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No More Social Media for You, Irked Judge Tells Roger Stone

(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge who has warned Roger Stone to stop criticizing the criminal case against him on social media finally banned him from the platforms outright.

Prosecutors had complained to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that the longtime Republican party operative and former adviser to President Donald Trump has been using social media to assail the government’s case, in violation of her February directive that he limit his comments to professing his innocence.

Jackson read her new ruling from the bench, following a 45-minute recess from a contentious two-hour hearing.

“I’ve twice given you the benefit of the doubt,” she told Stone, alluding to prior infractions, then added that he’d now forced his lawyers into contortions to contend he was in compliance with her prior order.

Reprising a theme she raised in the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jackson said Stone’s behavior “had more to do with middle school than with a court of law” and banned him from posting on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and even from reposting or liking other people’s content on the platforms.

Read More: Who Framed Roger Stone? His Instagram Account Demands an Answer

Stone is accused of lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks over its publication of material damaging to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. He is also charged with obstruction and witness tampering.

Stone’s was the last indictment brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The case is now being prosecuted by the office of Washington U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu and is set for trial in November.

Before issuing her final order, Jackson engaged in a prolonged sparring session with Stone counsel Bruce Rogow, who denied that his client had run afoul of the judge’s prior ruling, even as she peppered him with Instagram posts and other examples of Stone’s behavior she found questionable.

“I don’t think any of these things pose a threat to a fair trial,” Rogow told her.

Stopping short of asking the court to send the political provocateur to jail, prosecutor Jonathan Kravis raised the idea of Jackson barring him from using social media. “What we are most concerned about is protecting the integrity of the jury pool,” he said.

Ultimately the judge did just that, scolding the defense for its effort to “ignore the exponential power” of social media and particularly what it means for Stone to take an item published by someone else and spread it “with his imprimatur.”

‘Asking You Now’

During an earlier portion of the Tuesday court hearing, Stone’s lawyers argued that the government can’t prove Russian agents hacked Democratic Party computers during the election, rendering 18 FBI search warrants based on that premise invalid and the evidence collected under them subject to exclusion.

Defense attorney Robert Buschel told the judge the warrants weren’t obtained in good faith. He said they were based only on reports by a private cybersecurity firm and the U.S. intelligence community’s “high confidence” that the Russians were behind the theft of materials later published by WikiLeaks, not on factual certainty.

Buschel called it “government doublespeak,” suggesting the theft was just as likely to have been carried out by agents of China or the U.K.

That line of argument drew a pointed response from Jackson, who repeatedly asked Buschel to identify a single statement in any of the filings that he saw as knowingly false or reckless -- and what that had to do with the charges against Stone.

“I’m asking you now,” Jackson said after a series of exchanges with the attorney. “I want you to read me a false sentence.”

Russia Connection

Stone’s lawyers have sought to discredit the Russia connection by suggesting that metadata on the WikiLeaks documents came from a portable memory device connected to a computer from which they were downloaded and not through a trans-Atlantic computer connection.

Even accepting that premise, Jackson asked, how would that invalidate the warrants?

Buschel replied that lack of conclusive proof of Russian hacking rendered Stone’s allegedly false statements to the congressional committee probing the incursion “irrelevant.”

Prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky defended the warrants, telling Jackson that Stone’s lawyers were “trying to backdoor a debunked conspiracy theory” about other potential hackers, relieving the Russians of culpability.

“There is voluminous evidence that the Russians were responsible for hacking” the Democratic Party computers, Zelinsky told the judge. In any event, he said, Stone was charged with lying to Congress and other offenses, not with being involved in the hacking.

The case is U.S. v. Stone, 19-cr-18, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

(Updates with exchange about social media starting in eighth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Washington at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Jeffrey

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Off-duty New Jersey police lieutenant in custody after fatal shooting at ex-wife's home

MORRISTOWN, N.J. - Law-enforcement officials were investigating a fatal shooting in Jefferson early Monday involving an off-duty Newark police lieutenant at his ex-wife's home.

The Morris County Prosecutor's Office confirmed that one woman was killed, and a man was seriously wounded, but did not identify the victims.

John Formisano surrendered to police during a motor-vehicle stop at 1:30 a.m. in Livingston, 30 miles from the crime scene, according to Livingston police, and was turned over to the Morris County Prosecutor's Office.

Formisano, a 24-year veteran of the department, was suspended from duty without pay after Newark police learned of the shooting, according to Newark police sources.

Morris County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Peter DiGennaro said police responded to the residence at 11:21 p.m. Sunday following a report of shots fired there.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit at 973-285-6200 or the Jefferson Police Department at 973-697-1300.

Cop fired after overdose: A New Jersey cop overdosed on heroin in a patrol car while on duty. He was fired

A residential portion of Mirror Place remained closed at 9:30 a.m. for the ongoing crime scene investigation. Public records show Formisano purchased the home there a decade ago. 

“I thought they were fireworks,” said a resident named Gianna, who declined to give her last name. Gianna said a friend who was listening to a police scanner notified her of the shots fired near her home. She then told her mother.

“It’s horrifying, it’s scary. It’s not anything you expect,” said Liliana Morgan, who has lived in the Oak Ridge portion of Jefferson for 21 years.

A 2017 family obituary said Formisano and his wife, Christie, have two children.

Civil Service Commission minutes show Formisano was suspended by his department in 2000 for "care of property and neglect of duty." The 35-day suspension was later reduced to five days.

Follow William Westhoven on Twitter: @wwesthoven

This article originally appeared on Morristown Daily Record: New Jersey cop in custody after fatal shooting at his ex-wife's house

U.S., Iran send conflicting signals on their disputes

By Jeff Mason and Parisa Hafezi

WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran and the United States sent mixed signals on Tuesday about resolving their disputes as Iran's supreme leader threatened to further breach the 2015 nuclear deal while the U.S. president cited "a lot of progress."

Tensions have risen since U.S. President Donald Trump last year abandoned the major powers' nuclear deal with Iran under which Tehran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in return for the lifting of global sanctions crippling its economy.

Washington has since reimposed draconian sanctions to throttle Iran's oil trade in a "maximum pressure" policy to force Tehran to agree stricter limits on its nuclear capacity, curb its ballistic missile program and end support for proxy forces in a regional power struggle with U.S.-backed Gulf Arabs.

Fears of direct U.S.-Iranian conflict have risen since May with several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran's downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, and a plan for U.S. air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute.

Iran's supreme leader on Tuesday said Tehran would keep removing restraints on its nuclear activity in the deal - struck with Britain, China, France, Germany Russia and the United States - and retaliate for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ultimate authority, accused Britain, Germany and France of failing to uphold obligations under the deal to restore Iranian access to global trade, especially for Tehran's oil exports blocked by U.S. sanctions.

"According to our foreign minister, Europe made 11 commitments, none of which they abided by. We abided by our commitments and even beyond them. Now that we've begun to reduce our commitments, they oppose it. How insolent! You didn't abide by your commitments!" Khamenei said, according to his website.

"We have started to reduce our commitments and this trend shall continue," Khamenei said in remarks carried by state television.

United Nations nuclear inspectors last week confirmed Iran is now enriching uranium to 4.5% fissile purity, above the 3.67% limit set by its deal, the second breach in as many weeks after Tehran exceeded limits on its stock of low-enriched uranium.

The level at which Iran is now refining uranium is still well below the 20% purity of enrichment Iran reached before the deal, and the 90% needed to yield bomb-grade nuclear fuel. Low-enriched uranium provides fuel for civilian power plants.

Commitments under threat: https://tmsnrt.rs/2XSTTiN


IMPASSE

Khamenei has previously upbraided European powers for not standing up to Trump and circumventing his sanctions noose.

But it was the first time Khamenei explicitly pledged to press ahead with breaches of the nuclear deal, spurning European appeals to Iran to restore limits on enrichment aimed at obviating any dash to development of atomic bombs.

"So far, efforts to win gestures from Iran to de-escalate the crisis are not succeeding (as) Tehran is demanding the lifting of sanctions on its oil and banking sectors first," a European diplomatic source told Reuters. 

Iran denies any intent to acquire nuclear weapons, and has said all its breaches could be reversed if Washington returned to the deal and its economic dividends were realized. Tehran has accused Washington of waging "economic war."

"Western governments' major vice is their arrogance," Khamenei said. "If the country opposing them is a weak one, their arrogance works. But if it's a country that knows and stands up against them, they will be defeated."

Separately, Iran denied it was willing to negotiate over its ballistic missile program, contradicting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and appearing to undercut Trump's statement that Washington had made progress on its disputes with Tehran.

The chief U.S. diplomat said Iran had signaled it was ready to negotiate about its ballistic missiles during a White House Cabinet meeting at which Trump said: "We'll see what happens. But a lot of progress has been made."

Pompeo appeared to be reacting to a comment by Iran's foreign minister that Tehran would discuss its missile program after Washington stopped arming allies the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, something the United States is unlikely to do.

His assessment drew a quick denial from the spokesman for Iran's mission to the U.N., who posted on Twitter: "Iran's missiles ... are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period."

Speaking during the U.S. Cabinet meeting, Trump struck a conciliatory note, saying Washington wanted to help Tehran.

"We'll be good to them, we'll work with them. We'll help them in any way we can, but they can't have a nuclear weapon. We're not looking, by the way, for regime change," Trump said. "They (also) can't be testing ballistic missiles."


BRITAIN'S 'PIRACY'

Pompeo told the meeting Iran had "for the first time" signaled it was prepared to negotiate about its ballistic missiles, suggesting this was the result of U.S. economic pressure.

He appeared to be referring to comments by Iran's foreign minister on Monday in which he said Shi'ite Iran would discuss its missile program only after the United States ceased arming its regional Sunni rivals Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC's "Nightly News with Lester Holt" program that once the Trump administration removed sanctions it has restored since leaving the nuclear deal the "room for negotiation is wide open."

Asked if that could include its ballistic missile program, Zarif replied: "If they want to talk about our missiles, they need, first, to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region."

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly ruled out negotiating under sanctions duress from Washington. It has long said its ballistic missile program is defensive and non-negotiable.

On Monday, European parties to the nuclear deal decided not to trigger its dispute mechanism over Iran's breaches in favor of pursuing more troubleshooting diplomacy.

In his comments, Khamenei also said Iran would respond to Britain's "piracy" over the seizure in early July of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar.

"Evil Britain commits piracy and steals our ship ... and gives it a legal appearance. The Islamic Republic...will not leave this wickedness unanswered and will respond to it at an appropriate time and place,” Khamenei said.

Following his remarks, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said an escalation of tensions between Western states and Iran was in no one's interest.

Iran has called on Britain to immediately release its oil tanker, which was detained by British Royal Marines on the suspicion that it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Tehran's close ally Syria.


(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; writing by Mark Heinrich and Arshad Mohammed; editing by Mark Heinrich and Marguerita Choy)

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