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‘I Need Loyalty, I Expect Loyalty’: Jim Comey’s Written Testimony Released (Full Text)

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Trump Said ‘He Had Nothing to Do With Russia, Had Not Been Involved With Hookers in Russia’

Former FBI Director Jim Comey’s written testimony has just been published on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s website. In it, he says Trump told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

Comey appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday morning.

Trump, Comey writes, also urged him to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn and Russia: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

And he says he told Attorney General Jeff Sessions “to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me.” Comey writes he did not receive a reply.

The fired, former FBI Director also writes that President Trump told him over dinner that “he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia.” 

This section is of special importance:

I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency. 

The testimony ends with this:

On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

That was the last time I spoke with President Trump. 

President Trump fired Jim Comey a month later, on May 9, 2017.

UPDATE – WATCH: Comey’s Written Testimony ‘Establishes Obstruction of Justice by Trump’ Says CNN Legal Analyst

The full text can be read on the Senate website, and below:

* * *

Statement for the Record
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

James B. Comey June 8, 2017

Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.

January 6 Briefing

I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President- Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.

The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.

The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.

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It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau’s goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves “turning” the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.

Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counter- intelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will “open an investigation” on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.

In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President- Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.

January 27 Dinner

The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and

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invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.

It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten- year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.

A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.

At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because “problems” come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things

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about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.

As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.

February 14 Oval Office Meeting

On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counter- terrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National Counter- Terrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.

The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned

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the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.

The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”

The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.

I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.

The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.

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After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members – or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them – aware of the President’s request.

Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.

March 30 Phone Call

On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.

Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week – at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)

The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he

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hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.

In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn’t brought up “the McCabe thing” because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe’s wife) campaign money. Although I didn’t understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.

He finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia- related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.

April 11 Phone Call

On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

That was the last time I spoke with President Trump. ###

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Ran a Bribery Center Blocks From the White House’: Comer Mocked for Claiming No Evidence of Trump Influence Peddling

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The powerful Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, James  Comer (R-KY) is being highly mocked after declaring he will investigate President Joe Biden for “influence peddling” despite admitting there’s little if any evidence President Biden has engaged in influence peddling.

When pressed, he pointed to Biden’s classified documents and one alleged email from Hunter Biden’s laptop.

But when pressed again by a frustrated CNN host, asking why he’s not investigating ex-president Donald Trump, he couldn’t offer a valid reason, except to claim there no evidence of it.

Some were quick to point out the Trump’s tenure in the White House was filled with alleged influence peddling operations.

Here’s Chairman Comer with CNN’s Pamela Brown on Sunday. While the transcript is a bit simplified, it’s not far off.

“What’s different with Joe Biden is we’re investigating the Biden family for influence peddling,” Comer said on CNN Sunday evening. “We have a strong suspicion that people around Joe Biden, mainly in his family, have been peddling access to the Biden family, with our adversaries around the world, and when we find out that they have multiple classified documents scattered throughout multiple residences and office buildings across the East Coast, then this raises a huge red flag for us. We want to make sure that those documents in the possession of Joe Biden weren’t somehow sent to our adversaries and didn’t somehow compromise our national security.”

READ MORE: The Powerful GOP Oversight Committee Chairman Is Pushing a Baseless Narrative That Biden Is ‘Compromised’

CNN’s Pamela Brown pushed back.

“But you’ve also talked about how you worried about the same situation with the Trump family. Trump had 300-plus documents at Mar-a-Lago, why don’t you have that same concern?” Brown asked. “I mean, there are visitors going in and out of Mar-a-Lago from different countries, including China, there’s been a Chinese spy who was arrested at Mar-a-Lago and it was in an unsecure location at Mar-a-Lago. So would you apply that same concern evenly across the board?

Comer was unimpressed with the facts she presented.

“If someone can show me evidence that there was influence peddling with those classified documents that were in the possession of President Trump, then we would certainly expect it.”

His defense for the Chinese spy? It’s a public place – making all the more dangerous for unsecured classified documents.

“Do you have evidence of influence peddling with the classified documents that was for Biden?” Brown asked. “It sounds like you don’t – you’re looking into it, but why wouldn’t you look into it in the same way for Trump?”

“We have evidence that the Biden family has been very cozy with people from the Chinese Communist Party. We have evidence that Hunter Biden was receiving payments that were that were linked directly to the Chinese Communist Party through those Chinese energy companies. We’re very concerned about all the money connected to Ukraine.”

“How is that connected to classified documents?” Brown again pushed.

READ MORE: Principal Ordered Librarian to Take Down Holocaust Survivor’s Famous Quote Just Days Before Holocaust Remembrance Day

“We don’t know we want to look. We see there’s one email that’s been identified that is suspicious that we want to look into. We want to make sure that there’s one email that was on Hunter Biden’s laptop wasn’t one of the classified documents. So I think there’s ample reason to be concerned.”

Comer revealed he has no evidence against President Biden or the Biden family.

Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) called it a “a politically-driven fishing expedition.”

“Republican hypocrisy on full display,” Gomez tweeted in response. “How can you launch an investigation without any evidence? This is a politically-driven fishing expedition — full stop. Lots of political stunts, not a lot of problem-solving.”

But, as several people noted, there is plenty of apparent evidence against Donald Trump.

HuffPost White House correspondent S.V. Dáte called Comer out: “Trump ran a bribery center five blocks from The White House,” he shouted, referring to the Trump D.C. Hotel, while tweeting in all-caps.

“Just a stunning dereliction of duty,” charged Robert Maguire, the research director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “Trump brought in tens of millions of dollars as president from businesses he refused to divest, which were used by special interests and foreign governments to enrich him while currying favor with him and his administration.”

Telling Chairman Comer he is “happy to chat,” Mother Jones’ David Corn tweeted, “I know of 2 billion reasons Comer and the House Republicans should look at the Trump family regarding influence peddling and overseas dealings.”

Corn is likely referring to the $2 billion “investment” Trump son-in-law and senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner received.

“Six months after leaving the White House,” The New York Times reported last April, “Jared Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, a close ally during the Trump administration, despite objections from the fund’s advisers about the merits of the deal.”

READ MORE: Criminal Charges Against Trump Possible as Manhattan DA Presents Grand Jury With Evidence in Hush Money Probe

MSNBC’s Steve Benen likened Comer’s interview to “watching a snake eat its own tail.” Benen also pointed to Comer’s second attempt, Monday morning, which did not go well.

Bloomberg’s Emily Wilkins, the Vice President of the National Press Club, apparently mistakenly, said to Comer: “So you are asking questions about Trump.”

He made clear he is not.

 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Principal Ordered Librarian to Take Down Holocaust Survivor’s Famous Quote Just Days Before Holocaust Remembrance Day

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A Pennsylvania principal drew criticism last week after telling a Bucks County school librarian to take down posters with a famous quote by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winning human rights activist, professor, and Holocaust survivor, just days before Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Central Bucks School District reportedly has ties to an organization that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

Despite being under investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights after an ACLU complaint, the Central Bucks School District earlier this month voted 6-3 to pass “a contentious policy that bans teachers from engaging in ‘advocacy activities’ and displaying inclusive symbols like Pride flags in their classrooms,” WHYY reported earlier this month.

Citing that new rule, known as Policy 321, the school principal told Central Bucks High School South librarian Matt Pecic to take down four posters that displayed Wiesel’s famous quote from his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, WHYY reports.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” Wiesel said.

READ MORE: $1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

The principal reportedly told Pecic if he did not comply human resources would have to get involved. Pecic, who has worked for the school district for three decades, met with the principal accompanied by his union representative.

“If I didn’t take it down, I knew there would be consequences that could impact me,” Pecic said. “It’s a horrible feeling. And you feel like you have to do something that you don’t agree with.”

Making the issue even more difficult, “Pecic’s ninth-grade daughter, a Central Bucks student at Holicong Middle School, originally emailed him the quote,” WHYY reports.

“This is where I get choked up,” Pecic said. “She said that ‘this quote reminds me of you.’”

Pecic describes himself as someone who often speaks up, “if I disagree with something, especially if I think it’s not for the benefit of students, I will say something.”

On Thursday, after uproar from the community, the district stepped in and allowed the posters with Wiesel’s quote to be put back up.

READ MORE: Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

“We regret that the decision was made to remove it,” the district said in a statement, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported,  “and in a manner that promotes not only the importance of the novel, but continued awareness and education surrounding the Holocaust and its National Day of Remembrance this coming Friday. The district apologizes for any hurt or concerns this has caused, particularly for those in the Jewish community.”

The Central Bucks School District hired a public relations firm, Devine + Partners, at the cost of $15,000 a month, “in an attempt to repair strained public relations and improve the school district’s image,” The Buck’s County Herald reported last summer.

Devine + Partners was hired to help after “a series of executive decisions made by the Central Bucks School District, most of which appear targeted towards the LGBTQ+ student body.”

“This includes the removal of Pride Flags in the classroom, under the justification that they were political symbols, and as such, not fit for the classroom. It also includes only allowing students to attend Human Growth and Development classes that matched with their assigned genders at birth, and pausing said classes shortly after they began, effectively outing these students to their teachers and peers.”

READ MORE: McCarthy Sat for an Interview With Trump Jr. – One Bragged About an ‘Illegal’ Act, One Wished His Dad Would ‘Show Some’ Love

WHYY is a separate report notes on Monday that the Central Bucks School District has ties to an anti-LGBTQ hate group, the Family Research Council.

The district is currently reviewing five books after rolling out a new, harsh policy “which aims to keep books that a yet-to-be-determined group might deem ‘inappropriate’ for unspecified ‘sexualized content’ out of school libraries,” WHYY reported in July.

“Recent updates to the policy were reviewed by a conservative Christian law firm, Independence Law Center, as first reported by the Bucks County Courier Times,” WHYY adds. “The Independence Law Center is the legal arm of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which is a statewide branch of the national organization Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ Christian nationalist group designated as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Earlier this month NBC 10 Philadelphia reported on the passage of Policy 321 by the school board. Watch below or at this link.

 

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News

Criminal Charges Against Trump Possible as Manhattan DA Presents Grand Jury With Evidence in Hush Money Probe

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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has empaneled a special grand jury and prosecutors are now presenting evidence against Donald Trump in their revived investigation into hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and one other woman during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Calling it “a dramatic escalation of an inquiry that once appeared to have reached a dead end,” The New York Times reports the Manhattan DA is “laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months,” and says it “a clear signal” that Bragg “is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.”

Among the witnesses testifying is David Pecker, “the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal” with Daniels.

READ MORE: $1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

Prosecutors have also contacted members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and have subpoenaed phone records and other documents that could provide evidence.

But The Times notes that a “conviction is not a sure thing, in part because a case could hinge on showing that Mr. Trump and his company falsified records to hide the payout from voters days before the 2016 election, a low-level felony charge that would be based on a largely untested legal theory. The case would also rely on the testimony of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer who made the payment and who himself pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money in 2018.”

Cohen broke with Trump and in 2016, “made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women during the 2016 campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with Mr. Trump,” The Times reported in 2018.

The payments were made “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016, Cohen testified.

He was sentenced to 36 months in prison.

“Days before then-President Donald Trump left the White House, federal prosecutors in New York discussed whether to potentially charge Trump with campaign finance crimes once he was out of office,” CNN reported on Friday, citing a new book from CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.

But they “decided to not seek an indictment of Trump for several reasons, Honig writes, including the political ramifications and the fact that Trump’s other scandals, such as efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021, insurrection, ‘made the campaign finance violations seem somehow trivial and outdated by comparison.'”

Award-winning journalist and author Brian Karem tweeted: “As someone who worked extensively with [Michael Cohen] on the book ‘Revenge’ I can say this: Facts show that the MOST dangerous criminal case against Donald Trump could be made by the Manhattan D.A.”

Read The Times’ full report here.

This article has been updated to include Brian Karem’s tweet.

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