DC Hearing Set Sept. 12 On Trump Compliance With 'Good Character' Liquor License Rule


djt tump int hotel

The Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, DC is shown above during its 2016 renovation (Justice Integrity Project photo).

A District of Columbia regulatory board is scheduled to hear a challenge on Wednesday to President Trump's 'good character' and thus to the Trump Organization's continued ability under local law to serve liquor in the Trump International Hotel, which is based in the historic Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House.

Five District religious figures and two retired judges filed a complaint in June before the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) that Trump failed to meet the law's requirement of "good character" that is necessary to hold a license via the Trump Organization management of the facility under its 99-year-lease. The complaint cited, among other things, claims that Trump was a “habitual liar” and accused sex offender who reportedly paid $25 million to settle claims of fraud against Trump University.

michael cohen ap file croppedA third amended complaint this month by the group's attorney Joshua Levy (available here) cited the recent guilty plea by Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, shown at left, to federal charges in which authorities named another person widely reported to be Trump as an "unindicted co-conspirator" with Cohen in hush money payments to cover up sex scandals.

Trump's representatives have denied any violation and called for dismissal of the action. Regulators on ABRA are scheduled to weigh the evidence on Sept. 12 as part of a day-long hearing on other alleged violations by liquor license holders in the District.

karl racineLevy told the Huffington Post's Mary Papenfuss for a report Sept. 7 that he expects a decision this week about whether the body will forward the complaint to the District's Attorney General Karl Racine, shown at right, for further action.

Update: ABRA dismissed the action on Sept. 12, as reported by DC keeps Trump's liquor license intact, with the view that licenses cannot be reviewed on an interim basis. Challenges vowed to persist.

Separately in July, a federal court authorized Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to proceed in evidence gathering for their lawsuit against Trump arguing that he violates the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause forbids federal officeholders from receiving financial or material benefits from foreign governments or domestic government bodies.

Their lawsuit, with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) as co-counsel, notes that foreign officials and entities have rented facilities at the Trump International Hotel. Racine issued a statement following his side's interim victory.

Our Justice Integrity Project has followed such litigation closely because it provides rare potential for accountability for widespread reports of corruption and other law-breaking by Trump, his companies and associates through the decades.

The late superlawyer Roy Cohn, Trump's attorney and mentor, also represented leaders of at least three of New York City's five Mafia families, as indicated by the Wikipedia collage below and by numerous books and articles about the mob's instrumental role in Trump's real estate and gambling holdings.

djt roy cohn mob clients carmine galante john gotti tony salerno1533348924301

david cay johnston headshotTrump biographer David Cay Johnston, left, wrote in The Making of Donald Trump, Johnston's second biography of the tycoon, that New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement remained "willfully blind" to Trump's many regulatory violations, unpaid bills and phony claims that he was a billionaire.

Johnston published one investigation of Trump's finances for the Philadelphia Inquirer headlined "Bankers Say Trump May Be Worth Less than Zero."

Johnston, who went on to report for the New York Times, closely covered Trump's Atlantic City casinos and mob associates as an indicator of the businessman's character. Atlantic City, crime and lax enforcement was the perfect environment, Johnston wrote, "for a Trump."

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Did Trump High Court Pick Whitewash 1993 White House Death?

As the U.S. Senate prepared for a Sept. 4 hearing on the controversial nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, some critics are renewing a seldom-reported view that Kavanaugh played a key role in covering up evidence in the 1993 death of Clinton White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster.

Critics Hugh Turley and Patrick Knowlton (the latter a witness who felt harassed by Kavanaugh's methods) have followed up years of controversy by sending a letter on Aug. 31 to all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The letter challenges the senators to explore what they call Kavanaugh's role covering up Foster's "murder," as described in their letter here.

Brett Kavanaugh.judgeWhy might leading Republican legal experts like Kavanaugh have supposedly conspired in a continuing cover-up of a tragic scandal involving a Democratic White House?

Turley declined to speculate as he spoke about the issue during his Aug. 29 lecture before the McClendon Group speaker society at the National Press Club.

But the most likely explanation points to bipartisan knowledge of heavy narcotics trafficking from Latin America through Arkansas during the Iran-Contra Affair during the 1980s when the Republican Reagan and Bush administrations wielded federal power, as described below.

In that view, neither political party then or now would want to explore Foster's work as a close associate of the Clinton family during Bill Clinton's gubernatorial years in Arkansas nor any of the potentially fatal implications for the nomination of Kavanaugh, 53, shown above at left, for a lifetime appointment to the court.

Foster's body was found in a Virginia park about 6 p.m. on July 20, 1993. Foster had last been reported seen five hours previously leaving his White House office about 1 p.m.

Kavanaugh, a hard-right attorney well-regarded in GOP circles, led the probe of Foster's death under Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, a Republican Reagan appointee to Washington's federal appellate bench during the 1980s and Justice Department Solicitor General from 1989 to 1993 under President George H. W. Bush.

vince fosterRepublicans on Washington's federal appeals court, led by Chief Judge David Sentelle, a prominent leader of the conservative Federalist Society, appointed Starr to investigate the Clintons' investments in Whitewater, an Arkansas real estate development, as Independent Counsel from 1994 to 1998.

In expanding the probe to other matters, Starr and his associate counsel, Kavanaugh, in 1997 affirmed a U.S. Park Service Police report asserting that Foster, shown right, had fatally shot himself in Fort Marcy Park, located near the Potomac River that divides Virginia from the District of Columbia.

That official report and similar ones have been widely disputed.

One sign of the dispute was the Aug. 31 letter to the Senate noted above. Others include: a 1997 special appendix to Starr's "Report on the Death of Vincent Foster," several books, and the dinner lecture on Aug. 29 at the press club by the conservative commentator Turley.

One of Turley's key points is that the park visitor, Knowlton, has repeatedly stated that Kavanaugh improperly pressured him to change his testimony disputing the official account of the death. 

American Survival Inc. President Cliff Kincaid, a conservative commentator with views similar to Turley's and Knowlton's, attended the press club dinner lecture also, as did Knowlton's attorney John Clarke. Kincaid previewed his group's report that opposes Kavanaugh. The report announced on Sept. 1 is entitled: "The Deep State Wears Black Robes." 

hugh turleyTurley, left, his colleagues Kincaid, the late Accuracy in Media founder Reed Irvine and others have researched the death for more than two decades. They conclude that Kavanaugh and Starr suppressed strong evidence disputing official police reports that Foster committed suicide in the park.

Turley asserts that Foster's death was a "murder," although he declined last week to speculate on who killed Foster or why.

Justice Integrity Project coverage of these allegations is part of our in-depth reporting on the Supreme Court that combines mainstream, alternative and original reporting. These materials are curated on our special sub-site SCOTUS Review, named for the "SCOTUS" initialization of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Our SCOTUS selections focus heavily during recent months on the history-making Kavanaugh nomination that President Trump made on July 9. That coverage includes political and legal analysis from the political right and investigators of Iran-Contra era narcotics trafficking that are seldom reported by the mainstream media.

barry seal 1982One especially sensitive topic is the cocaine trafficking of Barry Seal, shown at right in a 1982 photo. Seal, a talented pilot beginning as a teenager in Louisiana, became linked with both federal agencies and the Medellín Cartel at times. Seal used a small rural airport in Mena, Arkansas as one of his main landing spots before his assassination in 1986. Seal's life story is portrayed (with significant omissions) in the recent bio-pic American Made starring Tom Cruise as Seal.

Investigator Daniel Hopsicker, author of the book Barry and the boys, (with "the boys" including federal operatives at times in Seal's career, according to Hopsicker's account) estimates that Seal personally imported $5 billion of narcotics into the United States during his years as a rogue operative, making him one of the most important U.S. drug traffickers of all time. Seal, arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration for narcotics trafficking, was assassinated in 1986 after desperately seeking help with his case from friends, some in high places.

Kavanaugh's role in the Foster investigation deserves far more than scrutiny than it has received so far — or is likely to receive in the rushed Senate confirmation hearings — even if some of the more extreme allegations of "murder" and knowledge of past drug-running remain in doubt because of bipartisan complicity in thwarting law enforcement and judicial proceedings.

To confirm Kavanaugh under those circumstances, we argue, creates a travesty of justice.

Yet that is the foreseeable result of the rushed confirmation hearing with an expected vote nearly along party lines. It would take at least one Republican in the current 50-49 GOP majority to call for additional time to investigate Kavanaugh's background and the overall circumstances of his appointment.    

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Jury Gets Mind-Boggling Manafort Tax, Fraud Case


A federal jury in Virginia began deliberations on Aug. 16 of charges that President Trump's 2016 campaign manager committed astonishing levels of multi-million-dollar corruption.

Update 1: Manafort convicted on 10 of 18 counts as Justice Integrity Project's editor Andrew Kreig reports from inside the courthouse.

Update 2: On Sept. 14, Manafort pled guilty to a superseding indictment resolving all his remaining charges, including charged pending in the DFistrict of Columbia and all remaining 10 counts in Virginia. His plea included agreement to cooperate with prosecutors, $46 million in property forfeitures and admission that all government charges were valid. In return prosecutors promised to take his admissions into consideration in recommending sentencing. Details here in a CBS report and in the appendix: BS News, Paul Manafort will cooperate with special counsel.

Following a 12-day trial, the jury in the Washington suburb of Alexandria began considering the tax, bank fraud and conspiracy charges filed by the Justice Department's Trump For Presidentspecial counsel against 2016 Trump Campaign Manager Paul J. Manafort for conduct that stemmed largely from Manafort's years as adviser to a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party before he joined the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016.

But one subset set of the 18 pending charges alleged that Manafort — shown below right in a 2016 screenshot just before the Republican National Convention — received $16 million in unmerited, fraudulent loans from a Chicago banker who sought help from Manafort in 2016 to obtain a top post in the Trump administration.

That evidence opened a rare window into a breathtaking degree of corruption involving Trump supporters like Manafort and Chicago banker Stephen Calk, even if Calk obtained only an advisory post instead one of more than a dozen other top posts that he wanted.

paul manafort cnnQuoted below (near this column's conclusion) is Calk's seemingly illegal letter of self-recommendation (with repeated misspellings of simple words) and grandiose expectations of becoming Army Secretary, Treasury Secretary, or some comparable post near the highest level of government.

An email from Trump's influential son-in-law Jared Kushner introduced at the trial quoted Kushner as telling Manafort that Kushner was "on" the task of reviewing Manafort's recommendation of Calk. Manafort had been replaced as campaign manager during the summer but was still attempting to wheel and deal.

robert mueller full face fileThe first trial by the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, left, is important in sustaining public confidence because Trump and his supporters are ramping up their relentless effort to kill the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and related corruption issues.

The stakes thus extend beyond Manafort's fate.

But even the narrow scope of the allegations is remarkable. Manafort allegedly avoided income taxes on $60 million in income, then obtained many millions in more in fraudulent bank loans when his income evaporated — and still managed to escape detection from authorities in both parties until the special counsel probe.

'Big Picture' Not Allowed

Justice Department log circularMention of circumstances surrounding the $16 million in loans was an exception to the general rule imposed by the presiding judge that Manafort's campaign and Trump connections would be kept to a minimum during the trial. But those relationships are what kept the 100-seat courtroom packed to capacity throughout the trial. An overflow room was also near capacity at many times, including during closing arguments Wednesday.

The prosecution presented a powerful case with 27 witnesses supported by nearly 400 exhibits to show that Manafort paid minimal taxes on $60 million in income hidden in overseas banks from 2010 to 2014.

The bank accounts were located primarily in Cyprus, a preferred locale for Eastern European money launderers. The money was alleged to have come from allies of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, including Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. Not mentioned during the trial but well known to investigators is that Trump's U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross, a Mar-a-Lago crony of Trump, chaired the Bank of Cyprus before his current post.

The government also charged Manafort with repeatedly submitting false documents during the years 2015 and 2016 to obtain millions of dollars more in loans from three U.S. banks with fraudulent financial documentation after Manafort's income from oligarchs dried up because of the 2014 overthrow of the Ukraine' president.

rick gates cropped aug 2018The defense presented no witnesses and argued during closing arguments that any wrongdoing was committed by Manafort's junior partner Richard "Rick" Gates, left, who is now a prosecution witness, and other largely unnamed players. Gates seeks leniency from prosecutors via a plea deal to reduced charges. Gates is required by his plea agreement to testify honestly or face renewed prosecution.

Prosecutor Greg Andres argued that “The star witness in this case is the documents,” and not Gates. The prosecution entered 388 documents. The defense entered 10.

The defense closing argument seemed weak and scattered, according to many courtroom observers, including this editor. It thus seemed possible that Manafort, Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoinstead of seeking a plea deal, was relying on some non-courtroom strategy, such as a possible pardon from Trump.

Updates: The jury failed to reach a decision on its first two days of deliberations and asked the judge for guidance on four questions. Trump, meanwhile, told reporters on Friday that the prosecution was "sad" and he had sympathy for Manafort, whom he described as "a good man." The jury resumed deliberations on Monday.

This editor attended selected segments of the trial. Provided below are excerpts from others' coverage.

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Whistleblowers Focus On Solutions At 2018 'Summit'


senate dirksen building architect of capitol


The annual 2 1/2-day Whistleblowers Summit for Civil and Human Rights began on July 30 with a preview tailored to showcase the vital contributions that courageous, expert informants are making under difficult conditions to solve the nation's problems. 

chuck grassley officialThe first session of the free conference started at 9 a.m. Monday in the Senate Dirksen Building, in Washington, DC, shown above.

Among other highlights of the first day was a luncheon featuring Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, right, an Iowa Republican who has voiced strong support through the years for government whistleblowers helping to expose waste, fraud and abuse that hurts taxpayers. The ticketed lunch was organized on a complimentary basis as in previous years by the National Whistleblower Center.

Its Executive Director Stephen Kohn had discovered in 2013 a long-forgotten law passed in 1778 by the U.S. Continental Congress on July 30 (now "National Whistleblower Day"). This was because the Founders had received reports that two whistleblowers were being prosecuted in Rhode Island after reporting misconduct by the highest-ranking U.S. naval official at the time.

As Grassley noted in his remarks, the law enacted by the Continental Congress called on all U.S. inhabitants or officials to report "any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors." C-SPAN broadcast and archived here the 140-minute luncheon, which included as a featured segment at the end the first public remarks in 15 years by former Clinton White House staffer Linda Tripp.

The overall program is shown on the next page of this column, with details available also on the conference website at Whistleblowers Summit at a Glance. Sessions are in varied but nearby locations on Capitol Hill that are identified in the program.

This editor, a member of the event's overall host committee, joined the opening panel and moderated a session on July 31 about the challenging role of the news media in working with whistleblowers. The term has been defined as persons who expose any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. The word has been linked to the long ago police and citizen practice of using a whistle to alert the public to wrongdoing.

In my brief segment on the opening panel, I argued that the nation's problems are so serious right now that it is no longer enough to identify problems and use traditional (and often extremely difficult) methods of reform. I challenged participants to use the conference to brainstorm and collaborate for solutions on whatever issues they find most important.

My media panel on Tuesday at the Stewart Mott House next to the Hart Senate Office Building features longtime health journalist Kathryn Foxhall and USA TODAY Washington Enterprise Editor Ray Locker.

Foxhall, an active member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Press Club's Freedom of Information Committee, has been a leader in organizing media opposition to the increasing practice by Executive Branch officials of both parties to steer media coverage through Public Information Officers (PIOS).

These restrictions block the public from learning via the news media the views of knowledgeable federal employees who work on the substance of issues, as illustrated by a Foxhall talk ‘Censorship by PIO earlier this month to an annual conference of American university professors. PIOs and other public relations officials now far outnumber reporters in Washington and help maintain barriers between the public and whistleblowers and other sources of non-official information.

Locker, author of the bold and important 2016 book Nixon's Gamble: How a President's Own Secret Government Destroyed His Administration, provided expert tips on how whistleblowers and other concerned citizens can approach the major media during an era of huge staff cutbacks and many other pressures on news organizations.

rfk ambassador hotelMy focus, standing in for scheduled panelist Dr. William F. Pepper, a late cancellation on Friday because of a painful back condition preventing his travel, will be on Pepper's and others' breakthrough reporting and litigation casting doubt on the official accounts of the 1968 assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy is shown at left giving his California primary victory speech for the Democratic presidential nomination, shortly before his murder in a hotel pantry.

Pepper, a friend of both slain men, reinvestigated the slayings and concluded that the convicted killers, James Earl Ray for MLK and Sirhan Sirhan for RFK, were each patsies set up to take the fall for the real killers.

Pepper, an attorney, represented King's convicted killer Ray in his appeals and also the King family as the latter won a civil verdict in 1999 showing that the killing was a conspiracy.

Pepper currently represents the still-imprisoned Sirhan, who is seeking the first-ever evidentiary hearing introducing forensic ballistics and audio evidence to show that he could not have killed Kennedy, who was shot in the back three times according to the little-known autopsy of the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who is still alive in his 90s and is available as a witness.

The Washington Post and its experienced law enforcement reporter Tom Jackson published separate Sunday front-page articles this spring quoting family members as stating that they did not believe official accounts. The stories, based in part on scientific evidence, represented a breakthrough for such coverage — 50 years after each of the killings.

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ABA Honors Media Revelations About Injustice


The American Bar Association last week continued its 60-year tradition of annual media awards for legal coverage with a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

On July 17, the 2018 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts recognized outstanding work that, in the words of the bar association, "fosters the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system."

The six major awards for categories of print and video recognized cutting-edge work on policing, Japanese American internment during World War II, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the prison colony at Guantánamo, a murder trial, and mortgage-fraud prosecution.

“The American Bar Association (ABA) engages in a careful, deliberative judging process to pick winners of the Silver Gavel Awards,” said Stephen C. Edds, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Gavel Awards in announcing the awards. “We congratulate all of our 2018 awardees for their extraordinary efforts to foster the American public’s understanding of law.”

Beyond those kinds of formalities that could be spoken any year, speakers noted the backdrop of this year's ceremony: huge attacks on the reputation of legal establishment (such FBI and judicial personnel) and the news media, especially from the White House and its supporters.

akhil amar colorMedia speakers especially voiced concern over how their normal work is being undermined by savage attacks at the same time that Internet-fostered competition is creating devastating financial problems for media organizations, forcing staff and coverage reductions.

As a result, this year's awards ceremony was particularly important, according to keynote speaker Akhil Amar (right), a Yale Law School constitutional scholar and previous Silver Gavel award-winner in the book division.

In such times as these, the professor continued, the Silver Gavel process encourages in-depth and otherwise expensive reporting and commentary from many others besides award winners. The awards thus foster a much larger — and vitally necessary — eco-structure of other good work, he said.  

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Genocide Opponents Protest Myanmar Horrors


Amid continuing government-sponsored mass atrocities in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, human rights activists are ramping up anti-genocide advocacy nationally this month, particularly in Washington, DC.

myanmar flagThe Interfaith Coalition To Stop Genocide In Burma is calling on the U.S. government to more aggressively intervene in the situation and to enact tough sanctions against the government of Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma.

Faith Coalition spokeswoman Nicolee Ambrose travelled to the region this spring and opened a news conference on July 9 at the National Press Club  with reactions from her recent visit to Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

"Since August 2017," the coalition leaders said in their overview, "more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Burma due to horrific conditions of torture, rape, and murder at the hands of the Burmese government. The Kachin Christians are now facing the same treatment as the genocide continues."

aung san suu kyi 2011 myanmar The Rohingya are primarily Muslims from the country's western province Rakhine on the Bay of Bengal. Kachin, a northern province, is overwhelmingly Christian, stemming from long-ago missionary work.

Authorities claim that they are using security measures that are necessary against what they call rebels mingled with civilians.

Complicating the situation is the widespread perception that Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi (shown above), is widely regarded in some circles as a reformer following her years of imprisonment for her human rights advocacy.

But that view was contradicted this month by a 162-page report by the human rights group Fortify Rights. The New York Times summarized the report in Myanmar’s Military Planned Rohingya Genocide, Rights Group Says, which reported that the military pre-planned the slaughter and forced expulsion of about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from the nation.

nicolee ambrose myanmar interfaith coalition npc july 9 2018 IMG 5216 Small

"We cannot sit and do nothing," says the Rev. Bob Roberts, Jr., Senior Pastor at the Northwood Church in Dallas, Texas and co-chair of the Faith Coalition. He is at center above in the Justice Integrity Project photo of the July 9 news conference. Ambrose is at right and Kachin National Organization USA President Sut Nau Ndayu is at left.

"We are calling on President Trump to help the people of the region," continued Roberts (shown at right on his Twitter photo). "Our brothers and sisters cannot keep suffering at the hands of these thugs. Kachin and Rohingya people need to be repatriated to their bob roberts jr twittercountry and villages with full rights."

Last week's news conference featured two other natives of the Myanmar's Kachin province, which has experienced especially horrific oppression recently. They were: Dr. Khan Naw, a Kachin Baptist minister; and Bamai Nhkum, another representative of the national organization and currently a student in Iowa.

They protested the horrific mass rapes and other atrocities by the Buddhist dominated government (including military) against Christians in Kachin along with similar crimes against Rohingya from other parts of Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to adjoining Bangladesh, already one of the world's poorest nations.

After the July 9 news conference members of the Faith Coalition visited members of Congress. Their anti-genocide campaign is occurring amid other efforts that raise serious concerns about religious and ethnic persecution in Myanmar.

The problems include the impending trial of two Reuters reporters detained for more than 200 days. As reported in Decision to try two Reuters reporters shows Myanmar court is following orders, the reporters, Wa Lone and Kuyan Soe OO, face 14-year prison sentences on charges of violating the country's Official Secrets Act by investigating the Rohingya massacres.

Shown below is a photo and story published in February that led to the arrests of the two journalists. The story, Massacre in Myanmar: A Reuters Special Report, is further excerpted below.

myanmar execution reuters photo

Execution: This photo was taken on the day the 10 Rohingya men were killed. Paramilitary police officer Aung Min, left, stands guard behind them. The picture was obtained from a Buddhist village elder, and authenticated by witnesses (distributed by Reuters).

Myanmar's Leadership

Suu Kyi holds the title of State Counsellor, regarded as her country's highest non-military office. Another top political leader is Win Myint, 66, her close confidante in Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party,

Suu Kyi is the Oxford-educated youngest daughter of Aung San, the nation's modern founder. She won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights."

antónio guterres 2012 us missionUnited National Secretary General António Guterres (shown at right in a U.S. State Department 2012 photo) published an oped on July 11 in the Washington Post entitled The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing. The world has failed them.

"Small children butchered in front of their parents," Guterres wrote. "Girls and women gang-raped while family members were tortured and killed. Villages burned to the ground. Nothing could have prepared me for the bone-chilling accounts I heard last week in Bangladesh from Rohingya refugees who had fled widespread killings and violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar."

"The burden of helping desperate refugees," he concluded, "should not fall to front-line countries such as Bangladesh."

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