Bezos vs. Trump
Amazon asked a federal judge for permission this week to depose President Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper in order to determine whether Trump pressured the Pentagon to deny Amazon’s bid for a $10 billion contract. Although Amazon is the largest cloud-computing provider, Defense officials surprised industry analysts last October by hiring Microsoft for its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project, known as JEDI. Amazon claims Trump wanted to blacklist the company to punish CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. The motion cites Trump saying “I’m getting tremendous complaints” about Amazon’s bid and demanding that the Pentagon review the contract. Amazon also cites a new book by Guy Snodgrass, speechwriter to former Defense Secretary James Mattis, that claims Trump told Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the JEDI deal.
Actor Jussie Smollett was charged again this week with falsely reporting a 2019 hate crime. The case was put in the hands of a special prosecutor after the original prosecutors dismissed a 16-count indictment and let Smollett off with community service. A grand jury indicted Smollett, a former star on Fox’s Empire, on six counts of disorderly conduct brought by special prosecutor Dan Webb. Smollett, 37, who is black and gay, allegedly paid two brothers to attack him on a Chicago street last February as a publicity stunt and claimed they shouted slurs during the assault and yelled, “This is MAGA country!” Detectives ran up $130,000 in overtime while investigating the charges, and prosecutors initially hit Smollett with felony charges of lying to the police. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, a progressive reformer, said the grand jury’s timing was meant to subvert her re-election bid next month. Smollett maintains that he was assaulted.
New York City
New York state sued the federal government this week after Homeland Security barred New Yorkers from airport fast-pass programs. The Justice Department claims the ban is made necessary by the state’s granting drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants; the state says it is merely payback for its pro-immigrant policy. The punishment that the Justice Department is imposing on New York is just part of its campaign against “sanctuary” cities and states. It sued New Jersey over a law restricting the sharing of information with federal authorities, and Seattle over a ban on deportation flights from area airports. Last week, the DOJ sued to block California’s new ban on for-profit immigration detention centers. Attorney General William Barr accused “so-called progressive politicians” of “putting the interests of criminal aliens before those of law-abiding citizens.”
Palm Beach, Fla.
The Secret Service pays as much as $650 per night for rooms at President Trump’s properties, The Washington Post reported last week. Trump Organization Vice President Eric Trump said last year that Secret Service agents protecting Trump pay “like 50 bucks” to cover housekeeping costs. Yet records indicate agents were charged the $650 rate dozens of times in 2017 to stay at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, and $396 dozens more times in 2018. At the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., the agency was billed $17,000 per month to use a three-bedroom cottage. Records covering a fraction of Trump’s travel show more than $471,000 paid for Secret Service lodging. The Treasury Department has refused to disclose Secret Service expenses before the November election. Trump has spent nearly one-third of his presidency at his properties, the Post reports.
Lawrence Ray moved into his daughter’s dormitory at Sarah Lawrence College in 2010 and used sham “therapy sessions” to ensnare her roommates over the next eight years, prosecutors said this week. Ray, 60, allegedly extorted $1 million from five victims and made $500,000 off one woman he forced into prostitution. He’d recently left prison when he arrived at the elite campus posing as a “father figure” who could rescue “broken” teens, prosecutors said. He pried into their private lives and mental-health struggles, then forced students to admit to crimes using sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, violence, and threats of legal action. He later forced them to do unpaid manual labor on his North Carolina family property. Ray was once an FBI informant and close friend of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who called Ray a “psychotic con man.”
Cops go to war
New York City
After two assassination attempts on police officers last week, the police union attacked Mayor Bill de Blasio for condoning anti-cop sentiment, saying, “Members of the NYPD are declaring war on you!” Robert Williams, 45, was arrested after approaching a police van to ask for directions and shooting one officer in the neck and chin. He allegedly went next to precinct headquarters in the Bronx and opened fire again, hitting an officer in the arm. Both officers survived. After de Blasio condemned the attacks, Sergeants Benevolent Association President Edward Mullins wrote on Twitter, “We do not respect you. Do not visit us in hospitals,” adding, “You sold the NYPD to the vile creatures” who “hate cops but vote for you.” When President Trump piled on, Mullins asked him to “send in the feds.” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea defended de Blasio but said anti-police protests were “misguided” and endangered officers. ■