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NY attorney general wants Trump to testify in fraud case

New York state’s attorney general has accused former President Donald Trump’s family business of repeatedly misrepresenting the value of its assets to obtain financial benefits, citing what it said was significant new evidence of possible fraud.

The accusations by Attorney General Letitia James mark a substantial escalation of her civil probe into the Republican leader’s business, the Trump Organization, and the roles of his adult children.

Evidence suggests Trump and the Trump Organization had misstated the value of six properties, including one on Wall Street and golf clubs in Scotland and Westchester County outside New York City, James said in a statement issued late on Tuesday night.

“We have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit,” the statement read.

James has been investigating whether real estate values were inflated to obtain bank loans and reduced to lower tax bills. A separate investigation by the Manhattan district attorney is looking at potential criminal violations.

James’s office detailed its findings in a 115-page court filing made public late on Tuesday. Among the documents the attorney general has obtained is an overall analysis of the Trump Organization’s corporate cash flow prepared by its top financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.

The filing described evidence of misstatements to lenders, insurers and the Internal Revenue Service.

Among the inflated values identified in the court document, Trump’s penthouse in Manhattan’s Trump Tower was listed as three times bigger than it actually was, overestimating its value by $200m.

In July, the Trump Organization and Weisselberg pleaded not guilty in a New York court to 15 felony fraud and tax evasion charges. His trial is due to begin in the middle of this year.

Former President Donald Trump faces pressure from several legal probes after leaving office in January 2020 [File: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo]

James has subpoenaed Trump and his children Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump to testify under oath in her civil investigation and wants a judge to order the Trumps to testify within 21 days. The family has asked a judge to block the subpoenas. Neither Trump nor his children have been accused of criminal wrongdoing.

“The Trumps must comply with our lawful subpoenas for documents and testimony because no one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them,” James said.

Trump has called the nearly three-year probe by James, a Democrat, a political “witch-hunt” and has been trying to block the probe in court.

Lawyers for the Trump family have argued that James’s subpoenas are an improper means to gather evidence in the civil probe that could then be used in the criminal probe.

Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump’s children, said in a statement James’s filings did not address her “repeated threats to target the Trump family” and ignore their constitutional rights by conducting overlapping probes, the Reuters news service reported.

Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, in a statement, called James’s accusations “merely the latest in a long line of unfounded attacks against my client and an obvious attempt to distract the public from her own inappropriate conduct. Letitia, you are not above the law.”

The Trump Organization in a statement said it will defend against James’s “baseless” charges, accusing her of twisting the facts and misleading the public because she faces “the stark reality that she has no case”.

Last month, Trump sued James in a federal court in Albany, the capital of New York state, to halt her civil probe, calling it a means to harass and intimidate a political opponent.

Eric Trump, another of Trump’s adult sons, testified under oath in James’s civil probe in October 2020, and according to her invoked his constitutional right not to incriminate himself more than 500 times in six hours.

The former president, who has refused to acknowledge defeat in the 2020 presidential election, is facing pressure from several legal probes.

In Washington, DC, he is trying to prevent a congressional probe into the January 6 Capitol riot from accessing White House records related to that day.

Trump was also questioned for more than four hours in October as part of a lawsuit by a group of protesters who allege that his security guards assaulted them six years ago.

He is also battling to prevent years of his tax returns from being released to prosecutors.

Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip to Prince William and Kate Middleton; 5 Royal romances that are unforgettable

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Famous Royal love stories

Royal love stories have intrigued fans for ages. Be it the magical romance between Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip or the extremely chaotic marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the love stories have always been one-of-a-kind. Due to the same reason, royal family fans have been invested in the various love stories from the British monarch’s family and needless to say, all the romances are for the histury books! Not just the older couples, but the newer generation of royals aka Prince Harry-Meghan Markle and Prince William-Kate Middleton have their own perfect love stories that are unforgettable. Without further ado, we take a look at some of the most interesting Royal family romances that stood the test of time.

Photo Credit : GETTY IMAGES


In Peru, Courts ‘Used Like Whips’ to Silence Journalists

The police raided a reporter’s house after he investigated an elite Catholic society. A court ordered journalists’ assets frozen following a defamation complaint from a powerful figure. A sports journalist called the head of a soccer club inept, and was sentenced to a year in prison.

And then, last week, a judge sentenced a Peruvian journalist to two years in prison and imposed a $100,000 fine following a defamation lawsuit brought by a powerful, wealthy politician.

Media experts called the decision the most direct threat to freedom of expression in Peru in years. And, they said, it was part of a worrying trend across the region — but particularly strong in Peru — in which powerful figures are using the courts to intimidate and punish journalists who investigate them.

“It absolutely sidesteps the fundamental principles of freedom of expression,” said Ricardo Uceda, who leads the Press and Society Institute of Peru, of the ruling.

The politician in this case, César Acuña, is the subject of a book by the journalist, Christopher Acosta, called “Plata Como Cancha,” meaning roughly “Cash by the Bucket.”

In the book, Mr. Acosta quotes multiple sources who accuse Mr. Acuña, a multimillionaire who ran for president and now heads a political party, of buying votes, misusing public funds and plagiarizing. In his decision, the judge in the case, Raúl Jesús Vega, said that nearly three dozen phrases in the book were defamatory.

Rather than address the veracity of the statements, Judge Jesús Vega criticized the journalist for failing, in his assessment, to sufficiently back them up.

The judge also found Jerónimo Pimentel, the director of the book’s publishing house, guilty. And he held Mr. Pimentel and the publisher, Penguin Random House in Peru, also responsible for paying the $100,000 fine, which will go to Mr. Acuña.

Mr. Acosta will not go to prison — many shorter sentences are suspended in Peru — and the parties are appealing the decision.

But the legal action dropped like an anvil on the news media in Peru, with many saying it is sure to have a chilling effect on future reporting.

Mr. Acosta, who will likely face a lengthy appeal process, said that he sees the lawsuit coming “not just from a desire to harass a particular journalist, but to send a message to journalists across the country.”

That message was clear, he said: “Look what can happen to you if you mess with me.”

The case involving “Cash by the Bucket” is particularly worrying, said media experts, because in their analysis, Judge Jesús Vega has significantly raised the bar for reporting, suggesting it is not enough to interview and quote several people with knowledge of the matter when making an allegation.

Rather, advocates say, the judge’s language in the sentencing suggests that to be fit for publication, information must have been vetted by an authority, such as a congressional investigation.

But a journalist should not be convicted of defamation if evidence shows that he or she has done due diligence to verify published allegations, said Miguel Jugo, a lawyer for Peru’s national journalism association.

Unlike in the United States and Mexico, where defamation is typically a civil matter, in Peru it is a criminal offense, defined as the act of publicly attributing to another person “a fact, a quality or a conduct that could harm his honor or reputation.”

In the “Cash by the Bucket” case, said Mr. Jugo, the judge is claiming that Mr. Acosta did not do this due diligence — something that Mr. Acosta and many of his allies dispute.

Mr. Acosta is the head of investigations at Latina Noticias, an important television channel in Lima. All of the allegations in his book, he told the Committee to Protect Journalists, are direct quotes that came from interviews, or from news articles, attorney general’s investigations, or legal and congressional testimony.

Other nations in the region have similar laws, said Natalie Southwick at the Committee to Protect Journalists. But, she said, Peru has “seen the most consistent convictions in criminal defamation cases.”

According to Peru’s national journalism association, instances in which the judicial system was used against reporters rose to 29 a year from 18 a year between 2020 and 2018.

These defamation suits come after years of economic growth in Peru that expanded public coffers — and created new opportunities for self-dealing among the ruling class.

In recent years, corruption scandals involving former presidents, judges and lawmakers have fueled a political free-for-all, with clashes between Congress and the executive branch and mass protests leading the country to cycle through four presidents in the past year.

Journalists have uncovered much of the wrongdoing.

But powerful figures have pushed back, often using the judicial system, and in many cases succeeding.

“The courts and the prosecutor’s office are being used like whips to silence journalists,” said Paola Ugaz, an investigative journalist who has faced repeated lawsuits and a criminal inquiry after revealing allegations of sexual and physical abuse in an elite Catholic society in Peru.

“Tell me, what publishing house now is going to want to publish a book knowing they could suddenly be forced to pay 400,000 soles, with a conviction for the editor?” she said.

A book Ms. Ugaz is working on about the group’s finances has been delayed by two years because she has had to focus on her legal defense, she said.

Her reporting partner, Pedro Salinas, received a one-year suspended prison sentence in 2019, following a lawsuit brought by an archbishop. The archbishop eventually retracted the suit, and a similar suit against Ms. Ugaz.

But earlier this month, authorities raided Mr. Salinas’ home, saying they suspect him of corruption in relation to a job his public relations company did years ago.

“The emotional, familial and psychological damage is great,” said Ms. Ugaz of the legal cases.

Mr. Acuña, 69, the magnate who brought the suit against Mr. Acosta, became mayor of the city of Trujillo just as Mr. Acosta, now 38, was beginning his career as an investigative reporter in the same city.

Over the years, Mr. Acuña made his wealth as the owner of for-profit universities and served as a congressman and a governor.

Mr. Acuña went on to run for president in 2016 and 2021. He was barred from the election in first run after he was caught on camera promising to distribute cash in a poor neighborhood.

By then he had already fallen in the polls, after local media reported that he was suspected of plagiarizing parts of his doctoral thesis, and a book written by a former professor.

The country’s intellectual property protection department eventually found that Mr. Acuña had violated copyright rules in both cases, and ordered him to pay fines. But the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, which had published the thesis, decided after an investigation that it had not found sufficient cause to retract it.

Despite his decline in popularity, Mr. Acuña’s party has increased its presence in Congress. Last year, it helped impeach former president Martín Vizcarra, and it is seen as crucial to the political survival of the current president, Pedro Castillo.

Mr. Acuña denied the charges in the book, and said that media advocates were “exaggerating” the possible impact of his lawsuit.

“I say to my journalist friends: Don’t be afraid,” he said, “as long as you stick to your code, your journalistic code.”

That journalistic code, in his view, includes a responsibility to “unite Peruvians, not divide them, like is happening now.”

Ms. Southwick, the media advocate, pointed to instances in Guatemala and Brazil where powerful people have used the courts to sue journalists, and said the case “reflects a longstanding sentiment among powerful individuals in various countries across the region that they are above scrutiny.”

But, she said, “part of being a public official is being willing to be held to account.”

Amazon Prime Video Reveals ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ Series Title & Teases Second Age Tales

Amazon Prime Video’s series adaptation of The Lord of the Rings now has a name.

The streamer has revealed that its upcoming J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation will be titled The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and has teased some details that will undoubtedly excite fans of the Second Age.

It comes ahead of the launch of the series on September 2.

“This is a title that we imagine could live on the spine of a book next to J.R.R. Tolkien’s other classics. The Rings of Power unites all the major stories of Middle-earth’s Second Age: the forging of the rings, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the epic tale of Númenor, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men,” said Showrunners J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay. “Until now, audiences have only seen on-screen the story of the One Ring – but before there was one, there were many… and we’re excited to share the epic story of them all.”

The series is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth — thousands of years before the events of the Lord of the Rings films and the novels. The series brings to screens for the very first time J.R.R. Tolkien’s fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth.

Amazon revealed the name in a video that you can watch above.

Headlining the ensemble cast are Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Lloyd Owen, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, Daniel Weyman, and Sara Zwangobani.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is led by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay. They are joined by executive producers Lindsey Weber, Callum Greene, J.A. Bayona, Belén Atienza, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, Gennifer Hutchison, Bruce Richmond, and Sharon Tal Yguado, and producers Ron Ames and Christopher Newman. Wayne Che Yip is co-executive producer and directs along with J.A. Bayona and Charlotte Brändström.

Amazon

Ant Anstead Stays ‘Positive’ Coparenting With Exes Christina, Louise

Crushing coparenting! Ant Anstead is “invested in” his children while raising his kids with Louise Anstead and Christina Haack.

The motor specialist, 42, became a dad in September 2003 when he and Louise welcomed daughter Amelie, now 18, followed by son Archie, 15, four years later. Following their split, the England native moved on with Haack, 38. The Flip or Flop star gave birth to son Hudson, now 2, in September 2019, one year before they called it quits.

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The car builder has a “great relationship” with Louise, he exclusively told Us Weekly on Tuesday, January 18, while promoting Radford Returns.

“We were together for 22 years. We are still best friends,” the Wheeler Dealers host told Us. “We FaceTime at least every couple of days because we’re family. It helps that my kids are older.”

Ant noted that he is able to “properly” see his teenagers, although that did become difficult amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“When I see them … I take the time off. I make sure I’m present,” the reality star explained. “I deal with it in a really positive way. I think it works really well. … I like being a present parent. I like being invested in my children.”

When asked about Haack, Ant gushed to Us about his “great relationship” with Hudson, saying, “I’m responsible for my portion of that. … I’m lucky that I get to be really, really hands-on with Hudson. There are so many people that are worse off. So I choose to lean into the positive side of parenting. … If you make a decision that puts the children first, it’s probably the right decision. I’m a firm believer in being responsible for my portion.”

Ant and the Christina on the Coast star are trying to give their toddler “as normal of an upbringing as possible” following their breakup, a source exclusively told Us in August 2021.

“[They] continue to coparent well,” the insider added at the time. “They put Hudson first and put any tension that’s between them to the side.”

Haack is currently engaged to Josh Hall, while news broke in June 2021 that Ant is dating Renée Zellweger. The former police officer met the 52-year-old actress on the set of Celebrity IOU: Joyride, which filmed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ant also worked on his latest TV project, Radford Returns, post-quarantine, and the For the Love of Cars alum gushed to Us about the “cool” show on Tuesday. “I’m a car guy,” he said. “I have been since I was a kid, and I love nothing more than driving fast cars recklessly on the track. So the good thing about building a supercar [on the show] is it is by its very nature fast. So I got to do a lot driving.”

Radford Returns premieres on Discovery+ Saturday, January 22.

With reporting by Diana Cooper

Moms Like Us tackles all your parenting questions and breaks down all the celebrity parenting news of the week.

New photo released in case of toddler who vanished one month ago

The family of missing three-year-old Lina Sardar Khil has shared a photo of her taken on the day she disappeared.

Pamela Allen, who is representing the family, said the girl’s father Riaz Khil had shared Lina’s photo on Monday. The photo could potentially help in search operations being carried out.

Ms Allen, who is also the president of local nonprofit Eagles Flight Advocacy and Outreach, told ABC News that “the father sent that [the photo] to me because so many people were asking about jewellery”.

The photo was also shared on social media by the organisation on Monday.

It shows Lina wearing a red dress along with golden and blue bangles on both her wrists. She is also wearing small gold earrings and a “taweez” or religious amulet on her neck.

“That is the exact dress that she was wearing on the day that she disappeared. She did have on a black jacket that her mother said she put on her because she didn’t want her to be cold,” Ms Allen added.

The child, whose family reached the US from Afghanistan in 2019, was last seen on 20 December from an apartment complex playground.

She disappeared after her mother allegedly left her unattended for a brief period of time, San Antonio police chief William McManus earlier said during a press conference.

When her mother returned to the park, Lina was gone.

Lina was last seen between 4.30pm and 5.10pm at a park on Fredericksburg Road in San Antonio near the family’s home, police said.

A search operation being jointly conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the San Antonio police department is now stretching to a month.

An FBI underwater search team deployed to look for the child was earlier called off without “any conclusive findings”.

“I wish there was more uplifting information I could give you to at least provide some hope, but I don’t have any of that information, unfortunately,” the police chief said on 4 January.

Police claim they subsequently went door-to-door around the apartment complex trying to glean any information they could from locals pertaining to the girl’s whereabouts.

Subsequently, an amber alert issued for Lina was suspended on 7 January. Authorities, however, claimed the investigation was ongoing and that the child was “an active missing person.”

A reward of more than $150,000 (£110,280) has been put forward in the search for her, of which $100,000 (£73,520) is from the Islamic Centre of San Antonio.

Boris Johnson faces grilling over ‘partygate’ as Conservative MP defects to Labour

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses MPs on Wednesday as he faces a revolt within his own party over revelations that his staff threw parties as the rest of Britain was forced to obey strict Covid-19 lockdown rules. His remarks come as Conservative MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour in protest against Johnson’s leadership. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday faced signs of an organised revolt in his Conservative party over revelations of lockdown-breaching parties, as he geared up for a grilling in parliament.

Johnson was set to speak at the weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions, before outlining a plan to lift most coronavirus restrictions, as he strives to reboot his embattled leadership.

Criticism intensified after Johnson on Tuesday gave a strained television interview, in which he claimed not to have been told that at least one “bring your own booze” event would breach the Covid lockdown rules that he set.

Afterwards, a group of more than 20 Tory MPs met to “discuss their concerns about Johnson’s leadership”, The Times newspaper reported.

It said a number of those were preparing to submit letters of no confidence after Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons at midday (1200 GMT).

Several were named by media as those elected for the first time in Johnson’s landslide election victory in 2019, including younger Tories from the opposition Labour party’s former heartlands of northern England.

Their bid to unseat the prime minister was dubbed the “pork pie plot” because one of the MPs involved represents Melton Mowbray, a town in central England known for making the pastry covered meat products. 

“Pork pies” is also Cockney rhyming slang for “lies” — which a majority of voters believe Johnson is guilty of spreading over the “partygate” affair, according to several opinion polls.

The Daily Telegraph — Johnson’s former employer from his days as a journalist and which normally backs the government — reported that 11 MPs elected in 2019 had submitted letters of no confidence.

At least 54 Tory MPs need to send letters calling for the prime minister’s resignation to trigger a party leadership challenge. 

The threshold could be reached later Wednesday, the Telegraph said, although senior cabinet members are said to be uneasy at the pace of events with no consensus on a figure to succeed Johnson.

‘The pressure is absolutely mounting in parliament’

 

Inflation stokes crisis 

“I choose to believe what he said,” armed forces minister James Heappey told Sky News, backing Johnson to stay in office pending an internal inquiry into the Downing Street parties by a senior civil servant.

But he conceded the Tory rebellion was not surprising, “because the British people are absolutely furious with what they’ve heard”.

Heappey added on Times Radio: “I am angry too, but I take very seriously the ministerial code that we all sign up to, and our responsibility when we stand up at the (Commons) dispatch box to be accurate in what we say.”

Johnson wrote in the foreword to the code in August 2019 that “integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest… must be honoured at all times”.

Last week, he told parliament he had no prior knowledge of a party that he and his staff attended in the Downing Street garden in May 20, 2020, during one lockdown.

But his former chief advisor Dominic Cummings on Monday said Johnson had lied in that statement, insisting that he and other aides had warned him the event was illegal under the then rules.

Senior Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds told Sky News that Johnson “has lost all authority”, but the prime minister hopes a rollout of policy announcements will help steady the Downing Street ship.

Later Wednesday, Johnson was expected to say that in England from January 26, people can go back to working in their offices, and will no longer need to show vaccine passports on entry to larger events.

After the Omicron variant emerged, Britain’s daily caseload for Covid topped a record 200,000 infections in early January, but has now dropped to less than half that.

But he remains hobbled by growing alarms over the economy, which is fuelling Conservative jitters as Labour surges to a double-digit lead in the polls. 

British annual inflation accelerated to a near 30-year high of 5.4 percent last month, according to the latest data, stoking fears over a cost-of-living crisis as households’ energy bills rocket.

(AFP)

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