Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 22, 2022

An appeals court restores DOJ access to classified files seized from Trump, Russia arrests hundreds at protests over military mobilization, and more


Appeals panel restores DOJ access to classified files seized from Trump

A three-judge federal appeals court panel ruled Wednesday that the Justice Department can resume its review of classified documents seized during a search of former President Donald Trump's Florida home in August. The judges, two appointed by Trump and one by former President Barack Obama, said it's "self-evident" the public has an interest in knowing whether Trump's storage of classified records damaged national security. The decision reversed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon barring the Justice Department from using the roughly 100 classified documents in its criminal investigation until an independent special master has completed a review of them, plus 11,000 other files taken from Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence. Trump can appeal to the Supreme Court.


Russia arrests 1,252 demonstrators at anti-mobilization protests

Protests erupted in Russia on Wednesday against President Vladimir Putin's mobilization of 300,000 military reservists to fight Ukrainian forces that have reclaimed large swaths of territory Russia had occupied for months. Hundreds of protesters gathered in central Moscow shouting, "Send Putin to the trenches!" and "Let our children live!" The New York Times reported. Human rights watchdog OVD-Info said at least 1,252 people from 38 cities were arrested. The protesters defied a warning from the general prosecutor's office that anyone participating in unsanctioned protests could face up to 15 years in prison for spreading false information about the war or discrediting the military, which Russia made a crime early in the invasion.


New York attorney general sues Trump for alleged business fraud

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Wednesday against former President Donald Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, for alleged fraud. The civil suit also names three of Trump's children — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump. The suit, which followed a three-year investigation, details how Trump and his company "repeatedly and consistently manipulated the value of assets" to get better loans from banks and lower tax bills. Trump responded on his Truth Social media site, calling the lawsuit "another witch hunt" and James "a fraud who campaigned on a 'get Trump' platform." James is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on the Trumps running a business in the state.


Biden, Zelensky urge U.N. to unite against Russia's Ukraine invasion

President Biden on Wednesday urged the United Nations General Assembly to stand in solidarity with Ukraine as it fights back against Russian forces that invaded nearly seven months ago. Biden accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "shamelessly violating" the United Nations charter by trying "to erase the sovereign state from the map." Biden also said Putin's thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons showed "reckless disregard for the responsibilities of a nonproliferation regime." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the U.N. by video, calling for world leaders to punish Russia and support Ukraine's war effort, vowing not to stop until Russia leaves the country. "We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory," Zelensky said.


2 U.S. vets among POWs freed in Russia-Ukraine swap

Russia has released two U.S. military veterans captured in Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange brokered by Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government and relatives of the Americans said Wednesday. Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh, both from Alabama, were captured in June by Russian-backed separatists in the northeastern border city of Kharkiv. Eight other foreigners were reportedly released with them. Drueke and Huynh were the first U.S. citizens confirmed captured by Russian or pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. The swap also exchanged about 215 Ukrainian prisoners of war, including 108 members of the Azov Battalion, for Viktor Medvedchuk, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and 54 other Russian POWs.


Fed raises interest rates by another 0.75 points to fight inflation

The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it would raise its benchmark short-term interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point in its ongoing effort to fight high inflation. It was the third straight unusually large rate increase by the Fed, after 0.75 point increases in June and July. Wednesday's increase lifted the rate to a range of 3 percent to 3.25 percent, the highest since early 2008. The central bank's policy makers indicated they are likely to raise the rate to 4.4 percent by the end of the year, and to about 4.6 percent in 2023. The higher rates increase borrowing costs, such as with mortgages and business loans. The goal is to get consumers and businesses to borrow and spend less to slow the economy and reduce inflation.


House passes bill designed to prevent another Jan. 6

The House on Wednesday passed a bill seeking to make it harder to overturn the certified results of a presidential election. The legislation, introduced by Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), is designed to modernize the Electoral Count Act to prevent a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, effort by Republicans allied with then-President Donald Trump to reverse Trump's election loss to President Biden. The bill passed 229-203 in the House, mostly along party lines. Nine Republicans, including Jan. 6 committee members Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), joined all Democrats in support of the bill. "How could anyone vote against free and fair elections — the cornerstone of our constitution?" Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked.


Former cop Thomas Lane sentenced to 3 years for role in George Floyd's death

A Minnesota judge on Wednesday sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane to three years in prison for his role in the 2020 killing of George Floyd in police custody. Lane, already serving a 2 1/2 year federal sentence for violating Floyd's civil rights, will serve the new sentence on the state charge, aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, concurrently. Judge Peter Cahill accepted the plea agreement between Lane and prosecutors, which included a recommended sentence below sentencing guidelines, because Lane had accepted responsibility. Lane, who is white, held down Floyd's legs while officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee onto Floyd's neck as the unarmed Black man pleaded for air.


Ginni Thomas to testify to Jan. 6 committee

Conservative activist Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has reached an agreement to be interviewed by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, CNN reported Wednesday. Ginni Thomas' attorney, Mark Paoletta, confirmed the voluntary interview, saying in a statement that "Mrs. Thomas is eager to answer the committee's questions to clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election. She looks forward to that opportunity." Jan. 6 panel members have said they want to talk to Thomas about text messages about overturning then-President Donald Trump's election loss with then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows before Jan. 6.


Navy scandal fugitive 'Fat Leonard' Francis captured in Venezuela

Venezuelan authorities arrested a Malaysian defense contractor who fled house arrest in California earlier this month while awaiting sentencing in the biggest fraud scandal in U.S. Navy history, authorities said Wednesday. Leonard Glenn Francis, known as "Fat Leonard," was captured under an Interpol warrant as he tried to board a flight to Russia. Interpol said Francis, who disappeared after cutting off his ankle bracelet two weeks ago in San Diego, had crossed into Mexico, then flew to Venezuela with a stopover in Cuba. Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering more than $500,000 in bribes, along with prostitution services, luxury hotels, and gourmet meals, to Navy officials and others to boost business for his Singapore-based ship servicing company.


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