Friends and family carry the coffin with the remains of Peru’s former President Alan Garcia, who killed himself this week, during the last of three days of national mourning declared by President Martin Vizcarra, in Lima, Peru April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Janine Costa
April 19, 2019
By Marco Aquino
LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian ex-president Alan Garcia wrote in an alleged suicide note read by family members at a wake on Friday that he had killed himself in order to avoid humiliation at the hands of his political enemies.
Garcia shot himself in the head earlier this week as police arrived at his door to arrest him in connection with alleged bribes from Brazilian builder Odebrecht, in the most dramatic turn yet in Latin America’s largest graft scandal. Before his suicide, Garcia had repeatedly brushed off allegations of corruption as a political hit.
One of Garcia´s daughters read the apparent suicide note at a wake held by his APRA political party, which twice helped usher Garcia to the presidency.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the letter, nor the time at which it was written.
“I will not be humiliated,” read Luciana Garcia, citing a note left by her father before his suicide. “I have seen others paraded around in handcuffs, living a miserable existence, but Alan Garcia has no need to suffer these injustices.”
“For this reason, I leave to my children the dignity of my decisions; to my friends, my pride, and to my enemies, my cadaver as a sign of my contempt for them.”
The note underscores the deep political rift that continues to plague the Odebrecht investigation in Peru and elsewhere in Latin America.
Peruvian prosecutors investigating the Brazilian builder said they had gathered sufficient evidence to hold Garcia in pre-trial detention while they prepared charges against him. Garcia maintained his innocence until the end, calling the probe politically motivated.
“In this time of rumors and hatred, believed by the majority…I have seen how these procedures are used to humiliate and not to seek the truth,” Garcia wrote in the letter read before thousands of his friends and allies at the wake.
President Martin Vizcarra, whose administration has overseen the probe, had offered Garcia´s family a state funeral with honors, typical of that received by former presidents.
The Garcia family declined Vizcarra´s offer, preferring instead a private event with the ex-president´s friends and allies.
Garcia´s suicide is likely to drive a wedge between Vizcarra´s government and the right-leaning opposition in Peru´s Congress, many of whom were allied with the ex-president.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino, writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro speaks at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo
April 19, 2019
By Marcela Ayres
BRASÍLIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s resistance to the privatization of the national postal office has been broken, a senior government source told Reuters on Friday asking for anonymity because the matter remains private.
This change of stance has allowed the economic team to consider ways to sell the state-owned company, the source said, referring to Empresa Brasileira de Correios e Telégrafos.
The rationale is that a private owner would modernize services and more quickly respond to changes in the marketplace such as responding to growing demand from e-commerce firms.
The national postal service did not immediately respond to a comment request.
Economy Minister Paulo Guedes told Globonews TV this week it would be “a very big leap” for the government to privatize oil major Petroleo Brasileiro SA, which was at the center of an epic corruption scandal in Brazil.
Instead, Guedes said, the president would consider the sale of another key state-owned company. That company, according to the source, is the national postal office.
Ostensibly, Guedes has insisted that the federal government should reduce the size of the state to cut public debt, making companies and the economy more efficient. He has also pointed out that excessive state control over businesses opens up the door to corruption.
(Reporting by Marcela Ayres; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
U.S. Attorney General William Barr departs after speaking at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
April 19, 2019
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Attorney General William Barr could have buried Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report deep in the recesses of the U.S. Justice Department and simply told the public that President Donald Trump would not face criminal prosecution.
“These reports are not supposed to be made public,” he said at a news conference on Thursday morning.
By releasing a redacted version of the report on Thursday, Barr followed through on a promise he had made months earlier to make as much of Mueller’s findings public as possible.
But that opened Barr up to widespread criticism from Democrats and some legal experts, who questioned his decision not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice, and accused him of acting like the president’s personal defense lawyer.
Mueller’s 448-page report outlined 10 episodes in which Trump tried to get the special counsel fired, limit the scope of his investigation, or otherwise interfere with the probe.
Mueller stopped short of concluding that Trump had committed a crime, but did not exonerate him of wrongdoing either, leaving Barr or Congress the option to take action against the Republican president.
Some experts said Barr should have brought charges.
“To me, they laid out a chargeable obstruction case,” said Shanlon Wu, a former federal prosecutor who represented Rick Gates, the former Trump deputy campaign chairman who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements and is cooperating with the investigation.
Barr’s news conference, held before the report’s release, provided more fodder for his critics.
Barr praised the White House’s cooperation with the investigation and said Trump’s public and private efforts to interfere with the probe could have been fueled by a “sincere belief” that the investigation was “propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks.”
At several points, Barr echoed Trump’s mantra that Mueller had found “no collusion” with Russia.
To some, it was a disappointing performance from a man who had been praised for upholding the Justice Department’s independence during a previous stint as attorney general from 1991 to 1993.
“He’s really shown himself to be principally focused on defending the president,” said Robert Litt, a former federal prosecutor who had supported Barr’s nomination for the job.
A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Barr did not mislead the public because the White House cooperated with the probe despite Trump’s numerous statements criticizing it. The official also said Mueller had a choice to either recommend charges against Trump or not, and he had decided against it.
The top two Democrats in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, accused Barr of deliberately distorting Mueller’s findings.
Representative Eric Swalwell, one of the more than 15 Democrats running for president, called on Barr to resign.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, had a different perspective. “I think Barr is a straight lawyer. He’s an honest man,” he said.
GOING EASY ON THE REDACTIONS
In one area at least, Barr exceeded expectations. Democrats had worried that he might use too heavy a hand when redacting portions of the report that dealt with sensitive material, such as ongoing investigations, confidential legal proceedings and matters of national security.
In the end, 6 percent of the report was blacked out, according to ProPublica.
“The redactions seemed to me to be reasonable,” said Jack Sharman, a lawyer who worked on the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton during the 1990s. “I was a little surprised.”
Starting next week, 12 top lawmakers and their staffers will be able to see a more complete version in a secure reading room.
Still, if Democrats were pleasantly surprised by the extent of the redactions, they were not saying so, and Barr is sure to face pointed questions when he testifies before Congress in May.
Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, compared Barr to Trump’s early mentor Roy Cohn, a political fixer best known for his involvement in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist scare campaigns of the 1950s.
Trump “may have found his Roy Cohn in Attorney General Barr. But it may be too late, because the truth has come out about how the White House operates in the Mueller report,” Raskin said.
To some in Trump’s camp, the criticism was a sign of a job well done.
“Attorney General Barr knew every step of the way that people are going to unload on him today,” said Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser. “He had a role to play and he played it.”
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld, Sarah N. Lynch, Nathan Layne and David Morgan; Editing by Leslie Adler)
FILE PHOTO: A worker stands on the scaffolding at a construction site against a backdrop of residential buildings in Huaian, Jiangsu province, China October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
April 19, 2019
BEIJING (Reuters) – China will maintain policy support for the economy, which still faces “downward pressure” and difficulties after better-than-expected first quarter growth, the Communist Party’s top decision-making body said on Friday.
The statement from the politburo came two days after China reported had steady 6.4 percent annual growth in January-March, defying expectations for a further slowdown, as industrial production jumped sharply and consumer demand showed signs of improvement.
“While fully affirming the achievements, we should clearly see that there are still many difficulties and problems in economic operations,” the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing a politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.
“The external economic environment is generally tightening and the domestic economy is under downward pressure.”
China will implement counter-cyclical adjustments “in a timely and appropriate manner”, while the pro-active fiscal policy will become more forceful and effective, and the prudent monetary policy will be neither too tight nor too loose, it said.
For this year, the government has unveiled tax and fee cuts amounting to 2 trillion yuan ($298.35 billion) to ease burdens on firms, while the central bank has cut banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRR) five times since early 2018 to spur lending.
Further policy easing is widely expected.
On Friday, the politburo reiterated that the government will effectively support the private economy and the development of small- and medium-sized firms.Authorities will strike a balance between stabilizing economic growth, promoting reforms, controlling risks and improving people’s livelihoods, the politburo said.
China will push forward structural deleveraging and prevent speculation in the property market, it said.
“We should adhere to the orientation that houses are used for living, not for speculation,” the politburo said, reaffirming a city-based approach in controlling the property sector.
China’s economic growth is expected to slow to a near 30-year low of 6.2 percent this year, a Reuters poll showed last week, as sluggish demand at home and abroad weigh on activity despite a flurry of policy support measures.
(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Kevin Yao; Editing by Richard Borsuk)
Don McGahn was barely on speaking terms with President Donald Trump when he left the White House last fall. But special counsel Robert Mueller’s report reveals the president may owe his former top lawyer a debt of gratitude.
McGahn, who sat with Mueller for about 30 hours of interviews, emerged as a central character in Mueller’s painstaking investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice and impeded the years-long Russia investigation. In one striking scene , Mueller recounts how Trump called McGahn twice at home and directed him to set Mueller’s firing in motion. McGahn recoiled and threatened to resign instead.
Mueller concluded that McGahn and others effectively halted Trump’s efforts to influence the investigation, prompting some White House officials and outside observers to call him an unsung hero in the effort to protect the president.
John Marston, a former Washington, D.C. assistant United States attorney, said McGahn appeared to help Trump “both in real time with his actions and then as well as being forthcoming.”
McGahn’s relationship with the president was turbulent. A prominent Washington attorney, he joined Trump’s campaign as counsel in 2015 and followed him to the White House, but the two men never developed a close rapport. His departure last fall came as little surprise.
Still, it was McGahn who Trump turned to on June 17, 2017, when he wanted to oust Mueller. According to the special counsel report, McGahn responded to the president’s request by calling his personal lawyer and his chief of staff, driving to the White House, packing up his belongings and preparing to submit his letter of resignation. He told then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the president had asked him to “do crazy s—.”
Mueller said McGahn feared Trump was setting in motion a series of events “akin to the Saturday Night Massacre,” the Nixonian effort to rein in the Watergate investigation.
William Alden McDaniel, a lawyer who represented targets and witnesses in the Ken Starr investigation, as well a high-ranking officials in the Iran-Contra scandal, said McGahn appeared to be “one of the few people in the administration to stand up to the president” and that “takes a certain amount of principle.”
Mueller’s report shows there were a handful of other aides who rebuffed orders and suggestions from the president, helping save him from the consequences. Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski resisted an effort by Trump to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself from the investigation and to limit the scope of Mueller’s probe. Priebus and McGahn repeatedly resisted Trump efforts to force out Sessions so that Trump could replace him and install a new person to oversee Mueller’s work.
McGahn also tried in other ways to keep the president in line, advising him that he should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice to avoid the perception or reality of political interference in law enforcement and reminding him that their conversations were not protected by attorney-client privilege.
Trump responded by questioning McGahn’s tendency to take notes and draft memoranda outlining his advice to the president for the historical record.
“Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” Trump said, according to Mueller’s report. The special counsel said McGahn responded that he keeps notes “because he is a ‘real lawyer’ and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing.”
Exchanges like those appear to have led Mueller to conclude that McGahn was “a credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House.”
McGahn did not respond to a request for comment Thursday and nearly a dozen friends and former colleagues mostly spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting him, describing him as a private person.
They largely characterized McGahn’s time in the White House as unhappy and defined by his frequent clashes with the president.
“Don is an experienced lawyer who’s dealt with difficult clients in the past,” said Jason Torchinsky, an election law attorney who has known McGhan for 20 years.
The White House declined comment.
In a campaign and White House staffed largely by novices and bootlickers, McGahn was a rare establishment figure, despite his longer hair and 80s cover band dabbling. He served as commissioner and chairman of the Federal Election Commission and had deep roots with the Republican party, including spending a decade as general counsel of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
At the White House, he earned praise from conservatives for helping confirm a series of conservative judges, including, in his final act, shepherding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. He was also instrumental in fulfilling long-held conservative priorities, including leading the White House’s systematic effort to cut government regulations and weaken the power of administrative law judges.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan & Pakistan Richard Holbrooke (L), co-chairs a session with Pakistan’s Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh during the Pakistan Development Forum in Islamabad November 14, 2010. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
April 19, 2019
By Asif Shahzad and Drazen Jorgic
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan made a sweeping cabinet reshuffle on Thursday after only seven months in power and appointed Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as de facto finance minister to steer the country through worsening economic turmoil.
Pakistan is on the brink of signing up for it 13th International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout since the late 1980s in a bid to stave off a balance of payments crisis and ease ballooning current account and fiscal deficits.
Khan’s government inherited a wobbly economy but the former cricketer has come under intense criticism for failing to fulfill his promises that he would steady the ship and bring prosperity to Pakistan.
Khan late on Thursday announced 10 ministerial appointments in a shakeup that included the departure of Finance Minister Asad Umar, who has been a close ally to Khan for many years.
Shaikh, who already served as finance minister from 2010-2013 under the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party when it was in power, has been appointed as “Adviser on Finance” but will be heading the finance ministry once again.
In Pakistan it is common for financial experts to be given the title of “adviser”, rather than federal minister, to head the finance ministry when they are not a sitting member of parliament.
Earlier in the day Umar, announcing that he would step down, said Pakistan would still go into an IMF program but warned his successor that he faces a tough job ahead.
“No one should expect from the new finance minister that things could be better in three months’ time,” Umar told reporters in capital Islamabad on Thursday afternoon.
“The next budget will be a difficult one,” he added, referring to annual spending plans for the financial year ending June 2020 due to announced in May.
Umar, who had been asked to quit on Wednesday night, said he still strongly believed Khan was the best hope for the country.
Influential Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has been moved to the science and technology ministry, while retired Brigadier Ijaz Ahmed Shah has been appointed as Interior Minister. Energy expert Nadeem Babar has been appointed to lead the petroleum ministry.
Khan was widely expected to turn to a steady hand to replace businessman Umar, who was the former chief executive of Engro, Pakistan’s biggest private conglomerate.
Shaikh, a U.S-educated economist who worked at Harvard University, also spent many years working for the World Bank and had also been the privatization minister during the government of former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf.
Speculation that Umar would be replaced had been rife for months, with some business groups and investors unhappy with Umar’s strategy of seeking short-term loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia instead of finalizing an IMF rescue package after Khan assumed power in August.
Khan’s government has got temporary relief from allies, including China and Saudi Arabia, who offered short-term loans worth more than $10 billion to buffer foreign currency reserves and ease pressure on the current account.
But it was not enough.
Umar has been leading negotiations with the IMF but has faced criticism over a worsening economic outlook on his watch, with inflation at a five-year high and the local rupee currency down about 35 percent since Dec 2017.
The central bank last month cut growth estimates, forecasting the economy to expand 3.5 to 4 percent in the 12 months to the end of June, well short of a government target of 6.2 percent. The IMF paints a gloomier picture, predicting growth of 2.9 percent in 2019 and 2.8 percent next year.
(Additional reporting by Saad Sayeed; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Robert Birsel, Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Heavens)