Prosecutors asking for 2-year prison sentence for Anthony Weiner

With Anthony Weiner’s sentencing set for Monday, the big question is: Will he go to prison?

In their sentencing memorandum prosecutors are seeking 21-27 months imprisonment for Wiener, the former US congressman and estranged husband of Hillary Clinton’s former adviser Huma Abedin. Prosecutors back up their request by stating, “Weiner, a grown man, a father, and a former lawmaker, willfully and knowingly asked a 15-year old girl to display her body and engage in sexually explicit conduct for him online.”

Weiner, 53, pleaded guilty this May in New York’s Federal District Court to one count of transferring obscene material to a minor. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

His attorneys maintain Weiner is not a sexual predator but a sick man who has made “stunning progress” through counseling. They are asking for probation.

The former New York mayoral candidate is in the midst of a divorce from his wife. It is not known if she will attend his sentencing on Monday.

Lewd messages

The facts of the case, according to the government, begin with the 15-year old girl contacting Weiner in the evening of January 23, 2016, by sending him a direct message on Twitter. Over the next few hours Weiner exchanged messages with her that ranged “from the mundane to the provocative.”

The government states that although Weiner knew he was communicating with a minor the exchanges became “increasingly suggestive,” continuing the next day on Facebook Messenger and then via messaging and photo sharing sites Kik, Confide and Snapchat.

The exchanges continued into February, the government states, even though Weiner knew the girl was a high school student who was getting her learner’s permit.

The government’s memorandum goes on to state that in February 2016 Weiner and the girl participated in three video chat sessions on Skype, during which she “made clear that she was … in fact, only 15 years old.” During several of these chats Weiner “”used graphic and obscene language” to ask the girl “to display her naked body and touch herself,” prosecutors say.

Weiner also sent her pornography, prosecutors say.

A career collapses

This was all happening under a veil of secrecy, even though Weiner’s personal and professional life had been collapsing around him for half a decade.

In June 2011 Weiner was forced to resign from Congress after a lewd picture appeared on his Twitter page. He originally said he was hacked but soon after admitted he had lied but that his marriage to Abedin was intact. His resignation came after photos were released publicly of Weiner in various stages of undress.

Six months later Abedin gave birth to their only child. In July of 2013, two months after Weiner announced he was running for mayor of New York City, a gossip website published screen shots of sexual conversations Weiner had with a woman the previous year.

Abedin joined Weiner for the first time during a press conference, saying that although her husband had made some “horrible mistakes” …”what I want to say is I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him…we are moving forward.”

Weiner’s mayoral campaign imploded after he admitted to having more lewd conversations with women he met on the Internet. In May of this year, Abedin filed for divorce.

“I knew this was as morally wrong, as it was unlawful,” Weiner said at his guilty plea in May. “This fall, I came to grips for the first time with the depths of my sickness. I had hit bottom.”

‘A product of sickness’

In their voluminous, 219-page sentencing document, Weiner’s lawyers call his crime “a product of sickness.”

“Anthony had already repeatedly been ruined by scandals in which his ‘confidential’ adult counterparts reported their explicit encounters to the tabloids,” they write. “And yet he compulsively responded to this teenage stranger too, under his own name as always, with his self-destructive behavior…”

The defense maintains that Weiner is not a sexual predator. His attorneys say that results of a psychosexual evaluation determined that “Anthony has no abnormal sexual interest in teenagers. His numerous other fantasy sexting partners were adults. He never sought out teenagers on the Internet.”

The defense also argues that the girl was the aggressor in their texting and that Weiner “responded to the victim’s request for sexually explicit messages not because she was a teenager but in spite of it. He responded as a weak man, at the bottom of a self-destructive spiral, and with an addict’s self-serving delusion that the communications were all just Internet fantasy.”

Weiner’s attorneys say he has finally received counseling for his issues. “The stunning progress he has made is indisputable, testified to by the professionals who have treated him,” they say.

But prosecutors argue Weiner’s pattern of behavior “suggests a dangerous level of denial and lack of self-control warranting a meaningful incarceratory sentence.”

A prison sentence would “promote respect for the law and serve as a deterrent to others who are considering a (similar) path,” they say.

Follow this story

From dotard to Goliath, world reacts to Trump

A giant gold Goliath. Mentally deranged. A pusher of pipe dreams.

World leaders pulled out the stops, and perhaps a thesaurus or two, to review President Donald Trump’s first appearance at the UN General Assembly, the multi-day pageant of meetings known as the Super Bowl of Diplomacy.

Some of the more colorful trash talk came from old foes of the US, while rivals for power tried to land a punch about nations used to “lording it over others.” But alongside the expected zingers came a raft of quieter criticism from countries that have long stood beside Washington in the global arena.

Where some saw a “refreshing” honesty in Trump’s remarks, others said the concern bubbling up from allies about his rhetoric and policies on Iran, North Korea, climate change and even domestic issues suggests there’s a danger the US will grow isolated on the international stage.

“Isolation of a different sort”

“This is isolation of a different sort, this is self-isolation,” said Daniel Serwer, director of the Conflict Management Program at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies. “These aren’t conservative positions, they’re radical positions on climate change, North Korea and Iran.”

Trump delivered trademark provocation — threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea in a body based on the idea of turning swords into ploughshares. He dismissed the North Korean leader as “Rocket Man.” He hinted at a decision to walk away from the international pact that restrains Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

And in a body devoted, however imperfectly, to the idea of collaboration for the greater good, he championed self-interest.

“Some of us were embarrassed, if not frightened, by what appeared to be the return of the biblical giant gold Goliath,” said Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president. “Are we having a return of the Goliath to our midst who threatens the extinction of other countries?”

Mugabe said that the world wanted to be led by a United States guided by values of unity and peace, “not by the promise of our damnation.” Countries like his had already resisted “damnation” in the form of imperialism. “The master of imperialism was defeated by us,” he said. “Bring us another monster, by whatever name, he will suffer the same consequences.”

Criticism from the likes of Mugabe, not a particularly warm friend of the US, is “just business as usual,” said James Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “Put everyone’s politics and line up their comments and they just fall in line like tin soldiers.”

Certainly, the usual critics lined up.

North Korea’s Kim slammed Trump from afar as a “mentally deranged US dotard,” sending hundreds of thousands running to their dictionaries.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, speaking just outside the General Assembly, bristled with sarcasm as he told reporters that, “of course the country that violates the human rights all over the world seems to have the moral authority to come and speak to the rest of the countries as if they were his employees.”

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran rebuked Trump’s “ignorant, absurd rhetoric.” Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla, said the US leader “manipulates” the concept of sovereignty and security, “ignores and distorts history, and portrays a pipe dream as a goal to be pursued,” to his own benefit and the harm of others, including his allies. 

At least one of those allies had nothing but praise for Trump. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that, “in over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech.”

The US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that many countries “were very positive to the speech,” adding that “they appreciated how blunt and honest he was … how straightforward he was and how refreshing it was.”

But publicly and privately, Haley and the Israeli leader seemed to be in the minority.

One senior diplomat from a close US ally said Trump’s references to his “America First” campaign platform, which he tied to his remarks on sovereignty, were “just terrible.” A diplomat from the Middle East, asked for an opinion about Trump’s address to the UN, simply laughed and after a pause said, “interesting.”   

But others were more than happy to air their concerns publicly, however carefully.

French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were among leaders who called out Trump for his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, putting the US in a club of three, alongside Syria.

“There is no country on the planet that can walk away from the challenge and reality of climate change,” Trudeau told the UN Thursday.

Another nearby neighbor, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray, used his address to the UN to question Trump’s “America First” spin on sovereignty.

“We hear voices today questioning the efficacy of multilateralism to deal with the world’s challenges,” Videgaray said, without mentioning Trump by name. “Mexico rejects this dilemma and continues to be a sovereign state with a profound multilateral feeling. No matter how powerful a country is it cannot respond to the enormous shared challenges of time.”

“It is multilateralism that makes a difference,” the Mexican minister said, mentioning problems like climate change, arms regulation, drug control and natural disasters as just a few examples of challenges one country can’t manage alone.

A win for Mexico, a loss for the US

At a later press conference, he wondered at the logic of Trump’s decision to expel children brought to the US without papers, many of them from Mexico and now known as “Dreamers.” “It’s hard to understand why a country would export, export for free a human capital of this quality,” Videgaray told reporters at the UN. “If that happens it would be a tremendous win for Mexico, big loss for the US.”

Again and again, people returned to the Trump administration’s handling of North Korea, singling out the propensity for threats that, in their view, escalate tensions, not defuse them.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven wasn’t the only person to question not just Trump’s boast of North Korean destruction, but the place he chose to do it. Speaking to CNN, Lofven said, “I think the spirit of the world community and the United Nations is not to threaten one another, it is to find a way to common solutions.”

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel rebuked Trump’s remarks on sovereignty and his dismissal of the Iran deal, linking it to ongoing tensions with North Korea. “This is not only about Iran,” Garbiel said. “This is about the credibility of the international community.”

What happens, he asked, “if it turns out that negotiated agreements do not endure and confidence in those agreements are not worth the paper they’re written on. How are we going to convince countries like North Korea that international agreements provide them with security?”

Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono also touched on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Iran deal is known, saying that it’s “extremely important” the pact be continuously and steadily implemented.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who told a room full of diplomats that “we don’t destroy countries,” made clear that Europe will chart its own path if need be. If the US leaves the deal, she said, “I can tell you as a European … we will make sure that the agreement stays.”

Carafano says the Europe is upset because of Trump’s “big challenge to the euro-federalist program,” the commitment to a European Union. “They see calls for sovereignty as a direct challenge on the European project.”

As for the upset about Trump’s threat to North Korea, Carafano says it’s “laughable.”

But others like Serwer see worrying signs.

“The European allies aren’t with us on North Korea, Iran or climate change,” he said. “He is pretending to lead but nobody is following. It’s that bad.”

Follow this story

Trump gives ‘final warning’ on North Korea trade. What comes next?

The high-stakes standoff between the U.S., China and North Korea is heating up.

President Trump on Thursday gave the Treasury Department more power than ever to punish people and businesses who trade with North Korea. The big questions are how and when it will be used.

“They certainly have enough evidence to move forward with these kinds of sanctions,” said Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “It looks like they were interested in providing one little final warning, especially to China.”

Trump has been pushing China to use its deep economic ties with North Korea to pressure Kim Jong Un’s regime to back down from developing nuclear weapons. China is estimated to account for roughly 90% of North Korea’s foreign trade, with money and goods flowing back and forth across a land border that runs for 880 miles.

On Friday, China announced it would limit its exports of refined petroleum products to North Korea beginning in October 1 to comply with U.N. resolutions.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement that exports of condensate oil, liquefied natural gas as well as textile imports from the North are currently prohibited.

Trump’s big ‘experiment’

Even though China has supported a series of tough U.N. resolutions this year targeting a growing portion of North Korea’s economy, many experts are skeptical that Chinese officials and companies are fully applying the sanctions.

That’s where the new powers Trump gave Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin come in. They enable him to cut off access to the U.S. financial system and freeze the assets of any company or individual doing business with North Korea, measures known as secondary sanctions.

Those are serious threats for major Chinese banks, which had $142 billion of assets in the U.S. at the end of March, according to the Federal Reserve. U.S. dollars are the lifeblood of the global financial system and banks operating internationally need easy access to them.

“We are about to run the most significant experiment in the use of secondary sanctions on North Korea to date, and perhaps the most significant such experiment with respect to any country ever,” wrote Stephan Haggard, a North Korea expert at the University of California, San Diego.

Alarm bells in banks

The executive order that Trump signed Thursday is likely to have set off alarm bells around the globe.

“Every single big bank in the world has sent or will be sending a memo to their compliance teams,” Haggard said. “Those teams in turn will be scrambling to figure out if they have any North Korea risk.”

But it’s uncertain exactly how Chinese banks will respond.

Earlier this month, China ordered its financial institutions to take a number of steps to comply with past U.N. resolutions, including halting business with sanctioned individuals and companies. And employees at some major Chinese banks told CNNMoney that they were no longer opening new accounts for any North Koreans.

Unprecedented pressure

Those measures did not go far enough for Trump.

The North Korean regime is believed to use a complex network of front companies to do business in China and other countries to dodge sanctions. Trump’s new order has put the onus on banks and other firms to find out whether the businesses they’re dealing with have any kind of North Korean connection.

Banks that may have previously looked the other way now have a strong incentive to pay close attention or risk severe punishment. If they all begin cutting off business with North Korea, the impact would be felt immediately.

“It’s something that the North Koreans have never really faced before,” said Ruggiero, a former official at the State and Treasury departments who specialized in financial sanctions and weapons proliferation issues.

Too big to sanction?

But the new U.S. measures still come with limitations.

Experts say cutting off a major Chinese bank from the U.S. financial system could have unforeseen consequences, such as a chain reaction of defaults that could ripple through the world’s second largest economy and beyond. Beijing, which has strongly opposed sanctions against its companies, could retaliate against U.S. interests.

Ruggiero said there are still less drastic measures available, such as slapping a big fine on a high-profile Chinese bank to deter others.

“I certainly don’t rule out that this administration could decide that a North Korean nuclear weapon on an ICBM is a big enough threat to overrule the concerns that [crippling sanctions on a big Chinese bank] could harm both economies and crack the trade relationship,” he said. “But…there are things that can be done before getting there.”

‘Parallel universe of banks’

Other factors could also blunt the effectiveness of the new U.S. measures.

There may be smaller Chinese banks and firms dealing with Kim’s regime that have little or no exposure to the U.S. financial system, Haggard said. North Korea is also believed to have an array of illicit revenue sources, such as cyberattacks, drugs and weapons.

“If the sanctions don’t have the anticipated effect, it could be because North Korea has a… parallel universe of banks and firms that simply are immune” to the executive order, Haggard wrote.

And other experts point out that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has developed over decades, surviving periods of famine and economic crisis. Pyongyang can take a lot of pain.

— Stella Ko, Donna Borak, Yuli Yang and Serenitie Wang contributed to this report.

Follow this story

‘You don’t need it all the way’ and other things Trump said about ‘the wall’ on Friday

President Donald Trump ensured a crowd in Alabama Friday night that “the wall is happening.”

While speaking on behalf of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange, Trump touted his proposal for a wall on the United States’ southern border.

Here’s some of the more notable comments the President made during his speech regarding the construction of the wall:

Transparent

Criticizing the inability to see across the border that comes with a concrete wall, Trump said the new design needs to be transparent.

“If you can’t have vision through it, you don’t know whose on the other side,” he said.

“You need to have a great wall, but it has to be see-through,” Trump said. “We’re looking at different samples already of see-through walls. And, I think also, to be honest with you, a see-through wall would look better.”

“I’m going to out and look at them personally, going to pick the right one,” he added.

Not a full wall

Trump noted that a wall extending across the entire border is not necessary.

“You don’t need it all the way,” Trump said, adding, “We are going to have as much wall as we need.”

“You have a lot of natural barriers, et cetera. Somebody said, ‘Well, what are you going to do, you going to build that wall in the middle of the river? … That nobody can go in? Are you going to build that wall on the mountain?’ I said, ‘You don’t need the wall on the mountain. You have a mountain which is a wall.’ But we are going to build a wall. It is coming along great,” Trump said.

Renovations

Trump referenced parts of a wall that are already built and said they were working to renovate those areas.

“We have the wall up there now, and we’re renovating it already,” Trump said they are making it, “pristine,” “perfect,” and “just as good as new.”

“Though, we may go a little higher than that. But, that’s OK,” Trump added.

Stopping drugs

One of the goals of the wall, Trump reiterated, is to curb the flow of drugs into the country.

“They take drugs, literally, and they throw it. A hundred pounds of drugs, they throw it over the wall. They have catapults. They throw it over the wall, and it lands and it hit somebody on the head. You don’t even know they’re there. Believe it or not, this is the kind of stuff that happens,” Trump said.

Responding to reports about a wall

Trump also set the record straight that he still intended to build a wall, despite what might be reported in the media.

“Well every once in a while you hear, ‘Well, you know, he doesn’t really want to build the wall,’ I say, ‘Excuse me?’ That is the great thing about Twitter,” Trump said. “You know, when the press is dishonest, which is most of the time, and when they say, like, I don’t want to build a wall, I can tweet that was a false story.”

Follow this story

Trump: NFL owners should fire players who protest the national anthem

President Donald Trump criticized some in the National Football League Friday night at a rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange, saying team owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem.

Trump added that if fans would “leave the stadium” when players kneel in protest during the national anthem, “I guarantee, things will stop.”

Trump said NFL owners should respond to the players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”

“For a week, (that owner would) be the most popular person in this country. Because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for,” Trump said.

Last year, Colin Kaepernick — formerly with the San Francisco 49ers, but currently without a team — drew national attention for refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to kickoff.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in August 2016.

His protest spurred both support and backlash.

Following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists gathered to protest the removal of a Confederate soldier statue, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett told CNN he would follow suit.

“I can’t stand for the national anthem,” Bennett said. “I can’t stand right now. I’m not going to be standing until I see the equality and freedom.”

Trump also took aim at NFL efforts to prevent concussions. “They’re ruining the game, right?” he said. “They’re ruining the game.”

Follow this story