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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 His plea must be withdrawn and all charges dropped.”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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Scientists set out 10 golden rules for reforestation amid tree planting warnings | UK News

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Ten “golden rules” for reforestation have been set out by scientists as they warned poorly executed tree planting schemes can harm the environment.

Planting trees to reduce carbon emissions can be presented as an “easy answer” to tackling the climate crisis, but it can cause more problems than benefits, experts have said.

The researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) are urging a “right tree in the right place” approach to make sure restoring forests benefits people and the planet.

Picking the right trees and places for planting can help restore nature and boost people's livelihoods
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Picking the right trees and places for planting can help restore nature and boost people’s livelihoods

Conservation partnership coordinator at RBG Kew Dr Kate Hardwick said: “When people plant the wrong trees in the wrong place, it can cause considerably more damage than benefits, failing to help people or nature.”

A study by the scientists found in some cases, tree planting schemes did not increase the amount of carbon being stored in the landscape and could hit wildlife and people’s livelihoods.

Planting large areas with only a few, non-native, species can push out the wildlife, reduce the amount of carbon being stored in soils and the forests, and reduce the land available for crops – potentially causing more deforestation elsewhere.

Allowing areas of forest to naturally regenerate is cheaper and can create up to 40 times more potential for carbon storage than plantations while picking the right trees and places for planting can help restore nature and boost people’s livelihoods.

The 10 golden rules, set out in a paper published in the Global Change Biology journal, focus on protecting existing forests first, putting local people at the heart of projects, and using natural regrowth of trees where possible.

Scientists claim that poorly planned and executed tree planting schemes can harm the environment
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Scientists claim that poorly planned and executed tree planting schemes can harm the environment

Dr Paul Smith, secretary-general at BGCI, said the rules highlighted that planting trees was highly complex.

“There is no universal, easy solution to a successful reforestation initiative given the extraordinary diversity of trees, forest types and the unique cultural and economic environments each forest is in.

“However, there are successful examples that we can learn from and develop further to build on current public and private interest in the topic,” he said

A virtual conference next month has been organised by RBG Kew and BGCI, with Sky Zero as its headline sponsor.

It will bring together a series of interesting global perspectives to debate and challenge the myth that “all tree planting is good” and to discuss best practice for protecting and restoring the world’s forests.

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The conference will be opened by The Prince of Wales and it is hoped the discussions will raise the standard of reforestation globally ahead of the UN conferences (COP15 and COP26) later this year on new global biodiversity and climate change agreements.

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COVID-19: Luxembourg live music experiment could help ‘prepare for return to live events’ | Ents & Arts News

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A live music experiment is set to take place in Luxembourg, with organisers saying it is hoped the shows could help pave the way for the return of gigs.

Five test concerts with strict health measures and restrictions are due to take place at the Rockhal arena in February.

Live events have been cancelled around the world since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold at the beginning of 2020. While some artists have come up with innovative ways to perform to fans – with many streamed gigs held and The Flaming Lips even holding “space bubble” shows at the weekend – venues in many countries remain closed and the industry is struggling.

It is hoped the Because Music Matters shows in Luxembourg, organised by the Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), a lobby group established by the European Arenas Association, could help to create a model to bring live events back.

Capacity will be limited to 100 people per night, with masks compulsory and strict social distancing enforced. The gigs will be seated, with fans placed around a central 360° stage.

Those who attend will be tested for COVID-19 prior to the event and again seven days later.

Each night will feature different music, including piano techno, electro-house and metal.

Olivier Toth, chief executive of Rockhal and co-founder of the ARA, said the shows are an “important step forward in testing the safety measures we can employ to support our back-to-business strategies”.

Fellow ARA co-founder Robert Fitzpatrick, who is also chief executive of the Odyssey Trust, owners of the SSE Arena in Belfast, said he believes international collaboration can help venues get back to business.

“As the advocacy platform for European arenas, the ARA is proud to provide an opportunity for the industry to come together with key EU decision-makers to prepare for a return to live events, whilst working to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities and the sustainability of our industry, which will be central to the economic and societal recovery of countries across Europe,” he said.

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“Together, we can build regional and national frameworks, with international collaboration that will help us get back to business.”

The shows will take place from 10-14 February and will be hosted in conjunction with the national health inspection authority.

The ARA will also host a virtual conference on 18 February looking into how arenas and large venues across Europe are preparing for a safe and sustainable reopening.

As well as the impact of the pandemic, UK musicians are now facing the added problem of touring visas for Europe following Brexit.

Earlier in January, stars including Liam Gallagher and Sir Elton John were among dozens of music artists who signed a letter calling on the government to resolve the “gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be”.

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Grindr faces £8.6m fine for sharing user data with advertisers without permission | Business News

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Grindr is facing a fine of £11.7m (£8.6m) for its handling of personal user data, Norway’s privacy watchdog has announced.

The country’s Data Protection Authority (DPA) said it had notified the gay dating app of a draft decision to issue the penalty which, it said, was equal to 10% of its annual global revenue.

The watchdog said its proposed fine followed a complaint that personal information was shared with advertisers for marketing purposes without user consent.

OSLO, NORWAY - MAY 31: A Norwegian flag is seen on the occasion of King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway's 75th birthday celebration at Oslo Opera House on May 31, 2012 in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Ragnar Singsaas/Getty Images)
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Norway is not part of the European Union but is part of the European Economic Area which ties it to some EU rules

Norway’s Consumer Council had alleged last year that Grindr and five partner companies had violated the European Union’s GDPR privacy rules, to which the country is tied.

The DPA said the data included GPS location, user profile information and even the fact that users are on Grindr, which could reveal their sexual orientation and therefore merit special protection.

Grindr’s spokesman for Norway told local broadcaster NRK that the company looked forward to dialogue with the authorities but gave no further reaction.

Under the country’s rules, Grindr has until 15 February to give a formal response to the finding ahead of a final regulatory decision.

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