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Former Rep. William Jefferson may soon get date to report to prison
Apr-19-2012 731 0

A court hearing Friday could determine whether former Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, will begin serving his 13-year corruption sentence before summer. Some legal experts expect federal prosecutors to ask Judge T.S. Ellis III, who presided over Jefferson's six-week 2009 trial, to revoke Jefferson's $50,000 bail and set a date for him to begin his sentence.

Ellis also could allow Jefferson to self report by a court-imposed deadline.

After sentencing Jefferson, Ellis rejected calls by prosecutors to imprison him immediately and instead allowed him to remain free with an electronic monitor pending resolution of his appeals.

Friday's hearing was scheduled after Jefferson's lawyers failed to meet last week's deadline for filing an appeal with the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal experts said the decision indicates his lawyers will go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge a unanimous ruling last month by a three-judge 4th Circuit panel rejecting Jefferson's request for a new trial.

The high court probably won't decide whether to take the case -- and they accept only a tiny percentage -- until next fall.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, who has been closely following the case, said it is possible prosecutors will argue the unanimous verdict by the 4th Circuit panel makes it unlikely he'll succeed with his Supreme Court appeal.

Ellis "has been pretty strict when it comes to corruption cases," Tobias said, "and if the prosecutors move to (set a date to report to prison) the judge may well grant it."

Kevin Thomas, a consultant with the MPM Group, which helps clients with sentence-mitigation efforts, said he thinks it's likely prosecutors will prevail.

"It was unusual for him (Jefferson) to stay out after sentencing and I would be shocked if the judge let him stay out now that the appellate court has ruled," Thomas said. "But then again his attorney (Robert Trout) is formidable and he could talk a starving dog off a meat wagon."

Jefferson, 65, isn't likely to be remanded into prison immediately, though. In a filing with Judge Ellis, lead prosecutor Mark Lytle expressed no objections if Jefferson chose not to attend Friday's session at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va.

Neither Lytle nor Trout would comment Wednesday.

Tobias said it's no surprise Jefferson's lawyers decided not to file an appeal with the full 4th Circuit, given the unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel.

In a 64-page ruling issued March 26, the appellate judges rejected the legal arguments by Jefferson that Judge Ellis erroneously instructed the jury about what the accepted practice is for official acts by a member of Congress.

Jefferson's lawyers argued the government had dramatically expanded the definition -- taking it beyond what most consider official acts, such as casting votes, introducing bills and committee work -- to include influencing foreign officials in Western Africa on behalf of private business executives.

"The (judge's) instructions did not in any way supplant the statutory definition of what constitutes an official act; it simply explained to the jury that an official act need not be prescribed by statute, but rather may include acts that a congressman customarily performs," according to the three judges.

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A Republican candidate for state Senate was busted Friday for bilking at least 10 people in a Craigslist rent scam, police said.

Jon Girodes, 38, faces several grand larceny charges for listing his ritzy Hell’s Kitchen apartment online and collecting rent deposits — only to back out of the deals and keep the cash, cops said.

Girodes, who is running for the Harlem state Senate seat now held by Bill Perkins, stole a total of $50,000 from 10 victims, both men and women, police said.

After listing his luxury digs at 635 W. 42nd St. and demanding a year’s rent in cash up front, the politico refused to hand over the keys, cops said.

He stole over $11,000 from one woman alone — $7,750 for a purported lease and another $3,500 to “help” her find an immigration lawyer, ABC reported.

Girodes, wearing an untucked violet button-down shirt, jeans and loafers, grinned at reporters as detectives led him out of the 7th Precinct on the Lower East Side Friday night.

“I love the NYPD, but there are two sides to every story,” the candidate quipped.

He was still smiling as cops loaded him into the back of an unmarked SUV, as he headed to Manhattan Criminal Court to be arraigned.

Girodes’ bust comes just days after he outraged Harlem residents by telling a reporter he planned to woo prospective voters in the historically black neighborhood with Kool Aid, fried chicken and watermelons.
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Alan Gomez Oct-15-2016 74 0
Attention U.S. travelers going abroad: You now can bring home all the Cuban rum and cigars you want.

The Obama administration announced Friday a new round of executive actions designed to increase trade and travel with the communist island. And this is the one many Americans have been waiting for — no more restrictions on the island's famed rum and cigars.

Under the new rules, travelers can purchase unlimited quantities of Cuban rum and cigars in any country where they are sold so long as they are for personal consumption. Sorry American couch potatoes: You can't order Cuban rum and cigars online and have them shipped to your home.

The regulations issued by the U.S. departments of Commerce and Treasury will make it easier for U.S. companies to import Cuban-made pharmaceuticals, U.S. agricultural companies to sell their products to the island and Cubans to purchase U.S.-made goods online.

The changes follow a series of steps taken since President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced on Dec. 17, 2014, that the Cold War foes would normalize relations after more than a half century of enmity.

On Friday, Obama added to the regulatory changes with a presidential policy directive that outlines his Cuba strategy thus far and lays out the future course. It includes a call for Congress to rescind a 50-year-old economic embargo on the island, something lawmakers have been unwilling to do so long as the Castro regime suppresses political and other freedoms.

The goal of the new regulations and policy directive are to make Obama's Cuba policy "irreversible" by establishing so many relationships with Cuba that a future administration wanting to scale back those ties would face widespread opposition from U.S. businesses and citizens.

"Challenges remain — and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights — but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values," Obama said. "The progress of the last two years, bolstered by today's action, should remind the world of what's possible when we look to the future together."

The most noticeable — and likely most welcome — change for most Americans is the removal of the five-decade ban on Cuban rum and cigars. The Obama administration partially lifted that ban in January 2015, allowing Americans traveling directly to Cuba to return home with up to $100 in rum and cigars in their carry-on luggage.

Now, that monetary restriction is removed and U.S. citizens can purchase as much Cuban tobacco and alcohol as they want from anywhere they find the products abroad. That means all those Cuban bottles and boxes at duty free shops in foreign airports are fair game. The only restriction, according to Treasury: "Normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply."

All the changes go into effect Monday.
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Wading into a racially-charged case from his past, Donald Trump indicated that the "Central Park Five" were guilty, despite being officially exonerated by DNA evidence decades after a notorious 1989 rape case.

"They admitted they were guilty," Trump said to CNN in a statement.

"The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same."

The five men were convicted as teenagers after implicating each other under intense questioning over a brutal sexual assault on a jogger that dominated the tabloids. Defenders said they were coerced into confessing and all five were later cleared by DNA evidence and a separate confession in 2002 from another criminal who took credit for the assault.

New York paid them $41 million in a settlement in 2014 over their ordeal.
Trump took out a full-page ad at the time of the crime calling for New York to reinstate the death penalty in response.

The case was notable for its racial politics: Four of the Central Park Five were black and one was Latino while the victim was a white banker.
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Jordan Fabian Oct-06-2016 109 0
President Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of 102 inmates, the White House announced.
Obama has commuted the sentences of 744 individuals, more than the past 11 presidents combined, according to the White House. Thursday's announcement brings the total number granted this year alone to 590.

The latest round of commutations is part of the Obama administration's effort to free prisoners serving lengthy sentences doled out during the government's war on drugs.

With just three months left in office, Obama is accelerating the use of his clemency power. Obama in August handed out commutations to 325 inmates - including 214 on Aug. 3, the largest single-day total since 1900.

That alone nearly doubled the number of commutations granted during Obama's presidency.
Obama first launched a clemency initiative in 2014 to review sentences of non-violent drug offenders who would receive shorter prison terms under today's guidelines.

It's part of the president's broader push to reform the criminal justice system.
Facing pressure from reform advocates to pick up the pace of commutations, the administration has tweaked its strategy to accommodate more inmates.

He's shortened some inmates' sentences without immediately releasing them, leaving them years left to serve. That has allowed Obama to grant commutations to prisoners who have committed more serious offenses.

A larger number of inmates convicted of gun charges have received clemency from Obama, according to a USA Today review.
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Gregory Korte Oct-01-2016 117 0
The White House is putting forward a proposal to add a new racial category for people from the Middle East and North Africa under what would be the biggest realignment of federal racial definitions in decades.

If approved, the new designation could appear on census forms in 2020 and could have far-reaching implications for racial identity, anti-discrimination laws and health research.

Under current law, people from the Middle East are considered white, the legacy of century-old court rulings in which Syrian Americans argued that they should not be considered Asian — because that designation would deny them citizenship under the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. But scholars and community leaders say more and more people with their roots in the Middle East find themselves caught between white, black and Asian classifications that don't fully reflect their identities.

"What it does is it helps these communities feel less invisible," said Helen Samhan of the Arab American Institute, which has been advocating the change for more than 30 years. "It’s a good step, a positive step."

On Friday, the White House Office of Management and Budget advanced the proposal with a notice in the Federal Register, seeking comments on whether to add Middle Eastern and North African as a separate racial or ethnic category, which groups would be included, and what it should be called.

Under the proposal, the new Middle East and North African designation — or MENA, as it's called by population scholars — is broader in concept than Arab (an ethnicity) or Muslim (a religion). It would include anyone from a region of the world stretching from Morocco to Iran, and including Syrian and Coptic Christians, Israeli Jews and other religious minorities.

But the Census Bureau, which has been quietly studying the issue for two years, also has gotten caught up in debates about some groups — such as Turkish, Sudanese and Somali Americans — who aren't included in that category. Those are issues the White House is trying to resolve before adding the box on 2020 census forms.

Adding a box on the census form could have implications beyond racial identity. According to the White House notice, the new data could be used for a wide range of political and policy purposes, including:

• Enforcing the Voting Rights Act and drawing congressional and state legislative district boundaries;

• Establishing federal affirmative action plans and evaluating claims of employment discrimination in employment in the private sector;

• Monitoring discrimination in housing, mortgage lending and credit;

• Enforcing school desegregation policies; and

• Helping minority-owned small businesses get federal grants and loans.

Adding the classification also would help the government and independent scholars understand more about trends in health, employment and education.

"We can't even ask questions like that, because we don't have the data," said Germine Awad, an Egyptian-American and professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

The racial classifications have been unchanged since 1997, and Michigan's congressional delegation has argued that they're due for an update. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Friday the White House action was good news. Adding a MENA category, she said, would allow many of her Michigan constituents to "accurately identify themselves and access the employment, health, education and representation services that are based on census data.”

There are an estimated 3.6 million Arab-Americans in the United States, but that doesn't include other ethnic groups that could put the total Middle Eastern and North African population above 10 million. According to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey — a survey conducted in between the 10-year census cycle based on a statistical sample — about 1 million people from the region are first-generation immigrants to the United States.

"You have individuals within this designation that would consider themselves white, and they certainly have a right to their identity. It’s not about identity in the psychological way. It’s about where would you fit the best on this form," Awad said. "If you talk to anybody at the census, they’ll tell you that their job is not to help anybody with their racial or ethnic identity."

And some, especially in the Muslim-American community, are also concerned about how the data might be used — especially given proposals by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for a moratorium on Muslim immigrants and for increased surveillance of Muslim communities.

"It just aids and facilitates the state's ability to know where these communities are in a very specific fashion," said Khalid Beydoun, a law professor at the University of Detroit. "My inclination is to think that individuals who might identify might not check the box for fear of retribution — especially if Trump wins."

But Beydoun, a naturalized citizen with Egyptian and Lebanese parents, said he still supports the proposal as an expression of Middle Eastern identity.

"In the grand scheme of things, it’s really a progressive stride forward," he said. "But in the broader landscape, it’s taking place in the context of greater animus against Arab Americans, and really, Islamophobia."

Comments on the proposal are due in 30 days, making it possible for the Obama administration to enact the change in the last three months of a presidency that has spent considerable effort to be more inclusive of Arab-Americans and other Middle Easterners.

"I think with him being the first African-American president and being an obvious example of making the American fabric more diverse, that this could be great sign of inclusion about what it means to be an American," Awad said.
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Victoria Bekiempis Sep-27-2016 159 0
The former federal judge Donald Trump called anti-cop for her position on stop and frisk during Monday night’s presidential debate said the bombastic billionaire's snipe was “very cheap.”

Shira Scheindlin was a Manhattan federal court judge in August 2013 when she ruled that stop and frisk — as practiced in New York City — was unconstitutional because it overwhelmingly targeted minorities, violating their civil rights.

The ruling led to the city and the NYPD to overhaul the way the tactic is used — and was brought up when Trump was talking about the need for “law and order” in the inner-cities.

Stop and frisk “worked very well, Mayor Giuliani is here, worked very well in New York" and “brought the crime rate way down in New York City.”

Donald Trump gets stop-and-frisk facts totally wrong in debate
Moderator Lester Holt then pointed out the policing tactic was “ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.”

Trump told Holt he was wrong — and then slammed Scheindlin without referring to her by name.

“It went before a judge, who was a very against-police judge,” Trump said.

Asked about Trump's comment, Scheindlin told the Daily News, “Well, that's not such an easy answer because I think that was former Mayor Giulani's take on it. I think he was probably the one who prepped Mr. Trump on the issue.”

“It was Mr. Giuliani's position that I think Mr. Trump was taking as his script,” she told The News by phone from Vienna, where she's traveling.

“I thought, to use that comment that I was anti-police was very cheap,” she said.

“I was very respectful of police.”

Scheindlin, who was on the bench for more than two decades before she stepped down in March, also reiterated her view on stop and frisk did not apply to the tactic in general.

"I found that stop and frisk as practiced in New York is unconstitutional," said Scheindlin, who's now at white shoe law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.

"If you have a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot, then of course you can stop someone."

But she also didn't buy Trump's claims that stop and frisk saved New York City from crime.

“There's no cause-and-effect proof,” she said. “Crime dropped in that decade anyway — nationally.”

Scheindlin said the way stop and frisk had been used in the city strained relations between police and the public.

“What that really did was to sow distrust between police and the community. That's all it achieved, that I can tell,” she said.

The number of police stops in New York City peaked in 2011 at 685,700, and plummeted to 22,900 in 2015. Rather than go up, crime dropped to record lows as stop-and-frisks declined.

There were 536 murders in 2010 and 352 in 2015.

In 2011, minorities accounted for some 91% of stops — and 88% of everyone stopped was "totally innocent," according to data compiled by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Despite the dramatic decline in number, minorities still account for about 89 percent of stop-and-frisk cases. In 2015, 80 percent of all people involved in stop-and-frisks were "totally innocent" of any crime, NYCLU data also show.

Reps for Trump and Giuliani did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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Sep-26-2016 126 0
“Anyone here want to vote for Trump?” Renado Demoulin asks on a Saturday afternoon in his barber shop, Whoo’s Nexxt, in North Tampa. There is silence: buzzers pause, eyebrows raise. 
Only one person, a fellow barber, feels the need to vocalize his response. “Nah, are you for real?” he proclaims. None of the 16 eligible black voters in the room plan on voting for Trump in November. 
“I keep it real, Trump is racist,” says 24-year-old Kianna Williams.

But despite their dislike of Trump, there is not a lot of love for Clinton. If real enthusiasm for her existed here, Demoulin says, it would pulsate inside the barber shop. It isn’t. 

Big turnout among African American voters is at the top ofthe Clinton campaign’s Florida wish-list. Popular black-oriented magazines glisten witha photo of Clinton grasping Obama’s hand. The African American Mothers of theMovement campaigned in the state over the weekend. Bill Clinton will campaignin some heavily black populated counties in north Florida later this week, creole language ads are targeting Haitian voters, and an advoiced by Michelle Obama is on the radio in black communities across the state. 

On Monday, there will even be debate watch parties in barber shops.
“The black vote is the mostcohesive vote in the whole state, and has been. The margin of victory thatblack voters have given Democrats in the last three election cycles have beenhuge compared to margins of victory within the Latino community or the whitecommunity,” explains Susan McManus, a University of South Florida politicalscientist.

According to her analysis of datafrom the Florida division of elections, 81 percent of Florida’s black voters are Democrats.

But how many of these voters will Clinton turn out? The result will have profound effects on theresults in the Sunshine State. 

In both 2008 and 2012, Obama wonthe black vote in Florida by more than 95 percent. Since then, there has not been a dramatic change in the number black voters. As of this summer, the percentage of registered black voters in Florida slipped to 13.3 percent from 13.6 percent, in2013 yet 1.25 million more black voters were registered in the 2016 primarythan during the 2012 primary.
Furthermore, Clinton is,predictably, the favorite among black Floridians, garnering 69 percent support in arecent CBS News poll?. Meanwhile, disdain for Trump is palpable.

 “I expect black vote to be down a little from 2012. It was a historical vote. But I don’t suspect it to go back to 2000 or 2004 levels,” explains Steve Schale, who ran Obama’s operation in the state in 2012. “We don’t need it to be at 2012 levels we just need it to be close to that and I think it will be close to that.”  

He argues that in 2012 there was the fear, primarily pushed by Republicans, that the black and Latino vote would not hit 2008 numbers. It did. 

“When you see people in need youhelp them,” says Demoulin, a 41-year-old Sanders-turned-Clinton supporter who ishosting a debate watch party with the Clinton campaign onMonday night. But at this point a major stumbling block is thatClinton is, simply put, not Obama -- and he worries that his watch party might do little to change that. 

“We don’t have a black-on-blackrace. It is a caucasian lady and something else that are our options now. So itis not like you are voting for your guy to get in,” says Demoulin, who recallsObama drawing black voters -- young and old -- to the polls in 2008 and 2012.He says that voting is a requirement in his house, where three of his five kidsare eligible to vote. 

The African American vote is especially crucial in in Demoulin’s county, Hillsborough, which went Republican in 2000 and 2004 only to become a Democratic county in the last two elections, thanks in large part to an energized black vote that doubled in size in 2008. 

Black millennials areparticularly important voting block for Clinton. Nineteen percent of registered black votersin Florida are millennials, compared to the 11 percent of registered Baby Boomers who are black.

Many black millennials whosupported Obama do not feel a connection to the 68-year-old female white nominee. McManus, the USF professor, says she’s seen the “tepidness” of that support on display in her classrooms.

“I researched Obama and I had alot of exchanges with people. I was educating people about why they should votefor him,” explains Adrial Allen, a 22-year-old recent USF graduate who works at the barber shop, of hisconversations about the race in 2012. He calls those conversations “healthydebates.” 

Now, Allen no longer cares enough to engage his friends in politicaldiscussions.
“I don’t really talk to myfriends about it now. I don’t want to lose my friends,” explains Allen, who willvote for a third-party candidate in November. 
Is it possible that he could decideto go with Clinton? “I don’t really pay attention to people trying to convinceme,” he says firmly.

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Evelyn Rupert Sep-18-2016 201 0
President Obama called on the black community to show Hillary Clinton the same support they did for him in an impassioned speech at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation gala Saturday night.

"We have achieved historic turnout in 2008 and 2012, especially in the African-American community. I will consider it a personal insult and an insult to my legacy if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election," he said. "You want to give me a good send-off? Go vote."

2012 marked a record turnout for black voters, and 93 percent of black voters backed Obama over Mitt Romney, according to exit polls.

A recent Washington Post report gave Clinton an 80 percent lead over Donald Trump among black voters.

But Obama warned the audience to not sit back.

"If you care about our legacy, realize everything we stand for is at stake. All the progress we've made is at stake in this election.

"My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration, that's on the ballot right now," he said. "And there is one candidate who will advance those things, and there is another candidate whose defining principle, the central theme of his candidacy is opposition to all that we've done. There's no such thing as a vote that doesn't matter, it all matters."

In her keynote address at the dinner, Clinton similarly presented herself as a way to carry on Obama's legacy while warning against a Trump presidency without mentioning the GOP nominee by name.

"We need ideas not insults, real plans to help struggling Americans in communities that have been left out and left behind, not prejudice and paranoia," she said. "We can't let Barack Obama's legacy fall into the hands of someone who doesn't understand that, whose dangerous and divisive vision for our country will drag us backwards."

Obama and his former secretary of State talked briefly between their two speeches, a White House official said.

The Obamas, riding a high approval rating, are key allies for Clinton in the final stretch of the campaign. Michelle Obama ripped into Trump and lauded Clinton as the most experienced presidential candidate in history at an event at George Mason University on Friday.

In a statement, the Republican National Committee (RNC), said voters shouldn't allow Clinton to continue the Obama administration's policies.

"Hillary Clinton only represents more of the same stale Democrat policies which have failed black Americans for decades. Over the past eight years, black youth unemployment is up and paychecks are flat, but Hillary Clinton is merely rehashing an agenda that has moved America further away from prosperity for all," the RNC said. "Donald Trump is putting forth new ideas that will generate millions of good jobs, deliver school choice, and put the American people first once again. Our Party is committed to fighting for the black vote and giving every American an opportunity to achieve their dreams."
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Heidi M Przybyla Sep-08-2016 151 0
Former secretary of State Colin Powell advised his successor, Hillary Clinton, on how to circumvent federal records requirements in a newly released email exchange about how best to handle communications over digital devices.

The email, dated two days after Clinton was sworn into office in 2009, was released by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. Cummings also included documentation showing that, during his tenure, Powell had sent classified emails over his private AOL account - but as of July, had still not responded to a request to contact his service provider to retrieve them.

"I had an ancient version of a PDA and used it," Powell said in the exchange with Clinton. "If it is public that you have a Blackberry," he said, "it may become an official record and subject to the law."

"Be very careful," warned Powell. "I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data," he said.

The exchange shows that Powell gave Clinton “a detailed blueprint on how to skirt security rules and bypass requirements to preserve federal records, although Secretary Clinton has made clear that she did not rely on this advice," said Cummings. It "also illustrates the longstanding problem that no secretary of State ever used an official unclassified email account until the current secretary of State," said Cummings.

Republicans are pressing for additional investigations into Clinton's use of a private email server after FBI director James Comey declined to press criminal charges, even as he concluded that Clinton was "extremely careless" in her use of a private server. The email corroborates what Clinton told the FBI about Powell's advice to her, according to transcripts of her interview released last week.
In both 2014 and 2015, the State Department asked Powell to provide all of his records that were not in the agency’s record-keeping system. In March of 2015, Powell said during an appearance on ABC’s This Week that he no longer had emails from his personal account: “I do not have thousands of pages somewhere in my personal files," he said.

As of July, Powell still had not responded to a request to contact AOL. The Powell emails containing classified information had been identified by the agency's inspector general in February.

"The Republican obsession with Secretary Clinton has reached a fever pitch, and they have been using taxpayer resources to single her out in a desperate and abusive attempt to hurt her presidential campaign," said Cummings.

"If Republicans were truly concerned with transparency, strengthening FOIA, and preserving federal records, they would be attempting to recover Secretary Powell’s emails from AOL, but they have taken no steps to do so despite the fact that this period — including the run-up to the Iraq War — was critical to our nation’s history," said Cummings.

The release also shows the nature of Clinton's original solicitation for advice, dated Jan. 23 of 2009: "What were the restrictions on your use of your blackberry? Did you use it in your personal office? I've been told that the DSS personnel knew you had one and used it but no one fesses up to knowing how you used it! President Obama has struck a blow for berry addicts like us."

Powell has disputed the suggestion that he played a role in Clinton's decision to use a private system. “The truth is she was using it (her personal email) for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did," Powell told the New York Post in August. "Her people have been trying to pin it on me," he said.

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