73% want US election inquiry v Russia

A clear majority of Americans want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

NBC News: 73% Back Independent Probe of Russian Election Interference

Seventy-three percent of respondents prefer the independent investigation, versus 16 percent who pick Congress.

Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, which is essentially unchanged from February’s NBC/WSJ poll.

That’s clear majorities for all but Republicans.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted April 17-20 of 900 adults, including more than 400 who were reached via cell phone. The poll has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.

More depth to ‘Hit & Run’ reports now

Some pundits and journalists were excitedly demanding immediate action after a quick look at Nicky Hager’s and Jon Stephenson’s ‘Hit & Run’, launched on Tuesday evening.

There are far better reports coming out now that people interested in looking at the issue in more depth are publishing their views.

More investigation from David Fisher: Exclusive interview: NZSAS says civilians were killed in fatal raid, including two by Kiwi sniper fire

What he has found out supports some of the book’s claims but disagrees with some, in particular the claim that it was a revenge raid.

But the soldier’s account also conflicted with claims in the book that the NZSAS were motivated by “revenge” over the death of O’Donnell.

He said the NZSAS soldiers would have been “angry” over the death but “revenge” had no part to play in how they did their jobs.

The soldier said: “SAS boys are a different breed. Everything is a lot more calculated.”

Rather than “revenge”, the Herald was told by the former Governor of the neighbouring province, the raid was to target insurgents who threatened the New Zealand base at Bamyan, about 50km away.

So those who claim that Hager never gets anything wrong may want to reassess that view.

Toby Manhire: Books damning claims demand inquiry

Hager and his co-author, Jon Stephenson, have stressed both these points.

The then prime minister did sign off the raid, which apparently killed six civilians and injured at least 15 more, but there is no claim that he masterminded any coverup.

“I suspect we know far more about what happened than John Key was told,” said Hager.

Some of the conclusion jumpers commenting at The Standard have missed that bit.

Hit and Run is an important book. Whether you admire or viscerally loathe its authors is immaterial to the evidence it documents.

Not all of the allegations are new, but the depth of research and detail are compelling.

Any journalism that heavily depends on unnamed sources should, of course, be subject to scrutiny, even if, as here, they are numerous and corroborated.

Critically, many of the sources would be willing to speak to an appropriate, independent investigation, says Stephenson.

For their sake, for the sake of the NZ Defence Force, whether to censure or vindicate, for the sake of the government, for the sake of respecting international law, for the sake of the dead, and in the public interest, that investigation needs to happen.

Not to do so for fear of creating difficulty for our military bosses or politicians or, even, the Americans, would be wrong.

“We’re not going to be rushed into an inquiry,” was an early response from the prime minister, and that is fair enough, but the case is now urgent and overwhelming.

I prefer time is spent doing things properly rather than jumping to the demands of journalists and activists.

Peter Dunne joins Labour, Greens and NZ First in asking for an inquiry.

Afghanistan Inquiry Now Inevitable – Dunne

UnitedFuture leader Hon Peter Dunne says an inquiry into allegations New Zealand SAS forces were involved in an incident that led to civilian deaths in Afghanistan now seems inevitable.

“In the wake of the comments in the Hagar book ‘Hit and Run’ there has been a rising fog of confusion, about what may or may not have happened.

“Recollections now seem to vary sharply, and I think it is inevitable some form of inquiry will be necessary to clarify and resolve these.

“New Zealanders are rightly proud of the reputation of our SAS and Armed Forces generally, and do not wish to see that diminished, so they deserve open reassurance that our forces have not behaved inappropriately.

“The current saga of claim and counter-claim will not provide that, therefore some form of independent inquiry is appropriate,” Mr Dunne says.

Some meaningful response from the Government seems inevitable, bit according to Legal Beagle Graeme Edgeler it should be an investigation instead. It’s worth reading his whole detailed post – A war crimes inquiry; or why Nicky Hager is wrong.

He concludes:

There is nothing to stop the Government starting an inquiry. There will be some aspects of what has happened that will be able to inquired into without risking prejudice to a Police investigation, but, as is generally the case with coronial inquests, we will need to recognise that not every question of importance can be answered while questions of whether there will be criminal charges remain unanswered.

In New Zealand, such investigations are a matter for the Police, and decisions over whether to prosecute (in the High Court) are ultimately for the Solicitor-General or Crown Prosecutors. Alternatively, allegations against soldiers may be a matter for the Military Police, leading the possibility of trial at a Court Martial. Neither will have much experience investigating war crimes. In the circumstances, I think the Police are better placed in the case.

There are sometimes reasons to prefer a Court Martial. For example, if the result of the investigation is that there is insufficient evidence to file war crimes charges, but that charges under the Armed Forces Discipline Act for failure to comply with the rules of engagement could be laid against some involved, this could only be done at a Court Martial. However, that is not possible here. There is a time limit for such charges to be brought to Court Martial, and it has well passed. A Police investigation would likely involve assistance from Military Police, and Crown Lawyers in any event.

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson have authored a book alleging war crimes; they’re not necessarily certain who, but the describe events that could amount to war crimes committed by New Zealanders. This has consequences.

When confronted with allegations of war crimes, New Zealand is obliged not just to find out what happened, but to investigate, and if appropriate, prosecute. But it would be wrong to pursue an inquiry that may prejudice the rights of those now under suspicion of committing war crimes. Commissions of inquiry do not investigate crimes. This is the job of the Police.

Where Police fail to investigate an alleged war crime, New Zealand has agreed, with the approval of Parliament, that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court can step in instead. We should not let that happen.

Trump’s ‘voter fraud’ ego-obsession

Donald Trump’s claims of massive voter fraud are unsupported by evidence and debunked by experts. Some of his claims are plain ridiculous, not just the numbers (the millions claim happens to be about the size of Hillary Clinton’s overall vote majority over Trump)  but also that all fraudulent votes were for Clinton.

So far there have been four prosecutions for voter fraud, and two of them voted Republican.

From Trump’s interview on ABC with David Muir trump continued with his claims:

DAVID MUIR: I wanna ask you about something you said this week right here at the White House. You brought in congressional leaders to the White House. You spoke at length about the presidential election with them — telling them that you lost the popular vote because of millions of illegal votes, 3 to 5 million illegal votes. That would be the biggest electoral fraud in American history. Where is the evidence of that?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: So, let me tell you first of all, it was so misrepresented. That was supposed to be a confidential meeting. And you weren’t supposed to go out and talk to the press as soon as you — but the Democrats viewed it not as a confidential meeting.

DAVID MUIR: But you have tweeted …about the millions of illegals …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Sure. And I do — and I’m very … and I mean it. But just so you — it was supposed to be a confidential meeting. They turned it into not a con … Number two, the conversation lasted for about a minute. They made it — somebody said it was, like, 25 percent of the … It wasn’t. It was hardly even discussed.

I said it. And I said it strongly because what’s going on with voter fraud is horrible. That’s number one. Number two, I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote. I would’ve gone to California where I didn’t go at all. I would’ve gone to New York where I didn’t campaign at all.

I would’ve gone to a couple of places that I didn’t go to.

But Clinton wasn’t campaigning for the popular vote either. She was concentrating on the crucial swing states, like Trump.

And I would’ve won that much easier than winning the electoral college.

Typically brash over-confidence.

But as you know, the electoral college is all that matters. It doesn’t make any difference.

So why his obsession with the popular vote then? As is common, his words and actions are contradictory.

So, I would’ve won very, very easily. But it’s a different form of winning. You would campaign much differently. You would have a totally different campaign. So, but … you’re just asking a question. I would’ve easily won the popular vote, much easier, in my opinion, than winning the electoral college. I ended up going to 19 different states. I went to the state of Maine four times for one. I needed one.

I went to M — I got it, by the way. But it turned out I didn’t need it because we ended up winning by a massive amount, 306. I needed 270. We got 306. You and everybody said, “There’s no way you get to 270.” I mean, your network said and almost everybody said, “There’s no way you can get to …” So, I went to Maine four times. I went to various places. And that’s the beauty of the electoral college.

He didn’t win by a ‘massive amount’ – in fact he won based on a few thousand votes in each of a few key states. Winning electoral margins in the last ten elections:

  • 2016 Trump 306-232
  • 2012 Obama 332-206
  • 2008 Obama 365-173
  • 2004 GW Bush 286-251
  • 2000 GW Bush 271-266
  • 1996 Bill Clinton 379-159
  • 1992 Bill Clinton 370-168
  • 1988 G Bush 426-111
  • 1984 Reagan 525-13
  • 1980 Reagan 489-49

Being registered in more than one state is not illegal, it’s common. Many people don’t realise they didn’t de-register from one state when moving and registering in another.

It’s only illegal if they vote on more than one state, and there’s no evidence of that.

With that being said, if you look at voter registration, you look at the dead people that are registered to vote who vote, you look at people that are registered in two states, you look at all of these different things that are happening with registration. You take a look at those registration for — you’re gonna s — find — and we’re gonna do an investigation on it.

Media have already been investigating, and have found that these people are registered in two states:

  • Tiffany Trump (Trump’s youngest daughter)
  • Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law)
  • Sean Spicer (White House press secretary)
  • Steven Mnuchin (Treasury Secretary nominee)
  • Stephen Barron (chief White House strategist)

So much for Barron being a genius strategist. Perhaps he has no control over Trump’s egocentric excesses.

DAVID MUIR: But 3 to 5 million illegal votes?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we’re gonna find out. But it could very well be that much. Absolutely.

DAVID MUIR: But …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: But we’re gonna find out.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: In fact, I heard one of the other side, they were saying it’s not 3 to 5. It’s not 3 to 5. I said, “Well, Mr. Trump is talking about registration, tell–” He said, “You know we don’t wanna talk about registration.” They don’t wanna talk about registration.

You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion. Now …

Kushner is registered in both New Jersey and New York, as is Tiffany Trump.

DAVID MUIR: But again …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I’m doing an …PRESIDENT TRUMP: … investigation. David, David, David …

DAVID MUIR: You’re now, you’re now president of the United States when you say …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Of course, and I want the voting process to be legitimate.

DAVID MUIR: But what I’m asking …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: The people that …

DAVID MUIR: … what I’m asking that — when you say in your opinion millions of illegal votes, that is something that is extremely fundamental to our functioning democracy, a fair and free election.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Sure. Sure. Sure.

DAVID MUIR: You say you’re gonna launch an investigation.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Sure, done.

It was thought that an investigation would be officially announced yesterday but that didn’t happen.

NZ Daily News: Vice President Mike Pence told members of Congress that the Trump administration will launch a “full evaluation” of U.S. voting rolls and “the overall integrity of our voting system,” according to a leaked audio recording.

DAVID MUIR: What you have presented so far has been debunked. It’s been called …false.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, it hasn’t. Take a look at the Pew reports.

DAVID MUIR: I called the author of the Pew report last night. And he told me that they found no evidence of voter … fraud.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Really? Then why did he write the report?

DAVID MUIR: He said no evidence of voter fraud.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Excuse me, then why did he write the report? According to Pew report, then he’s — then he’s groveling again. You know, I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they wanna write something that you wanna hear but not necessarily millions of people wanna hear or have to hear.

Bizarre, but typically so.

DAVID MUIR: So, you’ve launched an investigation?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We’re gonna launch an investigation to find out. And then the next time — and I will say this, of those votes cast, none of ’em come to me. None of ’em come to me. They would all be for the other side. None of ’em come to me. But when you look at the people that are registered: dead, illegal and two states and some cases maybe three states — we have a lot to look into.

DAVID MUIR: House Speaker Paul Ryan has said, “I have seen no evidence. I have made this very, very clear.” Senator Lindsey Graham saying, “It’s the most inappropriate thing for a president to say without proof. He seems obsessed with the idea that he could not have possibly lost the popular vote without cheating and fraud.”

I wanna ask you about something bigger here. Does it matter more now …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: There’s nothing bigger. There’s nothing bigger.

Bigger to him perhaps, but I doubt that most voters care – especially those who voted for him, successfully.

DAVID MUIR: But it is important because …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Let me just tell you, you know what’s important, millions of people agree with me when I say that if you would’ve looked on one of the other networks and all of the people that were calling in they’re saying, “We agree with Mr. Trump. We agree.” They’re very smart people.

Claiming that millions of people agree with him on this, without any proof of course.

The people that voted for me — lots of people are saying they saw things happen. I heard stories also. But you’re not talking about millions. But it’s a small little segment. I will tell you, it’s a good thing that we’re doing because at the end we’re gonna have an idea as to what’s going on. Now, you’re telling me Pew report has all of a sudden changed. But you have other reports and you have other statements. You take a look at the registrations, how many dead people are there? Take a look at the registrations as to the other things that I already presented.

He has presented little other than nonsense.

Dead people tend to not de-register themselves. They also tend not to vote.

DAVID MUIR: And you’re saying …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: And you’re gonna find …

DAVID MUIR: … those people who are on the rolls voted, that there are millions of illegal votes?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I didn’t say there are millions. But I think there could very well be millions of people. That’s right.

He contradicts himself, he denied and then he agreed.

DAVID MUIR: You tweeted though …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: And I also say this …

DAVID MUIR: … you tweeted, “If you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally, I won the popular vote.”

PRESIDENT TRUMP: David, and I also say this, if I was going for the popular vote I would’ve won easily. But I would’ve been in California and New York. I wouldn’t have been in Maine. I wouldn’t have been in Iowa. I wouldn’t have been in Nebraska and all of those states that I had to win in order to win this. I would’ve been in New York, I would’ve been in California. I never even went there.

If the election was for popular vote both trump and Clinton would have campaigned much differently, and voters would have thought differently. It’s impossible to predict what the outcome could have been.

DAVID MUIR: Let me just ask you, you did win. You’re the president. You’re sitting …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s true.

DAVID MUIR: … across from me right now.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s true.

DAVID MUIR: Do you think that your words matter more now?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, very much.

DAVID MUIR: Do you think that that talking about millions of illegal votes is dangerous to this country without presenting the evidence?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, not at all. Not at all because many people feel the same way that I do. And …

So as long as he thinks many people agree with him it doesn’t matter if he talks unsubstantiated crap?

DAVID MUIR: You don’t think it undermines your credibility if there’s no evidence?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, not at all because they didn’t come to me. Believe me. Those were Hillary votes. And if you look at it they all voted for Hillary. They all voted for Hillary. They didn’t vote for me. I don’t believe I got one. Okay, these are people that voted for Hillary Clinton. And if they didn’t vote, it would’ve been different in the popular.

He is claiming millions of fraudulent voters all voted for Hillary.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Now, you have to understand I — I focused on those four or five states that I had to win. Maybe she didn’t. She should’ve gone to Michigan. She thought she had it in the bag. She should’ve gone to Wisconsin, she thought she had it because you’re talking about 38 years of, you know, Democrat wins. But they didn’t. I went to Michigan, I went to Wisconsin. I went to Pennsylvania all the time. I went to all of the states that are — Florida and North Carolina. That’s all I focused on.

He is right here, the Clinton campaign did stuff up on Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, but I think she tried hard in Florida and North Carolina.

DAVID MUIR: Mr. President, it does strike me though that we’re relitigating the presidential campaign, the election …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, no. We’re looking at it for the next time. No, no, you have to understand, I had a tremendous victory, one of the great victories ever. In terms of counties I think the most ever or just about the most ever. When you look at a map it’s all red. Red meaning us, Republicans.

One of the greatest victories ever.

The greatest victory ever for Trump. Otherwise the voting margins were nothing spectacular.

But, again, I ran for the electoral college. I didn’t run for the popular vote. What I’m saying is if there are these problems that many people agree with me that there might be. Look, Barack Obama — if you look back — eight years ago when he first ran — he was running for office in Chicago for we needed Chicago vote.

And he was laughing at the system because he knew all of those votes were going to him. You look at Philadelphia, you look at what’s going on in Philadelphia. But take a look at the tape of Barack Obama who wrote me, by the way, a very beautiful letter in the drawer of the desk. Very beautiful. And I appreciate it. But look at what he said, it’s on tape. Look at what he said about voting in Chicago eight years ago. It’s not changed. It hasn’t changed, believe me. Chicago, look what’s going on in Chicago. It’s only gotten worse.

But he was smiling and laughing about the vote in Chicago. Now, once he became president he didn’t do that. All of a sudden it became this is the foundation of our country. So, here’s the point, you have a lot of stuff going on possibly. I say probably. But possibly. We’re gonna get to the bottom of it.

And then we’re gonna make sure it doesn’t happen again. If people are registered wrongly, if illegals are registered to vote, which they are, if dead people are registered to vote and voting, which they do. There are some. I don’t know how many.

I can guess how many dead people voted.

We’re gonna try finding that out and the other categories that we talk about, double states where they’re — registered in two states, we’re gonna get to the bottom of it because we have to stop it. Because I agree, so important. But the other side is trying to downplay this. Now, I’ll say this — I think that if that didn’t happen, first of all, would — would be a great thing if it didn’t happen. But I believe it did happen. And I believe a part of the vote would’ve been much different.

He claimed it was important to investigate to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but then swung back to his main focus, “a part of the vote would’ve been much different”.

DAVID MUIR: And you believe millions of illegal votes …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we’re gonna find out.

DAVID MUIR: Let me ask you this …

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We’re gonna find out. And — and, by the way, when I say you’re gonna find out. You can never really find, you know, there are gonna be — no matter what numbers we come up with there are gonna be lots of people that did things that we’re not going to find out about. But we will find out because we need a better system where that can’t happen.

So he is going to find out what “you can never really find out about”.

In doing so he is taking a risk. If he does launch an investigation and it doesn’t back up his claims then his ego and credibility will take hits.

His bizarre and contradictory claims about voter fraud are damaging his credibility already.

Trump’s ego-obsession is proving to be a major distraction, and none of his advisers seem to be able to stop him.

 

Trump calls for voter fraud investigation

President Donald Trump has responded to strong criticism and rebuttal of his claims of massive levels of voter fraud by calling for “major investigation” into voter fraud.

There is no solid evidence to back up his claims. This appears to be a massive ego exercise, with Trump seemingly determined to prove he deserved to win the popular vote in the presidential election. The actual vote count:

  • Hillary Clinton 65,844,954 (48.2%)
  • Donald Trump 62,979,879 (46.1%)

Yesterday the New York Times reported: Spicer confirms from podium that yes, Trump believes millions voted illegally

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, confirmed on Tuesday that President Trump has long believed that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 election.

“He said 3 to 5 million people could have voted illegally, based on the studies that he’s seen,” Mr. Spicer told stunned reporters, acknowledging a statement that Mr. Trump made privately in a meeting with congressional leaders on Monday afternoon.

Mr. Trump and his aides repeatedly suggested during the transition period that “irregularities” contributed to his popular-vote loss by nearly 3 million ballots to Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump won the Electoral College, but his 2-percentage-point popular vote loss to Mrs. Clinton was the largest for a winning presidential candidate since the disputed election of 1876.

Democrats and some Republicans have pointed to that margin to claim that Mr. Trump is an illegitimate president. Such assertions have rankled Mr. Trump deeply.

Trump clearly won the election via the US Electoral College system, but that’s not enough for him, he seems obsessed with ratings and overall voting levels.

A November 2016 blog post on Infowars, the conspiracy theory-focused website run by radio host Alex Jones, posited the idea that roughly 3 million people voted illegally. Mr. Jones has hosted Mr. Trump on his radio show in the past.

The assertion was based on tweets from a self-proclaimed voter expert, who claimed to have a study. However, there’s no evidence of the study. And officials in swing states where Mr. Trump secured victory, many of which are governed by Republicans, say that there is no evidence of such fraud.

Mr. Spicer also made vague reference to another Pew Research Center study that supposedly backed up Mr. Trump, but the author of the study in question, David Becker, now executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, tweeted again that no such fraud happened.

The voter fraud claims are false or at least unsubstantiated claims – some could call it fake news.

When a reporter pointed out to Mr. Spicer that such widespread fraud would be one of the biggest scandals in American electoral history and asked why the administration isn’t investigating, the press secretary said, “Maybe we will.”

It looks like they will investigate. Politico reports: Trump calls for ‘major investigation’ into alleged voter fraud

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he will call for a “major investigation” into voter fraud, which he believes led to millions of illegally cast ballots in last year’s presidential election despite no evidence to support that conclusion.

“I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning, breaking his message up into multiple posts.

The claims are backed by nothing or no one credible.

In a statement released Tuesday, the National Association of Secretaries of State said “we are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the administration’s concerns.”

Voting systems are run by US states, many of them under Republican administrations.

So this looks like little more than another exercise in narcissist behaviour by Trump – albeit a potentially expensive one.

And what if a major investigation doesn’t find 3 million fraudulent votes?

An investigation is a big risk for Trump – if it doesn’t substantiate his claims it will not only highlight false claims but it will also put more spotlight on him having trailed Clinton substantially in the popular vote.

This seems to be a no [-win situation for Trump. He has already won the election.  And the risks are far greater than the outside chance he can prove he was the most popular candidate.

The Nippert tax investigations

Media is widely criticised for it’s shallowness, it’s obsession with trivia, and it’s lack of investigative reporting.

Last year Matt Nippert showed that there is still some old school investigation going on. He has detailed his series on articles on tax last year – 19 articles at NZ Herald on the topic were published through the year, in what he calls “a deliberate effort to dig into the opaque world of corporate tax avoidance and the growing Tax Gap.”

Not the most popular of topics, but far more important than much of the news we are now dished up.

The series started with package on the front page of the Herald on March 18. This included:

A pre-planned series of stories followed, including

Nippert then looked at government policy on the issue, including

Some further drilling down:

Nippert: “Throughout all this, the opinions of the public and policy-maker and even the business community appeared to shift.”

And finally “late in the year, the government finally reacted”:

In a year that the Herald was heavily criticised for it’s click-bait headlines and increasing reliance trivia we should acknowledge that they retain a commitment to some in depth investigative reporting, albeit with reducing resources.

Source: http://bigapplebites.blogspot.co.nz/2016/12/the-nippert-tax-omnibus.html

NZH bio on Nippert:

A Fulbright scholar with a masters from the Columbia School of Journalism in New York, Matt has spent the past decade in newsbreaking roles at the New Zealand Listener, National Business Review, Herald on Sunday and the Sunday Star-Times before joining the Herald in 2014. His work has won numerous awards and he is the reigning Canon reporter of the year.

His stories include horrific abuse at a state-run boys home on Great Barrier Island, malfeasance at South Canterbury Finance, systematic tax avoidance by multinational companies, and the sudden resignation of justice minister Judith Collins.

Nippert has a regular sideline as a broadcast commentator and is one of only a few journalists who honestly enjoys numbers and spreadsheets.

Last year Nippert won Canon media awards for his efforts:

  • Reporter – Business Matt Nippert – The New Zealand Herald
  • Reporter of the Year Matt Nippert – The New Zealand Herald

FBI reopens Clinton email investigation

As if the US election hadn’t been bizarre enough, it has just been announced that the FBI is going to have another look at Hillary Clinton’s use of emails.

Fox News: FBI reopens investigation into Clinton email use

The FBI has reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, in a stunning turn of events just days before the presidential election. 

FBI Director James Comey wrote in a letter to top members of Congress Friday that the bureau has “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.”

Comey did not detail those emails, saying only that they surfaced “in connection with an unrelated case.”

He told lawmakers the investigative team briefed him on the information a day earlier, “and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.”

He said the FBI could not yet assess whether the new material is significant and he could not predict how long it will take to complete “this additional work.” 

The move comes after Comey and the Justice Department decided in July not to pursue charges over Clinton’s email practices. 

Comey has since come under criticism from lawmakers and others who claim the investigation downplayed the mishandling of classified information during Clinton’s tenure. 

The presidential campaign has been dominated by Clinton’s use of emails and Donald Trump’s alleged abuse of women.

Whoever wins in two weeks the controversies and potentially legal actions are likely to linger, possible for years.

There have been reports that if Clinton wins and the Republicans keep control of the House there will be a barrage of ‘Oversight’ investigations.

Inside the GOP plot to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidency

As David Weigel of The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, is planning on “spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.” Republicans will start by continuing to investigate everything she did when she was secretary of state, and just keep on going with whatever ghastly crimes she commits as president. Welcome back to the 1990s.

Of course, the Oversight Committee’s job is oversight. And Rep. Chaffetz is much smarter than the person who preceded him in that position, Darrell Issa; Issa’s probes of the Obama administration were far more likely to end with Issa looking foolish than with the administration being embarrassed, and Chaffetz is unlikely to commit as many pratfalls. But it’s a hint that Republicans are in no mood for a “honeymoon” with the new president, where everyone says they hope they can get along and make important progress for the good of the country. It’ll be open warfare from Day 1.

That’s dependent on Republicans retaining control of the House, which they will probably do. As long as they have the chairmen’s gavels, they can mount whatever investigations they want and drown the administration in subpoenas. And look, oversight is important. It can be done in a responsible way that ferrets out wrongdoing and keeps the administration honest. But how much confidence should we have that Republican lawmakers are capable of that?

To answer that question, all you have to do is look at what the last eight years have been like. It isn’t encouraging.

Take Benghazi, about which many Republicans are still livid. There were eight separate congressional investigations into the attack that killed four Americans. Clinton’s emails will eventually get just as vigorous an examination, with the fact that she has not yet been placed in leg irons spurring every new hearing.

Unfortunately for Republicans, this will be exactly what their base demands. After all, you can’t go through an election in which your presidential nominee leads daily chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” and then think all that rage will just disappear.

The next White House tenure could be ongoing ugly. Or uglier.

UPDATE – NY Times: New Emails in Clinton Case Came From Anthony Weiner’s Electronic Devices

Federal law enforcement officials said Friday that the new emails uncovered in the closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server were discovered after the F.B.I. seized electronic devices belonging to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, and her husband, Anthony Weiner.

The F.B.I. is investigating illicit text messages that Mr. Weiner sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. The bureau told Congress on Friday that it had uncovered new emails related to the Clinton case — one federal official said they numbered in the thousands — potentially reigniting an issue that has weighed on the presidential campaign and offering a lifeline to Donald J. Trump less than two weeks before the election.

In a letter to Congress, the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said that emails had surfaced in an unrelated case, and that they “appear to be pertinent to the investigation.”

Mr. Comey said the F.B.I. was taking steps to “determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.” He said he did not know how long it would take to review the emails, or whether the new information was significant.

So the new information may not be significant but the FBI is dropping it into the closing stages of the campaign, without any indication details will be released prior to election day?

So the Democrats are a mess, the Republicans are a mess, the FBI is a mess. And the US has been seriously divided.

Can any good come out of this?

EU investigating NZ as tax haven

Newshub reported tonight that the European Union is investigating whether to include New Zealand on a tax haven black list or not.

Investigation by EU as it prepares a blacklist of global tax havens

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More details: EU considers blacklisting NZ over tax laws

New Zealand is under investigation by the European Union as it prepares a blacklist of global tax havens.

The grouping of 28 European nations has compiled a list of countries with lax tax laws, but following the release of the so-called Panama Papers it has confirmed that New Zealand is under investigation.

The EU loses around $NZ1 trillion to tax havens each year, and it intends to put a stop to the practice by threatening a raft of sanctions against countries which don’t comply to its standards.

New Zealand doesn’t comply, even when the recommendations made by tax expert John Shewan as a result of the Panama Papers are included.

What the EU wants:

  1. No anonymity – trust settlers and beneficiaries are identified and changes are recorded. New Zealand will meet this standard when Mr Shewan’s changes are introduced.
  2. Collection of information about financial assets – where the funds came from, the current assets, where they are, and the income earned in the past year. New Zealand will meet this standard when Mr Shewan’s changes are introduced.
  3. No tax exemption of foreign income. New Zealand will NOT meet this standard even when Mr Shewan’s changes are introduced.
  4. Automatic exchange of information with foreign tax authorities in the jurisdictions where the settlers and beneficiaries are resident. New Zealand will NOT meet this standard even when Mr Shewan’s changes are introduced.
  5. A public register of trust ownership and details. New Zealand will NOT meet this standard even when Mr Shewan’s changes are introduced.

Non-complying nations face:

  1. Trade sanctions
  2. Suspension of negotiations for a free-trade agreement
  3. Possible travel bans or visa restrictions.
  4. Sanctions against companies, banks, tax advisers, accountancy and law firms involved in tax deals.

Police investigating voting paper thefts

The police are investigating the alleged theft of hundreds of flag referendum voting papers after claims were made on Twitter.

If the claims are true this is a serious breach of democracy and law. If untrue it’s a seriously irresponsible claim.

Radio NZ: Alleged flag voting paper theft investigated

The Electoral Commission is investigating claims an Auckland man stole hundreds of flag voting papers and voted in favour of the new design

Several people alerted the commission to the comment he made on a Facebook page five days ago.

The man said he had collected the voting papers from people 'who couldn't care less'.The man said he had collected the voting papers from people ‘who couldn’t care less’.

The man wrote that he had collected nearly 300 voting papers from neighbours and friends that he believed “couldn’t care less”.

He had ticked the new flag option on all of them – but it was not known if the papers have been cast.

He has claimed he has ticked them, that doesn’t mean he has collected the voting papers or doing anything with them.

The number sounds suspect to me, that’s a lot of papers to either be stolen or given to someone – who would willingly give him their voting papers?

And if stolen as suggested surely someone would have noticed something, that’s a lot of letter boxes or houses raided.

Whether true or not this is very stupid and highly irresponsible.

If the vote ends up being close can we expect a long and costly process of checking the votes?

 

Peters to apologise to Horan?

Will Winston Peters apologise to Brendan Horan and offer to reinstate him in NZ First now the police have rejected a complaint Peters made to the serious Fraud Office?

The Police issued this press release this afternoon.

Completion of investigation into Mr Brendan Horan

Statement – attribute to Detective Inspector Mark Loper, District Manager, Criminal Investigations, Bay of Plenty District

Tauranga Police has completed an investigation into a complaint against Mr Brendan Horan.

The complaint was made by Mr Winston Peters MP to the Serious Fraud Office in December 2012.

Mr Peters made allegations about the misappropriation of funds from Mr Horan’s late mother’s bank account, and the complaint was referred to the Police for investigation.

There has been a comprehensive investigation by the Western Bay Of Plenty Criminal Investigation Branch into these allegations over the last 2 years, including review of the file by senior detectives.

After consideration of all relevant information and the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines, police have determined that there is insufficient evidence to charge any person with a criminal offence.

Parties involved have been advised of the outcome and the investigation has been filed.

Peters also effectively kicked Horan out of NZ First which made it virtually impossible for Horan to be re-elected as an independent MP in 2014.

I guess Peters could claim he knows best as “insufficient evidence to charge any person with a criminal offence” doesn’t prove innocence, but if the police can’t find sufficient evidence after a two year investigation it’s fair to wonder what Peters based his actions on.

Frances Cook (Newstalk ZB) tweeted:

Horan: two year investigation has taken a toll, particularly when people would point and whisper in the street.

Says he’ll “never” forgive Winston Peters for dropping him from party. Says it’s difficult to forgive himself for ever working with Peters.

Update: Feeling is mutual. Winston Peters says they’ve long forgotten Horan, it’s “unthinkable” that he’d ever return to politics.

From NZ Herald:  Ex-MP Brendan Horan cleared by police after allegations he took money from late mother’s account

Mr Horan learned the two-year police investigation into the claims was over in a meeting with Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner at the Tauranga police station yesterday.

“He told me it was a comprehensive investigation,” Mr Horan said. “They went through my bank records, interviewed many people. After the investigation that has taken around two years, there’s no evidence to support any charges being laid against me.”

The allegations stemmed from a family disagreement over the will of Olwen Horan and effectively ended Mr Horan’s brief parliamentary career. He was a first term Member of Parliament for NZ First in December 2012 when the claims were made, with party leader Winston Peters passed information from those who had themselves changed her will to access a greater share of inheritance.

In Parliament, Mr Peters said he had on the “initial complainant and those associated with him, evidence to support their allegations”.

In the wake of his call, “substantive material” was provided which left him with “no confidence in Mr Horan’s ability to continue as a Member of Parliament”.

Mr Horan was kicked out of NZ First and Mr Peters, in Parliament, said the MP had “a duty, I believe, to resign from Parliament”.

Mr Horan continued working as an MP, stood as an independent in last year’s election but was unsuccessful.

Since then, the ongoing police investigation has dogged the former MP and made it difficult to secure sought-after jobs.

I wonder how many political careers Peters has ruined and tried to ruin without producing substantial evidence to back his claims?

 

 

IPCA to investigate Hager house search

The Independent Police Complaints Authority has propmtly confirmed to the Green Party that it will investigate a complaint about the police actions in searching Nicky Hager’s house.

Metiria Turei has advised by press release:

IPCA to investigate Green’s complaint over Hager search

The Green Party received a letter this afternoon from the IPCA confirming that it will investigate, after the party wrote to the authority on Monday. A High Court judge last week found that the police warrant and search on Mr Hager’s home, which followed the publication of his book Dirty Politics, were unlawful.

“We welcome the IPCA’s prompt decision to investigate the decisions that led to the police warrant and unlawful search of Mr Hager’s home,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“There are many unanswered questions from the Dirty Politics scandal, and why the police made the decision to search Mr Hager’s home is one them.

“Given that the warrant and search on Mr Hager’s house has been ruled unlawful, I asked IPCA to investigate the decisions of senior-ranked police officials involved in applying for the warrant.

“It’s important to remember that Nicky Hager’s work uncovering the dirty politics regime run out of the Prime Minister’s office was the reason for the search.

“The Prime Minister has never properly addressed those allegations, other than to attack Mr Hager’s integrity.

“However the Inspector General of Intelligence did investigate one of Hager’s claims and confirmed the Prime Minister’s staff had handed confidential information provided by the Security intelligence Service to the attack blogger Cameron Slater,” Mrs Turei said.

I think this investigation will be useful in determining whether there was political involvement in police decisions to search Hager’s house.

Labour MPs including Annette King and David Parker have also suggested political ‘pressure’ – see Labour accusations of political pressure on police.

Turei’s emphasis here on ‘Dirty Politics’ suggests a wider agenda as her motive but the IPCA should focus on what influenced police decisions to search Hager’s house.

If there was interference from politicians it’s important that comes out.

And it is as important to know if there was not political pressure in this case, to counter the political accusations and insinuations.