Wednesday, January 19, 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lawyer for the whistleblower who raised alarms about President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine said Sunday his client is willing to answer written questions submitted by House Republicans.

The surprise offer, made to Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, would allow Republicans to ask questions of the whistleblower, who spurred the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, without having to go through the committee’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Attorney Mark Zaid tweeted that the whistleblower would answer questions directly from Republican members “in writing, under oath & penalty of perjury,” part of a bid to stem escalating efforts by Trump and his GOP allies to unmask the person’s identity. Only queries seeking the person’s identity won’t be answered, he said.

“Being a whistleblower is not a partisan job nor is impeachment an objective. That is not our role,” Zaid tweeted. “So we have offered to @DevinNunes.”

“We will ensure timely answers,” he said.

Nunes’ office did not have immediate comment. Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican and member of the House Judiciary Committee who has been highly critical of the impeachment process, said in a statement that written answers wouldn’t be sufficient to probe and cross-examine the whistleblower.

“You don’t get to ignite an impeachment effort and never account for your actions and role in orchestrating it,” Jordan said. “We have serious questions about this individual’s political bias and partisan motivations and it seems Mark Zaid and Adam Schiff are attempting to hide these facts from public scrutiny. Last week’s testimony raised even more concerns about the anonymous whistleblower and our need to hear from them, in person.”

The offer comes as Trump has repeatedly demanded the release of the whistleblower’s identity, tweeting Sunday that the person “must come forward.” The whistleblower raised concerns about Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which he pressed Zelenskiy to investigate Trump’s political rivals. That call became the catalyst for the impeachment inquiry.

The whistleblower’s secondhand account of the call has been providing a road map for House Democrats investigating whether the president and others in his orbit pressured Ukraine to probe political opponents, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Reveal the Whistleblower and end the Impeachment Hoax!” Trump tweeted.

Trump later Sunday pushed the news media to divulge the whistleblower’s identity, asserting that the person’s accounting of events is incorrect. The whistleblower’s complaint has been corroborated by people with firsthand knowledge of the events who have appeared on Capitol Hill.

“They know who it is. You know who it is. You just don’t want to report it,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “And you know you’d be doing the public a service if you did.”

U.S. whistleblower laws exist to protect the identity and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials. Lawmakers in both parties have historically backed those protections.

The Associated Press typically does not reveal the identity of whistleblowers.

The whistleblower has become a central fixation for Republicans, and in particular the president. Republicans view a political opportunity in unmasking the CIA official, whom the intelligence community’s inspector general said could have “arguable political bias.” The inspector general nevertheless found the whistleblower’s complaint to be “credible.”

The president believes that if he can expose bias in the initial allegations against him, he can paint the entire impeachment inquiry it launched as a partisan, political probe. To this point, Republicans have largely fought the impeachment inquiry on process, not substance, believing it was tainted because interviews were conducted in closed sessions — ignoring that GOP lawmakers were in attendance — and complaining that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had not called a vote to launch the matter.

But Pelosi called such a vote last week and the inquiry may soon shift into open hearings. Now, Trump is demanding that his allies defend his actions, insisting that he did nothing wrong while arguing that quid pro quos like the one allegedly offered Ukraine are common occurrences while leveraging power in conducting foreign policy.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Sunday that he had not yet discussed the whistleblower’s offer with Nunes, but stressed that the person should answer questions in a public appearance before the committee.

“When you’re talking about the removal of the president of the United States, undoing democracy, undoing what the American public had voted for, I think that individual should come before the committee,” McCarthy told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“We need an openness that people understand this,” he added.

Zaid said his team had addressed the issue of alleged bias with Republican members of the committee and had stressed the need for anonymity to maintain the safety of the whistleblower and that person’s family, “but with little effect in halting the attacks.”

“Let me be absolutely clear: Our willingness to cooperate has not changed,” tweeted Andrew P. Bakaj, another attorney representing the whistleblower. “What we object to and find offensive, however, is the effort to uncover the identity of the whistleblower.”

Bakaj wrote on Saturday that “their fixation on exposing the whistleblower’s identity is simply because they’re at a loss as to how to address the investigations the underlying disclosure prompted.”

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Entertainment

September 7, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Michael K. Williams, who as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on “The Wire” created one of the most beloved and enduring characters in a prime era of television, died Monday. Williams was found dead Monday afternoon by family members in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment, New York City police said. He was 54. His death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose, the NYPD said. The medical examiner was investigating the cause of death. Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most popular character among the devoted fans of “The Wire,” the HBO show that ran from 2002 to 2008 and is re-watched constantly in streaming.

September 8, 2021 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Britney Spears’ father filed Tuesday to end the court conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years. James Spears filed his petition to terminate the conservatorship in Los Angeles Superior Court. “As Mr. Spears has said, again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter,” the document says. “If Ms. Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance.” Judge Brenda Penny, who oversees the case, will need to approve the move. Britney Spears attorney Matthew Rosengart said in an email the filing “represents another legal victory for Britney Spears — a massive one — as well as vindication for Ms. Spears.”

September 8, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — With Katie Holmes and Lil’ Kim on his front row and singer Marina on the mic high above his runway, Christian Siriano helped kicked off New York Fashion Week’s first big pandemic round of in-person shows Tuesday with a flurry of neon and lace-inspired in part by all the Italian women in his life. From ornate Gotham Hall, beneath a stained-glass skylight 70 feet up, Siriano’s commitment to size inclusivity was never stronger as he opened and closed the show with plus-size breakout model Precious Lee. She first walked in a stunning yellow trouser suit with wide loose pants and an asymmetrical jacket, a matching crossover bralette underneath.

September 7, 2021  VENICE, Italy (AP) — Paul Schrader knows he has a limited number of films left, so whatever he does from here on out is going to be for himself. At 75 years old, the writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” and director of “American Gigolo” and “Mishima” was even somewhat prepared to call it a day after his 2018 film “First Reformed,” for which he got his first Oscar nomination. He didn’t want to. He just knew it might be the reality. “I thought I would go back to this character again for about the fifth time,” Schrader said in a recent interview. By “this character” he means “the man in the room.” It’s Travis Bickle. It’s John LeTour. It’s Julian Kay. And it’s a formula he’s been working with for 45 years.

Business News

September 8, 2021  -Stocks were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday after a lackluster session on Wall Street, where weak jobs data and pandemic concerns weighed on sentiment. Shares rose in Tokyo after economic growth for the April-June quarter was revised upward to an annualized 1.9% from an earlier estimate of 1.3%. “Any feel-good factor was ignored, though, given the climb was less than half of the 4.20% fall in Q1,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary. “Japan will be lucky to break even this year as the current Covid-19 wave will almost certainly have weighed on domestic consumption,” he said.

September 8, 2021 NEW YORK (AP) — There will be something missing at two Whole Foods stores opening next year: the rows of cashiers. Amazon, which owns the grocery chain, said Wednesday that it will bring its cashier-less technology to two Whole Foods stores for the first time, letting shoppers grab what they need and leave without having to open their wallets. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after customers leave the store with them. But there will be an option for those who want to shop the old-fashioned way: Self-checkout lanes will be available that take cash, gift cards and other types of payment. Amazon first unveiled the cashier-less technology in 2018 at an Amazon Go convenience store and has expanded it to larger Amazon supermarkets. But it will be the first time it has appeared at Whole Foods, a chain of more than 500 grocery stores Amazon bought four years ago.

September 8, 2021  BEIJING (AP) — An avalanche of changes launched by China’s ruling Communist Party has jolted everyone from tech billionaires to school kids. Behind them: President Xi Jinping’s vision of making a more powerful, prosperous country by reviving revolutionary ideals, with more economic equality and tighter party control over society and entrepreneurs. Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for the party to return to its “original mission” as China’s economic, social and cultural leader and carry out the “ rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation.” The party has spent the decade since then silencing dissent and tightening political control. Now, after 40 years of growth that transformed China into the world’s factory but left a gulf between a wealthy elite and the poor majority, the party is promising to spread prosperity more evenly and is pressing private companies to pay for social welfare and back Beijing’s ambition to become a global technology competitor.

Fashion News

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