*Sen. Van Hollen on Comey Firing: Rosenstein ‘Was Used’
In the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s departure, a Republican senator has told the White House he thinks Merrick Garland—the judge nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama, who never even received a hearing—would be perfect for the position. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) tweeted on Thursday, “Instead of a special prosecutor, @realDonaldTrump should nominate Merrick Garland to replace James Comey.” His spokesman, Conn Carroll, repeated that desire to The Daily Beast. “He’s been sharing this idea with other Senate staff, and communicated this to the White House. It’s something we want the administration to take seriously,” said Carroll. “There was some interest [from White House staff].” Sen. Amy Klochubar (D-MN) also tweeted her support for the idea on Thursday. “Good idea @SenMikeLee. Former prosecutor Merrick Garland for FBI Director is great idea,” she wrote. “Need special prosecutor too.”
*Saudis Paying U.S. Veterans to Counter 9/11 Lawsuits
Saudi Arabia has launched an expensive campaign to counter Congress’s decision to allow families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue the kingdom in U.S. courts over its alleged funding of the 2001 hijackers. Many opponents of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which passed in September, have still not revealed their funding, but the Associated Press reports the Saudis have been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for U.S. military veterans to visit Capitol Hill to warn lawmakers about the bill’s potential consequences. Critics say the measure would expose U.S. troops and diplomats to lawsuits that otherwise couldn’t be filed because of sovereign immunity. While the bill passed the House and Senate with overwhelming support last September, President Obamavetoed it. Many of the recruited veterans were seemingly unaware that Saudi Arabia was paying for their travel and efforts. Organizers did not notify the Justice Department about the kingdom’s role in the campaign until months afterward, despite a World War II-era law that requires U.S. lobbyists to reveal payments from foreign governments.
*New York Fines Cab Companies for Swindling Undocumented Immigrants
Three upstate New York taxi companies have been slapped with fines for engaging in price gouging when transporting undocumented immigrants fleeing the U.S. to Canada. The New York State Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday said the fines were part of a settlement agreement reached with Plattsburgh companies Northern Taxi, Town Taxi, and C & L Taxi, all of which “admitted to not posting rates as required by law.” New York state Attorney General Eric Schneidermansaid the companies were exploiting the current political situation—which has seen a surge in illegal border crossings to Canada—to dupe desperate undocumented immigrants into paying unreasonably high fares. “It’s no secret that we’ve seen intense fear in immigrant communities across New York in recent months. To take advantage of that fear for financial gain is simply unconscionable,” Schneiderman said in a statement. The financial penalties to be paid range from $350 to $2,500.
*Trump: I Came Up With ‘Prime the Pump’
*Second Confederate Monument Taken Down in New Orleans
The second of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans was removed overnight in an operation to take down what some believe are symbols of racism—but not without a fight. Protests followed the removal of the statue, which saluted Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Those who argue the monuments honor Southern heritage—as well as those who believe the statues are long-lasting symbols of white supremacy—took to the area early Thursday morning. MayorMitch Landrieu called the operation a “long overdue process of removing four statues that honor ‘the Lost Cause of the Confederacy.’” A heavy police presence monitored the two groups, who were separated by barricades and engaged in shouting matches against one another throughout the early morning hours. “The fight that we’re waging is against the city fathers who have refused to bring about genuine equality and freedom for the black people here,” said Malcolm Suber, who said he’s in an activist organization called #TakeEmDownNOLA. Others, on the opposing side, shouted things like “I PRAY for another Katrina,” referring to the deadly hurricane and flood that disproportionately killed black New Orleans residents and left many homeless.
*Russian Photographer’s Visit to White House Prompts Alarm
Former intelligence officials have expressed alarm over the White House’s decision to allow a Russian photographer into the Oval Office for President Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday. The photographer, who was working for one of Russia’s state-owned news agencies, was allowed into the meeting even as his American counterparts were blocked. A senior administration official told The Washington Post that while the Russian photographer went through a thorough security screening, Russian officials had misled the White House about his role. The Russian was not just Lavrov’s official photographer, as Russian officials said, but also a journalist employed by the state-run Tass news agency, according to the report. “We were not informed by the Russians that their official photographer was dual-hatted and would be releasing the photographs on the state news agency,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Several former U.S. officials were cited by the Post as saying the move was a potential security breach, giving the Russian government the chance to plant listening devices or surveillance equipment in the Oval Office. The incident adds to a growing list of concerns over the Trump administration’s ties to and handling of Russia, just a day after Trump’s high-profile firing of FBI Director James Comey, the man in charge of the investigation into Moscow’s alleged ties to the Trump campaign.
|*LBN-SITE OF THE DAY:|
LBN E-Lert Edited By Dan Gaylord
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