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Mueller report finds no proof of collusion with Russia, does not exonerate Trump

Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo, Chad Day and Julie Pace, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Mar 25th, 2019

The Justice Department said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation did not find evidence that President Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or co-ordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller also investigated whether Trump obstructed justice but did not come to a definitive answer.

In a four-page letter to Congress, Attorney General William Barr said Mueller’s report “does not exonerate” the president on obstruction and instead “sets out evidence on both sides of the question.”

Barr released his four-page summary of Mueller’s report Sunday afternoon. Mueller wrapped up his investigation on Friday with no new indictments, bringing to a close a probe that has shadowed Trump for nearly two years.

But the broader fight is not over.

Congress’ top Democrats, Chuck Schumer of New York in the Senate and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, put out a statement saying Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers, including about his own decision not to prosecute on possible obstruction.

“Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the special counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report,” they said. Trump’s claim of complete exoneration “directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility,” they added.

The Justice Department summary sets up a battle between Barr and Democrats, who called for Mueller’s full report to be released and vowed to press on with their own investigation.

Meanwhile the White House claimed vindication. For Trump, Barr’s report was a victory on a key question that has hung over his presidency from the start: Did his campaign work with Russia to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton?

President Donald Trump tweeted the report suggests “complete and total exoneration.”

Trump spoke to reporters before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington from a weekend at his private club in Florida, touting the Justice Department’s summary, saying “it was a shame” the nation had to go through the investigation.

Trump claims the report found “there was no collusion with Russia, there was no obstruction” and is also lashing out at the investigation, claiming without evidence that it was “an illegal takedown that failed.”

“The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

In reality, Mueller’s investigation left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey and drafting an incomplete explanation about his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign. That left it to the attorney general to decide.

After consulting with DOJ officials, Barr said he and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, determined the evidence “is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offence.”

Barr, nominated to his job by Trump last fall, said their decision was based on the evidence uncovered by Mueller and not based on whether a sitting president can be indicted.

Barr’s chief of staff called White House counsel Emmet Flood at 3 p.m. Sunday to brief him on the report to Congress.

The findings were released to Congress and the public without any input from Mueller according to a senior Justice Department official who was not authorized to be identified and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mueller’s investigation ensnared nearly three dozen people, senior Trump campaign operatives among them.

The probe illuminated Russia’s assault on the American political system, painted the Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia-related contacts.

Mueller submitted his report to Barr instead of directly to Congress and the public because, unlike independent counsels such as Ken Starr in the case of President Bill Clinton, his investigation operated under the close supervision of the Justice Department, which appointed him.

Mueller was assigned to the job in May 2017 by Rosenstein, who oversaw much of his work. Barr and Rosenstein analyzed Mueller’s report on Saturday, labouring to condense it into a summary letter of main conclusions.

President Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr.  also issued a statement saying that the summary of findings “proves what those of us with sane minds knew all along,” that there “was zero collusion with Russia.” Trump Jr. came under scrutiny during the investigation, for helping arrange that Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham says “the cloud hanging over President Trump has been removed” by special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Graham, a close ally of Trump, also says it is “a bad day for those hoping the Mueller investigation would take President Trump down.”

Top House Judiciary Republican Doug Collins said “there is no constitutional crisis.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said “it is time we move on for the good of the nation.”

However, the House Judiciary Committee chairman says Congress needs to hear from Barr about his decision and see “all the underlying evidence.”

Mueller “clearly and explicitly is not exonerating the President, said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. in a series of tweets, but Barr took two days “to tell the American people that while the President is not exonerated, there will be no action by DOJ.”

“There must be full transparency in what Special Counsel Mueller uncovered to not exonerate the President from wrongdoing. DOJ owes the public more than just a brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work,” Nadler tweeted.

Barr said that Mueller “thoroughly” investigated the question of whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with Russia’s election interference, issuing more than 2,800 subpoenas, obtaining nearly 500 search warrants and interviewing 500 witnesses.

However, Mueller was not able to interview Trump in person.

Barr said Mueller also catalogued the president’s actions including “many” that took place in “public view,” a possible nod to Trump’s public attacks on investigators and witnesses.

In the letter, Barr said he concluded that none of Trump’s actions constituted a federal crime that prosecutors could prove in court.

Democrats are reminding that the House voted nearly unanimously, 420-0, to release the full Mueller report, which they say is more important not than ever.

“This is about transparency and truth — and a 4 page summary from Trump’s AG doesn’t cut it,” tweeted Rep. Mark Takano, D-Ca., the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “The American people deserve to see the whole thing.”

Nadler also added that Barr would be called to testify before the House Judiciary Committee to explain his decision.

With files from News Staff

Inquest into fatal Radiohead stage collapse starts Monday

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 25th, 2019

An inquest is set to get underway Monday into the fatal stage collapse at a Radiohead concert in Toronto nearly seven years ago.

The band’s drum technician, Scott Johnson, was killed when a massive structure crashed down on him on June 16, 2012 — just hours before Radiohead was set to take the stage at Downsview Park.

Charges in the case were stayed because the case took too long to get to trial.

The inquest, which is expected to last three weeks and hear from roughly 25 witnesses, will examine the circumstances around Johnson’s death, but will not assign blame.

A jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar incidents.

The victim’s father, Ken Johnson, and Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke have been highly critical of the judicial process.

“They can’t bring Scott back — that’s obviously painful,” Ken Johnson told The Canadian Press last year. “But it needs to be clear. I think people need to see what’s happened.”

When the British band played in Toronto last summer for the first time since the incident, Yorke did not hold back.

“The people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable,” he told the crowd at Scotiabank Arena in July 2018.

After an investigation, 13 charges were laid under provincial health and safety laws against the show’s promoter, Live Nation, contractor Optex Staging and engineer Domenic Cugliari.

The case went off the rails when the presiding judge at trial declared he had lost jurisdiction after being appointed to a higher court. Another judge declared a mistrial and a new hearing was planned.

Defence lawyers argued the charges should be stayedbecause the delays violated their clients’ rights to a timely trial, which was expected to wrap up in mid-2018, five years after the charges were laid.

The new judge agreed, noting the Supreme Court of Canada’s so-called Jordan decision, which set a ceiling of 18 months for proceedings in provincial court.

Photos released of ‘violent’ kidnapping suspects in Markham

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Mar 25th, 2019

York police have released photos of the alleged armed kidnapping suspects and the vehicle used in the incident.

Wanzhen Lu, 22, was taken from an the underground parking garage of a condominium building at 15 Water Walk Drive, in the area of Highway 7 and Birchmount Road, around 6 p.m. Saturday.

Lu is Chinese student studying in Canada and lived in the condo building where he was taken. York police have been in touch with his family from China and the Chinese consulate.

Three masked men, one armed with a Taser-like weapon, approached Lu and forced him into the van, police said. The victim was shocked several times with the taser.  A fourth suspect stayed in the van.

His girlfriend, who was with him at the time, was not harmed and immediately alerted condo security after the incident, who then called police.

The van is described as a 2008 to 2010 black Dodge Caravan with no front license plate. The license plate on the back of the van is CEAR350. The Ontario plate was stolen from Peel Region on March 11.

Police say the license plate may have been removed since the incident.

 

The first suspect was a male wearing a mask, blue pants and a black jacket. Another is described as a dark-skinned male, around six foot one inch wearing a black Canada goose jacket.

The third suspect was wearing dark blue jeans with a jacket and is described as a dark-skinned male with a heavier build, around six foot two inches. The last suspect was wearing a green and yellow jacket with a hood.

Lu was last seen wearing glasses, a black hooded sweatshirt, black jeans and white running shoes. The photo below was taken on Saturday.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police.

1 man injured in Liberty Village shooting

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Mar 25th, 2019

One man is in hospital after a shooting in the the Liberty Village area on Sunday evening.

Police say multiple shots were heard in the area of Dufferin and Liberty streets around 6 p.m.

They say a man, who is believed to be the victim of the shooting, made his way to hospital with gunshot wounds. He is in serious but non-life threatening condition.

Officers found shell casings in a parking lot in the area and a large area was taped off as they combed the scene for more evidence.

A witness tells CityNews he saw a car fleeing the scene and it struck a number of other cars.

An investigation is ongoing. No suspect information is available at this time.

No injuries reported in Parkdale apartment fire

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Mar 22nd, 2019

An early-morning fire in Parkdale forced as many as 30 people out of their homes early Friday morning.

Emergency crews were called to a four-storey apartment building on King Street West near Dufferin Street around 4:30 a.m.

Officials said the fire started in a bedroom on the third floor of the building

“When (the) first crews arrived, they had light smoke in the stairwell and when they gained access to the third floor there was thick black smoke and heat and flames,” Platoon chief Dan Sell explained.

The building was evacuated as crews worked to extinguish the fire.

Sell said the building’s smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors were working at the time of the fire.

No injuries were reported.

“The crews did an excellent job of isolating that area and extinguishing the fire and were able to conduct primary and secondary searches of the area and everyone was safe,” Sell said.

TTC buses were called to the scene to temporarily house the tenants.

There has been no word on what exactly caused the fire. Officials will continue to investigate.

King Street was closed in both directions from Elm Grove Avenue to Dufferin but has since reopened.

‘Ring of peace’ events in GTA mark one week since New Zealand shooting

News Staff and The Associated Press | posted Friday, Mar 22nd, 2019

A number of community groups in GTA and beyond are planning to gather at mosques Friday afternoon, in a show of solidarity for the Muslim community.

The peace gatherings come one week after an Islamophobic gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Christian and Jewish communities are inviting everyone to create a “ring of peace” outside the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre on Bloor Street as people arrive for afternoon prayers.

Around the same time, other interfaith gatherings will also be held at Madinah Masjid on the Danforth and at the Baitul Islam Mosque in Vaughan. People are invited to form a “ring of peace” around the mosques.

Elsewhere in Hamilton, a vigil will be held at the Hamilton Mountain Mosque, where everyone will form a solidarity circle around the mosque.

In New Zealand, people observed the Muslim call to prayer on Friday — a day that also saw the mass funeral for 26 of the victims of the rampage, including the youngest victim, three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim.

While some congregated in Hagley Park opposite the Al Noor mosque to reflect and pray, thousands more were listening in on the radio or watching on television as the event was broadcast live. The prayer was followed by two minutes of silence.

The observance comes the day after the government announced a ban on “military-style” semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines like the weapons that were used in last Friday’s attacks.

Chicken nuggets recalled over possible salmonella contamination

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Mar 22nd, 2019

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has announced a recall of a frozen breaded chicken product over fears of salmonella contamination.

The agency says Sofina Foods Inc. is recalling Janes brand Pub Style Chicken Nuggets from the marketplace.

The recall affects 800-gram packages with a best before date of December 15th, 2019 and a UPC code: 0 69299 12490 3.

The CFIA says there have been “illnesses associated with the consumption of this product,” but it doesn’t offer any more details.

It’s the third time this year the agency has announced a recall on frozen chicken nuggets, after previous notices affecting Compliments brand and Crisp & Delicious brand products.

It also follows the recall of Janes brand Pub Style Chicken Burgers last October and Pub Style Chicken Strips in November.

Anti-discrimination organization wants to map offenders with hate atlas

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Mar 22nd, 2019

VANCOUVER — An advocacy organization says it wants to map hatred and discrimination across Canada in a move that is prompting warnings of caution from one civil liberties group.

The Vancouver-based Morgane Oger Foundation has issued a call for volunteers to help build the Canadian Atlas of Populist Extremism, to be known as CAPE.

Founder Morgane Oger said the mapping tool would tie together extremist groups and people regularly associated with them, and also map incidents involving hate across Canada.

The idea is to shed light on how hatred is propagated, she said, while being mindful that allegations can’t be tossed out willy-nilly.

“We can’t say someone is a murderer unless they are in fact a murderer, but maybe it would be interesting to see it’s always the same dozen people who are doing anti-trans advocacy in the (B.C.) Interior or the white supremacy groups are working with each other,” said Oger, a former provincial NDP candidate and a member of the party’s executive.

Oger said the project is in its infancy and the foundation has not yet determined exactly what types of actions, groups or individuals would be documented, but it believes the data could be useful to academics, law enforcement and others.

It could include a rating system to categorize incidents by severity, she said, giving hate-motivated murders and discriminatory graffiti as examples that would receive different grades.

Other groups have tackled similar projects. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network, based in Toronto, says its mandate is to monitor, research and counter hate groups by providing education and information on them to the public, media, researchers, courts, law enforcement and community groups.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in the United States has a “hate map,” which lists 1,020 groups. They include 51 Ku Klux Klan chapters, 49 anti-LGBT groups, 11 radical traditional Catholic groups and a combined 412 black and white nationalist groups.

The centre doesn’t list individuals, only organizations, and uses a similar definition to the FBI for them. The law centre defines a hate group as “an organization that — based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities — has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

Micheal Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said the CAPE project may be helpful, legal and serve as a positive research tool.

But she warned that there could be privacy issues involved in posting individuals’ information online and said it’s important to distinguish between actual hate from differing opinions on certain topics.

“All kinds of things that people think are hateful constitute genuine political speech,” she said, adding that knowing if someone is against an immigration policy isn’t enough information to conclude they are racist, for example.

Until the foundation lands on a specific model, it’s unclear if there would be any issues around rights, she said.

But she said it’s also worth asking if a map would contribute to healthy political discourse and warned against too loose of a definition of “association.” In a healthy democracy, groups with opposing views should be able to attend one another’s events without being painted with the same brush because it could help build dialogue and understanding.

While governments and governing players are expected to be transparent, we have different standards for individual citizens, she said.

“We don’t ask citizens to be transparent because we’re sovereign. It’s the state that is supposed to be transparent to us,” she said.

Oger said the mapping project is still in its infancy and the organization has not yet decided how much information to make public but it does not want to encourage violence in any form.

She pointed to Statistics Canada figures that show a rise in police-reported hate crimes. After steady but relatively small increases since 2014, hate crime reported by police rose sharply in 2017 to 2,073, up 47 per cent over the previous year and largely due to an increase in hate-related property crimes, StatCan says.

Higher numbers were seen across most types of hate crime, with incidents targeting the Muslim, Jewish and black populations accounting for most of the national increase. The increases were seen largely in Ontario and Quebec.

Police-reported hate crimes refer to criminal incidents that police investigations conclude were motivated by hatred toward an identifiable group.

According to a 2014 StatCan survey, Canadians self-reported being the victim of more than 330,000 criminal incidents that they perceived as being motivated by hate but two thirds were not reported to police.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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