Special counsel obtains thousands of Trump transition emails

In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. (AP)
Updated 17 December 2017
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Special counsel obtains thousands of Trump transition emails

WASHINGTON: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump’s campaign has gained access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, according to several people familiar with Trump’s transition organization.
But the investigators did not directly request the records from Trump’s still-existing transition group, Trump for America, and instead obtained them from a separate federal agency that stored the material, according to those familiar with the Trump transition organization.
A transition attorney sent letters Saturday to two congressional committees saying the General Services Administration had improperly provided the transition records to Mueller’s investigators. Kory Langhofer, general counsel for the transition group, wrote to the Republican chairmen of the House Oversight committee and the Senate Homeland Security committee about what the transition contends was an “unauthorized” disclosure of its emails.
The GSA has provided office space and other aid to presidential transitions in recent years and typically houses electronic transition records in its computer system. But Trump for America considers the records private and privileged and not government property.
The people familiar with the transition organization spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the records’ sensitivity.
They said the materials included communications from more than a dozen senior Trump transition officials. Among the officials who used transition email accounts was former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to a count of making false statements to FBI agents in January and is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. Flynn was fired by Trump in February for misleading senior administration officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the US
It’s unclear how revelatory the email accounts maintained by the GSA will be for Mueller. Several high-level Trump advisers sometimes used other email accounts to communicate about transition issues between Election Day and the inauguration.
Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, declined to comment. Jay Sekulow, an attorney on Trump’s personal legal team, referred questions to the transition group. Neither GSA representatives nor Flynn attorney Robert Kelner were immediately available to respond to AP’s emailed requests for comment.
Officials with Trump for America learned last Wednesday that GSA officials had turned over the massive cache of emails to Mueller’s team. The transition group’s top officials were alarmed because many of the emails that Mueller’s investigators now have are sensitive records ranging from national security discussions about possible Trump international aims to candid assessments of candidates for top government posts, said those familiar with the transition.
Officials with Trump for America had been bracing for months for the prospect that Mueller’s team would demand its emails, but they had been assured that any requests to the GSA would be routed to the transition organization, which claims legal ownership of the records. According to those familiar with the transition group, a top GSA official informed Trump for America last June that any request from Mueller’s office would be referred to the transition.
On Sept. 1, after requests in late August from Mueller’s office, the GSA turned over a flash drive containing tens of thousands of records without informing Trump for America of its move, those familiar with the transition said.
Those records included emails sent and received by 13 senior Trump transition officials.
The media site Axios first reported on the transfer of the emails to Mueller’s team.


Bill Cosby sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for sexual assault

Updated 55 min 37 sec ago
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Bill Cosby sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for sexual assault

  • Cosby, whose estimated fortune once topped $400 million, broke barriers in the 1960s as the first black actor to star in a network show, “I Spy”
  • “When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities,” she wrote in her five-page statement

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania: His Hollywood career and good-guy image in ruins, Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years behind bars for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman and was immediately led away in handcuffs at age 81, becoming the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be sent to prison.
The punishment all but completed the dizzying, late-in-life fall from grace for the comedian, former TV star and breaker of racial barriers.
“It is time for justice. Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The time has come,” Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said. He quoted from victim Andrea Constand’s own statement to the court, in which she said Cosby took her “beautiful, young spirit and crushed it.”
Cosby declined the opportunity to speak before the sentence came down, and afterward he sat smiling, laughing and chatting with defense team. His wife of 54 years, Camille, was not in court. Constand smiled broadly upon hearing the punishment and was hugged by others in the courtroom.
Cosby’s lawyers asked that he be allowed to remain free on bail while he appeals his conviction, but the judge appeared incredulous over the request and ordered him locked up immediately, saying that “he could quite possibly be a danger to the community.”
Cosby was also fined $25,000.
Former model Janice Dickinson, who was among the 60 or so women who have come forward to accuse Cosby of drugging and violating them over the past five decades, looked at Cosby and said: “Here’s the last laugh pal.”
Another Cosby accuser in the courtroom, Lili Bernard, said: “There is solace, absolutely. It is his fame and his fortune and his phony philanthropy that has allowed him to get away with impunity. Maybe this will send a message to other powerful perpetrators that they will be caught and punished.”
Cosby removed his watch, tie and jacket and walked out with hands cuffed in front of him.
The punishment came at the end of a two-day hearing at which the judge declared Cosby a “sexually violent predator” — a modern-day scarlet letter that subjects him to monthly counseling for the rest of his life and requires that neighbors and schools be notified of his whereabouts.
The comic once known as America’s Dad for his role on the top-rated “Cosby Show” in the 1980s was convicted in April of violating Constand, Temple University women’s basketball administrator, at his suburban Philadelphia estate in 2004. It was the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.
Cosby faced a sentence of anywhere from probation to 10 years in prison. His lawyers asked for house arrest, saying Cosby — who is legally blind — is too old and vulnerable to do time in prison. Prosecutors asked for five to 10 years behind bars, saying he could still pose a threat to women.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele rejected the notion that Cosby’s age and infirmity entitle him to mercy. “He was good at hiding this for a long time. Good at suppressing this for a long time. So it’s taken a long time to get there,” Steele said.
The sentencing came as another extraordinary #MeToo drama unfolded on Capitol Hill, where Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh stands accused of sexual misconduct more than three decades ago.
The Cosby case “really raised awareness of the pervasiveness of ... sexual misconduct against subordinates and against women of relatively less power,” said Daniel Filler, dean of Drexel University’s law school. “For jurors, I think it’s inherently changed the credibility of the accusers.”
The judge ruled on Cosby’s “sexually violent predator” status after a psychologist for the state testified that the entertainer appears to have a mental disorder that gives him an uncontrollable urge to have sex with women without their consent. When the ruling came down, a woman in the courtroom shot her fist into the air and whispered, “Yessss!“
In a statement submitted to the court and released Tuesday, Constand, 45, said that she has had to cope with years of anxiety and self-doubt. She said she now lives alone with her two dogs and has trouble trusting people.
“When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities,” she wrote in her five-page statement. “Now, almost 15 years later, I’m a middle-aged woman who’s been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward.”
She also wrote of Cosby: “We may never know the full extent of his double life as a sexual predator, but his decades-long reign of terror as a serial rapist is over.”
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, which Constand and other accusers have done.
Constand went to police a year after waking up in a fog at Cosby’s gated estate, her clothes askew, only to have the district attorney pass on the case.
Another district attorney reopened the file a decade later and charged the TV star after stand-up comic Hannibal Buress’ riff about Cosby being a rapist prompted more accusers to come forward and after a federal judge, acting on a request from The Associated Press, unsealed some of Cosby’s startling, decade-old testimony in Constand’s related civil suit.
In his testimony, Cosby described sexual encounters with a string of actresses, models and other young women and talked about obtaining quaaludes to give to those he wanted to sleep with.
Cosby’s first trial in 2017 ended with a hung jury. He was convicted at a retrial that opened months after the #MeToo movement had taken down such figures as Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein, NBC’s Matt Lauer, actor Kevin Spacey and Sen. Al Franken.
Constand said Cosby gave her what she thought were herbal pills to ease stress, then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized on a couch. Cosby claimed the encounter was consensual, and his lawyers branded her a “con artist” who framed the comedian to get a big payday — a $3.4 million settlement she received over a decade ago.
Five other accusers took the stand at the trial as part of an effort by prosecutors to portray him as a predator.
Cosby, whose estimated fortune once topped $400 million, broke barriers in the 1960s as the first black actor to star in a network show, “I Spy.” He went on to superstardom as wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” a sitcom that showed America a new kind of black TV family: a warm and loving household led by two professionals, one a lawyer, the other a doctor.
He also found success with his Saturday morning cartoon “Fat Albert,” appeared in commercials for Jello-O pudding and became a public moralist, lecturing the black community about young people stealing things and wearing baggy pants. He won a Presidential Medal of Freedom and countless Emmys, Golden Globes and Grammy awards.
As the allegations mounted, his career all but collapsed, “Cosby Show” reruns were taken off the air, and one college after another stripped him of his honorary degrees.