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Supreme Court releases censored appeal by foreign government in mystery Mueller case

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — An unidentified foreign government is asking the Supreme Court to get involved in a case that may be part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The justices on Tuesday granted the government’s request to file a censored version of an appeal to the high court in which the country is fighting a grand jury subpoena and a $50,000-a-day fine for not complying with the subpoena.

The appeal doesn’t identify the country, a company it controls or even the lawyers who are representing it. But the appeal says the justices should make clear that a federal law that generally protects foreign governments from civil lawsuits in the U.S. also shields them in criminal cases.

The justices had previously refused to block the subpoena and fine on an emergency basis.

A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington had in December upheld the issuance of the subpoena and a contempt order issued by a district court judge when the company, identified only as wholly owned by a foreign country, failed to comply.

The country says that the appellate ruling would upset foreign relations in a big way if allowed to stand. It says the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is “the first appellate court in American history to exercise criminal jurisdiction over a foreign state.”

The country says it is immune from being subpoenaed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and that complying would require it to violate its own laws.

The U.S. government has until Feb. 21 to respond to the appeal. An uncensored, sealed version of the appeal also has been filed with the court.

Both Politico and The Washington Post have reported that the subpoena apparently relates to the Mueller investigation. Prosecutors have been trying to obtain information from the foreign-owned company since last summer, Judge Stephen Williams wrote in an opinion that was released by the appeals court earlier in January.

The case has been shrouded in secrecy as it has moved through the court system. Federal marshals closed an entire floor of the federal courthouse in Washington last month when the case was argued before the three-judge appellate panel. The move stymied the efforts of a group of about 15 reporters to see whether any Mueller team members or other participants had entered the hearing room.

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No deal Brexit: Does no-deal Brexit mean HARD Irish Border? It’s ‘obvious’ says EU

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BRUSSELS has said a hard border would be “obvious” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Britain leaves the EU on March 29 with no deal.

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Shutdown problems mount as workers poised to miss another check

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By Dareh Gregorian

Problems are piling up at the nation’s airports as workers affected by the government shutdown are poised to miss another paycheck.

Unless the government reopens by midnight — which would take a miracle, since the White House and Democrats don’t appear to be speaking to one another — federal employees will go another pay cycle without compensation, giving them four weeks without pay.

The fallout from the impasse over federal spending on border security was on display at airports across the country on Monday, where the Transportation Security Administration acknowledged that a large number of their agents failed to show up to work, causing longer waits at security lines.

TSA experienced a national rate of unscheduled absences 7.5 percent compared to a 3.3 percent rate one year ago on the same weekday, and “many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations,” the agency said in a statement.

The longest waits for travelers were at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where the “max standard wait time” was 46 minutes, the TSA said. Newark Liberty International Airport had waits of about 40 minutes, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport had waits of about 36 minutes.

Other airports had quicker lines. Boston’s Logan International Airport, New York’s Westchester County Airport and Palm Beach International Airport in Florida all had wait times of just 10 minutes, the agency said.

The partial shutdown began on Dec. 22, after President Donald Trump declared he wouldn’t sign a stopgap measure passed by the Senate that would have kept the government open until Feb. 8 because it didn’t include funding to build a wall along the southern border.

On Saturday, Trump proposed ending the shutdown by offering limited protections for so-called Dreamer immigrants who were brought illegally into the United States as minors and offering other enticements in return for $5.7 billion in funding for his wall. Democratic lawmakers, however, have said they won’t negotiate on border funding until the government is re-opened, and on Tuesday, the Supreme Court effectively extended Dreamer protections for 10 more months.

“Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “With a powerful Wall or Steel Barrier, Crime Rates (and Drugs) will go substantially down all over the U.S. The Dems know this but want to play political games.”

A report from the FBI Agents Association on Tuesday said the shutdown is making the country less safe. The advocacy group, which represents 14,000 current and former agents, said the shutdown has impeded investigations across the country — preventing agents from doing such things as getting records in child sexual assault cases, doing undercover drug buys, or paying confidential sources in gang cases and counterterrorism efforts.

In addition to the 800,000 federal employees who are furloughed or working without pay, an estimated 1.2 million people who had been working on government contracts aren’t getting paid either.

Others whose businesses benefit from government operations are feeling the effects too.

With the national parks closed, National Park Inn at Mount Rainier National Park has had to lay off about half its staff so far, said Melinda Simpson, operations manager of concessionaire Rainier Guest Services.

“Do we want to lose any of these people? No,” Simpson said. “It’s not like a furloughed position where somewhere down the line they’re going to get money and and they’re going to get payment — they don’t get anything. For us as a company, we’ll survive. But for the individuals — and really that’s what this all about — I don’t know.”

Associated Press and Steve Patterson contributed.



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