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The DoJ is looking into claims that lobbyists have tried to use bribes to secure a presidential pardon from President Donald Trump, unsealed court papers show.

They say that in August investigators began investigating a “secret lobbying scheme” possibly involving attempts to contact White House officials.

The redacted filings do not give any names, but the DoJ says no government official is being probed.

President Trump tweeted: “Pardon investigation is Fake News!”

It is common for outgoing presidents to use their right to issue pardons, which wipe out convictions.

Donald Trump – who is due to leave office in January, although he is still contesting his election defeat in the courts – has used the procedure a number of times.

Last week, President Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

President Donald Trump Pardons Ex-Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Meanwhile, media say President Trump has been discussing the possibility of pardoning family members.

The document released by a federal court in Washington DC on December 1 relates to a request by the DoJ to use emails and other communications seized in a bribery-for-pardon inquiry.

The data, prosecutors say in the paper, points to potential “criminal activity”.

According to prosecutors, individuals – whose identities are redacted – appear to have “acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials without complying with the registration requirements” for such activity.

Their aim, according to the papers, may have been to secure “a pardon or reprieve of sentence” for another unidentified individual.

According to the documents, prosecutors in August sought a court order “so that the investigative team [could] access” the communications and confront the suspects.

It is unknown who the people targeted were.

On December 1, the DoJ said: “No government official was or is currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing.”

According to the Pew Research Center, President Trump has so far been less enthusiastic in using his right to grant clemency than any of his recent predecessors.

President Barack Obama, whom Donald Trump replaced in 2013, granted 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations – the most since President Harry Truman in the 1940s and 1950s.

The DoJ has defended President Donald Trump’s immigration ban and urged an appeals court to reinstate it in the interests of national security.

In a 15-page brief it argued it was a “lawful exercise of the president’s authority” and not a ban on Muslims.

President Trump’s executive order temporarily banned entry for all refugees and visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries.

A hearing has been set for today on whether to allow or reject the ban.

The filing was made to the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in response to the halting of Donald Trump’s order on February 3 by a federal judge in Washington state.

Image source Flickr

The judge had ruled the ban was unconstitutional and harmful to the state’s interests.

As a result, people from the seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – with valid visas were able to travel to the US again.

The brief filed on February 6 said the Washington court had “erred in entering an injunction barring enforcement of the order”.

“But even if some relief were appropriate, the court’s sweeping nationwide injunction is vastly overbroad,” the DoJ added.

President Trump’s executive order issued on January 25 fulfilled his campaign promise to tighten restrictions on arrivals to the US.

It caused confusion at US and foreign airports when it came into force, and was widely condemned, although polls suggest that US public opinion is sharply divided on the policy.

The states of Washington and Minnesota have argued that as well as being unconstitutional, the travel ban is harmful to their residents, businesses and universities.

Attorneys general in 16 states have signed a letter condemning the ban, and lawsuits have been launched in 14 states.

Former secretaries of state John Kerry and Madeleine Albright and former CIA director Leon Panetta have joined others in drafting a letter which describes the travel ban as ineffective, dangerous and counterproductive.

Lawyers for tech giants including Apple and Google have also lodged arguments with the court, saying that the travel ban would harm their companies by making it more difficult to recruit employees.


The San Francisco Police Department will be investigated over Mario Woods’ death, eight weeks after the fatal shooting of the 26-year-old black man provoked fury in the city, the Department of Justice has announced.

The review follows pressure from civil rights groups to investigate the death of Mario Woods at the hands of police.

Mario Woods’ shooting in a hail of bullets in December sparked widespread outrage.

The San Fran PD is the latest force to face attention over fatalities involving African-Americans.

However, the review will only provide recommendations, not court-enforceable reforms.Mario Woods San Francisco shooting

“We will examine the San Francisco Police Department’s current operational policies, training practices and accountability systems, and help identify key areas for improvement,” US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

When the review is completed the Justice Department will give San Francisco police a list of procedures it can follow to insure more fairness in its dealings with citizens.

Local residents and citizen groups had been calling for the federal government to examine video footage of San Francisco police gunning down Mario Woods, who was suspected of carrying a knife.

Videos of his death under intensive fire went viral in December.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee wrote to Loretta Lynch asking her to launch an investigation in the interests of openness and maintaining good relations between police and the city’s population.

Police in cities throughout the US have been subjected to intense scrutiny for using excessive and lethal force against suspects, many of them black.

Other American police departments such as Baltimore have asked the Justice Department to conduct similar inquiries following allegations of discrimination.

In Baltimore’s case a review of police practice was already under way when black detainee Freddie Gray was killed in April.

Freddie Gray’s death quickly became a flashpoint in a national debate over police use of force – especially against black men.

Protests raged for several days and at one point turned violent, forcing officials to declare a state of emergency and to deploy National Guard troops across the city of 620,000 people.

Wikimedia Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency alleging its mass surveillance program violates US laws on freedom of speech.

The legal action has also been filed against the US Department of Justice.

The legal action, co-signed by eight other organizations, seeks to end the NSA’s large-scale surveillance efforts.

The Foundation is the non-profit group that oversees the running of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.

The Wikmedia Foundation said it was taking action against the NSA’s so-called “upstream” surveillance work which targets communication with people not in the US.

Such spying violates US laws on free speech and those that govern against unreasonable search and seizure, it said.Wikipedia sues NSA and DoJ

The scale of the monitoring carried out by the NSA has been revealed in documents made public by whistleblower Edward Snowden over the last two years. Some of those papers show the NSA tapped the net’s backbone network to siphon off data. The backbone is made up of high-speed cables that link big ISPs and key transit points on the net.

“By tapping the backbone of the internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy,” said Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, in a blogpost announcing the legal action.

Targeting the backbone means the NSA casts a “vast net” and inevitably scoops up data unrelated to any target and will also include domestic communications, violating the rules governing what the NSA can spy on, said Lila Tretikov.

Information in the Snowden papers revealed that Wikipedia has been explicitly targeted, said the blogpost.

“By violating our users’ privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is central to people’s ability to create and understand knowledge,” said Lila Tretikov.

In an accompanying editorial published in the New York Times, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he hoped the lawsuit would bring an “end to the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of Internet traffic”.

Other organizations joining the lawsuit include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Global Fund for Women.

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Swiss banking giant UBS has confirmed it is being investigated by US authorities into whether it helped Americans evade taxes through investments banned in the US.

According to the bank, US regulators were investigating potential sales of so called “bearer bonds”.

These bonds can be transferred without registering ownership, enabling wealthy clients to potentially hide assets.

“We are cooperating with the authorities in these investigations,” USB said.

The fresh investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and from the US Securities and Exchange Commission comes after UBS paid $780 million in 2009 to settle a separate Justice Department tax-evasion probe.

The move comes as authorities in a range of countries are considering examining HSBC’s actions in helping more than 100,000 wealthy individuals avoid paying tax.UBS tax evasion investigation in US

UBS made the announcement as it revealed a better-than-expected 13% rise in fourth quarter net profit to 963 million Swiss francs.

However, it warned the increased value of the Swiss franc relative to other currencies, following the Swiss National Bank’s decision to abandon the cap on the currency’s value against the euro, would “put pressure” on its profitability.

“The increased value of the Swiss franc relative to other currencies, especially the US dollar and the euro, and negative interest rates in the eurozone and Switzerland will put pressure on our profitability and, if they persist, on some of our targeted performance levels,” it warned.

UBS results for the full year, were hit by more than $1 billion to settle past scandals. In November, it was one of six banks fined by UK and US regulators over their traders’ attempted manipulation of foreign exchange rates, paying 774 million Swiss francs in total.

It also paid $300 million in the second quarter to settle charges it helped wealthy German clients evade tax.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is continuing to investigate UBS over currency manipulation allegations.

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