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Sen. Menendez Gold Bars Linked to Armed Robbery
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Several gold bars discovered by federal agents in Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez’s residence as part of a high-profile bribery investigation can be traced to a violent robbery a decade ago.

According to a sprawling indictment unsealed by federal prosecutors in September, Menendez and his wife allegedly played a role in a years-long bribery scheme that involved the Egyptian government and local businessmen including Fred Daibes, a wealthy New Jersey real estate developer. Prosecutors revealed they retrieved multiple gold bars from Menendez’s home which were allegedly used as payment in the scheme.

At least four of the gold bars discovered by investigators can be linked to Daibes, both because of their unique engraved serial numbers and thanks to court documents related to a 2013 robbery which Daibes was a victim of, an NBC New York investigation revealed Monday. In November 2013, four assailants beat and robbed Daibes at gunpoint in his Edgewater, New Jersey, apartment, stealing 22 gold bars, jewelry and cash.

“Each gold bar has its own serial number,” Daibes told local investigators in a 2014 transcript obtained by NBC New York. “They’re all stamped … you’ll never see two stamped the same way.”

Photographs released by the Department of Justice in September showing the gold bars discovered at Menendez’s home, for example, reveal one of the bars has a serial number of “590005.” Daibes reported a gold bar with that same serial number stolen during the 2013 heist, NBC New York reported.

And the federal indictment notes that the serial numbers on the gold bars indicate they had previously been possessed by Daibes.

“A court-authorized search of the residence of Robert Menendez and Nadine Menendez, a/k/a ‘Nadine Arslanian,’ the defendants, revealed, among other things, approximately two one-kilogram gold bars and nine one-ounce gold bars that had serial numbers indicating they had previously been possessed by Fred Daibes, the defendant,” the indictment states.

In addition, when Daibes reported the robbery to police in 2013, he said 22 gold bars had been taken. Similarly, the September indictment states that Daibes sold 22 gold bars to Wael Hana, another defendant allegedly implicated in the bribery scheme.

Police ultimately arrested and charged four individuals for robbing Daibes in 2013, according to local media reports. Then, in September 2015, the suspects all pled guilty and were ultimately sentenced to several months in prison.

Meanwhile, since the federal bribery indictment was unsealed earlier this year, Menendez has repeatedly asserted his innocence and remained in the Senate.

“The allegations leveled against me are just that, allegations,” Menendez said Sept. 25. “For anyone who has known me throughout my 50 years of public service, they know I have always fought for what is right. My advocacy has always been grounded. And what I learned from growing up as the son of Cuban refugees, especially my mom, my hero, Evangelina Menendez. Everything I accomplished, I worked for despite the nay sayers and everyone who has underestimated me.

“I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator,” he added. “The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system. We cannot set aside the presumption of innocence for political expediency when the harm is irrevocable.”

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  • hicks says:

    lmfao not a surprise at all

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    Former Obama Aides Sound Alarm Over “Frail” Biden

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    Former aides who worked directly with then-Vice President Joe Biden in the Obama administration have called current fears over his age “a very real issue” — with some alarmed at how he has become more “frail” and “mumbly.”

    “If you watch Joe Biden speak, oftentimes he sounds frail and he sounds more frail than he used to, even in 2019 and 2020,” Jon Favreau, the chief speechwriter for Obama when Biden was vice president, said in a recent episode of the “Pod Save America” podcast.

    “The voice sounds frail, and he shuffles more because of the arthritis in his back,” Favreau said, adding that the oldest-ever president also appears “mumbly.”

    He noted polls showing as many as 80% of Americans have expressed concern about the president being 81 — saying it needs to be tackled head-on because voters can see his clear decline.

    Even though the president has made an ever-growing series of gaffes and verbal stumbles, he needs to appear on camera even more if he’s to assuage voters’ concerns about his age — with his absence even worse, Favreau warned.

    “When world events seem like they are overtaking him and he’s not out there enough forcefully, that’s what’s getting people concerned,” Favreau argued.

    Podcast co-host Jon Lovett, another ex-Obama speechwriter, agreed and argued that the Biden campaign should get the president out in public to demonstrate his mental and physical abilities — even if they are concerned that he will make more gaffes.

    “I’m sure that going out there means more missteps … more gaffes that start circulating, but if you don’t view Biden being out there as a net positive, then the argument he shouldn’t be running is right.”

    Meanwhile, former Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer expressed his own concerns in a separate interview.

    “It is a very real issue,” he told Courier.

    “If Biden can’t assuage, particularly among his voters from 2020, then I don’t think he can win the election — so in some ways, it’s the crux for his campaign.”

    Pfeiffer said addressing Biden’s age should be the “first strategic priority” for the re-election campaign.

    “There’s a segment of voters who have decided — as of right now, I think their minds can be changed — who have decided that Joe Biden is too old for the job and can’t do it, so they’re not going to listen to anything he says,” he said.

    Former Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod also suggested the Biden campaign lean into the president’s personality, noting how in 1979 the then-senator told the Soviet Union, “Don’t s–t a s–tter.”

    He alluded to reports of anonymous White House sources talking about Biden’s angry behavior behind the scenes and suggested Biden embrace his temper and confront former President Donald Trump directly with “short phrases with Biden-esque” language that could go viral online.

    “I would encourage Biden to be Biden,” Axelrod said on CNN.

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    Read the Death Threat Sent to Trump Jr. with White Powder

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    Former President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., had an unexpected surprise Monday after he was sent a letter containing white powder and a note with a death threat, causing a hazmat unit and firefighters to arrive at his Florida home.

    “It’s just become a little bit too commonplace that this sort of stuff happens,” Donald Trump Jr. told the Daily Caller.

    “Clearly, if this happened to a prominent Democrat it wouldn’t be tolerated and would drive news coverage for weeks. The media would blame all Republicans and force them to answer for it, But since it’s me, radical haters on the left will largely get a free pass and the media will barely flinch.”

    “It doesn’t matter what your politics are, this type of crap is unacceptable,” Donald Trump Jr. continued.

    “This is actually the second white powder substance envelope that’s been mailed to me. The last time we had this happen, it was during my father’s presidency and my then-wife opened it up with my kids by her side. So, it’s just sad that we live in a society where politics and the left’s hatred of my father would drive people to do such crazy things, but that’s where we are unfortunately. ”

    This is the second time Trump Jr. has received an envelope containing an unknown white powder.

    Andrew Surabian, a spokesperson for Trump Jr., told the Caller that: “The test results of the substance came up inconclusive on what it was exactly, but officials on the scene do not believe it is deadly.”

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    Judge Orders Nathan Wade’s Divorce Lawyer to Testify “Without Attorney Privilege”

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    A judge has determined that Nathan Wade’s former law partner and divorce lawyer must tell the court what he knows about the special prosecutor’s relationship with District Attorney Fani Willis – a decision that could produce more bombshell testimony as defense attorneys seek to disqualify the DA from prosecuting the Fulton County election interference case.

    Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee’s chambers notified attorneys in the case by email late Monday that certain communications Terrence Bradley had with Wade are not protected by attorney-client privilege, according to numerous people who read the email. Bradley could be compelled to testify as soon as Tuesday afternoon. McAfee’s decision followed a closed-door meeting between the judge and Bradley on Monday that lasted nearly an hour and 20 minutes.

    Defense attorneys are seeking to disqualify the entire DA’s office because of what they have called an “improper” romantic relationship between Willis and Wade. The defense attorneys say Willis benefitted financially by hiring Wade because he paid for trips they took together with money he earned from the case.

    Willis and Wade have testified they split the cost of travel roughly equally. And they said their relationship began months after she hired him to oversee the case in November 2021.

    Bradley’s testimony could be damning for Willis and Wade. McAfee has already heard testimony from a former friend and employee of Willis who said the romance began long before Willis hired Wade. Defense attorneys have suggested Bradley can also testify that Willis and Wade were romantically involved before she hired him.

    A second witness contradicting Willis and Wade could provide further evidence to support the defendants’ assertion that Willis and Wade lied under oath at the recent hearing. The defendants also are seeking to introduce cell phone records they say are evidence that the romantic relationship began sooner than Willis and Wade have admitted.

    At the Feb. 15 hearing, attorneys for the DA, Wade and Bradley himself argued Bradley should not be compelled to testify. They said any knowledge Bradley had of the Willis-Wade romance was privileged because he served as Wade’s divorce attorney for a time.

    Defense attorneys argued that Bradley had personal observations and other knowledge of the relationship that he did not gain as Wade’s attorney.

    McAfee decided he needed more information before determining whether to compel Bradley to testify, prompting Monday’s closed-door meeting. All the while, Wade and his attorney waited in McAfee’s courtroom.

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    Biden Signals There Could Be a Truce in Gaza Soon

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    U.S. President Joe Biden signaled that a cease-fire in Gaza could be at hand, saying that Israel has agreed to pause its offensive during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan if a deal is reached to release some hostages held by Hamas.

    But both Israel and Hamas downplayed on Tuesday the idea that a breakthrough was imminent.

    In the wake of Hamas’ attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, Israel’s air, sea and ground campaign in Gaza has killed tens of thousands of people, obliterated large swaths of the urban landscape, displaced 80% of the battered enclave’s population and sparked concerns that a famine could be imminent, according to the United Nations.

    Now, the prospect of an invasion of Rafah has prompted global alarm over the fate of civilians trapped there.

    Talks to pause the fighting have gained momentum recently and were underway Tuesday. Negotiators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar have been working to broker a cease-fire that would see Hamas free some of the dozens of hostages it holds in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, a six-week halt in fighting and an increase in aid deliveries to Gaza.

    The start of Ramadan, which is expected to be around March 10, is seen as an unofficial deadline for a deal. The month is a time of heightened religious observance and dawn-to-dusk fasting for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world. Israeli-Palestinian tensions have flared in the past during the holy month.

    “Ramadan’s coming up and there has been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said in an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers” that was filmed Monday.

    In separate comments the same day, Biden said that he hoped a cease-fire deal could take effect by next week.

    At the same time, Biden did not call for an end to the war, which was triggered when Hamas militants killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted roughly 250 people, according to Israeli authorities.

    Israeli officials said Biden’s comments came as a surprise and were not made in coordination with the country’s leadership. A Hamas official played down any sense of progress, saying the group wouldn’t soften its demands.

    The Israeli officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the sensitive talks with the media, said Israel wants a deal immediately, but that Hamas continues to push excessive demands. They also said that Israel is insisting that female soldiers be part of the first group of hostages released under any truce deal.

    Hamas official Ahmad Abdel-Hadi indicated that optimism on a deal was premature.

    “The resistance is not interested in giving up any of its demands, and what is proposed does not meet what it had requested,” he told the Pan-Arab TV channel Al Mayadeen.

    Hamas has previously demanded that Israel end the war as part of any deal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “delusional.”

    At a news conference in Doha on Tuesday, Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said “we feel optimistic” about the talks, without elaborating.

    A senior official from Egypt has said the draft deal includes the release of up to 40 women and older hostages in return for up to 300 Palestinian prisoners — mostly women, minors and older people.

    The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, said the proposed six-week pause in fighting would allow hundreds of trucks to bring desperately needed aid into Gaza every day, including to the hard-hit north.

    Biden, who has shown staunch support for Israel throughout the war, left open the door in his remarks for an eventual Israeli ground offensive in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, on the border with Egypt, where more than half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people have fled under Israeli evacuation orders.

    Netanyahu has said a ground operation in Rafah is an inevitable component of Israel’s strategy for crushing Hamas. This week, the military submitted for Cabinet approval operational plans for the offensive, as well as evacuation plans for civilians there.

    Biden said he believes Israel has slowed its bombardment of Rafah.

    “They have to and they have made a commitment to me that they’re going to see to it that there’s an ability to evacuate significant portions of Rafah before they go and take out the remainder Hamas,” he said. “But it’s a process.”

    Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed more than 29,700 people, most of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. It does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its count.

    The first and only cease-fire in the war, in late November, brought about the release of about 100 hostages — mostly women, children and foreign nationals — in exchange for about 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, as well as a brief halt in the fighting.

    Roughly 130 hostages remain in Gaza, but Israel says about a quarter of them are dead.

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    Disturbing Details: Laken Riley’s Migrant Killer Accused of “Disfiguring Her Skull”

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    The illegal immigrant suspect charged in Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley’s death in Athens, Georgia, is accused of “disfiguring” her skull, according to new information added to the affidavit.

    Jose Antonio Ibarra is charged with the felonies of malice murder, murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another, as well as the misdemeanor of physically hindering a 911 call, according to the affidavit filed on Feb. 23. According to new information added this week, Ibarra “did commit the offense of aggravated battery when he maliciously causes bodily harm to another by seriously disfiguring her body or a member thereof by disfiguring her skull.”

    For the felony offense of concealing the death of another, the arrest affidavit accuses Ibarra of “dragging the victim to a secluded area.”

    Law enforcement has not yet disclosed exactly how Riley was killed, only that her death was caused by blunt force trauma.

    READ THE ARREST AFFIDAVIT.

    More information about the type of object used or exactly how she was killed was not included in the arrest affidavits filed in Athens-Clarke County Superior Court.

    Riley’s roommate reported she did not return for an early morning run Thursday.

    University of Georgia police found her body in the woods along a trail by the intramural fields before 1 p.m. that afternoon.

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Sunday confirmed that Ibarra, a Venezuelan national, entered the U.S. illegally in 2022 and had previously been arrested in New York City.

    Fox News had previously reported that 26-year-old Ibarra, had crossed into the U.S. illegally near El Paso, Texas, in September 2022 and was paroled into the U.S.

    In a statement to Fox News Digital, ICE confirmed he had been encountered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Sept. 8, 2022, after entering near El Paso and was “paroled and released for further processing.” ICE also said that Ibarra had been arrested by the New York Police Department a year later, on Sept. 14, 2023, and “charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation.” On Monday it corrected the statement, saying he was arrested on Aug 31, 2023.

    ICE’s statement said Ibarra was released before a detainer could be issued. NYC is also a “sanctuary city,” which generally restricts law enforcement from complying with ICE detainers.

    The Athens-Clarke County Police Department also confirmed to Fox News Digital that Ibarra had been arrested in Georgia as recently as October. Ibarra was cited for shoplifting in Athens-Clarke County on Oct. 27, 2023, and he had an outstanding bench warrant in the county for failing to appear in court on the shoplifting charges, police said.

    Former President Trump blasted “Biden’s border invasion” in a post on TRUTH Social, saying Riley’s murder “should have NEVER happened.”

    In a letter to President Biden last week, Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp demanded “a response to questions surrounding the immigration status of the arrested suspect in the murder of Laken Riley and asylum claims of the suspect’s brother.”

    “Laken Riley’s tragic death struck the hearts of Georgians everywhere and has rightfully sparked national outrage,” Kemp said in a statement. “As I have said many times before: every state is now a border state because of Joe Biden’s inaction, and today I am again demanding answers and information from the Biden Administration that will help us protect our citizens when the federal government will not.”

    Clarke County Magistrate Judge Donarell Green denied Ibarra’s bond on Saturday. Two translators were present. Ibarra nodded when spoken to.

    Ibarra’s brother, Diego, was charged Friday with possessing a fraudulent green card and is being held in state custody. The federal arrest affidavit for Diego Ibarra says that in September 2023, Athens-Clarke County Police charged him with drunken driving and driving without a license. He was later arrested for shoplifting and later skipped court.

    “We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Laken Hope Riley,” a White House spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “People should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law if they are found to be guilty. Given this is an active case, we would have to refer you to state law enforcement and ICE.”

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    Russian Website Claims There Was an Attempted Assassination of Tucker Carlson

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    A young man has reportedly just been arrested in Moscow in connection with an attempted assassination of Tucker Carlson.

    According to reporter Simon Ateba, the man who has been arrested was reportedly being paid by Ukrainian intelligence to plant an explosive device in a vehicle used by Tucker while he was there to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Here is the tweet by Simon Ateba, the chief White House Correspondent at Today News Africa in Washington.

    A video has just been released showing a 35-yr-old man by the name of Vasiliev Pyotr Alexeieovich, who claims he was ordered by the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukraine Ministry of Defense in November 2023 to take an explosive device to the parking garage of the Four Seasons Hotel in Moscow and place it under the vehicle used to transport Tucker Carlson.

    Mr. Alexeievich claims he was going to be paid $4,000 for completing the task of attaching the explosive device to Carlson’s vehicle, but he was detained in the planning process. Near the end of the videotaped confession, the stone-faced alleged criminal admits his target was “American journalist Tucker Carlson” and says, “I’m sorry for what I did.”

    The original report was published at mvlehti.net.

    The report has not been verified at this time.

    The report claims he is a Russian working for Ukrainian intelligence.

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    WATCH: IDF Wipes Out Hezbollah Commander on Lebanon Streets in Dramatic Footage

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    The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claim they took out a significant Hezbollah leader, Hassan Hussein Salami, in an airstrike in southern Lebanon today.

    Salami’s role as a brigade commander came to a dramatic end today as his vehicle was targeted while he was driving in the southern Lebanon village of Majadel. The IDF says Salami ran a regional unit in Hezbollah and led attacks against Israeli soldiers and communities in northern Israel.

    The recent attacks that Salami took part in included firing anti-tank missiles at Kiryat Shmona and the 769th “Hiram” Regional Brigade’s base, the IDF told us. Hezbollah has confirmed his passing but didn’t mention his role as a commander.

    During an airstrike in southern Lebanon on Monday, a top Hezbollah leader was killed, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). A film of the strike indicates a vehicle driving through the Majadel village while an IDF aircraft honed in on it.

    Hezbollah boss Hassan Hussein Salami was expected to be in the car. You can see a bomb dropping on the car in the video, causing a fireball and crashing into a building nearby. Cars next to Salami’s managed to dodge the explosion.

    Salami was with Hezbollah’s Nasser squad and had been commanding various attacks against Israel along the north border, including launching anti-tank missiles, said the IDF on Monday.

    While Hezbollah did not identify Salami as a commander, they did acknowledge his death on Monday.

    Following an attack in Bekaa Valley by Israeli warplanes, which claimed the lives of two members of a terror group on Monday, a Hezbollah politician, Hassan Fadlallah declared: “Its aggression on Baalbek or any other areas will not remain without response.”

    Following this statement, Hezbollah fired 60 Katyusha rockets at Israel’s army headquarters in Golan Heights. No injuries were reported in the Hezbollah attack on Golan Heights.

    Later, the IDF announced they sent more missiles to Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, including the site from which the barrage of rockets was launched, according to the Times of Israel.

    The village of Kawkaba, where Hezbollah launched about 60 rockets at the Golan, was hit by a fighter jet. The IDF also reported that an Israeli tank shelled a building used by Hezbollah in Kafr Kila earlier in the day.

    On Monday, Hezbollah shot down an Israeli Air Force drone over the Nabatieh area in southern Lebanon using a surface-to-air missile. The IAF typically uses these drones for surveillance and attacks. In response to this incident, the IDF said it targeted Hezbollah’s air defense unit near Baalbek.

    The Israeli Air Force also targeted the downed aircraft in the Nabatieh area, according to The Times of Israel. This is done to prevent sensitive technology from falling into enemy hands. Hezbollah politician Hassan Fadlallah stated that Israel had expanded its strikes to include Baalbek and other areas as a way to “compensate” for the loss of its drone.

    He warned in a televised speech at the funeral of a recently killed Hezbollah fighter that “Its aggression on Baalbek or any other areas will not remain without response.”

    The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah intensifies as the ongoing Israel-Hamas war continues. The Israeli Defense Forces have stated it will “continue operating to defend the State of Israel from the threat of Hezbollah terrorist organization, including in aerial operations above Lebanese territory.”

    In nearly five months of daily conflicts between the Lebanese militant group and Israeli forces, around 200 Hezbollah fighters and 35 civilians in Lebanon have lost their lives.

    Israel has issued a warning that it will no longer tolerate Hezbollah’s presence along the Lebanon border, where they could potentially carry out an attack similar to the massacre committed by Hamas on October 7.

    If international diplomacy fails to move Hezbollah away from the border, Israel has stated that it will be forced to launch an offensive.

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    Macy’s to Close 150 Department Stores

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    Macy’s Inc. said it plans to close almost a third of its namesake US locations as the department-store chain seeks to fight off a pair of activist firms seeking to buy the company.

    The company didn’t give an estimate of the number of employees that will be affected by the closures, though it said in a filing that it would take a $50 million charge related to employee termination costs. Many of the stores are near other Macy’s locations, which could allow some workers to transfer. Macy’s also plans to add 15 new Bloomingdale’s and 30 Bluemercury locations by 2026 — an effort to accelerate growth of its higher-end brands.

    The announcement, accompanied by fourth-quarter results, follows a $5.8 billion buyout offer from Arkhouse Management Co. and Brigade Capital Management in December. Macy’s rejected the offer, but last week Arkhouse nominated nine directors to Macy’s board as the activist investor persists in its efforts.

    In a slide presentation released after the results, Macy’s warned that it expects first-quarter earnings of 10 cents to 16 cents a share, far below the consensus estimate of 45 cents compiled by Bloomberg. The stock fell 1.6% in volatile premarket New York trading. Macy’s shares had declined 4% this year through Monday’s close.

    Freeing Assets

    The new real estate strategy, which comes less than a month into the tenure of Chief Executive Officer Tony Spring, is expected to free up between $600 million and $750 million of assets through 2026, the company said.

    Fourth-quarter earnings of $2.45 a share, excluding some items, beat the average analyst estimate and improved from a year ago. For the full year, Macy’s anticipates adjusted earnings of $2.45 to $2.85 a share, below the average analyst estimate of $3 and weaker than last year. The company’s net sales outlook was also below the average analyst estimate. Macy’s described 2024 as a year of “transition and investment.”

    “The shopper is still under pressure,” said Spring, who had a four-decade career at Bloomingdale’s before taking the helm of its parent company. “Inflation is still up even if it’s not as high as it was. We’re going to have to fight for our fair share and fundamentally reposition the business for growth.”

    Same-store sales at the Macy’s namesake brand fell 6% on an owned basis in the fourth quarter, while sales at the higher-end Bloomingdale’s fell 1.5%. Bluemercury, which sells beauty and skin-care products, rose 2.3%. While sales across the company were down from a year earlier, Macy’s beauty and off-price categories performed well during the holiday season.

    Long-Term Shift

    Macy’s, like many mall-based retailers, has struggled with a long-term shift in consumer behavior that favors online and off-mall shopping. However, stores still make up the majority of Macy’s business, accounting for about two-thirds of sales, according to Spring.

    In 2020, just before the pandemic, Macy’s announced a separate strategy, known as Polaris, which was meant to stabilize profitability and included a plan to close 125 stores. It ultimately closed about 85 stores. The new plan will leave the company with just over half of its pre-pandemic store count.

    Of Macy’s total square footage, 25% of it makes up less than 10% of sales, Spring said.

    “The math on it is very compelling,” Spring said. “I would say it’s not the quantity of stores, it’s the quality of stores. It’s about having the right stores in the right geographic parts of the country where consumers are still shopping.”

    Much of the company’s value is tied up in real estate. It currently operates 489 Macy’s stores, 32 Bloomingdale’s locations and 158 Bluemercury stores across the US. By closing a further 150 Macy’s stores, the company will be able to prioritize investment in the remaining locations and continue to expand small-format, off-mall locations, Macy’s said in a statement.

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    “Trump Cards” Scam Targets MAGA Supporters. Some Lose Their Life Savings.

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    Foreign con artists have been targeting fervent supporters of former President Donald Trump, leaving many out of pocket due to a scam offering fake ‘Trump Cards,’ according to Rferl. The scam falsely implies an endorsement from Trump himself, exploiting the trust that his supporters have in the former president.

    THE SCAM

    A story is promoted with American readers in mind according to which products with Trump’s image — for example, coins, stickers, and stamps — will become a currency in the future and worth millions once he’s back in power. Stories suggesting swift financial returns are also distributed via digital channels, frequently zeroing in on Trump supporters.

    Communication is conducted through closed Telegram channels, while virtual marketers post false ads to Telegram channels that are open to the public. News that is thought to be of particular interest to a conservative U.S. audience is also shared on those same public channels.

    It peddles the premise that people who own TRB products can retrieve returns on previous investments, encouraging them to believe they are simply cashing out with the use of the new cards. The prices of the cards can reach into the thousands of dollars.

    “In short, the story will be that they need this product so they can cash in on other TRB products by withdrawing $5,000 every day at the ATM,” one of the closed channels promoting the cards says. The language used to promote the products is often vague and obfuscating. “They can register up to $500,000 on each card.”

    WHO’S BEHIND THE FRAUD?

    Months of research and infiltration of closed groups on the Telegram platform by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service have identified 69 individuals who posted offers for such fraudulent cards, with the digital trail placing two-thirds of them in Veles, Macedonia. Of the 69 creators of similar products for sale, data from social networks shows that at least 45 declare their location to be Veles, Macedonia.

    VICTIMS

    Thousands of Trump supporters have found themselves victim to this scam, investing significant amounts of their savings in Trump Bucks. The scam is estimated to be in tens of million of dollars. According to data from Macedonia’s Public Revenue Office, over the past two years 98 individuals under the age of 35 from Veles and the surrounding area have reported a combined 634,198,939 denars (around $11 million) in income from the United States. Most of it was said to have been generated from marketing and Internet services, the office said.

    Last September, 86-year-old Ann Bratton thought she’d stumbled onto the investment of a lifetime. “I have been through a nightmare for the last year,” Bratton told RFE/RL. “Counting all the people I have worked with during this time, I have spent well over $30,000 just for cash-out.”

    An ad on one of the encrypted Telegram app channels the Nashville-area retiree had joined was offering debit-like “Trump cards” featuring the billionaire U.S. ex-president’s image, each supposedly preloaded with $200,000. After years of forking out tens of thousands of dollars on souvenir banknotes, coins, and other Trump memorabilia, she calculated that she could quickly and easily turn a $6,000 investment into a $4 million nest egg.

    “I believe in President Trump, and I think he is honest. I believed that I was investing in the future,” Bratton said of her seven-year splurge on quasi-banknotes, tokens, coins, and more recently the bogus debit cards. “I can’t even remember where it was all advertised.”

    After Bratton received 20 “Trump Collection” cards in October 2023, eager for her payout, she tried to use them to withdraw some of the promised cash from a local ATM. “The point I saw [advertised by the vendor] was that I can go to any ATM and withdraw cash, so I did that,” she said. The ATM “just shot [the card] right back out, you know.” She tried several other ATMs, including one operated by Bank Of America.

    Across the Atlantic, back in Tennessee, Bratton said she hadn’t reported her case to authorities because she was still “waiting for the last chance” to recoup at least some of her money.

    One day before speaking to RFE/RL in late January, she had been contacted again by “TRB support.” They told her she would lose her entire investment if she didn’t provide another $400.

    WHAT THEY SAYING

    Veles Mayor Marko Kolev

    “Some of the young people have found a way to quickly earn serious financial resources, but now I see that the next generations of young people are also following the same path,” Kolev said. He’d heard that “some Trump products” are being sold, he said, but the city can only speculate about such things.

    Still, he acknowledges, it is something of an open secret. “Honestly, I don’t know how legal or illegal it is, but there is probably abuse because some of the things that are marketed in those [Telegram] groups are that ‘if Trump came to power, some of the things being sold would have a higher value,'” he said. “This is how U.S. citizens are [being] manipulated.”

    Bank of America

    “Bank of America has nothing to do with those products. These are souvenirs,” William Halldin, a senior bank media representative, told RFE/RL. He said there were no figures to suggest how many people had tried to cash in on such products. Asked whether there was any way the cards could be turned into cash from his institution, Halldin was brief: “No.”

    FBI

    In response to an RFE/RL query touching on the Macedonian fraudsters, the FBI said that “as a rule, they do not make any statements about possible ongoing investigations.”

    Trump’s campaign

    RFE/RL’s Balkan Service sent multiple e-mails to Trump’s campaign press team inquiring whether they were aware of the “Trump cards” or were planning any response. RFE/RL has not received a response.

    Flashback: ‘Trump Bucks’ Scam Targets MAGA Supporters. Some Lose Their Life Savings.

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    Boeing Exec: “I’m Not Trying to Cause a Scene. I Just Need to Get Off This Plane.”

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    In 2018, Ed Pierson decided that he could no longer work as a senior manager for Boeing’s 737 MAX program.

    At the company’s production facility in Renton, Washington, he had watched as employee morale plummeted and oversight and assembly procedures faltered. He told his superiors but retired soon after. But then fatal MAX 8 crashes occurred in 2018 and 2019. He decided to speak up publicly and was then called to testify before Congress on the problems he says he saw up close.

    Five years later, after a door plug blew off of a 737 MAX 9 in the middle of an Alaska Airlines flight last month, Pierson is again trying to sound the alarm. Regulators ultimately approved the plane to return to the air nearly two years after the 2019 crash, but Pierson still doesn’t trust the MAX line — the modernized, more fuel-efficient version of Boeing’s predecessor planes.

    “The Boeing Company is capable of building quality airplanes,” says Pierson, now the executive director for the nonprofit Foundation for Aviation Safety. “The problem is leadership, or lack thereof, and the pressure to get airplanes out the door is greater than doing the job right.”

    In a statement in response to this interview, Boeing said it’s made substantial changes to its organization following the pair of earlier disasters, including investing in more engineers and manufacturers, establishing an official designee for employees to raise work-related concerns and increasing its aerospace and safety expertise on its board of directors. “Over the last several years, we’ve taken close care not to push the system too fast, and we have never hesitated to slow down, to halt production, or to stop deliveries to take the time we need to get things right,” Boeing spokesperson Jessica Kowal said.

    Last week, in a further bid for a fresh start, Boeing replaced the head of its 737 Max program.

    Pierson, meanwhile, still refuses to fly in a MAX.

    Are Boeing planes safe to fly today and would you put your family in one?

    I’m not saying that all Boeing planes are unsafe. Part of the problem is that people don’t know how to differentiate between the MAX and other planes.

    Last year, I was flying from Seattle to New York, and I purposely scheduled myself on a non-MAX airplane. I went to the gate. I walked in, sat down and looked straight ahead, and lo and behold, there was a 737-8/737-9 safety card. So I got up and I walked off. The flight attendant didn’t want me to get off the plane. And I’m not trying to cause a scene. I just want to get off this plane, and I just don’t think it’s safe. I said I purposely scheduled myself not to fly [on a MAX].

    Our recommendation from the foundation is that these planes get grounded — period. Get grounded and inspected and then, depending on what they find, get fixed.

    Why do you prefer legacy Boeing aircraft over the MAX? What changed between these models from what you observed?

    I have always had the greatest respect for the airplane products that The Boeing Company makes. My family was involved in it and my relatives. I had no reason ever to doubt it. And then I started working in the factory. I had been around airplanes my whole career. I flew airplanes in the Navy. You go into the production environment, and you’re like, “Oh, my God, I had no idea it was this complex.” It’s stunning how complex it is. At first, I didn’t understand how all that came together. And it gave me a great respect for the people that were building the plane — it’s incredibly impressive to see. And then everything started to change in 2017 and into 2018.

    What changed that year?

    We started having problems in our supply chain with the engines. And then the next thing you know, we started having problems with all kinds of parts. We were having hundreds of people doing out of sequence work [where parts from previous stages still needed to be fixed]. And we had tests that were being performed that were not being passed properly; one shift would try to get it done and they couldn’t get it done, so they’d leave notes for the next shift to come in.

    This is not how planes should be built. It was so bad in 2018 — we didn’t have engines on many of the planes and so they put these big concrete blocks on the engine pylons so the plane wouldn’t tip. Kind of an important part of the plane, right? A major warning bell that something’s not right. But they kept increasing production rate and so we kept getting further and further behind. So all of 2018 was just a chaotic disarray type of environment.

    And by the way, where the hell is the FAA? FAA had no presence in the factory. And it really irritates you because right down the road, literally 20 minutes down the road, is the Northwest headquarters for the FAA. There’s over 2,000 employees that work at that site and yet, in the busiest factory in the world 20 minutes down the road, there’s four or five employees. That’s not enough to monitor the restaurant operations at the site.

    What made you decide to work with lawmakers and others to shine a light on these problems at Boeing?

    I realized how the leadership was treating employees — very disrespectfully, very embarrassing. Standing up in front of teams and just calling them out, and it was horrendous. I thought, this is not a healthy environment to build airplanes. I can’t support this as a senior manager. I just felt this was really wrong. So I made a decision to retire early. Just before I retired, I shared with my other colleagues all the kind of communication I had with a senior person at the company, the general manager, telling him that he needs to shut down. And then the [first] crash happened.

    Ever since then, I’ve been trying to alert the authorities and trying to get them to look at manufacturing. FAA didn’t want to talk to me. NTSB didn’t want to talk to me. Finally I got a meeting with the NTSB. Then Congress asked me to testify. Ever since, I and a team of people have been monitoring all this.

    I’ve become very close to [families of the victims of the Ethiopian and Indonesian airlines’ crashes] in the last couple years. And we’ve worked on Capitol Hill to try to lobby Congress to make changes. We’ve worked to try to point out issues with the FAA. And what they want is for this not to happen to anybody else, and number two, what they want is justice.

    It’s only been a few years since those fatal crashes — so what is still going wrong considering we’ve just seen another mishap with the Alaska Airlines flight?

    What’s going wrong is that nothing changed. They made very superficial changes that they made a big deal of. They made a giant deal of hiring a safety officer. Big whoop. They wanted to deflect attention away.

    That’s all Boeing does is talk. The leadership doesn’t get down there and get involved with the people that are building the products. They don’t value the engineers, they think the engineers are replaceable. You can’t take a 20- or 30-year employee and just dump them off to the side and think that you’re going to find somebody off the street that’s going to be able to do what that person does. Then they don’t have the support mechanisms and they’re tired and they’re fatigued and they’re working like dogs — they can make mistakes.

    Are you at all surprised that so little has been done to fix things only five years after you blew the whistle on the MAX issues?

    I’m horrified and I’m not surprised. It’s horrifying to think that the company did such a minimal effort. They spent 90 percent of their energy telling the media things [like] “renewed quality” and using language in their press releases and their financial statements like “a renewed safety focus.” And then meanwhile, I’m hearing from people, “No, it’s actually just as bad or worse in the factory now than it was before.”

    In some of our discussions, you mentioned that airlines also aren’t completely blameless in this situation. What did you mean by that?

    There’s obviously a tremendous demand for more planes. What we’re seeing is evidence that the airlines are aware that there’s issues with these planes. Four airlines in the U.S. fly MAX planes: Alaska, American, United and Southwest. And it’s not like all the MAX airplanes are built in a bundle and go out at the same time.You’ll have an American plane, you’ll have a Southwest plane, you’ll have the United plane, you might have a China Southern, a Ryanair. They’re all intermixed, so they all have defects.

    [I’ve seen that some planes] have less than 100 hours on it and have [some sort of] failure. You can’t blame maintenance because they haven’t been there long enough to have any real serious maintenance. Last April, I wrote a letter to the Alaska Airlines CEO because we’re looking at his data and his planes and I don’t think they should be flying right now. Alaska had been submitting on average 95 [service] reports every month throughout 2023. Then in December, it dropped steeply. What happened?

    [In response, Alaska Airlines — which did not address whether its CEO responded to Pierson — said it recently implemented changes to align its service data reporting “to reduce the number of discrepancies” that the airline reports to the main national database. “A lot of thoughtful planning went into aligning our reporting requirements with the regulations and industry while maintaining the integrity of Alaska Airlines’ reporting,” Alaska said in a statement.]

    After The Seattle Times reported that errors at Boeing’s plant in Renton, where you used to work, ultimately led to the Alaska Airlines door blowout, you mentioned it’s likely more severe revelations are coming. What leads you to believe that?

    This is not just a problem with somebody maybe making a mistake with some bolts. It’s not just that. It’s the fact that you have processes that are not being followed. Breakdowns in manufacturing. Employees being pushed. [Fewer] quality control inspections.

    There were whistleblowers [during the 2018-2019 episode] that were reporting that they were removing quality control inspections. And the union has been fighting like hell to claw back these inspections. They’ve been successful in reinstating thousands of these inspections, but not all of them. And so you have planes that have left Boeing factories without [some type of] inspections that had historically been done.

    [In a statement, Boeing said, “Since 2019, we have increased the number of commercial airplanes quality inspectors by 20 percent” and increased the number of inspections per airplane “significantly” since that time.]

    What needs to be done to get things moving in the right direction? Is it going to take legislation from Congress? Is it going to have to come from Boeing independently?

    Boeing’s board of directors — they have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that their products are safe, and they’re not in touch. They’re not engaged. They don’t visit the sites. They don’t talk to the employees. They’re not on the ground floor. Look, these individuals are making millions of dollars, right? And there’s others between the C-suite and the people on the factory line. There’s hundreds of executives who are also very well compensated and managers that should be doing a lot more. But their leadership is a mess. The leadership sets the whole tone for any organization. Public pressure needs to continue.

    The government can apply pressure, and they absolutely should apply pressure. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, when it was under Congressman [Peter] DeFazio, he was all over this. He was digging and asking questions because he understood.

    David Calhoun, CEO of Boeing said in a recent earnings call that Boeing is glad that the FAA paused its production expansion, which gives the company time to fix things and do right. Is that just too little too late?

    There’s a bunch of planes out there that are, in my opinion, defective. He’s doing what he can to try to salvage the failures that have occurred under his leadership. And by the way, if people forget, he’s been the CEO for a couple of years, but he was on the board of directors for 10 years, so he’s been a part of this thing all along.

    [In a statement, Boeing pointed to Calhoun’s previous commentary following the Alaska incident. “Whatever final conclusions are reached, Boeing is accountable for what happened,” Calhoun said on Feb. 6 following the release of the NTSB’s preliminary report. “An event like this must not happen on an airplane that leaves our factory. … It will take significant, demonstrated action and transparency at every turn — and that is where we are squarely focused.”]

    What would it take for you to feel safe enough to fly back on a MAX again?

    The foundation [sent] out a press release saying MAX airplanes should be grounded immediately, inspected and modified to ensure safety.

    But one thing’s for sure: Continuing to fly them, completely disregarding the root causes of these problems, not admitting that these problems exist on other planes — none of that’s going to make anybody safe.

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    Ronna McDaniel Officially Announces Her Resignation as RNC Chair

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    Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced Monday that she will step down early next month following mounting criticism of her leadership.

    McDaniel, 50, said in a statement she would step aside on March 8 — three days after the Super Tuesday primaries, when Republican voters in 16 delegate-rich states and territories can vote on their party’s presidential nominee.

    Separately, RNC Co-Chair Drew McKissick announced he would also resign, effective at the same time as McDaniel.

    “I’m honored to have had the privilege to serve as RNC Co-Chair for this past year, as well as to have worked with so many grassroots leaders to help make our party successful. It’s what drives me,” McKissick said. “And of course being willing to put self aside for the sake of building a team and focusing on winning is a big part of being successful.”

    The announcement by McDaniel followed weeks of speculation and came a week after former President Donald Trump — the party’s clear front-runner for the 2024 nomination and a former staunch ally of McDaniel— suggested it was time for change at the RNC.

    McDaniel said it had been “the honor and privilege of my life to serve the Republican National Committee for seven years as chairwoman to elect Republicans and grow our party” — with the first in a list of her proudest accomplishments being “firing Nancy Pelosi” following the 2022 midterms.

    “I have decided to step aside at our spring training on March 8 in Houston to allow our nominee to select a chair of their choosing,” she said.

    “The RNC has historically undergone change once we have a nominee and it has always been my intention to honor that tradition,” she said.

    Trump, 77, personally backed McDaniel, the niece of two-time Republican presidential contender and senator from Utah Mitt Romney, to serve as the head of the Republican National Committee following his historic 2016 election.

    But criticism ramped up over the past few years over her handling of the party’s finances and failed grassroots efforts to attract voters after Republicans lost Senate seats and governorships in 2022.

    At the same time, the RNC had just $8 million in cash on hand as of Dec. 31 — the lowest since it had just over $5 million cash on hand at the end of 2014, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

    In contrast, the Trump campaign finished off 2023 with $42 million cash on hand.

    The former president hinted last Monday that McDaniel should vacate her position after the RNC reported decade-low fundraising numbers entering the presidential election year.

    “I think she knows that, I think she understands that,” Trump said during a Newsmax interview when asked whether McDaniel should resign after three consecutive election cycles of Republican underperformance.

    Trump also teased in a Truth Social post that he’ll be “making a decision the day after the South Carolina Primary as to my recommendations for RNC Growth,” calling McDaniel a “friend” and praising her work in Michigan during his 2016 election victory over Hillary Clinton.

    He has said he thinks “she did great when she ran Michigan for me” and “she did OK initially in the RNC.”

    But Trump also said, “I would say right now there’ll probably be some changes made,” he told Fox News earlier this month.

    RNC rules require that an election for a new leader take place.

    It is believed Trump will back North Carolina Republican Party chairman Michael Whatley as McDaniel’s replacement.

    Trump’s preference for Whatley to take the helm of the national party stems from the North Carolina GOP chair’s belief that mass voting fraud was perpetrated during the 2020 election and the former president’s view that Whatley was instrumental in delivering North Carolina for him that same year, according to the New York Times.

    Whatley also serves as general counsel at the RNC and has backed efforts to develop new voting laws over fraud concerns.

    Trump is also expected to nominate his daughter-in-law Lara Trump as the co-chair of the party, and top campaign aide Chris LaCivita would be the party’s chief operating officer.

    If elected, Lara has suggested “every penny will go to making sure Donald Trump is the 47th president, to ensuring that we have great candidates, to expand our lead in the House and to take back the Senate.”

    But when asked at the South Carolina primary over the weekend whom she would endorse to lead the party, Trump’s Republican challenger, Nikki Haley, said it “wouldn’t be a family member or a candidate.”

    “I would hope that the people in the RNC know that they have the responsibility to put in people in the RNC who are going to look out in the best interest of all the Republican Party, not just one person,” she told ABC News.

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    Report: Biden Admin Planted Operative Jeff DiSantis in Fani Willis’ Office to Target Trump

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    The Biden administration planted a Democrat operative inside a Fulton County office to target former President Donald Trump, multiple sources familiar with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office exclusively told Breitbart News.

    If the Biden administration planted the operative, as the sources say, it would present a strong argument that the administration interfered in the 2024 presidential election.

    Breitbart News granted the sources anonymity to discuss the attorney’s office for fear of retribution. The sources have direct knowledge of the environment at the District Attorney’s Office, which they characterized as “corrupt.”

    One significant figure is overlooked in the Fulton County scandal concerning Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis and her alleged lover and fellow prosecutor Nathan Wade, the sources said: Meet Jeff DiSantis — the county’s Deputy District Attorney with professional experience far greater than the average county employee. DiSantis worked on Willis’s 2020 campaign, sources told Breitbart News, and was the former Executive Director of the Democrat Party of Georgia with extensive knowledge of campaign finance law. He was also the Deputy Director of Compliance for the DNC, according to his official bio:

    Jeff has also worked for candidates in 30 states running for a variety of offices, including President of the United States, United States Senator, Governor, United States Representative, Attorney General, District Attorney, and Mayor, as well as for a national political party committee. He has served as a campaign manager, media consultant, pollster, press spokesman, research director, and policy advisor.

    Sources credit DiSantis with colluding with the White House to target Trump. “DiSantis did this,” one source told Breitbart News about the Trump case. “He’s the one. He is the one pulling all the strings. He was the one that walled her [Willis] off. He was in every important meeting. He is the brainchild behind this. That is the connection to the White House.”

    Citing his deep history and connections to the Democrat Georgia machine, sources told Breitbart News they were “one hundred percent” certain that DiSantis was the inside man planted in the Fulton County office by the Biden administration. “DiSantis is the one pulling the strings on this whole thing,” a second source said. “Everybody heard Fani testify. It’s no secret that she’s not smart. That is how she sounds and acts every day of the week.”

    “Anyone that has common sense knows that the White House has been involved in this prosecution,” a source told Breitbart News. “This shouldn’t just miraculously happen. Of course, she’s [Willis] not going to prosecute the former president United States without the current administration’s approval.”

    Sources speculated that DiSantis was instrumental in selecting grand jurors for the Trump case based on voter registration data. “Part of why you’re raising money as a candidate is to get money to buy the data about who are your voters. DiSantis, as the former head of the state Democratic Party, he’s going to know you know [the data] in Georgia,” one source said. “There’s not one conservative person on that grand jury.”

    Sources also revealed that DiSantis was a member of Willis’s transition team after she won the election in November 2020. DiSantis helped Wade select employees for the new office. “DiSantis was there in the capacity to be a political strategist, hiding in the DA’s office,” a source told Breitbart News.

    As Breitbart News exclusively reported Sunday, “Wade is a prosecutor on the Trump case and he selected the office employees,” a source told Breitbart News. Wade “made the decisions to hire or fire” employees in the District Attorney’s Office following Willis’s election victory in November 2020, according to multiple sources familiar with the Wade and Willis relationship.

    The revelation of Wade’s previously unreported position as the former personnel decision-maker for the District Attorney’s Office raises ethical and conflict of interest concerns. It also raises questions about whether Wade and Willis have been forthright about the timeline of their reported affair.

    Sources described one-on-one interviews behind closed doors with Willis and Wade, who was “too invested to be just a friend” of Willis to hold such a powerful position. It was “obvious” Willis and Wade had an affair in 2020, one year before Willis launched her probe into Trump — and DiSantis would know about it, sources revealed to Breitbart News.

    The District Attorney’s Office did not reply to a request for comment from Breitbart News about DiSantis’s alleged involvement between the White House and Trump’s prosecution.

    In January, Trump and codefendant Mike Roman accused Willis of maintaining an improper romantic relationship with Wade. Willis and Wade took the stand in February to testify about whether their relationship disqualified Willis from prosecuting Trump. If the presiding judge determines Willis engaged in an actual conflict of interest with her lover and fellow prosecutor, Willis could be removed from the case, handing former President Donald Trump a massive victory.

    Wade’s story appears shaky. Former Fulton County District Attorney employee and friend of Willis since college, Robin Yeartie, testified that Willis was definitely in a relationship with Wade since 2019. In addition, cellphone data obtained from AT&T through subpoena contradicts Wade’s testimony.

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    Trump Appeals $454 Million Fine

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    Former President Donald Trump on Monday appealed the $454 million judgment that New York Judge Arthur Engoron handed him after his civil fraud trial.

    Trump’s attorneys said in a court filing that they are asking the appeals court to determine whether Engoron “committed errors of law and/or fact” and whether he abused his jurisdiction and/or discretion after his Feb. 16 ruling against the former president, per The Associated Press.

    Last week, Trump asked Engoron to delay the payment ordered in New York Democratic Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud case, but the judge denied the request.

    The appeal did not address the requested pause in payments.

    Before the trial even began, Engoron had found Trump responsible for inflating his wealth to receive better terms on loans and insurance.

    The trial was to determine the penalities against Trump. It resulted in Trump being fined $355 million plus about $100 in interest.

    The judge also issued an order banning Trump from serving as an officer of any New York-based business for three years and barring Trump’s two eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, from serving as officers for two years.

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    FTC Sues to Block Kroger, Albertsons Massive Grocery Store Merger

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    The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Monday that it is suing to block the merger of Kroger and Albertsons, saying the combination of the two major grocers would result in higher prices for shoppers and lower wages for workers.

    In a release, the FTC said it issued an administrative complaint and authorized a lawsuit in federal court to stop Kroger’s $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons, which would create one of the largest grocers in the country. A bipartisan group of nine attorneys general has joined the court complaint: from Arizona, California, Washington D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming.

    “Kroger’s acquisition of Albertsons would lead to additional grocery price hikes for everyday goods, further exacerbating the financial strain consumers across the country face today,” said Henry Liu, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “Essential grocery store workers would also suffer under this deal, facing the threat of their wages dwindling, benefits diminishing, and their working conditions deteriorating.”

    Kroger said in a statement that blocking the deal “will actually harm the very people the FTC purports to serve: America’s consumers and workers.”

    “The FTC’s decision makes it more likely that America’s consumers will see higher food prices and fewer grocery stores at a time when communities across the country are already facing high inflation and food deserts,” the company said in a statement.

    Albertsons said in a statement that federal regulators are disregarding the growing dominance of larger retailers like Walmart, Amazon and Costco, and said the move will strengthen them.

    “We are disappointed that the FTC continues to use the same outdated view of the U.S. grocery industry it used 20 years ago, and we look forward to presenting our arguments in Court,” it said in a statement.

    Kroger and Albertsons’ agreement has been stuck in a holding pattern for more than a year while federal and state regulators scrutinize the merger. The companies announced the proposed deal in October 2022, and said by teaming up, the grocers would be able to better compete with larger retailers.

    The FTC argued the supermarket merger would harm shoppers and workers at a time when the price of food and many everyday items has risen. The Biden administration has been skeptical of a range of mergers, and the White House has made consumer protection a key issue as President Joe Biden campaigns for reelection this fall.

    Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen has made the company’s case for the tie-up, saying as a larger supermarket operator, the combined companies would be able to lower prices, boost profitability and speed up innovation in the grocery industry. The company also pledged $500 million to reduce prices for customers and $1 billion to raise employee wages and expand benefits.

    Yet the deal has faced stiff resistance and new complications after a period of historic inflation. Two unions that represent Kroger and Albertsons employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Teamsters union, opposed the deal.

    Higher prices of everyday food items fueled worries that a bigger company would have too much pricing power — concerns some politicians have echoed.

    Higher grocery prices have irked consumers and become a hot topic on the campaign trail. Earlier this month, grocery chains drew the ire of Biden, who accused companies of ripping off shoppers while keeping profit margins high.

    Together, Kroger and Albertsons would be a mammoth company and tighten a market share gap with Walmart, the largest grocer in the U.S. Kroger and Albertsons also compete with regional players like Publix and Wegmans, and discounters like Aldi and Trader Joe’s.

    Combined, the grocers would have about 5,000 stores across the U.S. The deal would marry Kroger’s approximately two dozen supermarket banners, including its namesake stores, Fred Meyer and Ralphs with Albertsons’ grocery chains, including Safeway, Acme and Tom Thumb.

    In an effort to overcome antitrust concerns, Kroger announced last year that it planned to sell more than 400 stores to Piggly Wiggly owner C&S Wholesale Grocers, along with other assets like distribution centers and some private brands.

    But the FTC complaint said the proposed divestiture isn’t enough. It would create “a hodgepodge of unconnected stores, banners, brands and other assets” that wouldn’t be a true rival to the combined Kroger and Albertsons, the federal agency said in a release Monday.

    The FTC contended the combined Kroger and Albertsons would have less reason to improve the customer experience. The federal agency said competition between the supermarkets has contributed to fresher produce, better private-label offerings and services that shoppers appreciate, such as flexible pharmacy hours and curbside pickup.

    The FTC also argued the deal would leave workers with less negotiating power, since employees wouldn’t have as many potential grocery employers. In some markets like Denver, the combined supermarket operator would be the only employer of unionized grocery workers, the agency said.

    As some news outlets reported last week that the FTC would soon sue to block the merger, a Kroger spokeswoman said the company was still in discussions with FTC and state regulators.

    The company reiterated its argument that the merger would benefit grocery shoppers and workers.

    “Blocking the combination will only embolden large, non-unionized retailers – like Walmart, Amazon and Costco – to continue opposing unions and leaving communities,” the company said in a statement last week. “Kroger will continue to lower prices, grow good-paying union jobs and increase access to fresh food for the families who need it most.”

    Kroger shares were trading about 1.7% lower Monday afternoon, while Albertsons stock was slightly higher.

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    Federal Contractor Paid Billions by Pentagon Set to Host Robin DiAngelo, Hold ‘White Fragility’ Book Club

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    A federal contractor that’s received over five billion taxpayer dollars since President Joe Biden took office in 2021 is hosting Critical Race Theorist Robin DiAngelo as a keynote speaker and sponsoring book clubs on her prominent books on anti-racism, an internal company memo obtained by The Daily Wire reveals.

    The Mitre Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that’s received over three thousand government contracts from federal agencies and helped embed the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) agenda in the federal bureaucracy, announced in an internal memo that DiAnglo will be a keynote speaker at the company’s “Week of Belonging” celebration, which begins on April 22.

    “We are thrilled to announce our opening keynote speaker, Robin DiAngelo Ph.D, affiliate associate professor of education at the University of Washington and author of ‘White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism’ and ‘Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm,’” the leaked memo from the Mitre Corporation to employees reads. “She will join us in a fireside chat to discuss the skills needed to be effective stewards and overcome challenges to creating the impact we want to see.”

    Mitre’s upcoming event with DiAngelo comes as the Biden administration has embedded leftwing ideologies, such as the diversity, equity, and inclusion agenda, in the federal bureaucracy in an attempt to leverage the agencies of the executive branch to push progressive beliefs. The Mitre Corporation has been involved in pushing the DEI agenda in the federal government since Biden took office, with the organization set to receive nearly $13 million from federal contracts pertaining to DEI and “health equity” just under the Biden administration.

    DiAngelo’s keynote speech will take place at Mitre’s third annual “Week of Belonging,” which will discuss “sustainable solutions within the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) model. The Mitre Corporation specifically praised DiAngelo in its memo for coining the term “white fragility” in an article that “influenced the international dialogue on race” before encouraging employees to start a company-sponsored book club revolving around the Critical Race Theorist’s work.

    “In honor of DiAngelo’s keynote engagement, MITRE’s [inclusion and diversity] team will sponsor 10 book clubs across the organization, reading either White Fragility or Nice Racism,” the leaked memo to employees states, adding that book club hosts “will receive five labor hours to host the book club.”

    The company has received billions of taxpayer dollars from the federal government, acting as a federally funded research and development center for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and four other federal agencies. It received over $700 million from the Department of Defense in fiscal year 2023 alone, making up 40% of its total awards over the year.

    DiAngelo, one of the country’s most prominent Critical Race Theorists, has come under heavy criticism over her claims that American society is systemically racist and that white people are innately racist. “Racism is the foundation of Western society,” DiAngelo’s website proclaims, while her book “White Fragility” alleges that “anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities as white people.”

    The federal contractor’s embrace of Critical Race Theory mirrors developments within the federal agencies, with the bureaucracy routinely institutionalizing the doctrines of DEI. The National Security Agency (NSA) even cited Robin DiAngelo in a leaked “DEI Glossary” obtained by The Daily Wire, that included terms like “white fragility,” “settler colonialism,” and even the pronouns “ze” and “zir.”

    The Department of Defense, a main funder of Mitre, requested a whopping $144 million taxpayer dollars for their DEI agenda last year, a Daily Wire investigation found, despite the agency already spending over $150 million for DEI in the previous two years.

    The Internal Revenue Service also adopted the DEI agenda and administered a training that included material from a radical transgender academic who called for the “death of whiteness.” The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation have both been leveraged to push far-left ideology on gender, with the agencies bankrolling transgender “inclusive” sex education for 14-year olds and studies that deny there are only two genders.

    While the Biden administration has embedded Critical Race Theory and gender ideology into the federal bureaucracy, former Trump administration officials have advocated for plans to gut the administrative state under the next administration, which could include shutting down DEI offices across federal agencies.

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    Report: Houthis Cut Underwater Cables in Red Sea

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    Update:

    Four underwater communications cables between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti have been struck out of commission in recent months, presumably as a result of attacks by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, according to an exclusive report in the Israeli news site Globes.

    The successful targeting of the four cables, which are believed to belong to the AAE-1, Seacom, EIG, and TGN systems, marks a serious disruption of communications between Europe and Asia.

    Most of the immediate harm will be absorbed by the Gulf states and India, Globes said.

    The AAE-1 cable connects East Asia to Europe via Egypt, connecting China to the West through countries such as Pakistan and Qatar.

    The Europe India Gateway (EIG) cable system connects southern Europe to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, the UAE, and India.

    The Seacom cable connects Europe, Africa, and India, and is connected to South Africa.

    Original post:

    Founder & CEO of OpenCables Sunil Tagare posted on X:

    3 submarine cables cut in the Red Sea between Jeddah and Djibouti. AAE-1, EIG and SEACOM/TGN-Eurasia are down. Note: Authorities looking at potential terror link.

    Confirmed: Submarine cables cut by Houthis in Yemen waters.

    To repair the cables, need permission from Yemen to enter their waters

    Insurance companies have canceled insurance for cable ships to ply in Yemen waters

    No maintenance cable ships willing to do repairs

    Cable ships cost $60-&100 million each. Who will take the risk?

    Who is Sunil Tagare?

    Sunil Tagare is a telecom and internet entrepreneur known for his involvement in significant projects in the global telecommunications industry. He played a pivotal role in the development and implementation of undersea cable systems, which are essential for international telecommunications. Tagare is particularly recognized for his work on FLAG (Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe), an undersea fiber optic cable network that was one of the first to offer high-capacity, intercontinental connections.

    Tagare’s career encompasses roles in project development, financing, and strategic planning within the telecom sector. His expertise in the undersea cable industry is well-regarded, and he has contributed to discussions on telecommunications infrastructure, connectivity, and the evolution of global networks. Additionally, he has written and spoken about the challenges and opportunities in expanding internet access and telecom services to underserved regions.

    Beyond his contributions to undersea cable projects, Tagare has been involved in various ventures and discussions related to technology, telecommunications policy, and infrastructure development. He is often seen as a thought leader in the space, offering insights into future trends and the impact of telecommunications on global connectivity.

    Rising Tide of Conflict

    On December 24th, 2023, a Telegram channel linked to the Houthis published a map showing the networks of submarine communications cables in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf. The image was accompanied by an ominous message: “There are maps of international cables connecting all regions of the world through the sea. It seems that Yemen is in a strategic location, as internet lines that connect entire continents — not only countries—pass near it.”

    Though the statement did not specify a target, the threat coincides with perhaps the Houthis’ most aggressive military campaign against vessels in the Red Sea. Since mid-October 2023, the group has launched more than 100 drones and missiles at vessels transiting through the Bab el-Mandeb, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. The attacks have been so disruptive that at least one major shipping company, Maersk, announced that it would suspend shipping through the Red Sea and Suez Canal “until further notice.” Diverted ships must instead sail around Africa, significantly raising transit times and shipping costs; these costs will almost certainly be passed on to consumers, hiking prices worldwide for a variety of commodities. Although high-level U.S. officials stressed that they had not yet observed price increases due to the blockage, the crisis ultimately prompted the United States to create a new international maritime task force focused on stopping the group’s attacks.

    Despite this show of force, it does not appear that the Houthis have any intention of stopping their attacks. In early December, the group threatened to attack any ships transiting through the Red Sea to Israel, regardless of their nationality. In the weeks since, they have attacked neutral vessels, promising to continue as long as Israeli forces remain active in Gaza.

    As the Gaza war has threatens to escalate across the Middle East, the communications cables running underneath the Red Sea have come under increased scrutiny from the Houthis and their allies. On Telegram, both Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran-backed militias in Iraq released their own statements that suggested they would consider cutting the cables—a step that would mark a new evolution in the regional conflict.

    Cutting the Cord

    Many people—both in the Middle East and across the world more generally—take for granted the modern comforts provided by undersea cables. In the twenty-first century, these cables serve as some of the world’s most critical digital infrastructure—servicing more than 95 percent of international data flows and communications—including an estimated $10 trillion in financial transactions every day. Even partial damage to the undersea cables could eliminate internet access across vast areas, causing major economic disruptions for entire countries.

    Even more concerning for the Gulf Cooperation Council states, the United States, and Washington’s allies, damaging these cables could cut off military or government communications. The cables are the only hardware with enough bandwidth to accommodate the terabytes of military sensor data that inform ongoing operations. In the years to come, as technologies like artificial intelligence develop, the amount of data required to sustain advanced military operations will only increase.

    Yemen sits at a critical juncture for these cables. Much as the Bab el-Mandeb acts like a chokepoint for maritime traffic above the waves, the region is one of only three cable chokepoints in the world, making threats to this infrastructure of particular concern to great powers like China and the United States, who are already competing for control over the cable network.

    This article was updated.

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    NYT: CIA Maintains 12 Secret Bases in Ukraine, CIA Head Was in Kyiv Last Week

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    The US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) maintains 12 secret bases in Ukraine along the border with Russia, and last Thursday CIA chief William Burns made his 10th secret visit to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

    The NYT reports that before the full-scale war, the Ukrainians proved themselves to the Americans by collecting intercepted data that helped prove Russian involvement in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner in 2014.

    Around 2016, the CIA began training an elite Ukrainian special forces unit known as Unit 2245, which captured Russian drones and communications equipment so that CIA technicians could reverse-engineer them and crack Moscow’s encryption systems. According to the NYT, one of the officers in this unit was the current head of Defence Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov.

    The CIA also helped train a new generation of Ukrainian spies who worked in Russia, throughout Europe, and in Cuba and other places where Russians have a significant presence.

    According to The New York Times, the details of the partnership between the Ukrainian and American intelligence agencies have been a closely guarded secret for a decade.

    “Now these intelligence networks are more important than ever, as Russia is on the offensive and Ukraine is more dependent on sabotage and long-range missile strikes that require spies far behind enemy lines. And they are increasingly at risk. If Republicans in Congress end military funding to Kyiv, the CIA may have to scale back.

    To try to reassure Ukrainian leaders, William J. Burns, the CIA director, made a secret visit to Ukraine last Thursday, his 10th visit since the invasion.”

    The NYT reports that the partnership between the CIA and Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) began in late February 2014, when former president Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia. This cooperation was proposed by Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, who became the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU).

    US rules prohibited intelligence agencies from providing Ukraine with any support that could be “reasonably expected” to have lethal consequences. However, the red lines were never precisely clear, creating constant tension in the partnership.

    In Kyiv, Nalyvaichenko picked a longtime aide, General Valerii Kondratiuk, to head the DIU, and they created a new paramilitary unit that was deployed behind the Russian aggressor’s lines to conduct operations and gather intelligence that the CIA or MI6 could not provide.

    After an incident that occurred when Budanov’s group entered Crimea in 2016, the Americans became very angry and threatened to close the programme down.

    After that, the then head of the CIA, John Brennan, called General Kondratiuk to re-emphasise the red lines. The general was upset. “It’s our war, and we’ve got to fight,” he replied, according to a colleague. According to the NYT, Washington’s reaction cost Kondratiuk his post.

    The NYT notes that under Donald Trump’s presidency, the CIA and DIU’s cooperation expanded to include more specialised training programmes and the construction of additional secret bases.

    The relationship was so successful that the CIA wanted to replicate it with other European intelligence services that share common interests in countering Russia.

    The head of Russia House, the CIA’s department that oversees operations against Russia, organised a secret meeting in The Hague. Representatives of the CIA, Britain’s MI6, the DIU, the Dutch service and other agencies agreed to pool their intelligence on Russia. The result was a secret coalition against Russia, and the Ukrainians were important members of it.

    Starting in November 2021, the CIA and MI6 sent messages to their Ukrainian counterparts that Russia was preparing for a full-scale invasion to decapitate the government and install a puppet in Kyiv who would do the Kremlin’s bidding. The intelligence listed the names of Ukrainian officials whom the Russians planned to kill or capture, as well as Ukrainians whom the Kremlin hoped to put in power.

    President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and some of his top advisers “appeared unconvinced”, even after CIA director William Burns travelled to Kyiv in January 2022 to brief them. As the Russian invasion approached, CIA and MI6 officers made final visits to Kyiv with their Ukrainian counterparts. One of the M16 officers teared up in front of the Ukrainians, fearing that the Russians would kill them, the NYT reports.

    At this time, “the old handcuffs were off, and the Biden White House authorised spy agencies to provide intelligence support for lethal operations against Russian forces on Ukrainian soil,” the article says.

    The article also quotes a senior Ukrainian official as saying that in at least one case, the CIA shared intelligence with Ukraine which helped foil a plot against President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

    Later, some of the CIA officers were sent to Ukrainian bases. They reviewed lists of potential Russian targets that the Ukrainians were preparing to strike, comparing the information that the Ukrainians had with US intelligence to ensure its accuracy.

    Recently, however, with the delay in the approval of the US aid package, Ukrainian intelligence officials have been asking their American colleagues whether the US is about to abandon them.

    Speaking about Burns’ visit to Kyiv last week, a CIA spokesperson said: “We have demonstrated a clear commitment to Ukraine over many years, and this visit was another strong signal that the US commitment will continue.”

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    WATCH: Hundreds of Thousands of Brazilians Flood Sao Paulo to Support Bolsonaro

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    Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians rallied on Sunday in the country’s biggest city to show support for former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who flew an Israeli flag in a rebuttal of anti-Semitic remarks made by the country’s current president, corrupt socialist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

    The rally comes as Brazil’s federal government investigates Bolsonaro over whether he was involved in orchestrating riots on government buildings last January, the Associated Press reported, adding that he’s also under investigation for allegedly receiving illegal gifts from Saudi Arabia during his presidency.

    Bolsonaro, who is barred from running for office until 2030, wants those who have been locked up from the riot to be pardoned and released from jail.

    “What I seek is pacification, it is erasing the past,” he said.

    “It is to seek a way for us to live in peace and stop being so jumpy. Amnesty for those poor people who are jailed in Brasilia. We ask all 513 congressmen, 81 senators for a bill of amnesty so justice can be made in Brazil.”

    He also shot down allegations that there was ever a coup attempted in the country: “What is a coup? It is tanks on the streets, weapons, conspiracy. None of that happened in Brazil.”

    Roughly 750,000 people attended the rally, according to estimates from the Public Security Secretariat.

    WATCH:

    Bolsonaro also waved an Israeli flag at the rally in a clear rebuttal of Lula, who was condemned last week for engaging in anti-Semitic Holocaust denial.

    Lula’s remarks come as Israel continues to conduct military operations inside Gaza to recover hostages who were kidnapped during the unprecedented October 7 terrorist attack and to eliminate Hamas terrorists and infrastructure. During the early morning surprise attack, Hamas murdered 1,200 people in Israel, injured 5,300+, and kidnapped hundreds.

    “What’s happening in the Gaza Strip isn’t a war, it’s a genocide,” Lula told reporters at an African Union summit in Ethiopia. “It’s not a war of soldiers against soldiers. It’s a war between a highly prepared army and women and children.”

    “What’s happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn’t happened at any other moment in history,” he said. “Actually, it has happened: when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

    Israel has taken unprecedented measures to minimize the loss of civilian life during the war, including dropping hundreds of thousands of leaflets urging Gazans to leave specific areas, calling Gazans and urging them to evacuate, opening up safe corridors so they can travel without being fired upon by Hamas, and calling off airstrikes after civilians were located near a designated target.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Lula’s remarks with a statement posted to social media, saying that Israel would take diplomatic action over the incident.

    “The words of the president of Brazil are shameful and serious. This is about trivializing the Holocaust and trying to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself,” Netanyahu said. “Comparing Israel to the Nazi Holocaust and Hitler is crossing a red line. Israel fights for its defense and securing its future until complete victory and it does so while upholding international law.”

    “I decided with Foreign Minister Israel Katz to summon the Brazilian ambassador to Israel for a stern reprimand conversation immediately,” he added.

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    Here’s How Trump’s Attorney Gained Access to Nathan Wade’s Phone Records

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    Journalist Anna Bower posted on X:

    How Trump got the phone records

    Last week, Mike Roman’s counsel, Ashleigh Merchant, told Judge McAfee that she sent a subpoena to Wade’s phone provider, AT&T, on or about Feb. 9.

    That tracks with the affidavit of Trump and Roman’s private investigator.

     

    Bower reached out to Roman’s counsel, Merchant, who told her that she signed a subpoena for the phone records.

    The district attorney’s office, for its part, hasn’t disputed the idea that the records were obtained pursuant to a subpoena.

    Merchant also told Bower that her access to Wade’s phone records had nothing to do with his ongoing divorce case.

    That tracks with the law: As a defense attorney for a client with an upcoming evidentiary hearing, Merchant herself would be able to send out subpoenas for documents.

    GA defense attorneys routinely issue subpoenas for phone records.

    They just fill out the subpoena form and serve it on the phone carrier.

    Typically, the carrier sends a notice to the person whose records are being subpoenaed.

    That person can then move to quash the subpoena.

    AT&T produced the records on Feb. 15.

    7.

    When the state—a government entity—seeks access to historic cell site location information from a phone carrier, they are required to obtain a court order backed by probable cause.

    That principle comes from a Supreme Court case called Carpenter v. United States (2018).

    But the Fourth Amendment—and the decision in Carpenter—generally only applies against state actors.

    What’s more, individuals generally have no reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment if they turn over information to a third party, like a phone carrier.

    So while the DA’s office would generally need a warrant to lawfully obtain someone’s historical cell site location information under the Fourth Amendment, Ashleigh Merchant does not.

    She’s a criminal defense attorney, not a state actor.

    Beyond constitutional law, there are statutes that regulate what phone companies can turn over to third parties.

    The Stored Communications Act, for example, provides protections against disclosure of the contents of customer communications—i.e., what you wrote in a text.

    But the SCA distinguishes between “content” and “non-content” customer records.

    Cell site location information is a “non-content” record.

    The statute permits disclosure of such “non-content” customer records to non-governmental persons like Merchant. 18 USC 2702(c)(6).

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    Billionaire Koch Network Stops Funding Nikki Haley Campaign

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    Americans for Prosperity Action, the network backed by billionaire Charles Koch, is pausing its financial support of GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s campaign a day after she lost to former President Donald Trump in her home-state primary in South Carolina.

    AFP Action said it still endorses Haley for president but now its support will only come in the form of words — not cash.

    “Given the challenges in the primary states ahead, we don’t believe any outside group can make a material difference to widen her path to victory,” AFP Action CEO Emily Seidel wrote in an email to staff, first reported by Politico. “And so while we will continue to endorse her, we will focus our resources where we can make the difference.”

    AFP Action closing its wallet is the next nail in the coffin for the former South Carolina governor who has taken a series of hits since the start of the election year. Along with AFP Action, billionaire Reid Hoffman has also stopped funding Haley’s presidential bid.

    Despite the setbacks, Haley has pledged to stay in the race through Super Tuesday on March 5. Her campaign said that AFP Action pulling funding has not changed that calculus and that it still has the resources to stay afloat.

    “AFP is a great organization and ally in the fight for freedom and conservative government. We thank them for their tremendous help in this race,” Haley’s campaign said in a statement on Sunday.

    “Our fight continues, and with more than $1 million coming in from grassroots conservatives in just the last 24 hours, we have plenty of fuel to keep going. We have a country to save.”

    AFP Action will instead channel its resources to finance Republican campaigns on the congressional level. It has so far endorsed five candidates running for Senate and 19 candidates running for House seats.

    “With the South Carolina presidential primary this weekend and the Senate engagement really heating up,” Seidel wrote in the email. “It’s time to take stock of where we are and – as we always do – make sure we’re optimizing our resources.”

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