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Ex-FBI lawyer to plead guilty in Trump-Russia probe review

Ex-FBI lawyer to plead guilty

A former FBI lawyer plans to plead guilty to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from U.S. Attorney John Durham's investigation into the probe of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign, his lawyer said Friday.

Kevin Clinesmith is accused of altering a government email about a former Trump campaign adviser who was a target of secret FBI surveillance, according to documents filed in Washington's federal court. His lawyer, Justin Shur, told The Associated Press that Clinesmith intends to plead guilty to the single false statement count and that he regrets his actions.

The case against Clinesmith was cheered by President Donald Trump and his supporters as they look to the Durham investigation to lift Trump's wobbly reelection prospects and to expose what they see as wrongdoing as the FBI opened an investigation into whether the Trump campaign was co-ordinating with the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.

“The fact is they spied on my campaign and they got caught,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday. His political campaign issued its own statement saying “abuses of power” in the Russia investigation “represent the greatest political crime in American history” and everyone involved should be held accountable.

Yet the five-page charging document is limited in scope and does not allege criminal wrongdoing by anyone other than Clinesmith, nor does it offer evidence to support Trump's assertions that the Russia probe was tainted by widespread political bias in the FBI. It makes clear that the FBI relied on Clinesmith's own misrepresentations as it sought to renew its surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

The Durham probe, which is also examining the intelligence community's assessment about Russian election interference, has caused concern among Democrats, who view it as a politically charged exercise meant to relitigate an already closed investigation. They fear that charges or public reports issued so close to the 2020 election could be timed to affect November's vote.

Durham's inquiry has proceeded alongside a parallel effort by Senate Republicans to discredit the Russia probe and as Attorney General William Barr has escalated his own criticism of the FBI's probe. Documents released in recent months have called into question the validity of information the FBI relied on, particularly from a dossier of Democratic-funded research, when the agency applied for applications to surveil Page.

Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, had no comment, a spokesman said. It remains unclear what additional charges, if any, Durham might bring, though he has been closely scrutinizing how intelligence agencies arrived at the conclusion that Russia had interfered in 2016 to benefit Trump.

Justice Department policy directs prosecutors to not take investigative actions aimed at affecting an election, or that could advantage or disadvantage a candidate. But Barr has said he does not feel constrained by that policy in part because the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice-President Joe Biden, is not a target of Durham's investigation.

Durham's work parallels in some respects a separate investigation into the Russia probe by the Justice Department's inspector general office. That office concluded in a report last December that the Russia investigation was opened for a valid reason, but it also identified significant errors and omissions in surveillance applications filed in 2016 and 2017 that targeted Page.

The watchdog office also referred Clinesmith for potential prosecution.

Specifically, the inspector general accused Clinesmith, though not by name, of altering an email to say that Page was “not a source” for another government agency.

Page has stated publicly that he was a CIA source. The inspector general's report and Friday's charging document describe how Clinesmith inquired of another government agency, presumably the CIA, whether Page had been a source. He said that that was a fact that would need to be disclosed as the FBI applied to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew its surveillance of Page.

In June 2017, the documents show, Clinesmith was provided with information about Page's relationship with the agency, which had approved him as an “operational contact” between 2008 and 2013.

When an FBI colleague who was involved in preparing the surveillance application followed up by instant message with Clinesmith on the question of whether Page had ever been a government source, Clinesmith responded that Page had “never been a source,” according to court documents.

When asked if he had that information in writing, the documents allege, Clinesmith altered an email he had received from the other agency by adding the words “and not a source” and then forwarded it to the FBI supervisory special agent.

The FBI relied on those misrepresentations in its final surveillance application and omitted that information about Page, prosecutors allege, even though any relationship between Page and the government would have been important to disclose to the FISA court to the extent it could help explain interactions Page had had with Russians.

Clinesmith told the inspector general that he had not actually understood Page to be a source, or “recruited asset,” for another government agency.

“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email," Shur said in a statement. “It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues, as he believed the information he relayed was accurate, but Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility.”

Durham is a veteran prosecutor with a history of special assignments from Washington, including leading a Justice Department investigation into the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects and the destruction of videotapes documenting those interrogations.

Barr appointed Durham just weeks after special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his nearly two-year investigation.

Mueller found significant contacts during the 2016 campaign between Russians and Trump associates but did not allege a criminal conspiracy between them. He also examined multiple episodes in which Trump sought to affect or choke off the Russia investigation, but he did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump had obstructed justice.

Barr quickly signalled his skepticism with the Russia investigation, concluding that Trump had not obstructed justice even though Mueller had pointedly left that question unresolved.



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Trump visits brother, Robert, at New York hospital

Trump's brother in hospital

President Donald Trump on Friday paid a visit to his younger brother, Robert Trump, at the New York hospital where he has been hospitalized.

The president entered New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan wearing a face mask on Friday afternoon.

“I hope he’s okay,”Trump said shortly before arriving at the hospital. "He’s having a tough time.” The hospital visit came ahead of Trump's scheduled weekend trip to his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The White House did not immediately release details about why Robert Trump, who is 72, had been hospitalized, but officials said that he was seriously ill.

“I have a wonderful brother. We’ve had a great relationship for a long time, from day one," Trump told reporters before departing for New York. “He’s in the hospital right now, and hopefully he’ll be all right."

Robert Trump, one of the president's four siblings, recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Trump family seeking to stop publication of a tell-all book by the president’s niece Mary titled “Too Much and Never Enough." She is the daughter of the eldest Trump sibling, Fred Trump Jr., who struggled with alcoholism and died in 1981 at the age of 43.

The president has said that Mary Trump’s book was a violation of a nondisclosure agreement she signed in connection to a financial settlement she received from the Trump family.

In her book, Mary Trump claimed that no family members joined Fred Jr., who was known as Freddy, at the hospital on the night he died, adding that Donald Trump went to the movies with another sibling instead.

Robert Trump had previously worked for his older brother as a top executive at the Trump Organization. Once a regular bold face name in Manhattan's social pages, he has kept a lower profile in recent years. He married his longtime girlfriend, Ann Marie Pallan, in March, according to the New York Post. He divorced his first wife, Blaine Trump, more than a decade ago.

In a 2016 interview with the New York Post, he described himself as a big supporter of his brother's run for the White House.

“I support Donald one thousand per cent,” Robert Trump said.



Trump admits he's blocking postal cash to stop mail-in votes

Trump blocks mail-in votes

U.S. President Donald Trump frankly acknowledged that he's starving the U.S. Postal Service of money to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him re-election.

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump explicitly noted two funding provisions that Democrats are seeking in a relief package that has stalled on Capitol Hill. Without the additional money, he said, the Postal Service won't have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump told host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”

Trump's statements, including the false claim that Democrats are seeking universal mail-in voting, come as he is searching for a strategy to gain an advantage in his November matchup against Joe Biden. He's pairing the tough Postal Service stance in congressional negotiations with an increasingly robust mail-in-voting legal fight in states that could decide the election.

In Iowa, which Trump won handily in 2016 but is more competitive this year, his campaign joined a lawsuit Wednesday against two Democratic-leaning counties in an effort to invalidate tens of thousands of voters’ absentee ballot applications. That followed legal manoeuvrs in battleground Pennsylvania, where the campaign hopes to force changes to how the state collects and counts mail-in ballots. And in Nevada, Trump is challenging a law sending ballots to all active voters.

His efforts could face limits. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rebuffed Republicans who challenged an agreement in Rhode Island allowing residents to vote by mail through November’s general election without getting signatures from two witnesses or a notary.

For Democrats, Trump’s new remarks were a clear admission that the president is attempting to restrict voting rights.

Biden said it was "Pure Trump. He doesn't want an election.”

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said it was " voter suppression to undermine the safest method to vote during a pandemic, and force Americans to risk their lives to vote."

Negotiations over a big new virus relief package have all but ended, with the White House and congressional leaders far apart on the size, scope and approach for shoring up households, reopening schools and launching a national strategy to contain the coronavirus.

While there is some common ground over $100 billion for schools and new funds for virus testing, Democrats also want other emergency funds that Trump rejects.

“They want $3.5 billion for something that will turn out to be fraudulent. That’s election money, basically,” Trump said during Thursday's call-in interview.

Democrats have pushed for a total of $10 billion for the Postal Service in talks with Republicans on the COVID-19 response bill. That figure, which would include money to help with election mail, is down from a $25 billion plan in a House-passed coronavirus measure.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said that the agency is in a financially untenable position, but he maintains it can handle this year's election mail. A major donor to Trump and other Republicans, DeJoy is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee.

“Although there will likely be an unprecedented increase in election mail volume due to the pandemic, the Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on-time in accordance with our delivery standards, and we will do so," he told the Postal Service's governing board last week.

Memos obtained by The Associated Press show that Postal Service leadership has pushed to eliminate overtime and halt late delivery trips that are sometimes needed to ensure mail arrives on time, measures that postal workers and union officials say are delaying service. Additional records detail cuts to hours at post offices, including reductions on Saturdays and during lunch hours.



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For Harris, memories of mother guide bid for vice-president

Mom guides Harris VP bid

Speaking from the Senate floor for the first time, Kamala Harris expressed gratitude for a woman on whose shoulders she said she stood. Penning her autobiography, she interspersed the well-worn details of her resume with an extended ode to the one she calls “the reason for everything.” And taking the stage to announce her presidential candidacy, she framed it as a race grounded in the compassion and values of the person she credits for her fighting spirit.

Though more than a decade has passed since Shyamala Gopalan died, she remains a force in her daughter’s life as she takes a historic spot on the Democratic ticket besides former Vice-President Joe Biden. Those who know the California senator expect her campaign for the vice presidency to bring repeated mentions of the woman she calls her single greatest influence.

“She’s always told the same story,” says friend Mimi Silbert. “Kamala had one important role model, and it was her mother.”

Taking the stage Wednesday in her first appearance beside Biden as his running mate, Harris invoked her mother's memory, saying she always responded to gripes with a challenge.

“She’d tell us, ‘Don’t sit around and complain about things. Do something.’ So I did something,” Harris said Wednesday in her first appearance with Biden as his running mate.

Making clear the feeling off loss despite the buoyancy of the biggest moment of her professional life, Harris tweeted Thursday: “I dearly wish she were here with us this week.”

Harris’ parents met as doctoral students at the University of California, Berkeley at the dawn of the 1960s. Her father, a Jamaican named Donald Harris, studied economics. Her mother — Shyamala Gopalan — studied nutrition and endocrinology.

Gopalan Harris defied generations of tradition by not returning to India after getting her doctorate, tossing aside expectations of an arranged marriage. She gave birth to Kamala and then Maya two years later. And even with young children, Harris’ parents continued their advocacy.

In her autobiography, “The Truths We Hold,” she writes of her parents being sprayed with police hoses, confronted by Hells Angels and once, with the future senator in a stroller, forced to run to safety when violence broke out.

A few years into the marriage, Harris’ parents divorced. The mother’s influence on her girls grew even greater, and friends of Harris say they see it reflected throughout her life.

Andrea Dew Steele remembers it being apparent from the moment they sat down to craft the very first flyer for Harris’ first campaign for public office.

“She always talked about her mother,” Dew Steele said. “When she was alive she was a force, and since she’s passed away she’s still a force.”

The influence of Harris’ mother far outweighed that of her father. He and her mother separated when she was 5 and, though the senator trumpeted her father as a superhero in her children’s book, there are signs of iciness in their relationship. The senator said they have “off and on” contact.

The singularity of her mother’s role in her life made her death even harder for Harris. The senator says she still thinks of her constantly.

“It can still get me choked up,” she said in an interview last year. “It doesn’t matter how many years have passed.”



UK's Princess Anne to mark 70th birthday in low-key fashion

Princess Anne turns 70

Queen Elizabeth II's only daughter, Princess Anne, will be celebrating her 70th birthday on Saturday in a no-nonsense manner befitting her reputation in Britain.

Whatever is planned for the princess, it will have to be a scaled-back affair because of the coronavirus pandemic. Not that the pandemic has stopped Anne.

She's been as busy as ever helping out the many charities with which she is associated, such as Save the Children. She also has been seen remotely assisting her mother get to grips with online video calls while the queen and Prince Philip are locked down at Windsor Castle.

Mike Tindall, the former England rugby player who is married to Anne's daughter, Zara, said the family had planned to mark his mother-in-law's milestone in Scotland but that alternative arrangements had to be made.

“I’m sure we’ll do something as a family to celebrate her 70 amazing years. She’s just an incredible woman in terms of how much work she can get through in the year,” Tindall told the BBC. “We will be doing something. As yet, I don’t know whether she knows, so my lips are sealed.”

As part of the birthday celebration, Anne has been the subject of an ITV television documentary, more than a year in the making. It features unseen family footage and conversations with her daughter, her son, Peter Phillips, and with her husband, Vice Admiral Tim Laurence.

Anne, whose formal title is Princess Royal, is widely admired for her work ethic, sporting pedigree - she competed as an equestrian in the 1976 Olympic Games - and for a particularly dry British sense of humour that she donned with such effect during a kidnapping attempt in 1974.

Born on Aug. 15, 1950 at Clarence House, one of the royal family’s London residences, she is the younger sister of Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and elder sibling to princes Andrew and Edward. She is currently 14th in the line of succession.

Anne has plowed her own path since she was a young girl. She certainly hasn't been the traditional sort of princess seen in fairy tales.

“As a young princess, I was a huge disappointment to everyone concerned," she once remarked. "It’s impractical to go around in life dressed in a long white dress and a crown.”

While Anne is connected with more than 300 charities, organizations and military regiments, and regularly tops the list of royals carrying out the most public engagements, she is probably best known in Britain for her prowess in the saddle.

She — and her horse Doublet — won the European Championship eventing individual gold medal in 1971, an achievement that earned her the admiration of the nation and the coveted BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Sport has featured in her life ever since. As well as winning a place in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Anne has been a long-standing member of the International Olympic Committee. She also played a central role in London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, and was a member of the organizing committee.



Prosecutors dispute Jeffrey Epstein's ex-girlfriend's claims

Ghislaine's claims disputed

Prosecutors on Thursday disputed claims by lawyers for a British socialite that they are too slowly releasing evidence and improperly withholding the names of women who were abused by financier Jeffrey Epstein while they were children.

In court papers, Manhattan prosecutors defended their handling of charges brought last month against Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, while saying they are “deeply concerned" by the actions of Maxwell's lawyers.

“To date, the defendant has yet to ask the Government a single substantive question" about evidence, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan. “The Government is also prepared to engage in good faith discussions with the defence about an appropriate schedule for disclosure."

Maxwell, 58, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she recruited three girls, including one who was 14, and joined Epstein in the abuse in the 1990s.

Her lawyers said earlier this week in a letter to the judge that they can’t properly investigate the charges against Maxwell because prosecutors won’t tell them the identities of the three accusers.

They also said Maxwell is being treated unfairly at a federal jail in Brooklyn, where “uniquely onerous conditions” are preventing her from adequately preparing for a trial scheduled for next July.

Prosecutors say they are protecting the identities of sexual assault victims and are under no legal obligation to immediately identify them.

The government said it has already given defence lawyers over 165,000 pages of evidence, including search warrant applications and subpoena returns, even though the deadline to turn over the material was still a week away.

And they suggested defence lawyers could figure out the identities of the three accusers since the indictment lists relevant time periods and events and references Maxwell's conversations and interactions with victims, along with identifying where they occurred.

They also expressed doubts about the ability of the defence lawyers to adhere to rules about secrecy of evidence prior to trial, saying they were “deeply concerned" by recent actions by Maxwell's lawyers.

They said the defence had “publicly claimed in a civil filing that they purportedly had received ‘critical new information' from the criminal case that it could not disclose" because of its secrecy agreement regarding evidence in the criminal case.

Yet, prosecutors noted, Maxwell's lawyers also said publicly that they want to modify their secrecy agreement to use materials from the criminal case in the civil case.

Prosecutors said the secrecy deal “expressly precludes" that.



Facebook beefs up anti-misinfo efforts ahead of US election

Facebook labels voter posts

Beginning Thursday, U.S. Facebook users who post about voting may start seeing an addendum to their messages -- labels directing readers to authoritative information about the upcoming presidential election.

It's the social network's latest step to to combat election-related misinformation on its platform as the Nov. 3 election nears — one in which many voters may be submitting ballots by mail for the first time. Facebook began adding similar links to posts about in-person and mail-in balloting by federal politicians, including President Donald Trump, in July.

These labels will link to a new voter information hub similar to one about COVID-19 that Facebook says has been seen by billions of users around the world. The labels will read, “Visit the Voting Information Center for election resources and official updates.”

Despite such efforts, Facebook continues to face widespread criticism around how it handles misinformation around elections and other matters. The company has generally refused to fact-check ads by politicians, for instance, and a two-year audit of its civil rights practices faulted the company for leaving U.S. elections “exposed to interference by the President and others who seek to use misinformation to sow confusion and suppress voting.”

The effectiveness of such labels will depend on how well Facebook’s artificial intelligence system identifies the posts that really need them, said Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media. If every post containing the word “vote” or “voting” gets an informational link, he said, “people will start ignoring those links.”

Facebook expects the voter hub to reach at least 160 million people in the U.S., said Emily Dalton Smith, who serves as head of social impact at the company. The primary focus is registering people to vote, she said, but the information people see will evolve throughout the election season.

“This is a unique election and a unique election season," she said. “Certainly we have never gone through an election during a global pandemic."

Other tech companies, Twitter and Google, which owns YouTube, have undertaken similar efforts around the November election. Twitter said it is working on expanding its policies to address “new and unique challenges” related to this year’s elections, including misinformation around mail-in voting.

Looking ahead to November, Facebook said it is “actively speaking with election officials about the potential of misinformation around election results as an emerging threat."

The company did not give details on the potential threats, but said that a prolonged ballot process where results are not immediately clear “has the potential to be exploited in order to sow distrust in the election outcome."

“One way we plan to fight this is by using the Voting Information Center and the US Elections digest in Facebook News to make sure people have easy access to the latest, authoritative information and news on and after Election Night," Naomi Gleit, vice-president of product management and social impact, wrote in a blog post.



Georgia governor to drop lawsuit over Atlanta mask mandate

Mask lawsuit dropped

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday said he’s dropping a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta in a dispute over the city’s requirement to wear masks in public and other restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kemp had sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council to block them from implementing restrictions at the local level, even as case counts and hospitalizations in the state soared.

The Republican governor argued that local governments can't impose measures that are more or less restrictive than those in his statewide executive orders, which have strongly urged people to wear masks but not required them.

He has sought to block local governments from issuing orders requiring that masks be worn, but several cities, including Atlanta, have done it anyway.

In addition to mandating masks, Bottoms, a Democrat, made statements in July indicating that the city would return to Phase One of its reopening plan, meaning that people would have to return to sheltering at home and restaurants would have to return to takeout and delivery only. She later said those statements were recommendations, not legal orders, and that Kemp did not understand what she was doing.

A statement sent out by Kemp's office on Thursday said the lawsuit is being dropped because of Bottoms' “concession regarding the city’s Phase One roll-back plan and following her refusal in mediation to further negotiate a compromise.” A spokeswoman for Georgia's attorney general declined to comment.

Bottoms responded with a statement of her own.

“From the start of this pandemic, my only goal has been to help save lives,” she said. “While it is unfortunate that the Governor seeks to intentionally mislead the people of our state by issuing a woefully inaccurate statement regarding our good faith negotiations and the City’s reopening recommendations, I am grateful that this lawsuit has been withdrawn and the time and resources of our city and state can be better used to combat COVID-19.”

Georgia has had more than 228,000 confirmed cases of the virus, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Public Health. At least 4,538 people have died in Georgia after contracting the virus.

Confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths have ballooned sharply since early June, after the state, under Kemp's direction, became one of the first in the nation to allow businesses to reopen in the spring. The lawsuit filed July 16 asked a judge to overturn Bottoms’ orders that are more restrictive than Kemp’s, block her from issuing any more such orders, and instruct the City Council not to ratify Bottoms’ actions or adopt any ordinances inconsistent with Kemp’s orders. It also sought to prohibit Bottoms from making public statements asserting she has authority that exceeds Kemp’s, and to require city officials to enforce “all provisions” of Kemp’s existing orders.

In a court filing last month, lawyers for the city argued that the lawsuit is barred by sovereign immunity, which says state and local governments can’t be sued without their consent. The city has the right to take action to protect the public, and its mask mandate is not inconsistent with or preempted by the governor’s order, the city’s filing argued.

“In the absence of state leadership on this issue, local governments have stepped in to protect their citizens,” the city’s filing said.

The Georgia Municipal Association, which represents municipal governments throughout the state, as well as Democratic state lawmakers and several labour unions had filed briefs saying the governor has overstepped his authority by trying to limit additional measures taken by local governments to fight the spread of the coronavirus.



Feds say Yale discriminates against Asian, white applicants

Feds say Yale discriminates

A Justice Department investigation has found Yale University is illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants, in violation of federal civil rights law, officials said Thursday.

Yale denied the allegation, calling it “meritless” and “hasty.”

The findings detailed in a letter to the college’s attorneys Thursday mark the latest action by the Trump administration aimed at rooting out discrimination in the college application process, following complaints from students about the application process at some Ivy League colleges. The Justice Department had previously filed court papers siding with Asian American groups who had levied similar allegations against Harvard University.

The two-year investigation concluded that Yale “rejects scores of Asian American and white applicants each year based on their race, whom it otherwise would admit,” the Justice Department said. The investigation stemmed from a 2016 complaint against Yale, Brown and Dartmouth.

“Yale’s race discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavoured applicants, including in particular Asian American and White applicants,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, who heads the department’s civil rights division, wrote in a letter to the college’s attorneys.

Prosecutors found that Yale has been discriminating against applicants to its undergraduate program based on their race and national origin and “that race is the determinative factor in hundreds of admissions decisions each year.” The investigation concluded that Asian American and white students have “only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials,” the Justice Department said.

“Unlawfully dividing Americans into racial and ethnic blocs fosters stereotypes, bitterness, and division,” Dreiband said in a statement. “It is past time for American institutions to recognize that all people should be treated with decency and respect and without unlawful regard to the colour of their skin.”

The investigation also found that Yale uses race as a factor in multiple steps of the admissions process and that Yale “racially balances its classes.”

The Supreme Court has ruled colleges and universities may consider race in admissions decisions but has said that must be done in a narrowly tailored way to promote diversity and should be limited in time. Schools also bear the burden of showing why their consideration of race is appropriate.

In a statement, Yale said it “categorically denies this allegation," has co-operated fully with the investigation and has been continually turning over “a substantial amount of information and data.”

“Given our commitment to complying with federal law, we are dismayed that the DOJ has made its determination before allowing Yale to provide all the information the Department has requested thus far,” the university said in a statement. “Had the Department fully received and fairly weighed this information, it would have concluded that Yale’s practices absolutely comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent.”

The university said it considers a multitude of factors and looks at “the whole person when selecting whom to admit among the many thousands of highly qualified applicants.”

“We are proud of Yale’s admissions practices, and we will not change them on the basis of such a meritless, hasty accusation,” the statement said.

The Justice Department has demanded that Yale immediately stop and agree not to use race or national origin for upcoming admissions. The government also says that if Yale proposes that it will continue to use race or national origin as a factor in future admission cycles, the college must first submit a plan to the Justice Department “demonstrating its proposal is narrowly tailored as required by law, including by identifying a date for the end of race discrimination.”

The Justice Department has also previously raised similar concerns about Harvard University, which prosecutors accused of “engaging in outright racial balancing,” siding with Asian American students in a lawsuit who allege the Ivy League school discriminated against them.

A federal judge in 2019 cleared Harvard of discriminating against Asian American applicants in a ruling that was seen as a major victory for supporters of affirmative action in college admissions across the U.S. That ruling has been appealed and arguments are scheduled for next month.

In the Harvard case, the Justice Department had argued that the university went too far in its use of race, but the judge disagreed. Though the Supreme Court has ruled that colleges’ use of race in admissions must be “narrowly tailored” and can be only a “plus factor,” past rulings still give colleges wide latitude in considering a wide range of factors, including race, as they build their classes.



Netanyahu: 'New era' in Israel's relations with Arab world

'New era' in Israel relations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the announcement that full diplomatic ties will be established with the United Arab Emirates has ushered in a “new era” in Israel’s relations with the Arab world.

In a nationally broadcast statement delivered on Thursday, Netanyahu said the “full and official peace” with the UAE would lead to co-operation in many spheres between the countries and a “wonderful future” for citizens of both countries.

Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.

Netanyahu also said in the broadcast that the Trump administration asked that Israel put its West Bank annexation plans on hold to move forward with the agreement on ties with the UAE.

Netanyahu said there was “no change” to his plans to annex parts of the West Bank. But he said the plans were on “temporary hold” and that implementing annexation would be done with U.S. co-ordination.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.

The announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state to do so and only the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties to Israel.

Trump tweeted a statement from the countries, acknowledging the deal. He then told reporters in the Oval Office that it was “a truly historic moment.”

“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

The recognition grants a rare diplomatic win to Trump ahead of the November election as his efforts to see an end to the war in Afghanistan have yet to come to fruition while efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians have made no headway. Israel and the UAE also have been among Trump's closest foreign allies.

For Israel, the announcement comes after years of boasting by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government enjoys closer ties to Arab nations than publicly acknowledged. Netanyahu has sought to build settlements on lands sought by the Palestinians and embraced a Trump proposal that would allow him to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank while granting Palestinians limited autonomy in other areas.

For the UAE, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai and the rolling, oil-rich sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, it further burnishes its international campaign to be seen as a beacon of tolerance in the Middle East despite being governed by autocratic rulers. It also puts the UAE out first in a regional recognition race among neighbouring Gulf Arab states.

And for the Palestinians, who long have relied on Arab backing in their struggle for independence, the announcement marked both a win and setback. While Thursday's deal halts Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.

“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi wrote on Twitter. She also said the UAE has come forward with its “secret dealings/normalization with Israel.”

“Please don’t do us a favour. We are nobody’s fig leaf!” she wrote. The official Palestinian broadcaster Palestine TV reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called an urgent meeting of his top leadership to discuss the agreement and determine a position on it.



Biden raises $26M in 24 hours after Harris VP announcement

Biden raises $26M in 24 hrs

Joe Biden raised $26 million in the 24 hours after he named Kamala Harris as his running mate, doubling his previous one-day record and signalling enthusiasm among Democrats following the selection of the first Black woman on a major party's presidential ticket.

“It's really palpable, the excitement,” Biden said Wednesday.

The campaign hopes the haul is the beginning of a prolific fundraising push in the final stretch before Election Day. Democrats are close to matching, if not surpassing, the massive $300 million cash stockpile President Donald Trump and Republicans reported in July.

Harris is expected to play a key role in that effort. She joined Biden in Delaware on Wednesday for their first fundraiser together as running mates and talked to grassroots donors about how her parents' activism inspired her interest in politics.

“This is a campaign that really fuels my hope because it is about knowing that this is fighting for something and not against something and it’s fighting for the best we are as a nation,” Harris said. “It’s fighting for the best of who we can be.”

With large in-person events out of the question because of the pandemic, the campaign has an aggressive schedule of online fundraisers planned for Harris. That could play to one of her political strengths and offset an area where Biden has sometimes struggled.

Harris already has a robust network of donors in her native California, a state that has long been referred to as the ATM of the Democratic Party. She can rake in cash from Wall Street. And Harris, who is also of Asian descent, has the potential to bring new money into the Democratic fold because of the historic nature of her candidacy.

“To have someone on the ticket whose mother is from the south of India is a dream come true,” said Swadesh Chatterjee, a businessman from North Carolina who also raises money for political candidates. “You will see more fundraising from the Indian American community.”

Lisa Hernandez Gioia, who was a deputy finance director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, called Harris a “fundraiser's dream.”

"Donors already have an eagerness,” she said. “She adds the star power that will be like an afternoon shot of espresso to the campaign’s fundraising.”

Before it was clear he would win the Democratic nomination, Biden was never a particularly successful fundraiser. As a longtime senator from Delaware, a small, solidly blue state, he never had to cultivate a national network of donors. And party fundraisers have long grumbled that he lacked the same touch with donors that he has shown when working a rope line.

Biden’s campaign was virtually broke the time he won the South Carolina primary, which revived his prospects and powered his way to the Democratic nomination. And while his clinching of the nomination has led to a flood of campaign contributions, some believe Harris can juice totals even higher.

Yet Harris, who dropped out of the Democratic primary last year, has had her own struggles with fundraising.

She launched her presidential bid in early 2019 and raised $15.5 million by mid-March, an impressive showing at an early stage in the race. But her campaign hemorrhaged money. And while she wowed well-heeled donors, she struggled to develop a competitive base of grassroots contributors who chip in small amounts online, a phenomenon that fueled the fundraising success of rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.



US budget deficit climbs to record $2.81 trillion

US deficit hits $2.81 trillion

The U.S. budget deficit climbed to $2.81 trillion in the first 10 months of the budget year, exceeding any on record, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.

The nation's budgetary shortfall is expected to eventually reach levels for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 more than double the largest annual deficit on record.

The federal government rang up a $63 billion deficit in July, the department reported. That's a relatively modest amount compared to red ink that spilled in the spring months when the government tried to revive an economy that all but ground to a halt due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last month's deficit was sharply lower than June's $864 billion, in part because the government collected a record amount tax revenue in July — $563 billion — after extending the filing deadline to July 15. That extension allowed Americans more time to sort through the economic havoc wrought by the pandemic.

Outlays to the Small Business Administration, which doled out $511 billion as part of the Paycheck Protection Program in June, fell to about $26 billion in July.

So far this budget year, government receipts total $2.82 trillion, off just 1% from the same period last year, Treasury officials said, crediting the “income replacement” provided by various government aid packages. In other words, unemployment benefits and other aid are still taxable.

Outlays so far this budget year total $5.63 trillion, a 50% increase over the $3.73 trillion at this point in 2019, with the vast majority of the extra spending related to fortifying the country's economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress has already passed rescue packages totalling nearly $3 trillion this year, but Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on another relief bill, just as an expanded unemployment benefit of $600 per week expired on July 31.

President Donald Trump issued a series of presidential directives last weekend to prolong the extended unemployment benefits at $400 a week, with 25% to be paid for by the states. But it’s unclear how much of an economic boost the extension would provide, given the economic uncertainty and funding that could run dry after five weeks.

Democrats in the House passed another bill with $3 trillion in aid, but the Republican-led Senate is pushing for a package closer to $1 trillion and did not bring the House bill up for a vote before going on August recess.

The Congressional Budget Office has forecast a $3.7 trillion deficit for this fiscal year as the country fell into a deep recession in February, ending a record expansion of nearly 11 years. The Trump administration is predicting that the economy will bounce back in second half of 2020, but many private forecasters are concerned that consumers will dial back spending as infections surge in states like Florida. Consumer spending drives the U.S. economy, making up about 70% of all economic activity.



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