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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.



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Tillerson says he often had to tell Trump that his directive ‘violates the law’

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By Dartunorro Clark

Rex Tillerson gave a blistering assessment of his time as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state in a rare public appearance, calling the commander in chief “undisciplined.”

Tillerson told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer at an event in Houston on Wednesday night that he had never met Trump until the day he was asked to be secretary of state, and described how the pair were quickly at loggerheads once they began working together.

“So often, the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it,’ and I would have to say to him: ‘Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,'” Tillerson said.

“I’d say: ‘Here’s what we can do. We can go back to Congress and get this law changed. And if that’s what you want to do, there’s nothing wrong with that,'” Tillerson said. “I told him, ‘I’m ready to go up there and fight the fight, if that’s what you want to do.'”

Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, was fired as the country’s top diplomat by Trump in a tweet in March. He was replaced with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Tillerson’s firing came months after NBC News reported that he called the president a “moron,” which the oil executive publicly denied in a prepared speech.

Tillerson’s remarks Wednesday were his first public comments since giving a commencement address in May at the Virginia Military Institute in which he deplored the nation’s “growing crisis in ethics and integrity” and leaders who “conceal the truth.”

Tillerson also told Schieffer that Trump acts on instinct and did not like to read intelligence briefings, which was challenging for him coming from corporate America.

“He acts on his instincts, in some respects, that looks like impulsiveness, but it’s not his intent to act on impulse. I think he really is trying to act on his instincts,” Tillerson said.

“It was challenging for me, coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented Exxon Mobil Corporation, to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘Look, this is what I believe, and you can try to convince me otherwise, but most of the time you’re not going to do that.'”

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Comey appears before lawmakers as GOP races to complete probe of Justice Department bias

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By Mike Memoli

WASHINGTON — House Republicans, with just weeks left in control of key committees, grilled former FBI Director James Comey behind closed doors on Friday as they wind down a year-long probe into key investigative decisions the agency made in the 2016 election.

Members of both parties were girding for a marathon day of testimony that came under protest by Comey, who had initially waged a legal fight against the Judiciary Committee subpoena as he pressed lawmakers to allow him to answer questions in a public hearing.

The House Judiciary and Oversight Committees have been jointly running the investigation largely behind the scenes this year, bringing in an array of former Justice Department, FBI and Obama administration officials to answer questions about whether political considerations drove the FBI’s handling of both the Hillary Clinton email probe, and a counterintelligence investigation into Russian attempts to interfere in the U.S. election.

Comey served as FBI director during that critical juncture. And while he has already testified before other House and Senate panels, some of President Donald Trump’s most stalwart defenders insisted on bringing him before their panel.

Comey has repeatedly said he was willing to answer questions in an open hearing. But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., served him a subpoena on the eve of Thanksgiving compelling him to appear in private. Comey initially filed suit challenging the subpoena, arguing that Republicans were more interested in selectively leaking testimony to advance their own political narrative than pursuing the truth.

Ultimately, though, Comey reached an agreement with the committee to testify behind closed doors, on the condition that a full transcript of the proceedings be released within 24 hours.

“Jim recognizes the oversight function of Congress and has respect for the institution,” Comey attorney David Kelley told Ari Melber on MSNBC’s “The Beat” this week. “He wanted to be transparent. If you want to know about these investigations, great. Let’s talk about it publicly. That’s what this fight was about.”

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a member of the House Oversight Committee, said he wanted to ask Comey about information that may have been collected on Trump campaign associates before the Justice Department formally launched its counterintelligence investigation in July 2016. And he defended the rush to interview key witnesses — Republicans are also seeking testimony from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch — with just weeks left the current congressional term.

“For us to just pack it up and go home is not what the American people deserve and for the most part it’s not what they expect,” he said.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who will serve as Judiciary Committee chairman when Democrats gain control of the House in January, blasted Republicans for pursuing an investigation he called a “waste of time.”

“The entire purpose of this investigation is to cast aspersions on the real investigation with Mueller. There’s no evidence whatsoever of bias at the FBI or any of this other nonsense they’re talking about,” he said.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., a member of the Oversight Committee, said Comey was “the right witness for the wrong questions.”

“I think the Republicans brought him here to talk about Hillary Clinton. That’s a settled issue. Instead we should be talking to him about the ongoing Russia investigation,” he said.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who will serve as the top Republican on the Oversight Committee in the next Congress, cited previous testimony to the committee that claimed Christopher Steele, author of the so-called dossier into Trump’s ties to Russia, told a top Justice Department official that he was determined to stop Trump from becoming president.

Steele’s dossier was cited in a secret surveillance warrant against Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, though Democrats and Republicans have bitterly contested the question of whether dossier information was a critical part of the warrant application.

“I want to know when James Comey knew that, and more importantly, did he know that before they went to the FISA court with Mr. Steele’s work product. I think that’s an important question” he said.

Jordan said he did not know whether the committees’ Republican chairmen, Goodlatte and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., planned to issue a final report after interviews are completed.

“That’ll ultimately be the call of Chairman Goodlatte and Chairman Gowdy.”

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PRIME MINISTER CORBYN: Brexit deal defeat for May ‘hands No10 to LABOUR’ warns Lord

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THERESA May suffering a defeat in the House of Commons over her controversial Brexit agreement will see Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn swoop in as prime minister, Lord Baker has warned.

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