Attorney General William Barr told prosecutors to bring aggressive charges against those involved in protests including sedition, according to reports.
The charge of sedition is levied for alleged attempts to overthrow the government and has rarely been used, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Barr also called for criminal charges against Seattle’s mayor over the city’s autonomous police-free zone during the protests earlier this summer.
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Attorney General William Barr told prosecutors to bring aggressive charges against those involved in protests including bringing charges of plotting to overthrow the government, several outlets reported.
Barr reportedly made the assertion in call with federal prosecutors last week where he also said that demonstrations that could turn violent are likely to increase ahead of the November presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Some on the call including US attorneys from across the country were alarmed by the suggestion to charge protesters with sedition, The New York Times reported.
The Journal reported that sedition charges are rarely used. Legal experts said in order for there to be a sedition charge there has to be proof that there was a conspiracy to attack government officials or agents that posed an “imminent danger,” and they warned that there’s a fine line between anti-government sentiment that could be protected as free speech, and a plot to overthrow the government.
Two people briefed on the discussions told The Times that Barr also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to see if they could bring criminal charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan over the autonomous police free zone that was created by protesters earlier this summer.
“The attorney general seems personally, deeply offended by the autonomous zone and wants someone to pay for it,” Chuck Rosenberg, the former US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, told The Times. “If the people of Seattle are personally offended, they have political recourse. There is no reason to try to stretch a criminal statute to cover the conduct.”
In June, President Donald Trump called protesters in the zone “domestic terrorists.” Durkan defended the protesters and said: “Demanding we do better as a society and provide true equity for communities of color is not terrorism — it is patriotism.”
According to The Journal, more than 200 people have been charged with violent crimes such as arson, assault on federal officers, or gun-related crimes in relation to the protests, but FBI officials have said those charged are mostly “opportunistic individuals” who took advantage of the protests.
Trump has called for protests to be quashed and advocated for more cases and longer sentences to be brought against violent protesters.
Barr’s calls for aggressive charges and those against Durkan come as Barr told a Chicago Tribune columnistt that if Trump lost the November election the US faced a “clear fork in the road,” and that it would on the brink of destruction.
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Trump without providing evidence says reports he paid little tax and has dire finances are ‘totally fake’
Donald Trump reportedly twice-paid as little as $750 (£586) in income tax when he entered the White House, new revelations about the president’s tax returns have shown.
The US president, whose television and political careers were built on his billionaire-businessman status, has now had that disputed by tax records seen by the New York Times, which published details on Sunday, some five weeks before election day.
Documents spanning two decades revealed two $750 (£582) income tax payments made as he campaigned in 2016, and again when he entered the White House in 2017, but otherwise none for almost a decade.
Mr Trump, who denied the report on Sunday night as “totally fake”, is said to have avoided paying any income taxes whatsoever for 10 of the previous 15 years, having argued that he lost more money than he made.
The NYT report did not include details of his personal tax returns for 2018 or 2019.
Despite reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in income over two decades, Mr Trump almost erased his tax bills by reporting heavy losses across his businesses – all the while spending on loss-making investments.
But, having used substantial amounts of that cash in the following years – much of it spent on loss-making golf courses across the world – the president’s cashflow was described as now being in bad health.
That included deals connected to his personal brand as well as the television show “The Apprentice,” which were alleged to have raised about $427.4 million (£333 million) for the future president altogether, according to the NYT analysis.
His golf resort near Miami, the Trump National Doral, was said to have been the source of most of his $315 million (£245m) losses from golf courses since 2000, whilst the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC recorded over $55 million (£42m) in losses since it opened in 2016.
The same year, the Republican presidential candidate had asked reporters why anybody would want to see his tax returns, telling the Associated Press there was “nothing to learn from them”.
In spite of that claim, the NYT report also revealed how Mr Trump has feuded with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for almost a decade over a nearly $73 million (£57m) tax refund he previously claimed.
If the IRS were to rule against him, Mr Trump could soon be responsible for paying over $100 million (£78m) to the federal government.
According to the NYT, the president will also become personally liable for paying-back more than $300 million (£234m) in loans in the next four years.
“It’s fake news. Totally fake news. Made up,” Mr Trump said, without addressing any of the story’s specifics or providing evidence to support his denials.
“Actually, I paid tax and you will see that as soon as my tax returns … they are under audit,” the president added, repeating a common refrain he uses to explain why he has not released his financial files, a customary step taken by every major-party presidential candidate for decades.
Should he lose the presidential election to Joe Biden in 36 days time, Mr Trump will likely face further scrutiny about his financial records as well as any conflicts of interest seen throughout his time in office.
Commenting on Sunday night’s revelations, Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused the president of abiding by his own set of rules, writing on Twitter that he was a “walking scam”.
“[He] contributed less to funding our communities than waitresses & undocumented immigrants,” Ms Ocasio-Cortex wrote.
Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, added that Mr Trump had been shown to disdain Americans with his apparent tax avoidance over two decades.
“It is a sign of President Trump’s disdain for America’s working families that he has spent years abusing the tax code while passing a GOP Tax Scam for the rich that gives 83 per cent of the benefits to the wealthiest one percent,” she said in a statement.
The president’s election rival, Joe Biden, has yet to officially respond to the NYT revelations.
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Nikola Founder Milton’s Fall Reveals What His Backers Feared
(Bloomberg) — Back in March, long before a short seller would raise questions about electric-truck company Nikola Corp. and hasten its founder’s exit, early investors in the company were expressing concerns of their own.Those investors, led by mutual-fund giant Fidelity Investments, were worried that Trevor Milton, for all his brash visionary talk and Twitter braggadocio, lacked the ability that Elon Musk possesses to deliver these sorts of newfangled products to market. They lobbied successfully to remove him as CEO before the company’s June IPO and for Milton’s father to leave the board, according to people familiar with the matter. When the deal was done, Milton only held the title of chairman, the post he resigned this month.
The back-room negotiations show that Milton’s past was a concern to investors months before General Motors Co. executives placed a bet on the company in a $2 billion deal carved out after the IPO. They liked Milton’s vision and his ability to raise cash and felt the venture was safeguarded from his shortcomings in operations by his push upstairs, say people familiar with the matter. Nonetheless, the events that have unfolded since the short-seller report, with Nikola’s stock plunging amid a steady stream of negative headlines, have exposed just how high the risks still were.
Now, it’s up to former GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky, whose blank-check company VectoIQ took Nikola public via reverse merger in June, and Nikola CEO Mark Russell to stabilize the business and regain investor confidence. The plan with GM was to use Nikola’s hot stock and Milton’s ability to raise money to build a hydrogen-fueled trucking business with GM’s technology.
“There is obviously someone on the diligence side who isn’t going to get a nice bonus this year,” said Reilly Brennan, founder of the venture capital fund Trucks Inc. “The best possible thing if you’re a shareholder is that Milton is no longer running the company and you have Girsky as chairman and GM providing technology.”
The GM deal was originally scheduled to close Sept. 30, and the automaker has said it plans to carry through, but that timing may slip, say people familiar with the matter. BP Plc is still engaged with Nikola in talks to partner on a network of hydrogen fueling stations for fuel-cell trucks the company hopes to sell, but also is slowing the pace for a deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. BP and GM declined to comment.
Shares of Nikola fell 4.78% to $18.55 as of 9:45 a.m. Monday in New York and down 45% since it went public. GM rose 2.5% to $29.72.
Milton’s tale reads like a Greek tragedy. The report by short seller Hindenburg Research accused Milton of overhyping Nikola’s technology and has prompted investigations by the Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. A cousin has accused him of a decades-ago sexual assault, which he denies. The company’s value peaked at $30 billion and is now worth about $7 billion.
Girsky and GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra have both said publicly that they did plenty of due diligence. People familiar with the matter say that GM found out when scouting the deal that it had better batteries and fuel-cell technology but joined forces because Nikola had a working semi truck and access to capital markets. In addition, GM will get paid to build Nikola’s Badger pickup on existing assembly lines. Milton was so excited to get the Badger pickup program moving that he signed a deal that heavily favored GM, one of the people said.
Nikola’s stock and GM’s $2 billion stake are worth less than half what they were on Sept. 8, when the deal was announced. Milton’s own stake is worth $1.7 billion, down from almost $5 billion at one point.
Milton said in a June interview with Bloomberg News that he grew up in modest surroundings in Layton, Utah. His family moved to Las Vegas when he was very young and he lost his mother to cancer shortly after moving back to Utah in the sixth grade. He wrote on Twitter he didn’t finish high school, earning an equivalency certification instead, and later dropped out of college. His Twitter account has since been deleted.
He grew up in a tight-knit Mormon family, according to Aubrey Smith, his first cousin. She went on social media recently and accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1999 when she was 15 and he was 17.
In a public account on Facebook and Twitter, and repeated in a phone interview, Smith said that Milton came onto her at the funeral of their grandfather. He took her shirt off without permission, Smith wrote, and then he touched her inappropriately before someone knocked at the door and she ran out.
Milton denied the allegations through a spokesman.
Smith said Milton raised money from family members to get his start. He founded and ran several businesses, including a home-security company that Milton claims he sold for $1.5 million. Next, in 2009, he founded an e-commerce platform called Upillar.com, which Milton claims “pioneered the shopping cart online.”
Then he got into clean propulsion but ended up embroiled in litigation with dHybrid Inc., which he founded in 2009. The company retrofitted diesel vehicles with natural-gas-burning turbines, claiming the dual system had greater efficiency.
But a deal with Swift Transportation Co. in 2010 ended in court when Swift alleged dHybrid defaulted on a $322,000 loan and that it retrofitted only half of the agreed vehicles. The case was dismissed in 2015.
Milton later tried to sell dHybrid to a company called sPower in May 2012 but that, too, got mired in lawsuits after sPower backed out and accused Milton of exaggerating its technological capabilities.
Amid the litigation, Milton started another company with a very similar name, dHybrid Systems, selling it in 2014 to Worthington Industries.
During an interview with Bloomberg in June, Milton said that dHybrid Inc. was a success but conceded that, “we ended up closing that one down because of some litigation.”
His next startup was Nikola, founding it in 2014 in Salt Lake City before moving to Phoenix. Emulating Musk, he took the name from the electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla, and the company was soon billed as the Tesla of Trucks. His plan was seen as potentially disrupting the entire transportation industry by making trucks that ran on batteries or hydrogen-fuel cells. He also planned to build a network of hydrogen filling stations.
Friends and Family
Milton had friends and family members working for Nikola despite resumes that didn’t match the job. His brother, Travis Milton, is director of hydrogen and infrastructure. His LinkedIn profile shows that most of his experience was being “self-employed” in Maui. The short seller, Hindenburg Research, said that Travis Milton poured concrete as a contractor. Milton’s father Bill was originally on the board but stepped down when VectoIQ took the company public.
The company’s stock prospectus said that Nikola had awarded more than 3 million stock options “to recognize the superior performance and contribution of specific employees.” The list included Travis Milton and an uncle, Lance Milton, the document said, acknowledging that they are relatives.
As Milton went public with Nikola’s technology, questions soon arose involving his claims about the company’s fuel-cell system. He bragged in an investor video in 2019 that the company had created “what other manufacturers said was impossible to design.” But while Nikola holds patents in fuel-cell and battery technology, most of its planned hardware was coming from German supplier Robert Bosch Gmbh.
It became clear that Milton had gotten ahead of himself. A 2016 demonstration showed a truck that didn’t have a working hydrogen-fuel-cell system and was missing key parts, people familiar with the matter said in June. Milton said at the time that the parts were removed as a safety precaution.
In July of this year, he recorded a video of the semi truck in which he ran alongside the vehicle as it coasted at low speeds in a parking lot. Aping Musk’s combative social-media persona, Milton took a shot at his detractors saying, “these damned trolls, I wonder if they are going to apologize to everyone for the lies they spread the tens of thousands of comments about how fake we are.”
Girsky said in the webcast “Autoline This Week,” in which Bloomberg participated, that he has been in Nikola’s fuel-cell trucks and that they work.
Still, when the GM deal was done, GM will be supplying all of the technology for every global market except Europe. Nikola’s pickup truck, called Badger, will use GM’s Ultium battery, and the semis will run on a fuel cell developed by GM and Honda Motor Co.
Since Milton’s departure, Nikola has billed itself more as an integrator of other technologies into its Badger pickup and semi trucks.
For GM’s part, the automaker is protected from any financial downside. GM got 11% of the stock for no cash investment and gets paid for its technology. If Nikola fails, GM won’t lose a dime.
Milton has remained silent and is out of the company. He unknowingly presaged his own downfall in the June interview with Bloomberg: “Part of becoming a better person in life is losing everything you have got and having nothing left.”
(Updates with Monday trading in seventh paragraph.)
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Airports compete for worried flyers with on-site COVID-19 testing, TSA appointments, cleaning robots
With Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, United and other airlines announcing fare sales and new routes for winter, it may feel like air travel is returning to normal.
But after a spike over the Labor Day holiday, the numbers for travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints around the country are still way down compared to this time last year. And with so many countries still enforcing COVID-19-related restrictions, the outlook for international travel looks far from rosy.
Still, airports around the country are working hard to sanitize their facilities. And after a summer of scrambling to enhance cleaning regimes and install hand-sanitizing stations, plexiglass barriers and other health-focused tools, airports are adopting new strategies to keep passengers safe and instill confidence in travel.
Here are some of the programs you may encounter:
Security checkpoint by appointments
This month, Denver International Airport (DEN) debuted the free, app-powered VeriFLY program, which blends a checkpoint reservation system with a health check. Passengers download the VeriFLY app (an Android version is on the way), complete a health survey 24 hours before their flight. Once at the airport, participants get a touchless temperature check before accessing a dedicated TSA lane. For added social distancing, cleared VeriFLY flyers ride out to the concourses in a limited-capacity car on the underground train.
Traveling through DEN soon? You can now make a reservation to access a dedicated TSA lane & a limited-capacity train car to help limit your exposure to others. VeriFLY is a FREE program perfect for health conscious or high-risk passengers!
Check it out -> https://t.co/qdUZaaTy47 pic.twitter.com/27G22inN40
— Denver Int’l Airport (@DENAirport) September 19, 2020
More robots and robot-like helpers
Airport employees serving as Travel Well Ambassadors at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) roam the terminals reminding passengers to wear their masks. Softbank Robotics’ direction-giving robot, Pepper, has been reprogrammed to serve as a mask nanny as well.
Intelligent sterilizing robots and robotic machinery designed to quickly and efficiently disinfect public areas and passengers facilities are now deployed at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), Hong Kong International Airport and, most recently at San Antonio International Airport (SAT), where voters chose SAT-erminator over Zappy, Violet, Alamo and Tex as the preferred name for the new full-time airport employee.
Cleaning up with UV light and a spritz
In addition to air-cleansing bipolar ionization (BPI) devices installed by companies such as AtmosAir in airport heating and air conditioning systems in Los Angeles, Charlotte, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities, an increasing number of airports are using UV and medical-grade UVC light to zap bacteria and viruses on surfaces and, in some cases, people.
London’s Gatwick Airport is installing a Smiths Detection-made system at eight security checkpoint lanes that sends each security bin through an enclosed tunnel that uses short-wavelength UV-C light for disinfection.
Bluewater Technologies, a design technology firm in Michigan, has developed a system that uses medical-grade, UV-C light to quickly sanitize airport luggage carts in a few seconds.
And Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) has installed UV-C sterilization units inside some escalator and walkway mechanisms to continuously clean the handrails.
The Toronto Airport also has a new, voluntary disinfection corridor that uses a chemical-free spray to give passengers a quick pre- or post-flight sanitizing spritz.
COVID-19 testing at airports
Temperature checks have gradually become the norm at many airports, though there continues to be debate over who should be responsible for carrying them out. Earlier this month, a new bipartisan Senate bill was introduced that would require the TSA to perform that task.
Elsewhere this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was halting its current screening system for arriving international passengers. Instead of screening for fevers and other COVID-19 symptoms at 15 centralized airports, the CDC’s new protocol “focuses on the continuum of travel and the individual passenger, including pre-departure and post-arrival education, efforts to develop a potential testing framework with international partners, and illness response.”
On Sept. 22, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airline trade group, joined other trade groups such as Airlines for America (A4A), Airport Council International (ACI) World and Airports Council International-North America in calling for the systematic testing of all international travelers before their flights.
“This should enable governments to safely open borders without quarantine. And it will provide passengers with the certainty that they can travel without having to worry about a last-minute change in government rules that could spoil their plans,” said IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac in a statement.
For now, there are some airports and some pilot programs where passengers can get tested before they fly.
Last week, United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines announced their own COVID-19 testing pilot programs. United is testing its on system on passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii, and Hawaiian is setting up drive-through sites near LAX and SFO. Both will launch on or close to Oct. 15, when Hawaii begins allowing out-of-state visitors to bypass quarantine with a negative test result.
XpresSpa, which has temporarily closed its network of in-airport spas, is developing a network of COVID-19 testing centers at airports. The company now has XpresCheck testing sites at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) Terminal 4 and in Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Terminal B, with plans to expand to six other hub airports around the country.
The medical clinic at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) offers travelers COVID-19 tests by appointment, with results typically returned within 24 to 72 hours, though turnaround time may vary depending on lab demand. YVR and Canadian airline WestJet are also creating a pilot program to offer voluntary preflight COVID-19 testing with fast results to passengers boarding domestic flights, according to the CBC.
And through mid-October, Italian airline Alitalia is operating two of its seven daily Rome-Milan flights as “COVID-Tested,” with only passengers who have tested negative for COVID-19 allowed on the plane. Passengers for these flights who arrive at the airport without a certificate proving they have tested negative for virus 72 hours before boarding can take a free COVID-19 test at the airport and get the results within 30 minutes.
Passengers flying out of Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa Airport or Dubai International Airport might also encounter COVID-sniffing dogs. Both airports are running pilot programs to test the canines’ efficacy at detecting the virus.
Passengers who agree to take a free test under the voluntary program in Helsinki do not have direct physical contact with a dog. They are asked to swipe their skin with a wipe, which is then put into a jar and given to a dog waiting in a separate booth, who then sniffs the sample and indicate the test result with the scratch of a paw, a bark or by lying down. The process takes about a minute and if the result is positive, the passenger is urged to take a standard polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, coronavirus test, to check the dog’s accuracy.
‘Very promising method’: Finland deploys coronavirus-sniffing dogs at main airport
Look for the seal of approval
Airports Council International (ACI) World recently rolled out a global Airport Health Accreditation program designed to restore public confidence in air travel and prove to governments that airports are following international health and safety standards.
The voluntary health and hygiene program requires airports to complete a document containing questions relating to everything from cleaning and disinfection to physical distancing, staff protection, passenger communications and passenger facilities.
Airports seeking the Airport Health Accreditation must also provide pictures, videos, and explanations to show how they are following international protocols.
In mid-August, Istanbul Airport became the first airport in the world to be accredited through the program. In early September, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) was the first airport in North America to receive the designation.
Now other airports are rushing to get the ACI seal of approval.
ACI launched the Airport Health Accreditation in late July with a goal of reaching about 100 or 150 airports, ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira told USA TODAY, but so far more than 300 airports have expressed interest,146 contracts have been signed, 46 airports are accredited and 50 to 60 more requests are arriving each week.
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Airports try to sell worried fliers on their COVID-19 safety measures
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