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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made a brief court appearance Monday in his bid to prevent extradition to the United States to face serious espionage charges.

He and his lawyers complained they weren't being given enough time to meet to plan their battle against U.S. prosecutors seeking to put him on trial for WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents.

The 48-year-old was brought to court from Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. He saluted the public gallery, which was packed with ardent supporters including the musician MIA, when he entered the courtroom. He later raised his right fist in defiance when he was taken to holding cells to meet with lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Peirce said officials at Belmarsh Prison are making it extremely difficult for her to meet with Assange.

“We have pushed Belmarsh in every way —- it is a breach of a defendant's rights,” she said.

Assange refrained from making political statements. He confirmed his name and date of birth, and at one point said he didn't understand all of the proceedings against him during the brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

He faces 18 charges in the U.S., including conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer. He has denied wrongdoing, claiming he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.

Many advocacy groups have supported Assange's claim that the charges would have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.



The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a $35 million judgment against the Jehovah’s Witnesses for not reporting a girl’s sexual abuse to authorities.

Montana law requires officials, including clergy, to report child abuse to state authorities when there is reasonable cause for suspicion. However, the state’s high court said in its 7-0 decision that the Jehovah’s Witnesses fall under an exemption to that law in this case.

“Clergy are not required to report known or suspected child abuse if the knowledge results from a congregation member’s confidential communication or confession and if the person making the statement does not consent to disclosure,” Justice Beth Baker wrote in the opinion.

The ruling overturns a 2018 verdict awarding compensatory and punitive damages to the woman who was abused as a child in the mid-2000s by a member of the Thompson Falls Jehovah’s Witness congregation. The woman had accused the church’s national organization of ordering Montana clergy members not to report her abuse to authorities.

The Montana case is one of dozens that have been filed nationwide over the past decade saying Jehovah’s Witnesses mismanaged or covered up the sexual abuse of children.

The attorney for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Joel Taylor, said in a statement that there are no winners in a case involving child abuse.

”No child should ever be subjected to such a debased crime,“ Taylor said. “Tragically, it happens, and when it does Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the law. This is what the Montana Supreme Court has established. ”

The woman’s attorney, Jim Molloy, read a prepared statement: “This is an extremely disappointing decision, particularly at this time in our society when religious and other institutions are covering up the sexual abuse of children.”

The Montana woman’s abuse came after the congregation’s elders disciplined the man over allegations of abusing two other family members in the 1990s and early 2000s, the woman’s lawsuit said.


Everyone knows Wisconsin will be in the spotlight for the presidential race in 2020. It's one of just a few states where the electorate is so evenly divided, it could swing either way. That is the biggest prize on the ballot this year, but it's far from the only contest for Wisconsin voters. Here are the highlights of what's on Wisconsin's political horizon in 2020:

Wisconsin will be the focus of the presidential race all year. President Donald Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016 and both sides expect another close race. Wisconsin is one of just a few states expected to be competitive and for that reason, many expect it to be the epicenter of the fight for the White House. Democrats will get a chance to vote for their nominee on April 7. With a large field and unsettled race, many expect it to still be undecided for Wisconsin's primary. Milwaukee hosts the Democratic National Convention in July and both sides are expected to flood the state with money — and candidate appearances — before the November election.

Wisconsin elects its Supreme Court justices and one of them who was appointed by then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is up for election in April. Dan Kelly was appointed in 2016 and now he's running for a full 10-year term. He's part of the current 5-2 conservative majority on the court. If he wins, that majority will not change. But if one of two liberal candidates prevail, the conservative hold on the court will drop to 4-3. Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky and Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone have Democratic support in the race. A Feb. 18 primary will narrow the field to two candidates. The winner will be elected on April 7. That is the same day as Wisconsin's presidential primary, when Democratic turnout is expected to be high. That could spell trouble for Kelly.




Three years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the U.S. government is ramping up its efforts to seize private land in Texas to build a border wall.

Trump’s signature campaign promise has consistently faced political, legal, and environmental obstacles in Texas, which has the largest section of the U.S.-Mexico border, most of it without fencing. And much of the land along the Rio Grande, the river that forms the border in Texas, is privately held and environmentally sensitive.

Almost no land has been taken so far. But Department of Justice lawyers have filed three lawsuits this month seeking to take property from landowners. On Tuesday, lawyers moved to seize land in one case immediately before a scheduled court hearing in February.

The agency says it’s ready to file many more petitions to take private land in the coming weeks. While progress has lagged, the process of taking land under eminent domain is weighted heavily in the government’s favor.

The U.S. government has built about 90 miles (145 kilometers) of walls since Trump took office, almost all of it replacing old fencing. Reaching Trump’s oft-stated goal of 500 miles (800 kilometers) by the end of 2020 will almost certainly require stepping up progress in Texas.

Opponents have lobbied Congress to limit funding and prevent construction in areas like the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, an important sanctuary for several endangered species of jaguars, birds, and other animals, as well as the nonprofit National Butterfly Center and a historic Catholic chapel. They have also filed several lawsuits. A federal judge this month prevented the government from building with money redirected to the wall under Trump’s declaration of a national emergency earlier this year. Also, two judges recently ordered a private, pro-Trump fundraising group to stop building its own wall near the Rio Grande.

Even on land the government owns, construction has been held up. In another federal wildlife refuge, at a site known as La Parida Banco, work crews cleared brush this spring and the government announced in April that construction would soon begin. Eight months later, the site remains empty.

According to a U.S. official familiar with the project, work crews discovered that the land was too saturated. The planned metal bollards installed on top of concrete panels would have been unstable because of the water levels in the soil, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person did not have authorization to share the information publicly.


Sharply at odds with liberal justices, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed ready Tuesday to allow the Trump administration to abolish protections that permit 660,000 immigrants to work in the U.S., free from the threat of deportation.

That outcome would “destroy lives,” declared Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one the court’s liberals who repeatedly suggested the administration has not adequately justified its decision to end the seven-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Nor has it taken sufficient account of the personal, economic and social disruption that might result, they said.


But there did not appear to be any support among the five conservatives for blocking the administration. The nine-member court’s decision is expected by June, at the height of the 2020 presidential campaign.

President Donald Trump said on Twitter that DACA recipients shouldn’t despair if the justices side with him, pledging that “a deal will be made with the Dems for them to stay!” But Trump’s past promises to work with Democrats on a legislative solution for these immigrants have led nowhere.

The president also said in his tweet that many program participants, brought to the U.S. as children and now here illegally, are “far from ‘angels,’” and he claimed that “some are very tough, hardened criminals.” The program bars anyone with a felony conviction from participating, and serious misdemeanors may also bar eligibility.


President Donald Trump is asking the Supreme Court to block a subpoena for his tax returns, in a test of the president’s ability to defy investigations.

The filing Thursday sets the stage for a high court showdown over the tax returns Trump has refused to release, unlike every other modern president. The justices also could weigh in more broadly on Trump’s claim that sitting presidents can’t be prosecuted or investigated for crimes.

The subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney is seeking Trump’s tax returns back to 2011 from his accounting firm as part of a criminal investigation. Trump’s lawyers say a criminal probe of the president at the state or local level is unconstitutional and unprecedented in American history.

“Allowing the sitting president to be targeted for criminal investigation — and to be subpoenaed on that basis— would, like an indictment itself, distract him from the numerous and important duties of his office, intrude on and impair Executive Branch operations, and stigmatize the presidency,” said the brief signed by Jay Sekulow.

Lower courts have so far rejected Trump’s claims of immunity.

Trump wants the court to decide the case by late June, under a deal to keep the district attorney from enforcing the subpoena in the meantime. The justices may not decide whether to hear the case for at least another month.


The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard highly anticipated cases on whether federal civil rights law should apply to LGBT people, with Chief Justice John Roberts questioning how doing so would affect employers.

In the first of two cases, the justices heard arguments on whether a federal law banning job discrimination on the basis of sex should also protect sexual orientation. Lower courts have split on the issue. A related case on transgender employees is also being heard Tuesday.

Roberts, a possible swing vote in the cases, wondered about the implications of what he described as an expansion of the job-discrimination law.

“If we’re going to be expanding the definition of what ‘sex’ covers, what do we do about that issue?” Roberts asked.

Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative, suggested that the high court would be usurping the role of Congress by reading protection for sexual orientation into the 1964 Civil Rights Act, when lawmakers at the time likely envisioned they were doing no such thing.

Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, suggested sexual orientation is a clear subset of sex discrimination, saying that a man who loves other men cannot be treated differently by an employer than a woman who loves men.

The cases Tuesday are the court’s first on LGBT rights since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and replacement by Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Kennedy was a voice for gay rights and the author of the landmark ruling in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States. Kavanaugh generally is regarded as more conservative.


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