Sessions vows quick decision on possible Clinton prosecutor

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department in Washington on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2017
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Sessions vows quick decision on possible Clinton prosecutor

WASHINGTON: US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday that the Justice Department would work quickly to decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton, President Donald Trump’s election rival.
Sessions’ comments indicated that Republicans were seeking to mount a counter-offensive to the probe into Russian election meddling — and whether or not Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow to sway the 2016 contest.
The Justice Department sent political shockwaves across Washington late on Monday when it revealed it was evaluating the possibility of naming a special counsel to probe the foundation of former President Bill Clinton and its ties to firms involved in a deal that sold US uranium rights to a Russian state company.
The letter also said it was reviewing the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) handling last year of a probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal server for official and in some cases classified emails, in breach of government rules, while she was secretary of state.
In the year since his election win, Trump has repeatedly suggested that the Justice Department should investigate allegations against the Clintons.
Sessions promised the committee that his department would move quickly to decide whether to take action on the cases, including appointing a special prosecutor.
“Do I have your assurance that these matters will proceed fairly and expeditiously?” committee chairman Robert Goodlatte asked him.
“Yes, you can, Mr. Chairman, and you can be sure that they will be done without political influence and they will be done correctly and properly.”
Democrats said any such action would represent an unacceptable politicization of the country’s justice system.
“If the AG bends to pressure from President Trump and his allies, and appoints a special counsel to investigate Trump’s vanquished rival, it could spell the end of the DOJ as an independent institution,” Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said on Twitter.
In an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee that at times became contentious, Sessions walked back earlier testimony made under oath that he had no knowledge of contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Recent court documents and testimony revealed fresh information on relations last year between Russian officials and Trump’s foreign policy advisory team, which was led by Sessions.
He denied lying in past Capitol Hill hearings, but told lawmakers he had forgotten about a meeting in March 2016 with Trump, then a presidential candidate, and his foreign policy advisers at which such contacts were discussed.
“I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at Trump Hotel that Mr. (George) Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said during that meeting,” Sessions testified.
“After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter.”
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI in the matter, in a deal that made clear he is assisting independent special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russian election meddling probe.
Sessions adamantly insisted that he was not changing his previous testimony.
“My answers have never changed. I have always told the truth,” he said.
“I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie.”
Separately, Sessions slammed leaks of classified information that he said had reached “epidemic proportions,” and confirmed the existence of 27 probes into such leaks.
“It cannot be allowed to continue and we will do our best effort to ensure it does not continue,” the attorney general said.
Trump has complained often and bitterly about leaks of sensitive information since he came to power, notably related to the probe being led by Mueller.


“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

Updated 24 September 2018
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“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

LONDON: Leaving the European Union without a proper divorce deal could ground airlines, stop hauliers from lugging goods to the world’s biggest trading bloc and even make headaches for pet owners who want to take their dogs on holiday, according to government documents.
With just six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that negotiations are at an impasse and that the EU must come up with new proposals on how to craft a divorce settlement.
Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would spook financial markets and silt up the arteries of trade.
Britain, which has warned it could leave without a deal, published 25 technical notices on Monday covering everything from commercial road haulage and buying timber to airline regulations and taking pets abroad.
“If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission,” the government said.
Overall, the government has published more than 65 such notices giving a glimpse of what a no-deal Brexit — the nightmare scenario for chief executives of most multinationals operating in Britain — would look like.
Amid warnings that trucks could stack up on both sides of the English Channel in the confusion of a no deal, Britain said it would seek to strike bilateral agreements with European countries to ensure hauliers would retain access.
The notices covered a vast swathe of the British economy, warning, for example, that labels on packaged food would have to be changed.
“Use of the term ‘EU’ in origin labelling would no longer be correct for food or ingredients from the UK,” the government said.
Honey producers would have to change their labels while EU countries might not accept British mineral water, the government said.
In the worse case scenario for pet owners, dogs, cats and even ferrets might need health certificates and rabies jabs. Travel plans would have to be discussed with a vet at least four months in advance before traveling to the EU.
That would mean someone wanting to take their pet to the EU on March 30, 2019, the day after Britain leaves the bloc, would have to discuss the trip with a vet before the end of November.
Without a deal, the UK would move from seamless trade with the rest of the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states with no preferential deals.
Brexiteers accept there is likely to be some short-term economic pain but say the government is trying to scare voters about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain, many Brexiteers say, will thrive in the longer term if cut loose from what they see as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity and excessive debt-funded welfare spending.