A New York City police officer who also serves as a U.S. Army reservist has been charged with acting as an illegal agent of the government of China, federal prosecutors said on Monday. Baimadajie Angwang, 33, was arrested earlier Monday at his home on Long Island and was due in court in Brooklyn later in the day, the U.S. Department of Justice said in announcing the charges. “This is the definition of an insider threat – as alleged, Angwang operated on behalf of a foreign government; lied to gain his clearance, and used his position as an NYPD police officer to aid the Chinese government’s subversive and illegal attempts to recruit intelligence sources,” William Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s field office in New York, said in a statement. Prosecutors say Angwang, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in China, has acted as an agent of that country’s government since at least 2014. He was also charged with wire fraud and making false statements. Angwang is accused in court documents of reporting to Chinese consulate officials about the activities of Chinese citizens in the New York City area and assessing potential intelligence sources within the local Tibetan community, court documents charge. According to the criminal complaint, Angwang told his handler within the Chinese government that he wanted to get promoted within the NYPD so that he could assist the People’s Republic of China and bring “glory to China.” (Reporting by Mohammad Zargham in Washington and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)
Federal prosecutors said on Thursday they had filed additional charges against Lev Parnas, a one-time associate of President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who was already facing campaign finance-related charges. Prosecutors said they had charged Parnas and an associate, David Correia, with conspiring to defraud investors in an insurance company they operated. Prosecutors said a superseding indictment also includes fresh campaign finance law violations. Audrey Strauss, acting chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said that Parnas and David Correia, one of three co-defendants charged with Parnas in an indictment the prosecutor’s office issued in 2019, were charged in a superseding indictment with conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with their efforts to raise funds for a business they called “Fraud Guarantee.” Prosecutors said Parnas and Correia set up Fraud Guarantee in late 2012, and that, “ironically,” they had pitched the company to potential investors as an entity that would protect investors from fraud. In a statement, Strauss said: “Lev Parnas and David Correia conspired in a fraud using a company called ‘Fraud Guarantee’ that purported to insure investors against corporate fraud while in fact, as alleged, they misled investors as to what would be done with their money. ‘Fraud Guarantee’ takes on a different meaning in light of today’s allegations that the company was a vehicle for committing fraud, not insuring against it.” In addition to the wire fraud charges, the new indictment also charges Parnas, Correia and Igor Fruman, an associate of Parnas and Giuliani, with soliciting a foreign national to make donations and contributions, and charges Parnas, Fruman and a fourth man, Andrey Kukushkin, with aiding and abetting a foreign national to contribute to U.S. federal and state elections. Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, said: “Lev Parnas has been on strict home confinement for nearly one year, waiting for this superseding indictment, which contains no surprises. We are pleased that the matter can now move forward, for both Mr. Parnas and the public interest.” Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Fruman, said he had no comment, as did William Harrington, a lawyer for Correia. Lawyers for the other defendant, Kukushkin, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Chris Reese and Dan Grebler)
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly opened a criminal investigation whether former National Security Advisor John Bolton included classified information in his recently published book. The New York Times reported on Sept. 15 that Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe sent a referral to the DOJ regarding the matter, and officials at the department then convened a grand jury. Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” details his 17 months as national security adviser and shared several unflattering accounts of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. The Times reports that the grand jury also sent a subpoena to Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher, for communication records. Although Boltons submitted his book for a pre-publication review by the National Security Council to ensure it did not include classified information, he faced a drawn-out legal process and lawsuits aimed at blocking its publication. In the days leading up to the book’s publication, the DOJ filed a civil suit to prevent the book’s release as Attorney General William Barr asserted that there was still classified information that had not been removed. However, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth rejected the request to block the book’s publication. He argued, “While Bolton’s unilateral conduct raises grave national security concerns, the government has not established that an injunction is an appropriate remedy.” Lamberth did not let Bolton off the hook as he said, “Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability.” Additionally, Lamberth said he rejected the government’s request because “with hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe —many in newsrooms — the damage is done.” Bolton has maintained that his book did not contain classified information.
The U.S. Justice Department has launched an internal inquiry into circumstances surrounding the decision to ease sentencing recommendations for President Donald Trump’s long-time friend Roger Stone, a spokeswoman confirmed. “We welcome the review,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. The review by the department’s inspector general comes after Aaron Zelinsky, a career prosecutor, told lawmakers during a congressional hearing in June that his office received “heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice” to ease its sentencing recommendation for Stone, a political ally of the president. “Roger Stone was being treated differently from every other defendant. He received breaks that are, in my experience, unheard of,” Zelinsky told the House Judiciary Committee during his testimony. He and three other prosecutors withdrew from the case after senior department officials filed a new sentencing memo that backed away from the original recommendation of seven to nine years in prison. Stone, 67, was convicted of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress during its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In July, Trump commuted Stone’s sentence and proclaimed that Stone had been targeted by “an illegal witch hunt.” The inspector general’s inquiry into Stone’s sentencing was reported earlier on Monday by NBC News. According to that report, the review was triggered by Zelinsky’s testimony. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General said she can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation. Stone did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the news. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Sam Holmes)
Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks in Washington, D.C., September 4, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)Senator Chuck Grassley on Friday demanded more details from the Justice Department on the cell phones used by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team that were wiped before the DOJ inspector general could review them for records. “It appears that Special Counsel Mueller’s team may have deleted federal records that could be key to better understanding their decision-making process as they pursued their investigation and wrote their report. Indeed, many officials apparently deleted the records after the DOJ Inspector General began his inquiry into how the Department mishandled Crossfire Hurricane,” Grassley wrote in a letter dated Friday to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Advertisement “Moreover, based on this new information, the number of times and the stated reasons for the deletions calls into question whether or not it was a widespread intentional effort,” the Iowa Republican wrote. At least 27 cell phones belonging to members of Mueller’s team were wiped clean of data before the DOJ inspector general could comb them for records, the DOJ said in records released Thursday. Including mobile phones that were “reassigned,” members of the Special Counsel’s office wiped a total of 31 phones. Several of the phones were wiped “accidentally,” some after the wrong password was entered too many times. Andrew Weismann, a top prosecutor on Mueller’s team, “accidentally wiped” his mobile phone more than once, causing the data to be lost, the DOJ said. A phone belong to assistant special counsel James Quarles “wiped itself without intervention from him,” the DOJ’s records state. Advertisement Advertisement The cell phone of FBI lawyer Lisa Page was misplaced by the special counsel’s office. While it was eventually obtained by the DOJ inspector general, by that point the phone had been restored to its factory settings, wiping it of all data. The phone of FBI agent Peter Strzok was also obtained by the inspector general’s office, which found “no substantive texts, notes or reminders” on it. Phones issued to at least three other Mueller prosecutors, Kyle Freeny, Rush Atkinson, and senior prosecutor Greg Andres were also wiped of data. Grassley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, demanded that the DOJ provide the committee with records relating to the cell phones, including any recovered text messages and the explanations that members of Mueller’s team gave for why their phone data was deleted. Grassley also asked whether the DOJ is investigating potential violations of federal record keeping laws by members of the Special Counsel’s Office as well as whether the department attempted to forensically recover any deleted records. Mueller submitted his final report to Attorney General William Barr on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in March of last year. The report concluded that the Trump campaign did not conspire with Russians to influence the election, but said investigators could not reach a conclusion on whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice. Send a tip to the news team at NR.
President Donald Trump delivers remarks on judicial appointments in the Diplomatic Room at the White House, September 9, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)The DOJ one-ups E. Jean Carroll in gamesmanship over ‘defamation’ lawsuit against the president Welcome back to “Politics, Not Law,” where legal process is once again asked to do the heavy lifting for democratic self-determination in a free republic. In this week’s episode, we have the anti-Trump world in full froth over the Justice Department’s intervention on the president’s behalf in a lawsuit brought against him by E. Jean Carroll. A longtime advice columnist at Elle magazine, the 76-year-old Ms. Carroll alleges that, 24 or 25 years ago — she says she can’t be sure of the year . . . or the time of year — Donald Trump, then a flamboyant New York real-estate magnate, raped her in a fitting room at Bergdorf Goodman, a tony department store in midtown Manhattan. Advertisement Only the lawsuit is not about rape. At the time she alleges she was sexually assaulted, Carroll neither went to the police nor said anything publicly — though she says she told a couple of friends about it. Rather, nearly a quarter-century later, when Trump was president, Carroll included the allegation in a book she published, entitled What Do We Need Men For? Inevitably, the media asked Trump about her claim, and he strenuously denied it. So Carroll sued him . . . for defamation. Interestingly, Carroll’s book also makes a similar allegation against Les Moonves, the former CBS bigwig. Like Trump, Moonves has been the subject of unproven sexual-abuse claims (though he has resigned over some of them, and the network is withholding his megabucks severance package pending its investigation). Carroll says Moonves accosted her in a hotel elevator sometime before February 1997, when the profile for which she was interviewing him was published by Esquire — a profile in which she makes no mention of the alleged incident (because, she says, she is one of the “Silent Generation,” who does “not dwell on the past”). Again like Trump, Moonves strenuously denies the claim, but Carroll does not appear to have taken legal action against him. Advertisement Advertisement As for Carroll’s tawdry Trump tale, there is slightly more to it, on both sides. Trump being Trump, he can never just deny something and leave it at that. In an interview with The Hill, he snarked that the allegation could not be true because Carroll is “not my type” — a variation on a go-to response Trump has used to parry similar allegations, though this time he noted that he was saying it “with great respect.” In the interview and in a statement put out by the White House, the president maintained that Carroll was lying, insisting that he had never met her and knew nothing about her. Carroll quickly produced a photograph in which she and Trump are both depicted at a 1987 party, alongside their (now former) spouses. The snapshot seems cordial enough, but, of course, it establishes neither that Trump and Carroll were much acquainted with each other nor that he would remember her many years later — either at Bergdorf’s or today. In any event, it is not defamatory to deny knowing someone (at least in these circumstances — and maybe in any circumstances). The gravamen of Carroll’s defamation claim is Trump’s assertion that she is not telling the truth about the rape allegation. Advertisement Is that defamation? If Carroll had pressed charges when the accusation was still actionable, and Trump had pleaded not guilty (which he’d be entitled to do), the implication of the plea would be that she was lying, even if Trump had not said so in so many words. That is to say, this is not much of a defamation case. As a tort claim, defamation is a pretext here. Carroll’s real objective is to press a sexual-assault claim that is otherwise time-barred — both civilly and criminally. Advertisement Now, don’t get me wrong; the law allows her to do this. A New York State court has been entertaining her civil lawsuit. But let’s keep it real: While Carroll and the battalions of anti-Trumpers cheering her on are now feigning outrage at the legal gamesmanship of the president and his Justice Department, there is only a court case at all because Carroll is engaged in legal gamesmanship, too. Advertisement Now, about all that maneuvering. For nearly four years, the president has taken his share of lumps in court proceedings. This time, though, he holds the trump card, as it were. Under federal law, government officials may not be hauled into state court anytime they are accused of committing civil wrongs in the course of their official duties. A statute, known as the Westfall Act, generally permits them to move the case into federal court and, more importantly, to substitute the United States as the defendant. The theory is that when public officials act in their official capacity, their actions are the government’s actions. Under the Westfall Act, as construed by federal courts, the ambit of official acts is extremely broad. No surprise there: Statutes are written by members of Congress, and this one protects members of Congress (as well as officers of the executive and judicial branches). High-profile officials become subjects of public concern, and that affects how they do their jobs. The courts have thus recognized that these officials’ statements to the media — even if unsolicited and involving personal rather than public matters — are deemed to be actions within the scope of their governmental duties. And here is the kicker: If the United States is the defendant, the doctrine of sovereign immunity applies. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the government has not consented to be sued for defamation. Therefore, the Justice Department’s action this week, which transfers Carroll’s lawsuit to federal district court in Manhattan, almost certainly means the case will be thrown out. As you’d expect, there are gusts of indignation over this. Attorney General Bill Barr chalks them up to “the bizarre political environment in which we live.” DOJ’s intervention here is “routine,” and the AG explained that similar motions were made on behalf of Presidents Obama and Bush 43, as well as Vice President Cheney. But these days, as the Wall Street Journal’s Bill McGurn dryly observes, “the Trump justifies the means” — unlike past presidents, this one is portrayed as if he were not entitled to the rights, prerogatives, privileges, and immunities of the office. Advertisement Wait, you say, Obama, Bush, and Cheney were not accused of rape. Fair enough, and it is not within the realm of imagination that such an accusation would be leveled at any of those gentlemen. So then, you figure libertines like Trump and, say, Bill Clinton should not be in that same staid category? Okay, that’s fair enough, too, and maybe it should make a difference — politically. Legally, though, it’s beside the point. Whatever you may think of Trump, he is not accused of rape — not in the legal sense of accuse. The accusation against him is defamation, which is significantly less serious. If Trump had been formally accused of a sexual assault, federal law would not have helped him. When Bill Clinton was formally accused by Paula Jones of sexual harassment prior to his presidency, there was no immunity. He was civilly sued and ultimately paid an $850,000 settlement. The law is not concerned about the character of the federal official implicated in a civil claim; the questions are strictly (a) whether the official was acting in his governmental capacity and (b) whether the tort involved is one for which the United States, as the sovereign, has consented to be sued. End of story. Well, not quite the end. Let’s be real again. E. Jean Carroll’s case is not about rape, but her story is. Her claim is stale and there are significant credibility problems with it, just as there are with the allegation Tara Reade has leveled against Joe Biden. But it’s not like these women are outliers. There are lots of disturbing allegations about the candidates. Character flaws abound. And it’s exhausting. But that’s a political issue, not a legal one. If our political processes continually produce flawed candidates, that’s not a problem of the law’s making. We should stop expecting lawsuits to fix it.