BRUSSELS—Worn down by three years of indecision in London, European Union leaders on Thursday grudgingly offered the U.K. more time to ease itself out of the bloc, delaying by several weeks—but not eliminating—the threat of a chaotic British exit.
After a meeting that stretched through the afternoon and over dinner, the bloc said Britain could postpone its March 29 departure to May 22—if the U.K. Parliament approves Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal with the bloc next week.
If the twice-rejected deal is thrown out again, the bloc says Britain has until April 12 to “indicate a way forward.”
“Now it is finally up to the British political system to provide a clear answer,” French President Emmanuel Macron said, adding that any final decision must come ahead of the May 23-26 European Parliament election.
May—who has spent almost three years telling Britons they will leave the EU on March 29, 2019—put a positive spin on the delay.
She said the EU decision underlines “the importance of the House of Commons passing a Brexit deal next week so that we can bring an end to the uncertainty and leave in a smooth and orderly manner.”
EU summit host Donald Tusk expressed relief that a cut-off date had been delayed. “I am really satisfied, especially that we have still open so many options,” Tusk said. “It is a good sign.”
The late-night offer eased some of the deep uncertainty among leaders at an EU summit in Brussels, which was exceeded only by the high anxiety being felt by politicians, businesses and citizens in Britain. The British military has even set up a command post in a bunker under the defense ministry in London to help coordinate “no-deal” planning.
The House of Commons is split, both among and within its political parties, over whether and how to leave the EU. It has twice rejected the deal May brokered with the bloc’s leaders late last year.
This week, May finally acknowledged the Brexit gridlock and asked the EU to delay Britain’s departure until June 30, to create time to win parliamentary approval for her deal in a third attempt and then pass the legislation necessary for a smooth departure.
But opposition to May’s the agreement among British politicians appeared to be hardening, rather than softening, after she blamed Parliament for the Brexit impasse.
In a televised address Wednesday night, May accused lawmakers of “infighting,” ″political games” and “arcane procedural rows,” but acknowledged no personal error in creating the deadlock.
A lawmaker from May’s Conservative Party called the speech “toxic.” Legislator Anna Soubry, of the breakaway Independent Group, described it as the “most dishonest and divisive statement from any prime minister.”
May struck conciliatory note at a late-night Brussels news conference, saying “I know MPs on all sides of the debate have passionate views, and I respect those different positions.”
“Last night I expressed my frustration. I know that MPs are frustrated too. They have difficult jobs to do,” she added.
But May also refused to change course, calling on lawmakers to back her agreement and refusing to rule out a no-deal exit if they did not back her.
May said that if the deal falls, by April 12, “we would either leave with no deal, or put forward an alternative plan” that involved participating in EU Parliament elections.
“I believe strongly that it would be wrong to ask people in the UK to participate in these elections three years after voting to leave the EU,” she said.
Businesses and economists say a no-deal Brexit would cause huge disruptions and billions in costs to the economies of both Britain and the EU.
Underscoring the sense of dread gripping the nation, one of Britain’s biggest business lobbies and a major trade union federation said in a rare joint appeal that the “country is facing a national emergency.”
The Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress warned May that if Britain crashes out of the EU, “the shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come.”
Britain’s military said the command post under the ministry of defense was set up as part of Operation Redfold, a plan to minimize disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The ministry said in a statement it had 3,500 troops on standby to help with any disruptions if the government asks for assistance.
Worry about a chaotic departure has been rising among EU leaders, who fear May no longer has the clout in Parliament to get her way.
“Nobody wants no-deal here,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to work “until the last hour” to try to ensure that Britain doesn’t leave without a deal, even though her government has enacted emergency measures to deal with such a scenario.
May plans to make a third attempt to get her deal through Parliament next week. But many pro-Brexit legislators still oppose it, saying it does not deliver the clean break they long for. And Pro-EU lawmakers will try to derail May and wrest away control of the Brexit process to steer Britain toward a close relationship with the bloc.
It’s a struggle that has been going on for almost three years and brought the U.K. to within eight days of a chaotic Brexit.
Macron said that risk remained.
“The European Union is not holding all the cards because everything depends on the British vote,” he said. “The European Union is clearly facing a British political crisis. British politicians are incapable of implementing what their people have asked for.”
Some EU leaders felt sympathy for May’s quandary.
“I have the highest respect for her,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “Her tenacity is enormous. But she is working in an extremely difficult situation.
“It’s not her mistake that we are where we are — it’s because too many people have so far played party politics on this issue.”
CNN delayed telling its viewers it was getting sued for $275 million for more than a week, the Media Research Center (MRC) reported on March 20.
The defamation suit was filed on March 12 by lawyers of Nick Sandmann, a student at Covington Catholic High School.
However, in the following days, the news outlet appears to have only mentioned the suit against CNN on its website once, halfway down a March 12 newsletter published by CNN Business the day after the lawsuit was filed.
“Between January 19 and January 25, 2019, CNN brought down the full force of its corporate power, influence, and wealth on Nicholas by falsely attacking, vilifying, and bullying him despite the fact that he was a minor child,” the suit states.
The lawsuit stems from a Jan. 18 incident that took place after the March for Life anti-abortion event in Washington. Sandmann and other students from the religious private school in Kentucky were waiting for their bus near the Lincoln Memorial when they were approached by several Native American activists.
The encounter was extensively covered by media using short video clips that made it appear as though the students were chanting and cheering in mockery of one of the Native American activists, 64-year-old Nathan Phillips.
CNN was one of those media groups, allegedly using titles such as “Teens Taunt Native American Elder” and “Teens Harass Native American War Veteran.”
Longer video footage of the incident showed the students began to cheer and chant their school chant to drown out offensive remarks hurled their way by a small group of Black Hebrew Israelites nearby. Some of the students were wearing hats with President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”—a fact capitalized upon by various media.
While Phillips told media outlets that the students had surrounded and harassed him, the footage showed it was he who approached them, inserted himself into their crowd, and, for several minutes, banged his drum within inches of the face of Sandmann, who responded by standing silently with a smile.
The suit alleges that CNN defamed Sandmann in at least four television broadcasts, nine online articles, and four tweets.
“Contrary to its ‘Facts First’ public relations ploy, CNN ignored the facts and put its anti-Trump agenda first in waging a 7-day media campaign of false, vicious attacks against Nicholas,” the suit stated.
“On February 20, the network ran three separate news briefs on its early morning shows covering that filing,” the media watchdog stated. “In one such report, Early Start fill-in co-host Boris Sanchez noted that the viral video of the teen had ‘initially touched off accusations that Sandmann was a bigot’—conveniently failing to mention that his network was also a prominent voice in the chorus of such accusations.”
The network ran 43 minutes of coverage on the Covington incident over the first two days, MRC reported.
A statement by CNN, quoted in its March 21 article, said the network “is reviewing the lawsuit,” adding that “CNN reported on a newsworthy event and public discussion about it, taking care to report on additional facts as they developed and to share the perspectives of eyewitnesses and other participants and stakeholders as they came forward.”
Both CNN and MRC didn’t respond to requests for additional comment.
NBC, HBO, and The Associated Press may be next in line to be sued for their reporting and commentary on Sandmann, one of his lawyers Todd McMurtry told Fox News on March 13.
Deaths from the synthetic opioid fentanyl skyrocketed more than 1,000% from 2011 to 2016, according to a report released Thursday, March 21, 2019.
The number of fatalities related to the drug held fairly steady between 2011 and 2012, hovering around 1,600 deaths in both those years.
In 2013, the number increased to just over 1,900 fatalities.
Beginning in 2014, though, fentanyl-related deaths began to double each year. In 2014, fentanyl was involved in 4,223 deaths.
In 2015, it was 8,251 deaths. And in 2016, fentanyl-related deaths had jumped to 18,335.
The report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also analyzed who had been hardest hit by the fentanyl epidemic.
The researchers, who are part of the National Center for Health Statistics, found that while men and women had similar rates of fentanyl-related deaths from 2011 through 2013, that began to shift. By 2016, the rate of men dying from fentanyl overdoses was nearly three times that of women.
And while there were increases in fentanyl-related fatalities in all age groups, the largest rate increases were among younger adults between the ages of 15 and 34. The rate of 15- to 24-year-olds who died from fentanyl overdoses increased about 94% each year between 2011 and 2016, and about 100% each year for 25- to 34-year-olds.
Researchers also found that while whites had the highest overall rates of fentanyl fatalities, death rates among blacks and Hispanics were growing faster. Between 2011 and 2016, blacks had fentanyl death rates increase 140.6% annually and Hispanics had an increase of 118.3% annually.
A National Center for Health Statistics report released in December found fentanyl to be the drug mostly commonly involved in overdose deaths. In 2016, the drug was responsible for nearly 29% of all drug overdose deaths, making it the deadliest drug in America.
Researchers analyzed death certificate information that included mentions of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. Previous analysis had not looked specifically only at fentanyl, but overall synthetic opioids.
Americans are now more likely to die from a drug overdose than a car accident. In 2017, drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans, and opioids are the leading driver in US drug overdose deaths. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes illicit fentanyl and heroin, as well as commonly prescribed painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released 107,000 illegal alien family members into the interior United States in the three months since Dec. 21, 2018, according to Nathalie Asher, the assistant director of the agency’s enforcement and removal operations unit.
Asher said ICE released 1,000 family members in a single day, a number she called “staggering.”
The releases are due to the “catch-and-release” practice often criticized by President Donald Trump coupled with a recent surge of families crossing the southwest border.
“I don’t have a comparison to what it was last year, but I think we can all agree that it was nowhere near this number,” Asher said on a call with reporters.
ICE has only 2,500 beds to detain alien families in the interior. Those beds are dedicated to specific family units, like a family headed by a single mother. The other immigrants are quickly released into the interior.
The number of arrests carried out by ICE agents dropped by 12 percent in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019 compared to the same period last fiscal year, according to the latest data from the agency.
Nathalie Asher said that the drop is due to ICE having to shift resources to the “absolutely unprecedented” crisis on the southwest border.
“I have had to redirect resources in response to the southwest border influx of this growing number of particularly family numbers that are coming into the United States,” Asher said.
ICE arrested 34,546 illegal aliens in the fiscal year 2019 down from 39,328 arrests last fiscal year. More than 64 percent of the aliens arrested were convicted criminals, according to the agency.
While the total number of arrests dropped, the total number of removals went up by 10 percent during the first fiscal quarter of 2019 compared to the same time last fiscal year. Asher said that ICE removed 66,549 aliens as of Feb. 23 this year, up from 60,572 at the same time last year.
Asher explained that the removals have increased while arrests dropped because ICE is deporting aliens on behalf of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is dealing with a surge of illegal crossings on the southwest border. ICE executed 41,210 removals for CBP in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2019, up from 36,272 at the same time last fiscal year.
The number of removals in 2019 is still down from peaks in 2012. According to Asher, the difference is due to more people fighting their cases in court and claiming credible fear of returning to their home countries. As a result, potential removals can be delayed by up to four years.
“Individuals are going to fight their case to the end, quite frankly, and not so readily take their removal orders,” Asher said.
In the meantime, the number of aliens requesting to post bond and be released from detention is growing rapidly, with nearly 4,000 such cases every week. The backlog of cases with illegal aliens out of detention has grown to over 800,000 cases, Asher said.
“All of those cases–fighting a case, claiming fear, perhaps setting bond and being able to move to a non-detained docket–these are all factors to cases no being adjudicated as quickly or perhaps prolonging the removal number,” Asher said.
Analysts say President Donald Trump is on track for a 2020 landslide victory. Their forecasts are based on economic models that have successfully predicted the right presidential victors in the past.
TrendMacrolytics, a research firm that predicted Trump’s 2016 election win, unveiled their model (pdf) for the upcoming presidential election on March 15, that predicts Trump will be re-elected by a margin of 294 electoral college votes if the election were held today. It also predicted that if the Republican candidate was someone else, like Mike Pence, that person would win by 214 electoral college votes.
TrendMacro reveals its 2020 presidential election model. Same model called Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. You’re never going to believe what it’s saying now. https://t.co/ge88hD33vA
Donald Luskin, the chief investment officer of TrendMacrolytics, told Politico that a booming U.S. economy is the main factor behind the prediction, coupled with the historic advantage for running again as the incumbent president.
“The economy is just so damn strong right now and by all historic precedent the incumbent should run away with it,” Luskin told the news website. “I just don’t see how the blue wall could resist all that.”
According to a Gallup poll released on March 5, 56 percent of Americans approve of how the president is handling the economy, which marked a new high for Trump. Not far behind was Trump’s handling of unemployment, where he gained an approval rating of 54 percent.
….are all coming back to the U.S. So is everyone else. We now have the best Economy in the World, the envy of all. Get that big, beautiful plant in Ohio open now. Close a plant in China or Mexico, where you invested so heavily pre-Trump, but not in the U.S.A. Bring jobs home!
Meanwhile, Trump’s overall job approval numbers were recorded at 43 percent, roughly the same numbers as Gallop’s previous February poll.
Similarly, Yale economist and election forecaster Ray Fair also predicted Trump would win re-election on the basis of a flourishing economy and the incumbency advantage. He also predicted Trump would win in 2016 but missed on the president’s share of the popular vote, according to the news website.
“Even if you have a mediocre but not great economy—and that’s more or less consensus for between now and the election—that has a Trump victory and by a not-trivial margin,” Fair told Politico. He predicted that Trump would receive 54 percent of the popular vote compared to 46 percent for Democrats.
On his website, Fair wrote, “The current case is the best possible one for the Republicans according to the equation: President running again and no negative duration effect. In this case, it takes a weak economy to have the voting equation predict the Democrats getting close to 50 percent of the two-party vote.”
The analysts warn, however, that their data only takes into account economic variables and historical trends but ignores factors like election polls and personal characteristics of candidates—which are other important considerations. For example, TrendMacrolytics’s model looks at key economic data such as gross domestic product growth, tax burden, disposable income, inflation, payrolls, and gas prices in order to predict election outcomes.
Analysts also warn that a lot could change from now until election day in 2020. They note that changes in the variables like an uptick in the unemployment rate could change how the election would go for Trump.
“The model’s forecast is likely to be very different on election day, 596 days from [March 18], as all six economic variables fluctuate,” TrendMacrolytics said in their report.
Luskin told Politico that “[the economy] would have to slow a lot to still be not pretty good,” but added that a sharp move in the wrong direction could change how voters would behave.
On March 18, a new CNN poll conducted by independent research firm SSRS, revealed that 71 percent of Americans think that the country’s economy is in good shape, which the highest number since February 2001 and the best rating Trump has received during his presidency—by two points. Meanwhile, 51 percent of Americans approved of the way Trump has handled the nation’s economy.
The Epoch Times Reporter Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.
Ukraine’s top prosecutor has opened an investigation into whether the country’s law enforcement illegally leaked information in order to influence the 2016 presidential election in the United States in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told The Hill that the probe was prompted by the release of an audio recording of a top Ukrainian law enforcement official saying his agency released damaging information on then Trump-campaign chairman Paul Manafort in order to damage then-candidate Donald Trump and boost Clinton.
The package of dirt on Manafort made it into the hands of American media in 2016 and prompted Manafort’s removal from the campaign. The information continued to be at the center of allegations against Trump’s campaign beyond the election. Manafort was sentenced earlier this month to seven years in prison for crimes relating to his work in Ukraine that predated his stint with Trump’s campaign.
News of the investigation in Ukraine arrived as the public waits for special counsel Robert Mueller to deliver the final report on his Russia-collusion investigation to the Justice Department, which is widely expected to be soon. Like the conclusions of two congressional investigations, Mueller is not expected to charge Trump with any wrongdoing.
A Ukrainian court ruled late last year that the release of information on Manafort amounted to an illegal attempt to influence the election in the United States. Lutsenko told The Hill’s John Solomon that the release of the information was particularly troubling because the Ukrainian law enforcement agency involved was in frequent contact with the Obama administration’s U.S. Embassy in Kiev.
The FBI investigated Manafort in 2014 but declined to prosecute him. The bureau had set up an office in the Kiev embassy during the investigation. Two years later, dirt on Manafort surfaced in American media, followed closely by the FBI’s infamous “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation of the Trump campaign, which revolved largely around a dossier of dirt on Trump compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and paid for by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign.
The bureau eventually terminated Steele for talking to the media, but he continued to feed information to the FBI’s Crossfire team through senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.
According to Solomon, Steele’s quest to compile the dossier on Trump began as a series of conversations with Ohr in late 2015 and early 2016 while seeking information on Manafort.
President Donald Trump spotlighted Solomon’s report on Twitter.
Lutsenko also accused the Obama-era U.S. Embassy in Kiev with interfering with his ability to prosecute corruption cases. Lutsenko claims to have received from the U.S. ambassador a list of people whose prosecutions the ambassador advised not to pursue.
The U.S. ambassador then declined to cooperate in an investigation of misappropriation of U.S. aid, a claim Lutsenko substantiated with a letter addressed to Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor general.
“We are gravely concerned about this investigation for which we see no basis,” wrote U.S. embassy official George Kent.
The State Department issued a statement on March 20 calling Lutsenko’s claim about the do-not-prosecute “an outright fabrication.” The department also stated that it no longer provides financial support to Lutsenko’s office.
Lutsenko isn’t the only one complaining about the U.S. embassy in Kiev. Last year, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking to recall Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. According to Sessions, Yovanovitch “has spoken privately and repeatedly about her disdain for the current administration in a way that might call for the expulsion.”
Sessions wrote that he had concrete evidence of Yovanovitch’s conduct.
Before becoming the chief prosecutor, Lutsenko was a prominent activist against Russia’s influence in Ukraine during the tenure of Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
One of the early stories on Manafort’s business dealings with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska was published by Yahoo News. The author of the article, Michael Isikoff, worked with Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American operative working as a consultant for the DNC. As part of her work, Chalupa met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington.
In addition to Manafort, Mueller has charged two others in relation to Ukraine-tied work: Manafort’s business partner, Rick Gates, and Belgian-born Dutch national Alex van der Zwaan.
On March 20, Fox News reported that prosecutors are close to making a decision as to whether to charge former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig for failing to register as a foreign agent while working on behalf of Ukraine. The case centers on work Craig did for Yanukovich in 2012 as part of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom—the firm which formerly employed van der Zwaan.
WASHINGTON—A divided Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that an 1855 treaty between the U.S. government and the Yakama Indian tribe prevents Washington state from levying a fuel import tax on businesses owned by the tribe, a decision that could embolden tribal businesses nationwide to challenge states’ authority to collect taxes from such operations across America.
Indian-owned Cougar Den Inc. in Washington state brings in gasoline to the Yakama reservation for sale at Yakama gas stations from nearby Oregon over 27 miles of Washington state highway that overlaps with traditional Indian trading routes. In March 2013 Cougar Den began shipping motor vehicle fuel from Oregon to the reservation and selling the fuel at tribal gas stations. Cougar Den paid the relevant federal and tribal taxes on the gasoline sold but did not pay taxes to Washington state.
The state of Washington sued the business in December 2013 for failing to pay $3.6 million in excise taxes on the fuel. Cougar Den fought the tax assessment, asserting that because it was owned by a Yakama tribe member it was not required to pay certain taxes under the right to travel guaranteed in the treaty. The treaty does not mention taxes, fuel, or off-reservation trading rights, although it does provide tribal members with “the right, in common with citizens of the United States, to travel upon all public highways.”
The three-justice plurality opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, concurred in by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, held the treaty guaranteeing the Yakama “the right, in common with citizens of the United States, to travel upon all public highways,” preempts a tax imposed as motor fuel enters Washington state.
The justices determined that the right to travel with goods for sale or distribution was an essential component of the treaty and that because the state slapped a “tax upon traveling with certain goods” that treaty right was infringed.
Although Justice Gorsuch joined his liberal colleagues in the pro-tribe judgment, he issued his own concurring opinion, in which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined.
“Really, this case just tells an old and familiar story,” Gorsuch wrote.
“The State of Washington includes millions of acres that the Yakamas ceded to the United States under significant pressure. In return, the government supplied a handful of modest promises. The State is now dissatisfied with the consequences of one of those promises. It is a new day, and now it wants more. But today and to its credit, the Court holds the parties to the terms of their deal. It is the least we can do.”
Gorsuch’s expertise in tribal law and predisposition to respect tribal sovereignty gained him the endorsement of the Native American Rights Fund and National Congress of American Indians during his 2017 confirmation process. Before being elevated to the Supreme Court, Gorsuch was a member of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers 76 federally-designated Indian tribes in six western states.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a dissenting opinion.
“Because Washington is taxing Cougar Den for possessing fuel, not for traveling on the highways, the State’s method of administering its fuel tax is consistent with the treaty.”
A woman has filed a lawsuit against Harvard University for “shamelessly” making a profit from photos of two 19th-century slaves, despite requests to give the images to her, an alleged descendant of the slaves.
Tamara Lanier sued the institution Wednesday, March 20, for “wrongful seizure, possession and expropriation” of photographs she claims include two of her ancestors—her great-great-great-grandfather Renty and his daughter Delia.
“Slavery was abolished 156 years ago, but Renty and Delia remain enslaved in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” the complaint states. “Their images, like their bodies before, remain subject to control and appropriation by the powerful, and their familial identities are denied to them.”
The suit demands Harvard hand over the photos to her, acknowledge her ancestry, and pay an unspecified sum in damages.
Lanier’s complaint alleges Harvard is still deriving the indirect profits of slavery.
“The claim is simple,” Josh Koskoff, one of Lanier’s attorneys, told The Washington Post. “You took something. It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to me. And I want it back.”
‘In No Position to Comment’
The legal action stems from a series of photos taken in 1850 for a study conducted by a Swiss-born natural scientist Louis Agassiz, who was a proponent of polygenism—the theory that racial groups don’t share a common origin.
While Agassiz, a professor of zoology and geology at Harvard, claimed to oppose slavery, his work has been accused of various forms of racial bias.
The university has so far declined to comment, with the Associated Press citing the Ivy League institution as saying that it had “not yet been served, and with that is in no position to comment on this complaint.”
The lawsuit claims Harvard exploited the image of Renty during a 2017 conference and under other circumstances, while charging a “hefty” licensing fee for anyone else wishing to reproduce the images.
Lanier demanded Harvard admit it played a role in the humiliation of Renty and Delia and that the institution “was complicit in perpetuating and justifying the institution of slavery.”
She argues she’s the rightful owner of the photos as Renty’s next of kin, while claiming that neither Harvard nor Agassiz could legally own the photos because they never received the subjects’ consent.
“Renty is 169 years a slave by our calculation,” civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, one of Lanier’s lawyers, told the Associated Press in an interview. “How long will it be before Harvard finally frees Renty?”
Crump said the case would allow Harvard to “remove the stain from its legacy” and show it has the courage “to finally atone for slavery.”
The suit says Lanier has verified her genealogical ties to Renty, whom she calls “Papa Renty.”
A spokesperson for the Peabody Museum, where the pictures are kept, was quoted in 2014 as saying Lanier had not provided proof of the family link.
“She’s given us nothing that directly connects her ancestor to the person in our photograph,” said Pamela Gerardi, the museum’s director of external relations, according to the Norwich Bulletin. Gerardi said that there were 91 slaves named Renty living in South Carolina at the time.
“She claims she has more evidence,” Gerardi said, “but we haven’t seen it.”
The lawsuit also notes that Lanier also previously wrote to former Harvard President Drew Faust asking for “a formal review of my documentation to reaffirm that Renty and Delia Taylor are indeed my ancestors.”
Faust allegedly wrote that the Peabody Museum was “involved in projects regarding those daguerreotypes” and that Peabody employees “have agreed to be in touch with you if they discover any new information,” the lawsuit states.
The suit says no-one ever got in touch with Lanier, prompting her to conduct her own research purporting to confirm her status as a lineal descendant of Renty.
The lawsuit includes a description of Lanier’s claimed connection to the man in the photograph via Renty’s grandson, who was named Renty Taylor Thompson after being transferred from South Carolina to Mongomery, Ala.
The suit alleges that “by contesting Ms. Lanier’s claim of lineage, Harvard is shamelessly capitalizing on the intentional damage done to black Americans’ genealogy by a century’s worth of policies that forcibly separated families, erased slaves’ family names, withheld birth and death records, and criminalized literacy.”
Some conspiracy theories describe actual conspiracies. And ignoring the evidence can put a nation in harm’s way. Consider the possibility that an extended Pakistani family used their employment as cybersecurity specialists to steal emails, documents, and equipment from dozens of members of the House of Representatives and then transfer them to outside parties, including the government of Pakistan.
In a new book, “Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the Democrats” (Regnery), Daily Caller reporter Luke Rosiak makes a compelling case that this really happened. To their great debit, the FBI, the Justice Department, Capitol Police, and lawmakers in both parties ignored the danger signs, and often provided cover for the culprits.
Welcome to the Deep State.
It’s overwhelmingly accepted among Democrats that Donald Trump and certain among his top aides conspired with Russian intelligence agents via social media to “steal” the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton. Yet a special investigation headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller has yet to turn up evidence of such a plot. Ironically, during this time, this embedded opposition willfully ignored national security issues created by a tightly knit, unvetted group of Pakistani immigrants.
Rosiak spent two years putting the pieces together, often at considerable risk to himself, his family, and sources. Many people did grant him an interview, but insisted on being put in deep background, fearing employer retaliation. Given the stonewalling he encountered, it’s a minor miracle that this book was published or that he’s appeared on TV to discuss his findings.
Every conspiracy has its leader. And the alpha conspirator here was an aggressive con artist from Pakistan named Imran Awan. Born in 1980, Awan came to the United States as a teenager, settling in suburban northern Virginia near Washington. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2004, the same year he found employment as an information technology specialist for then-Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.). His position, which eventually reached an outsized $165,000-a-year salary, amounted to a no-show job. He focused most of his energies on various business ventures in the U.S. and back home. Every one of them, Rosiak argues convincingly, was a scam.
Awan often bragged of his invincibility, made possible by political connections, claiming in one instance that he had the power to “change the U.S. president.” Family members, similarly overpaid (and underqualified) IT specialists for House Democrats, also devoted inordinate amounts of time to these side projects. They consisted of Awan’s wife (one of two wives, actually—and also a first cousin), Hina Alvi; his brothers, Abid and Jamal; Abid Imran’s Ukrainian-born wife, Natalia Sova; and a close family friend, Rao Abbas. Other than Imran Awan, these people had little or no prior training in information technology, which begs the issue of why they were hired in the first place.
The book documents substantial evidence of the Awan crew’s many fraudulent schemes. “Outside of Congress,” writes Rosiak, “Imran Awan was known as a predator who would stop at nothing for a buck.” The author cites numerous examples of his fraud, embezzlement, extortion, and money-laundering via enterprises whose existence he failed to disclose on requisite House ethics disclosure forms. Awan’s lawyer told Rosiak that he had “no idea” as to the nature of these companies, a sure sign that law enforcement agents never bothered to ask.
To call these enterprises “businesses,” as Rosiak argues, would be a major stretch. Imran Awan’s real estate operation in northern Virginia consisted of buying homes and renting them to unsuspecting tenants, whom he later would falsely accuse of rent nonpayment and property damage so as to shake them down for money. On occasion, he put properties in the names of family members to facilitate mortgage fraud. His short-lived car dealership, with brother Abid as the front man, was no more reputable. Many of the cars he sold were badly defective; yet, if a customer requested repairs free of charge, Imran typically refused to provide service and threatened that person with “dire consequences,” a favorite phrase of his.
The operation, faced with unpayable debts, went out of business soon enough, but Imran Awan covered his tracks by making a partner into the fall guy. Awan allegedly also used the dealership to launder a $100,000 loan from a Baghdad-born doctor in suburban Maryland who had fled the U.S. to avoid arrest for committing more than $2 million worth of health care fraud.
One of Awan’s companies, New Dawn 2001 LLC, alone should have raised a red flag. According to official records, that enterprise actually was created in 2011.
“Part of me wondered, what happened in 2001 that a Pakistani might consider a ‘new dawn?’” Rosiak asks rhetorically, alluding to events that Sept. 11. That question seemed to elude law enforcement. Awan also commuted to and from Pakistan to conduct sham real estate transactions, in one case, targeting a group of faculty members at the University of Faisalbad.
Awan’s home life was no more reputable than his work life. His wives, Hina Alvi and Sumaira Siddique, lived in constant fear of his violent outbursts. On one occasion, he stood outside the Pakistan home of Siddique’s father, fully aware she was inside with him, and fired multiple gunshots. Rosiak went to the trouble of protecting Siddique for a while. Awan and his brothers also falsely imprisoned their stepmother from October 2016 to February 2017 to ensure that they would receive life insurance benefits from their dying father in Pakistan.
This same Imran Awan was the lead cybersecurity geek for well over 40 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, jobs that provided ample cover for extracurricular behavior. With access to all emails and files of these lawmakers and staffers, they had potential dirt on a lot of people. Worse, as “shared employees,” providing service to those dozens of lawmakers on an as-needed basis, the House members who hired them were less than attentive to detail. The Awans effectively had carte blanche for breaching security. Evidence indicates that they took advantage of the situation.
During the last several weeks of the 2016 election season, the House of Representatives experienced a breach in its security system. The House Office of Inspector General had discovered a hack in the House Democratic Caucus network that, coincidentally or not, resembled an earlier hack of the Democratic National Committee. Rosiak, for one, was curious. Tracing the caucus hack to a secret outside account, he found that the last name “Awan” kept cropping up.
At the same time, House electronic equipment was disappearing. House Inspector General Theresa Grafenstine, highly knowledgeable in the area of information technology, sensed that something was up. She requested permission from ranking House Democrats to conduct a full investigation. Thanks to some to creative arm-twisting by Nancy Pelosi’s chief fixer, Jamie Fleet, aka “the Puppeteer,” party leaders went with the more pliant and less knowledgeable Capitol Police. Bad publicity had to be avoided at all costs.
Capitol Police launched its investigation on Feb. 2, 2017, following a joint announcement with House Chief Administrative Officer Phil Kiko that the Awans were being banned from the congressional computer network for “numerous violations of House security policies,” though without giving specifics. When informed by Grafenstine that this could be related to a data hack, Capitol Police responded, “Let’s take this offline and not get in the weeds… This is going to be a theft investigation.”
That this announcement occurred only two weeks after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, argues Rosiak, was evidence of a planned “news dump,” a practice by which government officials release potentially damaging information when it is least likely to be noticed by news media. And the media now were focused upon, if not obsessed with, Trump’s Russian connections.
Two months later, a little after midnight on April 6, Capitol Hill cops struck gold. A janitor working on the second floor of the Rayburn House Office Building noticed a stuffed bag that had been placed on the ledge in an alcove that was a converted phone booth. He alerted Capitol Police. Police in short order discovered that the bag contained the following items: a laptop computer reported missing by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) bearing the username “RepDWS”; a Pakistani ID card; one photocopy each of Imran Awan’s driver’s license and congressional ID badge; letters to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia; and a composition notebook with a handwritten note marked “attorney-client privilege.” That Wasserman Schultz’s office wasn’t even in the Rayburn Building (it was next door in the Longworth Building) only added to the mystery.
By every appearance, Imran Awan was up to no good. He’d already been fired by every House member for whom he was contracted to work – except Wasserman Schultz. Was he blackmailing her? Capitol Police didn’t follow through here. They did not seek a warrant to search the Awans’ homes, let alone arrest Imran Awan. Meanwhile, the suspected thefts that prompted the investigation also raised questions.
In June 2018, Rosiak, writing for the Daily Caller, reported that Shelley Davis, former chief of staff for Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), quietly agreed in early 2016 to cover the costs of 75 pieces of electronic equipment with a combined purchase price of nearly $120,000 reported as missing from more than 20 House offices. Imran Awan’s brother, Abid, one of Clarke’s employees, had requested the write-off. Clarke’s office did not alert authorities to the money when brought to her attention. The missing objects almost invariably carried a $499.99 price tag, just below the $500 House Chief Administrative Officer tracking code.
A Justice Department memo in December 2016 had concluded, “Some of the equipment either disappeared or never made it to the member’s office for whom the equipment was purchased.” Indeed, a top aide to Congresswoman Clarke, Wendy Anderson, on one occasion in December 2015 caught Abid Awan red-handed rummaging through equipment in Clarke’s office. Unbelievably, Rep. Clarke did not fire Awan until six months after acknowledging that equipment was missing. Examining the evidence, Rosiak suggests that Shelley Davis, who inexplicably resigned as chief of staff in February 2016, was working in tandem with Awan. The whistleblower, Wendy Anderson, also had to find employment elsewhere.
From any angle, the Awans appeared to be thieves. But it was likely they were something more. Most of official Washington, however, sung the same refrain: This was theft and nothing more. That one of the recovered items attributable to the Awans was a laptop bearing the initials of Wasserman Schultz didn’t seem to matter. Neither did the fact that Awan knew the password to the iPad used by Wasserman Schultz for Democratic National Committee business before her resignation in the summer of 2016. To the powers that be, it was inconceivable that Congress was playing host to renegade hackers.
“(I)f I hadn’t spent months prying facts loose,” writes Rosiak, “no one would have known that a congresswoman’s laptop was placed in a phone booth by a hacking suspect, or even that there was any cybersecurity issue in the House.”
A palpably fraudulent real estate transaction might well have been the undoing of Imran Awan and wife Hina Alvi. In December 2016, after having spent three months back home in Pakistan (from where the couple regularly logged into congressional computers), they returned to the United States. Days later, Imran approached the Congressional Federal Credit Union, requesting a home equity line of credit against each of two of his wife’s rental properties. In the process, the couple gave false information to loan officers about their motives, personal finances, taxes and family status. On Jan. 8, 2017, he filed a request form in Alvi’s name to the credit union to wire a combined $283,000 to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan, one of whom was a police officer.
To investigators, this looked like mortgage fraud. Yet, they wouldn’t entertain the possibility of espionage as well, even though House Chief Administrative Officer Phil Kiko, in fact, possessed potentially incriminating evidence to that effect.
At least law enforcement now had something to chew on. On July 25, 2017, Imran Awan was arrested for credit union mortgage fraud at Dulles International Airport by the FBI, Capitol Police, and Customs agents while attempting to board a flight destined for Pakistan, where he had planned to join his wife and stay for six months. He was carrying a briefcase carrying $9,000, two wiped cell phones, and a laptop with one file—a resume that listed his home town as Queens, N.Y. He pleaded not guilty and was released without bail. It was only then, and reluctantly, that Wasserman Schultz fired him. That August, Awan was hit with a superseding four-count indictment, all relating to fraud.
During this time, Alvi, who had left the United States for Pakistan in March 2017—she was allowed to board a plane despite highly suspicious behavior—signaled her intent not to return. Instead, she sued Awan for fraud and polygamy (which as Rosiak argues, was a ruse) after finding out he had married another Pakistani woman, Sumaira Siddique, in August 2015. Yet the couple, despite being stripped of their House security credentials, continued to receive protection from people in high places.
Rosiak puts it this way: “The House scandal involved Pakistani nationals…The idea that Democrats had been victimized by Pakistani-born staffers after failing to vet them might make some Americans feel that Trump was right, and that could not be tolerated.”
The FBI was no more committed to digging for the truth than were House Democrats. Rosiak reveals throughout the book how the bureau did nothing, even given mounting evidence of a conspiracy. FBI agents managed to ignore what Rosiak had discovered, such as Awan’s receipt of payments from foreign officials while working for members of the House Intelligence Committee and his receipt of payments from a foreign government minister with ties to the terrorist group Hezbollah that had been laundered through Awan’s fake car dealership.
FBI agents didn’t even bother to interview a family relative who had sworn that large quantities of House electronic equipment were being shipped to Pakistani officials. Nor did two FBI special agents, Spencer Brooks and Nathan Frank, show up (as they previously had promised) at Awan’s guilty plea hearing of July 3, 2018, even after Awan’s second wife, Siddique, personally had told them in an interview only hours before that her husband had bragged to her that he was a “mole” in Congress. The FBI’s main achievement was standing guard at Siddique’s home to make sure she couldn’t escape to attend the hearing.
The Department of Justice also was useless. The FBI and federal prosecutors actually had initiated the case in the waning weeks of the Obama administration. A Dec. 6, 2016, FBI memo indicated an intent to probe the Awans. But as Democratic Party leaders came to see the investigation as adversely affecting their fortunes, they pressed the DOJ to backtrack, which the DOJ did. The situation did not change in the Trump era. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed oblivious to the motives of partisan Democrats nominally under his command. Rachael Tucker, Sessions’ top political aide, was completely focused on protecting her boss. Repeatedly, she told House Inspector General Theresa Grafenstine, who resigned in September 2017 after seven years on the job, that the FBI would handle everything—which, of course, it didn’t. Prosecutor Michael Marando, the only DOJ attorney familiar with the details of the case, treated Grafenstine more as a suspect than as an information source.
House Republicans, like their Democratic colleagues, proved blind to reality. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) chairman of the Committee on House Administration, continuously deferred to the judgment of Justice Department rather than inform fellow Republicans of the “ongoing” (and hence secret) investigation. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) was especially contemptuous of any suggestion that the Awans posed a security threat; he hid all details from members of his party save for Harper. Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, consistently gave Rosiak the runaround. Rosiak concludes that Ryan, who declined to seek re-election in 2018, actually relished Hillary Clinton being elected president in 2016 so that he could run against her in 2020.
Ryan “was prepared to let Republicans lose the White House while Democrats talked nonstop about cybersecurity,” writes the author. “He sat on findings that, coupled with the Democrats’ response, seemed to expose those laments as empty posturing.”
The House Office of Inspector General, at least, was on the ball. Though Grafenstine had departed around the time that the research work began, IG staffers spent four months probing the Awans. The final report, released in January 2018, was damning. Without any question, said the office, Awan and four other persons inappropriately accessed House servers and moved data to a House Democratic Caucus server, which “disappeared” despite ongoing Capitol Police monitoring. The Awans also allegedly impersonated 15 House members for whom they did not work, and the House Democratic Caucus, to gain access to the system. And they engaged in grossly excessive login activity, a pattern that “suggests steps are being taken to conceal their activity.”
These were, or were indicative of, federal crimes. So why weren’t there indictments or congressional hearings? The reason, in a word, was fear. People in a position to do something were afraid that speaking out publicly in any way would cost them their career. Congressional Democrats and their allies made every effort to thwart investigations into espionage. Two persons above all others, Wasserman Schultz and Christopher Gowen, the lead defense lawyer for Imran Awan, were the Awans’ protectors. And they weren’t above using intimidation to make their point.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz was vitriolic in her defense of the Awans, dismissing any insinuation of espionage as a “witch hunt.” Even evidence pointing to Imran Awan as having stolen a laptop belonging to her did not dampen her enthusiasm. In one telling incident, Wasserman Schultz put her finger to the chest of House CAO Phil Kiko, a Republican, demanding that he drop his investigation of the Awans or risk termination and calling him an “Islamophobe” for good measure. The intimidation worked. Whereas Kiko earlier had played a key role in kicking the Awans off the House server network, he now was declaring that the probe was outside his authority and that the threat against him by Wasserman Schultz never happened. Just hours after releasing Kiko’s disavowal, the Department of Justice filed paperwork finalizing Imran Awan and Hina Alvi’s plea deal last July 3.
Gowen, like Wasserman Schultz, a Florida native and close associate of the Clintons—he fact-checked Bill Clinton’s autobiography (My Life), worked for the Clinton Foundation, and worked on Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign—spun the same narrative in a caustic, exaggerated media-centric style.
Reacting to Imran Awan’s arrest, Gowen smirked, “This is clearly right-wing media-driven prosecution by a United States Attorney’s Office that wants to prosecute people for working while Muslim.”
He told the press:
“The attacks on Mr. Awan and his family began as part of a frenzy of anti-Muslim bigotry in the literal heart of our democracy, the House of Representatives. For months, we have had utterly unsupported, outlandish and slanderous statements targeting Mr. Awan coming not just from ultra-right-wing “pizzagate” media but from sitting members of Congress. Now, we have the Justice Department showing up with a complaint about disclosures on a modest real estate matter. To an extent, the situation speaks for itself. Mr. Awan’s family is presently staying with extended family in Pakistan because he and his wife were both abruptly and unjustly fired, leaving them without a reliable source of income to pay typical U.S. living expenses…”
All of this was false. Yet Gowen insisted, laughably, that the FBI’s investigation of the Awans was “probably the most thorough, exhaustive investigation in the history of this country.” When Rosiak, armed with facts, challenged him, Gowen responded: “Totally false…You are a liar, a Trump pawn and a very bad person.” To Gowen, much in the spirit as fellow publicity-grabbing, Trump-hating lawyer Michael Avenatti, facts mattered far less than melodramatic self-righteousness.
The story did not have a happy ending, at least by the standards of anyone concerned about national security and rule of law. On Aug. 21, 2018, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan sentenced Imran Awan to three months of supervised release, crediting him with time served; sentencing guidelines had called for a two- to five-year prison sentence. As per the plea deal, no restitution would be required. Sounding more like a defense lawyer than a judge, Chutkan denounced the “unbelievable onslaught of scurrilous media attacks” and “baseless accusations” that were “lobbed at [Awan] from the highest branches of government.” She added that Imran Awan had “suffered sufficiently” and “has paid a price that he will continue to pay.” Judge Chutkan even wished him a “good Eid” [Note: The Feast of Eid is a Muslim holiday.] when it was all over.
Reeking of disingenuous humility, the well-coached Awan declared: “What those people did and all the stories they wrote, I forgive them for what they did. I’m grateful to be here in this country and whatever it has given me.” His wife likewise got off with a tiny tap on the wrist. After being was sentenced to a weekly in-person briefing with a probation officer, Chutkan waived that in favor of a weekly phone call. Imran’s brothers went unscathed, as did Natalia Sova and Rao Abbas. As for Imran Awan, he reportedly is seeking work in Silicon Valley where no doubt, he will find takers.
The prospect for institutional reform, concludes Rosiak, is not promising. The virtually nonexistent sentences for Imran Awan and Hina Alvi are invitations for aspiring congressional infiltrators. Remarkably, Awan’s relatives and associates continue to occupy sensitive information technology roles in the executive branch of the federal government. Among examples, Rosiak notes that a former roommate of Awan now runs information technology operations for the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection.
“Nothing has changed,” the author writes. “Two years after the Committee on House Administration was informed of the systematic falsification of invoices, it held its first-ever hearing related to the incident.” The same problems exist, he says. They include improper vetting of new hires, unlimited access to House member accounts, and nonapproved software and equipment.
“Obstruction of Justice” is necessary reading for anyone seeking to understand how political power in this country operates at the highest levels. A position of formal authority within a bureaucracy or lawmaking body doesn’t necessarily translate into control over renegade employees or contractors. The “Deep State” isn’t a formal plot so much as a government-led social network sharing certain assumptions about how America ought to function. And one of the reigning assumptions is that mass immigration, especially from Islamic nations, greatly enriches our country and brings us ever closer to fulfilling our historic promise as a “universal” nation.
This wholly sentimental view may be seen as a Stockholm Syndrome-style adaptation to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It certainly is an expression of contempt for the idea that nations, including our own, have legitimate interests to defend.
Examining this saga in its totality, fear of being called “racist,” “bigoted” or “Islamophobic” emerges as the unspoken reason for the timidity gripping Washington. Rather than risk one’s career or social standing, Deep State players and their media allies made clear that those who expose the Awans would pay a high price. Wasserman Schultz, Gowen, plus certain black members of Congress such as Andre Carson, Marcia Fudge and Gregory Meeks, openly accused truth-seekers of harboring racial motives. Yet in their evasive way, Republicans like Paul Ryan and Phil Kiko enabled them. One wishes that Rosiak could have explored this fear factor a bit more. Obsequious fawning over unassimilable and often-hostile immigrants isn’t simply a detail of the Deep State mindset; it is the essence of it.
From the standpoint of their own interests, Deep State managers are right to be alarmed over the election of Donald Trump as president. Trump represents a real challenge to them. Removing him from office, using his “Russian collusion” as a pretext, is crucial to maintaining the ritual denial that the Imran Awans of this world pose no danger to the United States. Luke Rosiak knows better. Applying a gimlet eye for detail and a sense of the larger issue at stake, he conveys the necessity of dealing with people such as the Awans as much more than simply petty criminals. Such people are a genuine threat to our survival as a nation.
“Obstruction of Justice” has its shortcomings, particularly the lack of an index and a timeline, but they pale before its strengths. This is a gripping political thriller that reads like a David Baldacci novel. Except that it’s not a novel.
Carl F. Horowitz is senior fellow at National Legal and Policy Center, a Falls Church, Va.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in American public life.
Judge Jeanine Pirro will be kept off Fox News for another week following remarks she made about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) several weeks ago.
Pirro’s opinion show, “Justice With Judge Jeanine,” which airs on Saturday night, didn’t air last week, prompting speculation as to her fate.
The move was denounced by President Donald Trump over the weekend, who said the network’s ratings would plummet if it turned away from Pirro as well as fellow conservative host Tucker Carlson in the midst of “radical left” outrage.
During a March 9 broadcast, Pirro made comments about Omar. “Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which is antithetical to the U.S. Constitution?” she asked.
Fox News condemned her statement. “We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar,” the network said. “They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.”
In another statement, Pirro tried to clarify her remarks.
“I’ve seen a lot of comments about my opening statement from Saturday night’s show and I did not call Rep. Omar un-American,” she said. “My intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution. I invite Rep. Omar to come on my show any time to discuss all of the important issues facing America today.”
She made the remarks after Omar issued tweets that many described as anti-Semitic, drawing condemnation from Jewish groups.
“Bring back @Judge Jeanine Pirro,” President Trump tweeted Sunday. “The Radical Left Democrats, working closely with their beloved partner, the Fake News Media, is using every trick in the book to SILENCE a majority of our Country. They have all out campaigns against @FoxNews hosts who are doing too well.”
A number of Twitter users, meanwhile, said they would boycott Fox News if she was fired.
Additionally, Trump said Fox should “stay strong and fight back with vigor. Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down, and continue to fight for our Country. The losers all want what you have, don’t give it to them. Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!”
“Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine. Your competitors are jealous – they all want what you’ve got – NUMBER ONE. Don’t hand it to them on a silver platter. They can’t beat you, you can only beat yourselves!” he wrote.
Sensitive Time for Fox
Fox announced that it created a new company, Fox Corp., after 21st Century Fox was sold off to Disney this week.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan will join the Fox Corporation’s board, Reuters reported.
“We are thrilled to welcome our new colleagues to the Fox board,” Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement carried by Fox News. “We look forward to working with and being guided by them as we begin a new chapter, steadfastly committed to providing the best in news, sports and entertainment programming.”