WASHINGTON (JTA) — Three Democratic U.S. senators are calling for a federal investigation into allegations that President Donald Trump did business with an Azerbaijani family alleged to have busted Iran sanctions.
The letter Thursday from Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Dianne Feinstein of California and Ben Cardin of Maryland is based on reporting earlier this month by the New Yorker that detailed efforts to build a Trump International hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital.
Trump’s real estate development and branding business ended its ties to the initiative in December and the building stands unused.
The letter, addressed to Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI director James Comey, seeks an inquiry into whether the Trump Organization followed U.S. laws requiring due diligence when dealing with foreign business.
The Mammadovs, a politically connected family, according to the New Yorker story, have a relationship with Azarpassillo, an Iranian company headed by Keyumars Darvishi, who has ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Dealings with the IRGC are blocked by U.S. sanctions law; not knowing one is dealing with a sanctioned entity does not necessarily absolve an American business from criminal liability because of the due diligence laws.
Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday approved the building of the first new settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu negotiates with Washington on a possible curb on settlement activity.
The unanimous vote in favor of construction of the new settlement in an area called Emek Shilo came after Netanyahu earlier told reporters: “I made a promise that we would establish a new settlement … We will keep it today.”
The result of the vote was announced in a government statement.
Palestinian officials swiftly condemned the move.
“Today’s announcement once again proves that Israel is more committed to appeasing its illegal settler population than to abiding by the requirements for stability and a just peace,” said Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
There was no immediate reaction from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, which is in discussions with Israel on limiting the construction of settlements on land Palestinians seek for a state.
Such settlements, in territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, are deemed illegal by most of the world. Israel cites biblical, historical and political links to the land, as well as security interests, to defend its actions.
Netanyahu first promised the new settlement at Emek Shilo in February, shortly before dozens of Israeli families were evicted from another West Bank settlement called Amona. Their houses were razed after Israel’s Supreme Court said they were built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land.
Establishing a new settlement may be a way for Netanyahu to appease far-right members of his coalition government who are likely to object to any concessions to U.S. demands for restraints on building.
Israeli political sources, however, said the new construction would actually take place within the boundaries of an existing settlement. The new community would then be declared its own settlement, a nuance that might be enough to stave off possible U.S. opposition to the move.
Trump, who had been widely seen in Israel as sympathetic towards settlements, appeared to surprise Netanyahu during a White House visit last month when he urged him to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
The two then agreed that their aides would try to work out a compromise on how much Israel can build and where.
Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, this week wrapped up a second trip to the region aimed at reviving Middle East peace talks that collapsed in 2014.
A new settlement would be the first built in the West Bank since 1999. About 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank which is also home to 2.8 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem.
Palestinians want the West Bank and East Jerusalem for their own state, along with the Gaza Strip.
Tennessee lawmakers want to add the phrase “In God We Trust” to Tennessee license plates, but the state attorney general calls the bill “constitutionally suspect” in a legal opinion, according to The Tennesseean.
The bill, proposed by Representatives Bill Sanderson and Paul Bailey, would require all Tennessee license plates to carry the phrase. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III issued a legal opinion on the bill, saying it would violate the constitutions of the United States and Tennessee. He noted that giving drivers the option to get a plate with the phrase on it would be “constitutionally defensible.”
The change to the license plates would cost the state just under $20 million, according to a fiscal note on the bill.
A telegram from Heinrich Himmler to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in 1943 was found in the archives of the National Library of Israel this week. In the telegram, Himmler, a high-ranking Nazi party official and head of the SS, offered the Mufti support in his struggle against “Jewish intruders.”
“The joint recognition of the enemy and the struggle together against it are what build the solid basis between the National Socialists of Greater Germany and freedom-loving Muslims of the world,” Himmler wrote, according to a translation by Times of Israel.
Haj Amin Al-Husseini was appointed as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a religious position, by the British during the mandate period. He, along with other Arab leaders, revolted against the British in 1936 in a bid for Palestinian self-determination. In 1937, the British officially revoked his title as Grand Mufti and he fled to Lebanon.
Husseini met with Hitler in Germany in 1941 to ask for German support of Arab independence from the colonial powers that ruled the Middle East at the time.
Stephen Miller, the aide to President Donald Trump who helped create his “Muslim ban” and defended it on television, comes from a Republican family at odds with their fellow congregants and neighbors in liberal southern California.
Miller attended Hebrew school at the Santa Monica Synagogue, graduating in 2001. The Hollywood Reporter recently spoke with a number of members there who remember the Miller family, who were members for only two or three years. “They have been and are conservative Republicans,” Rabbi Steven Windmueller told the magazine. One source, who was not named in the article, said they did not fit in with the liberal leaning congregation, so they left.
Many have wondered how a native of such a liberal city as Los Angeles could grow up to be one of Trump’s closest advisors. But others have pointed to the political differences in the city between the wealthier areas and those that are more middle class.
“In Santa Monica, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, all those things exist,” Oscar de la Torre, one of Miller’s high school teachers, told the magazine.
Some in Miller’s parents’s neighborhood have stopped speaking to the Millers. “We’ll try to get as many of these on the block as we can,” one neighbor told the magazine of the lawn signs in the area touting liberal causes. “Maybe the Millers will get the message.”
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