Judge lifts house arrest order against Colombian former president Uribe

A judge on Saturday lifted a house arrest order against former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is under investigation for alleged witness tampering.



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© Luisa González, Reuters


Uribe has been held under the order since August.

The decision is the latest twist in a long-running legal battle and is likely to disappoint Uribe’s detractors, who had hailed the house arrest as a triumph of judicial independence.

“The decision adopted by this official is to agree to the request submitted by the defense, supported by the Attorney General’s Office and the representation of the public prosecutor and as such Dr. Alvaro Uribe Velez will be granted his immediate freedom,” said Judge Clara Ximena Salcedo.

“Thank God,” Uribe said in a message on Twitter following the decision.

Following his house arrest order Uribe resigned his senate seat, leading the court to transfer the case to the attorney general’s office, which critics say will be less rigorous.

Detractors will blame the outcome on the attorney general’s Office and the way it has handled the case, said political analyst Sergio Guzman of Colombia Risk Analysis.

“The lion’s share of the blame will go to the attorney general’s office and it’s handling of the case,” Guzman told Reuters.

Uribe and several allies are being investigated over allegations of witness tampering carried out in an attempt to discredit accusations he had ties to right-wing paramilitaries.

Polarizing Uribe, a mentor to current President Ivan Duque, has insisted he is innocent.

In 2012, Uribe accused leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda of orchestrating a plot to tie him to right-wing paramilitary groups.

But in 2018, the Supreme Court said Cepeda had collected information from former fighters as part of his work and had not paid or pressured former paramilitaries. Instead the court said it was Uribe and his allies who pressured witnesses.

(REUTERS)

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Judge lifts house arrest order against former Colombian President Uribe

BOGOTA (Reuters) – A judge on Saturday lifted a house arrest order against former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is under investigation for alleged witness tampering.

Uribe has been held under the order since August.

The decision is the latest twist in a long-running legal battle and is likely to disappoint Uribe’s detractors, who had hailed the house arrest as a triumph of judicial independence.

“The decision adopted by this official is to agree to the request submitted by the defense, supported by the Attorney General’s Office and the representation of the public prosecutor and as such Dr. Alvaro Uribe Velez will be granted his immediate freedom,” said Judge Clara Ximena Salcedo.

“Thank God,” Uribe said in a message on Twitter following the decision.

Following his house arrest order Uribe resigned his senate seat, leading the court to transfer the case to the attorney general’s office, which critics say will be less rigorous.

Detractors will blame for the outcome on the attorney general’s Office and the way it has handled the case, said political analyst Sergio Guzman of Colombia Risk Analysis.

“The lion’s share of the blame will go to the attorney general’s office and it’s handling of the case,” Guzman told Reuters.

Uribe and several allies are being investigated over allegations of witness tampering carried out in an attempt to discredit accusations he had ties to right-wing paramilitaries.

Polarizing Uribe, a mentor to current President Ivan Duque, has insisted he is innocent.

In 2012, Uribe accused leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda of orchestrating a plot to tie him to right-wing paramilitary groups.

But in 2018, the Supreme Court said Cepeda had collected information from former fighters as part of his work and had not paid or pressured former paramilitaries. Instead the court said it was Uribe and his allies who pressured witnesses.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior Secretary will lead BLM after judge ousts Pendley from public lands role | Trump, Biden spar over climate change at debate

HAPPY WEDNESDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.



a man wearing a suit and tie: OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior Secretary will lead BLM after judge ousts Pendley from public lands role | Trump, Biden spar over climate change at debate | Trump official delays polar bear study with potential implications on drilling: report


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OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior Secretary will lead BLM after judge ousts Pendley from public lands role | Trump, Biden spar over climate change at debate | Trump official delays polar bear study with potential implications on drilling: report

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FILL-IN THE BERN: The Department of the Interior will not name a new acting director to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after it’s leader was ousted by a federal judge, top officials told employees in an email obtained by The Hill.

Instead the job will be left to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

A Montana-based U.S. district judge on Friday ruled William Perry Pendley, the controversial acting director of BLM, “served unlawfully … for 424 days” and enjoined him from continuing in the role.

The decision was in response to a suit from Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who argued Pendley, whose nomination to lead the BLM was pulled by the White House last month, was illegally serving in his role through a series of temporary orders.

A Wednesday email makes clear that Interior will not be placing the top career official in charge of the nation’s public lands agency, as its department manual dictates.

“I understand there may be some questions about the ruling on Friday regarding William Perry Pendley’s leadership role at the Bureau of Land Management,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond wrote in an email to BLM staff.

“Secretary Bernhardt leads the bureau and relies on the BLM’s management team to carry out the mission. Deputy Director for Programs and Policy, William Perry Pendley, will continue to serve in his leadership role.”

Judge Brian Morris, an Obama appointee, ruled Friday that Interior and the White House improperly relied on temporary orders far beyond the 210 days allotted in the Federal Vacancies Reform Act while also violating the Constitutional requirement to seek approval from the Senate.

“The President cannot shelter unconstitutional ‘temporary’ appointments for the duration of his presidency through a matryoshka doll of delegated authorities,” he wrote.

Pendley has sparked controversy over the course of the year he has led BLM due to his long history opposing federal ownership of public lands as well as comments he has made questioning climate change and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Putting Bernhardt at the helm of the agency appears to comply with the court order from Morris.

But critics say the move centralizes power for the agency in the highest political circles after relocating more than 200 Washington, D.C.,-based positions to Grand Junction, Colo., in order to bring employees closer to the lands they manage.

The move leaves just 61 BLM employees in Washington.

“Secretary Bernhardt’s decision to centralize final decision-making in Washington,

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Interior Secretary will lead BLM after judge ousts Pendley from public lands role

The Department of the Interior will not name a new acting director to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after it’s leader was ousted by a federal judge, top officials told employees in an email obtained by The Hill.

Instead the job will be left to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

A Montana-based U.S. district judge on Friday ruled William Perry Pendley, the controversial acting director of BLM, “served unlawfully … for 424 days” and enjoined him from continuing in the role.

The decision was in response to a suit from Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court removes Pendley from role as public lands chief | Pendley court ruling could unravel Trump’s public lands decisions | 1 in 4 adults cite climate change in decision not to have children Pendley court ruling could unravel Trump’s public lands decisions Court removes Pendley from role as public lands chief MORE (D), who argued Pendley, whose nomination to lead the BLM was pulled by the White House last month, was illegally serving in his role through a series of temporary orders. 

A Wednesday email makes clear that Interior will not be placing the top career official in charge of the nation’s public lands agency, as its department manual dictates.

“I understand there may be some questions about the ruling on Friday regarding William Perry Pendley’s leadership role at the Bureau of Land Management,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond wrote in an email to BLM staff.

“Secretary Bernhardt leads the bureau and relies on the BLM’s management team to carry out the mission. Deputy Director for Programs and Policy, William Perry Pendley, will continue to serve in his leadership role.”

Judge Brian Morris, an Obama appointee, ruled Friday that Interior and the White House improperly relied on temporary orders far beyond the 210 days allotted in the Federal Vacancies Reform Act while also violating the Constitutional requirement to seek approval from the Senate.

“The President cannot shelter unconstitutional ‘temporary’ appointments for the duration of his presidency through a matryoshka doll of delegated authorities,” he wrote.

Pendley has sparked controversy over the course of the year he has led BLM due to his long history opposing federal ownership of public lands as well as comments he has made questioning climate change and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Hammond’s email includes a statement from Interior solicitor Daniel Jorjani making clear that the department will appeal as Bernhardt shepherds the BLM.

“The Department of the Interior believes this ruling is erroneous, fundamentally misinterprets the law and unreasonably attempts to up-end decades of practice spanning multiple presidential administrations from both parties. Nevertheless, the Department will comply with the Court’s Order, while we move forward with an appeal and review all other legal options,” Jorjani wrote.

“The Bureau of Land Management has not had a Senate-confirmed Director of the Bureau of Land Management during this Administration, nor has it named an Acting Director. This is still the case in respect to

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Judge Accuses Epic Of Dishonesty In Fortnite-Apple Legal Battle, Disputes Anticompetitive Walled Garden

Fortnite
Liar, liar, pants on fire! That pretty much sums up what a judge accused Epic of doing in its highly publicized and costly dispute with Apple over the royalty rate it collects for apps sold in its App Store, as well as in-game purchases. The judge told Epic that even though some people might consider the team a bunch of “heroes” for taking on Apple, its claims against the company are “not honest.”
“You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being forthcoming. That’s the security issue. That’s the security issue!,” Judge Gonzales Rogers told Epic during a court broadcast that was livestreamed on Zoom, according to CNN. “There are a lot of people in the public who consider you guys heroes for what you guys did, but it’s still not honest.”
The livestream is not available for viewing, as far as I can tell, though if you dig around you can find bits and pieces of it on the web. What it basically boils down to is Epic reiterating previous claims that Apple’s banishment of Epic and Fortnite from the App Store is causing the developer irreparable harm, and also harmful to consumers.

This whole mess was initiated by Epic, though, when it decided to break its contract with Apple. Every developer that makes a buck (or a whole lot of bucks, as is the case with Epic) from apps hosted on the App Store has to fork over a 30 percent cut to Apple. That includes the sale of the app itself, and in-game purchase, which for Fortnite entails exchanging real currency for V-bucks.

Epic apparently grew tired of sharing that much revenue with Apple and determined that it was being anticompetitive. So it updated Fortnite to bypass Apple’s revenue share for in-game purchases. Apple responded by booting Fortnite from the App Store, and later Epic as well, which brings us to the current legal battle.

Judge Rogers is not making a determination on the outcome. Instead, this revolves around Epic’s request for a preliminary injunction, to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite back into the App Store. However, Judge Rogers did not seem all that sympathetic, at one point saying she was “not particularly persuaded” by one of the legal arguments Epic made. She also threw cold water on Epic’s claim issue with Apple have a walled garden, so to speak.

“Walled gardens have existed for decades. Nintendo has had a walled garden. Sony has had a walled garden. Microsoft has had a walled garden. What Apple’s doing is not much different… It’s hard to ignore the economics of the industry, which is what you’re asking me to do,” Judge Rogers said.

Apple also had some harsh comments in reference to Epic, saying its CEO Tim Sweeney is “trying to be the Pied Piper of other developers,” trying to get them to “cheat” and “breach” their contracts.

While this case remains unsolved in the early going, the judge’s remarks highlight the kind of uphill

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Federal judge orders Census Bureau to keep counting past end of September

A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end the 2020 census count a month early and said administration officials knew, but failed to disclose, that the speedup would lead to an inaccurate population count.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of San Jose issued a nationwide injunction Thursday night requiring the Census Bureau to return to its previous schedule of contacting households and counting residents through Oct. 31. The bureau had announced Aug. 3 that it would end census-taking on Sept. 30 so that it could deliver the results to President Trump by the legal deadline of Dec. 31.

The once-per-decade population count determines each state’s number of seats in the House of Representatives and is used by federal officials to apportion $1.5 trillion in funds per year.

In the Aug. 3 announcement, the Census Bureau said the shortened schedule would not affect the accuracy of the count. But less than two weeks earlier, Koh said, a bureau official issued a memo saying the speedup would lead to a census of “unacceptable quality.” And the Census Bureau’s associate director for field operations wrote that anyone who thought the results could be delivered by Dec. 31 “has either a mental deficiency or a political motivation.”

While the Census Bureau was publicly declaring that it would meet the deadline by hiring additional staff and increasing training, Koh said, the bureau’s own reports showed it had only 38% of the census-takers it needed.

In ordering the speedup, Koh said, administration officials violated “their constitutional and statutory obligations to produce an accurate census” and “offered an explanation that runs counter to the evidence.”

She said the evidence showed that the Census Bureau “had received pressure from the Commerce Department” to shorten its schedule. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was appointed by Trump.

The Trump administration said Friday it will ask the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to overturn Koh’s ruling.

Acting in a lawsuit by civil rights groups and local governments, Koh had issued a restraining order Sept. 6 requiring the Census Bureau to maintain full-scale operations while she considered whether to extend the census through October. She acted in response to a Justice Department court filing that said the bureau “has already begun taking steps to conclude field operations” in areas with high response rates.

Trump is also seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count, an action that could strip House seats from California and other states with large immigrant populations. A federal court in New York has ruled against the president’s proposal, but the administration has appealed to the Supreme Court.

Derrick Johnson, chief executive of the NAACP, a plaintiff in the suit over the census schedule, said, “The decision to continue the census will ensure proper attention is given to overlooked and unreported

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U.S. judge questions Bolton’s political motives as he battles White House lawsuit for book profits

“Isn’t the question whether the information is classified or not?” Lamberth prodded Bolton’s defense. “You’ve engaged in that whole political diatribe, but it really has no place in what we’re arguing today.”

The oral argument came after a lawyer for the career government official who conducted the initial review for classified information in Bolton’s manuscript contended in a letter to the court that Trump aides had “commandeered” the process, then erroneously claimed the memoir contained classified information and failed to propose edits to facilitate publication.

Lamberth refused to halt publication in a June 20 ruling, saying the government acted too late to prevent the sale of already distributed books.

At issue Thursday was Bolton’s motion to toss out the case, and the government’s motion for a summary ruled that the government can seize Bolton’s profits because the book contained classified information.

Bolton attorney Charles J. Cooper argued that the government had failed to allege he knowingly disclosed such information and asserted that the nondisclosure agreements he signed required him to obtain written authorization to release only material he knew to be classified.

If unsure, Cooper argued, he was required only to confirm from “an authorized official” — in this case, he said, Ellen Knight, the National Security Council’s senior director for records access — that the information was unclassified. Cooper claimed that this is what Knight verified by phone and email after the initial review and that Bolton knew of no other classified information remaining in the manuscript he submitted to his publisher April 27.

“The government must be able to allege that Bolton knew or had reason to believe that his manuscript contained SCI, or it contained a description of activity that derived from SCI,” the most sensitive compartmented information, Cooper argued. “They have not alleged that, and we would submit they cannot allege that.”

Arguing for the government, Deputy Associate Attorney General Jennifer B. Dickey denied that the contracts required violations to be known. Dickey said there was no dispute that Bolton gave the manuscript to his publisher without receiving formal written authorization that the pre-publication review he initiated was concluded.

The government earlier produced six samples of what it asserted was classified material, three of which were classified before April 27 and one Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency, said in a declaration “implicates” the most sensitive level of material.

“It would make no sense for the pre-publication review to attach and then say an author could opt out before written authorization that it was completed,” Dickey argued. If he objected with the process, Bolton should have sued instead of walking away.

“What is unprecedented is for the most recent national security adviser, who had been entrusted with classified information on a daily basis, who has a Yale law degree and experienced counsel, would think it’s consistent with his contractual or fiduciary duty to simply sign off to his publisher on April 27 without waiting for written authorization that it did not contain

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Judge appears skeptical of Bolton’s defense of publishing book without White House approval

A federal judge on Thursday appeared skeptical of former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonMaximum pressure is keeping US troops in Iraq and Syria Woodward book trails Bolton, Mary Trump in first-week sales Ex-NSC official alleges ‘unprecedented’ intervention by White House aides in Bolton book review MORE‘s defense against the Trump administration’s allegations that he published his new memoir without proper clearance from officials reviewing it for classified information.

Judge Royce Lamberth heard arguments from both sides during a hearing on Thursday, a day after an official said in a court filing that the White House’s national security leaders took an “unprecedented” level of interest in the customary prepublication review of Bolton’s book.

But Lamberth, who was appointed to the federal district court in D.C. by former President Reagan, appeared unmoved by Bolton’s legal team, who argued that the submission from the official was further evidence that the White House is seeking to harm the book in retaliation for its unflattering portrayal of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump’s refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: ‘What country are we in?’ Romney: ‘Unthinkable and unacceptable’ to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE.

“I’m very much of the notion that I just let you engage in that whole political diatribe that really has no place in what we are arguing today,” Lamberth said in response to one of Bolton’s lawyers who pointed to the filing as evidence of bad faith from the Trump White House.

Lamberth had rejected the administration’s effort in June to block the publication of “The Room Where it Happened,” saying it was too late to prevent the release when copies had already been shipped across the country and were widely available.

But he still chided the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for moving forward with the publication without receiving express written authorization from the government.

“In taking it upon himself to publish his book without securing final approval from national intelligence authorities, Bolton may indeed have caused the country irreparable harm,” Lamberth wrote in his June decision.

The Trump administration is now seeking to have Bolton’s book royalties seized, alleging that he violated a nondisclosure agreement forbidding him from discussing any classified information from his time in the White House.

Jennifer Dickey, an attorney with the Department of Justice, argued on Thursday that there was legal recourse Bolton could have pursued before rushing ahead with the publication.

“He could have filed a suit at any time during the process if he thought the government was engaging in bad faith,” Dickey said. “He could have notified the government in any way if he thought there was bad faith, but he did not do so. Instead, he walked away, opted out and sent his manuscript to the publisher.”

The ongoing lawsuit is a civil matter, but the Department of Justice is reportedly investigating whether to bring criminal charges against

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Judge orders White House to provide sign language interpreters at Covid briefings

The White House must provide sign language interpreters at public Covid-19 briefings, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

The ruling, which takes effect Oct. 1, applies to any press conference on coronavirus-related matters with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence or White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany held on White House grounds or at any federal agency. The White House must make interpreter feeds available online and to all television networks, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and five plaintiffs sued the White House earlier this month, urging the administration to provide interpreters for briefings related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. At that point, the court provided relief for the plaintiffs and hinted that the White House might have to comply.

“Closed captioning and transcripts may constitute a reasonable accommodation under some circumstances, but not here,” the court ruled in their Sept. 9 decision.

Pressure from advocacy groups and other independent federal agencies grew as the White House coronavirus task force briefings continued without interpreters. The National Council on Disability released a letter in March urging the administration to act, saying “there is no doubt that the Coronavirus brings with it significant added concerns for people with disabilities.”

An estimated 11.5 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Sign language and accurate captioning are both essential and crucial to ensuring all deaf and hard of hearing people are well informed and are able to make better decisions on how to stay safe from the pandemic,” NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum said in a statement. “The judge’s order sets a great precedent to achieve this goal of full accessibility.”

Press briefings with Trump and other members of the coronavirus task force began in March, though they have since gone from daily events to sporadic occurrences timed to specific updates or announcements.

Over 200,000 people have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

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NIH Head Says FDA Best Judge of Vaccine Safety, After Trump Says White House Must Approve Rules

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is best placed to judge whether a potential coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective. He made the remarks after President Donald Trump claimed the White House can overrule potential safety guidelines set out by the FDA.



a close up of Francis Collins wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, gives an opening statement during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss vaccines and protecting public health during the coronavirus pandemic. September 9, 2020 in Washington DC.


© Getty
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, gives an opening statement during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss vaccines and protecting public health during the coronavirus pandemic. September 9, 2020 in Washington DC.

On Wednesday’s The Situation Room, CNN presenter Wolf Blitzer asked Collins whether the White House or the FDA has the final say on whether a coronavirus vaccine is approved.

Collins said that he did not know as he is not a lawyer, but that the FDA is in the “best” position to judge whether a vaccine is safe and effective as the agency that has the experience and scientific expertise.

“You already have a problem in this country where a lot of people are worried about whether this vaccine is going to be something that they want to take. The last thing we need to do is create another cloud of uncertainty on whether this is being done appropriately, so that we can reassure people it’s something they’d want to take advantage of,” he said.

The physician-geneticist made the comments after Trump said the White House could override FDA guidelines on the approval of a vaccine. Trump was responding to reports the FDA was considering stricter rules for an emergency use authorization (EUA) of a coronavirus

vaccine. A EUA has a lower threshold than an approval. Reports suggested this would push authorization past the November 3 presidential election. The president has repeatedly forecast a vaccine could be ready by election day. An FDA spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by Newsweek.

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“We’re looking at that and that has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move,” the president said at a news conference at the White House on Wednesday.

An Axios/Ipsos poll published Tuesday, the day that the 200,000th U.S. death in the pandemic was recorded, found most Americans would not get a first-generation COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available. A separate ABC/Ipsos poll published over the weekend found most Americans do not have confidence in either Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to confirm a vaccine is effective and safe. Earlier in the month, a KFF Health Tracking Poll found respondents were very or somewhat worried the FDA will rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure that it is safe and effective due to political pressure from the Trump Administration.

On Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told a Senate hearing on

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