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washington post logowilbur rossWashington Post, Government ethics office scolds Wilbur Ross over stock sales, Steven Mufson, July 13, 2018 (print edition). The commerce secretary (right) was strongly reprimanded for failing to completely divest himself of his far-flung stock holdings in a timely fashion and for taking short positions in an effort to offset certain stocks until they could be sold.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jared Kushner lacks security clearance for most sensitive intelligence that goes to Trump, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, July 13, 2018 (print edition). Jared Kushner (right), a senior White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law, lacks the security clearance level required to review some of the government’s most sensitive secrets, according to two people familiar with his access.

For the first year of the Trump administration, Kushner had nearly blanket access to highly classified intelligence, even as he held an interim security clearance and awaited the completion of his background investigation.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoBut when White House security officials granted him a permanent clearance in late May, he was granted only “top secret” status — a level that does not allow him to see some of the country’s most closely guarded intelligence, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security issues.

Kushner has not yet been approved to review “sensitive compartmented information,” better known as SCI. The Central Intelligence Agency determines who can access this information, which primarily involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods, they said.

The Hill, Top National Security Council official forced out: report, Jacqueline Thomsen, July 13, 2018. A top National Security Council (NSC) official was forced to leave the group on Thursday, the most recent departure since national security adviser John Bolton joined the administration earlier this year, Politico reports.

Jennifer Arangio, a senior director in the NSC who worked with global groups, was escorted off White House premises and told that she was no longer needed in the administration, according to Politico.

stephen miller nbc screenshot whAn NSC spokesman told the newspaper that the group doesn’t comment on personnel issues, and Arangio didn’t return the publication’s request for comment. A former White House official told the outlet that Arangio is “fiercely loyal” to President Trump, but that she clashed with White House aide Stephen Miller (shown at right).

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washington post logomelania trump i really dont care jacket twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Nothing else Melania Trump wears will ever matter again, Robin Givhan, July 13, 2018. Once again, Melania Trump stepped onto the international stage in the traditional role of first lady: an emissary of the American people and a fashion mannequin of soft diplomacy.

But her credibility has been significantly undermined by her own hand. All it took was a $39 olive-drab jacket.

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The 100th birthday anniversary of President John F. Kennedy on May 29 prompted many memorials about the late president's enduring popularity, the continuing controversies over his murder, and at least one prominent display of unseemly mockery of him on Memorial Day by a big newspaper.

JFK Center Centennial Celebration 2017With Kennedy's birthday as a news peg, the mass media and major cultural institutions focused heavily on JFK's achievements, agenda, family, and legacy for politics, the arts and foreign affairs.

But some Kennedy supporters stressed also the uncomfortable reminder that the search for truth about his death continues. Polls show that most Americans do not believe the official accounts of his death, particularly the central claim in the 1964 Warren Report that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to kill the president by firing three shots during the president's 1963 motorcade in Dallas.

Beyond that, a Washington Post feature story, JFK’s last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht, timed for the late president's birthday mocked Kennedy and his friends for their behavior on his last birthday.

National Security StateThis column surveys these developments and previews an important forum June 3 in Virginia, The National Security State and JFK.

The all-day event at the Washington Dulles Airport Marriott includes as speakers film maker Oliver Stone, former Texas Republican congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, and academics / authors Jeffrey Sachs, Michael Glennon, Stephen Kinzer, Douglas Horne, Peter Janney, Jefferson Morley, and David Talbot. Jacob Hornberger, a book publisher and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation that organized the event, announced that C-SPAN will cover it.

This editor is attending that program, and also participated as an investigative historian in several of the other events noted above during the past week regarding the JFK memorial, as described below.

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British authorities threatened WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with arrest on a bond-jumping charge last week after their Swedish counterparts gave up trying to investigate Assange on what appears to have been a dubious series of sex claims that have been pending against him for nearly seven years since his 2010 speaking trip to Stockholm.

Julian Assange in graphic by The IndicterThe British effort, if pursued aggressively with threatened punishment beyond the norm, would further compound a travesty of justice that has already disgraced the Swedish and British legal systems.

The Swedes have wasted vast amounts of taxpayer money for the probe, as have the British in the latter's around-the-clock surveillance of Assange for years cost millions of pounds. The evidence suggest that both nations have undertaken such extraordinary actions to thwart WikiLeaks and not to investigate claims arising out of consensual sex with two Swedish women who invited Assange to sleep with them separately before complaints arose. 

Assange is shown in a graphic by the European human rights magazine The Indicter. Designated by a United Nations body 15 months ago as the victim of unlawful detention stemming from a political prosecution, Assange has lived since 2012 in Ecuador's London embassy.

Ecuador granted Assange political asylum from Sweden's demand, affirmed by Britain's courts, for Assange's extradition to face renewed questioning. Sweden has never charged the WikiLeaks founder with an offense but has instead insisted until recently that he must return to Sweden for questions about sexual activities, even though the initial prosecutor questioning him found no basis for charging him before her supervisors dismissed her from the case.

Swedish flagAssange has argued that Western intelligence, court and media operatives had orchestrated the entire sex smear as a pretext to arrange his extradition to the United States so he could be prosecuted on more serious charges arising from secret proceedings against WikiLeaks.

The transparency organization's disclosures have embarrassed and infuriated top officials of several Western nations, most recently because of WikiLeaks disclosures that seriously embarrassed Democrats in the 2016 election campaign.

Right from the start in 2010, independent observers described the Swedish probe as highly irregular in ways that tainted authorities, their witnesses, and the merit of their claims.

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The Justice Department's top two officials have helped enable longstanding, deeply hidden Justice Department deceit and obstruction of justice in major cases, thereby paving the way for President Trump’s shocking firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9.

Many Americans reacted with outrage at President Trump's suggestion on May 12 that he may have secretly taped Comey while Comey sought retention as the FBI probed potential criminal Russian influence over Trump's team and the 2016 elections.

But relatively few people even in government or the media know the vast abuses that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long enabled as a U.S. senator in Alabama beginning in 1996 and previously as a U.S. Attorney and attorney general in that state since 1981.

That's because he's a master of the dark arts of political intrigue, including dark money, political prosecutions of enemies, blackmail and other repeated abuses of the justice system — each of them tactics that are most effective when obscured by rhetoric about conservative principles, national security, family values and "rule of law." Sessions, shown in a photo, was Trump's first major supporter among elected officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Update

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)The Justice Department has appointed Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director (shown at left), to serve as a special counsel to oversee its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein (shown at right below) announced on Wednesday.

Rod Rosenstein Deputyty Atttorney GeneralThe appointment of Mr. Mueller dramatically raises the stakes for President Trump in the multiple investigations into his campaign’s ties to the Russians, as reported by the New York Times in Russia Investigation Gets Special Counsel and elsewhere.

Among other updates, CNN's Jim Acosta and Pamela Brown reported that Rosenstein notified neither the White House nor Sessions until Mueller had been appointed, thereby illustrating that the Justice Department's deputy attorney general appeared to have sought to avoid political considerations and to have rapidly reversed his recent statement that no special prosecutor was needed. This is the first U.S. special counsel in more than a decade.

Alabama Precedents

As another update, Alabama blogger Roger Shuler extensively excerpted in our column in his James Comey firing was an "assault on constitutional values," and Jeff Sessions, with his long history of abusive tactics in Alabama, was in the middle of it. Shuler integrating our reporting it with his own expertise drawn from hundreds of columns in recent years about Deep South corruption and intrigue by Sessions and his confederates.

"Jeff Sessions is a racist," Alabama opposition researcher and political activist Dana Jill Simpson told the Justice Integrity Project in an exclusive interview on May 12. "He has been on the far, far, far right even by the standards of Alabama conservatives."

Jill SimpsonSimpson is an Alabama attorney and former GOP political operative who courageously stepped forward in 2007 to describe the DOJ's frame-up on corruption charges of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, her state's leading Democrat. She is shown in a 2008 photo from a CBS "60 Minutes" exposé on the Siegelman case featuring her as a whistleblower along with others claiming a political prosecution. 

She has also helped this editor and other investigative reporters document many scandals. These include involvement by Sessions and his cronies in mind-boggling national and international intrigues. Among them have been secret dealings with Russia, suspicious awards of defense contracts involving tens of billions of dollars in one instance, and a sinister role in the 2007 U.S. attorney firing scandal that Simpson helped expose and document.

Roger Shuler

Roger Shuler, an Alabama blogger who has written hundreds of columns about irregularities in the Siegelman case alone, wrote another last week headlined, No one should be surprised at Jeff Sessions' role in Trump's firing of James Comey; Sessions has a history of using such underhanded tactics in Alabama. Shuler is shown in a mug shot after he was beaten at his home by deputies as they arrested him on a civil contempt charge that kept him jailed without bond in a trumped-up proceeding arising from his blog claims of sex scandals involving prominent GOP political and legal figures.

In March, the Guardian published a similar analysis headlined 'Gun for hire': how Jeff Sessions used his prosecuting power to target Democrats by reporters Jon Swaine and Oliver Laughland, with this sub-headline: As the Justice Department’s man in Alabama, Trump’s attorney general indicted political opponents in remarkably thin cases, court filings show. “Jeff Sessions is was one of the most corrupt public servants in Alabama history, running a political hit squad for organized crime.”

Simpson describes Sessions as "the national ringleader of partisan abuses of the legal system, first in Alabama and then via his leadership of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where he was in a position to help appoint prosecutors, judges and other officials to accuse some people unfairly and let others off, and otherwise reward his patrons and confederates."  

President Trump (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr)

Sessions, forced to recuse himself in March from involvement in the FBI's probe of Russia because he falsely told fellow senators during his confirmation hearing that he had had no recent contacts with Russian officials, is also deeply implicated in secret business deals with Russia to benefit his vast networks of cronies, according to our years of reporting.

Trump (shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore) appears to be also deeply enmeshed in dark money from dubious sources obscured by intermediaries, according to many investigative reports that are not contradicted by the half-truths of his press releases claiming innocence. In this environment, only the power of subpoena by independent investigators can protect the public from the kind of kleptocracy that Sessions has helped inflict on Alabama and which Trump appears determined to replicate throughout America.

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President Trump said today that he had planned to fire FBI Director James Comey this week no matter what others said. That contradicted the initial explanations of Vice President Pence and White House staff and raised the the possibility obstruction of justice into the ongoing criminal probe of Russian influence on his campaign.

President Donald Trump officialOn the morning "Today" show on May 11, Trump told NBC TV's Lester Holt that Comey was a "showboat" whom he planned to fire "regardless" of what Justice Department officials might want.

The explanation thereby contradicted what Pence (shown below left) and the White House communications staff had been telling the public about the reasons for Comey's sudden firing May 9 as he led the FBI's probe into Russian influence peddling with the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, including interference with the elections.

Mike Pence

Trump said also that Comey wanted to stay in the job and told the president during a dinner and then in two phone calls that Trump was not under investigation.

White House news correspondents tried to question Trump's deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during the afternoon White House press briefing conference about the administration's initial claim that Comey was fired on the basis of a recommendation by the newly appointed Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein.

Another line of questions was whether Trump and Comey violated Justice Department policy (and possible criminal law) by discussing the president's potential liability for crimes, particularly when the president had the ability to make a deal by rewarding the probe's leader by continuing him in office.

Sanders, the deputy press secretary, organized much of the press briefing on other topics. She falsely told the media that she would answer "all" their questions and denied that any significant discrepancy existed between the original White House explanation of Comey's firing and Trump's explanation.

Huckabee said the Comey firing was part of the White House attempt to end the FBI's probe of Russian influence as soon as possible "with integrity." Whether she knew it or not, her admission that the firing was tied to Comey's probe, and not that Comey had been too mean to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, could draw a dangerous link to obstruction of justice, as reported here: Sarah Huckabee Sanders admits Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice by firing James Comey.

Huckabee abruptly ended the conference by walking away from the podium while ignoring a barrage of shouted questions from reporters she had failed to call upon. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) responded by describing Comey as "one of the most ethical, upright, straightforward" FBI officials he had ever had the pleasure of working with. Burr (shown in an official photo) further contradicted Sanders by saying that he believed that Comey enjoyed the confidence of fellow FBI personnel before Trump fired the director March 9 while Comey was traveling and just four years into Comey's 10-year-term.

At a hearing today before the committee, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe also contradicted the president by saying that he holds Comey "in the highest regard," that the vast majority of FBI enjoyed a deep connection with Flynn and that such support continues to "today."

No previous president has ever fired an FBI director except for President Bill Clinton's non-controversial dismissal of a director, William Sessions, who had been placed under investigation for ethics violations by a previous Republican boss, Attorney Gen. William Barr, and Justice Department internal investigators.

Other commentators exploded after NBC interview with allegations (or at least pointed questions) that Trump's actions presented conflict of interest on multiple grounds because the probe involved major financial, election, counter-espionage and disclosure scandals involving close advisors to Trump, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

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A House of Cards producer and an exonerated ex-convict discussed justice reform during an innovative and compelling forum last week at the National Press Club.

John Mankiewicz, an executive producer and screenwriter for the hit television series House of Cards about a ruthless U.S. president, described why he became fascinated with ordeal of Jerry Miller, a Chicago man exonerated by DNA evidence from a kidnap-rape conviction in 2007. Miller had spent nearly 25 years in prison. Miller's 1982 sentence was for a 1981 crime committed by another man whom Miller did not know.

Against the current background of a real-life president whose new administration is cracking down on defendants' rights and other civil liberties, Miller underscored the challenges he experienced even after release and exoneration.

Miller said that authorities needlessly shamed and scarred him on parole as a "sex offender" and otherwise. It was so bad, he said, that he felt even after his release to his welcoming family, “This is harder than being in jail.”

Miller and Mankiewicz (shown at far left and left, respectively in the photo below) spoke on March 1 at the press club to discuss their collaboration on a new book, Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted. Editors for the anthology paired 14 victims (as established by post-conviction evidence) each with a well-known thriller or mystery author.

Speaking also on the panel was the book’s co-editor Laura Caldwell, a best-selling novelist, attorney and the founder/director of the Life After Innocence project at the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago. The moderator was Press Club President Jeffrey Ballou. He is shown with Caldwell at the right of the adjoining photo, which was taken at the panel by the Justice Integrity Project. The collection was co-edited by novelist Leslie Klinger.

The anthology includes a previously unpublished essay by the late playwright Arthur Miller. He led a campaign in Connecticut nearly four decades ago to free Peter Reilly, who had been coerced by state police when he was teenager into falsely confessing that he had murdered his mother. That controversy provoked bitter struggles within the law enforcement community and at one point pitted a reform-minded chief state's attorney against the politically powerful state police union, some of whose members had extracted the teenager's confession and wanted him kept imprisoned.

Those problems are widespread and still with us, as illustrated by the other case studies. One focused on a California law student, Gloria Killian, who served 17 years on a murder conspiracy charge before discovery that the murderer had bargained for a reduced sentence from authorities by falsely claiming that she was the murder mastermind.

As a reminder also of the high stakes nationally, the Trump Administration's new attorney general, Jeff Sessions (shown in an official photo) last month ordered the Justice Department to shut down its forensic science committee. That closure, reported by the Washington Post here, prompted concern by last week's forum panelists. So did such other Sessions initiatives as his order for the department to resume use of private prisons, cut 95% of funding for the department's office of drug control, and staff the justice department with those who have fought against its use of civil rights law to monitor abuses in states and localities.

Yet careful collection of evidence can remedy at least some problems, as shown by Anatomy of Innocence. The anthology uses the talents of well-known authors to showcase injustices in a U.S. penal system that currently incarcerates some 2.2 million persons. That is more than any other major country's total or as measured by the percentage of population.

How many of these might be held for bogus reasons? That's a timely question, especially as the new Trump administration ramps up efforts to implement its law-and-order campaign rhetoric. The analysis below provides both conventional analysis to that question, and also provides tools to understand corruption and cover-up at high levels of the justice system.

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