UPDATE 2 – Trump exerts privilege over unredacted Mueller report

                                               ADDS CONTEMPT VOTE IN GRAFS 6-7; MOVES UP LAST GRAF AND REFRAMES</p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump exerted executive privilege Wednesday on the unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.</p>  <p>The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department for an unredacted copy of the report as well as all underlying evidence. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler had set a Monday deadline for the department to comply, but it came and passed as the committee and the department continued talks to breach the impasse.</p>  <p>Those discussions broke down late Tuesday. </p>  <p>Nadler said the president decided to invoke privilege on the document as the committee prepared to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to adhere to the subpoena.</p>  <p>&quot;The department seemed open to sharing these documents with us just yesterday. This decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration's blanket defiance of Congress' constitutionally-mandated duties,&quot; Nadler said ahead of the contempt vote.</p>  <p>The committee voted 24-16 later Wednesday to hold Barr in contempt, sending the matter to the full House where the Democratic majority will likely follow suit and trigger a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.</p>  <p>Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney, would then decide whether a prosecution would be pursued. </p>  <p>Barr released a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress and the public last month, but Democrats have insisted on receiving an uncensored copy.</p>  <p>The White House sharply criticized Nadler, saying in a statement that &quot;neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands.</p>  <p>&quot;Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege,&quot; spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. 

UPDATE – Trump exerts privilege over unredacted Mueller report

                              ADDS WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT, DETAILS THROUGHOUT</p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump exerted executive privilege Wednesday on the unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. </p>  <p>The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department for an unredacted copy of the report as well as all underlying evidence. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler had set a Monday deadline for the department to comply, but it came and passed as the committee and the department continued talks to breach the impasse.</p>  <p>Those discussions broke down late Tuesday. </p>  <p>Nadler said the president decided to invoke privilege on the document as the committee prepared to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to adhere to the subpoena.</p>  <p>&quot;The department seemed open to sharing these documents with us just yesterday. This decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration's blanket defiance of Congress' constitutionally-mandated duties,&quot; Nadler said ahead of the contempt vote.</p>  <p>Barr released a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress and the public last month, but Democrats have insisted on receiving an uncensored copy.</p>  <p>The White House sharply criticized Nadler, saying in a statement that &quot;neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands.</p>  <p>&quot;Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege,&quot; spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. </p>  <p>The Judiciary Committee is likely to vote in favor of holding Barr in contempt of Congress when it votes later Wednesday, sending the matter to the full House where the Democratic majority will likely follow suit and send the matter to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. 

Trump exerts privilege over unredacted Mueller report

             By Michael Hernandez </p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump exerted executive privilege Wednesday on the unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. </p>  <p>The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department for an unredacted copy of the report as well as all underlying evidence. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler had set a Monday deadline for the department to comply.</p>  <p>But Nadler said the president decided to invoke privilege over the document as the committee prepared to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to adhere to the subpoena.</p>  <p>&quot;The department seemed open to sharing these documents with us just yesterday. This decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration's blanket defiance of Congress' constitutionally-mandated duties,&quot; Nadler said.

Top US lawyer grilled by Congress on Mueller report

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr was on the receiving end of blistering criticism from Senate Democrats on Wednesday over his handling of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. </p>  <p>Democrats lambasted the top lawyer over their concerns that he worked to spin the conclusions of Mueller's two-year probe in President Donald Trump's favor and in doing so violated the Justice Department's and his integrity through his decision to clear the president of obstruction of justice. </p>  <p>In defending his decision, Barr insisted that he believes the Justice Department does not have a prosecutable case against the president.</p>  <p>In a particularly tense moment, Senator Mazie Hirono said Barr is among the ranks of &quot;people who sacrificed their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office&quot;.</p>  <p>&quot;Your used every advantage of your office to create the impression that the president was cleared of misconduct. You selectively quoted fragments from the special counsel's report, taking some of the most important statements out of context and ignoring the rest. You put the power and authority of the office of the attorney general and the Department of Justice behind a public relations effort to help Donald Trump protect himself. Finally, you lied to Congress,&quot; she said. </p>  <p>&quot;Being attorney general of the United States is a sacred trust. You have betrayed that trust. America deserves better. You should resign,” Hirono added. </p>  <p>Barr, however, remained defiant in the face of criticism that was re-energized heading into the hearing when The Washington Post reported Tuesday evening that Mueller sent a letter to the attorney general complaining over the summary he issued to the public about the special counsel's findings. </p>  <p>The summary, Mueller wrote, &quot;did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office's work and conclusions”.</p>  <p>Barr said Mueller's letter was &quot;a bit snitty&quot; and claimed it &quot;was probably written by one of his staff people&quot;.</p>  <p>The attorney general recalled a telephone call between himself and Mueller where he asked the special counsel &quot;what's with the letter? Why didn't you just pick up the phone?&quot;</p>  <p>Asked specifically if anyone had taken notes on that conversation, Barr said some notes were taken, but then said he would not hand them over to Congress. </p>  <p>&quot;Why not?&quot; asked Senator Richard Blumenthal.</p>  <p>&quot;Why should you have them?&quot; Barr replied. 

Trump fumes at Mueller after claiming exoneration

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump raged Friday at Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report on Russian interference, one day after he claimed total exoneration.</p>  <p>&quot;Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated &amp; totally untrue,&quot; Trump said on Twitter. &quot;It was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the “Report” about me, some of which are total bulls**t &amp; only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad).&quot;</p>  <p>The president's comments are a far cry from his claim shortly before the report was made public that Mueller's team's work proved there was &quot;No collusion. No obstruction.&quot;</p>  <p>While the special counsel determined there was a lack of evidence linking the Trump campaign to Russia's attempts to sway the 2016 election in Trump's favor, it was not as clear-cut on obstruction as the president suggested. </p>  <p>&quot;The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,&quot; Mueller wrote, noting he is not doing so based on department practice and significant constitutional latitude given to presidents on how they direct officials.</p>  <p>Still, he added that if his team was confident that Trump was clear of any possible obstruction, it would explicitly state so.</p>  <p>&quot;Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,&quot; the report says.</p>  <p>The version released to the public Thursday redacts certain material, including information pertaining to ongoing cases, and while Attorney General William Barr said ahead of its release that an unredacted version would be made available to a select group of bipartisan lawmakers, House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler subpoenaed the Justice Department for the full report and all underlying information. </p>  <p>&quot;The redactions appear to be significant,&quot; Nadler said in a statement. &quot;We have so far seen none of the actual evidence that the Special Counsel developed to make this case. Even the redacted version of the report outlines serious instances of wrongdoing by President Trump and some of his closest associates. It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct.&quot;</p>  <p>Nadler set a May 1 deadline for the department to comply.

Trump feared Mueller probe was end his presidency

                 By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump feared Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe would be the end of his presidency, setting off a course of actions Mueller struggled to classify as obstruction of justice.</p>  <p>In the lengthy 448-page report detailing his conclusions, Mueller pointed to 10 &quot;episodes&quot; that raised questions of obstruction, including the president's attempt to remove the special counsel from his post and attempts to curtail his investigation. </p>  <p>Those actions included Trump's June 2017 directive to former White House counsel Don McGahn to speak with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to say Mueller must be expelled because Trump believed he had alleged conflicts of interests. </p>  <p>Just one month prior to the directive Trump, in a meeting with Sessions, said he feared Mueller's appointment would lead to the end of his then-nascent presidency. </p>  <p>&quot;Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm f***ed,&quot; Trump said, according to notes of that meeting obtained by Mueller's team and published in the redacted version of his report. </p>  <p>Also at issue was Trump's May 2017 firing of former FBI Director James Comey, Trump's efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with the probe and his efforts to prevent emails about a meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer from leaking to the public.  </p>  <p>Mueller declined to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment whether Trump should be tried for attempts to obstruct his investigation, citing in part Justice Department practice not to indict a sitting president, as well as the extensive constitutional latitude a president has to direct officials. </p>  <p>&quot;The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,&quot; Mueller wrote. </p>  <p>Still he added that if his team was confident that Trump was clear of any possible obstruction it would explicitly make the judgment.</p>  <p>&quot;Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,&quot; Mueller wrote. </p>  <p>The reports findings were not enough to deter the president from insisting on Twitter after its publication: &quot;As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION - NO OBSTRUCTION!&quot;

US indicts Julian Assange, seeks extradition from UK

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. on Thursday indicted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on charges stemming from his release of troves of secret U.S. government documents. </p>  <p>Washington is seeking his extradition from the U.K. where he had been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for nearly seven years.</p>  <p>Assange, 47, was arrested earlier in the day by London police after staying in the diplomatic facility following his claim for diplomatic asylum in June 2012 while trying to fight Swedish prosecutors on alleged sexual charges.</p>  <p>Sweden has since dropped the charges, but Assange remained at the embassy fearing extradition to the U.S. on charges related to WikiLeaks’ release of sensitive U.S. government files. U.K. authorities had said he would be arrested if he ever left the embassy because he skipped bail. </p>  <p>Last week, WikiLeaks claimed “a high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within ‘hours to days’ using the INAPapers offshore scandal as a pretext -- and that it already has an agreement with the U.K. for his arrest,” referring to documents allegedly implicating corruption by Ecuador’s president.</p>  <p>The U.S. Justice Department accused Assange of conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password on a classified government computer.</p>  <p>He has been indicted on one count of computer hacking, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison if he is convicted in U.S. court. </p>  <p>Barry Pollack, Assange's U.S. attorney, said in a statement released by Wikileaks it is &quot;bitterly disappointing&quot; that the Ecuadorian government &quot;would allow someone to whom it has extended citizenship and asylum to be arrested in its embassy.&quot;</p>  <p>&quot;The UK courts will need to resolve what appears to be an unprecedented effort by the United States seeking to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information,&quot; Pollack said. </p>  <p>Assange has styled himself as a journalist, and argued his anti-secrecy website is a publisher.  

Rod Rosenstein expected to leave US Justice Department

             By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave his post as soon as a new department head is chosen, multiple reports said Wednesday.</p>  <p>Officials close to the matter told ABC News that Rosenstein had long been expected to serve in his position for two years of U.S. President Donald Trump's term in office, and he was not being forced out by the White House.</p>  <p>Rosenstein told Trump and White House officials his intentions, and plans to leave once William Barr, the president's nominee for Attorney General, is approved by the Senate.</p>  <p>Barr will go through a Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 15, and if confirmed, will become the new Attorney General.</p>  <p>The Department of Justice did not respond to comment on the matter.</p>  <p>Once former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired, there was speculation that Rosenstein would follow suit, however, he remained in the position under Matthew Whitaker, who took Session's job in an acting capacity since November.</p>  <p>Rosenstein oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election for more than a year, after Sessions stepped back from the probe due to his role in Trump's campaign.</p>  <p>After Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, Rosenstein appointed Mueller to lead the investigation, a move that was heavily criticized by the president and his Republican base.</p>  <p>The Justice Department's second-in-command's support in Congress wavered due to the role he played in the firing of Comey, sending a letter to Trump outlining why the decision was warranted. </p>  <p>&quot;I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,&quot; Trump tweeted after Rosenstein appointed Mueller to head the Russia probe.

US charges two Chinese hackers in data-theft campaign

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. Justice Department charged two Chinese nationals on Thursday for being suspected of working on behalf of the Chinese government in a decade-long campaign to steal the intellectual property of America and other countries.

The charges were filed as a larger campaign by the U.S. to curb efforts by the Chinese to steal American trade secrets.

Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong had a part of the Advanced Persistent Threat 10 (APT10 Group), a hacking group working out of China, and also acted in association with China's Ministry of State Security, the country's intelligence agency.

"It is unacceptable that we continue to uncover cyber crime committed by China against America and other nations," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at a news conference.

The two hackers were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. They could face up to 27 years in prison.

Zhu and Zhang had been working for the APT10 Group from 2006 up until 2018, where they helped target manage service providers (MSPs), which store and manage the intellectual property and data of businesses and governments around the world.

The APT10 Group has been accused of targeting a vast array of MSPs across different sectors, such as satellite technology, finance, telecommunications, healthcare and oil and gas exploration and production.

The hacking group gained access to computers in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Zhu and Zhang had also registered IT infrastructure that the APT10 Group used to engage in illegal hacking operations.

"This is outright cheating and theft, and it gives China an unfair advantage at the expense of law-abiding businesses and countries that follow the international rules in return for the privilege of participating in the global economic system," Rosenstein said in a statement.

During their campaign, the APT10 Group gained unauthorized access to the computers of over 45 technology companies and U.S. government agencies in at least 12 states, including California, Florida, New York, Texas and Virginia. They then stole hundreds of gigabytes of sensitive data and information from the including from companies and agencies across different sectors, including the NASA Goddard Space Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

US bans bump stock devices for firearms

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. formally banned bump stocks on Tuesday, more than a year after a gunman used them to kill nearly 60 people in Las Vegas. </p>  <p>The Justice Department formally issued its new rule banning the firearm components that allow a semiautomatic firearm to be fired at a rate similar to that of a fully automatic weapon -- 10 months after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate how they could be outlawed. </p>  <p>While their sale has been banned, individuals who already own bump stocks have a 90-day window from the day the rule is officially entered into the federal register to either destroy them or turn them into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. </p>  <p>&quot;We are faithfully following President Trump’s leadership by making clear that bump stocks, which turn semiautomatics into machine guns, are illegal, and we will continue to take illegal guns off of our streets,&quot; Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who has succeeded Sessions after a falling out, said in a statement. </p>  <p>Whitaker signed the rule, which classifies bump stocks as illegal machine guns, earlier Tuesday. </p>  <p>The National Rifle Association, which fights any effort to curtail gun rights in the U.S., has yet to comment on the new rule. </p>  <p>Bump stocks became a flashpoint issue in the nation’s gun control debate after Stephen Paddock used them to shoot down on concertgoers in Las Vegas from his hotel room, killing dozens before fatally shooting himself as law enforcement drew in.