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Betsy DeVos’ Uses Pandemic to Intensify GOP Assault on States

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has fit right in with the Trump administration, treating her government position as opportunity to enrich herself and serve her own narrow ideological interests at taxpayer expense.

Given her role in supporting (or not) the public school systems on which the majority of American families depend to educate their children, she isn’t just funding her own interests at taxpayer expense, but even more insidiously at the expense of the well-being and cultivation of the nation’s children.

And not even just the nation’s children—she has repeatedly undermined, in fraudulent ways, the efforts of hardworking adults to earn a college degree.

In fact, last fall, Federal Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim held DeVos in contempt of court for having refused to cease and desist from hounding defrauded students to repay loans from corrupt for-profit colleges. DeVos, Judge Kim determined, had broken the law in reversing Obama-era legislation enabling students swindled by fraudulent for-profit to qualify for loan forgiveness.

She spoke with disdain about these students simply seeking “free money.” She wanted those loans paid.  Why? Well, her motives became even clearer when last December she advocated for spinning of the Department of Education’s Federal  Student Aid office into a stand-alone agency.

Again, why?

As The Intercept’s Ryan Grim, explained, “This very much appears to be a Betsy DeVos scheme to block the next president from unilaterally forgiving federal student debt, which she is well aware a president could do without Congress. The DeVos family is heavily invested in the student loan industry and this is just flat-out corruption.”

DeVos’s machinations, however, should not be understood as unique to her. They need to be understood as part and parcel of a larger Republican assault on the public sphere itself, on government and particularly state governments, which the GOP would prefer to starve to death, letting it wither away in favor of enabling a private sector to control the nation’s resources and decision-making.

The brewing fight over the $3 trillion relief package the House just passed will largely be informed, as I’ve written about earlier for PoliticusUsa (here and here), by the GOP’s desire to support state governments, particularly in blue states.  As Mitch McConnell has stated directly, he would prefer states to go bankrupt. What he doesn’t say directly is that states declaring bankruptcy, because the process is overseen by federal courts, forego control of their budgets to the federal courts, largely stocked with Republican judges, who then decide spending priorities, giving them the ability to slash public funding.

The recent $2.2 trillion relief package passed by Congress to address the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, containing aid for school systems and higher education, has given DeVos avaricious hands access to billions of dollars; and in typical fashion she is distributing it not to serve as optimally as possible the nation’s public school systems and public institutions of higher education. Rather she is busy funneling a good portion of the money to private institutions and also creating micro-grants that function like vouchers, enabling families to use public dollars to pay tuition at private and parochial schools, according to Erica L. Green’s reporting for The New York Times.

According to Green:

Ms. DeVos has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create “microgrants” that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools.

When it comes to funding for higher education, designed primarily to help struggling public institutions, DeVos has directed much of that money to small private or religious colleges regardless of need, including nearly a half million dollars for The Wright Graduate University for the Realization of Human Potential, a private institution in Wisconsin whose website homepage features above all its defense against being identified as a cult, in addition to other legal defenses against state licensure agencies.

But this pandemic corruption is not new.  It is part of a longstanding Republican assault on state’s seeking to support the public sphere.

Remember Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s Kansas back in 2016, when the school year was shortened due to revenue shortfalls attributable to his massive corporate tax cuts.  It was clear that these Republican fiscal and tax policies do not beenfit the economic health of these states or create a higher quality of life. Brownback’s cuts to education were so egregious that they were deemed unconstitutional by the state’s supreme court. Bobby Jindal wreaked similar havoc in Louisiana, granting massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations,leaving the state in economic chaos and facing massive cuts to education and basic social services.

In Illinois in 2016, former Republican Governor Jim Edgar, who campaigned for Bruce Rauner, expressed buyer’s remorse and was roundly critical of Rauner’s holding the state hostage in seeking the union-busting, anti-working-class legislation he wanted passed by the legislature. Edgar indicted his venture capitalist mentality in trying to run the state like one of his businesses: “He does not come from government. He doesn’t even really come from mainstream business. He comes from (being an) entrepreneur where you buy a business, you tear it apart and you sell it. … I don’t think you’re going to tear apart the state and sell it. He might want to, but you can’t do that.”

Of course, tearing apart and selling states seems to be Republicans have in mind.

Clearly, effective governing and public policy must address the health and quality of living conditions for the working people of any state to ensure and foster the health of the state’s local economy and to attract citizens.

What is also clear is that the contemporary GOP has given up on governing and instead dedicated itself to the rapacious agenda of more aggressively continuing the re-distribution of wealth to the top at the expense of working and taxpaying citizens.

The behavior of DeVos and the entire GOP is aimed at exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to intensify this assault on states, on the public sphere, which is above all an attack on the American people.

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White House Challenges Left’s Pandemic Playbook Narrative

The White House pushed back on the media narrative that the Obama administration left behind a pandemic “playbook” for the Trump administration. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Friday the playbook from the Obama administration was an insufficient packet of paper, and the Trump administration’s own pandemic response exercise in 2019 exposed its shortcomings. 

On Thursday, Dr. Rick Bright, a senior advisor at the National Institute of Health who filed a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump, told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health that the administration should have known more about the coronavirus. 

Bright said, “we were not as prepared as we should have been.” 

“We missed early warning signals and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook,” Bright said. “There will be plenty of time to identify gaps for improvement.”

Much of the mainstream media, including CNN, Politico, and PBS, ran with the narrative that the Obama administration left a pathway for the Trump administration to better handle the coronavirus. 

McEnany said during the Friday press briefing that wasn’t the case. 

“Some have erroneously suggested that the Trump administration threw out the pandemic response playbook left by the Obama-Biden administration,” McEnany said, holding up papers from the podium. “What the critics fail to note however is that this thin packet of paper was replaced by two detailed robust pandemic response reports commissioned by the Trump administration.”

The press secretary added that, “In 2018 the Trump administration issued our pandemic crisis action plan.” She continued: 

Further from August 13th to the 16th, the Trump administration conducted the Crimson Contagion 2019 Functional Exercise. This was a pandemic simulation to test the nation’s ability to respond to a large-scale outbreak. 

In January of 2020, [the Department of Health and Human Services] issued the Crimson Contagion 2019 Functional Exercise after-action report. This exercise exposed the shortcomings in legacy planning documents, which informed President Trump’s coronavirus response.

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Top golfer blasts Trump’s COVID-19 response: “campaign rally”

It’s a presidential election year so people from the world of sports are asked to comment on President Trump. It used to be a rarity when sports figures weighed in with personal political opinions but not so anymore. Now they freely spout their political opinions as a tool to do some self-promotion.

When a top-ranked sports figure weighs in, that person is pretty much assured of a headline, or at the very least, an article in publications. The latest example is Rory Mcllroy, the world’s top-ranked golfer. If you wondered why a golfer is making headlines during the coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. I had the same question, especially since the story was based on a round of golf played in 2017.

As it turns out, McIlroy was a guest on the McKellar Golf Podcast. In a 90 minute interview, the golfer from Northern Ireland first acknowledged what a terrific time he had when he played a round of golf with President Trump at Trump International Golf Club in Florida back in February 2017. In a write-up of that golf game at the time of it, Trump wasn’t the person publicizing playing with the top golfer. Apparently, it was McIlroy who put a picture up on social media the next day about playing golf with the president. McIlroy also told a golf website, nolayingup.com, about playing 18 holes with President Trump.

Unfortunately for him, McIlroy was on the receiving end of lots of criticism from people on social media. He should have been prepared for an anti-Trump backlash before he hit the publish button with a picture but he wasn’t. After the trolls canceled him for daring to accept an invitation from the most powerful man on earth to play golf, he decided he would not accept any more invitations from Trump. McIlroy was called a bigot and a fascist by the trolls. Those words seem tame in comparison to what is lobbed Trump’s way these days, right? And now he wants to make it perfectly clear that he does not share Trump’s politics.

Podcast hosts Lawrence Donegan and John Huggan asked him about that day. McIlroy has a residence in Florida besides one in Northern Ireland, so it probably wasn’t a huge surprise to be asked to play with Trump. He said the president was very nice to everyone from the golf players to the workers at the club.

“I’ll sit here and say the day that I did spend with him and others was very enjoyable. He’s very charismatic, he was nice to everyone — it didn’t matter whether you were me or guys in the cart barn or the pro at the golf club.

“He has something. He obviously has something or he wouldn’t be in the White House, right? He has something. … Whatever it is, it’s an X factor or it’s charisma, I don’t know. Whatever you call it but most people that he came across that day, he was cordial, he was nice, he was personable and that’s my only real interaction with him.”

Then McIlroy allowed the podcast hosts to take him into political territory. He had to make the Orange Man bad, you know.

“So I will sit here and say that day I had with him I enjoyed,” McIlroy said. “But that doesn’t mean I agree with everything — or, in fact, anything — that he says.”

“Like it’s a contest,” he said of Trump’s claim that the U.S. has administered more tests than any other nation. “We’re in the midst of something that’s pretty serious right now and the fact that he’s trying to politicize it and make it a campaign rally. There’s some stuff that just is terrible. It’s not the way a leader should act. There is a bit of diplomacy that you need to show, and I just don’t think he’s showing that, especially in these times.”

He sounds a lot like CBS White House correspondent Weijia Jiang, doesn’t he?

So, McIlroy, who likely isn’t even a voter in American elections weighed in on his thoughts about how Trump is handling the pandemic. I assume he did so in order to help publicize a golf event he is participating in with some other top golfers and sports figures to help open up what is left of the PGA Tour season.

They will be carrying their own bags, putting to flagsticks that likely won’t be tended and retrieving their golf balls from a cup prepped for safety.

But they also are four professional golfers who compete at the highest level, and they will be shown competing live on television.

It’s a start.

The TaylorMade Driving Relief event on Sunday at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida, is the first televised event of PGA Tour golfers competing since the Players Championship was canceled on March 12.

“Just been trying to stay as patient as possible,” said Rory McIlroy, who headlines the event along with Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff. “For a tour player to spend this prolonged length of time at home … you’re just trying to find ways to fill your time. I think if anything, just appreciate the little things, the things that we took for granted before this all happened.”

That’s why the TaylorMade Driving Relief event and the match on May 24 involving Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are so welcome. It is finally an opportunity to see a live sporting event, even if the outcome is of no consequence.

All the money raised will go to charities. McIlroy and Johnson are playing for the American Nurses Foundation. Fowler and Wolff are playing for the CDC Foundation.

I don’t watch golf. I think it’s boring. I imagine it will please golf fans, though, that the sport is beginning to be televised again. Too bad McIlroy had to be such a jerk in order to publicize it. Perhaps he thinks Trump supporters don’t watch golf. Or maybe he’s waiting on an invitation from the Biden campaign.

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How to Watch The Class of 2020 Special Online

Graduation is one of the many life events that has been put on hold due to the coronavirus. An a-list group of celebrities, however, have come together to make Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020, a one-hour event broadcasting on multiple networks on May 16.

Graduate Together, which is hosted by The LeBron James Family Foundation, The Entertainment Industry Foundation, and XQ Institute, will include speakers like President Barack Obama, Malala Yousafi, Lena Waithe, Zendaya and James himself make speeches or perform.

How to watch Graduate Together online

The graduation special will air on May 16 at 8 p.m. ET and PT, and 7 p.m. CT and MT. Among the networks hosting the special of CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC. Other channels who will air the ceremony include California Music Channel, The CW, Fox Business, Fox News, Freeform, MSNBC, CNN and Univision, who is offering a Spanish simulcast of Graduate Together.

CNN is one of the networks who will also be streaming Graduate Together 2020 online. CNN will stream the special live on its homepage, and users can access the stream for free without a cable log-in. It will also be available on the new site’s iOS and Android apps and on CNNgo.


President Barack Obama will lead the commencement speakers in ‘Graduate Together’
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty

CNN is also airing additional graduation programming in the lead up to the ceremony. At 7 p.m., the news site will air Class of 2020: In This Together, which features speakers including Amy Schumer, Gal Gadot and President Bill Clinton as well as performances from Foster the People, Bazzi and Yo-Yo Ma

ABC News is also offering a live stream of the ceremony on its YouTube page which can be watched for free. The stream also offers users the chance to set a reminder for the start of the live stream so they do not miss the start of the e-graduation.

Among the social media platforms airing Graduate Together live are Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok. Other sites and apps streaming the graduation (according to BusinessWire) are ABC News Live, Associated Press, Bleacher Report, Complex Networks, Fox Now, Hulu, Los Angeles Blade, NBC News Now, People, Roland Martin Unfiltered, Reuters, The Roku Channel, SiriusXM’s Urban View, USO, and the Washington Blade.

The ABC News synopsis for the graduation special reads: “Artists, athletes, musicians, commencement speakers, influencers, and cultural icons will show their support with performances and messages featuring students, teachers, and their families from coast to coast. Special guests will include Former President Barack Obama, LeBron James, Malala Yousafzai, the Jonas Brothers, Pharrell Williams, Megan Rapinoe, H.E.R., Ben Platt, Yara Shahidi, Bad Bunny, and Lena Waithe.”

Graduate Together 2020: America Honors The High School Class of 2020 airs from 8 p.m. ET/PT and 7 p.m. CT/MT on multiple networks and social media platforms.

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Trump Warns McConnell on Failure to Hold Democrats Accountable for Russia Collusion Hoax

President Trump warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that his failure to hold the Democrats accountable for the Russia hoax will endanger the Republican majority in the Senate and McConnell’s campaign to pack the federal judiciary with constitutional conservatives nominated by Trump. Trump also tagged Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

File screen image, March 5, 2020.

Trump keyed off the Federalist’s Sean Davis and Mollie Hemingway tweeting out Hemingway’s Friday article on McConnell. Davis wrote, “Mitch McConnell has spent years pretending as though the Russian collusion hoax never happened. If he thinks he’s going to keep the Senate majority and confirm more judges without addressing the hoax and holding the hoaxers accountable, he’s lost his mind.”

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Trump said to McConnell, “Mitch, I love you, but this is 100% true. Time is running out. Get tough and move quickly, or it will be too late. The Dems are vicious, but got caught. They MUST pay a big price for what they have done to our Country. Don’t let them get away with this! @LindseyGrahamSC”

Hemingway commented, “McConnell should remember he can’t confirm good judges if GOP is not in majority and if Trump isn’t president to nominate them. Both things are threatened by his long-time lack of interest in holding Russia hoaxers accountable for what they did.”

Trump replied, “This is true. I say it all the time. The Republicans must play by the same rules, or die! Wow Mollie, you are good.”

Excerpt from Hemingway’s article in the Federalist:

For Americans hoping Senate Republicans might finally engage the Russia collusion hoax seriously, last night’s interview of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by “Special Report’s” Bret Baier was a tremendous disappointment. McConnell better figure out quickly that if he doesn’t hold the Resistance accountable for the Russia hoax that harmed his party and the entire country for many years, he won’t have a majority in the next term. If it helps to motivate him, he should remember that not having the majority in the next term means he won’t get to confirm judges, an issue he hopes will be his defining legacy.

…McConnell didn’t just whiff on the Russia collusion hoax investigation in general, he failed to investigate after the implosion of the Mueller probe, and he failed to investigate after the inspector general report showing the problems with how the Trump campaign was spied on. He appears ready to fail once again in the aftermath of the Mike Flynn case being withdrawn.

In last night’s interview, McConnell appeared not just uninterested but uninformed on the scandal of Democrats weaponizing the intelligence community for partisan gain. Baier asked McConnell to comment on the case of Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor who was a major victim of the Russia collusion hoax. Here’s McConnell’s limp response:

“Well, If there were in fact misbehavior surrounding the Flynn case, the American public needs to know. And clearly that was the view of the attorney general. I gather it’s now in a rather unusual procedure of being reviewed by the district judge before whom the case was. I think we’re just anxious to get the facts. what actually happened. The American public needs to know; all of us would like to know. And one thing about Washington: you guys are so good at your job, truth always comes out, sometimes it takes a little longer than other times, but we’ll find out what in fact did happen.”

End excerpt. Please read the entire Federalist article at this link.

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Top Democrats Open Investigation Into Ouster of State Dept. Inspector General

WASHINGTON — Two top congressional Democrats opened an investigation on Saturday into President Trump’s removal of Steve A. Linick, who led the office of the inspector general at the State Department, citing a pattern of “politically-motivated firing of inspectors general.”

Mr. Trump told Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Friday night that he was ousting Mr. Linick, who was named by President Barack Obama to the State Department post, and replacing him with an ambassador with close ties to Vice President Mike Pence in the latest purge of inspectors general whom Mr. Trump has deemed insufficiently loyal to his administration.

In letters to the White House, State Department, and Mr. Linick, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, requested that the administration turn over records and information related to the firing of Mr. Linick as well as “records of all I.G. investigations involving the Office of the Secretary that were open, pending, or incomplete at the time of Mr. Linick’s firing.”

Mr. Engel and Mr. Menendez said in their letters that they believe Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recommended Mr. Linick’s ouster because he had opened an investigation into Mr. Pompeo’s conduct. The lawmakers did not provide any more details, but a Democratic aide said that Mr. Linick had been looking into whether Mr. Pompeo had misused a political appointee at the State Department to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife.

“Such an action, transparently designed to protect Secretary Pompeo from personal accountability, would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions and may be an illegal act of retaliation,” the lawmakers wrote.

Under law, the administration must notify Congress 30 days before formally terminating an inspector general. Mr. Linick is expected to leave his post then.

Mr. Trump’s decision to remove Mr. Linick is the latest in a series of ousters aimed at inspectors general who the president and his allies believe are opposed to his agenda.

Mr. Linick was spotlighted during the impeachment inquiry when he requested an urgent meeting with congressional staff members to give them copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine, signaling they could be relevant to the House investigation into whether President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden. The documents — a record of contacts between Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and Ukrainian prosecutors, as well as accounts of Ukrainian law enforcement proceedings — turned out to be largely inconsequential.

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Trump pushes McConnell to embrace ‘Obamagate’

“Time is running out. Get tough and move quickly, or it will be too late. The Dems are vicious, but got caught,” added Trump, who has asserted without evidence that Obama acted improperly. “They MUST pay a big price for what they have done to our Country. Don’t let them get away with this!”

In a separate tweet, Trump wrote: “The Republicans must play by the same rules, or die!”

A spokesman for McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

McConnell has been cautious when it comes to investigating the origins of the Russia investigation. Most Republicans have declined to embrace Trump’s posture, instead deferring to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was tapped by Attorney General William Barr to look into the origins of the probe with a particular focus on the counterintelligence aspects.

In an interview Thursday on Fox News, for example, McConnell said the public deserves to know more about the initial investigation into Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in 2017 but saw his criminal case dropped by the Justice Department earlier this month. But, like Graham, McConnell declined to endorse an effort to call Obama before the Senate, deferring to the Judiciary Committee chairman.

Graham has said his panel will start holding hearings next month on the Flynn case, which has become a rallying cry for Trump and his allies as they allege that the president and his associates were unfairly targeted by the previous administration. The hearings will also center on the alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which were documented by the Justice Department’s inspector general last year, Graham said.

But he warned that seeking Obama’s testimony would set a dangerous precedent — and he tacitly warned Trump that he, too, could be subject to similar efforts in the coming years if the committee goes after Obama.

“I understand President Trump’s frustration, but be careful what you wish for,” Graham told POLITICO. “Just be careful what you wish for.”

Trump’s position contradicts that of his own Justice Department, which has routinely argued that former presidents and their advisers are immune from congressional testimony. Still, Trump has been increasingly vocal in his efforts to punish the former officials who launched and pursued the myriad investigations that have ensnared him and his associates, and his re-election campaign has amplified those messages.

The president has dubbed the controversy “Obamagate,” a term his supporters have embraced. And earlier this week, Republican senators released a list of former Obama administration officials who might have been involved in efforts that “unmasked” Flynn’s name from intelligence intercepts. The list included former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, though Republicans acknowledged that simply being on the list does not denote wrongdoing.

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Cybergang behind Lady Gaga data dump leaks hacked law firm’s emails and contracts mentioning President Trump, says it is posting ‘most harmless information’ first

Associated Press

  • The cybergang behind this week’s Lady Gaga data dump have posted a new ransom note and more stolen documents from a hacked law firm on their site on the dark web. 
  • The hackers on Thursday dumped thousands of Lady Gaga’s legal documents, demanding a $42 million ransom from her law firm, which was hacked.
  • They said President Donald Trump would be their next target and that his “dirty laundry” could hurt him in this year’s election.
  • The law firm denied any connection to Trump, and has refused to pay the ransom, according to a statement. 
  • A sampling of the documents reviewed by Business Insider were legal emails, contracts, and documents mentioning the president
  • The hackers say they released “the first part, with the most harmless information,” and more data dumps are to come. An expert said it’s impossible to know what else they have. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The unidentified cybergang who dumped Lady Gaga’s data after the hack of a prominent entertainment law firm have dumped what they say is data about the president.

The cybergang dropped links to “the first part of data, with the most harmless information,” on the dark web site. A sampling of the files reviewed by Business Insider were were legal emails, documents, and contracts mentioning the president, from an “Apprentice” costar’s emails seeking to land a new show during his campaign, to the contracts negotiating legal use of his videotaped interviews.  

The ransomware gang has stolen data from businesses and leaked it on a dark web site in the past, and a ransomware expert who has followed past data dumps said it’s difficult to know what they data they have stolen – but said the crime adds to a wave of highly public ransomware extortion attacks. 

“They may have nothing significant and could simply be attempting to apply to additional pressure,” said Brett Callow, a threat researcher at Emsisoft, a cybersecurity company that specializes in ransomware. “The actions of ransomware groups are becoming ever more insidious and ever more extreme. They now weaponize data and use it against the companies from which it was stolen.”

This week, the cybergang hacked into top entertainment law firm Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks, and leaked thousands of contracts and other documents from Lady Gaga. 

The hackers have threatened to release more data about celebrities, including Bruce Springsteen, Christina Aguilera, and dozens of others if the law firm doesn’t pay $42 million in ransom.

The law firm, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks, said that President Donald Trump is not a client, that they are not paying the ransom, and that they are working with the FBI to solve the crime, according to a statement published by the celebrity news site Page Six

The gang, REvil, executes ransomware attacks on businesses in which it encrypts their data, demands a ransom to release it, otherwise leaking it if they fail to do so.

As they dumped data they claimed are about Trump, the group said, “Mr. Lawyer says that Donald has never been their client. And he says that we are bluffing. Oh well. The first part, with the most harmless information, we will post here.”

“This is their business, we have fun watching with popcorn.”

Here is the full ransom note post:

We read the position of the authorities. Declare this an act of terrorism. Your position is your choice. This will not affect our work in any way. It’s just that it can completely erase certain frames that we still observed. But now is not about that.

Mr. Lawyer says that Donald has never been their client. And he says that we are bluffing. Oh well. The first part, with the most harmless information, we will post here. We are very pleased that the stars support (according to media reports) Mr. Lawyer

But how strong will their support be when the paparazzi start publishing in the media? When will they begin to refuse to participate in certain events, concerts? Withdraw signed contracts, cancel their performances?

Mr. lawyer, you will be to blame. And you will pay all losses from your pocket. Moreover, as correctly noted, your reputation has already suffered. But everyone believes that this is the worst we could do. Oh no. Far from the worst. Both we and you are aware of this. We will receive money in 2 ways:

1. You and I find a common language (you can even [sic] through intermediaries in other countries, since local idiots who themselves have something behind their backs prevent you from doing this). Then, everyone will see that you value the reputation and safety of customers. We give our word that after our agreements the data will not be published, used somewhere, or sold. This is our word. Our reputation is very well known and dear to us. We always keep our words. Then we get money, you return your reputation, data, strengthen your security and continue to live.

2. You continue to listen to smart guys who, of course, will not compensate you for losses. Our actions will be as follows:

1) We will auction customer data every week (by last name) on the information exchange. 
This data will be bought either by the stars themselves, or various media and blackmail them then, or simply kind people with good intentions. We do not care. The main thing is we will get the money.
Accordingly, after this, people will begin to have problems. And, oh yes, they will know who to blame for this. And who put their safety and reputation in exchange for money.

2) Your data will remain unavailable. Let’s be honest. Even these idiots cannot decipher elliptic cryptography. Although you can continue to believe them. You incur losses daily, and they are actively investigating this crime, although they themselves understand that they will fall into the wall. Moreover, they are looking for performers, not organizers. This is their business, we have fun watching with popcorn.

That’s all I wanted to say. As you can see, both options benefit us. And we will get it. The only question is how strong losses [sic] you will incur. And those who trusted you.

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Watchdog’s dismissal puts Pompeo on the hot seat

State’s inspector general, Steve Linick, had been investigating allegations involving Pompeo, New York’s Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said following news of Linick’s ouster. A congressional aide added that Pompeo and his wife are accused of improperly directing a political appointee to run personal errands for them.

On Saturday, Engel and New Jersey’s Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced they had launched a joint investigation into Linick’s ouster. In letters to the White House, the State Department and Linick’s office, the lawmakers requested they preserve and handover documents related to the inspector general’s firing.

“We unalterably oppose the politically motivated firing of inspectors general and the President’s gutting of these critical positions,” the lawmakers wrote. They cited reports that Pompeo had recommended Trump fire Linick, saying, “It is our understanding that he did so because the inspector general had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself. Such an action, transparently designed to protect Secretary Pompeo from personal accountability, would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions and may be an illegal act of retaliation.”

Few further details were immediately available about Linick’s alleged probe of the Pompeos, and neither Linick nor his aides were willing to offer comment for this story. Aides to Pompeo also did not offer comment despite repeated requests. As to why Linick was fired, “Secretary Pompeo recommended the move, and President Trump agreed,” a White House official said.

The news of an inspector general investigation into Pompeo — and its purported subject matter — was not entirely shocking.

U.S. diplomats have quietly voiced concerns for many months about Susan Pompeo’s role at the State Department. They note, for instance, that she occasionally travels with the secretary, requiring State Department staffers to assist her.

Her decision to travel with her husband on an eight-day swing through the Middle East in early 2019 in particular upset some within the State Department because the trip took place during a lengthy government shutdown when many federal employees were going unpaid.

Last summer, CNN reported that congressional investigators were looking into whistleblower complaints that the Pompeos had used diplomatic security agents to run errands for them, such as picking up Chinese food, their dog and their adult son.

Susan Pompeo’s unusually active role at the CIA when Pompeo was director of the spy agency — critics likened her to an unofficial “first lady” — also drew complaints. But CIA spokespersons vigorously defended the Pompeos at the time and said Susan Pompeo had not done anything inappropriate, emphasizing that she had volunteered to help agency employees and their families.

State Department officials have told POLITICO in the past that Susan Pompeo has no office or paid role at State. The department has not, however, responded to a records request on whether the Pompeos have reimbursed taxpayers for costs deemed personal.

Some veteran U.S. diplomats contend that Susan Pompeo can play a positive role at the department, and that, overall, the costs to taxpayers are minimal, given that the spouse travels on the same plane and stays in the same rooms as the secretary. Plus, Susan Pompeo is hardly the first spouse of a secretary of State to travel with him: Former Secretary of State George Shultz’s late wife, Helena Maria Shultz, went along on many of his trips.

“I think it is good for morale,” said Patrick Kennedy, a former undersecretary of State for management. “A spouse of the secretary of State who travels can meet with diplomats’ family members, can visit the school where the children of diplomats go to – I find that to be appropriate and it can be helpful.”

Pompeo has referred to his wife as a “force multiplier.”

“With respect to my wife’s travel, she is on an important mission as well,” the secretary said in 2019, noting that Susan Pompeo had spoken with U.S. diplomats about improving their quality of life. “She is here on a working trip doing her best to do what you would see a military leader’s spouse do — trying to help the State Department be better.”

The scrutiny Pompeo has gotten may be par for the course in Washington, but it also reflects his unusually high-profile role as one of the president’s most reliable defenders.

In the past, secretaries of State have tried to stay out of the national partisan slugfest, seeing it as a way to tell the rest of the world that America is united on foreign policy. But Pompeo was a highly partisan Republican when he was in Congress, and he has tested those norms as a diplomat.

His travel and appearance at partisan gatherings have raised eyebrows, especially amid talk that he may abandon Foggy Bottom for the Kansas Senate race. Pompeo has told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he’s not interested in the Kansas contest, but GOP bigwigs are still hoping he’ll jump in and make a potentially competitive race an easy win for Republicans.

During his two-year tenure at the State Department, Pompeo has made several high-profile trips to Kansas, ostensibly on official State Department business for most of them. One visit revolved around the issue of workforce development, and Pompeo joined the president’s daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka, for the event in Wichita.

Pompeo also been a frequent guest on Kansas radio and other media outlets, though he deflected numerous questions about his motivation for the trips. At one point, the Kansas City Star admonished him in an editorial titled, “Mike Pompeo, either quit and run for U.S. Senate in Kansas or focus on your day job.”

There are signs Pompeo is thinking bigger than Kansas. He’s slated to speak later this year at a conservative leadership summit in Iowa, a regular way station for future presidential contenders, although the coronavirus pandemic may interfere with that plan. It would be his second visit to Iowa this year.

Congressional Democrats have tangled repeatedly with Pompeo. The secretary of State managed to suffocate most forms of cooperation with the Ukraine-related impeachment inquiry into the president, even as diplomats defied orders not to testify. Many Democrats still have bitter memories of the Benghazi inquiry, when Pompeo was one of the most aggressive critics of the Obama administration’s handling of that deadly incident.

In late October of 2019, Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked a federal watchdog body known as the Office of Special Counsel to see if Pompeo’s trips violated the Hatch Act. That law prohibits federal officials from using their positions for partisan political activities.

It was not immediately clear Saturday if the office had agreed to Menendez’s request. But the reality is that such allegations of partisan activity on the part of the secretary of State are hard to prove definitively.

Pompeo or his aides have insisted all along that he has had a legitimate, diplomacy-related reason for all of his seemingly controversial actions, whether it’s the trips to Kansas or other appearances that boost his profile within the Republican base.

In those appearances, he’s walked a fine line in lending the prestige of the State Department to a partisan event and restricting his remarks to diplomatic matters. For instance, in late February, Pompeo delivered a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. The gathering is considered a must for Republican politicians eyeing the presidency. But Pompeo’s speech – he was introduced to the crowd by his wife – was titled “The State Department is winning for America” and was very boosterish of the diplomats whom he leads.

In 2018, Pompeo drew criticism when he decided to speak at another conservative event, the Values Voter Summit. His remarks, however, centered on the issue of religious freedom, a human rights issue with support on both left and right.

Pompeo also is unusually open about his Christian faith, and he is a popular figure among evangelicals who wield significant power in the GOP. Last October, he gave a speech titled “Being a Christian Leader” to the American Association of Christian Counselors in Nashville, Tennessee.

The speech, with that title, was temporarily highlighted on the State Department’s home page, making many U.S. diplomats uncomfortable over concerns that it blurred the line between church and state. But the speech itself also included glimpses into how U.S. diplomats pursued their work, something that arguably boosted the State Department.

Aides to Pompeo have in the past insisted that his actions are no different than previous secretaries of State. For example, they cite how Hillary Clinton accepted an award and spoke at a Planned Parenthood function in March 2009, early in her tenure at the State Department.

People who worked for Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, insisted, however, that the two were extremely careful about avoiding partisan events. “The lengths we went to avoid even the appearance of political activity was zero tolerance,” said Philippe Reines, a Clinton hand. “She was pretty busy with her day job. It’s not like we had time to kill.”

Reines noted that Clinton had accepted the invitation for the Planned Parenthood event before taking the secretary of state job offer from incoming President Barack Obama.

Clinton also left Foggy Bottom well before mounting a bid for the presidency, allowing her ample time to reactivate a political operation and donor network that was never fully dormant.

Linick, the ousted inspector general, was respected but not beloved at the State Department – few inspectors general are liked by the community they are constantly examining.

Linick took the State Department job in 2013, having been appointed by Obama. He later published a highly critical report on Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary, which did not endear him to Democrats.

But he’s also had some friction with Pompeo. Last year, Linick published two reports that were highly critical of how Trump administration political appointees had treated career staffers at the State Department.

In one report, Linick lambasted Brian Hook, a top aide to Pompeo, for allowing the mistreatment of an Iranian-American civil servant at the department. The inspector general urged Pompeo to discipline Hook. But, via a response signed by another aide, Pompeo essentially disagreed with Linick and defended Hook’s professionalism.

During the impeachment proceedings against Trump, Linick briefly grabbed the spotlight when he took a trove of documents to lawmakers. The documents had been given to the State Department by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.

They contained questionable material about Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, the former vice president now running to beat Trump in November’s presidential election. They also contained material apparently designed to smear Marie Yovanovitch, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who testified during the impeachment proceedings and was never found to have committed any wrongdoing.

Pompeo has survived past attempts at oversight from Democrats in Congress, and there was no sign Saturday that Republicans were willing to take him or Trump on over the ouster of the inspector general.

It’s not clear whether Linick’s sharing of those documents upset Trump or played any role in his ouster. But Trump has pushed out several inspectors general in recent weeks, and he’s long viewed any appointee of Obama as a person of suspect loyalty.

Throughout the impeachment hearings, Pompeo and several of his aides — in particular those who are political appointees — essentially ignored letters seeking documents and other information. His press aides also went into radio silence mode on nearly all requests related to the impeachment inquiry.

When he did engage with reporters, Pompeo repeatedly said the State Department was fully cooperating with House investigators. But he would routinely add phrases such as “as required by law,” leaving himself wiggle room in case he wanted to interpret the law in a different way than Democrats on Capitol Hill.

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New York Tourist Who Allegedly Broke Quarantine Rules In Hawaii Has Been Arrested


Marco Garcia / AP

As beachgoers are seen in the background, yellow caution tape wrapped across Waikiki, March 20, 2020, in Honolulu.

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Tarique Peters, a 23-year-old man from New York on vacation in Hawaii, was arrested for allegedly violating the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine rule as coronavirus cases across the country continue to climb.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, Peters arrived on the island of Oahu last Monday and then allegedly used public transportation and traveled around the island to many different places on the same day he arrived.

Authorities were alerted to his behavior by residents who saw Peters posting about his trip on social media. Instagram photos show him sunbathing by a pool and holding a surfboard on a beach, with Waikiki Beach geotagged.

The press release also says that hotel personnel told authorities they saw Peters leave his hotel room and the premises in general numerous times last week. Peters was arrested, and his bail is set at $4,000.

“We appreciate the assistance of local people who spot flagrant violations of our emergency rules on various social media sites and report them to the appropriate authorities,” Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors said in a statement.

Neither Peters nor Hawaii authorities immediately responded to requests for comment Saturday.

Peters’ Instagram account, which is public, has since been filled with comments from people criticizing his decision to vacation there during the coronavirus pandemic. “Been all across the globe but still haven’t learned to respect those you visit. Smh,” one person wrote.

“Unbelievable. If you aren’t going to respect Hawaii and our people, don’t even come! People like you give tourists a horrible reputation,” another person wrote.

Hawaii has 638 reported cases of coronavirus to date, and the state has adopted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all tourists. The governor also closed down beaches, but locals have expressed frustration that non-residents aren’t following the quarantine order.

“People will always see this place as their playground. And in this moment, as a Native Hawaiian, this is very reflective of many historical circumstances, where people from outside of the islands have come in and caused real harm to the native population,” Oahu resident Troy Kane told The Guardian. “It’s not always with direct intent to do so, but the impacts, especially on Hawaiian people, are very real.”

Even as the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, tourists have continued to travel to Hawaii.

Earlier this month, a California couple who went to Waikiki for their honeymoon was allegedly violated the quarantine order multiple times. The hotel they stayed at informed the authorities, who then arrested them.

“It is important that everyone flying into Hawai‘i at this time, abide by our mandatory rules,” state attorney general Clare Connors said.