Trump says he’s ‘strongly considering’ a full pardon for Michael Flynn

President Donald Trump said Sunday he is “strongly considering” a full pardon of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

It was unclear what sparked Trump’s tweet Sunday, which came amid the coronavirus outbreak. Trump said “it is reported that” the FBI and the Justice Department “lost” records related to Flynn. Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, has accused the FBI of tampering with the interview notes of her client.

The Justice Department and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about what Trump was referring to.

Although he pleaded guilty in late 2017, admitting he lied to the FBI about conversations during the Trump transition period with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Flynn has sought to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging FBI misconduct. That has delayed his sentencing hearing, which had been scheduled to take place Feb. 27.

Last month, NBC News reported that the Justice Department had opened an inquiry into the FBI’s interview of Flynn while he briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser.

Attorney General William Barr asked the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, Jeffrey Jensen, to review the matter, people familiar with the inquiry said.

In October, Trump tweeted that Flynn’s prosecution was “a disgrace.” Earlier last year, he asked “why was I not told” about Flynn’s being under investigation sooner “so that I could make a change?”

Barr’s efforts to take a heavier role in matters within the Justice Department that are of personal interest to the president, including the Flynn case and the sentencing of Trump associate Roger Stone, have come under scrutiny in recent months. Barr is set to testify later this month in front of the House Judiciary Committee about his personal involvement in cases relating to allies of the president (it’s unclear whether the coronavirus outbreak will delay the hearing).

Trump’s tweet Sunday comes nearly a month after he granted clemency to a series of people. He commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was serving a lengthy prison term on corruption charges. Trump also pardoned former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced in 2010 to four years in prison after pleading guilty to felony charges, including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.

[NBC News]

Trump complains he can’t execute drug dealers after ‘quick trials’ like they do in China

President Donald Trump on Tuesday complained that he can’t oversee the quick execution of drug dealers — and suggested that the United States should start taking its cues from China.

During a talk at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference, Trump said that authoritarian dictatorships do a better job of stopping illicit drug use in their countries because defendants don’t have all the constitutional protections that they’re entitled to in the United States.

“You go into China, you say, ‘How’s your drug problem,’ they don’t even know, President Xi doesn’t even know what you’re talking about!” the president said. “They have quick trials, and I won’t even tell you what the punishment is, but let me just say it’s very swift.”

The president then said he didn’t believe American citizens were ready to be “tough” on drug dealers like China was.

“I just don’t know whether or not this country is ready for that, but the only countries that don’t have drug problems are countries where the retribution is unbelievably tough,” the president said.

[Raw Story]

Trump accuses Supreme Court justices of bias in first direct attack as president

President Donald Trump on Tuesday demanded that two sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from all Trump-related matters, insisting without evidence that they have treated him unfairly.

“While ‘elections have consequences’, I only ask for fairness, especially when it comes to decisions made by the United States Supreme Court!” Trump said in a pair of tweets posted from Delhi, India, where he was completing a state visit 7,000 miles from Washington.

Trump singled out Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – both appointed by Democratic presidents — for comments he alleged reflect animus toward him. “Both should recuse themselves on all Trump, or Trump related, matters!” he said.

The tweets are the first time Trump has directly attacked members of the Supreme Court by name since taking office. Justices, who are appointed for life, decide on their own when it’s appropriate to recuse from cases.

The criticism comes one month before the court will consider the legality of subpoenas for Trump’s financial records and as the justices weigh rulings on major Trump administration policies, including the cancellation of DACA. It also follows reportsthat Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife Virginia has been closely advising the president and top aides on ensuring White House staff are loyal to Trump.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the justices have no comment.

In his tweets, the president cites a Fox News report that claims Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently “accused GOP appointed justices of being biased in favor of Trump.”

“This is a terrible thing to say,” Trump said in his tweet. Sotomayor, in fact, has not leveled such a pointed accusation.

Legal experts said statements attributed to Sotomayor and others by Justice Ruth Ginsburg do not meet the recusal standard applied to all federal judges.

The extraordinary exchange stems from a narrow Supreme Court decision issued Feb. 21 lifting a lower court hold on the Trump administration’s new “public charge rule” for immigrants in the state of Illinois.

The court’s conservative majority offered no explanation for allowing the policy to take effect as legal challenges continue; Justice Sotomayor dissented in a seven-page statement.

“Perhaps most troublingly,” she writes, “the Court’s recent behavior on stay applications has benefited one litigant over all others.”

While clearly passionate in her objection, Sotomayor never names Trump or the administration, instead referring to “the Government” as is customary.

“This Court often permits executions—where the risk of irreparable harm is the loss of life—to proceed, justifying many of those decisions on purported failures ‘to raise any potentially meritorious claims in a timely manner,’” she writes in the dissent. “Yet the Court’s concerns over quick decisions wither when prodded by the Government in far less compelling circumstances.”

Sotomayor’s position is consistent with her long running and much publicized views that her colleagues often too quickly dismisses appeals from death row inmates and inconsistently address nationwide injunctions issued by lower courts.

She concludes, “I respectfully dissent.”

The White House did not respond to questions about whether Trump had read Sotomayor’s opinion or only the Fox News characterization of it and why he believes Sotomayor was trying to “shame some into voting her way” as he alleged on Twitter.

The president also revived criticism of Justice Ginsburg who had referred to Trump as a “faker” during the 2016 campaign. She later apologized.

“She went wild during the campaign when I was running,” Trump said of Ginsburg during a press conference in India. “I don’t know who she was for. Perhaps she was for Hillary Clinton, if you can believe it.”

None of the justices has publicly revealed his or her votes during the 2016 presidential election.

“The idea being advanced by President Trump – that a justice becomes conflicted if she disagrees with the executive branch’s legal strategy or constitutional theory – is not only wrong but also degrading to the independence of our judiciary,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan advocacy group.

“The notion that a dissent like Justice Sotomayor’s could somehow be construed as an invalid attempt to shame other justices into coming to different conclusions would come as a surprise to many jurists throughout the country and throughout American history,” he said.

[ABC News]

Trump rants about the crimes he alleges Rosie O’Donnell has committed

During a wide ranging tirade at a rally in Las Vegas this Friday, President Trump ripped into what he sees as the unfair application of the law against people who support him and those who are against him.

At one point, Trump turned his focus to comedian Rosie O’Donnell, referencing the alleged illegally over-sized campaign donations she allegedly made to at least five Democratic federal candidates back in 2018.

According to Trump, O’Donnell violated campaign finance laws “as badly as anybody I’ve ever seen, and nothing happens to her.”

“Rosie O’Donnell — that was a massive violation of the campaign finance laws, but Dinesh D’Souza, they wanted to put him in jail … for doing something that was really understandable,” he continued. “Rosie O’Donnell, five times — what she did is incredible, nothing happens.”

[Raw Story]

Reality

Dinesh D’Souza willingly exceeded donation limits by making his lover (ewww) and assistant donate to a Republican campaign and paid them back. Rosie O’Donnell did what many donors do, give a donation and expect the campaign to reimburse any money over the maximum.

Media

Trump declares himself the ‘chief law-enforcement officer of the United States’

President Donald Trump falsely designated himself the “chief law-enforcement officer of the United States” while speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

Attorney General William Barr is the chief law-enforcement officer of the US.

The president also acknowledged that he makes Barr’s job more difficult, referring to Barr’s remark last week that Trump’s tweets make it “impossible” for him to do his job.

“I do make his job harder,” Trump told reporters. “I do agree with that.” He added that he has “total confidence” in the attorney general.

Barr made waves last week when he told ABC News in an exclusive interview that the president’s tweeting put him in a tough spot.

“I’m going to do what I think is right,” Barr said. “And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said, adding that they “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

Most recently, Barr and senior leadership overrode the sentencing recommendation that career prosecutors handling the federal case against Trump’s associate Roger Stone made to a court last week. The announcement came after Trump tweeted that the initial sentencing recommendation was “horrible” and “unfair” to Stone.

The next day, Trump congratulated Barr for deciding to overrule the prosecutors, all of whom withdrew from the case or resigned altogether after senior DOJ leadership rebuked their recommendation.

“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” the president tweeted.

But Barr told ABC News that he had already decided to ask for a lesser sentence in Stone’s case before Trump tweeted.

The attorney general also said his main responsibility was to make sure the DOJ is free from political interference.

“And I have done that, and I will continue to do that,” Barr said.

Barr’s comments raised questions and prompted immediate skepticism, especially given that he has repeatedly capitulated to the president’s public demands since taking over as attorney general.

In addition to Stone, senior DOJ officials also intervened in the government’s case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn at Barr’s direction. And the attorney general recently appointed an outside prosecutor to review the charges against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI after his lawyer repeatedly pressured Barr to overturn the case, claiming it was a “miscarriage of justice.”

Barr also announced that the DOJ was setting up an “intake process” to vet the information that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani collects from Ukraine against former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s 2020 Democratic rivals.

The announcement was perplexing, given that Giuliani is under investigation by the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York over his efforts to get foreign dirt on Biden.

The DOJ said in a letter to Congress the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York was coordinating “several open matters” related to the Ukraine controversy and that the US attorney in Pittsburgh would vet new information from Ukraine that comes from the public, including Giuliani.

[Business Insider]

Trump Got Tons of Campaign Cash Before Handing Out Pardon

President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to 11 people, including several convicted felons who are either Fox News regulars or have been championed by the president’s favorite cable-news network. And in another case, the family of one pardon recipient dished out massive contributions to the president’s re-election campaign just months before Trump’s clemency spree.

Among those granted pardons or sentence commutations were former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempting to sell former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat; former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced to four years in 2010 for tax fraud and lying to the feds; and Michael Milken, the “junk-bonds king” whose early-’90s insider-trading conviction made him a poster boy of white-collar crime.

Unsurprisingly, a key influence that led to Trump’s decision, particularly as it related to Blagojevich, was Fox News. The same could partly be said of the decision on Kerik, a frequent Fox News guest whose pardon was backed by several of the network’s stars; Milken, whose pardon was supported by Fox Business Network host and Trump loyalist Maria Bartiromo; and Angela Stanton, an occasional pro-Trump TV pundit whose pardon was pushed by frequent Fox News guest and evangelical leader Alveda King.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump made the Fox News connection abundantly clear, telling reporters that he decided to commute the rest of Blagojevich’s sentence because he’d seen the ex-governor’s wife Patti Blagojevich pleading her husband’s case on Fox.

“I watched his wife on television,” Trump declared, adding that he didn’t know the ex-governor “very well” despite Blagojevich’s appearances on The Celebrity Apprentice years ago.

In mid-2018, the president repeatedly asked close advisers to explore a Blagojevich pardon and, while doing so, emphatically referenced clips he’d seen on Fox, including a segment on informal Trump adviser Jeanine Pirro’s weekend show, according to two sources who independently discussed the matter with the president at the time.

According to liberal media-watchdog Media Matters for America, Patti Blagojevich took to Fox programming in April 2018 to push for her husband’s sentence to be reduced, making at least seven appearances on some of Trump’s favorite primetime shows such as Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle.

The hosts, meanwhile, didn’t even bother with subtlety during the interviews. For instance, Tucker Carlson asked Mrs. Blagojevich what she would say “if you could speak to the president.” 

Kerik, meanwhile, has been a frequent guest of Fox News primetime programming for several years, generally offering on-air criticism of how Democrats handle New York City’s police department and criminal justice in general.

In what can generously be described as ironic, Kerik appeared the evening before his pardon on Tucker Carlson Tonight to rail against bail reform in New York while urging for harsher punishment for criminals, claiming crime was down when the police department increased arrests for “jumping turnstiles” and other low-level misdemeanors.

Kerik has also been used as a Trump-friendly critic of the so-called “deep state” on Fox News airwaves, at one point advocating for the arrest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) for trying to carry out an “attempted coup” of Trump with the whistleblower complaint and impeachment inquiry.

According to the White House, Kerik’s pardon was supported by Fox News stars like Geraldo Rivera and Judge Andrew Napolitano. Additionally, the administration said, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani—a frequent Fox News commentator and Kerik’s one-time boss—backed the decision.

Pirro, meanwhile, celebrated Kerik’s pardon and Blagojevich’s commutation on Twitter, personally thanking the president while declaring that “political prosecutions have no place in this country.”

The pro-Trump Fox News star, who brushed off Blagojevich’s crimes as “just practicing politics” in an April 2018 interview with Patti Blagojevich, has something of a sordid history with Kerik. Back in 2006, Pirro—who was then running as a Republican for New York attorney general—admitted she asked Kerik to bug her then-husband’s boat to see if he was having an affair after federal prosecutors began investigating whether she and Kerik illegally taped conversations.

While junk-bond king Michael Milken is not a Fox News regular by any measure, his pardon was backed by Bartiromo, yet another Fox star who has morphed into an unofficial mouthpiece of and adviser to President Trump. 

Additionally, Angela Stanton, who was pardoned for her role in a stolen luxury-vehicle ring, has appeared on Fox News as a pro-Trump commentator—much like her godmother Alveda King, who backed her pardon—often arguing that Democrats want more poor women of color to have abortions.

Appearances on Fox News and Fox Business—two of Trump’s favorite networks—are popular vessels for those seeking to make their cases for pardons or clemency directly to the president, a voracious consumer of TV and cable news.

The most prominent example was the sustained, successful on-air and behind-the-scenes campaign on Fox to lobby Trump to grant clemency to accused and convicted American war criminals. Fox & Friends Weekend host Pete Hegseth was a ringleader of that highly controversial effort.

“[Trump] knows how people play this game,” said one source close to the president. “He’s even told me before something to the effect of, ‘All these people keep getting themselves on Fox News begging me for a pardon,’ so he’s self-conscious about this stuff. But it doesn’t matter, it still has an effect on him.”

For those who didn’t receive the Fox News treatment, it appears that in at least one case, cold hard cash did the talking. Paul Pogue, a construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000 and received three years probation, was issued a full pardon and clemency by the president.

According to FEC filings, Pogue’s family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct contributions and in-kind air travel to the Trump Victory Committee. Beginning in August 2019, Ben Pogue—CEO of Pogue Construction and son of Paul Pogue—and his wife Ashleigh made over $200,000 in contributions to the campaign.

In August alone, Ben Pogue donated $85,000 to Trump Victory while Ashleigh Pogue contributed $50,000 that month. The following month, Ben Pogue made an in-kind air travel contribution of $75,404.40. The couple also made several large donations to the Republican National Committee and each donated $5,600 to Donald Trump for President Inc.

On the day of their first donation to the Trump campaign, Ashleigh posted an Instagram photo of her and her husband posing with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at the Hamptons.

Prior to the Pogues’ sudden significant donating spree to Trump and the Republicans, the couple was not seen as big campaign spenders, having donated a few thousand dollars for Paul Ryan’s congressional campaign in 2017 and $5,400 for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2016 Republican presidential run.

Notably, one of the advocates for Pogue’s clemency: Santorum, who is now a CNN contributor.

[The Daily Beast]

Trump pardons Bernard Kerik

President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner who rose to national fame in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was later sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to felony charges including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.

The White House announced Tuesday that Trump had granted a full pardon to Kerik, as well as a commutation for disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The White House said in a statement that since Kerik’s conviction, “he has focused on improving the lives of others, including as a passionate advocate for criminal justice and prisoner re-entry reform.”

“His 30 years of law enforcement service and tenure as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction have given him a unique understanding and perspective on criminal justice and prisoner re-entry reform, and he remains an invaluable contributor to these endeavors.”

Kerik was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to eight felony charges for offenses including failure to pay taxes and lying to White House officials during a failed nomination to be Homeland Security secretary.

An Army veteran, Kerik once worked on Rudy Giuliani’s security detail when Giuliani was mayor. Giuliani made Kerik commissioner of the city’s Department of Correction, and in 2000 named him police commissioner. The pair worked side by side on Sept. 11, 2001.

The fall of Kerik’s career began when President George W. Bush nominated him to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Kerik abruptly withdrew his name, citing questions raised about the immigration status of a former housekeeper and nanny.

Prosecutors would later say that Kerik gave “false and misleading statements” to White House officials while being vetted for that position.

The federal case centered on charges that he had received more than $250,000 in renovations for his Bronx apartment from a construction company suspected of having ties to organized crime and helping the company’s bids for city contracts.

Kerik admitted to contacting New York City regulators about the company, named Interstate. Prosecutors said Kerik did not report the value of the renovations on his federal tax returns and made false statements about the renovations and his relationship with Interstate to White House officials.

Judge Stephen Robinson of U.S. District Court in White Plains, New York, sentenced Kerik to four years, exceeding the sentencing guidelines of less than three years.

“I think it’s fair to say that with great power comes great responsibility and great consequences,” Judge Robinson said at the time. “I think the damage caused by Mr. Kerik is in some ways immeasurable.”

He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay nearly $188,000 in restitution.

“It is a very sad day when the former commissioner of the greatest police department in the world is sentenced to prison for base criminal conduct,” Preet Bharara, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement at the time.

Prior to the federal case, Kerik pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court in 2006 for two misdemeanors related to the renovations and was fined but did not receive jail time.

He was released from federal prison in 2013 after serving three years.

Since Kerik’s release, he’s become an advocate for prison reform and a frequent presence and Trump advocate on Fox News.

Kerik has also worked as a strategist for Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes for the fatal stabbing of a wounded fighter of the Islamic State extremist group. In July, Gallagher was found not guilty by a military court of six of the seven charges against him, including murder and attempted murder.

Last week, a former associate of Kerik’s was arrested and charged with counts that include extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor and money laundering in connection with alleged crimes against students from Sarah Lawrence College, according to an unsealed indictment.

Lawrence Ray was the best man at Kerik’s wedding before the two had a falling out and Ray eventually served as a cooperating witness in an investigation against Kerik.

On Tuesday afternoon, Kerik thanked Trump in a statement.

“With the exception of the birth of my children, today is one of the greatest days in my life — being made a full and whole American citizen again,” he wrote. “Going to prison is like dying with your eyes open. Its aftermath of collateral consequences and the permanent loss of many of your civil and constitutional rights are personally devastating.”

“This pardon restores those rights, for which I will be eternally grateful,” he said.

[NBC News]

Trump commutes sentence of former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he had commuted the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached and removed from office in 2009 on corruption charges, and pardoned former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik.

A federal spokesman said Tuesday night that Blagojevich had been released and was no longer in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The news came hours after Trump signed an executive order granting a full pardon to former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. related to a decades-old corruption charge, one of nearly a dozen pardons and commutations the White House announced Tuesday.

Another big name on the list was that of Michael Milken, the former junk bond trader who pleaded guilty in 1990 to racketeering and securities fraud. The man who prosecuted Milken was one of the people who advocated for his pardon, according to the White House — Rudy Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers.

Giuliani also advocated for a pardon for Kerik, who was Giuliani’s hand-picked police commissioner when he was mayor of New York. Kerik was sentenced in 2010 to four years in prison after pleading guilty to eight felony charges, including tax fraud.

Blagojevich, 63, was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in federal prison on corruption charges related to his solicitation of bribes in an attempt to “sell” the Senate seat Barack Obama left open after he was elected president.

Trump, who has repeatedly floated the idea of pardoning Blagojevich, told reporters that he had received “a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence.”

“He served eight years in jail, a long time,” Trump told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. “I don’t know him very well. I met him a couple of times. He was on for a short while on ‘The Apprentice’ some years ago. He seems like a very nice person. I don’t know him.”

Trump said “many people” thought the sentence was unfair. “He’ll be able to go back home to his family,” he added.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, had been at the low-security Federal Correctional Institute in Englewood, Colorado. He’d been a contestant on Trump’s reality TV show “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010.

The president said in August that he was “very strongly” considering giving Blagojevich a reprieve.

“I’m thinking about commuting his sentence very strongly,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One then.

“He’s been in jail for seven years, over a phone call where nothing happens … over a phone call where, you know, he shouldn’t have said what he said, but it was braggadocio, you would say. I would think that there have been many politicians — I’m not one of them, by the way — that have said a lot worse over telephones,” he added.

In one wiretapped phone call, Blagojevich said of Obama’s Senate seat: “I’ve got this thing and it’s f—— golden. And I’m just not giving it up for f—— nothing.”

The current Democratic governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, took to Twitter to blast the pardon.

“President Trump has abused his pardon power in inexplicable ways to reward his friends and condone corruption, and I deeply believe this pardon sends the wrong message at the wrong time,” Pritzker tweeted.

Prosecutors said Blagojevich and others working for him began “a pattern of racketeering activity” soon after he took office in 2002, using the powers of the governorship in “exchange for financial benefits for themselves and others.”

He was arrested in late 2008 on allegations that he had tried to profit from selling off Obama’s open Senate seat, and he was impeached in January 2009 after he refused to resign.

Blagojevich was convicted in federal court in Chicago later that year on one of 24 felony counts — lying to the FBI about the extent of his involvement in campaign fundraising. Jurors deadlocked on the other counts.

At his 2011 retrial, he was convicted of three separate shakedown attempts — one involving a children’s hospital, one involving a racetrack and one involving the Senate seat.

In between his trials, he tried to rehabilitate his image and signed up as a contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010. He was “fired” after four episodes after bungling a Harry Potter presentation.

[NBC News]

Trump pardons former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr.

President Donald Trump has pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in a gambling fraud scandal.

DeBartolo, 73, who helped to build the 49ers’ dynasty of the 1980s and ’90s, was involved in one of the biggest owners’ scandals in the sport’s history.

In 1998, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license.

The White House announced the surprise decision to reporters on Tuesday. NFL greats Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley were in attendance.

DeBartolo, whose 49ers won five Super Bowls under his leadership, stepped down as owner in 1997 after two Louisiana newspapers reported he would be indicted for gambling fraud. He avoided prison, was fined $1 million and was suspended for a year by the NFL. But the episode effectively ended his NFL career.

Rice, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who played on three of DeBartolo’s Super Bowl-winning teams, said DeBartolo “was like that 12th man” of the great 49ers teams.

“He’s the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls,” Rice said. “So today is a great day for him. I’m glad to be here and be a part of that. It’s just something I will never forget. This man, he has done so much in the community, has done so much in NFL football.”

DeBartolo withdrew from the riverboat project after the state gambling board demanded he hand over all documents he gave to the grand jury. The documents included an “unexecuted agreement” between DeBartolo and Stephen Edwards, according to a copy of a grand jury subpoena obtained by the newspapers.

The state gambling board canceled the project after DeBartolo withdrew.

The DeBartolo family built their fortune through commercial real estate — mostly owning shopping malls. The family business was started by DeBartolo’s father, who died in 1994. In addition to the 49ers, the family also owned the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League before selling the team in 1991.

DeBartolo Jr. ran the 49ers starting in 1977, and his hiring of coach Bill Walsh in 1979 led to the franchise’s most successful era. From 1982 to 1995, the team won five Super Bowls.

After the suspension, DeBartolo gave control of the team to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York.

He never returned to the NFL after his suspension. The team is now run by his nephew, Jed York.

DeBartolo was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

[ESPN]

Reality

Eddie DeBartolo is a longtime friend of Donald Trump who donated to his inauguration in 2017.

Barr appoints outside prosecutor to review criminal case against Michael Flynn

Attorney General William Barr has appointed an outside prosecutor to review the criminal case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, an official familiar with the matter said Friday.

Barr has tapped Jeffrey Jensen, the chief federal prosecutor in St. Louis, to conduct the review. Flynn and his attorneys have sought to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming the FBI and federal prosecutors engaged in misconduct.

Flynn’s case was one of the first brought by former special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.

The development, first reported by The New York Times, caps off a controversial week for the Justice Department as the agency faces allegations it has succumbed to political pressure from President Donald Trump.

The Justice Department caused an uproar earlier this week after it intervened to reduce its recommended prison sentence for Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of Trump who was convicted of seven felonies, including lying to Congress. Career prosecutors who handled the case had asked for a sentence of seven to nine years in prison, which Trump said was a “miscarriage of justice.” 

The Justice Department overruled the attorneys, saying the prison recommendation was too harsh. The prosecutors withdrew from Stone’s case in apparent protest. One resigned from the Justice Department. 

In an interview with ABC News, Barr pushed back against criticism that he was doing Trump’s bidding. The president “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” he said. 

But the fast-moving developments have cast a harsh spotlight on the Justice Department’s leadership, primarily Barr, and have raised fresh questions about the department’s independence from the White House. 

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27. He pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his communication with Sergey Kislyak, a former Russian ambassador to the U.S., in the weeks before Trump took office.

Flynn’s case has been stalled in federal court for two years as his defense team alleges the former Army general was framed in a government conspiracy. Last month, Flynn withdrew his guilty plea, accusing prosecutors of acting in “bad faith” during their investigation. 

His defense team, led by conservative lawyer and Fox News commentator Sidney Powell, declared his innocence. Flynn’s attorneys accused the government of forcing him to admit to crimes he didn’t commit and hiding evidence that would’ve exonerated him. A federal judge has rejected those claims. 

Flynn’s attorneys did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The government initially recommended Flynn be sentenced to six months in prison, citing his attempts to “thwart” prosecutors and his “apparent failure to accept responsibility.” 

Federal prosecutors later softened their position, suggesting that probation is also an “appropriate” sentence for Flynn.

Barr’s decision to tap outside prosecutors to review Flynn’s case comes as the Justice Department conducts another politically charged inquiry into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. That probe led to the criminal charges against Flynn and cast a cloud over the first years of Trump’s presidency. 

That inquiry, which Barr launched last year, focuses on whether federal investigators abused their surveillance authority in the initial stages of the Russia investigation. John Durham, Connecticut’s chief federal prosecutor, is leading the investigation.

Also this week, the Justice Department decided not to file criminal charges against former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, one of several former FBI officials who have been the target of Trump’s attacks. 

The investigation into McCabe stemmed from a Justice Department Inspector General’s report that found he improperly authorized a leak about a federal investigation into the Clinton Foundation in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. Investigators concluded he displayed a lack of candor when asked about the leak. 

[USA Today]

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