as a result of what will be an historic decision, as we've indicated," said Flannery. "I think that the position of the DA in New York is very special, because he can speed this up in a way that the House can',t and has a specific strength, I think, in this case, that it is criminal."

"The most significant thing about it is this is the first Supreme Court case in which there's ever been agreed that a prosecutor could subpoena a president," added Flannery. "Prior prosecutions have been federal, that have been treated by the Supreme Court. So this is a big difference. The majority of the court, 7-2, basically said, from 1740 on, the public is entitled to the testimony, to the evidence of any person. They said that the documents — the question is the character documents, not the character of the person. In this case, what we have is a situation which I bet that the DA is going to go to the court as soon as possible, move to compel an appearance to their subpoena, and going to have the discussion as to what if anything may be limited or excluded and get production as quickly as possible."

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