NY probe found potential crimes. Why isn’t Trump in cuffs?

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New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conference on Sept. 21, 2022, in New York. (AP)
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Pages from the court filing by New York state attorney general accusing former President Donald Trump and three of his adult children of padding his net worth by billions of dollars. (AP)
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Updated 23 September 2022

NY probe found potential crimes. Why isn’t Trump in cuffs?

  • In New York, the state attorney general’s office is only allowed to prosecute a limited range of offenses on its own, like bid rigging and payroll violations

NEW YORK: New York’s attorney general says her three-year investigation of former President Donald Trump uncovered potential crimes in the way he ran his real estate empire, including allegations of bank and insurance fraud.
So why isn’t Trump being prosecuted?
Attorney General Letitia James didn’t seek to slap handcuffs on the Republican this week, as some of his critics hoped. Instead, she announced a civil lawsuit seeking $250 million and his permanent banishment from doing business in the state.
Like many things involving the law and Trump, the reasons James, a Democrat, opted for a lawsuit rather than a prosecution are complicated.
For one, even if she did want to prosecute Trump, she doesn’t have jurisdiction under state law to bring a criminal case against him or any of the lawsuit’s other defendants, including the Trump Organization and his three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump.
In New York, the state attorney general’s office is only allowed to prosecute a limited range of offenses on its own, like bid rigging and payroll violations.
Otherwise, the office must partner with a county district attorney on a prosecution — as James’ office did with the Manhattan district attorney’s office in a case against Trump’s longtime finance chief — or obtain what’s known as a criminal referral from the governor or a state agency that has jurisdiction over the alleged wrongdoing.
Even then, mounting a criminal fraud case is far more challenging than a civil lawsuit.
In a criminal case, prosecutors would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump intended to commit a crime. In the lawsuit — if it goes to trial — jurors would only need to be persuaded it was more likely than not that wrongdoing occurred.
Filing a civil lawsuit while letting others sort out potential criminal violations is a sound strategy, legal experts said, allowing James to seek remedies other than prison time.
It allows the attorney general to avoid the kind of internal debate about criminal charges that fractured the Manhattan district attorney’s parallel investigation into Trump earlier this year.
No former US president has ever been charged with a crime.
The prospect of Trump, 76, behind bars as a result of a criminal prosecution could give juries pause, make judges more careful and make winning more difficult, said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias.
“Even for Trump, people don’t like him, but do they want to put him away?” Tobias said. “What would it take? What kind of punishment would be appropriate? So it’s just all around more difficult.”
A civil case, given its lower burden of proof standard, is “a lot easier to assemble ... and probably win,” Tobias said.
Trump, a Republican who’s laying the groundwork for another presidential run in 2024, has derided James as “a fraud who campaigned on a ‘get Trump’ platform.’”
In an interview Wednesday night with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, Trump suggested that his company had protected itself against possible fraud allegations by warning banks and potential business partners not to trust the information in its financial disclosures.
“We have a disclaimer right on the front,” Trump said. “’You’re at your own risk.’ ... ‘Be careful because it may not be accurate. It may be way off.’ ... ‘Get your own people. Use your own appraisers. Use your own lawyers. Don’t rely on us.’”
James said at a news conference Wednesday that her office was referring its findings to the US attorney’s office in Manhattan and the Internal Revenue Service, and would share evidence of possible state law violations with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, if requested.
The US attorney’s office in Manhattan said it was aware of James’ referral of potential criminal violations, but otherwise declined comment. The Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division said it “doesn’t confirm the existence of investigations until court documents are publicly available.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said his probe of Trump was “active and ongoing.”
The former prosecutor who had been leading Bragg’s investigation, Mark Pomerantz, resigned in February because he felt the office should be moving more quickly to bring criminal charges against Trump.
In a resignation letter, Pomerantz wrote that he believes the former president is “guilty of numerous felony violations.”
He said he had told Bragg there was “evidence sufficient to establish Mr. Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” of many of the same allegations that now appear in James’ lawsuit — including that Trump falsified financial statements to secure loans and burnish his image as a wealthy businessman.
If there’s no settlement agreement, James’ lawsuit against Trump could take years to play out and might not be resolved before the 2024 presidential election.
A fraud lawsuit James filed against the National Rifle Association recently entered its third year, slowed by legal wrangling and the powerful gun advocacy group’s attempts to get the case thrown out. No trial date has been set.
Drawn out legal proceedings could hurt Trump’s business by making lenders and potential partners reluctant to cut deals. But, if history is any guide, it’s not likely to be a crushing blow. Against the odds, and despite no shortage of legal battles in recent years, the company has been able to get new loans and raise money.
In February, the Trump Organization got a $100 million from a California bank to refinance commercial and retail space in its Trump Tower headquarters. That deal was struck just three days after Trump’s long-time accountants, Mazurs, disavowed a decade of financial statements it had helped prepare — a serious blow to his business reputation.
That big loan also came after the Trump Organization had already been indicted on fraud charges by the Manhattan district attorney’s office for allegedly helping executives evade taxes. That case is scheduled to go to trial next month.
Another recent victory for Trump as his legal troubles mount: Selling his Washington D.C. hotel for $375 million, far more than expected.
Several lending experts said the new loan show why much of Trump’s business is insulated from his political and legal storms: What matters most in real estate is the cash thrown off by rent and the collateral of the buildings — not the reputation of the owner.
 

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Women protesters demand more security after Afghan bombing

Updated 01 October 2022

Women protesters demand more security after Afghan bombing

  • The demonstration was quickly broken up by Taliban police
  • The bomber struck an education center Friday packed with hundreds of students in a Shiite neighborhood

KABUL, Afghanistan: A group of Afghan women Saturday protested a suicide bombing that killed or wounded dozens of students in a Shiite education center in the capital Kabul a day earlier, demanding better security from the Taliban-run government.
The demonstration was quickly broken up by Taliban police.
The bomber struck an education center Friday packed with hundreds of students in a Shiite neighborhood, killing 19 people and wounding 27. Among the casualties were teenagers taking practice university entrance exams, a Taliban spokesman said.
The morning explosion at the center took place in Kabul’s Dashti Barchi neighborhood, an area populated mostly by ethnic Hazaras, who belong to Afghanistan’s minority Shiite community. The Daesh group has carried out repeated, horrific attacks on schools, hospitals and mosques in Dashti Barchi and other Shiite areas in recent years.
About 20 protesters Saturday gathered in the Dashti Barchi area for about 45 minutes before their rally was broken up by Taliban security. They carried banners in English and Dari reading “Stop Hazar Genocide.”
“We are asking the Taliban government, when they claim that they have brought security, how they cannot stop an attacker from entering an educational center to target female students. In this incident, one family has lost four members, why is it still happening,” said demonstrator Fatima Mohammadi.
Staff at the Kaaj education center spent Saturday cleaning up the wreckage caused by the attack, while victims’ family members searched through items covered with blood belonging to their loved ones.
Hussain, who goes by one name, witnessed the attack. He said he believed the death toll was significantly higher, based on the large number of bodies he saw.
“First the attacker just over there, where a huge crowd of students was standing, opened fire. At least 40 people were killed there,” he said.
Zahra, a student who survived the attack, was unharmed because she went out just minutes before to buy a pen. She said she lost her friends in the attack and also her hope for a better future.
“I am not even sure if there is a future for us anymore or not,” she said.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. The Daesh group — the chief rival of the Taliban since their takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 — has in the past targeted the Hazara community, including in Dashti Barchi, in a brutal campaign of violence.
Militants have carried out several deadly attacks in Dashti Barchi, including a horrific 2020 attack on a maternity hospital claimed by IS that killed 24 people, including newborn babies and mothers.


At least 20 killed in Russian shelling of convoy in late Sept, Kyiv says

Updated 01 October 2022

At least 20 killed in Russian shelling of convoy in late Sept, Kyiv says

  • Seven vehicles were hit in shelling between occupied Svatove in Luhansk region and Ukrainian-held Kupiansk
  • The SBU published graphic images of destroyed civilian vehicles

KYIV: Ukraine’s SBU security service said on Saturday at least 20 civilians were killed in the Russian shelling of a civilian convoy in late September in an eastern “grey zone” between Russian-controlled and Ukrainian-controlled territory.
Seven vehicles were hit in shelling between occupied Svatove in Luhansk region and Ukrainian-held Kupiansk which Kyiv recaptured in the Kharkiv region last month, the SBU said in a statement.
The SBU published graphic images of destroyed civilian vehicles on a track next to a railway line and what appeared to be the charred remains of people. Two bodies were seated in the driving seats of their cars; one was holding the steering wheel.
Russian-installed officials in Ukraine’s east accused Kyiv on Thursday of shelling a convoy of refugees being evacuated from the Kharkiv region and killing around 30 civilians, Russian state media reported.
It was not immediately clear if those officials were referring to the same convoy.
Reuters could not independently verify the allegations.


UK train strikes and energy hikes add to a week of turmoil

Updated 01 October 2022

UK train strikes and energy hikes add to a week of turmoil

  • Only about 11% of train services were expected to operate across the UK on Saturday
  • Consumers were also hit with a jump in their energy bills Saturday

LONDON: Trains in Britain all but ground to a halt Saturday as coordinated strikes by rail workers added to a week of turmoil caused by soaring energy prices and unfunded tax cuts that roiled financial markets.
Only about 11 percent of train services were expected to operate across the UK on Saturday, according to Network Rail. Unions said they called the latest in a series of one-day strikes to demand that wage increases keep pace with inflation that is expected to peak at around 11 percent this month.
Consumers were also hit with a jump in their energy bills Saturday as the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine pushes gas and electricity prices higher. Household bills are expected to rise by about 20 percent, even after the government stepped in to cap prices.
Prime Minister Liz Truss, who has been in office less than a month, cited the cost-of-living crisis as the reason she moved swiftly to introduce a controversial economic stimulus program, which includes 45 billion pounds ($48 billion) of unfunded tax cuts.
Concern that the plans would push government debt to unsustainable levels sent the pound tumbling to a record low against the dollar this week and forced the Bank of England to intervene in the bond market.
“We need to get things done in this country more quickly,” Truss said in an unapologetic column for The Sun newspaper published Saturday. “So I am going to do things differently. It involves difficult decisions and does involve disruption in the short term.”
Many workers aren’t convinced.
Four labor unions have called three, 24-hour strikes over the next eight days, ensuring service disruptions for much of the week.
The timing is of particular concern for runners and fans trying to get to the capital for Sunday’s London Marathon, with is expected to attract 42,000 competitors.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union, said the strikes were designed to target the annual conference of Truss’s Conservative Party, which begins Sunday in Birmingham, England.
“We don’t want to inconvenience the public, and we’re really sorry that that’s happening,’’ Lynch said. “But the government has brought this dispute on. They (put) the challenges down to us, to cut our jobs, to cut our pensions and to cut our wages against inflation.”
Lynch urged Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan to take “urgent steps to allow a negotiated settlement.” The union said the latest figures showed railway bosses benefiting from government tax cuts.
As a result of the strike, there will be no service between London and major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle on Saturday. Lingering disruptions are likely to effect service on Sunday morning as well.
Runners and spectators traveling to London for the marathon, which begins at 9:30 a.m., have been warned they are likely to be frustrated by the strike.
“It is particularly disheartening that this weekend’s strike will hit the plans of thousands of runners who have trained for months to take part in the iconic London Marathon,’’ said Daniel Mann, director of industry operations at Rail Delivery Group. “That will also punish the many charities, large and small, who depend on sponsorship money raised by such events to support the most vulnerable in our community.”


Iranian city goes into blackout after IRGC intelligence chief killed in clashes

Updated 01 October 2022

Iranian city goes into blackout after IRGC intelligence chief killed in clashes

  • At least 36 people believed to have died when security forces opened fire on demonstrators
  • Protests broke out in Zahedan after an outcry over the rape of a 15-year-old girl

QUETTA: Communication services were down in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan on Saturday, after a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander was killed in clashes.  

Protests broke out in the capital of the Sistan and Balochistan province bordering Pakistan on Friday after an outcry over the rape of a 15-year-old Baloch girl, allegedly by a local military commander.

Ali Mousavi, IRGC intelligence chief of Sistan and Balochistan, was shot during the confrontation with protesters. The IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Residents of southeast Iran's Zahedan city tend to a wounded person after police shot at protesters on Sept. 30, 2022. (Photo courtesy: Muhammad Asif)

The killing was claimed by the Jaish Al-Adl militant group, which says it is fighting for the independence of Sistan and Baluchistan and greater rights for Baloch people, who are the main ethnic group in the province.

Footage emerging from Zahedan showed people carrying dead and wounded protesters amid heavy gunfire. The provincial administration said 19 people have died in the clashes. Local news agency Haal-e Vash reported the number of deaths to be at least 36, with dozens of others wounded.  

The internet has been blocked and mobile networks largely shut down in the city and surrounding areas since Friday, data from watchdog Netblocks shows, with residents of neighboring towns saying they have been unable to reach their relatives.

Mohammad Zia, a shopkeeper in Taftan, a city on Iran’s border with Pakistan, some 90 km from Zahedan, told Arab News that in some parts of the town weak mobile signals could be caught.

“But the internet services are still suspended in the entire Sistan and Balochistan region,” he said.

Muhammad Asif, who lives in Nokundi, a nearby town on the Pakistani side of the border, said he received disturbing footage from the deadly clashes in Zahedan on Friday and has since been unable to contact his family there.

“I have been constantly trying to contact my cousin who traveled there for business,” he said. “Due to the internet and mobile network blackout I am unable to contact him, which increases my worries.”

The death of the provincial IRGC intelligence chief is a major escalation in the antigovernment demonstrations that began in mid-September, triggered by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iranian morality police.

The country-wide rallies have been the largest manifestation of dissent against the Iranian government in over a decade.

As of Friday, at least 83 protesters have been killed by security forces, mainly in the provinces of Mazandaran, Gilan, Western Azerbaijan, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Alborz, and the capital Tehran, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization.

Thousands of demonstrators and civil activists have been arrested.

The toll is likely to increase with the Sistan and Balochistan casualties.


Powerful earthquake shakes Indonesia’s Sumatra, kills 1

Updated 01 October 2022

Powerful earthquake shakes Indonesia’s Sumatra, kills 1

JAKARTA: A strong and shallow earthquake shook Indonesia’s Sumatra island on Saturday, killing a resident, injuring 11 and damaging more than a a dozen houses and buildings, police said.
The magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck about 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) northeast of Sibolga, a coastal city in North Sumatra province, according to the US Geological Survey. It was 13 kilometers (8 miles) deep.
The pre-dawn earthquake was followed by two 5.0 magnitude aftershocks.
A 62-year-old man died of a heart attack while fleeing to safety in Tarutung village, which is closest to the epicenter, said local police chief Johanson Sianturi. Eleven people have been injured and at least 15 houses and buildings damaged in the village, he said.
Authorities were still investigating the full extent of the damage.
A footage released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency showed several residents evacuating an injured person by a van to a hospital while panicked voices cried for help. The agency also showed several people receiving treatment and walls cracked by the earthquake.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 270 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
In February, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.
A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.