Australian attorney-general denies historical rape allegation


CANBERRA, March 3 (Xinhua) — Australia’s Attorney-General (AG) Christian Porter has identified himself as the government minister facing a historical rape allegation and fronted the media on Wednesday to deny the allegation.

The allegation came to light at the end of February in an anonymous letter sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and members of the Greens and Labor parties.

The letter included detailed allegations that Porter raped a 16-year-old girl in Sydney in 1988 – about 20 years before he entered politics in Western Australia and 25 years before he entered federal Parliament – at which time he was 17.

Porter said that it “simply did not happen.”

“Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened,” he said on Wednesday.

“Because what is being alleged did not happen, I must say so publicly.”

The alleged victim contacted New South Wales (NSW) Police in 2019 but took her own life in 2020.

On Tuesday NSW Police said there was “insufficient admissible evidence” to investigate the allegations and it was closed.

Porter said he would not stand down as AG but would take a “short period of leave” to improve his mental health.

Porter’s press conference on Wednesday came days after former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who said he learned of the allegations in 2019, publicly urged the minister accused of rape to “front up” to the allegations.

The government is facing increasing pressure to establish an independent inquiry into the allegations.

Porter on Wednesday apologized to his ministerial colleagues who have been the target of “allegations and speculation.”

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Attorney General Christian Porter denies rape claim, message for accuser’s parents


Attorney-General Christian Porter has remembered the woman who he says falsely accused him of rape in 1988 as an “intelligent, bright and happy person” who he agreed did iron his shirt the night of a debating dinner – as she suggests in an unsworn affidavit.

Choking back tears, a distraught Mr Porter said there was “no truth” to the rape claims but he agreed there were some claims in the woman’s unsworn affidavit that were true.

There is a photo of the two of you sitting at the formal dinner that night. Do you remember that dinner?,’’ Mr Porter was asked.

“I am sure there was a formal dinner that night. I am sure that is the case. We were a group of people who were going out debating during the day, going out to functions and things at night. I am absolutely sure there would be such a photo,’’ he said.

RELATED: Porter in tears denying rape claim

Mr Porter was then asked if he remembered dancing with the woman at the Hard Rock Cafe in Kings Cross.

“That may well have been the case,’’ he said.

“It was 33 years ago. I remember two evenings that week. One was a night with – at one of the colleges with bowls of prawns which sticks in my mind. I do remember a formal dinner and going out dancing sounds about right.”

The Attorney-General was also asked if he remembered walking her back to her accommodation at Sydney University.

RELATED: Minister speaks out and denies rape claim

Mr Porter was then asked about a third claim in the woman’s unsworn affidavit that she had ironed his shirt earlier that night.

“It’s not impossible, I have never been in the person’s room. I did read that as part of the material, and I recall, it sparked a memory, there were four of us, three boys, and this person whose name I can’t even say because of the situation we are in,’’ he said.

“I don’t think any of us had ever ironed a shirt before, and I recall, she showed us how to do it, I remember that.”

“She ironed your shirt for you. She claims you said she would make a wonderful wife some day?,’’ a reporter asked.

“I don’t remember that specifically but it is not impossible that that was said.”

RELATED: Rape claim ‘nowhere near’ over: senator

The Attorney-General commenced his press conference with a personal appeal to the parents of the dead woman.

“I want to start by saying something to the parents who are grieving for the loss of their adult daughter,’’ he said.

“I only knew your daughter for the briefest periods at debating competitions when we were teenagers about 33 years ago. I was 17 years old and I think that she was 16 years old.

“In losing that person, your daughter, you have suffered a terrible loss and you did not deserve the frenzied politicisation of the circumstances of your daughter’s death in the past week.

“I have thought long and hard about the implications for you of what I feel that I need to say today.

“And I hope that whatever else happens from this point – that you will understand that in saying today – the things that are being claimed to have happened, did not happen – that I do not mean to impose anything more on your grief.

“But I hope that you will also understand that because what is being alleged did not happen – I must say so publicly.

“Likely the only thing that I’m ever going to be able to say – and it’s the truth – and that is that nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened.

“The allegations appear to be about a period in early 1988 during an end of school debating competition at Sydney University. I was 17 years old and the other person was 16. We were both selected with two others on the Australian Schools debating team and we went to Sydney University for an international competition. It was a long time ago – I always remembered it as a happy time – but I can say categorically what has been put in various forms and allegations simply did not happen.”

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Amazon sues New York attorney general to preempt COVID-19 lawsuit



FILE PHOTO: An Amazon truck exits the company’s JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island, New York, U.S. November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid./File Photo

February 15, 2021

By Jeffrey Dastin

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc on Friday sued New York’s attorney general to stop the state from filing its own lawsuit over the online retailer’s early response to COVID-19, including its firing of activist Christian Smalls.

In a complaint in Brooklyn federal court, Amazon accused Attorney General Letitia James of overstepping her bounds by threatening to sue unless it met several demands including surrendering some profit and slowing down operations.

Amazon said federal labor and safety laws take precedence over New York’s, and is seeking an injunction to block James from suing.

The Seattle-based retailer had drawn scrutiny 10 months ago when workers protested conditions at a Staten Island warehouse, and Amazon fired Smalls for violating a paid quarantine.

James said at the time that Amazon may have broken the law. New York City announced its own probe, and senators questioned Amazon’s actions.

In a statement, James said she is still reviewing her legal options.

She called Amazon’s lawsuit “a sad attempt to distract from the facts and shirk accountability for its failures to protect hardworking employees from a deadly virus. Let me be clear: We will not be intimidated by anyone, especially corporate bullies that put profits over the health and safety of working people.”

It is rare for companies to file preemptive lawsuits to short-circuit threatened regulatory actions.

The lawsuit shows Amazon’s belief it was unfairly maligned despite its many COVID-19 precautions, most recently tests and plans for vaccine administration, and how it will not back down from criticism of its workplace conditions.

According to the lawsuit, Amazon passed an unannounced city inspection of its Staten Island facility on March 30, 2020, the day of the protest, with the lead inspector concluding that complaints about safety were “completely baseless.”

Amazon also accused James of ignoring evidence of its safety-related reasons for acting against Smalls, including photos of him not social distancing.

Smalls has said he would keep protesting until workers were protected. In November, he filed a class action lawsuit seeking damages for Black and Hispanic workers.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Diane Craft)



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Trump administration forced U.S. attorney in Georgia to step down: Wall Street Journal


White House officials pushed Atlanta’s top federal prosecutor to resign before Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs because President Trump was upset he wasn’t doing enough to investigate the president’s unproven claims of election fraud, people familiar with the matter said.

A senior Justice Department official, at the behest of the White House, called the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak late on the night of Jan. 3. In that call the official said Trump was furious there was no investigation related to election fraud and that the president wanted to fire Mr. Pak, the people said.

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NY attorney general demands investigation of Trump’s, family members’ role in fomenting riots


New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday called for a full investigation into the riots that ravaged Capitol Hill on Wednesday, urging federal officials to hold anyone in the White House or Congress responsible who may have played a role in encouraging violence.

James is also asking acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to probe the legal culpability of President Trump, his family members and associates, in peddling what she termed “wild conspiracy theories that led to these acts of terror and sedition.” 

“The president swore an oath to protect this nation against all enemies, foreign or domestic, but this week he led an attack on the greatest symbol of our democratic republic,” James said in a statement. “Not since foreign invaders attacked the Capitol more than 200 years ago has Washington, DC been attacked.”

James pointed to Trump’s words to supporters that they would never “take back our country with weakness” as inflammatory, and seeming to invite insurrection.

Further, James said the government needs to identify and investigate each participant in the riot who can be prosecuted for “a violent incursion onto government property with the express intention of hindering the certification of a lawful election.”

MICHELLE OBAMA CALLS ON TECH GIANTS TO PERMANENTLY BAN TRUMP 

Trump released a second video message on Twitter on Thursday in which he condemned the rioters and promised that participants who “broke the law” would “pay.”

He also acknowledged that President-elect Joe Biden would take over the presidency later this month, after weeks of repeating unproven claims that he has been fraudulently cheated out of victory. With an eye toward the future, Trump called for calm and a peaceful transition of power.

But for many lawmakers, and members of his administration, the message is too little too late. Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence on Wednesday led some to resign from their administrative posts, while longtime Republican allies, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., repudiated his rhetoric.

There are calls to invoke the 25th Amendment or to impeach Trump in order to remove himfrom office less than two weeks before Biden’s inauguration day.

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A Garland for Biden’s Attorney General


Merrick Garland in 2016.



Photo:

michael reynolds/Shutterstock

Joe Biden

promised to lower the temperature of America’s partisan hothouse, but some of his nominations have not lived up to that promise. One that does is his selection of

Merrick Garland

as Attorney General, perhaps now the most important cabinet post for domestic politics.

Public confidence in the Department of Justice has been severely damaged in recent years, not least the last four, as it became clear that President

Trump’s

partisan adversaries manipulated the FBI and Justice Department to try to handicap his Administration. Mr. Trump toward the end of his term also increasingly demanded that the Justice Department be weaponized in reverse. Attorney General

Bill Barr

refused and did his best to depoliticize prosecutorial decisions.

The Biden Administration will face pressure from the left to pursue Republicans who worked in the Trump Administration, banana-republic style, along the lines

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

called for in her presidential campaign. Vice President

Kamala Harris

said in 2019 she would have “no choice” but to prosecute Mr. Trump for obstruction of justice if elected President.

But Mr. Garland, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge whom President

Obama

unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016, is unlikely to have signed up for a job of political recrimination. For more than two decades he has been a mainstream center-left judge with a calm temperament and no demonstrated interest in settling scores or legal “Resistance.”

Mr. Garland’s experience as a prosecutor during the high-crime 1990s may help balance anti-police sentiment in the Administration. His vaunted status among Democrats, who feel he was wronged by the 2016 Republican decision not to seat him on the Supreme Court, might give him more credibility to make decisions that disappoint progressives.

The Biden Administration will still be legally liberal, and perhaps aggressively so. It’s not a coincidence that Mr. Garland’s selection came a day after the Georgia runoff elections that wrested Senate control from the GOP. Some Democrats worried about their ability to confirm Mr. Garland’s replacement on the D.C. Circuit if Republicans kept their majority.

Now the Biden team knows there will be fewer checks on its agenda. Mr. Garland also has a record of deferring to executive agencies, which will help him shape and defend the Biden Administration’s regulatory approach.

Yet amid explosive partisan tensions, the most important Justice priority is to restore confidence that the federal government’s greatest domestic powers are accountable and not abused for political ends. Mr. Biden’s choice of Judge Garland over a more polarizing pick bodes well for his Administration.

William Barr returned to the Department of Justice in 2019 to stop it being used as a political weapon. He succeeded because he was willing to reimpose norms amid a sea of partisan critics. Image: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Dick Thornburgh, ex-governor and US attorney general, dies


Dick Thornburgh, who as Pennsylvania governor won plaudits for his cool handling of the 1979 Three Mile Island crisis and as U.S. attorney general restored credibility to a Justice Department hurt by the Iran-Contra scandal, has died. He was 88.

Thornburgh died Thursday morning at a retirement community facility outside Pittsburgh, his son David said. The cause is not yet known. He suffered a mild stroke in June 2014.

Thornburgh built his reputation as a crime-busting federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh and as a moderate Republican governor. As the nation’s top law enforcement official, he prosecuted the savings and loan scandal. He also shepherded the Americans with Disabilities Act; one of his sons had been severely brain damaged in an auto accident.

After leaving public office, Thornburgh became a go-to troubleshooter who helped CBS investigate its news practices, dissected illegalities at telecommunications company WorldCom and tried to improve the United Nations’ efficiency.

“I’ve always had an opportunity to right a vessel that was somewhat listing and taking on water,” he told The Associated Press in 1999. “I wouldn’t object to being characterized as a ‘Mr. Fix It.’ I’ve liked the day-in, day-out challenges of governance.”

President Ronald Reagan appointed Thornburgh attorney general in the waning months of his administration. Thornburgh succeeded the embattled Edwin Meese III, who was investigated by a special prosecutor for possible ethics violations, and his appointment in August 1988 was hailed on Capitol Hill as an opportunity to restore the agency’s morale and image.

He was asked to stay on as attorney general when George H.W. Bush became president in 1989.

Thornburgh ran into trouble with the press and members of Congress who were put off by his imperious manner. He also battled liberals and conservatives in Congress over Justice Department appointments.

Despite the difficulties, Thornburgh enjoyed the continued backing of President Bush and won unprecedented increases from Congress in the Justice Department’s budget to fight crime.

The prosecution of savings and loan operators and borrowers increased during his tenure as the nation faced a growing crisis in the thrift industry. He set up securities fraud and S&L task forces in several major cities.

Also under Thornburgh, the Justice Department pursued the prosecution of deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who was brought to Miami to face drug trafficking charges after a U.S. invasion.

Thornburgh tried to halt unauthorized leaks of information about criminal investigations, but he ran into trouble in the spring of 1989 when CBS News aired a story that the FBI was investigating the congressional office of Rep. William Gray, D-Pa. The story produced expressions of outrage among Democrats because it was aired when Gray was seeking to be elected House majority whip.

An internal investigation later showed that Thornburgh’s own chief spokesman played a role in confirming the story.

As Pennsylvania governor from 1979 to 1987, Thornburgh won a reputation as a squeaky-clean, reform-minded executive who cut the state government’s payroll, but his defining moment came barely two months into office.

In March 1979, he was confronted with the worst nuclear accident in American history when a routine equipment failure at the Three Mile Island power plant turned into a partial meltdown, which released radioactive elements.

Thornburgh agonized over whether to order an evacuation of the area around the plant. He recalled years later that “some people were telling us more than they knew and others were telling us less than they knew.”

He eventually ordered pregnant women and young children to leave an area five miles around the plant, which caused thousands of others near Harrisburg to flee.

His cool handling of the 10-day crisis was credited with averting panic.

He was praised in later years for recognizing that Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry was fading and pumping state money into economic development for new businesses.

Thornburgh’s career in government services stretched back to the 1960s. He was U.S. attorney in western Pennsylvania from 1969 to 1975, prosecuting drug traffickers, organized crime figures and corrupt politicians.

From 1975 to 1977, he was assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division, where he stepped up federal prosecutions of public corruption in the post-Watergate era.

He showed his sense of humor at events during his first gubernatorial campaign in 1978, mocking the state Legislature’s generous compensation to the tune of “My Favorite Things.” “Nice big fat paychecks and liberal pensions / Fringes and perks that we won’t even mention …” As attorney general, he referred to white-collar crime as “crime in the suites,” as opposed to streets.

When Thornburgh left the U.S. attorney general post in 1991, he made a run for U.S. Senate, losing to Harris Wofford in the general election.

The election landed Thornburgh in a courtroom in Texas, where Karl Rove, one of George W. Bush’s closest advisers, sued him to try to get back nearly $300,000 in back campaign debts. Thornburgh lost in court, appealed and eventually settled the case.

In 1992, Thornburgh accepted a top administrative job at the United Nations to fight bureaucratic excess and corruption. He left the job after his one-year contract ended, expressing frustration at inefficiency and saying the U.N. is “almost totally lacking in effective means to deal with waste, fraud and abuse by staff members.”

In recent years, Thornburgh was tapped to investigate wrongdoing in the corporate world.

In 2002, the Justice Department tapped Thornburgh to help investigate WorldCom for mismanagement, irregularities and fraud. He described the company, which made the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, as “the poster child of corporate governance failures.”

Thornburgh was co-leader of an investigation conducted by CBS when its “60 Minutes Wednesday” program used faked documents to bolster a 2004 story that questioned George W. Bush’s Vietnam War-era military service. The probe’s damning final report led to the firing of three news executives.

Richard Lewis Thornburgh was born July 16, 1932, and grew up in Rosslyn Farms, near Pittsburgh. He trained as an engineer at Yale, seeking to follow his civil-engineer father’s footsteps, but went to law school at the University of Pittsburgh.

Upon graduation, he went to work as a corporate lawyer, later joining the law firm of Kirkpatrick and Lockhart.

Thornburgh married his childhood sweetheart, Virginia “Ginny” Hooton, in 1955. She was killed in an automobile crash in 1960 that left one of their three sons, Peter, severely brain damaged.

Three years later, Thornburgh married Ginny Judson, who raised his three sons and bore another, William. (He wrote in his memoir that “Ginny and my first wife shared not only a name but many characteristics that would no doubt have made them fast friends.”)

He said the accident was a defining moment that forced him to refocus his life on what his mission and legacy would be.

Both he and his second wife became active in programs for the disabled. In 1985, the Thornburghs were named “Family of the Year” by the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens.

Five years later, the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into law after Thornburgh played a key role in negotiating compromises with Congress.



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Electoral college affirms Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump as William Barr resigns as Attorney General


Joe Biden has cleared the 270 electoral vote mark to formalise his presidential victory with California’s 55 votes taking him over the threshold needed to win the race for the White House.

The result came shortly before President Donald Trump tweeted that Attorney-General William Barr would leave his post on December 23 to “spend the holidays with his family”.

The voting milestone came late on Monday local time when California’s electors affirmed Mr Biden’s massive 5-million-vote win in the state last month.

Mr Biden is expected to lead President Donald Trump with 306 votes to 232 once the process is complete.

The president-elect will give a speech once all the states have finished voting, when he is set to declare that “not even … an abuse of power” can stop a peaceful transition.

The electoral college vote is normally a procedural step in the presidential election, but its importance was heightened this year because Mr Trump is refusing to concede his election defeat.

The President and his allies have filed roughly 50 lawsuits, and most have been dropped or dismissed by judges, including twice by the US Supreme Court.

Several Republican leaders have now acknowledged Mr Biden’s victory.

Indiana senator Mike Braun said the electoral college vote marked “a watershed moment where we must put aside politics and respect the constitutional process”.

The electoral college results will be sent to Washington and tallied in a January 6 joint session of Congress, which will be presided over by Vice-President Mike Pence.

Barr to leave post

News of Mr Barr’s resignation came shortly after he briefed the President about the Justice Department’s review into the Trump campaign’s allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

In a letter to Mr Trump seen by Reuters, Mr Barr pledged the allegations “would continue to be pursued”.

William Barr will finish up as Attorney-General just before Christmas.(AP: Patrick Semansky)

Mr Barr’s fate in the waning days of the Trump administration had been in question since he said last week that a Justice Department investigation had found no sign of major fraud in the November election, contradicting Mr Trump’s false claims.

Mr Trump’s legal team had accused Mr Barr of failing to conduct a proper inquiry.

Deputy Attorney-General Jeff Rosen will become Acting Attorney-General.



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UAW, US Attorney reach deal to reform union after scandal


The United Auto Workers and the US attorney’s office have reached a settlement to reform the union in the wake of a wide-ranging bribery and embezzlement scandal

DETROIT — The United Auto Workers and the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit say they have reached a settlement with the goal of reforming the union in the wake of a wide-ranging bribery and embezzlement scandal.

Terms of the agreement will be announced at a Monday afternoon news conference in Detroit.

The agreement likely will stop short of a full federal takeover of the 400,000-member union. But it’s expected to include an independent monitor and a change in the way union officials are elected.

The union has been in the throes of the scandal for over five years as the government probed corruption in its upper ranks. The investigation has led to 11 convictions, including that of two former presidents. Many of the officials were accused of conspiring with others to cover up the use of union cash for boozy meals, premium cigars, golf and lodging in Palm Springs, California.

Details of the civil settlement weren’t available. But it is likely to include an independent monitor to watch the union’s finances and possibly allow members to directly elect union leadership.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, who has called for the reforms, and current UAW President Rory Gamble are scheduled to attend Monday’s announcement.

In June, Schneider and Gamble discussed a monitor to make sure union corruption is rooted out for good. The two men met as the union tried to reform itself and avoid a possible federal takeover.

Schneider, whose office has been investigating union corruption since 2015, had floated the idea of a government takeover and has advocated for direct voting by members to elect union leadership. Currently the union’s members vote on delegates to a convention, who then vote on a president.

In a statement at the time, Schneider appeared to back off from the takeover possibility, saying he looks forward to a “mutually agreeable resolution that will protect the interests of the UAW’s members and their families.” Gamble and other union officials oppose a government takeover.

An independent monitor would give union members the assurance of reforms “so as to reduce the possibility of a recurrence of corruption,” the statement said.

Former UAW President Dennis Williams in September pleaded guilty in the government’s investigation, and his successor as president, Gary Jones, pleaded guilty in June.

Williams, 67, was president from 2014 until he retired in 2018. He was accused of conspiring with others to cover up the source of cash for expensive meals, cigars and large expenses.

The union’s Region 5 leadership, which was based in Missouri and headed by Jones, would hold weeklong retreats in Palm Springs and invite Williams along. He said he stayed beyond “what my union business required.”

Williams told a judge that he wondered if money was being misused but that he was assured by Jones that “everything was above board.”

More than $53,000 in union money was used to rent a villa for Williams for monthslong stays in 2015-18, according to a court filing.

He faces a likely prison sentence of 18 to 24 months.

With about 400,000 members, the Detroit-based UAW is best known for representing 150,000 workers at Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford Motor.

Williams has repaid $55,000 in inappropriate travel expenses, the union said. Separately, the UAW is selling a lakefront house built for him at a union conference center in northern Michigan.

Eleven union officials and a late official’s spouse have pleaded guilty since 2017, although not all the crimes were connected. The first wave of convictions, which included some Fiat Chrysler employees, involved taking money from a Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center in Detroit.



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