Trump Considers Keeping Rosenstein On, Advisers Say

WASHINGTON—President Trump told advisers he is open to keeping Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on the job, and allies of the No. 2 Justice Department official said Tuesday he has given them the impression he doesn’t plan to quit.

That raised at least the possibility that a roller coaster of a week could end with no major shake-up in the top ranks of the Justice Department, even as White House and Justice officials cautioned that it was impossible to know for sure what Mr. Trump would do. Mr. Rosenstein oversees special…

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He Took Home Documents to Catch Up on Work at the NSA He Got 5½ Years in Prison.

BALTIMORE — As a Vietnamese immigrant with imperfect English, Nghia H. Pho felt he was falling behind his fellow National Security Agency software developers in promotions and pay. So in 2010, after four years on the job, he began taking highly classified documents to his Maryland home to get extra work done at night and on weekends in an effort to improve his performance evaluations.

But in the five years that Mr. Pho, 68, stored the material on his insecure home computer, officials believe it was stolen by Russian hackers using the antivirus software installed on the machine. Mr. Pho worked for the N.S.A.’s hacking unit, then known as Tailored Access Operations, and his cache is believed to have included both hacking tools and documentation to go with it.

On Tuesday, as family members wept in the courtroom, Mr. Pho was sentenced to five and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to a single count of willful retention of national defense information.

Mr. Pho, a slender man with a thatch of white hair, chose to address the court in English despite the presence of an interpreter. “I did not betray the U.S.A.,” he said. “I did not send the information to anyone. I did not make a profit.”

Mr. Pho’s lawyer, Robert C. Bonsib, noted repeatedly that David H. Petraeus, the retired Army general and former C.I.A. director, served no prison time after he pleaded guilty in 2015 to mishandling classified information, a misdemeanor. He shared the materials with the woman who was his lover and biographer.

United States District Judge George L. Russell III expressed some sympathy for Mr. Pho’s situation and admiration for his family. But he said the sentence was necessary to create “a real deterrent” for others who might consider mishandling sensitive information.

Prosecutors, who had sought an eight-year term, emphasized that Mr. Pho had been repeatedly trained along with other N.S.A. employees in the rules governing secrets. Thomas P. Windom, an assistant United States attorney, took issue with Mr. Bonsib’s assertion that Mr. Pho had made “one mistake” in an otherwise exemplary career.

“This was not one mistake,” Mr. Windom said. “This was five years of bad choices — criminal choices — that were devastating for the intelligence community.”

Prosecutors did not explain in open court the evidence that Russia had targeted Mr. Pho’s home computer, a topic presumably discussed in a separate closed court session. Mr. Windom did speak about the thousands of hours spent by N.S.A. workers to assess what Mr. Pho took home and what harm the loss of secrets might cause.

Adm. Michael S. Rogers, then the N.S.A. director, wrote in an unusual letter to Judge Russell last March that Mr. Pho’s breach of security rules had resulted in “articulable harm to intelligence-gathering.” Security officials, speaking of the classified case on condition of anonymity, have said that Mr. Pho had installed the popular Kaspersky Lab antivirus software on his home computer and that Russian government hackers had essentially piggybacked on the software to steal his material.

The company has acknowledged finding N.S.A. hacking software on a customer’s computer and removing it, but has said the material was subsequently destroyed. It has denied that it knowingly works with Russian intelligence, but American government agencies no longer use its products.

Mr. Pho’s case is only one of several N.S.A. breaches in recent years. In 2013, Edward Snowden, an N.S.A. contractor, fled to Hong Kong with a huge archive of documents that he shared with journalists. In 2016, another contractor, Harold T. Martin III, was arrested after spending years taking sensitive agency data to his Maryland home, where he stored it in his car and in a shed in his yard. Around the same time, a still-unidentified group calling itself the Shadow Brokers began to post some of the agency’s most guarded software tools on the web; the source of the leak has not been found.

Last month, an N.S.A. translator, Reality Winner, was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for sharing classified documents about Russian election hacking with The Intercept, an online publication.

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Pope Francis Says Sex Abuse Crisis Has Driven Young Catholics Away From The Church

Pope Francis on Tuesday acknowledged that young people are being driven away from the Roman Catholic Church because of the way it has handled the problem of clerical sexual abuse.

Speaking to a room of young people during his trip to Estonia, Francis said the church needs to change its ways in order to regain the trust of future generations, The Associated Press reported.

“Many young people do not turn to us for anything because they don’t feel we have anything meaningful to say to them,” Francis told the ecumenical Christian gathering at a church in Tallinn, according to a translation from the Catholic News Agency.

The Catholic Church has for months been roiled by renewed calls for accountability regarding clerical sexual abuse. Around the world, victims, advocates, public officials and Catholics in the pews have called out senior church officials for not doing enough to hold accountable predatory priests and the bishops who cover for them. The scandal reached the highest levels of the church this August, when a former Vatican official accused Francis and other high-ranking clergy of covering up the sexual misconduct of a disgraced ex-cardinal.

Francis, who has yet to respond clearly to the accusations, told the gathered Estonian youth that he understands young people are shocked by the scandal and by other failings of the church.

Young people “are outraged by sexual and economic scandals that do not meet with clear condemnation, by our unpreparedness to really appreciate the lives and sensibilities of the young, and simply by the passive role we assign them,” the pope said.

Pope Francis gives a speech during an ecumenical meeting with young people on Sept. 25, 2018, at the Charles Lutheran church


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Pope Francis gives a speech during an ecumenical meeting with young people on Sept. 25, 2018, at the Charles Lutheran church (Kaarli Kirik) in Tallinn, Estonia.

Francis referred to a research document created ahead of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, a global meeting that this year is dedicated to the youth. The document compiled the opinions of young Catholics around the world on how the church can best serve its young people.

Francis said that it’s clear from the document that young people want the church to be “transparent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive.”

“We ourselves need to be converted,” he said. “We have to realize that, in order to stand by your side, we need to change many situations that, in the end, put you off.”

The pope met with the youth on his last day of a papal trip to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. He made his frank comments on the sex abuse scandal the same day the Catholic Church in Germany released a damning report on the abuse crisis in that country. The report concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014, according to the AP. Most victims were boys age 13 or younger, and one case in every six involved rape, the report found.

Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he heads to the Liberty Square for a holy mass on Sept. 25 in Tallinn.


VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images

Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he heads to the Liberty Square for a holy mass on Sept. 25 in Tallinn.

The scandal of clerical sexual abuse and cover-up has also rocked the American Catholic Church. In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury identified more than 1,000 victims and 301 predatory priests after a landmark investigation into six of the state’s eight dioceses.

Katie Prejean McGrady, a Catholic speaker and writer, was one of the delegates sent to Rome by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to offer insights on young people ahead of the Synod of Bishops. She told HuffPost she was moved by Francis’ words on Tuesday, and hopes it’s a sign he will respond to particular claims and allegations “specifically, and soon.”

McGrady said she believes the crisis has caused young Catholics to respond with renewed efforts of prayer, fasting and community building. Young people are demanding transparency and working for justice and healing for abuse victims, she said. But there’s also been much confusion and pain, and a lot of lingering questions.

“There’s been anger and rage as a result of this hurt, and some young people teeter on the brink of despair, thinking that efforts to evangelize won’t work because of the scandal, because of this evil, and because the Church has lost some credibility because of this,” McGrady said. “It’s tough, because we’re called to be a people of hope, and we know that, but it’s still a struggle right now.”


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Kaya Oakes is a former atheist who has written extensively about returning to her Catholic roots and struggling to reconcile her liberal beliefs with church doctrine. Oakes told HuffPost that at the moment, she finds her Catholic identity more among laypeople than among the church hierarchy.

“Most of us will never meet or interact with a bishop or cardinal. Most of us barely spend time with priests,” Oakes said. “That’s probably why we feel the abuse crisis more acutely ― because it happens to people like us.”

Oakes said she thinks younger Catholics are reeling from the crisis.

“They feel abandoned by the church leadership and betrayed by the cultures of clericalism and silencing that allowed this to happen,” she said. “Because of Me Too and a greater openness to victims who come forward as well as a cultural shift toward calling out abusive behavior, younger Catholics are disgusted by the idea that the church treated people like this.”

Both Oakes and McGrady said that what young people want from the church now is action, instead of empty words.

“Honesty. We want honesty. We want transparency. We want answers,” McGrady said. “And to rebuild that trust, young people want assurance, and action plans, to ensure this never happens again.”

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Storms packing 70 mph winds trigger thunderstorm warnings across Chicago area

Severe thunderstorms hit northern Illinois on Tuesday, leaving downed trees and power lines in their wake, and triggering warnings for much of the Chicago area.

Afternoon storms that prompted a tornado warning west of Galesburg moved east through the Chicago area. A severe thunderstorm warning issued for extreme southeast Cook County and parts of Lake County, Ind., including Gary, expired at 7 p.m.

About 65,000 ComEd customers were without power following the storms, with the largest number in the power utility’s west region, according to a ComEd spokesman.

Earlier severe thunderstorm warnings expiring at 6 p.m. in most of Cook and other Chicago-area counties were called off or allowed to expire. Storms that caused severe damage in western Illinois weakened as they moved through the Chicago area but were still expected to bring gusty winds, possible brief heavy rain and lightning into the evening, according to the weather service.

A severe thunderstorm watch for Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, Will and Kendall counties that had been scheduled to last to 10 p.m. was called off, but there still was a significant risk Tuesday evening of thunderstorms packing 60 mph winds, according to the weather service.

There were “Numerous reports of wind damage in McHenry County & northern Kane County,” according to the weather service.

“O’Hare, Midway, DuPage, Wheeling (Palwaukee) Airports have all gusted to over 45 mph,” the Chicago office of the weather service said in a tweet.

Trees and power lines were reported down in areas including north suburban Libertyville, Mundelein and Gurnee; west suburban Aurora and Villa Park; and northwest suburban Algonquin, Hampshire and Huntley, according to the weather service.

Multiple large trees and power lines were reported down in Milledgeville in Carroll County, with an empty grain bin blown onto railroad tracks.

Illinois Highway 40, the main road through Milledgeville, was closed, but “Part of Milledgeville has power. The damage was due to straight line winds,” according to a tweet from Carroll County’s emergency management agency.

A team from the weather service will do storm surveys Wednesday afternoon in western Illinois and Iowa to determine if any tornadoes touched down, said Tim Gross of the agency’s Quad Cities station in Davenport, Iowa.

Forecasts show the weather turning around Wednesday, with the next chance for rain falling at the end of the week, said Matt Friedlein, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

For more forecast details, check the Tribune’s weather page.

Chicago Tribune’s William Lee contributed.

kgalioto@chicagotribune.com

lford@chicagotribune.com

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Big Tech under fire as state AGs meet with Justice Department, increasing chance of regulation

SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with a group of state law enforcement officials Tuesday to explore how to protect consumers and businesses from technology’s most powerful companies, signaling a new era of tough scrutiny for the industry.

The Justice Department said the conversation focused on consumer protection and data privacy as “areas of consensus.” The White House is considering a draft executive order that would direct federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to open probes into the practices of technology companies.

Among the issues discussed were the growth and size of tech companies and their collection and handling of people’s personal information and how state attorneys general could work together, according to three officials from 13 states and Washington, D.C. who attended the meeting in person or by phone. The attorneys general said they expect more discussions on how state and federal authorities could tackle these issues.

“The fact that there seems to be a more general consensus among states as well as clearly interest from the federal government probably does increase the likelihood of more activity from a regulatory oversight and investigative perspective from state AGs and perhaps from the federal government,” Washington D.C.’s attorney general Karl Racine told USA TODAY.  

The closed-door meeting came amid claims from President Donald Trump and other Republicans that major companies such as Alphabet’s Google and Facebook suppress and censor conservative views that run counter to the left-leaning politics of Silicon Valley.

Sessions turns talk to bias charges

When the Justice Department announced the meeting earlier this month, it said it would discuss whether companies such as Alphabet’s Google and Facebook were harming competition and “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas.” 

Sessions opened Tuesday’s meeting, which also included deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, by raising the issue of alleged ideological bias and sought twice to bring the conversation back to that topic of conservatives being suppressed or censored online, three state attorneys general told USA TODAY. 

“It seemed to me purpose of meeting was to push the Trump administration idea that they are going to somehow drive political bias out of social media. I think that’s stifling political speech and it’s a dangerous business, and I said so in the meeting,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told USA TODAY. “I asked if they had any evidence that the algorithms showed political bias and I asked what the theory was under antitrust law dealing with so called bias. Those questions were not answered.”

State officials said they redirected the discussion to antitrust and privacy concerns. States have the authority to investigate anti-competitive conduct and deceptive practices by companies. It’s unclear if they can regulate data handling under antitrust law. Topping the agenda: how companies collect users’ private data and what they do with it.

“Their power is unsurpassed in history,” Mississippi’s attorney general Jim Hood told USA Today. 

Hood, who says he suggested a formal partnership between the state attorneys general and the federal government to pursue legal action against tech companies, drew parallels to previous interventions by the government such as the dominance of Standard Oil, the Justice Department’s break-up of AT&T’s telephone monopoly and the antitrust actions against Microsoft.

“We will get back together by telephone and see where go from here in the next six weeks ago,” said Hood, one of Google’s most outspoken critics who has gone after the company on ads for prescription drugs and other issues.  “It will take some time, probably decades of litigation, but we have to change their behavior particularly on privacy.”

Utah’s attorney general Sean Reyes said the meeting was “part of a critical, ongoing dialogue on protecting consumers and competition in the technology sector without unnecessarily burdening innovation or investment.”

“We shared ideas and concerns about the impact of dominant market players on competition and how they may be unfairly leveraging their position for competitive advantage,” Reyes said in a statement. “We agreed that at the federal and state level, we are both seeking robust protection of consumers and markets through responsible regulation and disciplined enforcement.”

The meeting was further evidence of the dramatic shift in fortunes for big tech in Washington. Criticism of their business practices has intensified with revelations that they failed to protect people’s personal information and did too little to combat misinformation online during the 2016 presidential election.

“Certainly that this meeting occurred and that the Attorney General of the United States invited AGs to really focus on the large platforms and tech companies and the manner in which they collect gather and utilize data, I think is significant,” Racine said. 

Some attorneys general are already pursuing big tech companies on their own.

Washington State’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, is suing Facebook and Google, claiming they are not complying with state transparency laws for political advertising.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who’s running for U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket, launched an antitrust investigation into whether Google manipulates search results to boost its own products and scrapes information from its rivals without permission.

 

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