Tag Archives: FBI

Civil rights groups sue over alleged abuse at youth prison

Civil rights groups sued Wisconsin seeking improvements at a youth prison because guards there are still abusing children despite state and federal investigations.

The American Civil Liberties Union along with the Juvenile Law Center filed a federal lawsuit this week asking a judge to limit solitary confinement, mechanical restraints and the use of pepper spray at the Irma facility. State investigators spent all of 2015 probing allegations of widespread abuse at Lincoln Hills. The FBI has since taken over the probe.

A number of state prison officials have resigned or retired in the midst of the investigations. But no one has been charged and the FBI has said nothing about the investigation’s progress.

ACLU attorney Larry Dupuis said during a Milwaukee news conference that his group had hoped the investigations would prompt changes at the prison. But he said guards continue to violate inmates’ constitutional rights by locking them up in solitary confinement, chaining them to desks and pepper spraying them for minor infractions, prompting the ACLU lawsuit. During a visit to the prison in October, Dupuis said, he saw a boy get pepper sprayed and dragged off because he wouldn’t remove his shoes.

“Usually when ACLU shows up at a prison, (guards are) on their best behavior,” Dupuis said. “We were shocked by what we heard and saw for ourselves. If I had any reason to believe something was coming in the investigations, we may have held off.”

FBI spokesman Leonard Peace declined to comment, saying the investigation was ongoing. State Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook declined comment as well.

The ACLU and the law center filed the lawsuit on behalf of three children currently held at the prison and one child who was held there before he was moved to a mental health facility.

The filing alleges on any day up to 20 percent of the prison’s population is held in solitary confinement in tiny, unfurnished cells. They receive only an hour of education instead of the four or five they would normally get and are chained to their desks or shackled, the lawsuit alleges. Guards needlessly pepper spray inmates for minor, nonviolent infractions, sometimes using a spray meant to stop bears, the lawsuit added.

The practices are unconstitutionally excessive and cruel, the lawsuit said. The filing asks a judge to allow solitary confinement, mechanical restraints and pepper spray only in rare cases to avoid serious physical harm.

Attorney General Brad Schimel declined to defend the state in the lawsuit Tuesday because the Department of Justice ran the state’s portion of the investigation, creating a conflict, DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said. That means Gov. Scott Walker’s administration will need to hire private attorneys.

Twenty-nine states have prohibited solitary confinement as punishment for juveniles, according to the pro bono law firm Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest. Wisconsin is one of 15 states that limit the time a juvenile spends in solitary confinement; Wisconsin’s maximum is 60 days. Seven states have no limit on solitary confinement or allow indefinite extensions, according to the center.

Wisconsin lawmakers haven’t passed any measures addressing conditions at the youth prison since word of the investigation broke a year ago. Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch and Democratic state Sen. LaTonya Johnson began circulating a bill Tuesday that would require prison guards to report child abuse to law enforcement in response to the prison allegations.

Rep. Michael Schraa, chairman of the Assembly’s corrections committee, didn’t immediately return a message. The state Senate doesn’t have a corrections committee; the equivalent body is the judiciary committee, led by Republican Van Wanggaard. His aide, Scott Kelly, said Wanggaard wants to see the FBI’s findings before drawing conclusions but is growing more frustrated with the agency for not releasing any information.

President signs bill to review civil rights-era cold cases

Racially motivated, civil rights-era killings that are now cold cases will get fresh looks under legislation signed by President Barack Obama.

Obama signed the bill earlier this month. It indefinitely extends a 2007 law that calls for a full accounting of race-based deaths, many of which had been closed for decades. The law was set to expire next year.

The bill is named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy killed in 1955 after whistling at a white woman. His killers were acquitted of murder but later admitted their crimes to a reporter and couldn’t be retried.

Many other similar cases were poorly investigated and prosecutions were rare.

The law provides federal resources to local jurisdictions to look into the cases and extends the time span of cases to be considered to Dec. 31, 1979. It will also require the Justice Department and the FBI to consult with civil rights organizations, universities and others who had been gathering evidence on the deaths.

There has so far been one conviction as more than 100 cases from the 1960s and earlier have been reviewed. New racially suspicious deaths have been identified for investigation.

North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr and Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill sponsored the bill in the Senate.

In the House, the bill was negotiated by civil rights icon John Lewis, D-Ga.; John Conyers, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee; and Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin man sentenced for sex trafficking

Monta Groce, 30, of Sparta, Wisconsin, was sentenced this week to 25 years in prison for using violence, threats and coercion to compel three young women suffering from heroin addiction to prostitute for his profit in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In July, a  jury convicted Groce of three counts of sex trafficking by force, threats or coercion; one count of conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation for prostitution; one count of interstate transportation for prostitution; one count of maintaining a property for drug trafficking; one count of using a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and one count of witness retaliation.

The sentence was announced by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with U.S. Attorney John W. Vaudreuil of the Western District of Wisconsin and Special Agent in Charge R. Justin Tolomeo of the FBI’s Milwaukee Division.

“Groce beat, tormented and enslaved vulnerable young women struggling with heroin addiction,” said Gupta.  “He treated them as sex slaves rather than human beings and his unconscionable actions offend the most basic standards of human decency.  Nothing can undo the harm Groce inflicted or the pain he caused, but hopefully this sentence provides some measure of closure and relief for the victims.”

“Sex trafficking is modern slavery, and cannot be tolerated in any civilized nation,” said Vaudreuil.  “These crimes, which took place in a small Wisconsin city, demonstrate that sex trafficking is not just a big city issue; it is a horrible problem in rural America too.  We will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who violently exploit vulnerable victims in Wisconsin.”

“Sex trafficking has no boundaries and can occur anywhere,” said Tolomeo.  “When combined with drug addiction, the results are devastating.  Groce used heroin and violence to force victims into prostitution.  The FBI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to target these predators.”

Evidence presented at trial included the testimony of the three victims identified in the indictment as Jane Does 1 through 3. They testified that Groce sold heroin in Sparta between December 2012 and April 2013.  During that time, he enticed the victims to begin prostituting for his profit by providing them with heroin .  As their dependency increased, he turned to violence and threatened to cut off their heroin supply if they disobeyed him, withheld money earned from prostitution or otherwise refused to prostitute.

Groce further kept some of the victims in perpetual debt by fronting them heroin and charging fines as punishment.

He advertised the victims on Backpage.com and paid other addicts to drive them from Wisconsin to Minnesota to prostitute.

 

The case was investigated by FBI’s Milwaukee Division with assistance from the Sparta Police Department and Monroe County, Wisconsin, Joint Investigative Task Force.

Justice Dept: 2 Milwaukee men charged with support for ISIL

Jason Michael Ludke, 35, of Milwaukee, has been charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Yosvany Padylla-Conde, 30, also of Milwaukee, was charged in the same complaint with aiding and abetting Ludke’s attempt to provide material support to ISIL.

The announcement was made by assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad of the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Ludke and Padylla-Conde were arrested near San Angelo, Texas. The complaint alleges they were traveling from Wisconsin to Mexico, where they intended to acquire travel documents necessary to travel overseas to join ISIL.

“The United States is committed to identifying and arresting persons intent on providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations. Those organizations pose a threat to United States’ interests at home and abroad.” said Haanstad.

Special Agent in Charge Justin Tolomeo of the FBI’s Milwaukee Division stated in a news release, “The arrest of these two individuals from Wisconsin, underscores how the real threat of terrorism can occur anywhere, at anytime.”

If convicted both men face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.00.

A criminal complaint is an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.

Cocaine investigation leads to discovery of 2 Van Gogh paintings

Police investigating suspected Italian mobsters for cocaine trafficking discovered two Vincent Van Gogh paintings hidden in a farmhouse near Naples, masterpieces that had vanished in 2002 during a nighttime heist at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, authorities said this past week.

The two paintings were “considered among the artworks most searched for in the world, on the FBI’s list of the Top 10 art crimes,” Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said.

They were found in a farmhouse near Castellammare di Stabia as Italian police seized some 20 million euros ($22 million) worth of assets, including farmland, villas and apartments and a small airplane.

Investigators contend those assets are linked to two Camorra drug kingpins, Mario Cerrone and Raffaele Imperiale, according to a statement by prosecutors Giovanni Colangelo and Filippo Beatrice.

The recovered masterpieces, propped up on easels, were unveiled for reporters at a news conference in Naples.

Museum director Axel Rueger said Italian investigators contacted the museum earlier in the week and art experts determined the paintings were authentic.

“Needless to say, it’s a great day for us today,” Rueger told Sky TG24 TV. “We hope they are soon back where they belong.”

With their frames removed and covered by cotton cloths, the paintings appeared to be in relatively good condition despite their long odyssey, the museum said.

One of the paintings, the 1882 “Seascape at Scheveningen,” is one of Vincent Van Gogh’s first major works.

It depicts a boat setting off into a stormy sea, and the thick paint trapped grains of sand that blew up from the Dutch beach as Van Gogh worked on it over two days.

The other is a 1884-85 work, “Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen,” which depicts a church in the southern Netherlands where the artist’s father was the pastor.

Experts believe it was done for Van Gogh’s mother.

Despite the wishes of the museum, the paintings are not leaving Italy anytime soon. They are evidence in an investigation of whether gangsters from the Camorra crime syndicate were behind the original theft or might have become involved with the artworks later.

The Camorra is one of Italy’s three largest organized crime syndicates, with the Calabria-based ‘ndrangheta by far the most powerful. The Camorra consists of many crime clans, based in Naples as well as many of the Campania region’s small towns.

Financial Police. Col. Giovanni Salerno said investigators looking into the syndicate’s cocaine trafficking operations got a tip that the Camorra might have the Van Gogh artworks.

“One of those being investigated made some significant comments about their illegal investments made with earnings from drug trafficking, and he indicated two paintings of great value that supposedly were purchased by Imperiale. They were the result of a theft carried out in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam almost 14 years ago,” Colangelo, the chief prosecutor in Naples, told reporters.

When renowned masterpieces are stolen, it’s usually a theft commissioned by a private collector who has already agreed to buy them, since it’s virtually impossible to sell them in the legitimate art market.

The Camorra and other Italian crime syndicates, awash in illegal revenues from drug trafficking, designer-goods counterfeiting and toxic waste dealings, are increasingly looking to launder their dirty profits and make even more money in the process.

Salerno said a person at the farmhouse when the paintings were found “didn’t say a word” about how they wound up there. He declined to elaborate, saying the case is still under investigation.

The museum said the paintings, inspected by a curator, do show “some damage.” Authorities don’t know where the paintings were kept in the 14 years since they were stolen by thieves who broke into the museum overnight and made off with the works from the main exhibition hall, where dozens of Van Gogh paintings were on display.

The seascape painting had some paint in the bottom left corner broken away, while the other painting had “a few minor damages at the edges of the canvas,” a museum statement said.

Police who arrived at the Amsterdam museum on Dec. 7, 2002, discovered a 4.5-meter (15-foot) ladder leaning against the rear of the building.

The thieves had apparently climbed up to the second floor using a ladder and broke in through a window, according to Dutch police at the time. Within a year, Dutch authorities had arrested two suspects, but the paintings’ whereabouts remained a mystery _ until Italian authorities searched the farmhouse.

“After all these years, you no longer dare count on a possible return,” Rueger said. “The paintings have been found! That I would be able to ever pronounce these words is something I had no longer dared to hope for.”

Van Gogh's "Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen." — PHOTO: WikiArt
Van Gogh’s “Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen.” — PHOTO: WikiArt

FBI: Violent crime up in 2015, but far below peak levels

Violent crime in the United States increased in 2015 but remained far below peak levels of the 1990s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Monday as presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump prepared for a debate that is likely to focus on public safety.

The FBI’s annual report showed that the prevalence of murder, rape and assault edged up last year after decreasing for decades.

At 372.6 incidents per 100,000 people, the 2015 violent-crime rate is higher than the 2014 rate of 361.6 but well below the levels of the last decade, which never dipped below 400. The increase was most pronounced in big cities, the report found.

Coming on the day of the first debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the report could “be turned into political football,” said Robert Smith, a research fellow at Harvard Law School, in a teleconference on Friday with other crime experts.

Trump last week praised aggressive policing, including “stop-and-frisk” tactics that critics say unfairly target minorities.

Clinton has pushed for stricter gun control to help curb violence and has called for national guidelines on the use of force by police officers.

In 2015, there were an estimated 15,696 murders in the United States compared with an estimated 14,164 the prior year, according to the report. Last year’s crime rate was still lower than in 2012 and earlier years, the FBI found.

Crime was highest in the southern United States, the report found. At 45.9 per 100,000 people, the murder and manslaughter rate in the region was more than twice as high as in the West, the Midwest and the Northeast, according to the FBI. Rates of rape, assault and property crime were dramatically higher as well.

FBI Director James Comey warned last year that violent crime in the United States might rise because increased scrutiny of policing tactics had created a “chill wind” that discouraged officers from using aggressive tactics.

The rise in crime has been concentrated in big cities’ segregated and impoverished neighborhoods. Experts said crime there can best be fought through better community policing and alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent crime.

“We’re just beginning to see a shift in mentality in law enforcement from a warrior mentality … to a guardian mentality,” Carter Stewart, a former prosecutor for the Southern District of Ohio, said on the teleconference. “I don’t want us as a country to go backwards.”

In Chicago, 54 more people were murdered in 2015 than the year before, a 13 percent jump in the city’s murder rate, according to an April study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

Reporting by Julia Harte, Susan Heavey and Andy Sullivan in Washington.

Former St. Louis police officer sentenced for civil rights violations

A former St. Louis Metropolitan Police officer was sentenced to 52 months in prison for depriving a handcuffed arrestee of his civil rights by assaulting him and forcing a gun into his mouth.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri, announced the sentence.

Thomas Carroll, 52, of St. Louis, admitted during his plea hearing that he punched the victim, identified in court papers as M.W., in the torso while the victim was handcuffed.

Based on evidence presented at the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey of the Eastern District of Missouri found that Carroll forced his gun into M.W.’s mouth and that M.W. sustained painful and obvious injury.

“When law enforcement officers abuse their authority, they not only violate the law but they also threaten the ability of responsible officers to earn the public trust and do their jobs effectively,” Gupta said in a statement to the press.

Dickinson said, “It’s a sad day when a uniformed police officer is sent to prison for violating the constitutional rights of a citizen. No one is above the law, and no one has the right to take the law into their own hands. Now this disgraced officer will face the consequences of his violent crime.”

According to evidence presented at the plea and sentencing hearings, on July 22, 2014, M.W. was arrested at Ballpark Village near Busch Stadium in St. Louis because he was allegedly in unlawful possession of a credit card that belonged to Carroll’s daughter.

Carroll, who was on duty that night, responded to Ballpark Village and confronted M.W., who already was under arrest, handcuffed and seated in the backseat of another officer’s patrol car.

Carroll yelled at M.W., telling him that he made a “huge mistake” and that he “broke into the wrong girl’s car.”

Two other officers then drove M.W. to the central patrol police station and Carroll followed behind in his own patrol car.

Carroll admitted that despite orders from a superior officer to stay away from M.W., he entered the interview room where M.W. was handcuffed and being held.

Carroll began yelling at M.W., questioning him about who broke into his daughter’s car and threatening him.

Carroll then picked M.W. up and threw him into a wall.

While M.W. was on the ground and still handcuffed, Carroll punched M.W. in the torso.  Carroll then forced his department-issued service weapon into M.W.’s mouth and threatened to shoot him.  The gun chipped M.W.’s teeth and bloodied his lip.

M.W. also suffered significant pain and bruising to his torso and ribs.

In a separate but related case, Bliss Worrell, 28, of Clayton, Missouri, a former prosecutor for the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, was sentenced today to 18 months’ probation for concealing her knowledge of Carroll’s assault.

Worrell pleaded guilty on Oct. 26, 2015, to misprision of a felony.

Worrell testified at Carroll’s sentencing hearing that while she was working as a prosecutor, Carroll, with whom she had become close friends, bragged about assaulting M.W. and forcing his gun into M.W.’s mouth.

Worrell admitted that she filed charges against M.W. without disclosing knowledge of the assault to her colleagues, supervisors or the judge assigned to setting a bond.

She also admitted during her guilty plea that she allowed the charges to stand despite later learning that the facts supporting the attempted escape charge were fabricated to cover for injuries that M.W. sustained during the assault.

These cases were investigated by the FBI’s St. Louis Division, in cooperation with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

These cases were prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark of the Western District of Missouri, who has been appointed as special attorney to the U.S. Attorney General, and special litigation counsel Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division.

AP fact check finds numerous lies, distortions in Trump acceptance speech

TRUMP: “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement. Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years.”

THE FACTS: A rollback? President Barack Obama has actually achieved some big increases in spending for state and local law enforcement, including billions in grants provided through the 2009 stimulus. While FBI crime statistics for 2015 are not yet available, Trump’s claim about rising homicides appears to come from a Washington Post analysis published in January. While Trump accurately quotes part of the analysis, he omits that the statistical jump was so large because homicides are still very low by historical standards. In the 50 cities cited by the Post, for example, half as many people were killed last year as in 1991.

___

TRUMP: “The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015. They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.”

THE FACTS: The pace of releasing immigrants is driven not by the Obama administration, but by a court ruling. A federal judge ruled last year that the government couldn’t hold parents and children in jail for more than 20 days. An appeals court partially rolled that back earlier this month, saying that parents could be detained but children must be released.

By the standard used by the government to estimate illegal border crossings – the number of arrests — Trump is right that the number in this budget year has already exceeded last year’s total. But it’s down from 2014.

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TRUMP: “When a secretary of state illegally stores her emails on a private server, deletes 33,000 of them so the authorities can’t see her crime, puts our country at risk, lies about it in every different form and faces no consequence — I know that corruption has reached a level like never before.”

THE FACTS: Clinton’s use of a private server to store her emails was not illegal under federal law. Her actions were not established as a crime. The FBI investigated the matter and its role was to advise the Justice Department whether to bring charges against her based on what it found. FBI Director James Comey declined to refer the case for criminal prosecution to the Justice Department, instead accusing Clinton of extreme carelessness.

As for Trump’s claim that Clinton faces no consequence, that may be true in a legal sense. But the matter has been a distraction to her campaign and fed into public perceptions that she can’t be trusted. The election will test whether she has paid a price politically.

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TRUMP: “The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 percent compared to this point last year.”

THE FACTS: Not according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks police fatalities daily. The group found that the number of police officers who died as of July 20 is up just slightly this year, at 67, compared with 62 through the same period last year. That includes deaths in the line of duty from all causes, including traffic fatalities.

It is true that there has been a spike in police deaths from intentional shootings, 32 this year compared with 18 last year, largely attributable to the recent mass shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge. But that was not his claim.

And overall, police are statistically safer on America’s streets now than at any time in recent decades.

For example, the 109 law enforcement fatalities in 2013 were the lowest since 1956.

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TRUMP: “My opponent has called for a radical 550 percent increase in Syrian (refugees). … She proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from. I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people.”

THE FACTS: Trump persists in making the bogus claim that the U.S. doesn’t screen refugees. The administration both screens them and knows where they are from. The Department of Homeland Security leads the process, which involves rigorous background checks. Processing of a refugee can take 18 months to two years, and usually longer for those coming from Syria. Refugees are also subject to in-person interviews and fingerprint and other biometric screening.

For all that caution, U.S. officials acknowledge that the Islamic State group could try to place operatives among refugees. Last year, FBI Director James Comey said data about people coming from Syria may be limited, adding, “If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our database.”

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TRUMP: “Two million more Latinos are in poverty today than when President Obama took his oath of office less than eight years ago. Another 14 million people have left the workforce entirely. … President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing.”

THE FACTS: Trump is playing with numbers to make the economy look worse than it actually is. The sluggish recovery over the past seven years has been frustrating. But with unemployment at 4.9 percent, the situation isn’t as bleak as he suggests.

Trump’s figure of 14 million who’ve stopped working since Obama took office comes from the Labor Department’s measure of people not in the workforce. It’s misleading for three reasons: The U.S. population has increased in that time; the country has aged and people have retired; and younger people are staying in school longer for college and advanced degrees, so they’re not in the labor force, either.

A better figure is labor force participation — the share of people with jobs or who are searching for work. That figure has declined from 65.7 percent when Obama took office to 62.7 percent now. Part of that decrease reflects retirements, but the decline is also a long-term trend.

On national debt, economists say a more meaningful measure than dollars is the share of the overall economy taken up by the debt. By that measure, the debt rose 36 percent under Obama (rather than doubling). That’s roughly the same as what occurred under Republican President George W. Bush.

The Hispanic population has risen since Obama while the poverty rate has fallen. The Pew Research Center found that 23.5 percent of the country’s 55.3 million Latinos live in poverty, compared with 24.7 percent in 2010.

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TRUMP: “Another humiliation came when President Obama drew a red line in Syria, and the whole world knew it meant absolutely nothing.”

THE FACTS: Trump’s reference is to a threat by Obama for retaliatory strikes if Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against rebels — and he’s basically on target. When Assad crossed Obama’s “red line” in 2013 by using chemical weapons, the U.S. president backed down.

Obama’s two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, pushed for intervention, as have a former defense secretary and CIA director. But Obama as commander-in-chief has the last word, and nothing has swayed him thus far.

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TRUMP: “When that same secretary of state rakes in millions and millions of dollars trading access and favors to special interests and foreign powers, I know the time for action has come.”

THE FACTS: That’s a somewhat overheated take on a legitimately troublesome issue for Clinton.

Although financial disclosures show she earned only her government salary as secretary of state, she made more than $21 million afterward, over three years, for speeches and appearances for private companies. None of those speeches was paid for by foreign governments, but some groups she addressed could be counted as special interests.

As well, the Clintons’ family charity, the Clinton Foundation, received millions of dollars in donations while she was secretary of state, some from foreigners. And Bill Clinton earned millions making appearances and speeches for foreign corporations and organizations while his wife was at the State Department.

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TRUMP: “After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region, and the entire world. Libya is in ruins, and our ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, forcing the military to retake control. Iraq is in chaos. Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons. Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis now threatens the West. … This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.”

THE FACTS: It’s an exaggeration to suggest Clinton, or any secretary of state, is to blame for the widespread instability and violence across the Middle East.

Clinton worked to impose sanctions that helped coax Tehran to a nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers last year, a deal in which Iran rolled back its nuclear program to get relief from sanctions that were choking its economy.

She did not start the war in Libya, but supported a NATO intervention well after violence broke out between rebels and the forces of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country slid into chaos after Gadhafi was ousted and killed in 2011, leaving it split between competing governments.

Clinton had no role in military decisions made during the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Republicans’ claim that high-level officials in Washington issued a “stand-down” order delaying a military rescue in Benghazi has been widely debunked.

On Iraq, Clinton as a senator voted in 2002 to grant President George W. Bush authority to invade Iraq, but has since said it was a “mistake.” Many in the Middle East do not regret Saddam’s ouster and regional allies allowed U.S. bases in their country to support the war. But many also now fear the Islamic State group, which rose in the chaos of Syria’s civil war and Iraq’s security vacuum.

TRUMP: “America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.”

THE FACTS: Trump continues to repeat this inaccuracy. The U.S. tax burden is actually the fourth lowest among the 34 developed and large emerging-market economies that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Taxes made up 26 percent of the total U.S. economy in 2014, according to the OECD. That’s far below Sweden’s tax burden of 42.7 percent, Britain’s 32.6 percent or Germany’s 36.1 percent. Only three OECD members had a lower figure than the U.S.: Chile, South Korea and Mexico.

TRUMP: “My opponent wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”

THE FACTS: Hillary Clinton has not proposed any revocation of the constitutionally protected right to bear arms. She does support a ban on certain military-style weapons, similar to the law President Bill Clinton signed in the 1990s. That ban expired after 10 years and was not renewed. Clinton also backs an expansion of existing criminal background checks to apply to weapons sales at gun shows. The checks now apply mainly to sales by federally licensed gun dealers.

Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Stephen Braun, Deb Riechmann, Jim Drinkard and Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

 

‘No end in sight’ to Republicans’ Clinton investigation

Republicans signaled they’re not done with election-year investigations of Hillary Clinton and whether she lied to Congress, even after a House committee signed off on its report into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The 800-page report by the GOP-led Benghazi Committee found no wrongdoing by the former secretary of state, but the two-year inquiry had revealed that she used a private email server for government business, triggering a yearlong FBI investigation that continues to shadow the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

FBI Director James Comey said this week there weren’t grounds to prosecute Clinton but that she and her aides had been “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information.

The committee’s 7-4 vote Friday was split along party lines, reflecting partisanship that emerged even before the panel’s creation in May 2014 and only escalated since then. Democrats have submitted their own report on the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens.

The vote is unlikely to be the final word in the inquiry that has lasted more than two years and cost $7 million. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said lawmakers may seek a federal investigation into whether Clinton lied to the committee in testimony last year.

“If a witness said something to a committee of Congress and/or under oath that’s not consistent with the truth, our committee has an obligation” to report that to the FBI, Gowdy told reporters.

Asked if he was referring to Clinton, Gowdy said, “She’s one of 100 witnesses.”

Under oath, Clinton testified last October that she never sent or received emails marked as classified when she served as secretary of state. She also has said she only used one mobile device for emails and turned over all of her work-related emails to the State Department. Comey said she had multiple devices and that investigators found thousands of work-related emails that had not been turned over.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he would refer Clinton’s Oct. 22 testimony to the FBI to investigate whether she lied to Congress.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the senior Democrat on both the Benghazi and Oversight panels, said an FBI referral was “unwarranted,” since Comey said only three emails out of more than 30,000 sent or received by Clinton contained classified markings.

The State Department said the markings on the emails were placed in error and “were no longer necessary or appropriate.”

Cummings and other Democrats criticized the decision by Republicans on the Benghazi panel to conduct an interview next week with a senior Pentagon official who criticized the GOP-led panel for making costly and unnecessary requests. The interview, coming after the report, is unnecessary and excessive, Democrats said.

“There is no end in sight for this partisan Benghazi Committee,” Cummings said. “The Republicans are addicted to Benghazi.”

Separately, the State Department is reopening its internal investigation of possible mishandling of classified information by Clinton and top aides. The internal review was suspended in April to avoid interfering with the FBI inquiry.

Pressed by Chaffetz on whether Clinton lied, Comey said during a hearing that he had not reviewed Clinton’s testimony because it had not been referred to him by Congress. Chaffetz assured Comey he would soon get a referral.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi dismissed the latest GOP move as purely political.

“So let’s get this straight: This is going to be an investigation of the decision that is an investigation of the emails that was part of the investigation of Benghazi,” she told reporters. “So we had an investigation of the investigation of the investigation. How long can this go on?”

Comey said his team found no evidence that Clinton lied under oath to the FBI or broke the law by discussing classified information in an unclassified setting.

Under an onslaught of Republican criticism, Comey vigorously defended the government’s decision and rejected GOP accusations that the presidential candidate was given special treatment. To criminally charge Clinton based on the facts his agency’s yearlong probe had found would have been unwarranted and mere “celebrity-hunting,” Comey said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans have asked Comey to release all unclassified findings of the FBI’s yearlong investigation. Ryan also has asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to bar Clinton from receiving classified briefings for the rest of the campaign.

A group of Republicans senators has introduced legislation to strip Clinton of her security clearance.

End in sight for FBI probe into Clinton’s email server?

Hillary Clinton’s interview with the FBI may signal that the Justice Department is nearing the end of its yearlong probe of her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

“I’ve been eager to do it, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to assist the department in bringing its review to a conclusion,” Clinton said in describing the FBI session to NBC’s “Meet the Press” for an interview that aired Sunday. She agreed that the tone of meeting with investigators had been civil and business-like.

Clinton said she had no knowledge of any timeline for the review and would not comment on whether she was given an indication that charges would not be filed.

The presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic Party gave a voluntary interview for 3 1/2 hours Saturday at FBI headquarters in Washington, her campaign announced. Spokespeople for the FBI and the Justice Department declined to comment.

The interview, which had been expected to take place before the Democratic National Convention on July 25, did not suggest that Clinton or anyone else is likely to face prosecution. If the former senator and secretary of state and her aides are exonerated, it might help brush aside a major distraction that has made many voters question her trustworthiness.

Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, has repeatedly said the email issue undermines Clinton’s fitness for office and suggested she will receive leniency from a Democratic administration. Following reports of Clinton’s FBI interview, Trump tweeted: “It is impossible for the FBI not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. What she did was wrong!”

While she was Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton exclusively used a private email server for her government and personal emails, rather than the State Department’s email system. The Associated Press revealed the existence of the server in March 2015.

Clinton has said relying on a private server was a mistake but that other secretaries of state had also used a personal email address.

The FBI is investigating the potential mishandling of sensitive information. The matter was referred last summer by the inspectors general for the State Department and intelligence community following the discovery of emails that were later determined to contain classified material.

Clinton sat down with the FBI just days after her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had an impromptu meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch while at a Phoenix airport in separate planes. That Clinton would approach Lynch while her Justice Department was investigating his wife’s actions, and that Lynch would speak to him, opened a new angle of criticism about the Clintons’ judgment and sense of entitlement.

Lynch, while maintaining that their discussion on Monday purely personal and didn’t touch on the email server, said Friday she regretted meeting with the former president. Bill Clinton joined her in saying he would not do it again, either, in light of the impression it gave. He had nominated Lynch as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999.

Asked about the ongoing investigation, Lynch said Friday that she intended to accept the findings and recommendations of career prosecutors who have spent months on the case.