The FBI and five other law-enforcement agencies have reportedly been working together for months on an investigation into whether the Russian government covertly sent money to aid President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign. “One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said,” McClatchy DC reported on Wednesday. According to sources who spoke with outlet, the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and representatives of the director of national intelligence are all involved in the extensive probe. The inter-agency inquiry reportedly began last spring, long before the top cops received information about a dossier, written by a British spy, alleging the Russian government had damaging information on Trump.
Rick Perry, who when he ran for president previously forgot the name of the Department of Energy during a debate, reportedly didn't know what the job would entail when president-elect Donald Trump selected him for the position in his administration. He reportedly thought that the job would only involve him in issues related to the American oil and gas industry and didn't know it also entailed maintaining the nation's nuclear stockpile. “If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy,’” Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who advised Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on the Trump transition’s Energy Department team in its early days told The New York Times. “If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.”
Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines were all admitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Bagwell and Raines both easily cleared the 75-percent threshold with votes. Raines made it in his tenth and final year of eligibility. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds missed the cutoff with 54.1 percent and 53.8 percent respectively, likely due to their use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Vice president-elect Mike Pence slammed the decision by President Obama to commute Chelsea Manning's sentence this week. “To commute Private Manning’s sentence was a mistake. Private Manning is a traitor and should not have been turned into a martyr, as Senator Cotton said,” Pence told Fox News’ Bret Baier on Wednesday. “Private Manning’s actions compromised our national security, endangered American personnel downrange, compromised individuals in Afghanistan who were cooperating with our forces by leaking 750,000 documents to WikiLeaks.” Pence was then pressed as to whether Donald Trump's administration would prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and said that the U.S. would “bring to bear the law on his actions and hold him accountable.”
During a forum with candidates running to become chair of the Democratic National Committee, candidates were asked about billionaire donor Haim Saban who called Representative Keith Ellison an "anti-Semite." Everyone defended Ellison and the Congressman said he had spoken with Saban recently. “Keith is a great guy,” Jaime Harrison, a fellow candidate said. “I don’t believe that there’s an anti-Semitic bone in his body.” Ellison said that he had spoken to Saban recently about the incident and that the two men were “on the road” to reconciling the problem.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday defended his decision to commute the bulk of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence. Speaking during his final press conference, the outgoing president addressed concerns that releasing Manning after six years in prison might send the message that leaking military and diplomatic documents will be met with light punishment. “Let’s be clear,” he responded, “Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence. So the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital, classified information would think that it goes unpunished, I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence [she] served.” He added: “Given that she went to trial; that due process was carried out; that she took responsibility for her crime; that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received; and that she had served a significant amount of time, it made sense to commute—and not pardon—her sentence.”
The Trump International Hotel in Washington has banned the press from its premises during the inauguration week, Politico reported on Wednesday. “Media is not allowed in this week in respect of the privacy of our guests,” a hotel official told the D.C. outlet after one of its reporters attempted to enter the hotel and was turned away. Such a ban might run afoul of Trump’s lease with the federal government to use the Old Post Office building. According to the agreement, the public is allowed to access the historic building, “subject to... reasonable rules and time restrictions,” unless there is a “risk to public safety.” Additionally, D.C. legal code prohibits hotels from denying “the full and equal enjoyment” of its facilities to people based on “source of income.”
According to a statement from the office of former president George H.W. Bush, he has been admitted to the intensive care unit at Houston Methodist Hospital due to an "acute respiratory problem" stemming from pneumonia. Doctors reportedly performed a procedure to clear his airway. President Bush is currently stable, according to the statement. His wife, Barbara Bush was also admitted this morning after experiencing "fatigue and coughing."
George H.W. Bush Hospitalized >
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Wednesday, via his lawyer, that President Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence does not meet the conditions of his offer to be extradited to the U.S. in return for the Army leaker’s release. “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case,” WikiLeaks tweeted this year. However, according to a statement from his lawyer, “Mr. Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning’s sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought. Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.” Assange has not been charged with a crime in the United States, but believes if he were to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, he could be extradited stateside for espionage-related charges. According to WikiLeaks, “Assange is still happy to come to the US provided all his rights are guarenteed [sic] despite White House now saying Manning was not quid-quo-pro [sic].”
Nearly 30 Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) have received a second round of bomb threats, resulting in evacuations for the second time in two weeks, the JCC Association of North America said in a statement Wednesday. According to the organization, 28 centers in 17 states have been affected, although all were cleared by police by the afternoon, without any explosive devices discovered. Among those evacuated were JCCs in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida, and California. One of the JCC Association security advisors, David Posner, thanked the Department of Homeland Security for their collaboration with the centers after the first scare a few weeks ago. "While the bombs in question are hoaxes, the calls are not. We know that law enforcement at both the local and national level are continuing to investigate the ongoing situation," Posner said in a statement. The Anti-Defamation League is also working with law enforcement to investigate the threats.