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Trump Documents Probe: Court Halts Mar-a-Lago Special Master Review

A unanimous federal appeals court on Thursday ended an independent review of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, removing a hurdle the Justice Department said had delayed its criminal investigation into the retention of top-secret government information.

The decision by the three-judge panel represents a significant win for federal prosecutors, clearing the way for them to use as part of their investigation the entire tranche of documents seized during an August 8 FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. It also amounts to a sharp repudiation of arguments by Trump’s lawyers, who for months had said that the former president was entitled to have a so-called “special master” conduct a neutral review of the thousands of documents taken from the property.

The ruling from the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit had been expected given the skeptical questions the judges directed at a Trump lawyer during arguments last week, and because two of the three judges on the panel had already ruled in favor of the Justice Department in an earlier dispute over the special master.

The decision was unanimous from the three-judge panel of Republican appointees, including two selected by Trump. In it, the court rejected each argument by Trump and his attorneys for why a special master was necessary, including his claims that the seized records were protected by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.

“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the judges wrote.

Litigation alongside investigation

The special master litigation has played out alongside an ongoing investigation examining the potential criminal mishandling of national defense information as well as efforts to possibly obstruct that probe. Attorney General Merrick Garland last month appointed Jack Smith, a veteran public corruption prosecutor, to serve as special counsel overseeing that investigation.

It remains unclear how much longer the investigation will last, or who, if anyone, might be charged. But the probe has shown signs of intensifying, with investigators questioning multiple Trump associates about the documents and granting one key ally immunity to ensure his testimony before a federal grand jury. And the appeals court decision is likely to speed the investigation along by cutting short the outside review of the records.

The conflict over the special master began just weeks after the FBI’s search, when Trump sued in federal court in Florida seeking the appointment of an independent arbiter to review the roughly 13,000 documents the Justice Department says were taken from the home.

A federal judge, Aileen Cannon, granted the Trump team’s request, naming veteran Brooklyn judge Raymond Dearie to serve as special master and tasking him with reviewing the seized records and filtering out from the criminal investigation any documents that might be covered by claims of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

She also barred the Justice Department from using in its criminal investigation any of the seized records, including the roughly 100 with classification markings, until Dearie completed his work.

The Justice Department objected to the appointment, saying that it was an unnecessary hindrance to its criminal investigation and that Trump had no credible basis to invoke either attorney-client privilege or executive privilege to shield the records from investigators.

It sought, as a first step, to regain access to the classified documents. A federal appeals panel sided with prosecutors in September, permitting the Justice Department to resume its review of the documents with classification markings. Two of the judges on that panel — Andrew Brasher and Britt Grant, both Trump appointees — were part of Thursday’s ruling as well.

The department also pressed for unfettered access to the much larger trove of unclassified documents, saying such records could contain important evidence for their investigation.

Thursday’s ruling

In its ruling Thursday, the court directed Cannon to dismiss the lawsuit that gave rise to Dearie’s appointment and suggested Trump had no legal basis to challenge the search in the first place.

“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so,” the judges wrote.

“Either approach,” they added, “would be a radical reordering of our case law limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.”

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ДМС оформила перше посвідчення на повернення в Україну примусово вивезених у РФ громадян

За даними української влади, від початку повномасштабного російського вторгнення понад 1,6 мільйона українців примусово депортовані в Росію

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Senate Moves to Avert Rail Strike Amid Dire Warnings

The Senate moved quickly Thursday to avert a rail strike that the Biden administration and business leaders warned would have had devastating consequences for the nation’s economy. 

The Senate passed a bill to bind rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September. That settlement had been rejected by some of the 12 unions involved, creating the possibility of a strike beginning December 9. 

The Senate vote was 80-15. It came one day after the House voted to impose the agreement. The measure now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. 

“I’m very glad that the two sides got together to avoid a shutdown, which would have been devastating for the American people, to the American economy and so many workers across the country,” Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters. 

Schumer spoke as Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized to Democratic senators that rail companies would begin shutting down operations well before a potential strike would begin. The administration wanted the bill on Biden’s desk by the weekend. 

Shortly before Thursday’s votes, Biden — who had urged Congress to intervene earlier this week — defended the contract that four of the unions had rejected, noting the wage increases it contains. 

“I negotiated a contract no one else could negotiate,” Biden said at a news briefing with French President Emmanuel Macron. “What was negotiated was so much better than anything they ever had.” 

Critics say the contract that did not receive backing from enough union members lacked sufficient levels of paid leave for rail workers. Biden said he wants paid leave for “everybody” so that it wouldn’t have to be negotiated in employment contracts, but Republican lawmakers have blocked measures to require time off work for medical and family reasons. The U.S. president said that Congress should now impose the contract to avoid a strike that Biden said could cause 750,000 job losses and a recession. 

Railways say that halting rail service would cause a devastating $2 billion-per-day hit to the economy. A freight rail strike also would have a big potential impact on passenger rail, with Amtrak and many commuter railroads relying on tracks owned by the freight railroads. 

The rail companies and 12 unions have been engaged in high-stakes negotiations. The Biden administration helped broker deals between the railroads and union leaders in September, but four of the unions rejected the deals. Eight others approved five-year deals and are getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020. 

On Monday, with a December 9 strike looming, Biden called on Congress to impose the tentative agreement reached in September. Congress has the authority to do so and has enacted legislation in the past to delay or prohibit railway and airline strikes. But most lawmakers would prefer the parties work out their differences on their own. 

The intervention was particularly difficult for Democratic lawmakers who traditionally align themselves with the politically powerful labor unions that criticized Biden’s move to intervene in the contract dispute and block a strike. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded to that concern by holding a second vote Wednesday on a bill that would add seven days of paid sick leave per year for rail workers covered under the agreement. The call for paid sick leave was a major sticking point in the talks along with other quality-of-life concerns. The railroads say the unions have agreed in negotiations over the decades to forgo paid sick time in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits. 

The unions maintain that railroads can easily afford to add paid sick time when they are recording record profits. Several of the big railroads involved in these contract talks reported more than $1 billion profit in the third quarter. 

The House passed the legislation enacting September’s labor agreement with broad bipartisan support. A second measure adding seven paid sick days for rail workers passed on a mostly party-line vote in the House, but it fell eight votes short of a 60-vote threshold needed for passage in the Senate. 


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Священнику Києво-Печерської лаври повідомили про підозру за «прославляння «русского мира» – СБУ 

Священнослужителя і ще одного фігуранта підозрюють у виправдовуванні російської агресії проти України

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Київ: «ДТЕК» включив до списку на відключення 750 будинків, яким не відключали світло раніше

Для цих будинків, які підключені до одних ліній із критичними об’єктами, створили альтернативну схему постачання світла

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Президент каже, що ситуація з електропостачанням залишається дуже складною у Києві та шести областях

Зеленський каже, що важливо, аби люди розуміли, коли і на який проміжок часу у них відключають електрику

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US House Democrats Pick Congressman Hakeem Jeffries as New Leader

Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives picked a new leader Wednesday, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who will become the first Black person to lead either major political party in Congress when the new congressional session opens in January.

The 52-year-old Jeffries, a House member for 10 years, has vowed to “get things done,” even though Democrats lost their narrow majority to opposition Republicans in the chamber in the November 8 elections.

His selection, in a unanimous vote by acclamation at a caucus of party lawmakers, marks a generational shift for Democrats. Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 82, has been the party’s leader for two decades but announced earlier this month she would remain in the House but not seek a party leadership position in the new Congress as Republicans take control.

Jeffries was one of three new leaders Democrats elected, along with Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark, 59, as the Democratic whip and California Congressman Pete Aguilar, 43, as caucus chairman.

Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California is on track to becoming the new House speaker, although opposition from some conservative Republican lawmakers has left his election uncertain.

With Republicans controlling the House in the new Congress, while Democrats are assured of maintaining control of the Senate and Democrat Joe Biden is president, political agreement on major legislation is likely to be difficult in Washington.

Newly empowered House Republicans have said they intend to focus their attention on launching numerous investigations of the Biden administration, on issues such as last year’s chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan, its handling of migration issues at the U.S. border with Mexico, and the business affairs of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and any financial links to the president.

The White House has said it will cooperate with some Republican inquiries but not one involving Hunter Biden.

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House Votes to Avert Rail Strike, Impose Deal on Unions

The U.S. House moved urgently to head off the looming nationwide rail strike on Wednesday, passing a bill that would bind companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached in September but rejected by some of the 12 unions involved. 

The measure passed by a vote of 290-137 and now heads to the Senate. If approved there, it will be quickly signed by President Joe Biden, who requested the action. 

Biden on Monday asked Congress to intervene and avert the rail stoppage that could strike a devastating blow to the nation’s fragile economy by disrupting the transportation of fuel, food and other critical goods. Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Farm Bureau Federation warned that halting rail service would cause a $2 billion per day hit to the economy. 

The bill would impose a compromise labor agreement brokered by the Biden administration that was ultimately voted down by four of the 12 unions representing more than 100,000 employees at large freight rail carriers. The unions have threatened to strike if an agreement can’t be reached before a December 9 deadline. 

Lawmakers from both parties expressed reservations about overriding the negotiations. And the intervention was particularly difficult for Democratic lawmakers who have traditionally sought to align themselves with the politically powerful labor unions that criticized Biden’s move to intervene in the contract dispute and block a strike. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to that concern by adding a second vote Wednesday that would add seven days of paid sick leave per year for rail workers covered under the agreement. However, it will take effect only if the Senate goes along and passes both measures. 

The call for more paid sick leave was a major sticking point in the talks. The railroads say the unions have agreed in negotiations over the decades to forgo paid sick time in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits. 

The head of the Association of American Railroads trade group said Tuesday that railroads would consider adding paid sick time in the future, but said that change should wait for a new round of negotiations instead of being added now, near the end of three years of contract talks. 

The unions maintain that railroads can easily afford to add paid sick time at a time when they are recording record profits. Several of the big railroads involved in these contract talks reported more than $1 billion profit in the third quarter. 

“Quite frankly, the fact that paid leave is not part of the final agreement between railroads and labor is, in my opinion, obscene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “It should be there and I hope it will be there at the end of this process.” 

Republicans also voiced support for the measure to block the strike, but criticized the Biden administration for turning to Congress to “step in to fix the mess.” 

“They’ve retreated in failure and they kicked this problem to Congress for us to decide,” said Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo. 

Republicans also criticized Pelosi’s decision to add the sick leave second bill to the mix. They said the Biden administration’s own special board of arbitrators recommended higher wages to compensate the unions for not including sick time in its recommendations. 

“Why do we even have the system set up the way it is if Congress is going to come in and make changes to all of the recommendations?” Graves said. 

Pelosi sought to position Democrats and the Biden administration as defenders of unions and slammed the rail companies, saying they’ve slashed jobs, increased worker hours and cut corners on safety. But she said Congress needed to intervene. 

“Families wouldn’t be able to buy groceries or life-saving medications because it would be even more expensive and perishable goods would spoil before reaching shelves,” Pelosi said. 

The compromise agreement that was supported by the railroads and a majority of the unions provides for 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses retroactive to 2020 along with one additional paid leave day. The raises would be the biggest rail workers have received in more than four decades. Workers would have to pay a larger share of their health insurance costs, but their premiums would be capped at 15% of the total cost of the insurance plan. The agreement did not resolve workers’ concerns about schedules that make it hard to take a day off and the lack of more paid sick time. 

The Biden administration issued a statement in support of Congress passing the bill that implements the most recent tentative agreement, stressing that it would provide improved health care benefits and a historic pay raise. But the statement was silent on the measure that would add seven sick days to the agreement. 

“To be clear, it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining, and the administration is reluctant to override union ratification procedures and the views of those union members who voted against the agreement,” the White House said. “But in this case – where the societal and economic impacts of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – Congress must use its powers to resolve this impasse.” 

On several past occasions, Congress has intervened in labor disputes by enacting legislation to delay or prohibit railway and airline strikes. 


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