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Homeland Security Reassigns Official Whose Office Compiled Intelligence on Journalists


“In light of recent public reports, we are concerned that Murphy may have provided incomplete and potentially misleading information to Committee staff during our recent oversight engagement,” Mr. Schiff continued, adding that the committee would “be expanding our oversight even further in the coming days.”

The Department of Homeland Security has already faced widespread backlash for the aggressive behavior of the tactical teams in Portland, as well as investigations by the inspectors general for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

Mr. Murphy, formerly with the F.B.I., led an office with the Homeland Security Department charged with sharing information about potential national security threats with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Such a coordinating effort was one of the motivations in creating the department after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In 2015, Mr. Murphy joined F.B.I. headquarters to work on an effort known as Countering Violent Extremism, or C.V.E., after serving as an assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Chicago. Mr. Murphy was known as an ambitious investigator who was once profiled in a self-aggrandizing article about a terrorism case he had worked on. But some former agents and Justice Department officials familiar with Mr. Murphy’s work at the time, who requested anonymity to discuss internal discussions at the agencies, expressed concern about some C.V.E. proposals, his tendency to ignore the rules and failure to coordinate his activities.

One agent at the time raised an alarm that Mr. Murphy wanted to prepare materials for Chicago public schools without disclosing the F.B.I.’s participation, according to an internal bureau document provided to The New York Times. That would have violated F.B.I. policy requiring such outreach to be public or overt.

Other former officials said that Mr. Murphy wanted to tap coaches, therapists, social workers and religious leaders in several cities to help steer people under the sway of Islamic extremism away from a potentially violent future. That was not a bad idea, the former officials said, but Mr. Murphy pushed internally to make those community leaders sign memorandums of understanding with the F.B.I.

By doing so, Mr. Murphy would then have been able to track whether those people in the program were headed down the wrong path again. That would have essentially deputized community leaders to be arms of the bureau, former F.B.I. and Justice Department officials said, a move that would have only stoked existing concerns in the Muslim community that the bureau was using outreach to spy on people. Officials eventually scrapped Mr. Murphy’s plan, calling it ill-conceived and legally problematic.

One former official said that Mr. Murphy “didn’t have a good sense of what the blowback would be.”



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Politics

WH Official Stephen Miller Broke The Law By Launching Into Anti-Biden Rant On Fox & Friends


White House official Stephen Miller appears to have broken the law during a Friday appearance on Donald Trump’s favorite morning program, Fox & Friends.

According to a new complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Miller violated the Hatch Act by using his official government position for partisan purposes.

The complaint notes that Miller, from the grounds of the White House, “impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about former Vice President Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.”

Just in case Miller’s violation of the Hatch Act wasn’t clear enough, the Trump campaign’s official Twitter account even posted a clip of the interview.

A portion of Miller’s comments:

Well as you know Joe Biden is stuck in a basement somewhere and he just emerges every now and again and somebody hands him a notecard and he says whatever his 23 year old staffer tells him to say and then, he dutifully disappears to be seen a week later. As for former President Obama the reality is that for eight years he delivered nothing but failure and betrayal to the people of this country.

As CREW notes in its filing, “This Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employee from ‘us[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.’”

Business as usual for this lawless administration

The news that a White House official broke the law on live television might have meant something in previous presidencies, but it’s business as usual for the most lawless administration in history.

In 2019, the Office of Special Counsel found that Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act and recommended that she be removed from federal service.

Trump quickly stood by Conway, saying that he wouldn’t fire her for exercising her “free speech.”

In November, the American people will have the opportunity to remove Donald Trump and his band of criminals once and for all.

Follow Sean Colarossi on Facebook and Twitter





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Entertaiment

Megan Fox And Machine Gun Kelly Go Instagram Official


Updated 5 minutes ago. Posted 1 hour ago

The caption couldn’t be more them.

Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly have been dating for a bit now. Last month they made their PDA debut and last week they opened up about their relationship. Now they’ve taken it to the next step: going Instagram official.

MGK shared their first social media selfie together with the perfect caption: “waited for eternity to find you again.”

The couple, who worked on MGK’s “Bloody Valentine” video in May — which you can see photos from above and below — are also filming a movie together, Midnight in the Switchgrass. They apparently clicked on set, where MGK would “wait outside” to catch “one glimpse of eye contact,” as he shared on the Give Them Lala…with Randall podcast.

“I think it was the second day, I asked him to come into my trailer for lunch, and I put him through all of this astrology stuff,” Megan said. “I went deep right away. I knew before I even did his chart, I said to him, he has a Pisces moon. I could tell by his energy.”

She also explained that he’s her “twin flame.” “Instead of a soulmate, a twin flame is actually where a soul has ascended into a high enough level that it can be split into two different bodies at the same time,” she said. “So we’re actually two halves of the same soul, I think.”

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Breaking New

Paul Petersen: Arizona official brought women to the US to give birth



Petersen pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent schemes and one count of forgery, all felonies in Arizona. He operated the international adoption scheme in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah, according to the the latter’s office of the Attorney General.

In Utah, Petersen is accused of running an enterprise to transport pregnant Marshallese women to the state for adoptions. The women came from the islands in the central Pacific and were housed in residences he allegedly owned or leased.

He transported or secured transportation for more than 40 pregnant Marshallese women to Utah between August 2016 and August 2019, federal prosecutors said.

“The defendant collected proceeds from each adoption in the form of fees paid to him by adoptive parents,” the documents said.

He resigned from his job and was arrested in October last year.

“While Paul Petersen enjoyed a position of respect and trust in the community, he manipulated adoptive families and bilked Arizona taxpayers for his own profit,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said. “Mr. Petersen must now answer for his crimes. It doesn’t matter if you’re politically connected, wealthy, or an elected official, the rule of law applies equally to everyone.”

In Arizona, the scheme defrauded the state out of more than $814,000, according to the office of the state’s attorney general.

As part of the plea agreement with the state, Petersen will pay $650,000 to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which is Arizona’s Medicaid agency. He’ll also pay $11,000 to an uncharged victim and $18,000 to the Arizona attorney general’s office for investigative costs, Brnovich said.

In December, his co-defendant Lynwood Jennet pleaded guilty over her involvement in the adoption fraud scheme. As part of her plea agreement, Jennet agreed to testify against Petersen, Brnovich’s office said.

After the adoptions, the women either moved to Arkansas or returned to the Marshall Islands. Petersen and Jennet are accused of directing the mothers to fraudulently misrepresent their residency status to obtain health care benefits.

Authorities in Arizona and Utah stressed they have no interest in interfering with adoptions that have already taken place. “They are not under investigation, and their adoptions are not in danger if they are complete,” said Richard Piatt, a spokesman for the Utah attorney general.

Petersen faces three to 12.5 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections in his first case and up to four years in the second case, officials said.

He also faces a second criminal investigation over allegations he provided false information on the birth mothers’ fees to prospective adoptive parents and to the Maricopa County Superior Court Juvenile Division.

In addition, he inflated the duration of time he paid for a birth mother’s living expenses while charging the adoptive family.

In one example, authorities said, a family paid him $33,000 for an adoption. According to an affidavit, $11,000 was for living expenses after Petersen alleged he’d paid for the birth mother to live in Arizona for five months. In reality, the birth mother arrived in Arizona a day before she gave birth and only stayed for two weeks, officials said.

Jennet faces between two to four years in the Arizona Department of Corrections and is expected to have a sentencing hearing in August. A sentencing hearing for Petersen has not yet been scheduled.



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Richard Grenell once touted his foreign clients. Now he’s the top US intelligence official



Last week, President Donald Trump appointed Grenell as the acting director of national intelligence, elevating him to an influential position that oversees all US intelligence agencies, even though he has no experience working in the intelligence community.
An archived version of Grenell’s personal website says, “Grenell has worked with clients based in the U.S. as well as Iran, Kazakhstan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, China, Australia, Timor-Leste, and throughout Europe.” The site was apparently taken down in 2018.

Two years before Grenell joined the Trump administration in 2018 to become the US ambassador to Germany, his company earned more than $100,000 from a foundation tied to the far-right Hungarian government, according to federal tax records. And Grenell also once published a series of columns favorable toward a Moldovan oligarch who is now a blacklisted fugitive facing allegations of massive corruption.

Recent news reports and a close examination of Grenell’s financial disclosure forms raise additional questions about whether any of his clients were foreign governments or politicians. US law requires Americans to disclose any work with international clients to the Justice Department, which recently ramped up enforcement of these federal lobbying laws to curb foreign meddling in US politics.

Grenell now has unrestricted access to closely held national security secrets and classified information about some of the most consequential topics, including any intelligence about Russia or other foreign powers interfering in the 2020 presidential election.

Support for Moldovan oligarch

The investigative outlet ProPublica reported Friday that Grenell worked in the US on behalf of a leading Moldovan politician, according to a person familiar with the relationship and another individual, but never registered as a foreign agent. CNN has not independently verified ProPublica’s reporting, but Grenell’s public financial disclosure form confirms that he received more than $5,000 from a lobbying firm that was involved in the effort.
ProPublica highlighted two op-eds Grenell wrote in 2016 in which he defended his alleged client Vladimir Plahotniuc, who was fending off corruption allegations and trying to improve his image with a visit to Washington. CNN found two additional columns by Grenell, published in conservative outlets Fox News and Newsmax, in which he accused Plahotniuc’s critics of smearing him on behalf of the Kremlin.
Plahotniuc, who was described by The New York Times as the “most-feared man” in the European country, fled Moldova in June after the new government charged him with corruption and seized many of his assets. Last month, the State Department blacklisted Plahotniuc for his “involvement in significant corruption” that “severely compromised the independence of democratic institutions in Moldova.”

Just five weeks after that announcement, Trump tapped Grenell for the senior intelligence post.

Senators had the chance to question Grenell during his in-person confirmation hearing in September 2017, but they didn’t ask about his work for foreign interests. This time around, there likely won’t be a confirmation hearing, because Trump installed Grenell as director of national intelligence only in an acting capacity, bypassing Congress.

Potential FARA problems

One Washington, DC, attorney who handles Foreign Agents Registration Act cases told CNN that investigators at the Justice Department regularly look in the press for evidence of improper foreign influence. That’s essentially what happened with Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn in November 2016 after he published an op-ed attacking a top critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and admitted the FARA violation, though he is now trying to retract his guilty plea.

It’s unclear whether Grenell was directed by any Moldovan officials to publish the op-eds in US outlets, and it’s not clear if his activities violated FARA. There is no public indication that the Justice Department is currently investigating Grenell.

Craig Engle, a lawyer who is representing Grenell, declined to comment to CNN. But Engle told ProPublica that Grenell’s paid consulting work did not require him to register under FARA “because he was not working at the direction of a foreign power.”

“Ric was not paid to write these stories, in fact he has written hundreds of stories on his own time to express his own views,” Engle told ProPublica. “But to be clear: he was not working for any individual, he was working for himself and was advocating the ideal of a pro-western political party that was emerging.”

Engle made similar comments to the Washington Post on Monday, telling the newspaper Grenell had never been paid to express a foreign policy opinion.

The Moldova project was just one of many foreign jobs for Grenell. In 2016, Grenell’s company earned more than $100,000 from the Magyar Foundation, which is almost entirely funded by the Hungarian government, according to federal records. His work for Hungary was first flagged by the Quincy Institute, a foreign policy think tank.

Trump has grown close to Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban and invited him to the White House last year. The foundation is based in the US and its filings with the Internal Revenue Service indicate that Grenell’s company was paid for “public relations.”
The Justice Department has prosecuted people over their contacts with reporters on behalf of foreign clients, including President Barack Obama’s White House Counsel Greg Craig. Craig was ultimately acquitted last year of one FARA-related lying charge.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Olanma Mang and Nicolle Okoren contributed to this report.



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Celebrity Entertaiment

‘Toss a Coin to Your Witcher’ finally gets official soundtrack



Netflix is finally tossing a coin to its most-viewed show.

Fans of the streaming service’s fantasy series “The Witcher” were almost as thirsty for an official soundtrack as they were for its leading man, a brooding, brawny, bath-soaking Henry Cavill.

Netflix just declared the series is now its most-watched first season ever, with 76 million views — though some say their metrics are dubious. Still, its many viewers lamented that the show’s soundtrack, including the insanely viral theme “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher,” was nowhere to be found.

A tweet from the show’s official account announced Wednesday that all 55 songs from the show are now available on Spotify.

The victory comes more than a month after the show premiered on Netflix, sufficiently planting the oddly catchy, almost excessively dramatic theme song in the heads of those 76 million viewers. The song was performed in the show by a bard named Jaskier (Joey Batey), who created it as an ode to the show’s hero, Geralt of Rivia (Cavill). It was remade by rabid fans in dozens of different languages and musical genres before its original, composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli, officially landed on Spotify.

Before it was removed from YouTube, “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” had more than 16 million views.

“We wanted Jaskier to be like the Freddie Mercury of the Continent,” Belousova told The Post, referring to the fictional world in which Jaskier becomes a star bard committed to hyping Geralt’s heroism. “Jaskier is a character, in all the best ways. He had to go all the way for this song. We actually kept asking him to do more, more, more! Because in his first few takes he was a little [subdued].”

In other “The Witcher” news, Netflix also announced this week that it has greenlit a Witcher-themed anime film, “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf.” The original show’s producers Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and Beau DeMayo, are behind the anime version, in collaboration with the Korean animation studio Studio Mir.



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Davos: White House official says Trump expected to go after skipping during 2019 shutdown



Trump is expected to highlight the American delegation that will attend the event, which will run from January 20 to 24.

The annual conference brings together powerful executives, finance ministers and other members of the global elite. Trump attended the summit in 2018 and was pleased with the reception he received, people who spoke to him afterward told CNN at the time.

According to a White House press release, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will lead the delegation, which will include presidential advisers and Trump family members Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, as well as several members of the President’s Cabinet. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will be among the nine-person presidential delegation to the mountainside conference.

The President blamed congressional Democrats last year when he announced his decision not to attend two weeks before the conference.

“Because of the Democrats intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation, I am respectfully cancelling my very important trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum,” he wrote. “My warmest regards and apologies to the @WEF!”

A week later, Trump canceled the trip for the entire US delegation because of the shutdown.
Trump was not the only world leader who did not attend last year. Then-British Prime Minister Theresa May called off her visit after suffering a stinging defeat on Brexit, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who was struggling to stop street protests, also skipped the forum. Neither Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was grappling with a slowing economy, nor Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was fighting for a second term, made an appearance.



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Deaths of Boston mother and children likely murder-suicide, official says


(Reuters) – The deaths of a 40-year-old woman and her two young children who fell from a Boston high-rise parking structure on Christmas Day were apparently a murder-suicide, the local district attorney said on Thursday.

“The evidence suggests” that the mother, Erin Pascal, jumped to her death after causing her 4-year-old daughter and 16-month-old son to fall to their deaths, said Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins. The deaths of the two children “were likely” murder, she said.

Pascal, her daughter, Allison, and her son, Andrew, were all of Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood.

“Today is an extremely sad day as we begin to put together the pieces of a tragedy that took place yesterday, on Christmas,” Rollins said at a news conference in Boston.

The deaths, she said, “highlight the invisible struggles” with depression or other mental ailments that many people suffer with. “Most importantly, I want to extend my sincere condolences to this family,” Rollins said.

She said the two children fell first, followed by Pascal.

The investigation is ongoing. There have been no suicide notes found and no known complaints about the mother, Rollins said.

The prosecutor described the scene as “awful” and especially heartrending because it happened on Christmas.

“There were children’s shoes and an adult shoe. Just belongings from the children and the mother strewn upon the street. The impact of the fall was visible from the street,” Rollins said.

Aerial news video of the scene showed police investigators huddled on the rooftop around a black sport utility vehicle with three of its doors open beside the wall around the top level of the structure. The area around the SUV was cordoned off with yellow crime-scene tape.

The victims’ vehicle was found at the parking structure, with one child seat facing forward and the other backward, Rollins said on Wednesday.

The parking garage, which appeared to be about nine levels high, is adjacent to a transit station near the Northeastern University campus.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta and and Rich McKay; Editing by Leslie Adler



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Celebrity Entertaiment

You can finally pre-order an official Baby Yoda plush doll



The Child is here.

Disney’s official plush version of Baby Yoda has arrived — kind of. The itty-bitty “Star Wars” icon is now available for pre-order for $24.99. But its estimated arrival is far, far away: March 1, 2020.

Disney famously bungled production of Baby Yoda merchandise, neglecting to provide the desperate masses with a plush version of their adorable new mascot. “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau reportedly forbid the making of the toy to avoid spoilers for the Star Wars TV spinoff.

The new foot-tall plush based on the Mando’s miniature breakout star has a “soft, squeezable fill” and “fuzzy trims.” Disney posted an ad for the Baby Yoda facsimile to their Facebook page Monday with the caption: “The cutest thing in the galaxy can now be yours. Pre-order the Child plush now!”

This isn’t the first time Baby Yoda memorabilia has set the Star Wars sphere abuzz. Last week, Hasbro hopped on the Child cash-in wagon with precious plushes that talk and sip soup. And Funko Pop versions of the Force-wielding Furby hit retailer shelves earlier this month.

The craze isn’t limited to toys. The meme-able green mentor has also inspired bake-at-home Christmas cookies, car seat PSAs, and even a petition imploring Apple to create a Baby Yoda emoji.



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UPS hijacking shootout: Almost 200 rounds fired between police and suspects, Florida official says


Those are preliminary figures from the early stages of the investigation into the December 5 shootout that left four people dead, FDLE Special Agent Troy Walker said Wednesday. His comments came during a roundtable discussion with the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board’s Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Committee.

The investigation, Walker said, will not be over any time soon.

“We are not going to cut any corners whatsoever,” he told community members. “So whatever time it takes for us to do that, that’s what we’re going to do, because we owe it to you all.”

The incident began when two suspects robbed a jewelry store in Coral Gables and hijacked a UPS truck, taking the driver hostage, according to officials. They led police on a lengthy chase that ended in the shooting at a busy intersection in Miramar, where bystanders’ cars became shields for police as they exchanged gunfire with the suspects.

The gunbattle lasted less than one minute.

Police release 911 calls from shootout with men who stole UPS truck

It’s unclear who opened fire first. Four people were killed in the chaos, including the suspects; the UPS driver, Frank Ordonez; and a bystander, Richard Steven Cutshaw. Autopsies have been performed on all four, Walker said. Some preliminary details were provided to the victims’ families.

Walker asked the community for patience, telling residents that investigators had collected thousands of hours of footage from body cameras, news outlets and red light cameras. They’ve also compiled hours and hours of police radio transmissions.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Walker said. “I can’t stress it enough: be patient with us through this process.”

The findings of the FDLE’s investigations will be provided to the law enforcement agencies involved to assist with their own internal affairs investigations, Walker said.

Officers from at least four agencies were involved in the shootout, he said, including Florida Highway Patrol, Miami-Dade Police, Pembroke Pines Police and Miramar Police.

In the weeks since the shooting, police have faced questions about how they responded to the incident and the tactics they used.

Joe Merino, Ordonez’s stepfather, told NBC’s “Today” show earlier this month that his stepson’s death was “unnecessary,” saying, in part, “other tactics should have been applied, and they weren’t.”

At Wednesday’s roundtable discussion, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said officers are trained to deescalate all situations, but sometimes it’s just not possible.

“In order to negotiate with somebody,” Perez said, “they can’t be shooting at you.”



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