November 16, 2018

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you. In a recently unsealed court filing, a U.S. federal prosecutor in Virginia inadvertently disclosed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged with an undisclosed crime, The Washington Post reported Thursday night. Hours earlier, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. prosecutors are increasingly confident about indicting Assange and prosecuting him in U.S. court.

Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador, and he's been living in the country's London embassy since 2012. He has long maintained that leaving the embassy would lead to his arrest and attempted extradition to the U.S. The U.S. government has never said if it has sealed charges against Assange, but former President Barack Obama's Justice Department reportedly decided against pursuing charges on the ground that WikiLeaks is too similar to a news organization.

In the Aug. 22 filing, unsealed in late September and noticed Thursday by a sharp-eyed counterterrorism expert, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer urged a judge to keep charges against a sex trafficking and terrorism suspect, Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, under seal because "due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged." The charges "need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested," Dwyer added later.

It isn't clear what charges have evidently been filed against Assange. "The court filing was made in error," said Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia. "That was not the intended name for this filing." Assange's lawyer Barry Pollack said he has "no idea if he has actually been charged or for what," but "the only thing more irresponsible than charging a person for publishing truthful information would be to put in a public filing information that clearly was not intended for the public and without any notice to Mr. Assange." Peter Weber

September 10, 2018

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett on Monday contradicted a claim President Trump tweeted about the economy, saying somebody must have given him wrong information.

Early Monday, the president tweeted that for the first time in 100 years, the nation's GDP is higher than its unemployment rate. But that's not true; as CNN and The Washington Post both quickly pointed out, it happened 12 years ago, in 2006.

During the White House press briefing Monday afternoon, Hassett surprisingly acknowledged that what the president tweeted was wrong. While he said he doesn't know exactly how incorrect information ended up on Trump's Twitter account, he speculated that somebody probably meant to tell him that it had been 10 years but they accidentally added an extra zero. He added, "You'd have to talk to the president about where the number came from, but the correct number is 10 years."

This was a rare instance of a member of the Trump administration offering a correction after the president tweeted out a false statement. In fact, Hassett suggested that he's grateful the press pointed out the mistake. You can watch the moment from this afternoon's press briefing below. Brendan Morrow

September 9, 2018

China's trade surplus with the United States hit a record monthly high in August despite the Trump administration's imposition of two rounds of new tariffs on Chinese goods and plans to levy additional taxes soon.

The surplus increased from $28.09 billion in July to $31.05 billion last month. "In the short term, it is difficult for the trade gap to narrow because American buyers cannot easily find alternatives to Chinese products," said economist Liu Xuezhi of China's Bank of Communications.

President Trump on Twitter Saturday indicated he will not call a trade truce any time soon. On Sunday, he doubled down, arguing that he is heavily taxing American consumers as a matter of fairness. As Chinese consumers suffer when buying our products, so we must suffer when buying theirs:

In a previous post, the president rejoiced that Ford will no longer sell a small, affordable vehicle in the United States because his tariffs have made it too costly:

Trump proposed Ford build the car in the U.S., but the company has already said it does not make economic sense to do so. Read more about Trump's "unutterably stupid trade war" here at The Week. Bonnie Kristian

July 17, 2018

President Trump on Tuesday appeared to walk back many of his controversial comments from his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, held Monday in Finland.

Trump faced widespread backlash for failing to side with the U.S. intelligence community over Putin during Monday's summit. On Tuesday, the president addressed the controversy and sought to correct the record. "I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place" he said. "Could be other people also. A lot of people out there."

He also reversed one of his most-criticized comments, when he said he didn't "see why it would be" Russia that interfered in the election. "In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't,'" Trump explained. "The sentence should have been, 'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.' Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things."

As critics pointed out, this was one of several instances in which Trump was forced to backpedal a statement after receiving fierce backlash. But Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser noted that Trump claiming he misspoke — and doing so more than 24 hours after the initial remarks — doesn't quite align with his post-press conference tweets and interview with Fox News, in which he fully stood by his comments on Russia's purported innocence.

Trump added that has "full faith" in intelligence officials, and pledged that his administration "will repel any effort to interfere in our elections" going forward. Summer Meza

July 5, 2018

Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum (D) was canvassing her constituents in Clackamas, outside Portland, on Tuesday when a Clackamas County sheriff's deputy pulled up alongside, she told The Oregonian on Wednesday. The deputy told Bynum, who is black and running for a second term, that a woman had called to report her for apparently canvassing the neighborhood while on her phone. Bynum, 43, said she has knocked on probably 70,000 doors over her years of campaigning, and this was the first time someone has called the cops on her. She told The Oregonian that the deputy was courteous, professional, and agreed to take a selfie with her.

Bynum got the deputy to call the woman who reported her, and she and the woman spoke. The woman, whose race Bynum said she did not know, was apologetic and said she called 911 out of concern for her neighborhood's safety. "It was just bizarre," Bynum told The Oregonian, adding she wished the lady had spoken to her instead of calling the police. "It boils down to people not knowing their neighbors and people having a sense of fear in their neighborhoods, which is kind of my job to help eradicate. But at the end of the day, it's important for people to feel like they can talk to each other to help minimize misunderstandings." Peter Weber

June 5, 2018

There are 5.1 million registered voters in Los Angeles County, and 118,522 of them did not appear on the rosters for Tuesday's primary.

L.A. County Registrar Dean C. Logan told the Los Angeles Times that their names were accidentally left off the rosters due to a printing error. Logan apologized for the "inconvenience and concern this has caused," and said his office is trying to figure out why this happened. The error affected 2.3 percent of the county's registered voters — including some celebrities — and 35 percent of its 4,356 precincts.

Those voters weren't out of luck, though — they were still able use provisional ballots, which are verified by vote counters. Catherine Garcia

April 12, 2018

CIA Director Mike Pompeo faces the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, the first test of his nomination to be secretary of state, and with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a "no" vote and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) out for cancer treatment, he is going to need Democratic support. In prepared remarks, Pompeo, a Republican former congressman from Kansas, emphasizes his plans to restore morale to and fully staff the State Department, touts his close relationship with President Trump, denies that he is overly hawkish, and says he plans to fix the Iran nuclear deal, which he has previous backed scrapping entirely.

Pompeo's confirmation hearing was already going to be tough, but on Wednesday evening, McClatchy DC reported that Pompeo did not disclose his ties to a Chinese state petroleum company in his background form to head the CIA. Juan Pachon, a spokesman for Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told McClatchy that committee staff are aware that Pompeo had ties to Sinopec, an oil and gas giant whose majority owner is state-owned China Petrochemical Corporation. "We expect Director Pompeo to be able to explain exactly what financial entanglement he had with the Chinese government and why he failed to disclose it," Pachon said.

Pompeo was president of oilfield equipment maker Sentry International from 2006 until his election to the House in 2010, and in 2006, he registered SJ Petro Pump Investment LLC, McClatchy reports. SJ Petro, or SJ Petroleum Machinery Co., is a subsidiary of Sinopec, which agreed to help develop a $43 billion natural gas project in Alaska last November and is currently lobbying the U.S. government. Pompeo's "former business partners (Sinopec) are spending more than $30,000 a month lobbying the Trump administration," said Harrell Kirstein at American Bridge 21st Century, which opposes Pompeo's nomination, "and probably drooling over the idea of installing their pal as secretary of state." Read more at McClatchy DC. Peter Weber

March 6, 2018

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated federal law when she weighed in on Alabama's special Senate election in two televised interviews last fall, the U.S. Official of Special Counsel said Tuesday. Conway appeared in interviews on Fox News' Fox & Friends and CNN's New Day in which she urged voters to support Republican candidate Roy Moore over Democrat Doug Jones, the contest's eventual winner. In doing so, she "impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates," the OSC wrote.

The law Conway ran afoul of is the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in certain partisan activities. Because Conway was appearing in the interviews — with Fox News in November and CNN in December — in her official capacity as counselor to the president, her advocacy for Moore and against Jones in those appearances was unlawful, the OSC wrote.

The OSC is an independent investigative arm for the federal government and is separate from the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which falls under the Justice Department's purview. The OSC said it "gave Conway the opportunity to respond to the allegations" during its investigation, as well as upon completion of its report, but that "she did not respond." Read the OSC's full release below. Kimberly Alters

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