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By Pete Williams
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court appeared unlikely Thursday to change its long-standing rule that putting someone on trial more than once for the same crime does not violate the Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy.
That outcome — keeping existing rules in place — would potentially be a blow to Paul Manafort, who faces prison time for violating federal fraud laws. A presidential pardon could keep him out of federal prison, but it would not free him from being prosecuted on similar state charges — unless the Supreme Court changes the rule. But that seemed did not seem possible after Thursday’s oral argument before the justices.
Neither Manafort’s case nor the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller came up in the courtroom argument.
The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be “twice put in jeopardy of life or limb” for the same offense. But for nearly two centuries, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that being prosecuted for the same crime once by a state and again in federal court, or the other way around, doesn’t violate the provision because the states and the federal government are “separate sovereigns.”
The lawyer for an Alabama man, Terance Gamble, urged the justices to overturn those earlier decisions. Convicted of robbery in 2008, Gamble was pulled over seven years later for a traffic violation. Police found a handgun in his car, and he was prosecuted under Alabama’s law barring felons from possessing firearms. The local U.S. attorney then charged him with violating a similar federal law. Because of the added federal conviction, Gamble’s prison sentence was extended by nearly three years.
“This is a 170-year-old rule that close to 30 justices have voted for,” said Justice Elena Kagan. “You’re asking us to throw it out because we think we can do better?”
Gamble’s lawyer, Louis Chaiten of Cleveland, said the nation’s founders understood the protection against double jeopardy to ban any second prosecution for the same offense. He said that under English common law, the roots of American law, there was no “separate sovereigns” exception. A person could not be put on trial in England if already tried for the same offense in another country.
But Justice Samuel Alito said changing the rule would block the U.S. government from prosecuting someone who attacked Americans overseas and was given only a light sentence by a foreign court.
“The logic of your position,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh told Chaiten, “is that the U.S. couldn’t prosecute someone like that even if it was important for national security.”
And Justice Stephen Breyer said changing the rule would prevent the federal government from bringing civil rights cases when the states decline to prosecute or do so only half-heartedly.
The Trump administration urged the court to keep the current rule, arguing the state and the federal governments should be able to pursue their own interests without interfering with each other.
The court was originally scheduled to hear the case Wednesday, but Chief Justice John Roberts issued an order closing the court that day in observance of the national day of mourning for George H. W. Bush. The justices will issue their decision by late June.
House Democrats demand answers from Hope Hicks over ‘apparent inconsistencies’ in her testimony
House Democrats are demanding answers from former Trump aide Hope Hicks after newly unsealed documents showed “apparent inconsistencies” with her congressional testimony about hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler sent Hicks a letter Thursday, calling on her to explain her June testimony to the panel in which she said that she had no knowledge of the payments to Daniels and that she hadn’t discussed them with President Donald Trump or others.
Documents unsealed earlier Thursday revealed that the FBI believed Hicks and the president were both involved in the payouts arranged by Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney and fixer. Cohen is serving a three-year prison sentence for a slew of crimes, including breaking campaign finance laws by hiding payments to Daniels and another woman who also claimed she had an affair with Trump. The president has denied the affairs.
“As I reminded you at the outset of your interview, anything other than complete candor can have very serious consequences,” Nadler wrote in his letter, noting that lying to congressional investigators is a crime.
Hicks, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign who later served as the White House communications director, was interviewed by the Judiciary Committee behind closed doors last month. The committee later released a transcript of her interview.
Pressed by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, during the hearing, Hicks repeatedly denied she had witnessed conversations between Trump and Cohen about Daniels. Hicks’ attorney interjected to clarify that the question was specifically about Hicks’ work on the campaign, and she again said that the answer is no.
“Given the apparent inconsistencies between your testimony and this evidence, I would like to give you an opportunity to clarify your testimony on a voluntary basis, prior to considering compulsory process,” Nadler wrote Thursday, hinting at a potential subpoena. He gave her a deadline of Aug.15.
In a statement, Hicks’ lawyer denied any wrongdoing.
“Reports claiming that Ms. Hicks was involved in conversations about ‘hush-money’ payments on Oct. 8, 2016, or knew that payments were being discussed, are simply wrong,” her lawyer, Robert Trout, said. “Ms. Hicks stands by her truthful testimony that she first became aware of this issue in early November 2016, as the result of press inquiries, and she will be responding formally to Chairman Nadler’s letter as requested.”
Thursday’s court documents — unsealed from the case against Cohen over campaign finance violations — describe a “series of calls, text messages, and emails” among Cohen, Trump, Hicks, Daniels’ attorney Keith Davidson and David Pecker, an executive from the company that published the National Enquirer at that time.
“Based on the timing of these calls, and the content of the text messages and emails, I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent Clifford from going public, particularly in the wake of the ‘Access Hollywood’ story,” an FBI agent said in the court documents.
The documents also reveal that the FBI interviewed Hicks about her involvement. She told the FBI she couldn’t recall a series of phone calls of which the FBI said it has records.
Tom Winter contributed.
Nearly 90 House members favor starting Trump impeachment inquiry
Here are the 89 members of the House of Representatives who favor starting an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. There are 88 Democrats — including 14 of the 24 Democrats who serve on the House Judiciary Committee — and one independent.
- Alma Adams, N.C.
- Nanette Barragán, Calif.
- Joyce Beatty, Ohio
- Don Beyer, Va.
- Earl Blumenauer, Ore.
- Suzanne Bonamici, Ore.
- Brendan Boyle, Penn.
- G.K. Butterfield, N.C.
- Tony Cardenas, Calif.
- Sean Casten, Ill.
- Joaquin Castro, Texas
- David Cicilline, R.I. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Yvette Clarke, N.Y.
- William Lacy Clay, Mo.
- Steve Cohen, Tenn. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Danny K. Davis, Ill.
- Madeleine Dean, Penn. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Diana DeGette, Colo.
- Val Demings, Fla. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Mark DeSaulnier, Calif.
- Lloyd Doggett, Texas
- Mike Doyle, Penn.
- Veronica Escobar, Texas (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Adriano Espaillat, N.Y.
- Dwight Evans, Penn.
- Marcia Fudge, Ohio
- Ruben Gallego, Ariz.
- Jesús García, Ill.
- Jimmy Gomey, Calif.
- Al Green, Texas
- Raul Grijalva, Ariz. (Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee)
- Brian Higgins, N.Y.
- Jim Himes, Conn.
- Jared Huffman, Calif.
- Pramila Jayapal, Wash. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Robin Kelly, Ill.
- Joe Kennedy III, Mass.
- Dan Kildee, Mich. (chief deputy whip of House Democratic caucus)
- Ann Kirkpatrick, Ariz.
- Rick Larsen, Washington
- Brenda Lawrence, Mich.
- Barbara Lee, Calif.
- Andy Levin, Mich.
- Ted Lieu, Calif. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Alan Lowenthal, Calif.
- Tom Malinowski, N.J.
- Carolyn Maloney, N.Y.
- Betty McCollum, Minn.
- Jim McGovern, Mass. (Chairman of the House Rules Committee)
- Gwen Moore, Wis.
- Seth Moulton, Mass.
- Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Fla. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Grace Napolitano, Calif.
- Joe Neguse, Colo. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Donald Norcross, N.J.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, N.Y.
- Ilhan Omar, Minn.
- Bill Pascrell, N.J.
- Scott Peters, Calif.
- Chellie Pingree, Me.
- Mark Pocan, Wis.
- Katie Porter, Calif.
- Ayanna Pressley, Mass.
- Mike Quigley, Ill.
- Jamie Raskin, Md. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Kathleen Rice, N.Y.
- Cedric Richmond, La. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Harley Rouda, Calif.
- Lucille Roybal-Allard, Calif.
- Bobby Rush, Ill.
- Tim Ryan, Ohio
- Mary Gay Scanlon, Penn. (Vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Jan Schakowsky, Ill.
- Brad Sherman, Calif.
- Adam Smith, Washington (Chairman of the Armed Services Committee)
- Jackie Speier, Calif.
- Greg Stanton, Arizona (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Eric Swalwell, Calif. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee, member of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 2020 presidential candidate)
- Bennie Thompson, Miss. (Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee)
- Rashida Tlaib, Mich.
- Paul Tonko, N.Y.
- Norma Torres, Calif.
- Juan Vargas, Calif.
- Filemon Vela, Texas
- Nydia Velazquez, N.Y. (Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee)
- Maxine Waters, Calif. (Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee)
- Pete Welch, Vermont
- John Yarmuth, Ky. (Chairman of the House Budget Committee)
- Justin Amash, Mich.
CORRECTION (May 30, 2019, 1:25 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated the position of Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Calif., on beginning an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Rouda has said he supports an impeachment inquiry only if Trump does not comply with congressional subpoenas, not before. However, since this correction was originally published, he has come out in favor of starting an impeachment inquiry.
Dartunorro Clark contributed.
U.S. spy chief creates a new head of election security for intelligence agencies
ASPEN, Colo. — The nation’s top spy has created a new job to coordinate the U.S. response to election security threats.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats announced Friday he has established the position of intelligence community election threats executive — and appointed a career official, Shelby Pierson, to serve in this new role.
Pierson will serve as the agency’s principal adviser on threats to elections and matters related to election security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement. She will coordinate and integrate all election security activities, initiatives and programs across spy agencies and synchronize intelligence efforts in support of the broader U.S. government, the statement said.
“Election security is an enduring challenge and a top priority for the IC,” Coats said. “In order to build on our successful approach to the 2018 elections, the IC must properly align its resources to bring the strongest level of support to this critical issue. There is no one more qualified to serve as the very first election threats executive than Shelby Pierson, whose knowledge and experience make her the right person to lead this critical mission.”
Coats also directed the FBI, the CIA and other spy agencies to name a single lead for election security for each agency.
Coats’ move came amid growing concern about foreign threats to the 2020 election, and little evidence that the Trump White House is engaged on the issue.
Pierson served as the DNI’s crisis manager for election security during the 2018 midterm elections and has served for more than two decades in intelligence jobs, the DNI said,
Coats also announced the creation of an Intelligence Community Election Executive and Leadership Board, chaired by Pierson. Members of this board are senior executives from across the government who will coordinate the response to election threats, Coats said.
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