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House prepares to expand obstruction probe

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Declaring it’s “very clear” President Donald Trump obstructed justice, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, says the panel is requesting documents Monday from more than 60 people from Trump’s administration, family and business as part of a rapidly expanding Russia investigation.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the House Judiciary Committee wants to review documents from the Justice Department, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. Former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former White House counsel Don McGahn also are likely targets, he said.

“We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption and into obstruction of justice,” Nadler said. “We will do everything we can to get that evidence.”

Asked if he believed Trump obstructed justice, Nadler said, “Yes, I do.”

Nadler isn’t calling the inquiry an impeachment investigation but said House Democrats, now in the majority, are simply doing “our job to protect the rule of law” after Republicans during the first two years of Trump’s term were “shielding the president from any proper accountability.”

“We’re far from making decisions” about impeachment, he said.

In a tweet on Sunday, Trump blasted anew the Russia investigation, calling it a partisan probe unfairly aimed at discrediting his win in the 2016 presidential election. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start – And only because I won the Election!” he wrote.

Nadler’s comments follow a bad political week for Trump. He emerged empty-handed from a high-profile summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearization and Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in three days of congressional testimony, publicly characterized the president as a “con man” and “cheat.”

Newly empowered House Democrats are flexing their strength with blossoming investigations. A half-dozen House committees are now probing alleged coordination between Trump associates and Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election, Trump’s tax returns and possible conflicts of interest involving the Trump family business and policy-making. The House oversight committee, for instance, has set a Monday deadline for the White House to turn over documents related to security clearances after The New York Times reported that the president ordered officials to grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s clearance over the objections of national security officials.

Nadler’s added lines of inquiry also come as special counsel Robert Mueller is believed to be wrapping up his work into possible questions of Trump campaign collusion and obstruction in the Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. In his testimony, Cohen acknowledged he did not witness or know directly of collusion between Trump aides and Russia but had his “suspicions.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Sunday accused House Democrats of prejudging Trump as part of a query based purely on partisan politics.

“I think Congressman Nadler decided to impeach the president the day the president won the election,” McCarthy said. “Listen to exactly what he said. He talks about impeachment before he even became chairman and then he says, ‘you’ve got to persuade people to get there.’ There’s nothing that the president did wrong.”

“Show me where the president did anything to be impeached…Nadler is setting the framework now that the Democrats are not to believe the Mueller report,” he said.

Nadler said Sunday his committee will seek to review the Mueller report but stressed the investigation “goes far beyond collusion.”

He pointed to what he considered several instances of obstruction of justice by the president, including the “1,100 times he referred to the Mueller investigation as a ‘witch hunt'” as well Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey in 2017. According to Comey, Trump had encouraged the then-FBI director to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump has denied he told Comey to end the Flynn probe.

“It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” Nadler said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has kept calls for impeachment at bay by insisting that Mueller first must be allowed to finish his work, and present his findings publicly — though it’s unclear whether the White House will allow its full release.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who chairs the House intelligence committee, on Sunday also stressed that it’s too early to make judgments about impeachment.

“That is something that we will have to await Bob Mueller’s report and the underlying evidence to determine. We will also have to look at the whole body of improper and criminal actions by the president including those campaign finance crimes to determine whether they rise to the level of removal from office,” Schiff said.

Nadler and McCarthy spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” and Schiff appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation.

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Houston gang member suspected of killing Lamar High School Student

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced on Friday murder charges against a man accused of killing 18-year-old student De’Lindsey Mack near Lamar High School last November.

The man charged is Kendrick Johnson, 19, a member of the Houston gang called 103, which is active in the city’s Third Ward. Johnson is also charged with the murder of 24-year-old Kenneth Roberson on September 23, 2018.

Ogg said in a news conference that “both murders were committed as part of an ongoing assault” by the 103 gang against another gang called Young Scott Block (YSB). Dahlia Mack and Yvonne Ferguson, the mothers of the two victims, attended the news conference, along with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

Johnson is currently in jail awaiting a court hearing on unrelated charges for multiple aggravated robberies. The district attorney’s office also plans to charge him with aggravated assault for a drive-by shooting on January 8, 2019.

Ogg and Acevedo said there is an ongoing criminal investigation

Shake off Your Problems

 

A man’s favorite donkey falls into a deep hole. He can’t pull it out no matter how hard he tries. He therefore decides to bury it alive.

Soil is poured onto the donkey from above. The donkey feels the load, shakes it off, and steps on it. More soil is poured.

It shakes it off and steps up. The more the load was poured, the higher it rose. By noon, the donkey was grazing in green pastures.

After much shaking off (of problems) And stepping up (learning from them), One will graze in GREEN PASTURES.

 

 

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Black Folks Sentenced Longer Than Paul Manafort

The U.S. has a long history of imposing harsher prison sentences for Black and brown people. Paul Manafort is the most recent example. The president’s criminal crony faced up to 24 years in prison under federal guidelines but got off with a light sentence instead.

Manafort, who served as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign chairman, was sentenced on Thursday to 47 months in prison for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud. Adding insult to injury for those who were looking to see justice served, Manafort could still receive a pardon from the president. His conviction stemmed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The Washington Post published a report in 2017 detailing how Black men are sentenced to more prison time for the same crime that white people commit. According to NPR, “the average sentence is nearly 20 percent longer for black men than white men.”

And the disparity doesn’t only exist among men, as shown with the case of Crystal Mason, a Black woman in Texas who got a five-year prison sentence for the offense of voting in an election.

It was that type of racial double standard surrounding Manafort’s sentencing sparked a good deal of outrage. Especially when U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, a white man, expressed some sympathy for the 69-year-old Republican operative and consultant who has political roots in the highest levels of politics, which includes working for the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.

“He’s lived an otherwise blameless life,” Ellis said of Manafort’s offenses, adding that he’s “earned the admiration of a number of people.”

Manafort was one of the 34 people and three companies that Mueller has criminally charged, so far, as a result of the probe into “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

There’s still another chance that Manafort, who was originally charged with conspiracy against the United States, could get a longer sentence that many people say he deserves. He faces another judge next week in the case in D.C., in which he could be handed a prison term of up to 10 years.

Still, Manafort apparently has a get out of jail free card up sleeves, thanks to President Trump.

All of which leads us to highlight the following examples of Black people who got harsher sentences for doing less than the treasonous Manafort.

1. Crystal Mason

Crystal Mason

Source:Crystal Mason

Crystal Mason Mason is currently serving 10 months in federal prison and then faces five years in state custody. All for casting a provisional ballot in Nov. 2016 while on supervised release.

2. Former Trenton Mayor Tony Mack

In May 2014, Mack received a 58 months prison for extortion and bribery. He was just released from prison in May of 2018.

3. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Sentenced

Source:Getty

In March of 2013, Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 federal felony counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering. On October of 2013, Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

4. Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

In 2014, Ray Nagin was convicted on 20 of 21 charges of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering. He is currently serving ten years in federal prison. The earliest he could be released is May 2023.

 

5. Former US Rep. William Jefferson

Former US Rep. William Jefferson's Corruption And Fraud Trial Begins

Source:Getty

Former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson was charged with 16 counts including bribery and racketeering and sentenced to 13 years in prison, the longest sentence ever given to a congressman at the time. He spent five and a half of his 13 years in prison after being released on appeal and then accepting a plea deal.

6. Alice Marie Johnson

In 1996, Alice Marie Johnson was convicted for her involvement in a Memphis cocaine trafficking organization. She was sentenced to life imprisonment for the nonviolent crime. In June 2018, after serving 21 years in prison, President Donald Trump commuted her sentence.

7. Stephanie George

Stephanie George was serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. In 2013, her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama. After being in jail since 1996, she was released in April of 2014.

8. Donel Clark

In 1994, when Clark was 29, he was sentenced to 30 years for a non-violent drug offense — it was his first offense. At the age of 50, he was released in 2015 after President Obama commuted his sentence. See the powerful video above.

9. Clarence Aaron

Clarence Aaron was a first-time offender for a non-violent crime. He was denied clemency by President Bush but granted a commutation by President Obama in December 2013. He was in prison for more than 15 years.

 

The  great  ones  endure,  and  Gladys  Knight has  long  been  one  of  the  greatest. The seven-time Grammy  winner  has  enjoyed  #1 hits in Pop, Gospel, R&B and Adult Contemporary, and  has  triumphed  in  film, television and live performance, comes to Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land on April 13 as part of the Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land Concert Series

For Jussie Smollett, 1 story equals 16 felony counts

News that a grand jury had indicted “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly lying to Chicago police about being attacked by two masked men may not have made much of a splash except for one thing: The lone felony count that Smollett had been arrested on last month had turned into 16.

The reasons Smollett is facing 16 counts rather than just one count of disorderly conduct — the felony in Illinois that people are charged with when accused of lying to police — are not fully explained in the indictment that a grand jury returned Thursday. But legal experts say indictments like that aren’t uncommon in Chicago, and there are some explanations as to how the grand jury could have arrived at the 16 counts, eight of them for Smollett’s comments to a police officer and eight others for what he told a detective.

The first starts with something that has been apparent since Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson briefed reporters last month on the investigation: Authorities are angry at Smollett.

“What you have is a police department and prosecutors that are obviously mad at him for embarrassing the city so they took every one of his lies and made it into another count,” said Terry Sullivan, a prominent local attorney who as a young prosecutor helped convict serial killer John Wayne Gacy in 1980 of killing 33 young men.

Smollett’s attorney, Mark Geragos, called the 16-count indictment “prosecutorial overkill.” But prominent Chicago defense attorney Joseph Lopez, who is not involved in the Smollett case, said it’s the way prosecutors in Chicago do business.

“It is common practice for the Cook County state’s attorney to charge as much as they can for any kind of crime,” he said.

A former state appellate judge suggested such a strategy might be employed by prosecutors trying to protect themselves from the possibility that a jury or a judge might believe some, but not all, of the allegations.

“If you only charge him with one or two counts and they find him not guilty of them, you’re done,” said David Erickson, who now teaches at Chicago Kent College of Law. “This gives the prosecution the ability to convict him of any one of these lies.”

Lopez said it appears that when prosecutors went to the grand jury they simply dissected the case, breaking Smollett’s account into each of its individual pieces and accused him of one count per detail they believe he made up.

That means that one count might stem from Smollett’s contention that the men hurled racial and homophobic taunts at him and another for what he said was the way they beat him. Another could be tied to his claim that the men doused him with an unknown chemical and another still for his statement that one of them looped a rope tied like a noose around his neck. Then there was his assertion, police said, that he could see one of the men was white because he could see the skin around his eyes. The two men police say Smollett hired to take part in the attack are both black.

“The lies add up pretty fast,” Lopez said.

Another explanation for the multiple counts is that perhaps Smollett gave multiple statements to the police, meaning that individual counts represent separate interviews with police.

Each count is a Class 4 felony, which carries a possible prison sentence of one to three years. If Smollett is convicted, a judge could allow him to be given probation instead of imposing a prison sentence.

Lopez and Erickson agreed that if Smollett is convicted, it won’t matter whether it’s on one or several counts when it comes to sentencing. That’s because he would be sentenced for only one of them.

“If you add them all up it’s still only one crime,” Erickson said. “That’s just how it is.”

And Lopez said that if Smollett is convicted of multiple counts, prosecutors can ask that the sentences be served consecutively but it is highly unlikely a judge would do so.

Smollett’s legal troubles may not begin and end with this one indictment. Days before the Jan. 29 incident, a letter threatening Smollett was sent to the studio where the television show is filmed — a letter Johnson told reporters the day Smollett appeared in court that the actor had actually sent.

The FBI, which is investigating that letter, has declined to comment on the investigation. But if Smollett did talk to the FBI, depending on what he said, he could be in more legal trouble.

“Lying to the FBI is a crime,” said Erickson.

Smollett is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, where he will likely enter a formal plea to the 16 counts.

“Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption,” Geragos, his attorney, said.

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