TPM News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Deputy White House chief of staff Kirstjen Nielsen as President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Senators approved Nielsen’s nomination, 62-37, on Tuesday. Nielsen, 45, is a former DHS official who is considered a protege of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a former DHS secretary.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Nielsen a qualified candidate with the talent and experience to succeed. As a former DHS chief of staff, Nielsen understands the department’s daily operations and is ready to lead on her first day, McConnell said.

Democrats complained that Nielsen lacks the experience needed to run a major agency with 240,000 employees. They also cited concerns about possible White House interference in a recent DHS decision to send home thousands of Nicaraguans and Haitians long granted U.S. protection.

Homeland Security oversees the nation’s borders, cybersecurity and response to natural disasters, among other areas.

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Nielsen brings valuable, practical experience to DHS. He called her an expert in risk management, with a focus on cybersecurity, emergency management and critical infrastructure.

Nielsen “is ready to answer this call to duty,” Johnson said. “She has been working in and around the Department of Homeland Security since its creation.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Nielsen has played a role in several questionable Trump administration decisions, including a travel ban to restrict entry from six mostly Muslim countries, termination of a program for young immigrants and what Harris called a “feeble response to Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey.”

Harris also said she was troubled by Nielsen’s failure to acknowledge at her confirmation hearing how human behavior contributes to climate change.

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund, which promotes immigrants’ rights, said Trump has worked to punish immigrants and refugees, from his call to build a wall along the Mexican border to the partial travel ban to raids against immigrants.

As a key Kelly aide, Nielsen is “one of the architects” of Trump’s immigration policies, Sharry said. He called Nielsen “a willing accomplice, helping to shape and implement this profoundly disturbing and un-American vision of our country.”

Nielsen said at her confirmation hearing last month that climate change is a crucial issue and said the Trump administration is revising its climate models to better respond to rising sea levels.

“I can’t unequivocally state it’s caused by humans,” she said. “There are many contributions to it.”

On other topics, Nielsen said she agreed with Kelly that a U.S.-Mexico border wall is unlikely to be a physical barrier from “sea to shining sea.”

She also condemned white nationalism, rejected Islamophobia and promised to make cybersecurity a top priority.

Trump repeatedly promised during the campaign that he would build the wall and that Mexico would pay for it, but the administration is seeking billions in taxpayer dollars to finance the project.

Homeland Security has been leading the charge on implementing Trump’s aggressive immigration agenda, and Nielsen pledged to continue that work.

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One of President Trump’s personal lawyers is pushing back on reports that Deutsche Bank had received a subpoena for information related to Trump and his family’s financial records in a statement that the White House is also pointing to, when asked about the reports.

“We have confirmed that the news reports that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the president are false,” Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.”

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Police say they stopped a man from carrying out a planned mass shooting at a Florida Islamic center.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams announced Monday that police arrested 69-year-old Bernardino Gawala Bolatete after he tried to buy a gun silencer from an undercover officer.

Police began investigating Bolatete after receiving a tip from a confidential source that Bolatete was planning a mass shooting at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

An undercover officer contacted him and arranged the sale of the silencer. During taped conversations, Bolatete repeated his plans for the shooting.

He was arrested Friday after the silencer was delivered.

Williams said Bolatete already had the weaponry necessary to carry out the attack.

Bolatete is being held by the FBI and more charges could be filed. It was not known if he has an attorney.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that she hadn’t spoken to President Donald Trump about the possibility of pardoning his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI.

“Yesterday, the President said that he felt very badly for Gen. Flynn,” ABC News’ Cecilia Vega said. “Would he consider pardoning him?”

“I’m not aware that that has come up, or any process or decision on that front,” Sanders said.

“You haven’t talked to him about it?” Vega asked.

“No, I haven’t asked the President whether or not he would do that” Sanders said, adding: “I think before we start discussing pardons for individuals we should see what happens in specific cases, too.”

“So is it fair to say it’s on the table?” Vega asked.

“No,” Sanders replied. “I just said I haven’t had the conversation with him because I don’t feel that it’s necessary until we get further down the the road and determine whether or not that’s even something needed.”

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NEW YORK (AP) — The top editor for the National Enquirer, Us Weekly and other major gossip publications openly described his sexual partners in the newsroom, discussed female employees’ sex lives and forced women to watch or listen to pornographic material, former employees told The Associated Press.

The behavior by Dylan Howard, currently the chief content officer of American Media Inc., occurred while he was running the company’s Los Angeles office, according to men and women who worked there. Howard’s self-proclaimed nickname was “Dildo,” a phallus-shaped sex toy, the former employees said. His conduct led to an internal inquiry in 2012 by an outside consultant, and former employees said he stopped working out of the L.A. office after the inquiry.

Howard quit soon after the report was completed, but the company rehired him one year later with a promotion that landed him in the company’s main office in New York. It was not clear whether Howard faced any discipline over the accusations. AP is not aware of any sexual harassment allegations involving Howard since he was rehired.

The AP spoke with 12 former employees who knew about the investigation into Howard’s behavior, though not all were aware of every detail. The outside investigator hired to examine complaints about Howard’s behavior also confirmed to AP that he completed a report.

In a brief phone interview with the AP, Howard characterized the ex-employees’ claims as “baseless.”

A lawyer for American Media confirmed Tuesday that an outside investigator was hired to look into two employees’ claims about Howard’s behavior.

The lawyer, Cam Stracher, said the investigation did not show serious wrongdoing. Stracher confirmed that one employee had complained that Howard said he wanted to create a Facebook account for her vagina, but Stracher said Howard said that never happened.

“It was determined that there was some what you would call as horsing around outside the office, going to bars and things that are not uncommon in the media business,” Stracher said, “but none of it rose to the level of harassment that would require termination.”

American Media publishes the National Enquirer, RadarOnline, Star and other gossip publications and websites. In March the company purchased the glossy Us Weekly magazine for a reported $100 million, significantly boosting its readership among women.

In his job, Howard oversees those newsrooms.

AMI spokesman Jon Hammond described the two employees who had formally complained about Howard’s alleged behavior as “disgruntled.”

“The investigation described an environment where employees mixed socially outside the office — sometimes at bars — but found no direct support for the allegations of harassment made by the two complainants,” Hammond said in an email.

Most of the former employees spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they had signed nondisclosure agreements, sometimes as part of severance packages.

Two former employees, one a senior manager and another a reporter in the L.A. office, agreed to be publicly identified to discuss Howard’s behavior.

“The behavior that Dylan displayed and the way he was and the way the company dealt with it — I just think that it has to be made public because it’s completely unacceptable,” said Maxine “Max” Page, a former senior editor at RadarOnline. She complained to the human resources department about Howard’s behavior on behalf of two female reporters.

Howard made inappropriate comments to and about one of those women, Page and six other ex-employees said. Howard told employees in the newsroom he wanted to create a Facebook account on behalf of the woman’s vagina, commented on her sex life and forced her and other female employees to either watch or listen to graphic recordings of sex involving celebrities despite there being no professional rationale for doing so, they said.

A former senior editor recalled Howard wrongly claimed during a newsroom meeting that the woman had had sex with a journalism source and praised her for it, saying she needed to “do what you need” to get a story.

The editor said: “He encouraged her to have sex with people for information.”

The woman Howard was discussing confirmed these and other incidents to the AP but declined to be identified.

Page and four other employees recounted instances in which Howard talked about his own sexual exploits, including descriptions of his partners’ physical attributes.

Stracher, the company lawyer, said no one interviewed by the outside investigator complained about Howard’s handling of pornographic material. Stracher said there was nothing inherently inappropriate about that in the celebrity news business.

Stracher also said no one complained to the investigator about Howard’s alleged encouragement of a reporter to sleep with news sources.

Another former reporter, Liz Crokin, said she was also harassed by Howard, including once when he asked whether she was “going to be walking the streets tonight” on a day she wore heels to work.

Page and Crokin, like many of the other former employees who spoke to AP, were laid off by the company during waves of downsizing at AMI. The others who left the company said they did so by choice.

American Media regularly asked exiting employees to sign nondisclosure agreements that prohibit them from disclosing confidential information or disparaging company executives.

Many of the former employees who described Howard’s behavior said they decided to do so after the New Yorker and other news organizations published emails in recent weeks showing that Howard had worked with movie producer Harvey Weinstein to undermine allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein.

The emails showed that Howard had dispatched a reporter to uncover derogatory information about an actress who had accused Weinstein of rape, and then shared that information with Weinstein. Howard has said he pursued the information as part of due diligence before entering into a business relationship with Weinstein. Weinstein, who has denied allegations of non-consensual sex, has maintained he was passing along a news tip to Howard that was never published.

After the 2012 investigation into Howard’s conduct in Los Angeles, two of the ex-employees said they were told by a manager that Howard was barred from the Los Angeles office. The employees said he worked from home after that. Stracher, the company lawyer, said Howard was given no such order to stay away from the office.

Shortly after the report was issued, Howard took a new job with another company.

It’s unclear what the report concluded or whether Howard faced any disciplinary action.

The AP was unable to obtain a copy of the report. Its author, Philip Deming, confirmed he wrote a report but said he could not talk about what he found or the recommendations he made.

Page, the manager whose complaint prompted the company to hire Deming, said she was skeptical the company properly investigated Howard’s behavior.

Deming said he produced a 25- to 35-page report with 18 exhibits, and interviewed between 15 and 20 employees. He declined to describe his findings without AMI’s authorization. Stracher, the company lawyer, declined to release the report.

Deming said he was not aware that American Media re-hired Howard a year after his report.

“I did have recommendations and I don’t know what happened after those recommendations were made,” he said.

Stracher said Howard was “cautioned when he returned that what I would characterize as horsing around was not appropriate.”

Howard openly discussed the investigation with some reporters and editors, one former employee said. A January 2012, email provided to the AP by another former employee said, “There is an investigation going on of my boss right now and it’s made everyone awkward and uncomfortable. You could cut the tension with a knife.”

Crokin, the former reporter, said she believed Howard retaliated against her after Deming interviewed her, taking away serious work and assigning her menial tasks. She was laid off a short time later.

The company lawyer, Stracher, said any employees who witnessed or had concerns about Howard’s behavior should have raised them at that time.

Another ex-employee who was interviewed by Deming recalled being anxious about speaking with the HR consultant.

“I told the investigator I didn’t know anything,” said the former employee, acknowledging that answer was not true. “It’s almost like I had Stockholm syndrome.”

Yet another former employee, who said she was present when Howard showed a handful of reporters pornography that was not newsworthy, said Deming never interviewed her.

Howard, 35, came to the U.S. in 2009, months after being fired from a sports reporting job in Australian television news, following a police investigation about how he had obtained athletes’ medical records. Police did not bring charges against him. He was then hired by Australian broadcaster Craig Hutchison’s CrocMedia to report in the United States.

In a recent podcast, Hutchison praised Howard’s talent but said he quickly parted with Howard under rocky circumstances.

“His methods make me uncomfortable, that’s probably the best way to put it,” Hutchison said.

Howard then began working for American Media Inc. in Los Angeles.

During his time there, Howard blurred the lines between his role as a manager and his personal life, throwing parties in Las Vegas and in Malibu, inviting female reporters to accompany him in the evenings and regularly discussing his late-night partying in the newsroom, six former employees said.

For his 30th birthday party, Howard invited a dozen employees to Las Vegas in January 2012 for an all-expenses-paid, three-day party he dubbed “Dildo’s Dirty 30,” according to a copy of the professionally designed invitation obtained by the AP.

A week later, ex-employees said, Deming, the HR consultant, began conducting interviews.

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Alabama Senate Democratic nominee Doug Jones came out swinging at Republican Roy Moore on Tuesday, drawing a sharp contrast between his career as a prosecutor and Moore, who faces allegations from multiple women of initiating sexual encounters when they were teenagers.

“I damn sure believe and have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail — not to the U.S. Senate,” Jones said in a Tuesday campaign speech that took on a more combative tone than in the past.

Jones is best known for reopening a cold case and successfully prosecuting KKK members who bombed a black church in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963, killing four young girls.

Nine women have come forward to accuse Moore of inappropriate sexual actions, including one who was 16 when she says he violently sexually assaulted her and another who was 14 when she says he initiated a sexual encounter. Before those accusations, he was best known for getting thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court twice for failing to follow the rule of law — and for his hardline theocratic views that his interpretation of the Bible supersedes the Constitution and harsh anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements.

In spite of that, he’s climbed back into a virtual tie with Jones in recent public and private polls — and President Trump doubled down on his endorsement of Moore on Monday, possibly further boosting his campaign.

Jones’s pointed line wasn’t his only broadside against Moore during the speech.

He also warned a Moore win would “be bad for business in Alabama, bad for the economy, and bad for our country” — and attacked Moore for coauthoring a classroom curriculum that taught women shouldn’t run for public office.

“Roy Moore was already an embarrassment to this state before nine courageous women chose to share their deeply personal and disturbing encounters with him from a time when he was a thirty-something year old Assistant District Attorney and they were only teenagers, one as young as 14,” he said.

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Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore on Monday suggested that George Soros, a Jewish Hungarian-born billionaire and philanthropist, is going to hell.

“No matter how much money he’s got, he’s still going to the same place that people who don’t recognize God and morality and accept His salvation are going. And that’s not a good place,” Moore said on conservative Christian radio host Bryan Fischer’s show.

Moore on Monday accused Soros of “pushing an agenda.”

“His agenda is sexual in nature, his agenda is liberal, and not what Americans need. It’s not our American culture,” he said. “Soros comes from another world that I don’t identify with. I wish I could face him directly, and I’d tell him the same thing.”

Fischer worked for the American Family Association, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center categorized as an anti-LGBT hate group, until the group distanced itself from his extreme positions. Moore in November blamed “the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender who want to change our culture” for the flood of sexual misconduct allegations that numerous women have raised against him.

Listen:

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on camera press briefing at 3:00 p.m. ET Tuesday. Watch live below:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump forged ahead Tuesday with plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests.

Trump also told the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Jordan in phone calls that he intends to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It remained unclear, however, when he might take that physical step, which is required by U.S. law but has been waived on national security grounds for more than two decades.

For now, U.S. officials familiar with Trump’s planning said he would immediately declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a rhetorical volley that could have its own dangerous consequences.

The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem ordered its personnel and their families not to conduct personal travel to Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank due to fears of unrest over the expected U.S. announcement. The consulate said government employees could still travel to those areas for essential business but only with additional security.

The warning also urged American citizens to avoid large crowds or areas with increased police or military presence.

The United States has never endorsed the Jewish state’s claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and has insisted its status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

Trump’s recognition could be viewed as America discarding that longstanding position and siding with Israel at a time that the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been trying to midwife a new peace process into existence. Trump, too, has spoken of his desire for a “deal of the century” that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

U.S. officials, along with an outside adviser to the administration, said they expected a broad statement from Trump about Jerusalem’s status as the “capital of Israel.” The president isn’t planning to use the phrase “undivided capital,” according to the officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. Such terminology is favored by Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and would imply Israel’s sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek for their own future capital.

Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism. But it’s also home to Islam’s third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and forms the combustible center of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered volatile protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the Muslim world.

Within the Trump administration, officials on Tuesday were still debating the particulars of the president’s expected speech as they fielded a flood of warnings from allied governments. Already, the State Department has warned U.S. embassies and consulates in the Muslim world of the possibility of Trump’s announcement provoking unrest.

In his calls to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Trump delivered what appeared to be identical messages of intent. Both leaders warned Trump that moving the embassy would threaten Mideast peace efforts and security and stability in the Middle East and the world, according to statements from their offices. The statements didn’t speak to Trump’s plans for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, urged the U.S. to reconsider any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, warning of “repercussions.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Parliament such recognition was a “red line” and that Turkey could respond by cutting diplomatic ties with Israel. Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. partner in the Arab world, expressed its own “grave and deep concern.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said he reminded Trump in a phone call Monday that Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations on setting up an independent Palestine alongside Israel. Meeting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said actions undermining peace efforts “must be absolutely avoided.”

Trump has made no secret of his desire to meet a campaign promise to establish a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and in recent days top aides have stressed it is “not a question of if, but when.” Officials have described Trump’s determination to fulfill his pledge as driving discussions on the embassy and possible recognition of Jerusalem, not any grander vision for how to instantly redraw Israel’s boundaries.

The officials familiar with the internal conversations have described key national security advisers, including Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as urging caution. They say Trump has been receptive to some of their concerns.

As a result, instead of immediately ordering the embassy’s relocation, the U.S. officials said Trump on Wednesday is likely to sign a waiver pushing off any announcement of moving the embassy to Jerusalem for another six months. Such delays have occurred unceremoniously since a U.S. law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 stipulated that the United States must move the embassy unless the president waives the requirement on national security grounds.

Trump also will give wide latitude to his ambassador in Israel, David Friedman, to make a determination on when a Jerusalem embassy would be appropriate, according to the officials. Friedman has spoken in favor of the move.

As international pressure has mounted, officials have said Trump could try to limit the impact of anything he says on Jerusalem. Among the ideas under consideration: A Trump nod to Palestinian “aspirations” for a capital in east Jerusalem or his endorsement of a two-state solution to the conflict, something he hasn’t clearly given. The officials said it’s unclear if any of that might be included.

Majdi Khaldi, Abbas’ diplomatic adviser, said Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could end Washington’s role as mediator.

“This would mean they decided, on their own, to distance themselves from efforts to make peace,” Khaldi told The Associated Press in perhaps the most sharply worded reaction by a Palestinian official. He said such recognition would lead the Palestinians to eliminate contacts with the United States.

Palestinian political factions led by Abbas’ Fatah movement called for daily protest marches this week, starting Wednesday. East Jerusalem, now home to more than 300,000 Palestinians, was captured by Israel in 1967 and then annexed in a move most of the international community has not recognized.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon’s watchdog agency said Tuesday it found a “troubling” number of failures this year by military law enforcement agencies to alert the FBI to criminal history information. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps were found almost equally at fault, while the Air Force did notably better in the review.

The Pentagon’s inspector general happened to be wrapping up a monthslong review of compliance with reporting requirements when former Air Force member Devin P. Kelley opened fire in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church on Nov. 5, killing 25 people, including a pregnant woman.

Kelley had been convicted of assaulting family members in a 2012 court martial at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, but the information was not passed on to the FBI as required by Pentagon regulations. The lapse, acknowledged by the Air Force, meant he was not flagged in databases used for background checks of gun buyers.

Tuesday’s report said that from February through October, the military’s law enforcement organizations failed to submit 24 percent of required fingerprint cards for inclusion in FBI databases and 31 percent of required reports of court martial convictions, known as final disposition reports. The data is supposed to be submitted to the FBI for many offenses, including assault, murder and desertion.

The Army’s failure rate on fingerprint reporting was 28 percent, the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ both were 29 percent. The Air Force’s was 14 percent. The Army failed to submit final disposition reports in 41 percent of cases; the Navy and the Marine Corps in 36 percent of cases, and the Air Force in 14 percent of cases.

“Any missing fingerprint card and final disposition report can have serious, even tragic, consequences, as may have occurred in the recent church shooting in Texas,” the report said. It added that these omissions not only result in faulty screening of gun buyers but also hinder criminal investigations “and potentially impact” law enforcement and national security.

“It is therefore troubling that many fingerprint cards remained missing,” this year, it said.

The inspector general study did not determine why the military services have failed to meet their reporting requirements. In the aftermath of the Kelley case, the inspector general has undertaken a new study aimed in part at finding the underlying reasons for what Tuesday’s report called “the enduring deficiencies” in alerting the FBI to criminal history data.

The Associated Press reported last month that the military has known for two decades about failures to provide criminal history information to the FBI.

In February 2015, the Pentagon inspector general reported that hundreds of convicted offenders’ fingerprints were not submitted to the FBI’s criminal history database. The report found about a 30 percent failure rate for submitting fingerprints and criminal case outcomes. It did not determine the reasons for the lapses.

A February 1997 inspector general report found even more widespread lapses. Fingerprint cards were not submitted to the FBI in more than 80 percent of cases in the Army and Navy, and 38 percent in the Air Force. Failure to report the outcome of criminal cases was 79 percent in the Army and 50 percent in the Air Force, the report said. In the Navy, it was 94 percent.

The 1997 report cited several reasons for the lapses, including ambiguous Pentagon guidelines and a lack of interest among the military services in submitting information to an FBI viewed as chronically overburdened with data.

“In their view, little benefit in solving cases is achieved by providing timely information,” the report said.

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