Daily Archives: Jul 25, 2019

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – T-Mobile US Inc won U.S. antitrust approval for its $26 billion takeover of rival Sprint Corp, the Justice Department said Friday, clearing a major hurdle to a deal that merges the nation’s third and fourth largest wireless carriers.

    The companies have agreed to divest Sprint’s prepaid businesses, including Boost Mobile, to satellite television firm Dish Network Corp to create a fourth U.S. wireless carrier.

    The Justice Department indicated the deal would improve competition and the rollout of faster 5G networks by combining weaker players and creating a strong, new No. 4, in Dish, that has unused spectrum, which can be activated. Critics, including some state attorneys general, say competition won’t increase and prices for mobile phone plans will rise.

    The deal is a clear success for T-Mobile Chief Executive Officer John Legere, who will be the CEO of the combined company and who pushed back at critics arguing a more concentrated market would lead to higher prices.

    “It’s a bit dumbfounding to think that we’ve decided to go and build this network and go through this merger so that we can become the basic, lazy, fat, dumb and arrogant players that we were born to teach how to behave,” he told analysts in a conference call.

    Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said the deal would hasten the development of 5G, the next generation of wireless.

    Shares of T-Mobile, which is about 63 percent owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, were up 5.3% at $84.17. Shares of Sprint, which is about 84 percent owned by Softbank Group Corp, rose 7.1% to $7.97. Dish was up 0.7% at $39.44.

    But the deal still faces a significant challenge: A group of U.S. state attorneys general, including from New York and California, have sued to block the merger on antitrust grounds, arguing the proposed deal would cost consumers more than $4.5 billion annually.

    New York State Attorney General Letitia James indicated the lawsuit would continue, at least in part because of what critics see as Dish’s failure to live up to pledges it had made.

    “We have serious concerns that cobbling together this new fourth mobile player, with the government picking winners and losers, will not address the merger’s harm to consumers, workers, and innovation,” she said.

    The Justice Department, backed by five state attorneys general, said the deal required the merging companies to sell Virgin Mobile and Sprint’s prepaid business and provide Dish with access to 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations.

    Prepaid wireless phones are generally sought by lower-income people who cannot pass a credit check.

    Dish has agreed to acquire spectrum, or airwaves that carry data, in a deal valued at $3.6 billion from the merged firm and pay $1.4 billion for Sprint’s prepaid business that serves about 9.3 million customers. Dish will get access to the new T-Mobile’s network for seven years while it builds its own 5G network.

    T-Mobile and Dish are also required to work out a deal where T-Mobile can use Dish’s unused 600 MHz spectrum and the companies are required to use eSIM, which allows consumers to switch easily between carriers, a Justice Department official said.

    SKEPTICAL LAWMAKERS

    T-Mobile competes with Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc (T.N).

    U.S. consumers tend to stick with one mobile carrier for years, giving companies a steady stream of cash. As more people rely on cell phones for social media, banking or news and entertainment, the lines have blurred between telecom, content and cable companies, just as so-called 5G technology promises to make mobile phones even more powerful.

    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement on Friday he would soon circulate a formal order supporting the deal. The FCC could vote on final approval in August or September, officials said.

    The FCC agreed to give Dish more time to use spectrum it previously acquired. The company could face up to $2.2 billion in penalties and lose its spectrum licenses if it fails to meet its commitments to build its network, according to a letter filed Friday with the FCC. Dish must have a 5G network covering at least 70% of the U.S. population no later than June 14, 2023.

    Dish has spent years stockpiling wireless spectrum and faced a looming March 2020 deadline to build a product using the spectrum in order to fulfill its license requirements.

    Some senior lawmakers remained skeptical about the merger, including Senators Mike Lee, a Republican, and Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, the top lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee.

    Lee said he was hopeful the divestiture would succeed but uneasy about Dish’s dual role as a critic of the transaction and a buyer of divested assets.

    Klobuchar, who is running for president, reiterated that she had wanted the deal stopped. “It looked like a bad deal then, and it looks like a bad deal today, despite the parties’ promises and this proposed consent decree,” she said.

    Reporting by Diane Bartz and David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Nick Zieminski and Angela

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Claiming “victory” in two high-profile hearings on Wednesday with former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives vowed to push forward with their investigations of President Donald Trump.

      Court action could come as soon as Thursday or Friday, with the Democrats’ determination pointing to many more months of digging by lawmakers into Trump, his presidency and private business interests. But the outlook for impeachment proceedings seemed as remote as ever even as Trump seeks re-election in 2020.

      Shortly after Mueller testified to two House committees on his investigation of Trump and Russian meddling in U.S. politics, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said his panel would go to court in the next two days.

      He said the committee would move to enforce a subpoena against former White House counsel Don McGahn and ask the court for grand jury material related to Mueller’s probe. McGahn, who was a star witness in Mueller’s 448-page final report, has refused to testify to Nadler’s committee.

      “The excuses – I won’t call them reasons – the excuses that the White House gives for McGahn not testifying … are the same excuses for all the other fact witnesses. And if we can break that, we’ll break the logjam,” Nadler said at a news conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other committee chiefs.

      Democrats had hoped Mueller’s televised testimony to the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees would stir public opinion and jump-start their investigation of the Republican president.

      Although Mueller refused to stray from his report and challenged some conclusions that Democrats drew from its contents, they insisted his testimony underscored evidence that Trump repeatedly sought to obstruct the Russia probe.

      “This is a great victory for the truth and for the possibility of justice in the country, because America finally got to see what Special Counsel Mueller was talking about,” Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin told reporters.

      His view differed sharply from that of Trump, who told reporters after Mueller’s seven hours of testimony that “this was a very big day for the Republican Party. And you could say this was a great day for me, but I don’t even like to say that.”

      “The Democrats had nothing,” Trump said, repeating his attacks on the Russia probe as a hoax and witch hunt.

      ‘HOLDING PRESIDENT ACCOUNTABLE’

      Mueller’s report on his 22-month investigation, released in mid-April, found insufficient evidence to allege that the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow in its effort to help Trump get elected in 2016, although campaign officials met with Russians.

      The report provided no view on whether Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s inquiry. Both issues dominated the Wednesday hearings, in which Mueller emphasized he had not exonerated Trump of obstruction of justice, as the president has claimed, but sometimes struggled to keep up with lawmakers’ questions and gave occasionally halting answers.

      There was little sign Mueller’s testimony would lead to a groundswell of enthusiasm among Democrats for starting impeachment proceedings against the president, although House Democrat Lori Trahan joined about 90 others who say it is time to begin an impeachment inquiry.

      Pelosi, who opposes moving forward on impeachment for now, said Democrats wanted to assemble the strongest case possible, focusing her remarks on Trump’s personal finances and his business connections.

      “One of those connections could be to the Russians and that’s what we want to find out,” she said.

      Congress is slated to leave Washington at the end of the week for a long summer break, returning in September.

      A House Democratic lawsuit has long been expected against McGahn, whom Democrats view as a central figure in their probe into whether Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s inquiry. McGahn testified to Mueller that Trump instructed him to have the special counsel removed and to deny having been told to do so.

      Testimony from McGahn to that effect at an open hearing could give Democrats the evidence they need for an impeachment inquiry. McGahn declined to testify earlier this year, after the White House directed him not to cooperate with the committee.

      “The president’s chant of ‘no obstruction’ is nonsense. His chant that he’s been ‘totally exonerated’ is a simple lie,” said Nadler, one of a half-dozen Democratic committee heads steering investigations of the president.

      Democratic Representative Ted Deutch said Democrats would “accelerate the investigation and take whatever action is necessary to hold the president accountable.”

      Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney

      SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Carin, a 39-year-old subsistence farmer from Honduras, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with her two sons late last year. They had fled after her political organizing led to threats of violence, she said, and intended to claim asylum.

      They were released on one condition: that they show up to immigration court when called.

      Carin said she made sure to check the mailbox regularly at the apartment in Colorado where they were living. In February, the first official letter arrived.

      It was not a court-hearing notice. It was a deportation order.

      “I said, ‘Oh my God’ and just cried and cried and then my sons were crying because we were all so scared,” Carin said. She asked that her family’s surname not be used for fear of damaging their asylum claim.

      Clerical errors and lack of notice are common in the U.S. immigration court system, say immigration lawyers and former judges. Clerks are juggling a backlog of more than 900,000 cases and rely on numerous people to log information based on quick interviews at the border.

      For migrants, such problems can bring dire consequences: A missed hearing can lead to an “in absentia” deportation order, issued by a judge when a migrant fails to appear.

      Especially vulnerable are recently arrived families like Carin’s who are listed on the fast-track deportation docket, known colloquially as the “rocket docket.” The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency targeted about 2,000 people on this docket for arrest and deportation in recent operations, although only 18 family members were actually taken into custody.

      Carin said she learned only after hiring a lawyer that her case file had errors. Court documents, which were reviewed by Reuters, indicated that she had been served with the court-hearing notice a day before the notice was even issued – an impossibility. Regardless, she said, she never received any notice.

      The U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which adjudicates immigration cases, declined to comment.

      President Donald Trump’s administration has said that immigrants are abusing the asylum process to enter the U.S. and then skip court proceedings, allowing many to live indefinitely in the country.

      “The overwhelming majority of claims are rejected by the courts, but by that time, the alien has usually long since disappeared into our country,” Trump said in a speech last November. “They don’t care because they’re in the country and nobody knows where they are.”

      Striving to speed up the cases and deportations of recently arrived families, most of them from Central America, the administration created the family-unit “rocket docket” last year in 10 U.S. immigration courts.

      Of the about 64,000 cases filed on the docket, about 17,000 have been completed. Of those completed, more than 13,000 resulted in an in absentia removal order, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joseph Edlow told lawmakers on Thursday.

      Federal officials repeatedly have said that people with removal orders have had their chance at a day in court. But migrant attorneys and advocates say that is not always true.

      For instance, two families were brought to the ICE family detention center in Dilley, Texas, last week after being arrested by immigration agents, according to Katy Murdza, advocacy manager at the Dilley Pro Bono Project, which provides legal services to detained families. Both families said they did not receive notice of their court hearings and neither knew they had removal orders, Murdza said.

      In the Hamptons on Long Island in New York, a Central American mother who crossed the border in December returned to her relatives’ house last week to learn that ICE agents had come looking for her, her lawyer, Ben Simpson said.

      After calling the immigration court, she found out she had been ordered removed in April because she hadn’t attended her hearing. But she had never received notice, Simpson said, adding that the woman had an appointment to check in with ICE later this month in New York City and had planned to attend. ICE did not respond to a request for comment.

      Immigration attorneys have been scrambling to reopen cases in which notice was not properly served. As a result of the publicity around the recent ICE operations, migrant advocates said more people know now to check if they have a removal order and to find legal help. That could potentially add to delays the government was trying to avoid.

      “There are so many points along the way where there can be typos, so many opportunities for human error, especially when you add the lack of language competency at the border,” said Rebecca Jamil, who was an immigration judge in San Francisco from 2016 to 2018. She said in her experience, the vast majority of people who missed a hearing did show up when given a second chance.

      “People are not coming here to hide,” she said.

      PROBLEMS UNDER OBAMA

      In 2014, the administration of President Barack Obama also expedited cases to deal with an influx of families from Central America seeking asylum.

      In a 2018 study, two immigration advocacy groups – the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project and Catholic Legal Immigration Network – said they successfully challenged the in absentia orders of 44 of their 46 clients on the docket.

      Among the reasons for the challenges: lack of notice and incorrect information provided by the government, as well as immigrants’ language barriers, severe trauma or disabilities, the groups wrote. This month, the organizations updated a guide for lawyers so that more can challenge the deportation orders in court.

      The Trump administration ended the Obama-era case prioritization in January 2017, saying it did not produce significant results. Then officials brought back their own version in November.

      The Obama-era family docket required the first hearings to be scheduled within a month of the charging document being filed. The same is true of current family-unit cases, according to guidance sent to immigration judges last year and seen by Reuters.

      But now judges are under greater pressure tmsnrt.rs/2y9HUTB to move cases along quickly, and have less discretion to give people more time to receive a hearing notice, find an attorney or file a complicated asylum application.

      Meanwhile, the acting director of ICE, Matthew Albence, told reporters on Tuesday that agents would continue to pursue not just the 2,000 people targeted in recent weeks, but any family with a removal order issued after the surge of migrants in 2014.

      There are “tens of thousands” of such families, he said.

      Carin’s attorney Laura Maggio has filed a motion to reopen her case based on the erroneous dates in the government’s documentation, which stalls her deportation. Carin carries a copy of that motion, along with all of the other paperwork she has received, everywhere she goes.

      For now, Carin’s priority is making sure her sons Bryan, 13, and Alan, 12, stay in school.

      “I tell them that Donald Trump didn’t create the United States, God did. And God gave us the support to get this far, and he has the final word on what happens to us next,” she said.

      Reporting by Kristina Cooke in San Francisco and Mica Rosenberg in New York. Additional reporting by Reade Levinson. Editing by Julie Marquis and Marla Dickerson

        SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea test-fired two new short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, South Korean officials said, its first missile test since its leader, Kim Jong Un, and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to revive denuclearisation talks last month.

        South Korea, which supports efforts by North Korea and the United States to end years of hostility, urged the North to stop acts that are unhelpful to easing tension, saying the tests posed a military threat on the Korean peninsula.

        The South’s National Security Council said it believed the missiles were a new type of ballistic missile but it would make a final assessment with the United States.

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