Former Hillary Clinton Cyber Adviser
Indicted for Lying to FBI about Trump
A prominent Washington, D.C. attorney pleaded not guilty last week to lying to the FBI after he allegedly claimed to have evidence of the Trump campaign’s communications with a Russian bank.
The FBI was investigating accusations that former President Donald Trump’s 2016 election was influenced by the Russian government when attorney Michael A. Sussman contacted the agency.
He portrayed himself as an unaffiliated concerned citizen but failed to disclose he represented the campaign of Trump opponent Hillary Clinton and several corporations, according to prosecutors.
He reported to the FBI’s general counsel in 2016 that cybersecurity researchers discovered suspicious communications between Russia-based Alfa Bank and a Trump Organization computer server.
Although a Justice Department investigation found widespread efforts by the Russian government to help Trump get elected, the FBI discredited Sussman’s allegations.
D.C.’s Mayor Blamed for Handling
Of Rental Assistance Program
A rising tide of evictions in the Washington area is compelling increasingly desperate efforts to help households avoid homelessness.
In some cases, local officials are blaming each other for the failure of tenants to receive the legal and financial assistance they need to stay in their homes.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson complained in a recent letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser that the city’s STAY DC program for distributing federal aid to desperate tenants was “not nimble enough to issue payments before these evictions occur.”
Nearly 300 evictions are scheduled in Washington by the end of October, according to D.C.’s Office of the Tenant Advocate. About 32,000 local residents are behind on their rent or mortgage payments, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Bowser administration officials deny allegations of dragging their feet. Similar accusations of slowed efforts to distribute federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds are being lodged against state officials in Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere.
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D.C.’s Federal Workers Accept
Biden’s Vaccination Mandate
Most of Washington’s federal workforce is accepting President Joe Biden’s mandate to get vaccinated or lose their jobs without complaints.
The stringent new rules the president announced this month are the Biden administration’s latest effort to halt a surge in the Delta variant of coronavirus that is reaching toward record infection and death rates in the United States.
“We have a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said during a nationally televised presentation.
Biden’s order is similar to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s order last month that all 35,000 city employees must get vaccinated or face weekly testing. However, Biden’s order goes further, requiring the vaccinations except for medical or religious exemptions.
Union leaders for federal employees gave no indication they would oppose the vaccination rule, only that they had reservations about it.
The National Treasury Employees' Union released a statement saying the president’s order “making vaccination a condition of employment for federal employees is a step the government, as an employer, has the legal right to take."
An American Federation of Government Employees statement said the nation’s largest union for government workers has “strongly encouraged” vaccinations but would prefer that the requirement for workers be negotiated as part of collective bargaining.
The strongest resistance is coming from the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which said “government should trust its employees to make their own medical decision under consultation with their doctor, not mandated by their employer.”
D.C. Attorney General Amends
Antitrust Lawsuit Against Amazon
An amendment last week to an antitrust lawsuit by the District of Columbia’s attorney general accuses Amazon.com, Inc. of forcing wholesale suppliers to give the company’s customers unfairly favorable pricing.
Meanwhile, the wholesalers’ other customers must pay higher prices, the lawsuit says.
The latest allegations amend the lawsuit Attorney General Karl Racine filed in May that says Amazon used its market dominance over pricing contracts with third-party sellers.
Third-party sellers sell on Amazon under their own brand names. Amazon buys and sells other products from wholesalers, also known as first-party sellers, whose contracts require that they guarantee Amazon a minimum profit.
Racine’s amended lawsuit says the contracts force wholesalers to make up the difference in their revenue by raising prices in other marketplaces outside Amazon to stay profitable.
“These agreements reduce other online marketplaces’ ability to compete with Amazon by offering lower prices to consumers,” according to the complaint. It adds that the minimum profit guarantee “results in reduced competition among online marketplaces and higher prices to consumers.”
Amazon has argued that sellers set their own prices for products they sell through the company’s website.
“Amazon takes pride in the fact that we offer low prices across the broadest selection, and like any store we reserve the right not to highlight offers to customers that are not priced competitively,” Amazon said in a statement. “The relief the AG seeks would force Amazon to feature higher prices to customers, oddly going against core objectives of antitrust law.”
The Federal Trade Commission also is investigating Amazon’s sales practices.
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D.C. in Brief
Georgetown Tennis Coach to Plead Guilty
For Taking Bribes in Varsity Blues Scandal
A former Georgetown University tennis coach plans to plead guilty to participating in the college admissions cheating scandal known as Varsity Blues.
Gordon Ernst is admitting to accepting about $2.7 million in bribes to help children of wealthy families gain admission to the elite school.
He arranged athletic scholarships for at least 12 students between 2012 and 2018. Some of them had never played tennis competitively.
He is awaiting a hearing date to enter a guilty plea in federal court in Boston.
Ernst, 54, a former Chevy Chase, Md. resident, agreed to accept a plea bargain from prosecutors in which he would plead guilty to conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and filing a false tax return.
Power the Civil Rights Work of Our Time
Each day members of our community are experiencing wage theft, the effects of gentrification, discriminatory policing, collateral consequences, marginalization in schools, and barriers to public accommodations.
We fight alongside people facing the effects of gentrification like Amira Moore. Our work empowers the people and communities who need it most, “We can do more than we think. There’s a path to equity, we just have to step to it.” –Ms. Moore
For more than 50 years, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights in our community. We deploy the best legal talent, we tackle the tough cases, we fight, and we win.
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