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Fran?ois Fillon fights growing ‘Penelopegate’ scandal

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PARIS – Francois Fillon’s campaign to turn into French president is losing altitude.

On Thursday, aides on the former prime minister rushed to have a growing scandal over reports that Fillon’s British wife completed generously paid operate in parliament for some time without really performing.

After an economic prosecutor opened an initial investigation, top backers vowed they will prove his innocence. Bruno Retailleau, Fillon’s?campaign coordinator, promised that evidence would prove rapidly that Penelope Fillon had indeed done the project that she was paid 500,000 over eight years.?The judicial probe could are months, dogging Fillon all over the the majority of the campaign.

“As soon because the [financial prosecutor’s] offices are open, Francois Fillon’s lawyer will go there using a certain amount of bits of evidence,” Retailleau, a senator, told Europe 1 radio early Thursday, without specifying the of the evidence.

Conservative allies also rushed to shield Fillon, whose poll scores have slipped up to now month but who remains favorite to win the presidential election in May. Valerie Pecresse, an ancient budget minister in Fillon’s government, attacked the timing of your investigation, launched 90 days before a presidential election. She hinted that it was politically motivated. “I’ve never witnessed a court investigate so rapidly on the basis of a newspaper report – the speed is astonishing,” she told RTL.

Crisis communications

After staying silent for the very best component of a couple of days – save for describing?the allegations as “sexist” – Fillon made television?Thursday night to insist his wife tried real improve him since then he was elected to parliament three decades ago.

“She has edited my speeches, stood in for me at events as soon as i couldn’t be there, done newspaper reviews,” he stated, adding that proof could well be made available to the public prosecutor.

    Fillon said his wife had worked pro bono for him until 1997, when among his parliamentary aides resigned and then paid her from?his MP’s payroll.

    Critics assailed the “misogyny” defense as awkward and near the point. Instead of dousing a media blaze, it just sharpened focus on independent reports disputing the bona fides of Penelope Fillon’s parliamentary job.

    In l’Obs magazine, a longtime parliamentary journalist wrote that they never saw Penelope Fillon at the job in the chamber. His testimony echoed that relating to an MP’s assistant who was simply that will share duties with Fillon’s wife, but told Le Canard Enchaine she?was not ever around.

    “None individuals has any memory of ever encountering her [Penelope Fillon] in the Palais Bourbon [National Assembly], not just through the buffet at the reception,” wrote Olivier Picard in l’Obs.

    Fillon have not denied having paid his wife for parliament work, that he said was legal. In this particular sense he will be correct, as no rules prohibit MP hiring spouses or relations, a practice that is certainly fairly common.

    However, neglecting to perform a project for what design pays is illegal, additionally, the practice of doing so contains a long history among France’s right-wing politicians. Former president Jacques Chirac, under whom Fillon served like a minister, was dogged for years by allegations that as mayor of Paris he or she paid dozens of people doing work in “fictional jobs,” as being the practice may be known in France. Chirac was never found guilty of any crime, but his heavily covered trial made the notion familiar to an incredible number of French those who recognize it now from the “PenelopeGate” scandal.

    Nice work if you possibly can get it

    Beyond the strictly legal risk, we have a political minefield awaiting Fillon. Having campaigned, very successfully, on promises to rein in public places spending and shock the French economy into recovery, as a result faces accusations of hypocrisy, wanton using of institutional privilege and being disconnected from regular people.

    Penelope Fillon’s reported earnings contrast sharply with France’s median monthly gross income of approximately 2,250. For blue-collar workers, the figure is all about 1,700.

    Fillon’s political rivals – particularly Marine Le Pen, who may be widely expected to go up against him inside of a run-off opt for france presidency – will never let this type of opportunity be wasted.

    Macron may even see an opportunity to steal Fillon voters, selling himself as fiscally responsible as well as ethically clean.

    For now, the nation’s Front president goes easy on the conservative candidate, her closest rival to your presidency. She may not choose to draw attention to the reality that she and several other National Front MEPs they are under investigation for misuse of parliamentary assistants?along at the European Parliament – an incident that sounds as being similar to Fillon’s.

    But Le Pen, who’s got positioned herself as a champion of blue-collar workers, does not need to carry on the attack for Fillon’s case to function to her advantage.

    Another potential winner is Emmanuel Macron. The 39-year-old former minister was doing Fillon in polls before the PenelopeGate scandal broke, largely due to the scarcity of a center-left candidate in the race. (The last round on the Socialist Party’s primary is born Sunday, with left-winger Benoit Hamon required to clinch the nomination.) Now, Macron may even see a chance to steal Fillon voters, selling himself as fiscally responsible and even ethically clean.

    Fillon will have to formulate some convincing answers soon to receive his campaign back to normal.

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    Republican lawmakers don\’t back Trump’s attacks on Comey

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    More troubling into a lawmakers was the reality that Trump will continue to weigh in on the investigation – in public and on Twitter – and has launched a campaign to attack Comey\’s credibility.

    \”You stands out as the first president to search down since you also can\’t stop inappropriately discussing an analysis if you only were quiet would clear you,\” Graham said on CBS\’ \”Face the united states.\”

    Since Comey testified Thursday prior to Senate Intelligence Committee, Trump has questioned hmo\’s FBI director\’s credibility. Comey stated after his firing, he steered the content of memos memorializing his account of meetings with all the president on the press. Though he maintains the information presented in those memos was unclassified, Trump initiated a policy of attacking him as a \”leaker\” and suggested Sunday that his decision to produce his concerns public may just be illegal.

    Comey\’s testimony "showed no collusion, no obstruction, he\’s a leaker," Trump said on Friday inside White House\’s Rose Garden. On Sunday morning, he tweeted, \”I believe the James Comey leaks will be considerably more prevalent than anyone believed possible. Totally illegal? Very \’cowardly!\’\”

    But even Trump\’s staunchest Republican defenders declined to directly back which claim on Sunday. \”I have no idea should it be a crime,\” Lee said. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) declared that \”even if your law had not been broken,\” Comey shouldn\’t have leaked towards the press.

    \”Man up,\” he stated on Fox News\’ \”Sunday Morning Futures.\” \”Come out and say, \’This is precisely what happened.\’\” King also mused that Comey may be behind a string of damaging press leaks in December, January and February that have already contributed to the administration\’s stumbling start.

    But Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) had strong praise for Comey after his testimony. \”I mean personally component all the committee members we\’re grateful for your company to the united states not only to your capacity as FBI director speculate prosecutor, and above all being somebody who loves the united states enough to see it want it is,\” Burr told the former FBI chief.

    Trump has drawn his staunchest defense from his political allies. Longtime confidant Roger Stone, who himself is caught up in the Russia investigation but has defiantly insisted he previously had no illicit contacts with Russians throughout the campaign, blasted Comey repeatedly over the weekend.

    \”No obstruction of justice, no collusion from Trump camp. This man is deranged,\” Stone said of Comey on Sunday, tweeting an image of an Comey T-shirt while using words \”Nut Job\” emblazoned below his face.

    But even Trump\’s top supporters struggled sometimes utilizing their defense. Trump\’s son Mr . trump Jr. seemed to suggest on Fox News over the past weekend that his father did the truth is tell Comey he \”hoped\” the FBI would let the Flynn investigation go.

    \”When he notifys you to behave, guess what, there\’s really no ambiguity there. There isn\’t any, \’Hey, I hope,\’\” Trump Jr. said. \”\’You we are friends. Hey, hope this takes place, but you reached do your career.\’ It is precisely what he told Comey.\”

    Yet, Trump Jr.\’s comment seemed to contradict obama brilliant legal team, who said Trump never made the remark in anyway.

    So when Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel Body of Trump\’s most vocal allies amid the growing scandal – on Sunday necessary Congress to terminate its inquiries into Russia\’s meddling while in the 2016 presidential campaigns, she drew a swift rebuke from Graham.

    \”None of this business,\” he explained when inquired on Romney McDaniel\’s remarks.

    One curveball that lawmakers might have to address this week: A Trump lawyer declined to eliminate that Trump would consider wanting to oust Mueller.

    \”The president is going to consult with his counsel and from the government and also outside. Exactly what not going to speculate upon which he will probably, or will likely not, do,\” attorney Jay Sekulow said on ABC\’s \”This Week.\”

    Sekulow said he \”can\’t imagine\” the situation would arise, but \”that, again, is a concern the president together with his advisers would discuss if there was a basis.\”

    Trump won\’t have the capability to fireside Mueller directly, but also in theory could order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to dismiss Mueller and may fire Rosenstein if he didn\’t comply. Trump could then nominate someone who would likely dismiss the special prosecutor.

    Asked for the prospect of Trump pushing out Mueller, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on the very same show, \”That\’d turn into a mistake.\” He called Mueller \”above reproach.\”

    Democrats have started suggesting with increasing volume that Trump often have obstructed justice by allegedly pressuring Comey out from the Flynn probe. Most on Sunday cautiously tiptoed about the issue, noting that Mueller\’s probe would get to the bottom of this question. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, though, said he offers to invite Trump to testify publicly and under oath prior to a Senate. Trump himself said Friday although be ready to protect himself in public places testimony. But Schumer\’s request seems unlikely to materialize anytime soon.

    Comments from lawmakers tee up a frenetic week of action into their Russia probes. The home Intelligence Committee has requested copies of any tapes Trump often have of his meetings with Comey. Trump hinted inside a tweet recently that some may exist, but he\’s since refused to verify or deny their existence, frustrating people in Congress looking to eliminate the difficulty. The Senate intelligence Committee is attempting to schedule a hearing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who\’s got recused himself in the role from the Russia investigation.

    Comey, on Thursday, suggested he previously nonpublic information that contributed to Sessions\’ recusal, and late Saturday, as concerns that information grew, Sessions announced his will testify . It\’s unclear whether Sessions\’ appearance are going to be public or private.

    The Senate intelligence panel can also be attempting to schedule a discussion with Trump\’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who reportedly attemptedto begin a communications back channel while using Kremlin at the end of December. And Manchin said he\’s seeking to plan a closed selecting two top intelligence officials – Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers – go over reports that Trump had asked these phones undermine the Russia investigation. Both men declined to communicate publicly about those reports throughout an open hearing prior to the committee on Wednesday.

    And Graham said he expects the Senate to secure a sanctions package that may slap Russia with penalties due to its interference inside 2016 election. If Trump doesn\’t sign it, he stated, \”He would be betraying democracy.\”

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    Clock ticking in Romanian corruption showdown

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    BUCHAREST – By passing a decree that may let corrupt politicians free, the Romanian government also set the clock ticking on efforts to thwart it.

    The measure was passed late Tuesday night, to turn into effective 10 days later. That deadline assists galvanize thousands of protesters who’ve flooded the streets to demand the decree be revoked.

    With the ecu Commission along with the embassies of Western nations also criticizing the move, the costa rica government must decide getting in touch with defy both mainstream European opinion additionally, the biggest demonstrations in Romania for the reason that fall of communism.

    Curiously, late government entities may not actually aid the protesters’ cause, like a temporary administration will not have the power to cancel the decree, according to political experts.

    Events were mounted in train when Justice Minister Florin Iordache announced how the government would update the penal code by decriminalizing the offense of official misconduct for cases involving injury to the population purse of less than

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    Political

    How Australia built a wall (and purchased it)

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    SYDNEY – Think of it Australia’s naval wall.

    It’s cloudy the amount Mr . trump is aware of how Australia treats refugees who arrive on its shores by boat. Though the program would probably get his approval.

    In the three-and-a-half?years since launch of Operation Sovereign Borders, the “Lucky Country” has?turned?back rickety vessels and detained asylum seekers offshore in harsh conditions for the Pacific island of Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. Refugees who arrive by sea are banned from?ever settling in?Australia – without exception.

    Critics (and some proponents) in the system voice it out is brutal by design, providing those fleeing persecution with a cruel but effective deterrent. And delay: In 2013,?300 boats carrying 20,587 people made it to?Australia. Only 1 year later, the quantity of boat-people dropped to?157. Since 2014, no boat has made it?through.

    “On moral and ethical grounds We would express it is wrong to look at people with committed no offense, and treat them so badly how they?love to face persecution instead,” said barrister Julian Burnside, who works pro bono?with asylum seekers and campaigns against?offshore detention. “But be the fundamental logic than it.”

    The U.N.’s human rights committee ruled?the fact that indefinite detention of refugees over?security concerns breached international law.

    Whether Australia’s hardline system breaks international law is often a couple of heated debate in the united states – and abroad.

    Conditions in Australian-run detention camps are notoriously harsh. Reports of self harm, allegations of medical negligence, illness, suicide, rape,?assaults at the hands of fellow asylum seekers, hostile locals and authorities?are commonplace. In 2009, the Guardian published?2,000 leaked incident reports from Nauru, including allegations of a guard?threatening to kill a kid and the other swapping sexual favors for really shower time.

      Australia’s?leaders?insist they?adhere to their?obligations, but the U . n . and NGOs?have differing views. In April 2016, the U.N.’s human rights committee ruled?that your indefinite detention of refugees over?security concerns breached international law?and?ordered the nation to produce?five those who were detained?for six years.

      Also in 2009, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called for the immediate change in asylum seekers out of the Manus Island and Nauru processing centers, labeling?them inhumane and “immensely harmful.” Amnesty International swallows a similar view. “Amnesty disagrees while using the government’s interpretation of the obligations under international humanitarian law,” said Australian spokeswoman?Emma Bull.

      Dumb and dumber

      And?this system comes at a price. Australia,?which in the ’90s considered itself something of the?deputy regional peacekeeper into the United States’ global sheriff, has lost most of its humanitarian good waiting on home and abroad. Faced with a flood of negative media reports?quoting doctors about conditions in the processing centers, the Australian government threatened?doctors and nurses with two-year prison sentences if he or she spoke out. (Authorities eventually caved into media pressure and amended the foundations.)

      And as there are the monetary cost.?Australia currently holds about 1,250?refugees in the?offshore processing centers, who typically have spent 478 days in detention. As you move the government hasn’t already?detailed the cost of the work, according to the Australian National Audit Office?holding the refugees costs over?405,000 (in close proximity to $440,000) per person each and every year. Electrical systems, the?Australian government estimates Syrian refugees that happen to be able to settle in Australia as part of its humanitarian intake cost it roughly 10,700 per person annually.

      Australia, which contains?a population of 24 million, has pledged to?settle?19,000 refugees per year on its shores, when they don’t arrive by boat.

      Because?Australia bans boat-arrivals?from selecting its shores, those that?are granted refugee status either can live in detention, settle in the community on?Manus or Nauru, or say yes to move to one third country.

      That leaves the country?begging or bribing others?to take refugees off its hands.

      Enter the?refugee resettlement arrangement?struck in November with then U.S. Barack obama, which Trump referred to as a “dumb deal”?on Twitter.

      The agreement is true for refugees already on Nauru and Manus, plus those chosen Australia temporarily for medical therapy. They can be qualified to apply for a one-off resettlement during the U.S., be more responsive to vetting by American authorities.

      The deal was away from the back of one other, struck in?September by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a invitation-only summit hosted by Obama. Under that arrangement, known as something of advance payment, Australia accepted resettle?Central American refugees from?camps in Panama and nicaragua , and pledged over 92 million aid for displaced people around the world.?(Australia, who has?a population of 24 million, has pledged to?settle?19,000 refugees 1 year on its shores, when they don’t arrive by boat.)

      If the U.S. deal falls through, Australia should resort to its plan b: Cambodia. Beneath a pact?struck in 2014, Australia accepted?cash nation around 40?million to resettle its refugees. Unfortunately, the agreement with Cambodia is?- to loan Trump’s phrase – a dumb deal. A couple of years after that it was struck, only?five refugees have decided look at the country, and simply one?has stayed there.

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