Nation and world news briefs

©Chicago Tribune

Trump pardons Alice Johnson after racial tensions clouded GOP convention

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump on Friday granted a full pardon to Alice Johnson — a Black woman whose life sentence he had already commuted — as Republicans sought to assuage voter concerns about his rhetoric on race and as protesters marched in Washington for equal justice.

Trump called reporters into the Oval Office in a surprise event to sign the pardon for Johnson, who had spoken on Trump’s behalf at the Republican convention a day earlier.

“Alice Johnson has been just incredible. She’s gotten out, she’s recommended people to us” for clemency, Trump said Friday. “She has been just so outstanding, and I’m so proud of you. We are giving Alice a full pardon.”

Trump has regularly praised Johnson, who had served more than two decades of a life sentence in prison for drug and money laundering offenses before the president commuted her sentence in 2018. Trump initially acted after Kim Kardashian West advocated on Johnson’s behalf.

Johnson was a guest of the president at the 2019 State of the Union address, and has been featured in Trump campaign advertisements. On Thursday, the final night of the Republican National Convention, she thanked the president again.

“But by the grace of God and the compassion of President Donald John Trump, I stand before you tonight,” Johnson said. “He saw me as a person. He had compassion. And he acted. Free in body thanks to President Trump. But free in mind thanks to the almighty God.”

— Bloomberg News

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Ghislaine Maxwell is first federal inmate in NYC to receive in-person visit during pandemic, sources say

NEW YORK — A Brooklyn federal jail rolled out the orange carpet for Ghislaine Maxwell’s defense team Friday, allowing them what sources said was the first in-person federal jail visit in the city since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Daily News has learned.

An attorney for Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged madam and a woman walked into Sunset Park’s Metropolitan Detention Center Friday morning to meet with the British socialite, toting legal documents. Both wore masks.

Maxwell has been behind bars in Brooklyn for less than two months. Other inmates, who have been in lockdown since the pandemic began, have not had any in-person family or legal visits.

“I’m incredulous really that she was the first one when there are those of us who have been waiting for nearly six months to have an in-person visit with our clients,” said Susan Marcus, an lawyer with clients at the MDC who could face the death penalty in their cases.

“It’s heartbreaking, actually.”

Maxwell’s defense team has argued that the conditions at the jail have impacted her constitutional right to an attorney. Earlier this week a judge denied her request to be transferred to general population — a move Maxwell hoped would allow her easier access to evidence in the case. She is charged with grooming underage girls for Epstein’s sexual abuse in the mid-1990s.

The two members of Maxwell’s legal team, including attorney Christian Everdell, said nothing as they walked into the jail at 9 a.m. for a nearly four-hour visit.

— New York Daily News

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Curfew expires after a welcome quiet night in riot-scarred Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS — A second nighttime curfew in Minneapolis came and went Friday with barely a hint of what erupted earlier in the week, when rioters targeted buildings up and down Nicollet Mall and block after block of sometimes fiery destruction.

The unrest, ignited Wednesday evening when a false rumor spread that a murder suspect had been hunted down by police and fatally shot on the mall, brought a swiftly organized response from government leaders in the form of a beefed police presence backed by hundreds of Minnesota National Guard members.

Before the curfew took effect Thursday at 8 p.m., local and state leaders urged people to stay home Thursday night. Gov. Tim Walz said his concern was “safety and security and bringing peace into the city.”

The plea appears to have largely been heeded as authorities reported nothing resembling the looting, fires and property damage from Wednesday night into Thursday that led to more than 130 arrests in Minneapolis.

The latest curfew, which also included neighboring St. Paul, resulted in law enforcement arresting 30 people within the first hour in Minneapolis, according to police spokesman John Elder. They seized one illegal gun. St. Paul had reported no arrests late Thursday.

Updated numbers from both cities are expected now that the curfew expired at 6 a.m. Friday.

— Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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Sarah Palin’s defamation case against New York Times heads to trial

NEW YORK — Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the New York Times over an inaccurate editorial are headed to trial.

Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in a 36-page decision that the former Alaska governor’s allegations against former Opinion Editor James Bennet and the paper were best left to a jury. The judge scheduled a trial for Feb. 1, “pandemic permitting.”

Palin claims Bennet acted with “actual malice” by writing an editorial, which was corrected, linking advertisements by her political action committee to the 2011 attempted assassination of former Rep. Gabby Giffords.

“Taken in the light most favorable to (Palin), the evidence shows Bennet came up with an angle for the editorial, ignored the articles brought to his attention that were inconsistent with his angle, disregarded the … research he commissioned, and ultimately made the point he set out to make in reckless disregard of the truth,” Rakoff wrote.

The judge previously ruled Bennet’s mistake in June 2017 did not meet the critical legal standard of “malice.” But the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Rakoff’s decision, allowing the case to proceed.

“We’re disappointed in the ruling but are confident we will prevail at trial when a jury hears the facts,” a Times spokeswoman said.

“Governor Palin appreciates the Court’s ruling and careful consideration of the merits of this case. We look forward to the trial in February,” said a statement from Palin’s lawyers, Shane Vogt and Ken Turkel.

— New York Daily News

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