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The Bail Reform Backlash That Has Democrats at War



“It’s time to stop the fear and misinformation,” the ad says. “We deserve better, we deserve the truth.”

Indeed, the opposition to the law has inspired its own fervent pushback, including aggressive online advocacy and the near-constant presence of grass roots activists in the Capitol. Groups like VOCAL-NY have bused hundreds of demonstrators to Albany, from all over the state, with a blunt message: We want more reforms, not fewer.

New Yorkers United for Justice, the coalition behind the Long Island ad, has spent more than $2 million to pass and defend the changes to the bail law, hiring A-list publicists and Albany lobbyists and investing in polling, media training and a “rapid response war room,” which bombards journalists and elected officials on Twitter and through emails after sensitive articles appear.

Still, they admit they are battling critics with bigger platforms to voice their message, which also has the benefit of using the potent political weapon of public safety fears.

“All of this is a snowball,” said Khalil Cumberbatch, the chief strategist for New Yorkers United for Justice, adding that his group’s goal is to “undercut, at the root, where the misinformation is coming from.”

But, he added, “its very hard to put that lightning back in a bottle.”

Indeed, criticism of the law has continued to build, particularly in Republican circles. The Senate minority leader, John J. Flanagan of Long Island, has consistently hammered Democrats on the issue, issuing statements opposing bail reform almost daily, and finding new momentum after overseeing the Republican conference’s disastrous 2018 campaigns.


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Fed Focused on Coronavirus Fallout at January Meeting




WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged at their January meeting as the economy grew steadily, but they spent their meeting reviewing risks to the outlook — including fresh concerns about the coronavirus that had begun to take hold in China.

Minutes from the Fed’s Jan. 28 and 29 meeting showed that officials called the new coronavirus “a new risk to the global growth outlook.” At the time, the outbreak had killed more than 100 people and sickened about 5,000. It has continued to spread since, causing more than 2,000 deaths and infecting more than 75,000 people.

Central bankers have been cautious about predicting how much the virus will affect the United States economy, though they have made it clear that they expect some spillover. Swaths of China have ground to a standstill as authorities try to contain the virus by shuttering factories and enforcing quarantines, disrupting trade and tourism. Factories across the nation are reopening, but haltingly.

The Fed is monitoring how the economic fallout in China bears on American growth and inflation.

“The question for us really is: What will be the effects on the U.S. economy? Will they be persistent, will they be material?” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, told lawmakers while testifying last week. “We know that there will be some, very likely to be some effects on the United States. I think it’s just too early to say.”

Fed officials have signaled that they plan to leave policy unchanged as they wait to see how the economy shapes up in 2020. That patient stance comes after central bankers cut interest rates three times last year in a bid to insulate the economy against fallout from President Trump’s trade war and a slowdown abroad.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

While an initial trade deal with China has alleviated some uncertainty that dogged America’s economy last year, tensions are not fully resolved. Beyond that, manufacturing remains slow and business investment is still weak.

“Participants generally expected trade-related uncertainty to remain somewhat elevated, and they were mindful of the possibility that the tentative signs of stabilization in global growth could fade,” according to the January minutes. Against that backdrop, they saw the current policy as “likely to remain appropriate for a time.”

Interest rates are currently set in a range between 1.5 and 1.75 percent. That is below the Fed’s longer-run estimate of where its rate will settle, and officials believe the current stance should give the economy a slight boost.

The central bank’s next meeting will take place March 17 and 18 in Washington. Since the January gathering, Fed officials have consistently signaled that they remain comfortable leaving rates unchanged for now, unless an economic surprise knocks them off that course.

Policymakers also discussed the future of their bond-buying program at their meeting last month. The central bank has been snapping up $60 billion in Treasury bills per month since mid-October. Officials say the program is a technical fix meant to prevent a money market disruption that happened in September from repeating.

The Fed had just stopped shrinking its bond holdings, swollen by post-crisis stimulus programs, when rates in the obscure but important market for short-term lending between banks temporarily jumped. Officials concluded that they may have gone too far in draining reserves — deposits at the Fed — from the financial system, contributing to that cash crunch.

To fix the problem, they swelled their balance sheet holdings using a combination of short-term operations and bill purchases. Now, the size of those temporary programs is shrinking, and bill purchases are being used to make sure that reserves in the financial system stay at what the Fed considers an “ample” level.

Lorie Logan, who oversees the open market account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said that conditions would support slowing Treasury bill purchases in the second quarter of this year.

“As reserves reached durably ample levels, we intend to slow our purchases to a pace that will allow our balance sheet to grow in line with trend demand for our liabilities,” Mr. Powell told lawmakers last week, meaning that the balance sheet would grow along with the economy.

Central bankers also discussed a longer-running problem at the January gathering: Inflation has remained below policymakers’ 2 percent goal even as the unemployment rate lingers near half-century lows and the economy grows steadily.

“A few participants stressed that the committee should be more explicit about the need to achieve its inflation goal on a sustained basis,” the minutes said. Several said that “mild overshooting” might help the Fed to reinforce that its goal is symmetric, meaning that officials want price gains to oscillate around 2 percent rather than hovering below that level.


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Hunter Biden scandals explained: Ukraine, China, drug history and more




From his eyebrow-raising dealings in Delaware, China and Ukraine to controversies involving drug use and child support, Hunter Biden is no stranger to scandal. The son of former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has faced accusations of corrupt behavior from both sides of the political aisle, and played a starring role in the recently concluded impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

The younger Biden’s distinct scandals are best understood in rough chronological order because Republicans have argued that Biden’s apparently irresponsible behavior only made it more likely that his later sweetheart gigs were obtained not through merit, but because of connections that he could monetize.


In 2008, both The New York Times and The American Spectator highlighted Hunter Biden’s sweetheart gigs while his father rose in political prominence. The articles, written as Barack Obama and John McCain vied for the White House, found that Hunter Biden received consulting fees from the financial services company MBNA from 2001 to 2005 — while his father, then a senator, was pushing successfully for legislation that would make it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy protection.

The precise amount of the payments was unclear, but a company official once said Hunter Biden was receiving at least a $100,000 per year retainer, the Times reported. Hunter Biden, now 49, previously had been an executive at MBNA beginning in 1996, but the consulting fees came years after his departure from the company as a full-time employee.

Aides to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama at the time denied that any lobbying had occurred, and insisted the payments were proper. However, that explanation was immediately treated with skepticism. The Trump campaign recently posted a contemporaneous interview in which an incredulous Tom Brokaw asked Joe Biden whether it was “inappropriate” for the then-senator to have his son “collecting money from this big credit card company while you were on the [Senate] floor protecting its interests.”

Hunter Biden’s previous work as an executive at MBNA from 1996 to 1998 also has raised what critics called red flags.

Rachel Mullen, a former senior personal banking officer at MBNA from 1994-2001 who later went into Republican politics, tweeted that managers referred to the younger Biden as “Senator MBNA” after he was hired into a lucrative management-prep track right after he graduated from Yale Law School.

An MBNA source who previously worked at the company told Fox News that other employees heard Hunter Biden boasting that his salary was unusually high, even for the management-prep track — which was widely seen in the company as a way to groom and pamper well-connected executive candidates with powerful family members.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, in Somersworth, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The source said Biden’s “Senator MBNA” nickname was not politically motivated, but rather reflected a widely held belief among managers – who did not work directly with Biden – that he essentially was engaged in lobbying.

The Bidens’ connections with MBNA apparently ran deep. In a January 2008 article entitled “The Senator from MBNA,” columnist Byron York recounted how then-MBNA vice chairman John Cochran paid “top dollar” for Joe Biden’s home in February 1996, just prior to his Senate reelection bid, and that “MBNA gave Cochran a lot of money – $330,000– to help with ‘expenses’ related to the move.”

The $1.2M sale was a “pretty darned good deal for Biden,” York wrote, noting that “Cochran simply paid Biden’s full asking price” even though the “house needed quite a bit of work; contractors and their trucks descended on the house for months after the purchase.”

Asked how Cochran and Biden found each other for the sale, an MBNA spokesperson told York: “That’s a very personal question.”

Aside from MBNA during this period, the younger Biden worked at a lobbying firm and served on the board of Amtrak — a prestigious role he apparently obtained through his connections, although Democrats claimed he deserved the post because he traveled regularly on trains.

“Hunter Biden has spent a lot of time on Amtrak trains. Like his father, like our congressman, Mike Castle, and myself, Hunter Biden has lived in Delaware while using Amtrak to commute to his job as we commute to our job in Washington almost every day of the week,” Democratic Delaware Sen. Tom Carper said at a hearing on Biden’s nomination to the Amtrak board in June 2006. “You know, you learn a lot about what could work and what would work better at Amtrak by riding trains and talking to the passengers, the commuters, the passengers, the folks who work on the trains and make them work every day.”

Navy expulsion

In 2014, Hunter was kicked out of the military after testing positive for cocaine. The Navy said that Biden, a former lobbyist who worked at a private equity firm, was discharged barely a year after he was selected for his part-time position as a public affairs officer in the Navy Reserve.

Two people familiar with the situation quickly told the media that Biden was discharged because he failed a drug test in 2013. The Wall Street Journal first reported Biden’s discharge and failed drug test.


An attorney by training, Biden applied to join the Navy Reserve as a public affairs officer and was selected in 2012 — one of seven candidates recommended for a direct commission for public affairs. A board of senior Navy officers interviewed Biden before making the recommendation.

Photo exclusively obtained by Fox News shows Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, and Devon Archer golfing. The elder Biden has denied discussing his overseas business dealings with his son.

Photo exclusively obtained by Fox News shows Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, and Devon Archer golfing. The elder Biden has denied discussing his overseas business dealings with his son.

Because he was 42 at the time, he needed a special waiver to be accepted. Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a spokesman for the Navy, said Biden had been assigned to the Navy Public Affairs Support Element East, based in Norfolk, Va.


Hunter Biden and and his friend Devon Archer joined the natural gas company Burisma Holdings board in April 2014. Biden apparently cannot speak Ukrainian and had no relevant natural gas experience.

Joe Biden has acknowledged on camera that in spring 2016, when he was vice president and spearheading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy, he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire top prosecutor Viktor Shokin. At the time, Shokin was investigating the notoriously corrupt Burisma Holdings — where Hunter’s role was especially lucrative. The vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in critical U.S. aid if Shokin was not fired.

“Well, son of a b—h, he got fired,” Biden joked at a panel two years after leaving office. Shokin himself had already been widely accused of corruption.


Critics alleged Hunter Biden might have been selling access to his father, who had pushed Ukraine to increase its natural gas production.

Government officials have raised similar concerns. During the House impeachment proceedings, a career State Department employee testified that he had flagged Hunter Biden’s apparent conflict of interest, but was told essentially not to bother the vice president’s office.

“Impossible to justify $50k/month for Hunter Biden serving on a Ukrainian energy board w zero expertise unless he promised to sell access,” political scientist Ian Bremmer previously tweeted.

Joe Biden has said he never discussed his son’s overseas business dealings — an assertion seemingly contradicted by both his son and a photo exclusively obtained by Fox News.

“I know I did nothing wrong at all. Was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is a swamp in many ways? Yeah,” Hunter Biden said in an exclusive sit-down with ABC’s Amy Robach at his Los Angeles home last October.


He acknowledged he may not have gotten the job were it not for his connections to the vice presidency.

In the ABC News report last year which also delved into the Bidens’ China dealings, journalist Tom Llamas called it “strange” that Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, widely accused of corruption, had appointed Hunter Biden to its board of directors — and agreed to pay Hunter Biden’s company “more than a million dollars a year.”

“Hunter — a lawyer, who had just been discharged from the Navy Reserves for testing positive for cocaine,” Llamas says incredulously. “He had served on other boards, but had no known experience in Ukraine or natural gas.”

Earlier this month, the Treasury Department complied with a Senate inquiry into the younger Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and reportedly handed over highly sensitive financial records and “evidence of questionable origin.”


Top Republican senators recently requested travel records from the Secret Service that might shed light on Hunter Biden’s dealings in China, which Trump has long said merit a state investigation.

Much of the focus concerns Biden’s position as one of nine directors at BHR — a private-equity company controlled by Chinese government-backed stakeholders. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said the arrangement raised red flags.

Hunter Biden on Oct. 11, 2012, waiting for the start of the his father's, Vice President Joe Biden's, debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Hunter Biden on Oct. 11, 2012, waiting for the start of the his father’s, Vice President Joe Biden’s, debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

“In December of 2013, one month after Rosemont Seneca’s joint venture with Bohai Capital to form BHR, Hunter Biden reportedly flew aboard Air Force Two with then-Vice President Biden to China,” the senators wrote. “While in China, he helped arrange for Jonathan Li, CEO of Bohai Capital, to ‘shake hands’ with Vice President Biden.”

“Afterward,” they continued, “Hunter Biden met with Li for reportedly a ‘social meeting.’ After the China trip, BHR’s business license was approved.

Then, in 2015, BHR joined with Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) to acquire Henniges, which was the ‘biggest Chinese investment into U.S. automotive manufacturing assets to date.'”

The senators also sought travel records relating to Biden’s trips to Ukraine, if any.

Last year, Biden stepped down from the board of BHR and said he wouldn’t take similar roles if his father won the presidency. The Wall Street Journal reported that BHR Partners filings show that while Hunter was a director of BHR since its founding, he didn’t become a shareholder until October 2017.

Trump has specifically accused Biden of walking “out of China with $1.5 billion in a fund.” The Journal reported in 2014 that BHR was trying to raise that much money to invest outside of China, but it’s otherwise unclear what the president was referencing.


In January of this year Hunter Biden agreed to pay monthly child support retroactive to November 2018, ending a standoff that began after the judge in his Arkansas paternity case ordered him to appear in person for a hearing to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt.

Biden had previously denied paternity, before a DNA test proved otherwise.


The court redacted the amount of child support that Biden agreed to pay, pursuant to his agreement with plaintiff Lunden Alexis Roberts, who alleged Biden was an entirely absent father.

However, Independence County Circuit Court Judge Holly Meyer noted that she “lacks sufficient information” to determine the appropriate amount of “permanent” child support “based off the defendant’s income,” and that modifications to the child support owed each month could be made based on additional evidence.

Contempt proceedings over Biden’s repeated failure to turn over relevant financial documents have been delayed until March 1, giving Biden an opportunity to resolve the issue in the meantime by providing the information.

“The Court specifically reserves the right to retroactively amend or modify child support without the need for the filing of a proper motion by either party to modify support,” the judge wrote. “If the evidence indicates that the defendant should have paid more in support than the amount set forth in this Order, the Court may order that he pay an additional amount after receiving credit for the amount he has paid.”


The paternity dispute has presented headaches for the elder Biden ever since a court filing showed that DNA results indicated he was now a grandfather. Joe Biden tangled with a Fox News reporter on camera when asked about that development last November.

“No one has said my son has done anything wrong.”

— Joe Biden

“I’m wondering if you have a comment on this report, and court filing, out of Arkansas, that your son Hunter just made you a grandfather again,” Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked.

“No, that’s a private matter and I have no comment,” Biden fired back before attacking the reporter.

“Only you would ask that,” Biden said. “You’re a good man. You’re a good man. Classy.”

Campaigning late last year, Biden has also lashed out at voters — even appearing to call one man “fat” for bringing up issues with his son’s possible corruption and questioning his fitness for office.

“You’re a damn liar, man,” Biden said. “Let’s do push-ups together here, man. Let’s run. Let’s do whatever you want to do. Let’s take an IQ test. … No one has said my son has done anything wrong.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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