Moscow (AFP) - Russian oil giant Rosneft, run by a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, is wielding growing influence over Russia's remaining independent media outlets, already squeezed by tightening press freedoms and pressure from the Kremlin.Now, reporters at the country's top liberal business daily Vedomosti -- shaken in March by an announcement from owner Demyan Kudryavtsev that he planned to sell the newspaper -- have denounced censorship under its new acting editor-in-chief.Andrei Shmarov was appointed in late March, ahead of the sale's completion. Journalists say they were barred fr...
Glenn Youngkin nominee dogged by his failure to resign from the Trump administration after Jan. 6 insurrection
Failure to resign from the Trump administration following the Jan. 6 insurrection is dogging a former cabinet-level official seeking a new job.
"Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) on Wednesday nominated Andrew Wheeler — a former coal lobbyist who led a rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations as President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency chief — as his secretary of natural resources," The Washington Post reported on Jan. 5. "The pick drew immediate blowback from environmentalists and elected Democrats from Richmond to Washington, who warned that Wheeler might not survive confirmation in the state Senate, which remains under narrow Democratic control."
The following day, The New York Times reported, "Democratic leaders said they would try to block Mr. Wheeler from taking charge of conservation programs, environmental cleanups and climate change initiatives like the ones he opposed as E.P.A. administrator. Resistance to Mr. Wheeler began building just moments after his nomination to be natural resources secretary was announced on Wednesday by Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who will be sworn in on Jan. 15."
The day before Youngkin was sworn-in, the Associated Press reported, "more than 150 former Environmental Protection Agency employees urged the Virginia Senate on Friday to oppose the nomination of former EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler to GOP Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s Cabinet."
On Friday, a prominent left-of-center ethics watchdog drew attention to the fact Wheeler did not resign from the administration.
"Andrew Wheeler’s tenure as EPA Administrator during the Trump administration was rife with ethics issues," Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote. "Wheeler’s failure to resign following the insurrection and a trip he took to Costa Rica on the taxpayer’s dime in his final days in office raise questions about his commitment to democracy and use of public resources for his own benefit."
The group is seeking to learn more via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
"CREW has requested records of Wheeler’s communications on January 6th and 7th, which could illuminate what actions, if any, that Wheeler took to protect the EPA and its employees from insurrectionists on January 6th, as well as records regarding the insurrection through the end of the Trump administration," the group wrote. "While Wheeler did reportedly send an email to EPA staffers the day after the insurrection expressing his 'disgust' about the prior day’s events, he did not resign in protest as other senior Trump Administration officials did, or even publicly condemn President Trump’s incitement of the riot."
'Desperate' Prince Andrew pushing accuser's psychologist to acknowledge 'false memory syndrome': report
On Friday, The Daily Beast reported that Prince Andrew's legal defense is attempting a new strategy to defend against the rape allegations of Virginia Roberts Giuffre: seeking to question her psychologist about whether she may be suffering from "false memory syndrome."
"The source added that Andrew’s effort to portray Giuffre, who accuses Andrew of raping her three times when she was 17, as an enthusiastic recruiter of underage girls for Epstein’s pedophile ring is likely to backfire as it 'looks like victim-blaming,'" reported royals correspondent Tom Sykes. The source added, "It tells you they are desperate."
Andrew's case at trial appears to be weakening, as Giuffre reportedly has a witness who claims to have seen Andrew in a nightclub with another "young girl." Meanwhile, the Queen has stripped Andrew of his military titles ahead of the trial.
Epstein himself, a billionaire wealth manager who ran a wide-spanning child sex trafficking operation that may implicate hundreds of political and business leaders, died by suicide in a New York prison awaiting trial in 2019.
His main accomplice, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, was convicted on five sex trafficking related charges at the end of last year.
You can read more here (requires subscription).
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is asking a special grand jury to hear evidence of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 Georgia election election results.
Willis’ request is for Fulton County superior court judges to allow the panel to be put in place on May 2 to determine if the former president and or his allies committed criminal offenses in the Georgia election that Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden by fewer than 12,000 votes.
Willis opened the investigation in February 2020 following a Jan. 2 phone in which Trump asked the secretary of state and other election officials to “find” enough votes to change the outcome of the election.
“The district attorneys office has received information indicating a reasonable probability that the state of Georgia’s administration of elections in 2020 including the state election of the president of the United States was subject to possible criminal disruptions,” Willis wrote in a Thursday letter to the chief judge of Fulton County Superior Court.
“Our office has learned that individuals associated with these disruptions have contacted other agencies in power to investigate this matter, including the Georgia Secretary of State, the Georgia Attorney General and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, leaving this office as the sole agency with jurisdiction that is not a potential witness to conduct related to this matter.”
A majority of the Fulton Superior Court judges must agree to appoint the special grand jury, which Willis said would allow her to subpoena witnesses who have not cooperated with the investigation and give her more time to present her case.
Willis wrote in the letter that a special grand jury is better suited to handle complex matters since it focuses on one case for as long as 12 months and doesn’t handle multiple cases over a two-month period like a regular grand jury.
Clark Cunningham, a professor at Georgia State College of Law, said Watergate set the stage for a criminal investigation into the actions of a president, with the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the release of tapes that led to burglary convictions and Richard Nixon’s resignation.
As a district attorney, Willis would have more power than with Trump’s impeachment investigation or with the Congressional committee digging into the former president’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach.
“The fact that this is being done by a special grand jury, convened by a criminal prosecutor, is going to give a priority to this investigation that quite possibly even Congress will not have,” Clark said.
“(Fulton prosecutors) might find someone they feel like they have a very strong case against, indict them and then attempt to negotiate with that person to take cooperation,” he said. “So the first indictment is not going to be against Donald Trump, I don’t think, but it may be against someone who in the view of the grand jury has criminal liability but also has important and useful information.”
Danny Porter, former longtime Gwinnett County district attorney, said it’s helpful for prosecutors that a special grand jury can meet much more often a regular grand jury.
Although a special grand jury cannot issue indictments, it can recommend them if they find enough probable cause for prosecution, he said.
“She knows what she’s doing,” Porter said. “She’s given herself enough time to present the evidence at a reasonable pace. The other thing she’s doing is she is trying to get where citizens have heard the case and made a recommendation rather than rashly rush to a grand jury and drop indictments.”
Then-President Trump’s request on the call was directed at Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who declined Trump’s request, and stated on Thursday that his office is cooperating with the Fulton prosecutor’s requests and would testify if subpoenaed.
Willis wrote that Raffensperger has refused to provide evidence or to be interviewed without being subpoenaed.
In February, Willis sent letters to Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan asking them to preserve documents and other evidence that might reveal election fraud, false statements, conspiracy theories, racketeering and other violations.
“Obviously she’s been slow-walking this,” Raffensperger said during an interview on Fox News. “She’s been in office for over year now and now she’s just finally getting to this point. I think she’s just trying to score some cheap political points with her Democrat friends.”
Trump said in statement Thursday that his conversation with Raffensperger was “a perfect call” that doesn’t warrant any further investigation.
“Although I assumed the call may have been inappropriately, and perhaps illegally, recorded, I was not informed of that,” Trump said. “I didn’t say anything wrong in the call, made while I was president on behalf of the United States of America, to look into the massive voter fraud which took place in Georgia.”
It is legal to record a call in Georgia as long as one party knows it’s being recorded.
In the aftermath of the Nov. 3 general election, Trump and his allies repeated baseless fraud accusations and conspiracy theories even after Raffensperger and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said they found no evidence of widespread fraud. Several recounts and audits confirmed Biden’s win while the majority of lawsuits challenging the validity of the results have been dismissed or pulled by the plaintiffs.
The former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, Byung “BJay” Pak, said he quit after hearing rumors Trump was considering firing him due to his refusal to overturn the election results.
In the event Willis moves forward with the Trump investigation, Porter believes she will handle it like other cases despite the national attention it’s receiving.
“This is a case that’s going to garner a lot of scrutiny and a lot of attention and already has,” he said. “And if Trump goes by any of his previous history, there’s going to be an army of lawyers and I suspect he’s not going to surrender meekly.”
Trump is also facing more legal scrutiny with a request for a New York grand jury to examine potential financial misconduct with his organization in a civil case.
Meanwhile, the Jan. 6 Congressional committee continues to subpoena witnesses to examine Trump and associates’ role in the election and rioting that followed. Wednesday, The U.S. Supreme Court allowed more than 700 documents from the presidential record to be sent to the U.S. House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.