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Citing Trump tweets, accused NY attacker seeks to avoid death penalty

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Lawyers for Sayfullo Saipov, the man accused of killing eight people by driving a truck into a New York City bike path in October, on Thursday asked a federal judge to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, saying President Donald Trump’s statements on Twitter have made a fair legal process impossible.

In a motion filed in Manhattan federal court, Saipov’s lawyers said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who must decide whether to pursue the death penalty, cannot be objective because Trump has pressured him to make decisions based on “nakedly political considerations” and has called for Saipov to be executed.

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The lawyers pointed to a Monday tweet in which the president criticized the “Jeff Sessions Justice Department” for indicting two Republican congressmen “just ahead” of the upcoming congressional elections.

They also cited two tweets following Saipov’s arrest calling for him to face the death penalty.

Together, they said, Trump’s tweets make it impossible for Sessions to “exercise independent discretion” on the matter.

They asked that if the judge declines to bar the death penalty altogether, an independent prosecutor be appointed to make the decision in place of Sessions.

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A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, whose office is prosecuting Saipov, declined to comment. The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saipov, a 30-year-old Uzbek national, was arrested in October immediately after police said he plowed a truck down a bike lane on Manhattan’s West Side. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the deadliest assault on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

He was charged in an indictment with eight counts of murder and other crimes including attempted murder and providing material support to Islamic State. He has pleaded not guilty.

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Following the attack, Saipov told investigators he was inspired by watching Islamic State videos and began planning the attack a year earlier, according to a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors the day after the attack.

Saipov made a public statement at a pre-trial hearing in June, speaking of a “war” led by Islamic State to establish sharia, or Islamic law, on earth, and dismissing the court’s judgment as “not important.”

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Trump aides desperately try to downplay ‘order’ to US companies to leave China

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Donald Trump's top aides on Sunday downplayed the idea of US companies being forced to abandon China any time soon, as an edict from the president ordering businesses to start looking for alternatives has been met with skepticism.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economics advisor Larry Kudlow took to the airwaves from France, where Trump is participating in the G7 summit, to smooth out tensions in the business community prompted by Trump's Friday tweet.

Trump said he has "no plan now" to bring US companies in line, and his aides quickly reinforced the message.

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Trump sparks confusion at G7 before doubling down on China tariffs

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President Donald Trump doubled down Sunday on his hard line against China after sowing confusion with statements that he might be willing to soften a trade war G7 partners fear threatens the world economy.

At the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Trump announced a major trade deal with Japan and promised more of the same with Britain, once Brexit is done.

But the positives were overshadowed by a mix-up over his apparent expression of regret for the latest escalation in the US-China dispute.

"I have second thoughts about everything," he conceded to reporters when asked if he regretted his decision on Friday to ramp up tariffs on all Chinese imports, worth some $550 billion, in retaliation for Beijing's earlier hike of levies on US goods.

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Persecuted Christians eye long-sought freedom in Sudan

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Sudan's Christians suffered decades of persecution under the regime of Islamist general Omar al-Bashir. Now they hope his downfall will give the religious freedom they have long prayed for.

Deep within the maze of dusty alleys that honeycomb Omdurman, Khartoum's sprawling twin city, Yousef Zamgila's church is not visible from the street.

It is hidden in the courtyard of a friend's home and consists of a few iron benches, a pulpit and crosses hastily painted on pillars holding a corrugated roof.

"The previous centre got destroyed because we didn't have the right papers. They always refused... So we use the land of our neighbours," says the Lutheran reverend.

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