Trump Pays $110,000 Fine For Blocking New York State Tax Probe

In this file photo taken on June 30, 2021 Former President Donald Trump speaks during a visit to the border wall outside Pharr, Texas. Sergio FLORES / AFP

 

 

Former US President Donald Trump has paid a $110,000 fine for obstructing a major tax evasion investigation led since 2019 by New York state authorities, a spokesperson announced Friday.

Trump was ordered April 25 by New York state’s Supreme Court to pay $10,000 a day for as long as he refused to provide accounting and tax documents as part of a civil investigation by the Attorney General of the state, Letitia James, against the Trump Organization family business.

“On May 19, Donald Trump paid the attorney general’s office $110,000,” a spokesperson for James’s office said.

James and the Republican billionaire have been engaged in a fierce procedural battle for months.

On February 17, James was able to get a New York judge to order Trump and his children Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump to testify under oath in the context of this investigation, in which she suspects fraudulent tax practices.

The Trumps — who accuse James of a “political witch hunt” — have appealed the ruling.

But New York state had also demanded accounting and tax documents from the Trump Organization before March 31.

Faced with Donald Trump’s refusal, James demanded obtained a ruling on April 25 that he be charged with obstruction.

On May 6, however, the New York judge suspended the counting of days for which he should be fined and decided that Donald Trump would have until Friday May 20 to pay for the period from April 25 to May 6, or 110,000 for 11 days — which is what he did on Thursday.

According to James’ spokesperson, the Trump camp also had until Friday to submit sworn statements relating to the Trump Organization’s request for accounting and tax records.

These documents were indeed collected and produced by a third-party firm on Thursday, according to the same source.

The judge must now decide whether the Trump camp have met all the demands.

James suspects the Trump Organization fraudulently overstated the value of real estate properties when applying for bank loans, while understating them with the tax authorities in order to pay less in taxes.

Donald Trump is also facing a criminal investigation by the Manhattan prosecutor: the Trump Organization and its financial director Allen Weisselberg have been charged with tax evasion.

They have pleaded not guilty and the trial is due to begin this year.

Elon Musk Says He Would Lift Twitter Ban On Trump

In this file combination of pictures created on May 31, 2017 shows a file photo taken on January 23, 2017 showing SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (L) in Washington, DC. and US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol April 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. NICHOLAS KAMM, Brendan Smialowski / AFP
In this file combination of pictures created on May 31, 2017 shows a file photo taken on January 23, 2017 showing SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (L) in Washington, DC. and US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol April 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. NICHOLAS KAMM, Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

Elon Musk on Tuesday said he would lift Twitter’s ban on former US president Donald Trump if Musk’s deal to buy the global messaging platform is successful.

“I would reverse the permanent ban,” the billionaire said at a Financial Times conference, noting that he doesn’t own Twitter yet, so “this is not like a thing that will definitely happen.”

The Tesla chief’s $44-billion deal to buy Twitter must still get the backing of shareholders and regulators, but he has voiced enthusiasm for less content moderation and “time-outs” instead of bans.

“I do think that it was not correct to ban Donald Trump,” Musk said.

READ ALSO: Over 40 Bodies Found Under East Ukraine Building – Officials

“I think that was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country, and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.”

Trump was booted from Twitter and other online platforms after supporters fired up by his tweets alleging election fraud attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in a deadly and failed bid to stop Joe Biden from being certified as the victor in the US presidential election.

Musk said he and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey are of similar mind in that permanent bands should be rare, reserved for accounts that are spam, scams or run by software “bots.”

“That doesn’t mean that somebody gets to say whatever they want to say,” Musk said.

“If they say something that is illegal or otherwise just destructive to the world, then there should be a perhaps a timeout, a temporary suspension, or that particular tweet should be made invisible or have very limited attraction.”

Musk was adamant, though, that he feels permanent bans are a “morally bad decision” that undermine trust in Twitter as an online town square where everyone cane be heard.

He noted that Trump has stated publicly that he would not come back to Twitter if permitted, opting instead to stick with his own social network, which has failed to gain traction.

Ad boycott?

Activist groups have called on Twitter advertisers to boycott the service if it opens the gates to abusive and misinformative posts with Musk as its owner.

“Your brand risks association with a platform amplifying hate, extremism, health misinformation, and conspiracy theorists,” said an open letter signed by more than two dozen groups including Media Matters, Access Now and Ultraviolet.

“Under Musk’s management, Twitter risks becoming a cesspool of misinformation, with your brand attached.”

Twitter makes most of its revenue from ads, and that could be jeopardized by advertisers’ reaction to content posted on the platform, the San Francisco-based tech firm said in a filing with US regulators.

Ad revenue at Twitter increased 16 percent to $1.2 billion in the recently ended quarter, while revenue from subscriptions and other means decreased to $94.4 million, the company said in the filing.

While Musk has not revealed nitty-gritty details of how he would run the business side of Twitter, he has expressed a preference for making money from subscriptions.

As of the end of March, an average 229 million people used Twitter daily, an increase of nearly 16 percent from the first three months of last year, Twitter said in a recent regulatory filing.

“We believe that our long-term success depends on our ability to improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” the company said in the filing.

Efforts toward that goal include fighting abuse, harassment, spam and “malicious automation,” or when software instead of people manages accounts, Twitter told regulators.

AFP

Trump Testifies He Feared Being Hit By ‘Very Dangerous’ Fruit

DELAWARE, OH – APRIL 23: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally hosted by the former president at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on April 23, 2022 in Delaware, Ohio.  (Photo by Drew Angerer / AFP)

 

 

Ex-president Donald Trump testified under oath that he feared protesters would pelt him with “very dangerous” fruit like pineapples, tomatoes, and bananas saying: “You can get killed with those things.”

The comments were revealed in court documents made public Tuesday which included a transcript of a deposition Trump gave last October as part of an ongoing civil lawsuit in New York.

The case was brought by several activists of Mexican descent who say they were attacked by his security guards outside Trump Tower in Manhattan in 2015.

“I wanted to have people be ready because we were put on alert that they were going to do fruit,” Trump said under questioning by attorney Benjamin Dictor.

He added that “tomatoes are bad, by the way” but that “some fruit is a lot worse.”

Dictor asked Trump about comments he made at a rally in Iowa in 2016 when the then-presidential candidate told supporters to “knock the crap” out of anyone about to throw a tomato.

“That was to the audience. It was said sort of in jest,” Trump responded, before adding: “But maybe, you know, a little truth to it. It’s very dangerous stuff. You can get killed with those things.

Dictor asked Trump whether it was his “expectation that if your security guards see someone about to throw a tomato that they should knock the crap out of them?”

“Yeah, I think that they have to be aggressive in stopping that from happening. Because if that happens, you can be killed if that happens,” Trump answered.

“To stop somebody from throwing pineapples, tomatoes, bananas, stuff like that, yeah, it’s dangerous stuff,” he added later.

Trump sat for around four and a half hours during the videotaped deposition on October 18, after a New York judge rejected an attempt to quash a subpoena ordering him to testify.

The activists alleged that on September 3, 2015 Trump’s bodyguards violently broke up their protest against derogatory comments Trump had made about Mexico and Mexicans at the start of his ultimately successful run for president.

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” Trump had said.

The plaintiffs allege that the guards ripped away their signs and punched and choked one of the demonstrators.

Trump has claimed that his security “tried to deescalate the situation” but were met with violence from the plaintiffs themselves.

The 75-year-old is also facing several other legal battles, which threaten to complicate any bid for another run for the White House in 2024.

On Monday, a US judge held Trump in contempt of court and ordered him to pay $10,000 every day until he hands over financial documents to the New York state attorney general who is pursuing a civil probe into alleged fraud at his family business.

Trump Rules Out Twitter Return As Musk Announces $44 Bn Purchase

n this file combination of pictures created on May 31, 2017, shows a file photo taken on January 23, 2017, showing SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (L) in Washington, DC. and US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol April 25, 2017, in Washington, DC.

 

Former US President Donald Trump vowed he would not be returning to Twitter if his account was reinstated following the purchase of the platform by tech billionaire Elon Musk, announced on Monday.

The Republican leader said he would be using his own site, Truth Social, although he appears only to have posted once since its launch in February.

“I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH,” Trump said, according to FoxNews.com, adding that Musk was a “good man” who would improve the service.

“We’re taking in millions of people, and what we’re finding is that the response on TRUTH is much better than being on Twitter. Twitter has bots and fake accounts, and we are doing everything we can,” he told the network.

Trump was banned for life from Twitter — and impeached for a second time — following the January 2021 assault on the US Capitol by his supporters, with the company citing the “risk of further incitement of violence.”

The California-based platform has been dogged by complaints from conservatives that it was biased against them and violating their free speech rights with suspensions for rule-breaking.

Lawmakers have called for the modification or repeal of a 1996 law shielding social media platforms from liability over their content moderation practices and for the postings of third parties.

Musk, whose immense wealth stems from the popularity of Tesla electric vehicles, as well as other ventures, struck a deal Monday to buy Twitter for $44 billion, the company announced.

A self-proclaimed “free-speech absolutist,” he is expected to take a less robust approach to regulating content, and analysts have speculated that he may reinstate accounts of Trump and allies who have fallen afoul of the rules.

Trump appeared to have spoken to Fox News before he was aware of Musk’s purchase. But progressive group Media Matters for America had already warned that the former president could return.

“Any negotiations to sell Twitter to Musk must include clear enforceable mechanisms to uphold and maintain existing community standards, including the removal of those who violate those standards,” the group’s president Angelo Carusone said in a statement.

Trump struggled to pronounce the name of his social media platform during a rally in Ohio on Saturday, appearing to refer to it as “something called trove, Truth Central.”

He took several weeks to post after its launch in February.

More than one million users downloaded the app after its launch but interest appears to have waned amid technical glitches and long wait times to access accounts.

Trump ‘Guilty’ Of Felonies, Says Prosecutor Who Resigned

File photo former US President Donald Trump. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

 

Donald Trump is “guilty of numerous felony violations,” said a prosecutor who resigned from a criminal probe into the former US president’s business practices, according to his resignation letter published Wednesday by the New York Times.

Mark Pomerantz, who led the New York investigation into Trump’s finances, resigned on February 23 along with Carey Dunne, the other lead prosecutor on the case.

Pomerantz’s letter said that he had quit over the decision by new Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg not to move ahead with prosecution of the Republican billionaire.

That decision, he wrote in the letter which the US daily published in full, was “contrary to the public interest.”

“The team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes — he did,” Pomerantz wrote.

READ ALSO: Parents Fear For Children’s Future In War-Hit Ukrainian City

The investigation had probed whether Trump fraudulently overvalued multiple assets to secure loans and then undervalued them to minimize taxes.

It was launched by Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance, with Bragg taking over the case when he took office in January.

When Dunne and Pomerantz resigned last month, Bragg’s spokesperson said that the investigation was “ongoing.”

The Times reported that he has told aides the case can move forward if new evidence emerges or a Trump insider decides to turn on the former president.

But, Pomerantz wrote: “No events are likely to occur that will alter the nature of the case… There are always additional facts to be pursued.”

But the decision not to prosecute “will doom any future prospects that Mr. Trump will be prosecuted for the criminal conduct we have been investigating,” he continued.

Republican Trump, 75, has not been charged and has repeatedly described the case as a political witch hunt by a Democratic prosecutor.

In July last year, the Trump Organization and its long-serving finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, were charged with 15 felony fraud and tax evasion charges.

They pleaded not guilty, and Weisselberg’s trial is due to begin in the middle of this year.

The criminal investigation into Trump is very similar to a civil inquiry being conducted by New York state Attorney General Letitia James, who is also a Democrat.

In January, she said her probe had uncovered “significant evidence” of fraudulent or misleading practices at the Trump Organization.

James can sue the Trump Organization for damages over any alleged financial misconduct but cannot file criminal charges.

Trump has so far kept Americans guessing about whether he intends to seek the Republican presidential nomination again, but the host of legal probes threaten to complicate any bid for another run at the White House in 2024.

AFP

Russian Invasion: US Senator Calls For Putin’s Assassination

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the head of Russia’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, a big business lobby group, at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 2, 2022. Mikhail Klimentyev / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

Senior US senator Lindsey Graham called for “somebody in Russia” to assassinate President Vladimir Putin after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in a televised interview Thursday evening.

“How does this end? Somebody in Russia has to step up to the plate… and take this guy out,” the senator told conservative Fox News TV host Sean Hannity.

He repeated the call later in a series of tweets, saying “the only people who can fix this are the Russian people.”

“Is there a Brutus in Russia?” asked the senator, referring to one of Roman ruler Julius Caesar’s assassins.

The former presidential candidate also wondered if “a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg” existed in the Russian military, alluding to the German officer whose bomb failed to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944.

“You would be doing your country — and the world — a great service,” he added.

The senator, who has served in Congress for over twenty years and has at times been a close ally to former President Donald Trump, had earlier in the day introduced a resolution condemning the Russian president and his military commanders for committing “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.”

Ukraine says at least 350 civilians have been killed since Putin launched the invasion last week, and over 1 million have fled the country.

Moscow claims it does not target civilian areas, despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

AFP

Trump’s Accountants Abandon Him Amidst Fraud Allegation Probe

Mazars informed the Trump Organization in a letter last Wednesday that it would no longer work for the company
(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 20, 2021, Outgoing US President Donald Trump addresses guests at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.ALEX EDELMAN / AFP

 

Donald Trump’s longtime accountants have ditched the former US president as a client, saying a decade’s worth of financial statements could not be relied upon, court documents showed Monday.

Mazars informed the Trump Organization in a letter last Wednesday that it would no longer work for the company, which is being probed by New York prosecutors for alleged fraud.

The letter was revealed in court by New York state attorney general Letitia James as she asked a judge to force Trump to comply with subpoenas seeking testimony in her investigation.

James announced last month that her civil inquiry into Trump’s family firm had uncovered “significant evidence” of misleading business practices, including the fraudulent valuation of assets.

Mazars wrote that James’s findings had contributed towards it deciding that accounts for Trump for the years ending June 30, 2011, to June 30, 2020 “should no longer be relied upon.”

The accounting firm added that an investigation of its own and “information received from internal and external sources” had also played a part in it reaching that conclusion.

“While we have not concluded that the various financial statements, as a whole, contain material discrepancies, based upon the totality of the circumstances, we believe our advice to you to no longer rely upon those financial statements is appropriate,” it said.

The letter added that in part because of the decision regarding the statements, Mazars “are not able to provide any new work product to the Trump Organization.”

The financial records are at the heart of James’s investigation and a criminal probe by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

The twin inquiries are investigating whether the Trump Organization defrauded lenders into providing favourable loans.

James, a Democrat, said in January that her ongoing inquiry had found that the Trump Organization fraudulently overvalued multiple assets to secure loans and then undervalued them to minimize taxes.

She said the company had “misrepresented” the valuation of assets to financial institutions including the Internal Revenue Service, banks and insurers for “economic benefit.”

 Parallel investigations

If James finds evidence of financial misconduct she can sue the Trump Organization for damages but cannot file criminal charges.

The probe, however, is running alongside a similar criminal investigation by the Manhattan DA for possible financial crimes and insurance fraud.

Last July the Trump Organization and its long-serving finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded not guilty to 15 felony fraud and tax evasion charges.

The DA’s office in January 2021 finally received roughly eight years of Trump tax returns from Mazars following a marathon legal battle that went to the Supreme Court.

Trump has slammed both probes as politically motivated.

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization said in a statement Monday evening that they were “disappointed” by Mazars’ decision to cut ties.

The firm’s “letter confirms that after conducting a subsequent review of all prior statements of financial condition, Mazars’ work was performed in accordance with all applicable accounting standards and principles and that such statements of financial condition do not contain any material discrepancies,” the spokesperson said, calling both investigations in New York, therefore “moot.”

In her filing Monday, James repeated her request that the former president, Donald Trump Jr, and Ivanka Trump give evidence under oath. Her office has already questioned Eric Trump.

The legal woes could make a second White House run more difficult for the 75-year-old Trump, who has kept Americans guessing about his plans.

One Year After Assault, US Capitol Still Licking Its Wounds

In this file photo taken on January 6, 2021 riot police push back a crowd of supporters of US President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

 

Mourn, or move on? A year after the mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, lawmakers are trying to heal the deep rifts left behind by the insurrection that sought to overturn the election results. 

“January 6th, 2021 will be forever remembered as a day of enduring infamy, a permanent blemish in the story of American democracy,” said Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, a few days before the anniversary.

“This was aimed at undoing our democracy. Thank God, they failed,” Schumer added.

“They,” in this case, being the crowds of demonstrators in helmets and carrying flags emblazoned with the name “Trump,” and who a year ago stood in the same spot in the Capitol where Schumer was delivering his sober words.

The now infamous Q-Anon guru with his bison headdress and bare chest was among them, brandishing a megaphone.

READ ALSO: [Trumpism Without Trump] The Republican Playbook For 2022?

Divided Memories

A few steps away, a television set has been installed to show the commemorations of the fateful day on Thursday. President Joe Biden is due to speak, one of a series of elected officials sharing their memories of the ordeal.

A conversation between historians is also planned, with the aim of “establishing and preserving the story” of January 6.

Because even within the institution that was stormed, what actually happened is the subject of heated debate.

In recent months, elected officials close to former president Trump have tried to push quite a different story to the one being told by the Democrats.

They say that January 6 was just a symptom of all that has gone wrong, and that those arrested after the assault are “political prisoners.”

With less than a year until crucial mid-term elections, some of their colleagues are making half-hearted pleas to move on.

“We have constituents back home that we need to be working for, our focus needs to be there,” said Republican Joni Ernst, many of whose colleagues have decided to shun Thursday’s events.

 ‘A Lot of Hurt And Harm’

On social media, in press releases, and even in the corridors of this venerable institution, the multiple and conflicting stories spark angry debate. The wounds of January 6 are still very much alive.

“I think there’s still a lot of hurt and harm, but a lot of good has already come,” Democratic Senator Corey Booker told AFP.

The imposing wooden planks covering some of the windows for months have been removed and the broken panes which until recently reminded everyone of the violence of that day in January have finally been replaced.

The US Congress is safe, the Capitol Police chief insisted during a rare press conference on Tuesday.

In the snow, the dome of the Capitol begins to gleam again.

AFP

U.S. To End Travel Ban For Vaccinated Passengers

(FILES) In this file photo passengers are seen at Dulles Washington International Airport (IAD) in Dulles, Virginia, on August 14, 2021.

 

The United States announced Monday it will lift COVID-19 travel bans on all air passengers in November if they are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

The unprecedented restrictions had kept relatives, friends and business travelers around the world separated for many months as the pandemic grinds on.

Jeffrey Zients, coronavirus response coordinator for President Joe Biden, told reporters the new “consistent approach” would take effect “early November.”

The easing of travel restrictions, imposed by Donald Trump 18 months ago as the Covid-19 pandemic first erupted, marks a significant shift by Biden and answers a major demand from European allies at a time of strained diplomatic relations.

Numerous safeguards will remain in place to suppress the spread of the virus, which has already killed more than 670,000 Americans and is resurgent after what many had hoped was a lasting dip earlier this year.

“Most importantly, foreign nationals flying to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated,” Zients said.

It was not immediately clear if the new rule only applied to US-approved vaccines or if other brands, such as those produced in China or Russia, would also qualify. Zients said that would be determined by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Restrictions on vehicle movement from Canada and Mexico will remain in place. “We do not have any updates on the land border policies,” Zients said.

Zients said passengers will need to show they were fully vaccinated before boarding planes bound for the United States, as well as providing proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days.

Americans not fully vaccinated will still be able to enter, but only on testing negative within a day of travel.

Masks will be obligatory on US-bound flights, and airlines will provide the US health authorities with contact tracing information.

“This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans’ international air travel safe,” Zients said.

 

‘Great News’

Britain and Germany quickly welcomed the lifting of the near-total ban. The German ambassador to the United States called it “great news.”

“Hugely important to promote people-to-people contacts and transatlantic business,” Ambassador Emily Haber tweeted.

The announcement was also hailed by airlines, which have taken a huge hit during the pandemic shutdown.

The trade group Airlines For Europe predicted “a much-needed boost to trans-Atlantic traffic & tourism and will reunite families and friends.”

And Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, said: “We welcome the Biden administration’s science-based approach to begin lifting the restrictions.”

While it had been widely expected that Biden would reopen borders to the European Union and Britain, the announcement covers the globe.

“This applies to all international travel,” Zients said.

Currently, only US citizens, residents, and foreigners with special visas are allowed to enter the United States from most European countries.

In an interview in Washington with AFP, Thierry Breton, European commissioner for internal market, said he was hopeful the policy will be extended to include the AstraZeneca shot used by many European nations, which has not been approved by US health authorities.

Breton said he spoke with Zients, who “sounded positive and optimistic.”

The restriction has deeply irked EU and British authorities. On Monday, the European Union recommended that member states reimpose restrictions on American travelers who had earlier been free to enter if vaccinated.

Breton said the restrictions “no longer made any sense.”

Despite Europe’s relatively high vaccination rates, “we are on the same restrictions as China, Iran, and other countries. It makes no sense at all,” he said.

Biden’s move comes on the eve of his speech to the annual UN General Assembly in New York, where the pandemic is due to be the headline issue.

It also comes as Washington and Paris spar bitterly over Australia’s sudden announcement that it will acquire US-built nuclear submarines as part of a new defense alliance, ditching a previous French contract for conventionally powered submarines.

France has recalled its ambassador from Washington and accused the Biden administration of stabbing it in the back.

However, US officials denied that the White House’s travel decision was an attempt to smooth ruffled French feathers.

“This is really driven by the science,” a State Department official said.

AFP

Trump Blasts ‘Leftist Maniacs’ In Women’s Olympic Soccer Team

Australia’s players react after losing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s bronze medal football match between Australia and the United States at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium in Kashima city, Ibaraki prefecture on August 5, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

 

It is unlikely he knows his Maradonas from his Mar-a-Lagos but Donald Trump set his stall out Thursday as a soccer expert, tearing into the “leftist maniacs” of the national women’s team for missing out on Olympic gold because they are too “woke.”

The former president, who encouraged his supporters at a rally ahead of the Tokyo Games to boo the side, suggested falsely in a statement that the women had refused to stand for the national anthem during the tournament.

“If our soccer team, headed by a radical group of Leftist Maniacs, wasn’t woke, they would have won the Gold Medal instead of the Bronze. Woke means you lose, everything that is woke goes bad, and our soccer team certainly has,” the 75-year-old said.

The world champions had just beaten Australia 4-3 to secure third place, propelled to victory by talisman double goalsccorer Megan Rapinoe — a touchstone for LGBT activism known for her brightly-dyed, choppy hairstyle.

But Trump was in no mood to congratulate Rapinoe, one of several gay players in the team, for a hard-fought medal in what could well be her swansong tournament before retirement.

“They should replace the wokesters with Patriots and start winning again,” Trump fumed.

“The woman with the purple hair played terribly and spends too much time thinking about Radical Left politics and not doing her job!”

The spat is nothing new. Rapinoe, who starred in the United States’ 2019 World Cup triumph, has long been an outspoken Trump critic, referring to him in an interview with Vice TV last year as a “white nationalist.”

And in June 2019 Trump lambasted the star for saying she wouldn’t visit the White House as long as he was the occupant.

Trump Announces Anti-Censorship Lawsuit Against Facebook, Twitter

In this file photo taken on December 7, 2020 -ex-US President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremony presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to wrestler Dan Gable in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Former president Donald Trump will not testify in his Senate impeachment trial next week, an advisor said on February 4,

 

 

Former US President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he is filing a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter and Google, escalating his years-long free speech battle with tech giants who he argues have wrongfully censored him.

“I’m filing, as the lead class representative, a major class-action lawsuit against the big tech giants including Facebook, Google and Twitter as well as their CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey — three real nice guys,” Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The nation’s top tech firms have become the “enforcers of illegal, unconstitutional censorship,” added the 75-year-old Republican, who was banned from posting on Facebook and Twitter in the wake of the deadly January 6 siege of the US Capitol by his supporters.

Trump says he is being joined in the suit by the America First Policy Institute and thousands of American citizens who have been “de-platformed” from social media sites.

“Through this lawsuit we are standing up for American democracy by standing up for free speech rights of every American — Democrat, Republican, independent, whoever it may be,” Trump said. “This lawsuit is just the beginning.”

Trump said he is filing the suit in US District Court in southern Florida, where he is seeking an immediate halt to censorship, blacklisting and what he called the “cancelling” of people who share his political views.

Trump stressed that he is not looking for any sort of a settlement. “We’re in a fight that we’re going to win,” he said.

Facebook banned Trump indefinitely on January 7 over his incendiary comments that preceded the Capitol insurrection by his supporters one day earlier.

Twitter quickly followed suit and permanently suspended Trump’s account due to the “risk of further incitement of violence.”

In June, following a review by Facebook’s independent oversight board, Facebook narrowed the ban to two years.

Trump said YouTube and its parent organization Google have deleted “countless videos” addressing the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including those that questioned the judgement of the World Health Organization.

The Republican billionaire, his allies and many supporters say the ban on Trump and others amount to censorship and abuse of their power.

“There is no better evidence that big tech is out of control than the fact that they banned the sitting president of the United States,” Trump said.

Trump has begun a series of public engagements, including campaign-style rallies, as he seeks to maintain his status as the most influential Republican in the nation.

He has teased a potential 2024 presidential run but has made no announcement on his political future.

Facebook Bans Trump For Two Years

In this file photo illustration taken on May 04, 2021, a phone screen displays a Facebook logo with the official portrait of former US President Donald Trump on the background in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo illustration taken on May 04, 2021, a phone screen displays a Facebook logo with the official portrait of former US President Donald Trump on the background in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

Facebook on Friday set its ban on former US president Donald Trump for two years, saying he deserved the maximum punishment for violating platform rules over a deadly attack by his supporters on the US Capitol.

The two-year ban will be effective from January 7, when Trump was booted off the platform, and comes after Facebook’s independent oversight board said the indefinite ban should be reviewed.

“Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols,” Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg said in a post.

In updating its policies, Facebook also said it will no longer give politicians blanket immunity for deceptive or abusive content at the social network based on their comments being newsworthy.

At the end of Trump’s two-year ban, Facebook will enlist experts to assess whether his activity at the social  network still threatens public safety, according to Clegg.

“If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded,” Clegg said.

When Trump’s suspension is lifted, he will face strict sanctions that could rapidly escalate to permanent removal from the social network for rule-breaking, according to Clegg.

“We know today’s decision will be criticized by many people on opposing sides of the political divide,” Clegg said.

“But, our job is to make a decision in as proportionate, fair and transparent a way as possible, in keeping with the instruction given to us by the Oversight Board.”

Last month, the independent oversight board said Facebook was right to oust Trump for his comments regarding the deadly January 6 rampage at the US Capitol but that the platform should not have applied an “indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.”

Trump denounces ‘insult’

Trump said in a statement the ban was an “insult” to voters, renewing his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing,” Trump said.

But Angelo Carusone of the left-leaning watchdog group Media Matters for America, called Facebook’s move dangerous, saying that if Trump is reinstated, “the platform will remain a simmering cauldron of extremism, disinformation, and violence.”

Activists joined together in a group that facetiously calls itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board decried the social network’s latest steps as belated and insufficient.

“Facebook shouldn’t have needed a $130 million Oversight Board and a team of law professors to tell them dictators and authoritarians were running wild on their platforms,” the group said in a release.

Trump was suspended from Facebook and Instagram after posting a video during the attack by his fired-up supporters challenging his election loss, in which he told them: “We love you, you’re very special.”

The panel gave Facebook six months to justify why his ban should be permanent — putting the ball in company chief Mark Zuckerberg’s court and spotlighting weaknesses in the platform’s plan for self-regulation.

Zuckerberg has stressed his belief that private companies should not be the arbiters of truth when it comes to what people say.

The oversight board, which was created as part of Zuckerberg’s vision for a “supreme court” for difficult content decisions, said it has begun a review of the latest decision on Trump “and will offer further comment once this review is complete.”

Immunity revoked

A “newsworthiness” allowance granted to a small number of posts at Facebook left Trump free to rile supporters with claims that had been disproven.

Facebook will begin publishing the “rare instances” in which offending posts are tolerated, and will not treat content posted by politicians any differently from content posted by anyone else, according to Clegg.

New York University Stern Center deputy director Paul Barrett welcomed the move by Facebook.

“Donald Trump illustrated how a political leader can abuse social media to undermine democratic institutions such as elections and the peaceful transfer of power,” Barrett said.

“Facebook was justified in removing Trump from its platforms, and now the company has appropriately decided to enforce its rules more vigorously against other political figures, as well.”

 

AFP