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Flynn urged by supporters to withdraw guilty plea, as judge’s actions raise eyebrows

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Supporters of former national security adviser Michael Flynn are floating the possibility he could withdraw his guilty plea in Robert Mueller’s investigation, as the new judge in the case makes some curious moves amid speculation over whether the special counsel “withheld” evidence. 

Legal experts caution that a defendant successfully withdrawing a guilty plea is rare and likely wouldn’t get him off the hook.

But Flynn’s siblings, who are vocal in their support for the former Trump adviser on social media, seem to be advocating that he withdraw his plea.

“Say it very loud….!” Joseph J. Flynn, who helped set up a legal defense fund for his brother, tweeted Monday in response to an activist calling on Flynn to withdraw the plea.

Another sister and brother of Flynn, Barbara Redgate and Jack Flynn, separately retweeted the same message from another activist that read: “Mueller suppressed evidence from the General Flynn case. His plea must be withdrawn and all charges dropped.” 

The chatter also comes amid reports that then-FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers last year that agents did not think Flynn intentionally lied to the FBI. Yet Flynn, in December, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition.

Flynn lost his White House job over that controversy, after being accused of misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials.

The idea of Flynn withdrawing his plea has picked up steam online in recent days, especially after the Washington Examiner’s Byron York reported on Comey’s comments 2017.

SHOCK CLAIM ABOUT FBI’S MICHAEL FLYNN INTERVIEW RAISES QUESTIONS

FILE - In this May 1, 2008 file photo, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan is pictured during a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Washington. The special prosecutor who investigated the botched case against late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is not recommending criminal charges against any of the Justice Department attorneys who tried him despite finding widespread misconduct beyond what has yet been publicly revealed.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Judge Emmet Sullivan has a reputation for punishing Department of Justice overreach, including during the case against then-Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens.

 (AP)

Fueling more speculation are other unusual moves behind the scenes: days after Flynn’s plea, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras recused himself and was replaced by Judge Emmet Sullivan. Sullivan has a reputation for punishing Department of Justice overreach, including during the case against the late Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens.

Sullivan then raised eyebrows when he ordered prosecutors to give Flynn’s lawyers “any evidence in its possession that is favorable” to Flynn.

Mueller’s team has since postponed Flynn’s sentencing. And last Wednesday, Mueller’s team filed a protective order “governing the production of discovery,” which indicates they won’t fight the order to hand over documents.

The developments have piqued the interest of former federal prosecutors, who argue there could be bombshells in the material.

“Typically, exculpatory information is not required to be turned over when a plea has been done, but I think this judge is particularly sensitive to those issues, given some of his history and cases he’s had,” John Lauro, a former federal prosecutor in New York and defense attorney who specializes in white-collar criminal defense, told Fox News. 

Law professor Jonathan Turley, writing Wednesday in The Hill, questioned whether Flynn might believe evidence was “withheld.” 

Former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell wrote in a recent op-ed for The Daily Caller that “the recent postponement of General Flynn’s sentencing provides an opportunity for more evidence to be revealed that will provide massive ammunition for a motion to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea and dismiss the charges against him.”

Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote in the National Review that it “certainly appears that Sullivan’s order supersedes the plea agreement.”

“Could this provide General Flynn with factual grounds of which he was previously unaware to seek to have his plea vacated?” McCarthy wrote. “Would he have a viable legal basis to undo the plea agreement that he and his lawyer signed on November 30? We do not know at this point.”

An attorney for Flynn, Robert K. Kelner, declined to comment.

But legal experts say there’s a high bar for a defendant to reach to successfully withdraw a guilty plea, though it’s not an impossible scenario.

“Withdrawing a federal plea is extremely rare and very difficult,” Robert Stahl, a white-collar criminal defense attorney in New York and New Jersey and a former assistant U.S. Attorney, told Fox News.

Even if the judge dismissed Flynn’s guilty plea, Mueller could still indict him, and charge him with other crimes in addition to lying to the FBI.

“There are lots of factors that go into a decision to plead guilty … In Flynn’s case, there are also the factors of other potential charges that were not pursued by the government in exchange for his plea entered,” Stahl said.

Lauro said withdrawing a guilty plea is “not typically an easy thing to do” but “it is something that can happen if it’s fair and just to do so under the circumstances.”

“It may be very well be that he makes a strategic decision to keep the plea in place because he has other issues,” he said of Flynn.

As part of his guilty plea last year, Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s Russia probe. In a written statement at the time of his plea, Flynn said his “guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

Meanwhile, President Trump, who previously said Flynn “lied,” has not ruled out pardoning his former adviser.

“I don’t want to talk about pardons with Michael Flynn yet,” Trump said last year. “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see.” 

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.



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COVID-19: China orders testing of 12 million Wuhan residents as more Delta variant cases identified | World News

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China is conducting mass testing in Wuhan after it identified its first domestic cases of the Delta variant in the city where coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

Wuhan, which gave the world its first glimpses of lockdowns and mass testing, had reported no local COVID-19 cases since mid-May last year.

But on Monday, authorities confirmed three new cases of the more transmissible variant in the Chinese city.

People scan health check codes with their smartphones to show to a security guard at a tourist shopping street in Beijing. Pic: AP
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People scan health check codes to show a security guard at a shopping street in Beijing. Pic: AP

All of its 12 million residents will be tested for coronavirus.

“To ensure that everyone in the city is safe, city-wide nucleic acid testing will be quickly launched for all people to fully screen out positive results and asymptomatic infections,” said Li Qiang, an official in the city, the capital of central Hubei province.

The new cases in Wuhan, along with infections in the nearby cities of Jingzhou and Huanggang since Saturday, were linked to cases found in Huaian city in Jiangsu province, said Li Yang, vice director of Hubei’s provincial disease control centre.

The outbreak in Jiangsu is believed to have begun in the provincial capital of Nanjing, with the Delta variant mostly likely introduced on a flight from Russia, officials have said.

Since then numerous cities in southern China and a few in the north including Beijing have reported infections.

The number of locally transmitted cases in China since 20 July, when the first Nanjing infections were found, stood at 414 on Monday.

However, it is not clear if all of those cases were of the Delta variant, or if they were all linked to Nanjing, as some authorities have not disclosed conclusive results of their virus-tracing efforts.

Authorities in numerous cities have launched mass testing to identify and isolate carriers. Pic: AP
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Authorities in numerous cities have launched mass testing to identify and isolate carriers. Pic: AP

The Delta variant poses new risks to the world’s second-largest economy as it spreads from the coast to inland cities.

On Tuesday, the National Health Commission said 90 new cases had been confirmed the previous day, 61 locally spread ones and 29 among people who had recently arrived from abroad.

Most of the local cases were in Jiangsu province, where an outbreak started at the airport in Nanjing, the provincial capital, and has spread to the city of Yangzhou, 65 miles away.

Authorities reported 45 new cases, five in Nanjing and 40 in the city of Yangzhou, which was conducting a second round of mass testing.

Five other provinces and the cities of Beijing and Shanghai reported new local cases in the single digits.

In Shanghai, the nation’s largest city, a driver working at one of its two main airports tested positive. Beijing has reported a total of five cases in recent days.

Government-affiliated scientists have said Chinese vaccines are less effective against the new strains of the coronavirus but still offer some protection.

Only Chinese vaccines are currently being given in China, where authorities say more than 1.6 billion doses have been administered.

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NATO and European Commission condemn deadly attack on tanker near Oman | World News

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has welcomed both NATO and the European Commission’s condemnation of the deadly attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman.

The UK, US and Israel have blamed Iran for the attack, which killed two people – a Briton and a Romanian.

On Tuesday, NATO called on Iran to “respect its international obligations”, while the EU Commission said they oppose “any action that would be detrimental to peace and stability”.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused Iran of carrying out a ‘deliberate, targeted’ assault which constituted ‘a clear violation of international law’

The Commission called the incident “unacceptable” but said the exact circumstances surrounding it “have to be clarified”.

Posting on social media, Mr Raab said: “I welcome NATO joining the UK and international partners in condemning the unlawful attack on MV Mercer Street.

“We believe this was a deliberate, targeted attack by Iran – it must end its destabilising actions immediately.”

Reports suggest explosive drones were flown into the MV Mercer Street tanker during the attack, which happened on 29 July.

According to Eikon’s ship tracking, the Mercer Street was headed to Fujairah, a bunkering port and oil terminal in the United Arab Emirates, from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

The tanker is operated by Zodiac Maritime, which is based in London and owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

Releasing a statement on Tuesday, a NATO spokesperson said: “We join allies in strongly condemning the recent fatal attack on the MV Mercer Street off the coast of Oman, and express our condolences to Romania and the United Kingdom for the losses they have suffered.

“Freedom of navigation is vital for all Nato allies, and must be upheld in accordance with international law.

“The United Kingdom, the United States, and Romania have concluded that Iran is highly likely responsible for this incident. Allies remain concerned by Iran’s destabilising actions in the region, and call on Tehran to respect its international obligations.”

European Commission spokeswoman Nabila Massrali told reporters: “Of course we condemn the attack on the oil tanker which took place off the island of Masirah in Oman.

“A British citizen and a Romanian were killed and we would like to extend our sympathy to their friends and family.

“The exact circumstances of this attack have to be clarified and we take note of investigations carried out by the United States, the UK and Israel – this is an action that was against freedom of navigation in this area, and of course unacceptable.

“We oppose any action that would be detrimental to peace and stability in this area and the EU will continue to follow developments closely.”

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‘Iran should face up to the consequences’ – PM

On Sunday, Mr Raab accused Iran of carrying out a “deliberate, targeted” assault which constituted “a clear violation of international law”.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he was considering “next steps” with the UK and other allies, with “an appropriate response… forthcoming”.

Meanwhile, the head of the British armed forces, General Sir Nick Carter, held discussions with his Israeli counterpart at the weekend.

The government held a Cobra emergency meeting at the level of officials over the weekend in a sign of the serious focus on the tanker attack and how to respond, Sky News understands.

There has not yet been a Cobra attended by ministers, which is what happens in the gravest of crises.

Earlier this week, Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid blamed “Iranian terrorism” for the attack.

Iran has not yet commented on the allegations.

Yair Lapid is set to be handed the reins in two years time
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Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid blamed ‘Iranian terrorism’ for the attack

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said the UK government needs to take a hard line with Tehran.

She said: “The prime minister must make it clear to the incoming Iranian president that lawless actions will carry costs. This is the moment where Britain must show we are resolute in our determination to end this pattern of behaviour.

“The breakdown of a clear strategy to deal with Iran has not served the UK or our allies well in recent years. The foreign secretary must now make it a priority to pursue coordinated international efforts to tackle these actions by the Iranian government.”

Antony Blinken
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US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he was considering ‘next steps’ with the UK and other allies

The incident has sparked concern that tensions are increasing in the region.

A UK source said crew members reported being targeted by “some sort of drone” on Thursday in the Arabian Sea before communications with the ship were lost.

If a drone attack is confirmed it would raise speculation about a possible link to a government or some kind of proxy group.

Iran in the past has repeatedly been accused of targeting tankers in the Gulf.



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Heat dome: What is the extreme weather pattern causing record temperatures and wildfires? | Climate News

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Heat domes are becoming a more regular weather phenomenon as entire regions deal with increasingly extreme heat and wildfires.

Villages in Turkey, Greece and Italy have been engulfed this July and August, and tourists evacuated by boat from beaches as temperatures reached 47C (116F).

In June, record temperatures hit North America, with more than 100 people dying in the northwestern US and Canada.

Both these extreme weather events were caused by heat domes.

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Sky reporter at edge of Turkey wildfires

What is a heat dome?

It’s when an area of high pressure stays over a large part of a region for days, or even weeks.

Like a lid on a saucepan, it traps hot air underneath, and can cause heatwaves with temperatures well above the norm.

How does a heat dome form?

Hot air expands vertically into the atmosphere then high pressure from above means it has nowhere to escape and pushes that warm air down.

As the warm air sinks, it compresses and heats up, which then traps more heat underneath.

The ground then heats up and loses moisture which makes it heat up even more, and means it is ripe for fires to start.

The dome of high pressure also pushes the clouds around it, keeping the heat in even more.

Usually, winds can move the high pressure around but as the dome stretches high into the atmosphere, the high pressure system becomes very slow moving, almost stationary.

What has caused the European heat dome?

Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon told Sky News: “The jet stream has dipped south across western Europe and extended into northeast Europe, allowing a ridge to develop across southeast Europe.

“Within the ridge, the air has become warmer day-on-day.”

Wildfire rips through Italian beach resort
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A wildfire in a Sicilian beach resort in July

Warm air from a Saharan dust cloud has also contributed to the warmer than usual temperatures

The high pressure from the jet stream ridge and the Saharan warm air has been stuck over southeast Europe for a while, maintaining temperatures 10C to 15C above average.

Are heat domes rare occurrences?

They are quite common in temperate zones but they are getting more intense and regular in areas that do not usually see such extreme heat.

Scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found the main trigger is a strong change in ocean temperatures during the preceding winter.

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Wildfires ravage Canadian town amid heatwave

For the US, this happens in the Pacific Ocean.

The NOAA scientists said it is like a swimming pool when the heater is turned on – “temperatures rise quickly in the areas surrounding the heater jets, while the rest of the pool takes longer to warm up”.

They said the western Pacific’s temperatures have risen over the past few decades compared with the eastern Pacific, “creating a strong temperature gradient – or pressure differences that drive wind – across the entire ocean in winter”.

The gradient causes more warm air through convection, which is heated by the ocean surface and rises over the western Pacific, decreasing convection over the central and eastern Pacific.

Prevailing winds move the hot air east, towards the US, and the jet stream traps the air, moving it towards land where it sinks to cause heatwaves.

Wildfires in Pescara, eastern Italy
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Wildfires in Pescara, eastern Italy

In Europe, the water temperatures are high, especially across the Baltic region where they are more than 6C above normal.

The Atlantic Ocean around the UK and Ireland was about 2-4C above the norm for the end of July.

But it is the Mediterranean, which is warmer than other European seas anyway, that is the most concerning, with sea temperatures nearly 3C above the long-term average.

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