Trump lawyer Giuliani rules out Mueller interview with Trump
By JONATHAN LEMIRE
Monday, December 17
WASHINGTON (AP) — With a number of probes moving closer to the Oval Office, President Donald Trump and his attorney unleashed a fresh series of attacks on the investigators, questioning their integrity while categorically ruling out the possibility of a presidential interview with the special counsel.
Trump and Rudy Giuliani used Twitter and television interviews Sunday to deliver a series of broadsides against special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York. Giuliani said he was “disgusted” by the tactics used by Mueller in his probe into Russian election interference, including in securing guilty pleas from the president’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn on a charge of lying to federal investigators.
Trump, Giuliani said, would not submit to an interview by Mueller’s team.
“They’re a joke,” Giuliani told “Fox News Sunday.” “Over my dead body, but, you know, I could be dead.”
The special counsel, who is investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, has continued to request an interview with the president. Last month, the White House sent written answers in response to the special counsel’s questions about possible collusion. The White House has resisted answering questions on possible obstruction of justice.
Giuliani sarcastically said that the only thing left to ask the president was about “several unpaid parking tickets that night, back in 1986, ‘87 that haven’t been explained.”
If the president officially refuses an interview request, the special counsel’s team could theoretically seek to subpoena him to compel his testimony. Such a move would almost certainly trigger an immediate court fight.
The Supreme Court has never directly ruled on whether a president can be subpoenaed for testimony in a criminal investigation, though the justices have said that a president can be forced to turn over records that have been subpoenaed and can be forced to answer questions as part of a lawsuit.
The special counsel’s investigation has spun out charges and strong-armed guilty pleas from Trump underlings while keeping in suspense whether the president — “Individual-1,” in Mueller’s coded legalese — will end up accused of criminal behavior himself. This past week, his legal exposure grew as his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison after admitting he issued hush-money payments to women who alleged sexual trysts with Trump. Prosecutors and Cohen say he acted at the president’s direction, which Trump and Giuliani deny.
Trump and Giuliani have repeatedly tried to paint Cohen as untrustworthy, with the former New York City mayor calling him a “pathological liar.”
“Which is the truth?” Giuliani said of the competing stories from Trump and Cohen. “I think I know what the truth is. Unless you’re God, you’ll never know what the truth is.”
Trump and Giuliani have also accused prosecutors of intimidating the president’s associates into making false claims.
“Remember, Michael Cohen only became a ‘Rat’ after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started,” Trump tweeted. “They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE!”
It was not a break-in. The FBI executed a search warrant obtained from a judge in conducting a raid in April on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room and seizing records on a variety of matters, among them a $130,000 payment made to porn actress Stormy Daniels by Cohen. The application for the warrant was approved high in the Justice Department.
In response to Trump’s tweet, former FBI Director James Comey tweeted, “This is from the President of our country, lying about the lawful execution of a search warrant issued by a federal judge. Shame on Republicans who don’t speak up at this moment — for the FBI, the rule of law, and the truth.”
Prosecutors have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. Federal prosecutors in New York say the payments amounted to illegal campaign contributions because they were made at the height of election season to keep voters from learning of Trump’s alleged infidelities.
Giuliani has argued the payments were made to protect Trump’s family, not to influence the election.
“If there’s another purpose, it’s not a campaign contribution,” Giuliani told ABC. “Suppose he tried to use campaign funds to pay Stormy Daniels. It wouldn’t be illegal. These are not campaign contributions.”
The hush money wasn’t initially reported on campaign finance documents and, in any case, far exceeded the legally acceptable amount for in-kind contributions. The federal limit on individual contributions is $2,700.
Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the Trump Organization’s goals to build a tower in Moscow. His representative, Lanny Davis, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that his written statement to Congress, which contained the lie, was published ahead of his testimony and Cohen then spoke to the White House.
“Not one person from the White House ever said, ‘Don’t lie,’” Davis said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee and the likely chairman come January, said he wanted Cohen to testify before Congress about what he told prosecutors. Meanwhile, Trump’s fellow Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, acknowledged on CNN that “it was not a good week for President Trump” and urged “that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation unimpeded.”
Trump compared his situation to one involving President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. The Federal Election Commission docked the Obama campaign $375,000 for regulatory civil violations. The fines stemmed from the campaign’s failure to report a batch of contributions, totaling nearly $1.9 million, on time in the final days of the campaign.
But legal analysts said the accusations against Trump could amount to a felony because they revolve around an alleged conspiracy to conceal payments from campaign contribution reports — and from voters. It’s unclear what federal prosecutors in New York will decide to do if they conclude that there is evidence that Trump himself committed a crime.
Trump has not yet laid out a detailed defense, though he could conceivably argue that the payments were made not for the purposes of advancing his campaign but rather to prevent salacious stories from emerging that would be personally humiliating to him and harm his marriage.
That argument was advanced by former Sen. John Edwards, a North Carolina Democrat, in a similar campaign finance case that went to trial in 2012. But that may be tougher for Trump than it was for Edwards given the proximity of the president’s payment to the election — timing that, on its face, suggests a link between the money and his political ambitions. Edwards was acquitted on one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions, but jurors couldn’t reach a verdict on the five remaining counts, including conspiracy and making false statements.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JonLemire
Exorcisms have been part of Christianity for centuries
December 17, 2018
Author: S. Kyle Johnson, Doctoral Student in Systematic Theology, Boston College
Disclosure statement: S. Kyle Johnson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
“The Exorcist,” a horror film released 45 years ago, is a terrifying depiction of supernatural evil. The film tells the story of a young American girl who is possessed by a demon and eventually exorcised by a Catholic priest.
Many viewers were drawn in by the film’s portrayal of exorcism in Christianity. As a scholar of Christian theology, my own research into the history of Christian exorcisms reveals how the notion of engaging in battle against demons has been an important way that Christians have understood their faith and the world.
Early and medieval Christianity
The Bible’s account of the life of Jesus features several exorcism stories. The Gospels, reflecting views common in Judaism in the first century A.D., portray demons as spirits opposed to God that haunt, possess or tempt people to evil.
Possessed individuals are depicted as displaying bizarre and erratic behaviors. In the Gospel of Luke, for example, a boy is possessed by a demon that makes him foam at the mouth and experience violent spasms. Jesus is shown to have a unique power to cast out demons and promises that his followers can do the same.
In the centuries that followed, accounts of using Jesus’ name for casting out demons are common. Origen, an early Christian theologian, writing in the second century, explains how the name of Jesus is used by Christians to expel “evil spirits from … souls and bodies.”
Over the years exorcism came to be associated more widely with the Christian faith. Several Christian writers mention exorcisms taking place publicly as a way to convince people to become Christians. They argued that people should convert because the exorcisms Christians performed were more effective than those of “pagans.”
Early Christian texts mention various exorcism methods that Christians used, including making the sign of the cross over possessed persons or even breathing on them.
Beginning some time in the early Middle Ages, specific priests were uniquely trained and sanctioned for exorcism. This remains the case today in Roman Catholicism, while Eastern Orthodox traditions allow all priests to perform exorcisms.
Early Christians also practiced what is sometimes called a “minor exorcism.” This type of exorcism is not for those considered to be acutely possessed.
This took place before or during the ritual of baptism, a ceremony whereby someone officially joins the Church. The practice emerges from the assumption that all people are generally susceptible to evil spiritual forces. For this reason some sort of prayer or statement against the power of the devil would often be recited during catechesis, a period of preparation prior to baptism, baptism, or both.
Demons and Protestants
Between the 15th to 17th centuries, there was an increased concern about demons in Western Europe. Not only are there abundant accounts of priests exorcising individuals from this time period, but also of animals, inanimate objects and even land.
The narratives are also much more detailed. When someone possessed by a demon was confronted by an exorcist priest, it was believed that the demon would be aggravated and cause the individual to engage in more intense and violent behavior. There are reports of physical altercations, floating around the room, and speaking or screaming loudly and angrily during the exorcism process.
Protestants, who were skeptical of many Catholic rituals, combated demonic possession with more informal practices such as impromptu prayer for the afflicted individual.
During the Enlightenment, between 17th to 19th centuries, Europeans began to cast doubt on so-called “superstitious” elements of religion. Many intellectuals and even church leaders argued that people’s experiences of demons could be explained away by psychology and other sciences. Exorcism began to be viewed by many as unnecessary or even dangerous.
Many Christian denominations still practice some form of minor exorcism. Before people are baptized in the Episcopal Church, for example, they are asked: “Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?”
The Catholic Church still has an active ministry devoted to performing exorcisms of possessed individuals. The current practice includes safeguards that require, among others, persons suspected of being possessed to undergo medical and psychiatric evaluation before an exorcism takes place.
Exorcism is particularly common in Pentecostalism, a form of Christianity that has grown rapidly in recent decades. This branch of Christianity emphasizes spiritual experience in everyday life. Pentecostals practice something akin to exorcism but which is typically called “deliverance.” Pentecostals maintain that possessed persons can be delivered through prayer by other Christians or recognized spiritual leader. Pentecostalism is an international Christian tradition and specific deliverance practices can vary widely around the world.
In the United States belief in demons remains high. Over half of all Americans believe that demons can possess individuals.
So, despite modern-day skepticism, exorcism remains a common practice of Christians around the world.
France: Unions urge work slowdowns by protest-weary police
PARIS (AP) — After five straight weekends of disruptive and sometimes violent protests across France, police are taking a turn expressing anger at the French government.
Two police unions complained Monday about working conditions and what they said were strained resources as officers have been sent in to clear road blockades and to control trouble-makers at street demonstrations bent on provoking them.
The Alliance union urged the government to invest in rebuilding the country’s police forces while calling for a work slowdown Wednesday to protest planned cuts in the national police budget.
Another union, UNSA police, said its members only would provide minimum services Tuesday and asked for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. The union asked the government earlier this month for payment of overtime hours officers put in work quelling the protests.
“Police are not doing well and nobody is listening,” Frederic Lagache, of the Alliance union, said.
Lagache’s union said that French lawmakers are set to vote on 62 million euros ($70 million) in budget cuts this week that “will once again result in downgraded work conditions,” if approved.
Alliance is encouraging police forces to stay inside their stations on Wednesday and only to respond to emergency calls.
Alliance said French lawmakers should vote against the government’s 2019 budget and warns “that other actions will be implemented” if President Emmanuel Macron “does not quickly announce a Marshall Plan for the national police.”
The “yellow vest” protests, named after the fluorescent safety vests French motorists must carry, started last month over rising fuel prices. They since have morphed into a mass show of dissatisfaction involving pensioners, people without jobs and small business owners.
The UNSA union threatened Monday to mimic yellow vests protests and to occupy roundabouts if its demands were not met.
“The roundabouts are not reserved for yellow vests only,” the union said in a statement. UNSA said.
Yellow vest protesters still block French traffic circles
By SAMUEL PETREQUIN
PARIS (AP) — Yellow vest protesters occupied dozens of traffic roundabouts across France on Sunday even as their movement for economic justice appeared to be losing momentum on the fifth straight weekend of protests.
The road blockades remained despite a call by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to free the roundabouts from the traffic chaos created by the protests. Eight people have died in incidents tied to the yellow vest movement, mostly from traffic accidents linked to roads blocked by protesters.
The demonstrators are demanding more measures to help France’s workers and retirees and want top officials in President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government to resign, including Macron himself.
Despite the cold weather, protesters occupying a roundabout near the southern city of Orange close to a major highway pledged to keep holding more demonstrations, including blocking fuel depots.
“Mr. Castaner, if you want us to clear roundabouts, you will need to offer your resignation. We don’t need bandits of your kind,” a protester identified as Nicolas told the BFM TV channel.
Some yellow vest protesters — whose movement takes its name from the safety garb that all French motorists must carry — set up a small fire with wooden planks and held a barbecue at a roundabout near the city of Reims in the Champagne region. Some of them wore Santa hats and deployed a banner that read “Revolution 2018.”
On Saturday, yellow vest demonstrators took to the streets in cities across France, including in Paris, but in far fewer numbers than on previous weekends: 69,000 compared to 125,000 a week before. Paris police had to fire tear gas and water cannon across the Champs-Elysees and some protesters scuffled with police.
In an effort to defuse France’s social crisis, Macron has announced a series of measures aimed at improving people’s spending power.
The package, which includes a 100-euro ($113) monthly increase to the minimum wage, might have played a role in deterring protests but did not help improve Macron’s popularity. According to an opinion poll published Sunday by the Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, Macron’s approval rate dipped to 23 percent in the last month.
The yellow vests movement brings together people of all political backgrounds with a multitude of demands.
Among the most popular in recent days is the demand to introduce in the French constitution a “citizens’ initiative referendum” that would allow citizens to propose new laws. This idea is supported by politicians across the political spectrum, including far-right leader Marine Le Pen and leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon.
See the AP’s coverage of France’s protests at: https://apnews.com/FranceProtests
Patrol Canine Training Facility Opens in Marysville
December 17, 2018
COLUMBUS – Earlier today, the Ohio State Highway Patrol formally opened its Canine Training Facility. The new facility is located in a centralized location for the Patrol’s canine operations and training programs.
The 1.4 million dollar training facility was funded by appropriations in the Ohio Department of Public Safety capital budget. This-one-of-a-kind facility on the grounds of the Patrol’s Marysville Post, 22600 Northwest Parkway, features classrooms, office space, dormitories, kennels and a practical training building in one site. The Canine Training facility will be used to train new canines and handlers for the Patrol and partner law enforcement agencies, as well as required on-going maintenance training.
The Patrol’s Canine Training Program began in 2015. Since that time, 43 canines have been trained by the Patrol. 31 of those were trained for the Patrol, 12 were trained for police departments and sheriff offices across Ohio. The Patrol offers canine training to our law enforcement partners at no cost.
For more information on the our Criminal Patrol program, the canine training program and a story featuring canine Katie, please visit https://spark.adobe.com/page/zDKl0Cw7vL8YJ/
‘Up and coming star’ Hyde settles in as Orioles manager
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) — Sitting side by side in the auxiliary clubhouse at Camden Yards, Orioles general manager Mike Elias and new manager Brandon Hyde spoke excitedly Monday about working together to mold the struggling franchise into a winner again.
Hired last month to oversee a massive rebuilding project, Elias immediately set out to find a manager that could develop young, inexperienced players into solid major leaguers.
He settled on Hyde, the 45-year-old bench coach of the Chicago Cubs, who was named the 20th manager in Orioles history on Friday.
“He’s somebody that is viewed as an up and coming star in our business,” Elias said. “So I’m very happy that we landed him here.”
Elias came to Baltimore from Houston, where he helped turn the Astros from a perennial loser into a World Series champion. Hyde, similarly, was an integral part of the process that bolstered the Cubs from a rebuilding club into a world champion. This will be his first job as major league manager.
“We’ve come from two organizations that had some down years but all of a sudden got good real quick,” Hyde noted. “That’s going to be the process here, and we’re looking forward to getting that going.”
Elias said: “What stood out throughout the entire process for me, for us, were Brandon’s unique qualifications and experiences for this job. Being such a huge part of building the Cubs organization into a world champion and a playoff-caliber team was very attractive to me throughout this entire process.”
During a nine-year run with the Miami Marlins, Hyde served as a bench coach from June 2010 through the end of the 2011 season. In Chicago, he was bench coach in 2014, first base coach from 2015-17 and bench coach this year under the skilled and respected Joe Maddon.
“I’m a big Joe Maddon fan. I love Joe Maddon,” Hyde said. “What I’ve learned the most from him is consistency, how he is on a daily basis. He’s so positive. Always upbeat.”
Patience is going to be the key in Baltimore, where Elias and Hyde will be toiling in unison to turn around a team that finished 47-115 in 2018 — the most losses in franchise history.
“I think the approach and the personal characteristics that he’s going to bring to this job are ideal,” Elias said. “He is someone with a reputation and experience for connecting with players, communicating with players, empathizing with players, which is very important in today’s game. But he also has the same view that I have — that this is a partnership between the front office and the coaching staff. We are going to be working toward the same goals.”
Although he’s been entrenched in the National League for the past decade, Hyde knows all about the Orioles’ rich history. From the late 1960s through the team’s last World Series title in 1983, Baltimore was recognized as one of the best teams in the majors.
One of the standouts of that era, Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, sat in the front row during the news conference.
Asked what made Baltimore attractive to him, Hyde replied, “The rich tradition here. Brooks Robinson is sitting here. I’m in my new office, and there’s pictures of Earl Weaver and Cal Ripken Sr. I grew up a baseball rat. To be around history and be involved in a city like Baltimore, it’s a dream come true, to be in the American League East and going out and competing every night.”
Before he can assess the talent in the organization, Hyde must first assemble his coaching staff.
Then, it will be time to get down to business with Elias and former Astros analytics chief Sig Mejdal to rebuild the Orioles.
“That’s what attracted me here,” Hyde said. “Knowing what they did in Houston, their ability to acquire talent, their ability to draft. Then, hearing what they wanted from a major league manager, I thought it was a really, really good fit.”
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