Rachel Brand, No. 3 at DOJ, Will Step Down
Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, number three at the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will resign her post, DOJ announced Friday.
Citing “two people briefed on her decision,” the New York Times first reported Brand will depart DOJ and join Walmart as the company’s top lawyer.
DOJ later confirmed Brand would leave the government “in the coming weeks.”
“The men and women of the Department of Justice impress me every day,” Brand said in a statement. “I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here. I want to thank Attorney General Sessions for his leadership over this Department. I’ve seen firsthand his commitment to the rule of law and to keeping the American people safe.”
No immediate reason for Brand’s and her assistant, Currie Gunn, decision to leave was forthcoming. She was publicly active in her role as recently as last week, when she keynoted a summit on human trafficking in Washington, DC.
Attorney General Sessions, however, was effusive in his praise. “Rachel Brand is a lawyer’s lawyer,” he said, continuing:
She is a graduate of Harvard Law School, clerked at the Supreme Court, she worked at the White House, in academia, and has served in leadership positions spanning three administrations. As Associate Attorney General, she has played a critical role in helping us accomplish our goals as a Department—taking on human trafficking, protecting free speech on campus, and fighting sexual harassment in public housing. And when I asked her to take the lead in the Department’s efforts on Section 702 re-authorization, she made this her top priority and combined her expertise and gravitas to help pass legislation keeping this crucial national security tool. Rachel has shown real leadership over many important divisions at the Department. I know the entire Department of Justice will miss her, but we join together in congratulating her on this new opportunity in the private sector. She will always remain a part of the Department of Justice family.
During her nine-month tenure, Brand was an active advocate for several of the Sessions DOJ’s conservative priorities, including free speech on campus, for which she contributed a Fox News op-ed last month; enforcing religious liberty, for which she announced an amicus brief her department submitted on behalf of Christian parents in Montana who wished to benefit from a school choice tax-credit denied to them because they sent their children to a religious school; and ending the Obama administration’s “slush fund” of corporate payouts to left-wing non-profits.
Brand, a Supreme Court Clerk under Justice Anthony Kennedy, eminent conservative litigator, George Mason University law professor, and political appointee under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was confirmed to her post in the Trump administration in May. When controversy over Sessions and Rosenstein’s future brewed last summer, some speculated she might, at least temporarily, take the reins at the Justice Department.
Because Sessions has recused himself from all investigations involving the 2016 presidential elections, Brand would have found herself overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Russia investigation” if Rosenstein resigned, were fired, or, as some speculated in July he might, also recused himself from that investigation.
Unlike her two immediate superiors, Sessions and Rosenstein, Brand has largely avoided the public ire of President Donald Trump, who has not criticized her conduct in his not-uncommon pronouncements about conduct at DOJ.
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Mysterious Fire Breaks Out at NYC Luxury Hotel Where Chinese Billionaire Arrested
A fire broke out inside an Upper East Side hotel on Wednesday and the FBI is now involved in the investigation.
The FBI’s New York Field office is working to determine whether the fire at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in the Upper East Side is linked to the Wednesday morning arrest of exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News.
Wengui was arrested at 6 a.m. at his apartment in the building on 60th Street and Fifth Avenue on charges of various wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.
He is accused or orchestrating a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of people more than $1 billion.
According to investigators, much of that money was used to fund an ultra-luxurious lifestyle that included Ferraris, a $37 million yacht, and a 50,000 square-foot mansion in Mahwah New Jersey. FBI agents also executed a search warrant Wednesday morning at that mansion.
FBI agents were still inside Guo’s 15-room, $32 million Manhattan apartment at the time the fire broke out, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News. That’s about six hours after he was arrested.
The agents were forced to evacuate and reported the fire to police.
At this point, neither FDNY nor the FBI knows whether the fire was linked to the arrest. Both offices declined to comment.
After burning for two hours, the fire was under control by 1:45 p.m. There were no reports of injuries but sources say there was significant damage to Wengui’s apartment.
Wengui, referred to in court as Ho Wan Kwok, bowed to the federal magistrate in front of whom he appeared following his arrest on Wednesday.
He retained defense attorneys Josh Klein and Guy Petrillo though was represented at his arraignment by a federal defender, who entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
He consented to detention though the federal defender said his retained attorneys plan to propose a “robust bail package.”
The federal government asked for detention, citing his high flight risk.
There was no reference at the arraignment to the fire that damaged Guo’s apartment.
The fire initially appeared electrical but all options are on the table as FDNY fire marshals are working to determine the cause.
If it is deemed suspicious, that would be referred to proper authorities while Guo is prosecuted for the alleged billion dollar fraud.
James O’Keefe Announces New Project After Project Veritas Ouster
Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe has announced a new media project.
The O’Keefe Media Group was unveiled on March 15, about three weeks after O’Keefe resigned from Project Veritas following a suspension and probe into his spending practices.
“We’re going to be sending cameras into the hands of hundreds of people,” O’Keefe said on Real America’s Voice. “We’re going to be creating a citizen army of journalists.”
Project Veritas staffers and its board had maintained that O’Keefe could return to the organization, but O’Keefe is instead forging a new path.
The Project Veritas founder said that a “small, tight-knit group” of “elite journalists” has remained by his side and is joining in the new venture.
“They have awakened a sleeping giant,” O’Keefe said in a promotional video. “I’m back.”
The business model is based on donations that will directly sponsor cameras. Tiers run from $19.99 a month to $5,000 a year.
“Let’s build this army and keep every statehouse, every city council, every school board and everywhere people are conspiring to keep power, proactive favoritism or line their pockets with tax dollars!” O’Keefe said on Twitter. “Become a founding member today!”
O’Keefe exited Project Veritas, which he founded in 2010, on Feb. 20.
O’Keefe was suspended by the organization’s board of directors as it investigated allegations of financial malfeasance and abuse. A preliminary probe showed O’Keefe “has spent an excessive amount of donor funds in the last three years on personal luxuries,” the board said.
The board said it did not remove O’Keefe but he said he was forced out because he no longer had any authority.
The move divided staffers, some of whom had threated to leave if O’Keefe’s alleged conduct was not addressed. Others supported O’Keefe and have moved to the new group.
“We will never replace James O’Keefe. But for now, we see it as our job to hold the torch for him while keeping the door wide open for his return,” staffers said in a statement.
Project Veritas, which specializes in undercover recordings, published an expose of a Pfizer executive shortly before O’Keefe’s exit. It has since released several investigations into educators, including a recording showing a New York professor saying he wants to kill Republican leaders.
Some supporters had said they would stop following Project Veritas since O’Keefe is no longer there.
Eric Spracklen, a Project Veritas employee, highlighted how one clip received 700,000 views over 24 hours on Twitter. “Project Veritas is dead,” he wrote sarcastically.
Project Veritas Hires Law Firm
The board said it would hire an outside firm to perform an audit of financial practices at Project Veritas. On March 3, the firm was identified as Dorsey & Whitney LLP.
“We recognize the need for an investigation that is completely free of any bias or favor. For this reason, we have engaged a leading law firm in these matters to perform this analysis and report their findings to the Board of Directors,” the board said in a statement.
“We look forward to sharing findings of this investigation when it is complete,” it added.
A timeline for the investigation has not been outlined.
Rand Paul Walks Out of Homeland Security Hearing After Fiery Exchange with Dem Chairman
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., stormed out of a Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday and suggested every Republican leave the meeting after Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., blocked each Republican amendment to the Fire Grants and Safety Act.
Peters offered an amendment to the legislation, but Paul urged he already offered a second-degree amendment and, therefore, another could not be brought forward. “We have what, unlimited second-degree amendments?” the Republican senator asked. Peters then suggested Paul does not have the jurisdiction to call up an amendment for a vote.
“If this is the way you’re going to run the committee, I would suggest that Republicans leave. I don’t see why we should stick around if you’re going to make up the rules. I mean, you’re going to offer up a third-degree amendment,” Paul said during the hearing.
After Paul suggested a walkout, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., chimed in, encouraging everyone to “take a couple minutes, lower the temperature, just figure out the procedure,” following the heated debate.
“There’s no need for us to turn this committee hearing into a partisan, ugly place like we’ve seen in other committees. We don’t need to do that,” Sinema urged.
Paul continued to debate Peters’ effort for a secondary amendment. “I, for one, won’t stay here and recommend that no Republican stay here if we’re going to have third-degree amendments that only the majority gets to offer,” he said.
Paul’s frustration emerged after he introduced several amendments to the bill, which were combated by Peters with secondary amendments, which are essentially the amendment of an amendment. The Republican urged that the hearing was the first time that “we’ve gotten second-degree amendments on every one of our amendments.”
“Typically in that committee, we just have votes,” Paul said. “When we can’t work it out behind the scenes, we have a vote and not replace someone’s vote.”
Paul introduced an amendment to make any fire department that fired employees for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine ineligible for federal grants. Peters combated his suggestion by including language that would require audits and reports be conducted by the U.S. Comptroller on the departments denied federal funds. The modified amendment received unanimous Democratic support, with all Republicans voting against the new language.
Peters then intervened in another one of Paul’s amendments that would prevent funding from the National Institutes of Health for “gain of function” research on coronaviruses in Wuhan, China, and at other laboratories. The Democrat suggested the language instead say that funds from the Fire Grants and Safety Act were barred “from being provided to a Chinese fire department.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Paul added after the second-degree amendment. “This is legislative legerdemain to obscure the fact that you’re trying to not vote directly on this.”
Following the debate, Peters said he hopes to find “common ground” with the senator from Kentucky.
“I look forward to working with Sen. Paul and hopefully we can find common ground to go forward. Some of the amendments he offered were not germane to the substance of the bill that we were dealing with,” Peters said.
‘This is Simply Cheating’: High School Slammed After Trans Athlete Wins Girls Championship
A Massachusetts high school boy competed with the girls’ track and field team and helped them win the state’s indoor track and field championship in February in yet another example of males competing against females due to transgender identity.
Junior Chloe Barnes of Brookline High School finished fourth in the 55-yard hurdles at the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Division 1 indoor track and field championship, accumulating five points for his team.
Brookline won the title by 12 points over second-place finisher Newton North. At the meet, which took place on February 19, only the top eight runners from the preliminaries advanced to the finals. Shayla Quill, a senior from Andover, placed ninth, meaning that she missed out on advancing while Barnes placed third in the preliminary race.
“Deal with it,” Barnes said in 2022, reacting to those critical of the role of trans-identifying athletes on athletic teams. “Just deal with it.”
Girls track and field coach Lee Eddy has championed Barnes and a girl who wants to compete as a boy but preferred to remain anonymous, saying, “We have all kinds of different people on the team with different characters, different types of people. [X] and Chloe just kind of added to the potpourri of what we have and they blend in like everybody else does in terms of being themselves, and they’re allowed to be themselves. I think it’s great and I think they’re great. I think actually we learn a lot from each other and I learn a lot from them.”
The Brookline School Committee Policy Review Subcommittee wrote in 2019, “Students who are transgender may participate in accordance with the gender identity they consistently assert at school. Interscholastic athletic activities are addressed through the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Gender Identity Policy (MIAA) clarification.”
The MIAA handbook states, “Students are entitled to be accepted by their schools as the gender with which they identify across all school programs. This means that athletic opportunities must be afforded to students in accordance with their identified gender, not necessarily their birth-assigned gender.”
“Blanket prohibitions based on gender should be avoided,” the handbook continues. “The MIAA case in 1979 and D.M. case decided by the 8th Circuit Court show that when an athletic association has a blanket prohibition of boys playing on girls teams such rules were overly broad and not sufficiently tailored to the interest in advancing gender equity in school based athletic programs.”
Grand Jury in Trump Georgia Probe Recommends Multiple Indictments
The forewoman of a special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia revealed Tuesday that the panel recommended multiple indictments to the Atlanta-area district attorney leading the probe.
Forewoman Emily Kohrs told the New York Times that the special grand jury’s recommendations are “not going to be some giant plot twist,” but wouldn’t name specific individuals the panel suggested be charged with crimes.
“It is not a short list,” Kohrs told the outlet.
When asked whether Trump, 76, was recommended for indictment, Kohrs responded: “You’re not going to be shocked. It’s not rocket science,” before adding, “You won’t be too surprised.”
The special grand jury, empaneled in May of last year, subpoenaed dozens of witnesses over the course of its investigation into alleged attempts by Trump and his allies to interfere in the state’s 2020 election, including Trump’s lawyer and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Special grand juries in Georgia do not have indictment powers; the ultimate charging decisions will be up to Willis.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney dissolved the special grand jury last month and recommended that its report be made public.
Sections of the report were released last week and indicated that “perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying.”
The group of 26 jurors also said they unanimously found no evidence to back the 45th president’s claims that widespread voter fraud cost him Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.
Trump commented on the Georgia investigation in a Truth Social post on Tuesday, calling Willis, who is black, a “Racist in Reverse,” and arguing that the probe is an attempt to stifle free speech.
“This is the real crime that took place in Georgia, with a Racist in Reverse D.A., who presides over the most dangerous city per capita in our Nation (by far!), Atlanta, does nothing but harass me for making two absolutely PERFECT phone calls, and for any other fake reason that the Department of Injustice in D.C. tells her to pursue,” Trump said.
“They are demanding silence from people from protesting, or even discussing, Election results, because that’s the place they just don’t want to get anywhere near!”
Georgia Secretary of State Opens Formal Inquiry into Trump Phone Call
The recording was published by the Washington Post on January, 2, 2021.
On February 8, 2021, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger opened formal inquiry into Trump phone call about 2020 election results.
Washington Post Outs Source Who Gave Them Fake Quotes From Trump, Georgia Phone Call
The Post’s media critic, Erik Wemple, reported that the original story was “based on an account from Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state, whom Watson briefed on his comments.”
Both the Post and CNN issued corrections for their stories. The Post’s correction read:
Correction: Two months after publication of this story, the Georgia secretary of state released an audio recording of President Donald Trump’s December phone call with the state’s top elections investigator. The recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source. Trump did not tell the investigator to “find the fraud” or say she would be “a national hero” if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find “dishonesty” there. He also told her that she had “the most important job in the country right now.” The headline and text of this story have been corrected to remove quotes misattributed to Trump.
CNN’s correction read:
An earlier version of this story, published January 9, presented paraphrasing of the President’s comments to the Georgia elections investigator as direct quotes. The story has been updated following the discovery of an audio recording of the call.
New Audio of Phone Call that Vindicates Trump Was Deleted by Georgia Investigator
An audio recording that forced multiple major news outlets to issue corrections to stories that attributed fraudulent quotes to former President Donald Trump was reportedly found on the device of the chief investigator of the Georgia secretary of state’s office.
Officials reportedly located the file in a trash folder on Watson’s device, according to CNN.
WATCH: Biden’s Female Staffer Makes Painful Arrival in Poland as She Falls Down Getting Off Government Jet
A female White House staffer took a dramatic tumble down the steep steps of a government jet during President Joe Biden’s trip to Poland.
The moment, which was filmed and broadcast on a Polish TV station, shows a person stumble down the steps on Tuesday morning. And at one point, they slide the rest of the way down.
The female staffer, who has not been identified, was wearing a backpack which cushioned her fall.
The person is understood to be part of the White House support staff who arrived in Warsaw on Tuesday morning. It came after Biden’s surprise hours-long trip to Kyiv where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.
The clip, which appeared to be part of footage being broadcast on a Polish television network, has been viewed nearly half a million times.
Biden, 80, is in Poland to deliver a speech, which he did Tuesday morning, and meet with foreign dignitaries at a time when the country is requesting a greater US troop presence on its territory.
In the past, it’s been POTUS himself who has required some assistance on the steep steps that lead to government jets. In late 2021, Biden fell three times as he attempted to board Air Force One ahead of a trip to Atlanta.
The country’s oldest president was still able to deliver a salute from the top of the stairs of the plane before departure.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attempted to cover for the Commander-in-Chief at the time, saying: ‘It was very windy. I almost fell coming up the steps myself.’
‘He is doing 100 percent. He’s doing just fine,’ she added of Biden’s experience in the aftermath of the trip up.
The president’s ability to elegantly tackle the steps of the presidential plane has been continued ammunition for those who question the ageing president’s mental and physical fitness for office.
Again in May last year, Biden nearly fell walking up the stairs of the massive jet.
Justices Puzzled as Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Internet Liability Shield
The Supreme Court grappled with the scope of a liability shield for internet companies on Tuesday, at times expressing confusion about arguments to narrow the industry’s protections as they probed how it could impact the internet.
Their skepticism came during oral arguments in Gonzalez v. Google, a case brought by the family of U.S. citizen Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed during an 2015 ISIS attack in Paris, for YouTube’s purported recommendations of pro-ISIS videos.
A number of the justices appeared frustrated at the arguments of Eric Schnapper, the attorney representing the Gonzalez family who argued Google should not be protected by Section 230.
“I guess I’m thoroughly confused,” liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson told Schnapper.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, the only justice to have previously expressed doubts about the breadth of Section 230’s protections publicly, similarly expressed confusion and in the early moments of the argument said Schnapper needed to give the justices a “clearer point.”
“These are not, like, the nine greatest experts on the internet,” liberal Justice Elena Kagan later quipped.
Section 230 is a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that prevents internet companies, including giants like Google and Facebook as well as smaller services, from being held liable for content posted by third parties. But the case before the court focused particularly on if those protections should apply to how companies create and deploy algorithmic recommendation systems.
Lisa Blatt, who represented Google, said the protections provided under Section 230 “created today’s internet” and have allowed tech companies to innovate.
Blatt argued that algorithmic recommendations are essential for companies to organize massive amounts of third-party content, and she asserted that not protecting recommendations would expose internet companies to constant litigation and run smaller firms into the ground.
Undoing Section 230 could make the internet a “’Truman Show’ vs. a horror show,” with “anodyne, cartoon-like” content or violent hate speech, Blatt said.
“And Congress would not have achieved its purpose,” she added.
When Kagan asked Blatt if Section 230 protections only apply because YouTube’s recommendation algorithm was neutral, Blatt said Section 230 would also protect algorithms developed with more nefarious purposes.
But Jackson repeatedly stressed Congress’ intent in passing Section 230, saying they did so to protect internet companies that take down third-party content in good faith.
“You’re saying the protection extends to internet platforms that are promoting offensive material. So it suggests to me that it is exactly the opposite of what Congress was trying to do in the statute,” Jackson told Blatt.
Justices also questioned whether they are the proper body to make changes to Section 230, appearing wary of the implications of narrowing the protections.
“I take the point that there are a lot of algorithms that are not going to produce pro-ISIS content and that won’t create a problem under this statute. But maybe they’ll produce defamatory content or maybe they’ll produce content that violates some other law. And your argument can’t be limited to this one statute,” Kagan said.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett questioned whether the court could instead send the case back to the lower courts depending on the outcome in a case set to be argued on Wednesday.
That case, Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh, will interpret the anti-terrorism law that the Gonzalez family believes makes Google liable in the first place. The justices could instead ask the lower court to first consider Google’s underlying liability to see if the Section 230 protections are even needed.
But despite attacks from both sides of the aisle, any changes to Section 230 are likely to happen in the court rather than Congress because Democrats and Republicans are approaching the issue from nearly opposite sides, making it more difficult for legislative change.
Democrats have said Section 230 provides protections that allow companies to host too much misinformation or hate speech, whereas Republicans have said it protects companies from being able to censor content with an anti-conservative bias as the GOP has broadly alleged.
Pentagon Email Server Left Exposed for 2 Weeks, Allowing Internal Emails to Leak
A U.S. Department of Defense server was left exposed for the past two weeks, allowing internal emails to be accessed, a senior U.S. defense official confirmed with Fox News.
A misconfiguration with a Department of Defense server hosted on Microsoft Azure’s government cloud allowed the server to be accessed with a password, according to Tech Crunch, who reported that anyone with internet access could access mailbox data if they knew the server’s IP address and were using a web browser.
The server contained around three terabytes of military emails, with many related to the U.S. Special Operations Command, which is a military unit which conducts special operations.
According to the report, the emails inside the server appear to date years back and contain personal information, according to the report.
For example, one of the files left exposed contained a completed SF-86 questionnaire, which is a form filled out by government employees attempting to obtain a security clearance. The form arks for information such as the applicant’s social security number, address, as well as personal information of people that the applicant knew well.
The report states that none of the data hosted on the exposed server appears to be classified.
Tech Crunch reports that the exposed server was secured on Monday afternoon, about a day after it first reached out to the Pentagon.
U.S. Special Operations Command Ken McGraw told Tech Crunch in a statement that “We can confirm at this point is no one hacked U.S. Special Operations Command’s information systems.”
Don Lemon ‘Has Agreed to Participate in Formal Training,’ Will Return to Air on Wednesday
Don Lemon — who made headlines last week when he made comments about when women are supposedly in their “prime” and claimed that former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is not in her prime — has agreed to take part in “formal training,” CNN Worldwide chairman and CEO Chris Licht noted in a Monday night email to employees, the outlet reported.
“I sat down with Don and had a frank and meaningful conversation,” Licht noted in a memo, according to CNN. “He has agreed to participate in formal training, as well as continuing to listen and learn. We take this situation very seriously.”
Licht also noted that Lemon will return to the air on Wednesday.
“It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with … fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes,” Licht conveyed. “To that end, Don will return to CNN This Morning on Wednesday.”
Haley, who announced a presidential bid last week, has called for “mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.” She is 51 years old.
Lemon said last week that he is “uncomfortable” with the focus on age and claimed that Haley is not in her prime. Lemon suggested that Googling when women are in their prime would yield results indicating that women are in their prime during their 20s, 30s, and 40s — he added that he was not saying that he agreed with that notion.
Don Lemon: "Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry, when a woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s, and 30s, and maybe 40s…"
Poppy Harlow: "Are you talking about prime for like child bearing?"
"Don’t shoot the messenger! I’m just saying what the facts are! Google it!" pic.twitter.com/n1HmtkWTpl
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) February 16, 2023
The television personality later issued a tweet addressing his comments.
“The reference I made to a woman’s ‘prime’ this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it. A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day,” Lemon tweeted.
CNN reported that Lemon apologized during a Friday editorial meeting. “I’m sorry that I said it,” he said, according to the outlet. “And I certainly see why people found it completely misguided.”
“When I make a mistake, I own it,” he reportedly said. “And I own this one as well.”
Leading Diversity Activist Claiming to Be Woman of Color ‘White as the Driven Snow’ According to Her Mother
An influential social justice advocacy group leader who claimed to be a woman of color is actually white, the Intercept reported.
“I’m as white as the driven snow and so is she,” Raquel Evita Saraswati’s mother, Carol Perone, told the outlet.
“She’s chosen to live a lie, and I find that very, very sad,” Perone added.
Saraswati, born Rachel Elizabeth Seidel, is a Muslim activist who serves as the chief equity, inclusion, and culture officer for the progressive American Friends Service Committee.
“I call her Rachel,” Perone said of her daughter.
For years, Saraswati has claimed to be a woman of color. Specifically, she claimed to be of Latin, South Asian, and Arab descent.
Perone told the Intercept Saraswati’s ethnic heritage is German and British on her mother’s side and Calabrese Italian on her now-deceased father’s side.
Perone provided the outlet with childhood photographs of Saraswati, in which her complexion is “significantly lighter than the bronzed look in more recent photographs.” Another relative, who asked not to be named, also confirmed Saraswati is white.
AFSC, a Quaker organization, describes itself as being “on the forefront of social change movements.” Its office of Equity, Inclusion, & Culture, led by Saraswati, aims to become “more equitable, inclusive, and in alignment with AFSC’s commitment to anti-oppression principles.”
Oskar Pierre Castro, who was on the team that sought to fill the position Saraswati currently holds, says she presented herself as a “queer, Muslim, multi-ethnic woman.”
Further complicating matters, some AFSC members have expressed concern that Saraswati may be deceiving the organization in such a way that would undermine its mission.
In an “open letter” posted to Medium and confirmed by the Intercept to be from AFSC members, the members note that Saraswati had appeared on right-leaning networks presenting herself as a moderate Muslim critical of Islamic extremism.
An unnamed AFSC leader told the Intercept they were fearful that Saraswati could be “an agent, because she started her career right-wing. She was a token Muslim voice in that milieu.”
“Imagine the trauma of people who confided in her, trusted her, and shared sensitive information about their work and about their lives, thinking that she’s a fellow person of color,” the AFSC leader also told the outlet, referring to Saraswati. “And now all of a sudden, it’s a white woman with a right-wing history. It’s scary.”
Watch Saraswati’s 2015 interview with Newsmax below.
‘A Bit Embarrassing’: Hollywood A-Lister Says He ‘Wasn’t Impressed’ By the Ladies at ‘The View’
Actor Liam Neeson admitted during a recent interview that he was not a fan of his own appearance on ABC’s midday talk show “The View,” complaining that most of the segment had been wasted on co-host Joy Behar’s crush on him.
The Irish actor appeared on the February 15th broadcast, and after a brief conversation about his new movie, “Marlowe,” the topic turned to Behar’s long-standing crush on the “Taken” star.
Noting that she had gotten a belated Valentine’s Day card from the actor before the show, Behar said that she had been disappointed to learn that he had given similar cards to her co-hosts as well. The segment concluded with nearly a full minute of past video clips of Behar fawning over Neeson.
Neeson told Rolling Stone that he had been looking forward to talking about the film — and had been intrigued by the gun control conversation that was going on during the segment prior to his — but was disappointed and “not impressed” when nearly all of his time was taken up by Behar gushing over him.
“I was in the dressing room drinking a cup of tea, turned the TV up, and I thought, oh, this will be great. They’re talking about gun violence in America, and I agree that it’s an American problem,” Neeson said, adding, “I go onstage and join the ladies during the break, and I was congratulating them on this discussion.”
“And then our segment starts and it’s just all this BS,” Neeson continued, saying that the entire situation — with Behar fawning over him and the others cheering her on — had made for an awkward segment as far as he was concerned.
“I’ve known Whoopi for years and Joy a little bit, but I just wasn’t impressed. I’m uncomfortable in those situations, you know?” he continued. “One of the ladies [Sunny Hostin] is a prosecutor and we had a little chat afterward and it was a good, intelligent conversation, but then the segment’s all about this — oof —thirteen, fourteen-year-old crush. It’s just a bit embarrassing.”
Parents of Missing Tot Madeleine McCann Agree to DNA-Test Woman Claiming to Be Their Daughter
Missing British child Madeleine McCann’s parents have agreed to a DNA test for a Polish woman who believes she’s their daughter — though even representatives for the young woman making the stunning claims admit that her background is “messy.”
Gerry and Kate McCann, whose 3-year-old daughter, Madeleine, disappeared on vacation in Portugal over 15 years ago, are following up on Julia Faustyna’s claims that she is the kidnapped toddler, a source told the Daily Beast this week.
Faustyna, 21, became an internet sensation this month after she started posting on social media under the handle @iammadeleinemccann. Earlier this week, she updated her Instagram bio with “Kate and Gerry McCann agreed for DNA test!”
In one of her first Instagram posts, Faustyna writes that she does not remember most of her early life except “holidays in a hot place where was [a] beach and White or very light couloured [sic] buildings with apartaments [sic].”
Many of Faustyna’s posts document apparent physical similarities between herself and Madeleine, including a distinctive brown smudge on both girls’ right irises.
“I have similar eyes, shape of face, ears, lips, I had the gap between the teeths [as Madeleine],” she wrote in one post alongside several photos of both herself and the missing tot.
“I need to know the truth. I need [a] dna test and I need to talk with Madeleine’s parents. Help me!”
In other posts, Faustyna points out perceived resemblances between herself and Gerry and Kate McCann.
Madeleine, of Leicestershire, was last seen sleeping alongside her infant siblings in her family’s Praia de Luz vacation rental on May 3, 2007. When Kate McCann checked on her children around 10 p.m., she found the bedroom door and window open and Madeleine gone.
In her posts, Faustyna also shared the police sketch of the man multiple witnesses saw carrying a child in the resort the night Madeleine disappeared.
“I recognise this person..it looks very similar to my abbuser [sic],” she wrote.
While it is unclear what kind of abuse Faustyna may have suffered, she makes references in her posts to being victimized by a “German pedophile.”
News that the McCanns are reportedly pursuing Faustyna’s claims, however, comes amid growing concern about the young woman’s mental state.
“[Julia’s] mental health at this moment is not good,” spokesperson Dr. Fia Johansson, also known as “Persian Medium,” shared in a video update to Faustyna’s Instagram profile on Monday.
“She needs help,” Johansson continued, noting that Faustyna’s background is “challenging and messy.”
Johansson did not reply to The Post’s request for a comment. A representative for Gerry and Kate McCann could also not be immediately reached.
Though local authorities initially suspected Gerry and Kate of killing their daughter and disposing of her body, investigators later surmised that Madeleine was possibly kidnapped by German sex offender Christian Brückner.
Authorities reportedly are still investigating Brückner, 45, who was formally identified as a suspect in the McCann case in April 2022.
According to the Daily Beast, Brückner was a handyman in Praia de Luz at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance. He is serving a seven-year sentence for raping a 72-year-old woman at the resort in September 2005.
“We welcome the news that the Portuguese authorities have declared a German man an ‘arguido’ [suspect] in relation to the disappearance of our beloved daughter Madeleine,” the McCanns wrote on their website following Brückner’s official identification last year.
“Even though the possibility may be slim, we have not given up hope that Madeleine is still alive and we will be reunited with her.”
Michigan State University Shooter Identified
The mass shooter who killed three students and left five others in critical condition at Michigan State University was identified Tuesday as a 43-year-old local man who previously spent time behind bars on gun charges.
Anthony Dwayne McRae was IDed after he was found dead of a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound at 11:35 p.m., just over three hours after he first opened fire at the East Lansing campus.
“We have absolutely no idea what the motive was at this point,” MSU Police Interim Deputy Chief Chris Rozman said early Tuesday.
McRae “had no affiliation to the university — he was not a student, faculty or staff, current or previous.”
“I know everybody wants to know what the motive is. We don’t have an answer right now, that’s the honest truth,” Rozman said of the “heinous” attack.
McRae was finally tracked down after a local resident called a tip line during the more than three hours he was hunted after shooting up two locations at the school, officials said.
“We did recover a weapon,” the top cop said, without elaborating on what type nor if it is believed to be the same used in the mass shooting.
Records show that McRae was arrested in June 2019 with a suspected loaded firearm in his car. He was convicted and sentenced to up to 18 months, getting released on supervision in May 2021, The Detroit News said.
His late mother, Linda Gail McRae, was originally from Trenton, New Jersey, and “enjoyed worshipping and talking about the Lord, working in the church” and “caring for others,” an obit shows.
She died on Sept. 13, 2020, in Sparrow Hospital — the same Lansing hospital treating the five injured by her crazed son.
Trauma surgeon Denny Martin broke down at Tuesday’s press conference as he detailed treating the five injured, all of whom remain in critical condition Tuesday.
All five were students, as were the three killed, officials said, without identifying any.
Shots were fired in two locations on the sprawling East Lansing campus, about 90 miles northwest of Detroit.
McRae first started shooting inside an academic building called Berkey Hall, where two of the dead were found.
Rozman said “there was an absolutely overwhelming police response” with “officers in that building within minutes.”
As they treated the injured, officers started getting calls of shots fired at the nearby MSU Union building, which houses a student dining hall, where a third fatality was found.
One survivor told the “Today” show early Tuesday that the gunman had been silent when he burst through the back door of her classroom and started shooting at the 20 or so students inside.
Claire Papoulias recalled hearing “three or four gunshots directly behind” her head, immediately dropping to the floor as someone yelled that there was a shooter.
“At that moment, I thought I was gonna die. I was so scared,” she told the NBC breakfast show, praising other students for heroically racing to smash open windows to help them flee.
During the carnage, she called her mom, Natalie Papoulias, who “heard about three gunshots and screaming” on Claire’s end.
“It was my worst nightmare,” the mom said, adding she felt her legs would give way as she rushed to get in her car to race to the campus.
“I mean, I feel like she literally like dodged a bullet.”
Videos posted online showed swarms of terrified students running across the campus as officers tried to take command of the chaotic scene.
Following the first report of shots fired, students and staff at the school were ordered to “secure in place,” authorities said.
University police on Monday night sent out an alert warning the campus community to “Run, Hide, Fight.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she had called President Biden over the shooting, which she called “a weekly American problem.”
“We are all broken by an all too familiar feeling,” she said, adding: “We cannot keep going on like this.”
“Words are not good enough. We must act and we will,” Whitmer said.
The shooting comes just one day shy of the five-year anniversary of when 14 students and three teachers were killed at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Nikki Haley Announces Decision on 2024 Presidential Bid
Former South Carolina governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announced Tuesday that she is running for president, seeking the Republican nomination for the 2024 election.
In a video message posted on Twitter, Haley touted her record as South Carolina’s governor, while looking to the future and the needs of the country.
“It’s time for a new generation of leadership,” Haley stated.
Haley identified numerous threats facing the country, from the “socialist left” to Russia and China, warning that there are those who see the United States as vulnerable.
“They all think we can be bullied, kicked around. You should know this about me, I don’t put up with bullies, and when you kick back it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.”
Haley joins former President Donald Trump in the race for the GOP nomination. Haley served in Trump’s administration as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, leaving at the end of 2018 on good terms with the then-president.
Haley publicly broke away from Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, with statements condemning Trump for his words leading up to the events of that day, as well as his persistence in declaring that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
In January, Trump said Haley called him to discuss the possibility of her running against him.
“Go by your heart if you want to run,” Trump said he told Haley. And he said he told her she “should do it.”
Trump the appeared to take a dig at Haley, noting that she had previously “publicly” said she wouldn’t seek the White House in 2024 if Trump ran again.
The former president again took a mild shot at Haley in an interview with Hugh Hewitt earlier this month.
“Nikki suffers from something that’s a very tough thing to suffer from: She’s overly ambitious,” Trump said.
The field of Republicans seeking their party’s nomination is expected to grow significantly in the coming months. Rumored possibilities include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Haley’s former South Carolinian Sen. Tim Scott, and other former Trump administration officials including ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence.
As Mystery Objects Get Shot Down, U.S. Sets Up New Task Force on UFOs
The White House has announced it is putting together a new UFO task force to study the potential security risks posed by new airborne objects detected in US airspace.
The new group, created on orders from national security adviser Jake Sullivan, will see experts from the Pentagon, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies come together to analyze unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) and determine whether they are a threat.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday said: ‘Every element of the government will redouble their efforts to understand and mitigate these events,’ adding the task force would examine the ‘broader policy implications’ related to the detection and analysis of UFOs over mainland US.
The announcement came late on Monday, just one day after a US air force F-16 fighter jet shot down a UFO over the Great Lakes – the third unidentified object to be downed in as many days.
On Friday a UFO was shot down close to Deadhorse, Alaska, and on Saturday a second was downed over Yukon, Canada.
US officials are yet to collect and analyze the wreckage and are still unable to determine what the objects were, or where they were from.
A number of Republicans – and some Democrats too – have publicly demanded that the Biden administration provide as much information as possible about the UFOs.
‘People are scared, upset, & are believing crazy things being said on the internet about the 3 objects shot down by our military. There are not aliens & no evidence of them. But there is a lack of transparency from the Biden admin and simple explanations are owed to the people,’ tweeted Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Monday.
Additionally, Sen. Rand Paul tweeted: ‘As Ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I demand that POTUS and the Department of Defense tell us what they know – and what they don’t – immediately.’
The UFO narrative wasn’t helped by Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of NORAD and US Northern Command, who wouldn’t say aliens were off the table during a briefing Sunday night.
‘I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure out [what the UFOs are]. I haven’t ruled out anything,’ VanHerck said.
‘At this point we continue to assess every threat or potential threat, unknown, that approaches North America with an attempt to identify it.’
The object detected Sunday was described by defense officials as an unmanned ‘octagonal structure’ with ‘potential surveillance capabilities’ and strings attached to it.
An F-16 fighter jet shot it down from around 20,000ft over the Great Lakes at 2:42pm – after two other crafts were destroyed over Alaska and Canada on Friday and Saturday.
The UFO shot down over Alaska has not yet been recovered, though analysts said it was about the size of a car.
The one shot down over Canada was shaped like a cylinder, officials said.
A Chinese balloon was shot down on February 4 over South Carolina, meaning the US air force downed four objects in just eight days.
VanHerck said that, unlike the Chinese spy balloon, all three UFOs gunned down over the weekend were of a similar size and speed.
He added that the since the Chinese balloon was found in late January, the US adjusted its radar so it could track slower objects. He explained that this radar adjustment, plus the heightened state of alert following the Chinese balloon, explains the frequency of UFO sightings.
‘With some adjustments, we’ve been able to get a better categorization of radar tracks now,’ he said, ‘and that’s why I think you’re seeing these, plus there’s a heightened alert to look for this information.’
VanMerck said the air force is still unsure how the three objects were staying aloft, as they currently have unknown propulsion systems. He added: ‘We’re calling them objects, not balloons, for a reason.’
Marco Rubio, the Vice Chairman of the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, tweeted: ‘The last 72 hours revealed to the public what was happening for years, unidentified aircraft routinely operating over restricted US airspace.
‘This is why I pushed to take this seriously and created a permanent UAP (unidentified aerial phenomena – equivalent to UFOs) task force two years ago.’
But the White House press secretary and Kirby sought to calm the situation yesterday.
‘I know there have been questions and concerns about this but there is no, again, no indication of aliens or extra terrestrial activity with these recent takedowns. Wanted to make sure the American people knew that, all of you knew that,’ Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Kirby meanwhile said the three objects could be innocuous.
‘There could be completely benign and totally explainable reasons for why these objects are flying around up there. Certainly don’t have to be nefarious at all,’ Kirby said.
‘There are corporate entities that operate these kinds of things. There are academic research institutions that do this sort of thing. We just don’t know.’
‘As soon as we can find out, we can get the debris, we can find out, we will absolutely share what we can,’ Kirby added.
NEW: US Military Recovers Electronic Sensors from Downed Chinese Spy Balloon
The US military recovered the electronic mechanism and key sensors — believed to be used for intelligence gathering — from the Chinese spy balloon shot down earlier this month, officials announced Monday.
“Crews have been able to recover significant debris from the site, including all of the priority sensor and electronics pieces identified as well as large sections of the structure,” the US military’s Northern Command said in a statement.
The giant balloon — which Beijing denied was a government device used for surveillance — was taken out by a US fighter jet off South Carolina’s coast on Feb. 4 after it hovered over the country for a week.
The parts were recovered from the ocean by Navy personnel in the days after.
Members of the FBI’s evidence response team have since been studying the remnants to assess how extensive its surveillance capabilities were, but didn’t have access to the majority of the balloon’s “payload” — its onboard electronics. The military now has possession of the critical electronics.
The discovery of the Chinese spy balloon led US officials to be on high alert for other potential foreign intelligence-gathering devices flying in US airways that were not detected by radar.
US military officials located and shot down three objects in as many days over the weekend in an unprecedented move.
Federal authorities said little is known about the latest three objects, including how they stay aloft, where they are coming from and if they were also being used to spy on the US.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the objects were never a military threat to people on the ground, but were shot down because they could have been a risk to civil aviation and “potentially an intelligence collection threat.”
Austin added that US military teams have not yet recovered debris from the three objects shot down — which were significantly smaller than the Chinese spy balloon.
US officials have not said whether the three objects are connected or believed to be coming from one source.
Ivanka Trump Forced to Rush to Hospital After Receiving Call That ‘Every Parent Dreads’
Former first daughter Ivanka Trump shared to Instagram on Sunday that her son, Theo, was rushed to the hospital after breaking his wrist at school.
“This week I received a call from the school nurse that every parent dreads,” Trump wrote. “My 6-year-old son Theo broke his wrist while playing soccer. Since I was over an hour’s drive away, an ambulance took Theo, accompanied by the school nurse, to the closest hospital. Jared and I raced to meet him, Jared arriving at the same time as the ambulance and me getting there a few minutes later.”
Trump said it was a “bad break” but that her son was well taken care of.
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“Theo’s visit culminated with two ice pops, which led to him declaring ‘this is the best day ever!’” she posted. “Jared and I are so grateful to the doctors, nurses, EMTs, and the hospital staff who cared for our son. With gratitude in our hearts, we have made a donation to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.”
The Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital responded to Trump’s post, writing in part, “we’re so grateful for your trust in our skilled medical staff! It’s a privilege to care for Theo, and all the sweet children who come through our doors.”
“Thank you for your support – it enables us to continue to provide high-quality care with the utmost compassion,” the hospital added.
Viral Super Bowl Ad Tricks Fans, Gets Big Reaction on Social Media: ‘I Yelled at Every Single Person in the Room’
One of the most talked-about commercials from Super Bowl LVII comes courtesy of Tubi, and it’s getting attention for intentionally tricking most of the nation.
The ad for the streaming service Tubi made most people believe that someone was sitting on the remote and changing the channel during a pivotal point in the game.
The 15-second spot showed what looked like the Super Bowl broadcast returning from a commercial break with Fox Sports announcers Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen. But then it looked like the screen switched to someone scrolling to the Tubi TV app and searching through the Tubi library, looking for something else to watch.
Tubi shared on its YouTube video caption, “No, you didn’t sit on the remote. But on Super Bowl Sunday, we fooled audiences into thinking they did.”
Viewers quickly headed to social media with their reactions, saying the commercial had fooled them into thinking someone in the room was changing the channel.
“Tubi commercial had us all looking for the remote,” The Game Day NFL tweeted with the laughing/crying emoji.
“That tubi commercial definitely made me start a fight with my husband,” another person admitted.
“That Tubi commercial came on & I yelled at every single person in this room,” a third Twitter reaction says.
The commercial was called “Interface Interruption,” per The Hollywood Reporter. The ad was produced by the agency Mischief in partnership with Tubi, the publication noted.
“Nicole [chief marketing officer at Tubi] and the Tubi team came to us with a unique brief for the streaming sector: Reveal Tubi to the world, personality-first. Not title-first. These spots reveal a personality we’ve had fun creating over the past few months: quirky, playful and a bit unexpected,” Greg Hahn, co-founder and CCO, said.
He continued, “Tubi is poised to be the troublemaker of the streaming world.”
Other popular commercials from the 2023 Super Bowl broadcast included Ben Affleck pretending to work at Dunkin, and Sarah McLachlan’s Busch Light ad, which featured the song “Angel” as a callback to her emotionally charged American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ads from the past.
The M&M’s “spokescandies” also announced they were returning after a staged hiatus, and one commercial revealed that Michael Keaton would reprise his role of Batman in “The Flash,” which is scheduled for release on June 16, 2023.
‘NYPD Blue’ Child Star Austin Majors Dead at 27
Austin Majors, the child actor who became famous for his role as Theo Sipowicz in “NYPD Blue” has died, reportedly from fentanyl poisoning.
Majors, 27, also known as Austin Setmajer-Raglin, appeared in 48 episodes of “NYPD Blue” as well as “E.R.,” “NCIS,” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
Majors “was a loving, artistic, brilliant, and kind human being. Austin took great joy and pride in his acting career. He was an active Eagle Scout and graduated Salutatorian in High School. He went on to graduate from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a passion of directing and music producing,” the family said in a statement to TMZ.
“Austin’s younger sister, Kali, says her fondest memories with Austin were growing up on set with him, volunteering at events with ‘Kids With a Cause,’ and backpacking together,” the statement continued. “Austin was the kind of son, brother, grandson and nephew that made us proud and we will miss him deeply forever.”
Kali Raglin told Fox News Digital that officials said her brother’s cause of death came from “suspected fentanyl poisoning with an ongoing investigation.”
According to Variety, Majors had been staying at a Los Angeles facility for the homeless.
On Sunday, Kali Raglin wrote on Instagram. “My big brother, Austin, is gone. He died last night. It’s so surreal to me still. He was only 27 with so much life left to live.”
“NYPD Blue, “ created by Steven Bochco and David Milch, ran from September 21, 1993 to March 1, 2005 and became ABC’s longest-running primetime one-hour drama until passed by “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2016. Actor Dennis Franz played the lead character, NYPD detective Andy Sipowicz, father of Theo.
A 2003 episode of the show, titled “Nude Awakening,” showed Theo entering a bathroom where Connie, played by actress Charlotte Ross, was nude. Ross’ nudity from behind, which lasted seven seconds, prompted protests from viewers and the FCC to levy a a $1.2 million indecency fine against ABC which was later vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York.
Bochco later told GQ that he and then-ABC president Bob Iger (now CEO of Disney) “sat in his office like two little boys, drawing dirty pictures: naked men and women” while considering “How much of this can you see? How much of that?” without angering the Federal Communications Commission.
Inflation Rises More Than Expected — Up 6.4% from Year Ago
The consumer price index (CPI) rose 6.4% in January on an annual basis, hotter than expected, but remained steady compared to last month.
The latest read presents more challenges for Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell who has hinted that disinflation is underway.
Still, elevated costs for everyday staples remain stubbornly high.
The Labor Department reported that the CPI, a broad measure of the price of everyday goods that includes gasoline, groceries and rents, rose 0.5% on the month in January after a surprise decline of 0.1% in December.
Annually prices remain above 6% but are down sharply from the 9.1% surge in June, which marked the highest inflation rate in almost 41 years.
Still, inflation is expected to remain roughly three times higher than the pre-pandemic average on an annualized basis, underscoring the persistent financial burden placed on millions of U.S. households by high prices.
When factoring out volatile food and energy costs, the core consumer price index rose 0.4% in January, slightly above December’s 0.3% increase. Annually, core CPI ticked up 5.6% in January, more than expected.
It’s still lower than September’s 6.6% increase, which was the highest in 40 years.
Powell has previously acknowledged that disinflation has begun, but the Fed chairman also says there is still a long way to go to reach the central bank’s desired 2.0% inflation rate.
The markets initially welcomed this message, sending risk assets like stocks higher. But recent concerns that the Fed will keep rates higher for longer have investors worried about a policy mistake.