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Trump picks conservative judge Kavanaugh for U.S. Supreme Court

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 President Donald Trump on Monday announced BrettKavanaugh as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, picking a conservative federal appeals court judge who survived a previous tough Senate confirmation battle and helped investigate Democratic former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

In picking the 53-year-old Kavanaugh, Trump aimed to entrench conservative control of the court for years to come with his second lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest judicial body in his first 18 months as president.

Kavanaugh now faces what appears to be another fierce fight for confirmation in the Senate, where Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a slim majority. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would replace long-serving conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement on June 27 at age 81.

“Throughout legal circles he’s considered a judge’s judge, a true thought leader among his peers,” Trump, who named conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch to the court last year, told an applauding audience in the White House East Room.

“He’s a brilliant jurist with a clear and effective writing style, universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time. And just like Justice Gorsuch, he excelled as a legal clerk for Justice Kennedy,” Trump added, saying his nominee “deserves a swift confirmation and robust bipartisan support.”

Kavanaugh has amassed a solidly conservative judicial record since 2006 on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the same court where three current justices including Chief Justice John Roberts previously served. Some conservative activists have questioned whether he would rule sufficiently aggressively as a justice.

Kavanaugh potentially could serve on the high court for decades. Trump’s other leading candidates for the post were fellow federal appellate judges Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett.

“My judicial philosophy is straightforward: a judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history, and tradition and precedent,” Kavanaugh said during the ceremony in which he underscored his ties to his family and his Roman Catholic faith.

Kavanaugh served as a senior White House official under Republican former President George W. Bush before Bush picked nominated him to the appeals court in 2003. But some Democrats accused him of excessive partisanship and it took three years before the Senate eventually voted to confirm him.

Kavanaugh worked for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel whose investigation of Clinton helped spur an effort by congressional Republicans in 1998 and 1999 to impeach the Democratic president and remove him from office. Kavanaugh in 2009 changed his tune on the Starr probe, arguing that presidents should be free from civil lawsuits, criminal prosecutions and investigations while in office.

Trump defeated Clinton’s wife, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election and has disparaged both Clintons.

Democrats in the past also have pointed to Kavanaugh‘s work for Bush during the recount fight in the pivotal state of Florida in the 2000 presidential election, a controversy that was resolved only after the conservative-majority Supreme Court sided with Bush over Democratic candidate Al Gore, settling the election outcome.

Kavanaugh once served as a Supreme Court clerk under Kennedy.

The appointment will not change the ideological breakdown of a court that already has a 5-4 conservative majority, but nevertheless could move the court to the right. Kennedy sometimes joined the liberal justices on key rulings on divisive social issues like abortion and gay rights, a practice his replacement may not duplicate.

Kennedy, 81, announced on June 27 plans to retire after three decades on the court, effective on July 31.

Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, though with ailing Senator John McCain battling cancer in his home state of Arizona they currently can muster only 50 votes. Without Republican defections, however, Senate rules leave Democrats with scant options to block confirmation of Trump’s nominee.

‘SUPERB CHOICE’

“President Trump has made a superb choice. Judge Brett Kavanaugh is an impressive nominee who is extremely well qualified to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who earlier in the day accused the “far left” of “scare tactics” to try to thwart the nomination.

A group of Democratic senators from Republican-leaning states – lawmakers who could be pivotal in the confirmation fight – declined Trump’s invitation to attend the White House announcement.

Trump last year appointed Gorsuch, who has already become one of the most conservative justices, after Senate Republicans in 2016 refused to consider Democratic former President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy left by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. As a result, Democrats have accused Republicans of stealing a Supreme Court seat. Gorsuch restored the court’s conservative majority.

Democrats are certain to press Trump’s latest nominee on the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, a decision some conservatives – particularly conservative Christians – have long wanted to overturn.

Trump has previously said he wanted “pro-life” justices opposed to abortion rights. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer earlier on Monday said Trump’s nominee should be obligated to make his or her views clear on matters like the Roe ruling.

The new justice can be expected to cast crucial votes on other matters of national importance including gay rights, gun control, the death penalty and voting rights. The court could also be called upon to render judgment on issues of personal significance to Trump and his administration including matters arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia-related investigation and several civil lawsuits pending against Trump.

The timing of the nomination means that Kennedy’s replacement could be confirmed before the start of the Supreme Court’s next term on the first Monday in October.

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Michael Avenatti charged with extortion, wire fraud in Los Angeles, New York

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UPDATE: Mark Geragos, an attorney for Colin Kaepernick, Jussie Smollett, and other celebrities, is an alleged co-conspirator in the scheme to extort Nike, according to the Wall Street Journal. He has not been charged.

(VICE News) — Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti has been arrested and charged with federal wire fraud and bank fraud in California as well as four counts of extortion in New York, prosecutors from two separate districts announced Monday.

Avenatti tried to extort more than $20 million from Nike, according to a federal complaint filed in New York’s Southern District. In a second, apparently unrelated case, Avenatti embezzled a client’s money to, in part, pay off expenses for his coffee business, Global Baristas US LLC, which operated Tully’s Coffee stores, according to federal prosecutors in California.

Avenatti purchased the coffee stores in 2013 with actor Patrick Dempsey, who sued Avenatti that same year to break their business partnership. The prosecutors in California also accused the lawyer of defrauding a bank with phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans.

Avenatti is facing 50 years in federal prison over the charges in California. He will have his initial court appearance in New York on Monday, and he’s scheduled to have another in California at a later date. His bail is currently set at $50,000.

In an attempt to extort money from Nike, Avenatti threatened to hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and announce allegations of misconduct by Nike employees, prosecutors said. “I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap,” Avenatti told Nike’s attorneys on March 19, according to the complaint. “I’m not f*cking around.”

Avenatti on Monday posted a tweet saying we would be holding a press conference to disclose a “major high school/college basketball scandal” perpetrated by Nike that he claimed to have uncovered. “This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball,” Avenatti said in the tweet.

Read the federal complaint against Michael Avenatti in Southern District of New York below:

Read the federal complaint against Avenatti in the Central District of California:

Developing story…more to come…

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DOJ NOT SENDING ‘PRINCIPAL CONCLUSIONS’ OF MUELLER REPORT TO HILL TODAY

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 (CNN) — Attorney General William Barr is not sending the “principal conclusions” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to lawmakers Saturday, multiple congressional sources and a Justice Department official told CNN.

But Barr conveyed to his team he still wants to get the conclusions to the Hill by this weekend, according to the Justice official.

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrived at their Justice Department offices Saturday morning to work together, reviewing and analyzing Mueller’s confidential report, the official told CNN.

The official said that Barr and Rosenstein, along with a select few advisers, were still there as of Saturday afternoon.

The “principal conclusions” that Barr promised lawmakers will be derived from the special counsel’s report — a distillation of the main takeaways from the report, rather than a word-for-word summary.

The expectation, according to the official, continues to be that the document sent to Congress with the conclusions will also be made public.

Barr’s submission to Congress and the public is being eagerly anticipated on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, with lawmakers and the White House waiting to learn more about Mueller’s findings.

But the waiting game will continue for at least one more day now, after Mueller submitted his report to Barr on Friday.

Barr announced on Friday evening that Mueller had submitted his confidential report and that the 22-month special counsel investigation had concluded.

The end of the investigation also means that no more indictments are coming from the special counsel, according to a Justice Department official, which Republican allies of President Donald Trump say is a sign that the President will be vindicated by the Mueller report.

But a battle is brewing between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats over Mueller’s report. Democrats say the public needs to see Mueller’s full report for itself — and not a summarized version from Barr — and they are demanding that Mueller’s underlying evidence is provided to Capitol Hill.

House Democrats held a caucus-wide call Saturday afternoon to discuss the next steps for the House, which has its own sprawling set of Democratic-led investigations into Trump’s administration, finances and business already underway.

They renewed their demands for full transparency of the Mueller report, according to people on the call.

Democratic leaders circulated talking points to their members arguing that “the White House must not be allowed to interfere with the report’s release.”

The talking points include details about why they believe there’s precedent supporting the release of a report, pointing to the hiring of a special counsel in 1999 to investigate the 1993 incident in Waco, Texas. They also point to precedent involving the Justice Department providing 880,000 pages of internal material last year to the House as part of the GOP probe into the FBI’s Hillary Clinton investigation — as well as how the Justice Department provided records to the Hill over the Watergate probe.

“If necessary, Democrats would be prepared to use its subpoena authority to obtain the full report and underlying evidence as well as to obtain briefing and testimony from the Special Counsel, the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General and other necessary officials,” the talking points said.

On the call, which lasted roughly 35 minutes, Democrats argued that the public will is overwhelmingly on their side for full transparency, pointing to public opinion polls to make their case.

“Right now, we are in the mode (of) wanting to know the truth, wanting the facts so that our chairpersons and members of the committees can take a look into this going forward,” Pelosi said, according to a person on the call.

Mueller’s 22-month investigation led to charges against 37 defendants, seven guilty pleas and one conviction at trial, which included charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman, national security adviser and personal attorney.

Allies of Trump have pointed to the fact that none of the indictments against the Trump associates were tied to any conspiracy to collude with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

It’s still not known what Mueller found with respect to the President, but the fact he was not subpoenaed for a sit down interview with the special counsel’s team is a significant triumph in itself for Trump and his legal team.

Barr wrote in his letter that throughout the investigation, Justice Department leaders never told the special counsel a proposed action should not be pursued.

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POLICE STONED AT FLASH MOB IN FRANKFURT

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A flash mob in Germany turned violent on Saturday as teenagers attacked and threw stones at police officers, authorities said.

About 600 youths gathered in Frankfurt on Saturday evening, before running up and down a popular shopping street “without taking any account of passers-by,” police said in a statement.

A 17-year-old then punched a police officer as he attempted to issue the flash mob’s organizer with a dispersal notice, causing the officer to be injured. As the teenager was arrested, other attendees began throwing stones at the officers.

“Due to his resistance, the teenager had to be brought to the ground. He suffered a minor injury, which was immediately treated on an outpatient medical basis,” police claimed.

They added that two male and one female police officers were hit by stones, with one being hit on the head.

Investigations have now begun into those responsible for the flash mob, and whether they will have to pay for damages incurred.

The event was being staged by two separate YouTubers and their fans, police added on Twitter.

It follows similar scenes in Berlin on Thursday, when fans at an event organizer by another YouTuber were arrested.

(CNN)

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