US district judge issues gag order in Manafort, Gates case
The U.S. district judge presiding over the case against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates issued a gag order on Wednesday to prevent anyone involved in the case from making public statements about it.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she wanted to make sure the trial was fair, and that potential jurors were not affected by any pre-trial public comments. Under the gag order, defendants, lawyers and any witnesses must “refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice.”
Last Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed 12 charges against Manafort and Gates. The charges are the result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and “related matters.”
Manafort and Gates have both pleaded not guilty and are under house arrest.
NATO approves upgrade to its cyber defenses
On Wednesday, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) agreed to increase the use of cyber weaponry to protect its military communications. In its cyber defense statement, NATO mentions it recognized cyberspace as a “domain of operations” (similar to land, sea and air) in July 2016.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the decision is a response to “a changed and new security environment where cyber is part of the threat picture.” According to AFP, NATO experiences hundreds of cyber attacks to its networks each month.
NATO defense ministers also agreed to increase the number of NATO military headquarters from seven to nine. It may also add command centers designed to protect communication lines across the Atlantic. The command centers will help to coordinate the movement of troops and equipment in Europe.
The decision was made at a two-day meeting at NATO headquarters in Belgium this week. NATO members also plan to discuss issues relating to Russia, North Korea and Afghanistan on Thursday.
Zimbabwe’s former VP leaves country, citing threats
Zimbabwe’s First Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has left the country for South Africa after receiving death threats, according to unidentified sources. The vice president was dismissed from his post on Monday, and President Robert Mugabe expelled him from the ruling Zanu-PF party on Wednesday. Mugabe had said Mnangagwa was planning to take control of the government, according to media reports.
According to The Associated Press, the Zanu-PF party has endorsed First Lady Grace Mugabe to replace Mnangagwa as vice president.
Mnangagwa has not publicly commented on the dismissal. However, a letter attributed to him criticized Mugabe and his wife, and says Mnangagwa plans to return to lead Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa had worked with Mugabe for over 40 years.
CBO report estimates federal deficit increase with new GOP tax bill
On Wednesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the House Republicans’ tax plan would add $1.7 trillion to the national deficit over the next decade. The estimate includes about $300 billion in interest. The report did not account for any economic growth that could result from the legislation.
According to a separate review by the Joint Committee on Taxation, 61 percent of taxpayers would see a tax reduction in the next two years. By 2027, the committee estimates that about one-fifth of taxpayers may pay higher taxes, 47 percent would see a tax reduction and about one-third would see a change of less than $100. Media outlets did not specify whether the estimates were based on all taxpayers or certain tax brackets.
When asked about the tax bill, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) said House Republicans may make additional changes.
The CBO reviewed the tax bill in response to a request by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee. House Republicans are looking to pass the bill by the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. The Senate is reportedly developing its own tax bill.
AT&T’s potential Time Warner acquisition delayed
According to CNN sources, the DOJ has told AT&T it needs to divest CNN’s parent company, Turner Broadcasting System, or sell DirecTV, before it approves the company’s acquisition of Time Warner.
AT&T has been waiting for the DOJ to approve the $84 billion deal since October 2016, according to Reuters. Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission must review large acquisitions and those that may affect U.S. commerce. Time Warner owns HBO, the Warner Bros movie studio and CNN.
A DOJ source said that AT&T had offered to divest CNN only, instead of Turner, but the DOJ’s antitrust division rejected the offer. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has denied reports of a CNN-only sale. “I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so,” Stephenson said.
During his campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump said the acquisition would result in “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
According to Reuters, consumer groups and smaller television networks have also spoken out against the deal, saying it gives AT&T too much control over the wireless content distributed to its customers.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the government is “actively considering” an antitrust lawsuit to stop the acquisition. Antitrust laws are designed to prevent industry monopolies.
AT&T said last week that similar acquisitions have “always been approved” because they don’t remove competition and benefit the customer. “While we won’t comment on our discussions with DOJ, we see no reason in the law or the facts why this transaction should be an exception,” the company said.