Trump criminal investigation is continuing, Manhattan district attorney says

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 26, 2022, in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 26, 2022, in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
Short Url
Updated 08 April 2022

Trump criminal investigation is continuing, Manhattan district attorney says

Trump criminal investigation is continuing, Manhattan district attorney says

NEW YORK: Refuting suggestions that he’s lost interest in going after Donald Trump, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Thursday a criminal investigation into the former president and his business practices is continuing “without fear or favor” despite a recent shakeup in the probe’s leadership.
In a rare public statement, Bragg denied that the three-year investigation was winding down or that a grand jury term expiring this month would impede his office’s ability to bring charges.
Citing secrecy rules, the district attorney said he couldn’t discuss details of the probe but pledged to publicly disclose findings when it’s over.
“In recent weeks, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has been repeatedly asked whether our investigation concerning former President Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization, and its leadership is continuing,” Bragg wrote. “It is.”
The Democrat’s affirmation of the investigation was part of a double dose of bad legal news for Trump on Thursday.
It came shortly after the New York attorney general’s office asked a judge to hold Trump in contempt and fine him $10,000 per day for not meeting a March 31 deadline to turn over documents in a parallel civil investigation. Trump is appealing a subpoena for his testimony in that investigation, but not one requiring him to provide documents.
“Instead of obeying a court order, Mr. Trump is trying to evade it,” Attorney General Letitia James said. “We are seeking the court’s immediate intervention because no one is above the law.”
Trump slammed James as an “operative for the Democrat Party” and called her effort to sanction him “a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt of all time.”
“I’ve been investigated by the Democrats more than Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and Al Capone, combined,” Trump said in a statement. “This has been going on for years, and in all cases, I have been innocent.”
Bragg’s statement proclaiming that the Trump investigation was still active marked his first public comment on the matter since the two men who had been leading it, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, resigned Feb. 23 in a dispute over the direction of the case.
Pomerantz, a former mafia prosecutor, wrote in a resignation letter that he believed Trump is “guilty of numerous felony violations” but that Bragg, who inherited the probe when he took office in January, had decided not to pursue charges.
Pomerantz said in the letter, published last month by The New York Times, that there was “evidence sufficient to establish Mr. Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” of allegations he falsified financial statements to secure loans and burnish his image as a wealthy businessman.
“I believe that your decision not to prosecute Donald Trump now, and on the existing record, is misguided and completely contrary to the public interest,” Pomerantz wrote.
Bragg’s silence after the resignations and the March 23 publication of Pomerantz’s letter gave rise to a narrative that the investigation was effectively dead.
After Pomerantz and Dunne left, Trump lawyer Robert Fischetti told the Associated Press: “I’m a very happy man. In my opinion, this investigation is over.”
Pomerantz and Dunne started on the probe under former District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Pomerantz wrote that Vance had directed them to seek an indictment of Trump and other defendants “as soon as reasonably possible,” but that Bragg reached a different conclusion after reviewing the evidence.
Vance and Bragg are Democrats. No ex-president has ever been charged with a crime.
In his statement Thursday, Bragg tried to wrest back the narrative, putting Trump on notice that he isn’t done while reassuring his own supporters, who backed him in part because he pledged to continue investigating the former president, a Republican.
Bragg said that a team of “dedicated, experienced career prosecutors” is working on the investigation, led by his Investigation Division chief Susan Hoffinger and that they are “going through documents, interviewing witnesses, and exploring evidence not previously explored.”
“In the long and proud tradition of white-collar prosecutions at the Manhattan D.A.’s Office, we are investigating thoroughly and following the facts without fear or favor,” Bragg said.
So far, the three-year investigation has resulted only in tax fraud charges against Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and its longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg relating to lucrative fringe benefits such as rent, car payments and school tuition. They have pleaded not guilty.
Weisselberg’s lawyers filed court papers in February asking a judge to throw out his case, arguing that prosecutors targeted him as punishment because he wouldn’t flip on the former president.
Trump has cited potential peril from the criminal case as he appeals a ruling requiring him to answer questions under oath in James’ civil investigation.
Trump’s lawyers contend James, who assigned two lawyers to work on the criminal case, is using the guise of a civil deposition to get around a state law barring prosecutors from calling someone to testify before a criminal grand jury without giving them immunity.
James, a Democrat, has said her investigation has uncovered evidence that Trump may have misstated the value of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers on his financial statements for more than a decade.
Bragg said his career and perspective have been shaped by “high-profile, complex investigations,” including a lawsuit he oversaw while a top deputy in the attorney general’s office that led to the closure of Trump’s charity over allegations he used it to further his political and business interests.
“Prosecutors fulfilling their duties cannot and do not bring only cases that are ‘slam dunks,’” Bragg wrote. “To the contrary, every case must be brought for the right reason — namely that justice demands it. That’s what I’ve done throughout my career, regardless of how easy or tough a case might be.”
A grand jury convened in the Trump investigation last fall hasn’t met regularly for several months and its term is expected to run out soon, but Bragg said there are grand juries sitting in Manhattan all the time and “there is no magic at all to any previously reported dates.”
“In the meantime, we will not be discussing our investigative steps. Nor will we be discussing grand jury matters.” Bragg wrote. “In short, as we have previously said, the investigation continues.”
 


Uzbekistan scraps plans to curb Karakalpak autonomy after protest

Uzbekistan scraps plans to curb Karakalpak autonomy after protest
Updated 13 sec ago

Uzbekistan scraps plans to curb Karakalpak autonomy after protest

Uzbekistan scraps plans to curb Karakalpak autonomy after protest
  • If the reform is endorsed in the planned referendum, it would reset Mirziyoyev’s term count and allow him to run for two more terms

ALMATY: Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on Saturday dropped plans to curtail the autonomy of the country’s Karakalpakstan province following a rare public protest in the northwestern region, his office said.
Friday’s rally was called to protest constitutional reform plans that would have changed the status of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic home to the Karakalpak people — an ethnic minority group with its own language, Uzbek authorities said.
Police dispersed the protesters after some of them tried to storm local government buildings in the region’s capital, Nukus, following a march and a rally at the city’s central market, local and government officials said.
Mirziyoyev later issued a decree proclaiming a state of emergency in Karakalpakstan for a month “in order to ensure the security of citizens, defend their rights and freedoms and restore the rule of law and order” in the region.
Under the current Uzbek constitution, Karakalpakstan is described as a sovereign republic within Uzbekistan that has the right to secede by holding a referendum.
The new version of the constitution — on which Uzbekistan plans to hold a referendum in the coming months — would no longer mention Karakalpakstan’s sovereignty or right for secession.
But in a swift reaction to the protest, Mirziyoyev said on Saturday during a visit to Karakalpakstan that the changes regarding its status must be dropped from the proposed reform, his office said in a statement.
Karakalpakstan’s government said in a statement earlier on Saturday that police had detained the leaders of Friday’s protest, and several other protesters who had put up resistance.
The changes concerning Karakalpakstan were part of a broader constitutional reform proposed by Mirziyoyev, which also includes strengthening civil rights and extending the presidential term to seven years from five.
If the reform is endorsed in the planned referendum, it would reset Mirziyoyev’s term count and allow him to run for two more terms.

Related


Waterways in Brazil’s Manaus choked by tons of trash

Waterways in Brazil’s Manaus choked by tons of trash
Updated 02 July 2022

Waterways in Brazil’s Manaus choked by tons of trash

Waterways in Brazil’s Manaus choked by tons of trash
  • From January to May, city workers have removed 4,500 tons of trash, most of which could have been recycled instead of being thrown in the river

MANAUS: In Manaus, the largest city in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, tons of stinking trash fill the canals and streams, giving one the feeling that they’re visiting a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

On the west side of the city, in a poor neighborhood where homes have been erected on stilts, a worker uses an excavator to scoop up a bucket-load of bottles, pieces of plastic and even home appliances that have been tossed in the water.

Not far from the city’s main port, municipal workers wearing orange uniforms gather garbage from a boat and pile it onto a big barge floating on the Rio Negro, one of the Amazon River’s main tributaries.

With the rising water levels signaling an end to the rainy season, the mounds of trash are often intermingled with leaves and tree branches.

Each day, nearly 30 tons of debris is plucked from the water. In some areas, the water is almost completely covered.

The massive influx of trash to Manaus’s waterways occurs around this time every year, but city authorities believe the situation has gotten worse in recent weeks.

From January to May, city workers have removed 4,500 tons of trash, most of which could have been recycled instead of being thrown in the river.

“The people who live on the water’s edge throw garbage straight into the streams... few people put it in the trash,” says Antonino Pereira, a 54-year-old Manaus resident who complains that the stench is unbearable.

According to the city’s undersecretary of sanitation, Jose Reboucas, if the population was more aware of the costs associated with littering, the city could save $190,000 per month.

“The awareness of the population will be very beneficial for our city and especially for our environment,” he said.

The Amazonian region is also facing a major threat from deforestation, with more than 3,750 square kilometers of jungle chopped down since the beginning of the year.


Norwegian anti-Islam extremist’s car rammed after Qur’an burned

Norwegian anti-Islam extremist’s car rammed after Qur’an burned
Updated 02 July 2022

Norwegian anti-Islam extremist’s car rammed after Qur’an burned

Norwegian anti-Islam extremist’s car rammed after Qur’an burned
  • Norwegian police said they arrested two people
  • The handful of activists then placed a burning Koran in the middle of a small intersection

OSLO: The leader of a Norwegian anti-Islamic group was in a spectacular car chase and collision on Saturday, minutes after burning a Qur’an on the outskirts of Oslo.
Norwegian police said they arrested two people, including the driver of a car accused of deliberately ramming the SUV of Lars Thorsen, leader of the radical group “Stop the Islamization of Norway” (Sian).
The five passengers in the SUV were slightly injured, with one requiring hospital treatment, police said.
A video posted on Facebook showed Thorsen and other activists first drive to Mortensrud, a suburb of Oslo with a large Muslim community.
The handful of activists then placed a burning Qur’an in the middle of a small intersection, initially managing to push back local people who tried to put out the flames.
An angry crowd gathered, including one woman who grabbed the charred book before climbing into a grey Mercedes.
The SUV of the anti-Islam activists, painted in camouflage livery, then left the scene. But seconds later, it was overtaken by the Mercedes, which first hit it lightly and eventually hit it at speed, overturning the vehicle.
The whole episode was filmed by someone in a following car.
The incident came a week after a gunman killed two people and wounded 21 others in central Oslo.
Norway’s domestic intelligence service has described the attack as an act of terrorism.
Scandinavian far-right anti-Islam activists have made a specialty of burning Qur’ans in neighborhoods with large Muslim populations in recent years.


Musk meets pope, uses Twitter to announce the audience

Musk meets pope, uses Twitter to announce the audience
Updated 02 July 2022

Musk meets pope, uses Twitter to announce the audience

Musk meets pope, uses Twitter to announce the audience
  • “Honored to meet @Pontifex yesterday,” Musk tweeted
  • Musk’s tweet followed one of a street scene in Venice

ROME: Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose $44 billion bid to buy Twitter remains in limbo, used the social media platform to announce he had met with Pope Francis.
“Honored to meet @Pontifex yesterday,” Musk tweeted of the Friday afternoon audience, alongside a photo showing Musk, Francis and four of Musk’s teenage children.
The Vatican didn’t announce the audience or provide any information about what was discussed. Musk’s tweet followed one of a street scene in Venice, suggesting he might have had other stops on his tour.
Francis frequently meets with high-profile figures in strictly private audiences that are held in a reception room of the Vatican hotel where he lives. A common talking point he uses when meeting with corporate CEOs is to appeal for them to use wealth and technology to help the poorest while caring for God’s creation.
On June 21, Twitter’s board recommended shareholders approve Musk’s proposed purchase, though shares of Twitter remain far below his offering price, signaling considerable doubt that the sale will actually happen.


Indonesia hopes to boost Middle East exports after new UAE trade pact

Indonesia hopes to boost Middle East exports after new UAE trade pact
Updated 02 July 2022

Indonesia hopes to boost Middle East exports after new UAE trade pact

Indonesia hopes to boost Middle East exports after new UAE trade pact
  • Indonesia-UAE trade pact erases majority of existing tariffs
  • Wide-ranging pact is Indonesia’s first with a Gulf country

JAKARTA: Indonesian officials have said they are hopeful of increasing the country’s exports to the Middle East after the signing of a new wide-ranging economic pact with the UAE.

Indonesia’s Trade Minister Zulfikli Hasan and UAE Economy Minister Abdullah bin Touq Al-Marri signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in Abu Dhabi on Friday, after talks aimed at eliminating tariffs and boosting investment between the two countries were launched last September.

Bilateral trade volume reached almost $4 billion in 2021, according to data from Indonesia’s Trade Ministry, showcasing an increase of nearly 38 percent from the previous year, when it was worth $2.9 billion. The agreement is Indonesia’s first with a Gulf country and the UAE’s first with a Southeast Asian nation.

The new pact is expected to boost Indonesian exports to the UAE by 54 percent, or about $844 million, over the next 10 years after the deal comes into force, as the pact erases about 94 percent of existing tariffs. Indonesia’s main exports to the UAE include jewelry, palm oil, and motorized vehicles.

“This agreement will be Indonesia’s entryway to the UAE, which is a hub to increase exports to non-traditional export destinations in the Gulf, Middle East,” Hasan said in a statement issued on Friday.

The pact also includes chapters on tourism, intellectual property rights, and mutual recognition of each country’s halal certification.

Full text of the deal was not immediately published, and the agreement still needs to be ratified by Indonesia’s House of Representatives, which could take several months. Indonesia has signed similar deals with Australia in 2019 and South Korea in 2020.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who witnessed the signing with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan as part of the former’s visit to Abu Dhabi, also expressed appreciation of the two countries’ improving relations.

“Amid the challenging situation that we face now, we continue to work together to boost relations between our two countries,” Widodo said, as quoted in a statement issued by his office on Friday.

Diana Dewi, chairwoman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s chapter in Jakarta, said the new deal could be helpful for Indonesian business players.

“This agreement will be an entry point for Indonesian businesses to increase exports to the UAE,” Dewi told Arab News.

“UAE is also a hub to enter the European market,” she added.

The wide-ranging agreement could bring new prospects for Indonesia, Bhima Yudhistira, president of the Jakarta-based Center of Economic and Law Studies, told Arab News.

“(The) UAE is an important export hub to the Middle East and North Africa. The UAE’s developments in the automotive sector are quite prospective and would require spare parts and components from Indonesia,” Yudhistira said.

But it also offers new challenges for Southeast Asia’s largest economy, he added.

“It’s a challenge to break through the UAE market with regards to the quality and product competition because the UAE market is a high-income group.”