Jack Smith named DOJ special counsel to oversee Trump investigations – National & International News – FRI 18Nov2022

Attorney General Merrick Garland names Jack Smith (pictured) as special counsel to lead two criminal probes of Donald Trump.

 

Garland names special counsel to oversee Trump probes. Twitter imploding under Musk; engineers warn platform could fail as soon as Monday. Biden administration gives Saudi Crown Prince immunity in journalist’s killing.

 

 

NATIONAL NEWS

AG Garland names Jack Smith special counsel to oversee Trump investigations

Three days after Donald Trump announced his 2024 candidacy for President, Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced the appointment of a special counsel to oversee two separate federal criminal probes into Trump. Garland has named Jack Smith, a veteran Justice Department prosecutor, to decide whether to issue indictments in the two cases.

The Justice Department appoints special counsels in politically sensitive cases, often to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Garland himself is a political appointee of the Biden administration himself. By investigating an announced Presidential candidate who could potentially face Biden in 2024, Garland would open himself up to accusations of prosecuting Trump for political reasons. Trump likely will level that accusation anyway and will try to use it as a talking point in his defense against any potential prosecution. Appointing Smith will at least distance Garland’s office from the case.

Jack Smith is a former chief of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, which investigates public corruption. He has extensive experience in handling cases linked to national security and bribery and corruption of public officials. Smith will decide whether to prosecute Trump for his mishandling of the classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago. The other probe is related to efforts by Trump and his advisors to overturn his loss in the 2020 Presidential election. 

Notably, a federal courthouse in Washington impaneled three new grand juries today, possibly in connection with Smith’s probe.

A separate criminal probe of Trump’s election interference led by Fulton County DA Fani Willis in Georgia is also expected to issue indictments in December.

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Twitter imploding under Musk; engineers warn platform could fail as soon as Monday

So far, Elon Musk’s reign over social media platform Twitter has been one catastrophe after another. Musk immediately fired many of the top executives, followed by several department heads. Then he laid off half of Twitter’s workforce. A few days later, he asked some of them to come back a few days later when he realized he needed their expertise to keep the platform running.

Now, thousands more have quit after Musk issued an ultimatum, demanding they either be “extremely hardcore” and commit to working 80-hour weeks or quit. There’s no publicly available information to confirm how many have left, but statements from several former employees suggest there’s hardly anyone left. When Musk took over, there were about 7,500 employees- now anecdotal reports suggest there may be fewer than 2,000.

According former Twitter VP Bruce Daisley, former company engineers are saying that the platform could “fail as soon as Monday”. Most of the staff who were crucial to keeping the platform working have reportedly left the building. Twitter has crashed before, but the people who knew how to get it back up quickly are out the door. Any outage could now take days or weeks to rectify. A lot of Twitter users are now posting messages telling their followers where else to find them online in case the platform goes down for good.

To make matters worse, Twitter’s advertisers are spooked at the prospect of no one being at the wheel to control hate speech and other undesirable content on the platform. Advertisers are currently Twitter’s main revenue source and they are backing out in droves. 

Amid the tumult, Musk has locked employees out of their offices until Monday, November 21, which is never a good sign.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Biden administration gives Saudi Crown Prince immunity in journalist’s killing

In 2018, Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khasshoggi was brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. US intelligence concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (sometimes called MBS) had ordered the killing. While there have been some prosecutions in Turkey of low-level henchmen, MBS himself has so far eluded justice.

Hatice Cengiz, Khasshoggi’s fiancé at the time of his death, and a civil rights group founded by Khasshoggi filed a civil case in a US District Court in a last ditch attempt to hold MBS responsible for Khasshoggi’s assassination. But now, the US State Department has filed a recommendation with the court to shield the Crown Prince from prosecution on the grounds that he is now effectively Saudi Arabia’s head of government. MBS was recently appointed Prime Minister.

Cengiz responded to the ruling on Twitter saying that “Jamal died again today”. Cengiz was waiting outside the consulate as Khasshoggi was being strangled and then dismembered inside. She had accompanied Khasshoggi to the consulate, where he was to file some papers that would allow them to marry.

As a general rule, heads of government enjoy broad immunity from prosecution in US courts. This is part of an agreement to protect US diplomats abroad. But the State Department also has the option to stay silent in such cases and advocates for justice in Khasshoggi’s death had hoped they would. During his 2020 campaign, Biden had promised to hold MBS accountable for Khasshoggi’s death, in contrast to then-President Trump who at the time dismissed the findings of his own intelligence service. 

However, after gas prices rose this year, Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with MBS in hopes the oil-rich country would increase production. Despite this, OPEC+ voted in October to decrease production by about 1 million barrels a day. 

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