Jared Kushner at a luncheon with President Mauricio Macri of Argentina at the White House on April 27. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Jared Kushner: What you need to know about the scandal engulfing Donald Trump’s son-in-law

Jared Kushner was once hailed as the key to Donald Trump’s surprise election victory.

Now Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser is at the center of the biggest controversy plaguing the administration: its ties to Russia.

Kushner is facing heat following reports of two meetings with figures close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Democrats say his White House role should be diminished. Republicans, most crucially his father-in-law, are backing him up.

Confronting scandal — and overcoming it — is nothing new for the real-estate scion turned presidential aide.

Kushner is an observant Jew and, like JTA, he’ll likely be offline for Shavuot on Wednesday and Thursday. By the time the Jewish holiday ends, new reports may render this story outdated.

But at least for now, here’s what you need to know about Jared Kushner.

He is being investigated for his meetings with Russian officials.

Kushner is now at the center of the investigation into whether Trump officials colluded with Russia to sway the outcome of the presidential election. At issue are two meetings he had in December, during the Trump administration’s transition period: one with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and the other with Sergey Gorkov, who runs a Russian state-owned bank and is close to Putin. The meetings were first reported in March.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the meeting with Kislyak focused on setting up a back channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow. As opposed to official communications with other countries, a back channel aims to avoid oversight by the U.S. government. Kushner reportedly proposed using Russian communications facilities for the back channel, but it was never established.

It’s not entirely clear why Kushner met with Gorkov. The New York Times suggests it could be part of Kushner’s attempt to create a direct line between the transition team and Putin. A Reuters report said the meeting could have concerned lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia. The bank said in a March statement that Gorkov met with Kushner in his capacity as a businessman.

Asked for comment, the U.S. national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told reporters that back-channeling was normal.

“We have back-channel communications with any number of individual [countries],” he said. “So generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner.”

That may be true, former FBI agent Frank Montoya Jr. told PBS, “but that’s usually when you are the government in power.”

If it is true that Kushner suggested they use the Russians’ own secure communications system to conduct their discussions, “this is something that just is beyond the pale for professionals,” added John Sipher, who served in the CIA in Russia and Eastern Europe.

He may not have broken the law, but Kushner’s meetings spell trouble for the White House.

As with many pieces of the Trump-Russia affair, there is a fine line here between “illegal” and “sketchy.” No one at this point is alleging that Kushner broke the law. But with suspicions swirling around Trump’s ties to Russia, it doesn’t help the president that his closest adviser and son-in-law is a focus of the investigation.

Kushner has been given a wide range of responsibilities in the Trump White House, from restructuring the federal government to achieving Middle East peace. He was one of the architects of Trump’s recent foreign trip, which especially in its visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel went smoothly and mostly gaffe-free.

Critics of Trump who may be experiencing Schadenfreude as a result of his son-in-law’s tribulations are also worried that it could hobble Kushner, who along with his wife, Ivanka Trump, are portrayed as moderating influences on the president. In the White House, Kushner reportedly has promoted fighting climate change and supporting LGBT rights. Kushner has also been called a restraining influence on Trump’s inflammatory tweets and statements.

Kushner has experience in weathering scandal.

If Kushner comes out of this maelstrom unscathed, it won’t be his first time getting past personal drama in the public eye.

When Kushner was a 24-year-old law student, his father was sent to prison for filing false tax returns, making illegal campaign donations and retaliating against a witness. Kushner took over the family real-estate business, purchased the Observer, a New York real-estate and culture newspaper, and bought 666 Fifth Ave. for $1.8 billion in the most expensive purchase ever of a New York City office building. All the while he visited his father in an Alabama prison every week.

And when Kushner fell into debt from the Fifth Avenue buy, he pulled a Trumpian move, aggressively renegotiating his obligations until he salvaged the investment.

“It is very helpful to him that he’s constantly underestimated,” Ken Kurson, a former Observer editor and friend of Kushner’s, told New York magazine. Real-estate attorney Jonathan Mechanic told New York that during the debt negotiations, the Kushners “lived through turbulent times, and not only did they live, they thrived.”

Kushner has also gained a reputation for seeking payback. He allegedly pushed the Observer’s staff to report negative articles about his business rivals, though none was ever published. He also reportedly shut out New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, an early Trump supporter, from the administration. A decade earlier, Christie was the U.S. attorney who sent Kushner’s father to prison.

Kushner still has Trump’s support.

In the wake of last week’s news, the Democratic National Committee is calling for Kushner’s security clearance to be revoked until the Russia investigation concludes. While California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, didn’t call for suspending the security clearance, he said it should be reviewed.

“You have to ask, well, who are they hiding the conversations from?” Schiff told ABC’s “This Week,” regarding the back-channel reports.”If these allegations are true and he had discussions with the Russians about establishing a back channel and didn’t reveal that, that’s a real problem in terms of whether he should maintain that kind of a security clearance.”

Republicans, however, are defending Kushner. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CNN that the back-channel report “makes no sense” because such a clandestine channel would almost certainly be surveilled by U.S. intelligence. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for reserving judgment until Kushner testifies before Congress.

Regardless of those attacking and defending him, it appears Kushner still has the support of his boss.

“Jared is doing a great job for the country,” Trump said in a statement to The New York Times on Sunday evening. “I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person.”

President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. Photo from Reuters

Kushner reportedly encouraged to step aside as FBI investigates Russia contacts

Jared Kushner reportedly has been encouraged to take a leave of absence from his White House adviser position because of FBI scrutiny of his contacts with Russia.

Administration officials close to President Donald Trump have been pushing Kushner to step aside while the FBI investigates meetings that Kushner he had with Russian figures during the transition period following the November election, The Hill reported. Kushner is Trump’s Orthodox Jewish son-in-law.

The news website Politico called Kushner the White House’s ” lead distraction” following what is being seen as Trump’s mostly successful first foreign trip, which featured a stopover in Israel.

“It’s clear that Jared Kushner will be under intense scrutiny at a time when his father-in-law has named him everything but chief cook and bottle washer,” Democratic strategist David Axelrod, a former top White House adviser to President Barack Obama, told Politico. “It’s bad for the prospects of calm at the White House.”

Kushner reportedly flew home Thursday from Rome with his wife, Ivanka Trump, and arrived in his West Wing office on Friday to meet with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to discuss the presidential trip.

Though under scrutiny by the FBI, Kushner has yet to be accused of  unlawful behavior, and he has offered to share any information about meetings with Russian officials.

The Washington Post and NBC each reported late Thursday that Kushner’s interactions with Russian figures were of interest to the FBI, but that this did not mean he was a target of the investigation.

Kushner, is one of Trump’s closest advisers. He met separately last December — after the election but before Trump assumed office — with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington, and Sergey Gorkov, the head of the government-owned Vnesheconombank, which has been subject to U.S. sanctions because of its role in Russia’s occupation of a part of Ukraine.

Kushner in March said he was ready to testify about his Russia meetings to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman in New York on Sept. 1, 2015. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Trump to interview Joe Lieberman for FBI director

President Donald Trump will interview former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman for the position of FBI director, which opened with the firing of James Comey.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump would meet with Lieberman on Wednesday afternoon.

Lieberman was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, becoming the first Jewish candidate to place on a national party ticket. He campaigned for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, in 2016 after endorsing Republican presidential nominee John McCain in 2008. Lieberman switched to being an independent in 2006.

In addition to Lieberman, Trump is also interviewing for the vacant post acting director Andrew McCabe, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and former FBI official Richard McFeely, Spicer said Wednesday.

Trump fired Comey last week, with aides citing the director’s missteps in an investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified emails. The firing also came as Comey was leading investigations into allegations that the Trump campaign and transition team had inappropriate contacts with Russia.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., March 7, 2017. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Rod Rosenstein: 5 things to know about the man who helped get Comey fired

Until this year, Rod Rosenstein was an unassuming U.S. attorney with a reputation for fairness.

Now he’s at the center of the controversy over President Donald Trump’s snap firing of James Comey, the FBI director.

Rosenstein, 52, whose appointment by Trump as deputy attorney general was confirmed only two weeks ago, wrote the memo outlining concerns with Comey’s performance, mostly related to his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Based on the memo, said the White House, Trump decided to fire Comey, delivering the surprise decision last night.

The move puts Rosenstein in a difficult position: He is the Justice Department official overseeing the FBI investigation of Russian involvement in Trump’s presidential campaign that Comey was leading. Pundits are questioning the timing of the memo, as well as asking whether it was drafted to provide cover to what was a foregone conclusion to oust Comey.

So who is Rosenstein? Here’s where he came from, his Jewish ties and what people are saying about him now.

Rosenstein was respected as a skilled, by-the-book government lawyer.

Before ascending to the deputy attorney general post, Rosenstein spent more than a decade serving as a U.S. attorney in Maryland. He is politically conservative and was appointed by President George W. Bush. But when Barack Obama took office, Rosenstein was one of only three U.S. attorneys among 93 to be kept on the job by the new president.

As U.S. attorney, Rosenstein led successful prosecutions for leaks of classified information, corruption, murders and burglaries. He was particularly effective taking on corruption within police departments, according to an essay in Vox by Thiru Vignarajah, a former colleague.

Vignarajah wrote that Rosenstein “made real strides.”

“Over his first decade as the lead federal prosecutor in Maryland, murders statewide were cut by a third, double the decline at the national level. Other violent offenses like robberies and aggravated assaults also fell faster than the national average,” he wrote.

A sign in Rosenstein’s former office read, “Don’t tell me what I want to hear. Just tell me what I NEED TO KNOW.”

The Senate voted 94-6 to confirm Rosenstein to his new post.

He played a key role investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Comey was allegedly fired for mishandling his investigation of Hillary Clinton. If that’s true, he may have learned from Rosenstein, who was praised for his own Clinton probe two decades ago.

In 1995, Rosenstein joined the team of lawyers investigating the Whitewater scandal, which involved allegations of illegal real estate dealings by the Clintons. The allegations against the Clintons were ultimately unproven, but they led to the exposure of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and President Clinton’s subsequent impeachment.

Rosenstein headed one of the few successful Whitewater prosecutions, which led to the conviction of former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and Clinton associates James and Susan McDougal. He questioned Hillary Clinton at the White House in 1998 as part of a separate case, according to the Baltimore Sun, but she was never implicated.

He graduated from Penn and Harvard — and he’s a family man.

Rosenstein grew up in the upscale Philadelphia suburb of Huntingdon Valley. He’s a 1982 graduate of the public high school and earned a merit scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Business — also Trump’s alma mater. He later attended Harvard Law School, joining the conservative Federalist Society, which gave him a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006.

Rosenstein is married to Lisa Barsoomian, who also served as a U.S. attorney. The couple have two daughters, 17  and 15, and live in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Bethesda, Maryland. While Rosenstein works late nights, the Sun reported that he would often go bicycling with the family on Sundays.

He used to play sports at the local JCC.

Not much surfaces about Rosenstein’s Jewish involvement online, but he has been affiliated with Jewish institutions in the past. He was a member of Bethesda’s Reform Temple Sinai from 2008 to 2014, and of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum from 2001 to 2011.

According to a questionnaire he filled out ahead of his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this year, Rosenstein also was a member of a “Jewish Community Center Sports League” from 1993 to 2012.

Which JCC? Which sport? An ongoing JTA investigation has yet to uncover the answer.

He wrote a damning letter against Comey — but never explicitly recommended firing him.

Rosenstein didn’t hold back in a 1,000-word letter delineating Comey’s missteps. He lambasted Comey both for his July statement that Hillary Clinton would not face indictment and for Comey’s Oct. 28 letter announcing the reopening of the Clinton investigation.

“I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein wrote. “Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes.”

But the evisceration stops just short of calling for Comey to be canned. Rosenstein does write that “the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.”

But just before that, he cautioned, “Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly.” The memorandum is dated Tuesday, May 9.

Trump read Rosenstein’s letter and made the decision.

FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on May 3. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

James Comey, fired by Trump and reviled by Democrats, had admirers among Jewish security officials

“You make us better,” James Comey told the Anti-Defamation League in his final public speech as FBI director.

Judging from the applause in the conference room at the venerable Mayflower Hotel here, the feeling was mutual.

Mired in investigations of the scandals of 2016 (Hillary Clinton’s relationship with her email server) and 2017 (Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia), not a lot of love ended up being lost between the FBI director and either party.

Democrats called for Comey’s firing last year when a week and a half before the election he reopened the Clinton case because of emails found on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner in an unrelated case.

President Donald Trump, who repeatedly praised the FBI director as a candidate, fired Comey on Tuesday, ostensibly because Comey treated Clinton unfairly last July — he excoriated her for her email habits in a news conference, but recommended against legal action.

The firing was drawing attention for its timing: Comey is delving into ties between the Trump campaign and transition officials who may have had ties to Russia.

Among the folks whose business it is to keep Jews safe – like those gathered Monday in the Mayflower for the ADL’s leadership summit – admiration for Comey was fairly unequivocal. To a degree greater than most of his predecessors, he made the Jewish story central to the FBI mission.

Comey required all FBI staffers to undergo a tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Good people helped to murder millions. And that’s the most frightening lesson of all,” he told a museum dinner in 2015. “That is why I send our agents and our analysts to the museum. I want them to stare at us and realize our capacity for rationalization and moral surrender.”

Comey, already known as a persuasive speaker, was especially adept at understanding what moved Jewish Americans. In his ADL speech this week, he recalled meeting a man who was not far from the scene when a gunman opened fire last June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“My name is Menachem Green and I’m Jewish,” Comey quoted the man as saying, pronouncing Menachem impeccably, and went on to say that Green was pleased to tell him that he ran toward the shooting alongside a police officer he learned was a Muslim.

“We were Jew and Muslim and Christian and white and black and Latino running to help people we didn’t know,” Comey recalled Green saying.

Comey also noted the “Muslim activists who raised over $100,000 to repair Jewish headstones in St. Louis and Philadelphia – that makes us better.”

The now former FBI chief also embraced one of the ADL’s signature issues, improving reporting of hate crimes by local authorities.

“We must do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime to fully understand what is happening in our country so we can stop it,” he said.

Just a week earlier, Comey was due to receive a recognition award from the Secure Community Network, the security affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America. Paul Goldenberg, the SCN director, said Comey was to be recognized for his work with the community in tracking down the perpetrator of dozens of bomb hoaxes on JCCs and other Jewish institutions.

“Director Comey put in extraordinary resources and showed tremendous commitment to the American Jewish community,” Goldenberg said, noting that the FBI had deployed agents to Jewish communities across the states.

Comey could not personally accept the recognition, and SCN delivered it to a surrogate, because Comey was on the Hill testifying to the Senate about how he handled the email and Russia scandals.

In his testimony, he noted one of the FBI triumphs of recent months as a defense of the agency – helping to solve the JCC bomb threats.

“Children frightened, old people frightened, terrifying threats of bombs at Jewish institutions, especially the Jewish community centers — the entire FBI surged in response to that threat,” Comey said in his opening remarks Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In March, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department charged the teen, Michael Kadar, with making threatening calls to JCCs in Florida, conveying false information to the police and cyberstalking.

“Working across all programs, all divisions, our technical wizards, using our vital international presence and using our partnerships especially with the Israeli national police, we made that case and the Israelis locked up the person behind those threats and stopped the terrifying plague against the Jewish community centers,” Comey said.

Comey may be gone, but the shock among Democrats – and some congressional Republicans — at his departure means his memory is unlikely to fade anytime soon.

“We must have a special prosecutor,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader in the Senate, said in a statement delivered at a briefing for reporters late Tuesday. Schumer said he told Trump in a phone call that firing Comey was a “very big mistake.”

Trump fired back on Twitter, recalling that Schumer had said recently that he did not have confidence in Comey.

“Then acts so indignant,” Trump said, calling the New York lawmaker “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which is also probing the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, said there was no contradiction between being appalled at Comey’s handling of the Clinton case and at his firing.

Schiff noted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation because he had met with a Russian diplomat during the transition, had signed off on the firing.

“The decision by a president whose campaign associates are under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia to fire the man overseeing that investigation, upon the recommendation of an attorney general who has recused himself from that investigation, raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter,” he said.

FBI director James Comey addressing the Anti-Defamation League in Washington, D.C., on May 8. Photo by Carl Cox/ADL

Trump fires FBI director Comey; aides cite handling of Clinton emails case

President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, on the same day that reports indicated Comey misstated, during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee,  the involvement of Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her now-estranged husband Anthony Weiner in the email scandal his office investigated.

In a statement from the press secretary late Tuesday afternoon, the White House said Comey’s firing “will mark a new beginning” for the FBI. The statement said the search for a new FBI director will begin immediately.

In a memorandum commenting on Comey’s firing, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said the “FBI’s reputation and credibility suffered substantial damage” over the past year. The letter chided Comey for his conclusion, announced at a news conference on July 5, 2016, that as Secretary of State Clinton demonstrated no criminal intent in her handling of classified emails and thathe was closing the case against her.

“I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal conclusion that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein wrote.

During the Senate committee hearing on May 3, ranking committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked why Comey felt it was necessary for the FBI director to reveal on Oct. 28, less than two weeks before the presidential election, that he was set to reopen an investigation into whether Clinton, the Democratic nominee, had criminal intent when as secretary of state she conducted government business through private email.

Comey explained there was evidence that new emails from Clinton could be found on a laptop seized from Weiner, the Jewish former congressman who resigned in a sexting scandal and now is under investigation allegedly for sexting with a minor. Included were emails from a private Clinton email account that the FBI had yet to access, Comey told Feinstein, explaining that the emails had come from Abedin.

Comey said that Abedin was forwarding hundreds of thousands of emails, some with classified information, to her husband to print out for her.

Pro-Publica and The Washington Post, citing unnamed FBI officials close to the investigation, reported Tuesday that Abedin occasionally forwarded a small number of emails to her husband for printing and that none were marked classified, though a small number were later deemed to contain classified information.

Comey said the FBI found no basis for concluding that Abedin or Weiner had acted with criminal intent.

On Monday, Comey addressed the Anti-Defamation League at their conference in Washington, calling for improvements in how law enforcement reports hate crimes.

“We must do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime to fully understand what is happening in our country so we can stop it,” he told the group’s annual Washington, D.C., conference on Monday. “Some jurisdictions do not report hate crime data.”

FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill on May 3. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

James Comey found to have misstated Abedin-Weiner involvement in Clinton email scandal

FBI Director James Comey reportedly misstated the involvement of Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her now-estranged husband Anthony Weiner in the email scandal his office investigated during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Comey said that Abedin was forwarding hundreds of thousands of emails, some with classified information, to her husband to print out for her.

Pro-Publica and The Washington Post, citing unnamed FBI officials close to the investigation, reported Tuesday that Abedin occasionally forwarded a small number of emails to her husband for printing and that none were marked classified, though a small number were later deemed to contain classified information.

Justice Department and FBI officials are considering whether and how to clarify the misstatements, according to ProPublica, which first reported that Comey misspoke in last week’s testimony.

During the Senate committee hearing on May 3, ranking committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked why Comey felt it was necessary for the FBI director to reveal on Oct. 28, less than two weeks before the presidential election, that he was set to reopen an investigation into whether Clinton, the Democratic nominee who would lose to Trump, had criminal intent when as secretary of state she conducted government business through private email. Comey had closed the case earlier in the campaign, saying there was no evidence of criminal intent.

Comey explained there was evidence that new emails from Clinton could be found on a laptop seized from Weiner, the Jewish former congressman who resigned in a sexting scandal and now is under investigation allegedly for sexting with a minor. Included were emails from a private Clinton email account that the FBI had yet to access, Comey told Feinstein, explaining that the emails had come from Abedin.

Comey said the FBI found no basis for concluding that Abedin or Weiner had acted with criminal intent.

FBI Director James Comey. Photo courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League

Comey on Holocaust: ‘Good people helped murder millions’

FBI Director James Comey discussed those who participated in the Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust at the Anti-Defamation League’s annual conference on Monday afternoon. “Although the slaughter of the Holocaust was led by sick and evil people, those sick and evil leaders were joined by and followed by people who loved their families, took soup to sick neighbors, who went to church, who gave to charity,” Comey told the ADL gathering. “Good people helped murder millions.”

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

The top law enforcement officer added that in order to better understand humanity’s perils, the FBI requires officers and analysts to tour Washington’s Holocaust Museum in addition to studying about Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement.

“I believe the Holocaust is the most significant event in human history. How could such a thing happen? How is that consistent in any way with the concept of a loving God?” Comey asked. “The answer for me is I don’t know.”

During the first several months of the administration, the issue of the Holocaust has consistently dogged Trump’s presidency. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer argued that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad committed acts worse than Hitler while also referring to “Holocaust centers.” (Spicer later apologized). In a statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day, the White House declined to include Jews, a strange omission, but furthered when they refused to admit any mistake.

The FBI director also noted that on his desk he keeps a 1963 memo from Director J. Edgar Hoover to Attorney General Robert Kennedy asking permission to wiretap Martin Luther King Jr. due to “communist influences.” Comey asserted that this letter was critical to remembering the dangers of unchecked law enforcement powers.

FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

James Comey, under fire for presidential election tangles, cites JCC bombing case as an FBI success

Under fire for election-related controversies, FBI Director James Comey cited a successful outcome in the JCC bomb threats case as an example of why the agency’s work remains vital.

“Children frightened, old people frightened, terrifying threats of bombs at Jewish institutions, especially the Jewish community centers — the entire FBI surged in response to that threat,” Comey said in his opening remarks Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Working across all programs, all divisions, our technical wizards, using our vital international presence and using our partnerships especially with the Israeli national police, we made that case and the Israelis locked up the person behind those threats and stopped the terrifying plague against the Jewish community centers,” Comey said.

In March, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department charged the teen, Michael Kadar, with making threatening calls to JCCs in Florida, conveying false information to the police and cyberstalking.

The JCC case was one of several Comey cited in his opening remarks to show what he termed the “magic of the FBI.”

Both the chairman of the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and the ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., made clear in their opening remarks that the hearing would be tough going for Comey because of election-related tangles involving the FBI.

Grassley wanted Comey to explain leaks exposing investigations into alleged ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Feinstein asked why Comey felt it was necessary for the FBI director to reveal on Oct. 28, less than two weeks before the president election, that he was set to reopen an investigation into whether Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee who would lose to Trump, had criminal intent when as secretary of state she conducted government business through private email. Comey had closed the case earlier in the campaign, saying there was no evidence of criminal intent.

Comey explained that there was evidence new emails from Clinton could be found on a laptop seized from Anthony Weiner, the former congressman who resigned in a sexting scandal and who now is under investigation allegedly for sexting with a minor. Weiner, who is Jewish, was then married to Huma Abedin, an assistant to Clinton.

Included were emails from a private Clinton email account that the FBI had yet to access, Comey told Feinstein.

“If there was evidence that she had bad intent, that’s where it would be,” he said.

It has long been a mystery why Clinton’s emails ended up on Weiner’s laptop. Comey, for the first time, provided an explanation: Abedin was sharing email, including classified information, with her husband.

“Somehow her emails are being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information by her assistant Huma Abedin,” he said.

Rep. Adam Schiff speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on March 30 about the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

The making of Adam Schiff: Why is this man taking on the president?

This is hardly the first time Adam Schiff has had Russia on his mind.

Years ago, and long before he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Schiff was a United States Attorney in Los Angeles who led the prosecution of an FBI agent  convicted on spy charges.

“Sex for secrets,” he recalled in a telephone interview with the Jewish Journal last month. “He was seduced by an attractive KGB asset named Svetlana — they’re always named Svetlana. I had to work extensively with the FBI even though it was the first time an FBI agent was ever indicted for espionage. … It’s so odd to be working on a case again involving the bureau and Russia. But it does feel like it’s come full circle.”

Congressman Adam Schiff, 56, is one of 18 Jews serving in the House, and these days, one of the most prominent of the chamber’s 193 Democrats. He’s been everywhere lately — a guest on CNN and MSNBC, a focus of stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post. His Twitter following is growing exponentially. Already, people are suggesting he could become a presidential candidate in 2020.

And all this for one reason: Schiff is the ranking member — the top Democrat — on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating whether the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign had a role in it.

With Democrats in the minority, Schiff has only so much power in setting the panel’s agenda. Nonetheless, he has emerged as a forceful counterweight to President Donald Trump’s defenders, who insist the current investigations into Russia’s election activities — the Senate and FBI are holding their own probes — are little more than politically motivated witch hunts designed to undermine the Trump presidency.

“The American people do have a strong center of gravity that will constrain [Trump’s] worst impulses, so I’m a believer in our democracy.” — Adam Schiff

Undaunted, Schiff is pressing ahead, an effort that draws together the most salient parts of a life in public service — his Judaism, his law background, four years in the California Senate and his 16-plus years in the House — not to mention his role as a Big Brother to a young African-American boy who Schiff’s father, Ed Schiff, says made Adam “a better person.”

It’s a foundation that also has cemented his confidence in American institutions despite the current chaos of Washington.

“I think our democracy is resilient enough; we’ll get through this, I think, even if the president doesn’t operate within established norms of office,” Schiff said. “The American people do have a strong center of gravity that will constrain his worst impulses, so I’m a believer in our democracy. I think we’ll get through this. But certainly, there are some rough roads ahead.”

Schiff was born in Boston in 1960, a few months before John F. Kennedy was elected president, as the younger of two sons to Ed and Sherri Schiff. Theirs was a mixed marriage: Ed, who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla. — “living the ‘Seinfeld’ life,” his son said — is a Democrat; Sherri, who died around 2009 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, was a Republican.

Adam Schiff poses during his bar mitzvah in June 1973 at Temple Isaiah in Northern California. Photo courtesy of Ed Schiff

Ed Schiff was a businessman who moved around the country as a regional sales director for Farah, a men’s pants manufacturing company. Sherri, “bored with country club life … went into real estate, where her boss said, ‘You are wasting time writing copy. Why don’t you get into sales?’ ” Ed said.

After a few years of living in Arizona, the Schiffs moved in 1970 to Contra Costa County in the Bay Area, where Ed got out of the “rag business,” as he called it, and purchased a building materials yard.

In those days, Adam was a studious boy who, according to his father, always did his homework, adored his mother and had a friendly sibling rivalry with his older brother, Dan, a relationship Adam would later write about in a screenplay — never produced — called “Common Wall.” Adam became a bar mitzvah at Temple Isaiah, a Reform congregation in Lafayette, Calif., in June 1973.

“I certainly do remember making tape recordings of my [bar mitzvah] practice sessions on cassette tape with a little cassette recorder, and I think I may even have one of those,” Schiff said. “It’s funny to hear your voice back then.”

In 1978, he entered Stanford University. A pre-med student, he also studied political science, and upon graduation, he was unsure if he wanted to pursue law or medicine. He decided on the former and enrolled at Harvard Law School.

After graduating in 1985, he clerked for federal Judge Matthew Byrne, a Los Angeles native who presided over the trial involving Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Later, Schiff spent six years as an assistant U.S. Attorney in L.A. During that time, he met his wife, Eve Sanderson Schiff — yes, they’re Adam and Eve — and prosecuted Richard Miller, the FBI agent convicted of espionage.

Schiff’s success against Miller, as well as Byrne’s influence, accelerated his interest in politics.

“After Adam convicted the FBI agent of treason, he called me and said, ‘Dad, can you imagine what it’s like to have representatives of the most powerful nation in the world calling you and offering to help you in any way they could? Dad, I will never have another case like that in my life,’ ” Ed recalled his son saying. “ ‘I’m going into politics.’ ”

Twice he ran unsuccessfully for the California Assembly but promised his supporters he would do better next time. In 1996, he was elected to the State Senate.

“Adam takes things in progression, and the learning curve … with each loss made it that much easier the next time,” his father said.

In 2000, Schiff ran for Congress to unseat Republican James Rogan in what was then the most expensive House race of all time. Rogan was a two-term Congressman who had his own national profile, in part, from working to impeach President Bill Clinton. Schiff sought help from his mother, asking if she’d make phone calls to voters on his behalf.

“He said, ‘Mama, I would like you to do something for me. I would like you to call these people and tell them a little about me and ask them to vote for me. She jumped into that for 2 1/2 years like it was eating ice cream,” Ed said. “Her spiel went like this: ‘Good evening. My name is Sherri Schiff. My son Adam is running for Congress in your district. May I tell you a little about him?’ ”

Schiff currently is serving in his ninth two-year term in the House, representing a district that now extends from West Hollywood to the eastern edge of Pasadena and from Echo Park to the Angeles National Forest. He has a reputation as a moderate who works with members of both parties. With a large constituency of Armenians, he has championed legislation that would formalize United States recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915-17. He once delivered an entire speech on the House floor in Armenian and worked with the Armenian members of a hard-rock band, System of a Down, toward seeking recognition of the genocide.

Regarding Israel, which is never out of the headlines, he said, “I’m deeply concerned with a trend I’ve seen over the last several years, where the U.S.-Israel relationship, which always had been very bipartisan regardless of who was in office in Israel or in the U.S., has been trending toward a situation where you have a GOP-Likud relationship and Democratic relationship with other parties in Israel. I think that’s a very destructive trend.”

In 2015, as Jews became polarized over the Iranian nuclear agreement, Schiff considered both sides, then came out in favor of it. Recently, he expressed concern that in the event Trump believes Iran has violated the agreement by developing a nuclear weapon, the president’s outlandishness on Twitter and elsewhere will undermine his credibility in efforts to galvanize allies into action against Iran.

“I have been so appalled by this president’s conduct. I feel I have to vigorously oppose his efforts to undermine our system.” — Adam Schiff

“If they are cheating and the president calls them out on it and thinks there should be some response to it, will the country believe it?” he asked. “The allies we’d need to participate with us, would they believe us? The intelligence agencies that he’s maligning? This is the reason why presidential credibility is to be treasured and not squandered.”

Like Trump, Schiff uses Twitter to communicate his positions. One of his most shared tweets — more than 43,000 retweets and nearly 83,000 likes — addressed Trump’s tweet aimed at the “so-called judge” who had blocked his executive order barring individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.:

This ‘so-called’ judge was nominated by a ‘so-called’ President & was confirmed by the ‘so-called’ Senate. Read the ‘so-called’ Constitution.”

Tweets aside, Schiff’s 17-minute opening statement during the Intelligence Committee’s first public hearing on Russia on March 20 was less attack-dog and, befitting his usual public demeanor in television interviews, more lawyerly. He cited events of the presidential campaign that could suggest coordination between Russians and the Trump campaign, improving the Republican’s chance of victory.

“Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and are nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible,” Schiff said, addressing FBI Director James Comey and Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency. “But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected, and not unrelated, and that the Russians used … techniques to corrupt U.S. persons. … We simply don’t know.”

In the interview with the Journal, he said, “I have been so appalled by this president’s conduct. I feel I have to vigorously oppose his efforts to undermine our system, and so, I certainly think there is more than a grain of truth to the idea this is a different kind of role for me.”

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in West L.A. met Schiff five years ago at a memorial service at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills. Wolpe was leading the service, and Schiff said he was impressed with how eloquently and powerfully he spoke. The two struck up a friendship, exchanging book recommendations via email. The first book Schiff recommended to Wolpe reflected Schiff’s earlier involvement with Russia. It was “Eugene Onegin,” a masterpiece by the Russian novelist Alexander Pushkin.

“When he’s in town, we have lunch,” Wolpe said. “I talk a little bit about politics, but we talk a lot about literature and life.”

“When I saw him at AIPAC [in March], I told him how proud I am of how he’s been conducting himself,” Wolpe continued. “He’s in a tricky position. This is a very fraught time and I think he has conducted himself with a great deal of dignity. I am not trying to take political sides; I try my best not to. I think he is a nice, thoughtful, decent, caring and very intelligent man, so I’m impressed with him.”

Schiff’s own rabbi concurs.

“I felt personally very proud that Adam has taken stances on issues that really move him personally, and he hasn’t backed down on that,” said Rabbi Baht Yameem Weiss of Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

“From where I sit, I think he’s certainly one of the leaders in the Democratic Party right now.” — Ed Schiff, father of Adam Schiff

For all his supporters, not everyone appreciates his approach to the investigation.

“Adam Schiff is a bright guy. He’s a talented legislator, but right now, instead of focusing on the substance of the investigation, he’s focusing on politics and partisanship,” Ken Khachigian, a San Clemente-based Republican strategist and former senior adviser to President Ronald Reagan, told the L.A. Daily News last month.

Schiff and his wife, who is Catholic, are raising their two children, Alexa, 18, and Elijah, 14, Jewish. The family has belonged to Temple Beth Ami since 2010. They formerly belonged to Temple Sinai in Glendale. Alexa is involved with the Hillel at Northwestern University, where she is a freshman. She has traveled to Israel with a Jewish summer camp and will be working as a counselor at the camp this summer, Weiss said.

As a House member, Schiff said he draws on the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam (repairing the world) to influence his work in Congress.

“We have a responsibility to mend the torn fabric of the world,” he said.

For all of his success as a prosecutor, state legislator and congressman, it might have been his experience with a Black kid from Inglewood that has shaped Schiff most. In his mid-20s, fresh out of law school, he volunteered to become a “big brother” through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. He was paired with David McMillan, a child of a single mother who needed a male role model for her son.

The two hit it off immediately, bonding over “The Big Lebowski,” Billy Joel and the beach. Three decades later, they are still part of each other’s lives. McMillan, now a television writer and playwright living in Los Angeles, was in Schiff’s wedding and recently attended Elijah Schiff’s bar mitzvah. There, Adam’s father approached McMillan and said, “I want to thank you for making Adam a better person.”

“I certainly would like to hope my relationship has had a positive impact, not just in how he conducts politics but also as a human being,” McMillan said.

“My ‘big brother’ is leading the resistance and is emerging as a leader not just of the Democratic Party but of all people who care about our democratic institutions and making sure they just survive.”


Left: In 1986, 25-year-old Adam Schiff gets together with David McMillan, his Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles “little brother.” Photo courtesy of David McMillan
Right: Congressman Adam Schiff and David McMillan were paired 30 years ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters. The two would become lifelong friends. Photo courtesy of David McMillan

Speculation over Schiff’s future includes whether he might run for the Senate to succeed Dianne Feinstein, who is 83 and shares the same birthday, June 22, as Schiff. Feinstein, a senator since 1992, has not said whether she intends to seek another six-year term next year, but Schiff running to succeed her is a possibility his father won’t rule out.

“I think it would be a tremendous honor for him to step into the Senate if he wanted it, but I don’t know,” Ed Schiff said. “From where I sit, I think he’s certainly one of the leaders in the Democratic Party right now. And where that goes, how that goes, and so forth, I think it all depends on which way our country is going.”

In March, Schiff gave a speech at the Westwood home of Karl S. Thurmond, a friend of more than 30 years. In his 40-minute talk, Schiff denounced the president and expressed hope for the future of the Democratic Party before taking questions from the audience.

Left: Adam Schiff and his friend and former Harvard Law School classmate Karl Thurmond cross the finish line at the 1990 Los Angeles Marathon. Below: Nearly 30 years after running the marathon, the two appeared together at Thurmond’s Westwood home in March. Schiff spoke before 50 of his supporters and discussed the Trump administration, the future of the Democratic Party and more.

Left: Adam Schiff and his friend and former Harvard Law School classmate Karl Thurmond cross the finish line at the 1990 Los Angeles Marathon.
Right: Nearly 30 years after running the marathon, the two appeared together at Thurmond’s Westwood home in March. Schiff spoke before 50 of his supporters and discussed the Trump administration, the future of the Democratic Party and more.

Thurmond is an attorney and member of the Milken Community Schools board of trustees. He and Schiff were classmates in law school and both moved to L.A. after graduation, becoming part of a group that committed to becoming involved with a nonprofit to affect change. It was a pledge that led Schiff to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

They were 30 at the time, and Schiff was living in Venice. Training for the Los Angeles Marathon, he and Thurmond went on runs from Venice to Malibu and back, using the time to discuss career ambitions. Adam confided in Thurmond that he wanted to be president one day, to follow in the footsteps of his idol, John F. Kennedy.

“We would talk about our aspirations in life and one of his biggest from Day One was to run for political office so he could give back. His idol at the time, and I think still is, was President Kennedy,” Thurmond said. “I firmly believe, as he moves up, one day he will be running for president. And I can’t think of a better person to hold that office.”

For his part, Schiff declined to address his future.

“I don’t have much time even to eat lunch,” he said, “let alone think about anything other than what’s going on in the intelligence world.”

The American-Israeli teenager arrested on suspicion of making over 100 bomb threats to American JCCs leaving court in Rishon Lezion, Israel, on March 23. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Father of teen accused of JCC bomb threats apologizes to US Jews

The father of the Israeli-American teenager arrested on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats to JCCs and Jewish institutions has apologized for his son’s actions.

The father appeared in his first interview in Israel, nearly two weeks after he was arrested along with his son following a months-long undercover investigation by Israel’s anti-fraud unit, as well as the FBI in the United States and law enforcement in other countries.

“To all the Jews in the United States, I want to convey an unequivocal message: We are very sorry from the bottom of our hearts. We are good Jews, we do not hate you. There was no hatred here. His motive is solely the disease,” the teen’s father said on Channel 2 from his home in Ashkelon, in southern Israel, where he remains under house arrest on suspicion that he knew about his son’s activities.

The identity of the suspect, 19, is under a gag order in Israel, though he has been identified in reports in other countries. The father, who was not seen in the interview, is identified only as Eli, a pseudonym.

The father denies knowing about what his son was doing, but does not deny that his son carried out the threats.

“The world has to understand, this boy is different, he’s unique,” said the father.

The father said he son has undergone three surgeries to remove tumors after being exposed to harmful chemicals at his job, and that his son also has a benign tumor in his head.

At a court hearing last week, the teen’s attorney presented photographs and medical imaging of a non-malignant brain tumor that the defense says affects his behavior.

On Thursday, the teen will appear in court, where investigators are expected to ask that he remain in police custody. The father said he hopes his son will be permitted to go to house arrest, though it seems unlikely since law enforcement is portraying the teen as dangerous.

He also is accused of a series of threats made in Israel, Europe, Australia and New Zealand in the past six months and of making a threatening call to Delta Airlines, leading to the emergency landing of at least one plane.

The teen’s mother in a Saturday-night interview on Channel 2 said through tears that the threats were not her son’s fault because he cannot control his behavior due to the tumor and his autism.

The teen was born in the United States; the family moved to Israel when he was 6. He was homeschooled from first grade and, according to his mother, rarely left home and has no friends.

An Israeli-American teen suspected of making bomb threats is shown before the start of a remand hearing at Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Lezion, Israel. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters.

Distress, relief felt after arrest of Jewish teen in bomb threats

Ultimately, the important thing to Tony Regenstreif isn’t why someone was making threatening calls to Jewish institutions across the country, including the Westside Jewish Community Center (JCC). He just hopes that the recent arrest of an Israeli-American teenager in the matter means his 3-year-old daughter, Molli, won’t be evacuated again from the facility, where she is a preschooler.

“Mostly I’m just grateful that it’s over,” the attorney said.

“This is one thing we don’t have to worry about right now and I feel gratitude for the people who stopped it,” he added.

His remarks followed news March 23 of the arrest of Michael Kaydar, a Jewish Israeli-American teenager, on suspicion of perpetrating more than 100 bomb threats against a variety of Jewish institutions in the United States.

Regenstreif wasn’t alone in welcoming the arrest of Kaydar, an 18-year-old Israeli native, even as it remained unclear whether the individual was responsible for the recent threats against the Westside JCC and the Alpert Jewish Community Center in Long Beach.

“I’m hopeful that this brings closure to what has been a very difficult ordeal for Jews and Jewish community centers across North America,” Brian Greene, director of the Westside JCC, said in a phone interview March 23.

The Westside JCC received two threats, one on Feb. 27 over the phone and another on March 9 via email. Those incidents led to the facility raising approximately $50,000 in funds toward enhancing security, according to a JCC statement.

The JCC in Long Beach received two separate threats as well, on Jan. 31 and Feb. 27.

A spokesperson in the national press office of the FBI said in an email to the Journal that it was unable to confirm if Kaydar had a role in the instances targeting the local JCCs.

“At this time we cannot confirm specific details on the threats,” a March 28 email from the FBI’s national press office said.

Since Jan. 4, there have been more than 160 threats against Jewish community centers, day schools and other institutions. The threats have been a mix of live and prerecorded phone calls and emails. All of them have turned out to be hoaxes.

Kaydar is the second person to be arrested on suspicion of carrying out these threats in 2017. The first was Juan Thompson, a former journalist who’d been fired for fabricating quotes. He is accused of placing eight threats against Jewish community centers, apparently in an attempt to get back at an ex-girlfriend.

“Early this morning in Israel, the FBI and Israeli National Police worked jointly to locate and arrest the individual suspected for threats to Jewish organizations across the United States and in other parts of the world,” a March 23 FBI statement said. “Investigating hate crimes is a top priority for the FBI, and we will continue to work to make sure all races and religions feel safe in their communities and in their places of worship.” 

The arrest took place at Kaydar’s home in Ashkelon. Kaydar’s father (the FBI was unable to confirm his name) reportedly knew of his son’s activity and was arrested, as well. Authorities discovered the suspect was using advanced communications technology — including SpoofCard, which disguises the phone number of outgoing calls — to carry out the threats.

The suspect’s lawyer has said Kaydar suffers from a mental health condition that prevented him from serving in the Israeli army and that led to him being homeschooled. Kaydar also has been accused of making threats in New Zealand and Australia.

JCC Association of North America President and CEO Doron Krakow applauded law enforcement in a statement, but said the arrest still was distressing.

“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community Centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all — is reportedly Jewish,” he stated.

The actions should nevertheless amount to a hate crime, as they involved the intentional terrorizing of Jewish communities, according to Anti-Defamation League Senior Associate Director Alison Mayersohn.

“We don’t know what motivated the alleged perpetrator, but when a perpetrator targets an institution specifically because it is a Jewish institution, that’s a hate crime, and we consider the act anti-Semitic. The ADL does not believe the perpetrator’s religion or nationality is relevant,” she said.

Another parent of a preschooler at the Westside JCC, Amanda Perez, said she was struck by the news reports that Kaydar may suffer from mental illness.

“I was surprised, but beyond that I just felt sad. I was happy they found someone. From the bit I know about it, it seems like he’s a very ill person. I felt sad for his illness,” the JCC board member said. “I was saddened that he was able to threaten so many places.”

Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League’s New York Regional Director, speaking during a news conference at the ADL national headquarters in New York City on March 3. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

ADL: Juan Thompson’s arrest alone won’t stop ‘unprecedented’ wave of anti-Semitism

Thanking the FBI and police for the arrest of Juan Thompson, who allegedly made eight bomb threats to Jewish institutions, the Anti-Defamation League called the current wave of anti-Semitic acts “unprecedented.”

“Law enforcement at all levels is a close friend to the Jewish people in America,” Evan Bernstein, ADL’s New York regional director, said at a news conference Friday. “Just because there’s been an arrest today around our bomb threats does not mean that the threats have disappeared or will stop.”

The news conference was convened after law enforcement announced earlier in the day that Thompson had been charged in connection with the deluge of bomb threats received this year by Jewish institutions. Thompson, 31, of St. Louis, allegedly made bomb threats to JCCs, Jewish schools and an ADL office as part of his cyberstalking of a former romantic partner.

The ADL and several other Jewish groups had met Friday with FBI Director James Comey. According to a statement from the groups in attendance, which were not listed, the meeting concerned recent anti-Semitic acts and collaboration between Jewish institutions and law enforcement.

“All the organizations in attendance expressed the deep gratitude of the entire community for the extraordinary effort that the FBI is applying to the ongoing investigation,” the statement said. “The representatives of the Jewish community left with the highest confidence that the FBI is taking every possible measure to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”

According to statistics compiled by the New York Police Department, anti-Semitic acts have nearly doubled in early 2017 as compared to one year earlier. The ADL said that due to the reach of the internet and the quantity of recent bomb threats, white supremacists are more emboldened than ever. 

“We’re in unprecedented times,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “We’ve never seen, ever, the volume of bomb threats that we’ve seen. White supremacists in this country feel more emboldened than they ever have before because of the public discourse and divisive rhetoric.”

In total, more than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in PhiladelphiaSt. Louis and Rochester, New York, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into JCCs, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. No explosive device was found after any of the calls.

The ADL called on President Donald Trump to take action against anti-Semitism, including by directing the Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation into the threats, and by creating a federal interagency task force on combating hate crimes chaired by the attorney general.

“We need action to stop these threats,” Bernstein said. “History shows that when anti-Semitism gains the upper hand, courageous leaders need to speak out and take action before it’s too late.”

Segal said the ADL has been tracking Thompson, a disgraced former journalist, since he fabricated the identity of a cousin of Dylann Roof, the gunman who killed nine at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

Thompson was fired from his reporter post at The Intercept last year for fabricating sources and quotes. According to the ADL, he has posted inflammatory tweets about white police officers and the “white New York liberal media.”

St. Louis man arrested for bomb threats against Jewish institutions

A St. Louis man has been charged for making at least eight bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League.

Juan Thompson, 31, made some of the threats in the name of a former romantic partner he had been cyberstalking, according to a statement Friday by the U.S. Attorney of Southern New York. Thompson has been charged with cyberstalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

“Today, we have charged Juan Thompson with allegedly stalking a former romantic interest by, among other things, making bomb threats in her name to Jewish Community Centers and to the Anti-Defamation League,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race – whatever the motivation – are unacceptable, un-American, and criminal. We are committed to pursuing and prosecuting those who foment fear and hate through such criminal threats.”

Thompson made some of the threats in his victim’s name and some in his own in an attempt to portray himself as being framed. In a series of  Twitter posts this week, he claimed his victim was in fact making the threats and framing him. He also tweeted sympathetic messages expressing support for the Jewish victims of the threats.

But the FBI complaint against Thompson says he was behind at least eight of the threats made in January and February, mostly via email. The complaint says Thompson threatened institutions including the ADL, JCCs in San Diego and New York City, schools in New York and Michigan, and a Jewish history museum in New York City. In the threats to the schools, made on Feb. 1, Thompson referred to a “Jewish newtown,” a reference to the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecuticut.

In total, more than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in PhiladelphiaSt. Louis and Rochester, New York, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into JCCs, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. No explosive device was found after any of the calls.

“The NYPD and the FBI have done an outstanding job in this regard,” Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security for Jewish institutions, told JTA on Friday. “We at SCN and the Jewish Federations of North America commend them and hold them in the highest regard.”

The threats prompted clamor for President Donald Trump to condemn the anti-Semitism behind the targeting of Jewish institutions.

After initially demurring to comment directly when asked about the spate of recent anti-Semitic incidents, Trump eventually called the threats to the community centers “horrible” and “painful,” and Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to a Jewish cemetery vandalized near St. Louis.

Suit brought by Holocaust claims lawyer unearths Clinton emails warrant

A federal judge in New York unsealed a search warrant on Dec. 20 that the FBI used to re-open the Hillary Clinton emails case just days before the election.

Though names are redacted, the warrant appears to confirm what has already been reported in the press: That while searching a laptop belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s estranged husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, agents determined the computer contained data related to Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.

The release of the warrant comes in response to a lawsuit brought by E. Randol Schoenberg, a prominent Holocaust claims lawyer in Los Angeles. Speaking shortly after the warrant was unsealed, Schoenberg greeted the news with outrage.

“I don’t see how anyone in their right mind could find probable cause from this affidavit,” he told the Journal. “There’s no indication that there would be anything new on this laptop, no indication that there would be anything different from what they’ve seen — which they’d already determined did not give rise to a crime.”

[Click here to read the search warrant]

Schoenberg decided to pursue the lawsuit because he thought the FBI hadn’t been adequately transparent during its investigation of the Democratic presidential candidate. In a Nov. 16 Jewish Journal op-ed, he suggested FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the case might have swung the election against her.

Schoenberg’s suit came largely as a layman’s effort: Though a well-known art restitution attorney, he admits that he is no specialist in search-and-seizure or national security law.

Instead, the 50-year-old attorney gained international prominence by reclaiming Jewish-owned art looted by the Nazis. His breakthrough case came in 2006, when he managed to reclaim a Gustav Klimt painting stolen from a Jewish family in Vienna 68 years earlier. The case won him both acclaim and fortune, and was made famous by the 2015 film, “Woman in Gold.”  A former president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Schoenberg donated the funds for a new building and was the leader in its revitalization.

He decided to seek the search warrant after reading about it in an Oct. 30 New York Times article.  Beyond the Times story, he’d seen nothing reported about the FBI’s justification for the warrant. So he decided to take matters into his own hands, and hired David B. Rankin, a government transparency lawyer in New York, to pursue the case.

“I just decided I was interested in this and nobody else was doing it and I have the ability to do it,” he told the Journal in a Dec. 14 interview. “So why not? Somebody had to do it.”

On Dec. 9, he filed suit against the clerk at the U.S. District Court of Southern New York, assuming, correctly, that the search warrant would be on file there since Weiner lives in New York. At a Dec. 13 hearing, district court Judge P. Kevin Castel ordered Justice Department lawyers to deliver the search warrant and related documents to his chambers by Dec. 15.

Then, in a Dec. 19 memorandum, the judge announced that the Justice Department had withdrawn their opposition to releasing the documents, and he released a redacted version the following day.

In the memo, Castel said he would accept the Justice Department’s suggested redactions and add some of his own. The redactions, he said, seek to protect the identity of two individuals, one of whom is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and neither of whom have been charged with a crime. Additional redactions remove the names of law enforcement officials.

In November, Schoenberg tried to obtain the warrant through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, and later sued the FBI when it did not immediately comply. But as the other lawsuit progressed, the FOIA suit fell by the wayside.

Now, he’s ready to pass along the torch.

“I don’t think I need to do anything more,” he said. “I hope that people will follow up. I think this is really bad what happened here. It’s what I suspected: There was nothing.”

“There’s still more to investigate, right?” he added. “We don’t know the name of the FBI officials. They know that this isn’t probable cause. This is what they do every day. So they knew this wasn’t right and they did it anyway, and I think that’s something that people are going to have to investigate.”

Judge orders DOJ to produce records relating to Clinton emails

A federal judge ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) Tuesday to produce FBI records related to the Hillary Clinton email investigation in a case brought by E. Randol Schoenberg, a prominent Holocaust-claims lawyer in Los Angeles.

Judge P. Kevin Castel of the U.S. District Court of Southern New York ordered the Department of Justice to produce the search warrant used to seize the computer of Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, ostensibly to gain insight into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. Many believe Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the presidential election was due in large part to the announcement of the investigation, which came nine days before Election Day.

Schoenberg, 50, who gained international prominence by reclaiming Jewish-owned art looted by the Nazis, filed an action Dec. 9 against the clerk at the New York court, presuming the clerk would have the search warrant because Weiner lives in New York. The judge gave a Thursday deadline to comply, according to Schoenberg. It wasn’t clear at press time whether the DOJ would comply.

“Anything can happen in these cases, but the law is very good for us,” Schoenberg told the Journal on Tuesday.

Schoenberg admits that this is not his area of expertise. A former president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the leader in its revitalization, he is perhaps best known for the Maria Altmann case made famous by the 2015 film “Woman in Gold.”

“I just decided I was interested in this and nobody else was doing it and I have the ability to do it,” he said. “So why not? Somebody had to do it.”

Schoenberg first got involved in the Clinton emails case when he read a New York Times story in the waning days of the presidential campaign reporting the FBI had obtained a warrant to seize new material in the case.

“Normally you have to show probable cause. That’s what it says in the Fourth Amendment,” he told the Journal.

But beyond the Times story, he’d seen nothing reported about the FBI’s justification for the warrant, nor had the FBI been forthcoming with that information.

So he decided to wage a citizen’s campaign to uncover the documents. He got in touch with David B. Rankin, a government transparency lawyer in New York, and filed an information request with the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Nov. 12. The FBI has so far denied his request, saying Abedin’s privacy outweighs the public interest.

Schoenberg has filed suit to make the FBI comply with his request, but he said the other court case is more likely to yield timely results.

Schoenberg speculated one of two things happened to enable the FBI to obtain a search warrant in the first place: Either a lax judge didn’t care enough to scrutinize the warrant application, or “it could be something more nefarious.” Not unlikely, by his estimation, is that somebody provided the FBI allegedly incriminating information that turned out to be untrue.

In the course of his Holocaust-related work, Schoenberg said, he’s worked with law enforcement and U.S. attorneys, persuading them to investigate or file suit.

“You’re allowed to give them information and encourage them to start investigations or file lawsuits,” he said. “That’s totally fine as long as it’s correct. But what if it’s false?”

Part of the reason Schoenberg filed suit in New York (other than the fact that Weiner’s computer was there) is that he suspects somebody in the Manhattan orbit of then-candidate Trump might have provided a false lead to the FBI, he said.

Shortly after filing the FOIA request, he laid out in a Jewish Journal op-ed what could be at stake if incriminating information comes to light.

“This is potentially very serious, something that if traced back to Donald Trump might even lead to impeachment,” he wrote.

Two days before Election Day, FBI Director James Comey announced the FBI hadn’t found sufficient evidence to reconsider its original decision not to prosecute Clinton, based on a lack of evidence. For Schoenberg, that was only further proof there was never anything to find in the first place.

“It’s more likely something criminal happened in the obtaining of the search warrant than … Hillary Clinton did something wrong,” he said.

L.A.-based Holocaust claims lawyer sues FBI over Clinton warrant

E. Randol Schoenberg was confused when he read a New York Times article in the waning days of the presidential campaign reporting the FBI had obtained a warrant to seize new material in the Hillary Clinton email case.

“I thought, ‘What does that mean?’” he told the Journal. “Normally you have to show probable cause. That’s what it says in the Fourth Amendment.”

Schoenberg, 50, gained international prominence by reclaiming Jewish-owned art looted by the Nazis, most notably in the Maria Altmann case made famous by the 2015 film, “Woman in Gold.”

He is a former president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, and the leader in its revitalization. And on Dec. 7 he took on another major cause by filing suit against the FBI, hoping to get the agency to turn over the warrant it used to seize the computer of Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

“Countless American citizens, including Secretary Clinton, believe that [FBI Director James] Comey’s announcement and the re-opening of the investigation might have single-handedly swayed the election,” Schoenberg alleges in the suit.

[Click here to download a copy of the complaint]

By the time the FBI reopened the investigation, it had already spent months investigating the Clinton emails.

“It’s like somebody’s been to your house and searched ten times and says, ‘Oops, there’s a drawer I missed. Can I go back in?’” Schoenberg said.

The New York Times article was the last time Schoenberg saw mention of a search warrant in the press. So he decided to file a request on Nov. 12 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to review the warrant. Two days later, the FBI acknowledged receiving his request.

The transparency law allows government agencies twenty days, excluding holidays and weekends, to determine whether it will comply with the request and notify the petitioner. After three weeks during which he heard nothing from the FBI, Schoenberg contacted David B. Rankin, a Manhattan-based attorney specializing in FOIA requests, and filed suit in the United States District Court of Southern New York.

In an interview with the Journal, Schoenberg speculated one of two things happened to allow the FBI to obtain a search warrant: Either a lax judge didn’t care enough to scrutinize the warrant application, or “it could be something more nefarious.”

Not unlikely, by his estimation, is that somebody provided the FBI allegedly incriminating information that turned out to be untrue.

In the course of his Holocaust-related work, he said, he’s worked with law enforcement and U.S. attorneys, persuading them to investigate or file suit.

“You’re allowed to give them information and encourage them to start investigate or file lawsuits,” he said. “That’s totally fine as long as it’s correct. But what if it’s false?”

Part of the reason he filed suit in New York (other than the fact that Weiner’s computer was there) is that he suspects somebody in the Manhattan orbit of then-candidate Donald Trump may have provided a false lead to the FBI, he said.

In the interview, he named New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, all Trump allies, as potential sources for the FBI’s investigation.

Shortly after filing the FOIA request, he laid out in a Jewish Journal op-ed what could be at stake if incriminating information comes to light.

“This is potentially very serious, something that if traced back to Donald Trump might even lead to impeachment,” he wrote.

Nine days after re-opening the case, and two days before Election Day, Comey announced the FBI hadn’t found sufficient evidence to reconsider its original decision. For Schoenberg, that was only further proof there was never anything there in the first place.

“It’s more likely something criminal happened in the obtaining of the search warrant than… Hillary Clinton did something wrong,” he said.

Investigate the FBI

It seems very clear to me that FBI Director James Comey’s Oct. 28 letter announcing a reopening of the investigation into emails from Hillary Clinton changed the outcome of the election. For nine of the final 11 days before the election, the negative story dominated the news and cast a cloud over her candidacy, and the polls reflected a downturn for Clinton during that same time. In the end, Clinton narrowly lost four states — Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where voters who said they decided in the final week greatly favored Donald Trump. I think it is safe to say that without Comey’s letter, Clinton would be our next president.

As strange, and possibly illegal, as it was for Comey to make his announcement regarding the investigation so close to the election, from the outset, I wondered what the legal grounds were for searching through the new emails found on the laptop of her aide Huma Abedin’s estranged husband, Anthony Weiner. Two days after Comey’s letter, on Oct. 30, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department had obtained a search warrant. I have yet to see any further reporting on the warrant. To get a search warrant issued, the FBI needed to go to a federal judge. It is interesting to me that Comey sent his letter before obtaining the warrant. The publicity certainly must have influenced the judge. A judge cannot simply grant any request for a search warrant. Under the Fourth Amendment, a search must be reasonable, meaning there must be “probable cause” or a “reasonable suspicion” that evidence of a crime will be discovered. Ordinarily, the FBI submits an affidavit describing the evidence that gives rise to the reasonable suspicion. We have yet to see what evidence the FBI relied on in seeking the warrant.

The only thing Comey said in his letter about the grounds for reviewing the emails found on Weiner’s laptop was that they “appear to be pertinent” to the FBI’s prior investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. But it is important to remember how unusual and politically motivated the investigation was, and that it had never elicited any evidence of a crime.

Certainly since the Watergate investigations led to the recommendation of impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon, Republicans have dreamed of doing the same thing to a Democratic president. During the presidency of Bill Clinton, investigations into allegations concerning the Whitewater real estate development turned into a roving investigation in search of a crime (Travelgate, Filegate), until finally stumbling on Bill Clinton’s false denial of a recent affair with White House aide Monica Lewinsky in a deposition concerning allegations by Paula Jones of harassment prior to his election. The same pattern reappeared in the Republican-led Benghazi investigation, which ultimately found no wrongdoing by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but uncovered that she had, against State Department policies, used a private email server for State Department business. This resulted in a further investigation, despite the fact that there was no reason to believe any crime had been committed.

Still, because the private server had been used for public business, Clinton could not object to requests to search her work-related emails, which were delivered to Congressional investigators in 2014. In July 2016, Comey concluded that after reviewing tens of thousands of emails, there was no evidence that any prosecutable crime had occurred.

There are millions of federal employees with access to classified information, and all of them leave the office and go home, where they talk to other people, make telephone calls, write letters and diaries, and send texts and emails. Simply because someone has the ability to commit the crime of intentionally violating laws governing the handling of classified information does not give rise to a reasonable suspicion that any crime has been committed. If it did, then the FBI could at any time gain a search warrant to inspect the private communications of each and every employee who has a security clearance.

The FBI had to allege more than that the emails might be pertinent to an investigation that had yet to result in evidence of a crime. To obtain a warrant, it had to establish probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime would be found.

Since we now know that no such evidence was found on the laptop, it is time to investigate why the FBI believed it had probable cause.

I can think of two possible explanations. It could be that Comey, like most Republicans, believed there was a sufficient cloud of suspicion over Hillary Clinton to justify pretty much any investigation. Think of how the FBI might treat a notorious gangster like Al Capone. “Get me something on him! Anything!” the FBI director might tell his subordinates. That certainly seems to be how many in the FBI thought of Clinton, even after Comey had reported in July that there would be no prosecution. Some agents were already in open revolt over the email probe three weeks before Comey’s surprise announcement. So maybe they never even thought much about the probable cause requirement, and perhaps the judge signed the search warrant, mindful of the intense public attention to the issue, without really considering the legal standard of whether the suspicions raised were reasonable.

But it could also be that the FBI made a serious attempt to show probable cause, and submitted affidavits from investigators supporting the issuance of the warrant. Often, the FBI relies on confidential informants, and so the affidavit might contain new allegations of criminal activity and evidence different from what had already been reviewed and dismissed as insufficient in July. It is this possibility that has me most interested in the case. What if the new allegations came from people associated with the Trump campaign? What if the allegations were intentionally false? During the nine days when the investigation was underway, Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani made public statements suggesting he was in communication with the FBI about the ongoing investigation. It does not seem too far-fetched to believe that politically motivated individuals might have tried to get the FBI to reopen the investigation of Clinton by making false allegations. Finding Abedin’s emails on Weiner’s laptop might have been just such an opportunity to carry out their wishes.

We need to remember that whatever suspicions were raised by the FBI when it sought the new search warrant, those suspicions turned out to be groundless. Whoever thought Clinton committed a crime in mishandling her emails was wrong. And whoever thought the emails on Weiner’s laptop contained evidence of that crime also was wrong.

Remember, this is not a case where the FBI was investigating a particular crime or something reported by a victim. No dead body had been found. There was never any suggestion of a specific security breach, as there was when CIA agent Valerie Plame was exposed in a Washington Post article. This was, and has always been, a Republican-inspired fishing expedition that came up empty. It is now time to turn our focus on those who encouraged and led the investigation, to determine whether, in fact, a real crime has been committed by the FBI or those who informed its investigation.

My hope is that the media and, perhaps, the Justice Department already are looking at this in a more expedited fashion. Richard Painter, a former White House chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, has called for an investigation. 

For my part, I have made a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI to see the search warrant and supporting affidavits. This is potentially very serious, something that if traced back to Donald Trump might even lead to impeachment. It deserves to be investigated fully and openly and quickly, because if a crime was committed in the course of the FBI investigation, it is the crime of the century.

E. Randol Schoenberg is an attorney and a law lecturer at USC. He can be reached at randol@bslaw.net.

FBI: Criminal hate crimes against Jews rose by 9 percent in 2015

A rise in hate crimes against Muslims and Jews contributed to a 6.8 percent overall increase in 2015 incidents from the previous year, according to the FBI.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes reported to police rose by some 67 percent, to 215 incidents, from the 154 in 2014, the official FBI data released Monday showed. It marks the second highest number of crimes against Muslims since the national statistics began being reported in 1992. The highest number occurred in 2001, the year of the 9/11 attacks, with 481 incidents.

The number of religiously motivated hate crimes was 1,244, some 21.3 percent of the total. Some 53.3 percent of the religiously motivated hate crimes, or 664 incidents, were directed at Jews, who make up less than 2 percent of the population. Crimes against Jews increased by about 9 percent from 2014.

Over half of all hate crime, 3,310 incidents, or 56.6 percent, was committed on the basis of race, with 52.7 percent being anti-black.

The FBI tracks over 30 different types of bias motivations within the categories of race and ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.

Also Monday, the Anti-Defamation League expressed “deep concern” over “ongoing reports” of anti-Semitic and other hate incidents in the wake of the 2016 election results last week.

Its Center on Extremism has been monitoring the proliferation of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalism across the country, including the use of swastikas and other Nazi imagery including the name of President-elect Donald Trump, as well as reports of assaults and harassment, the ADL said in a statement.

The ADL also established a mechanism in which the public can report anti-Semitic, racist or bigoted incidents, and encouraged social media users to promote the hashtag #ExposeHate.

“Sadly, the contentious tone from the 2016 election has translated into a moment of ripeness for the haters to deface properties across the country with some of the most unsettling anti-Semitic and racist imagery,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the group’s CEO. “We must not let this troubling trend of hate define our society, which means that the onus is on our community leaders, religious clergy, elected officials and others to remain vigilant, report incidents when they surface and make clear that this level of vitriol will not be tolerated.”

Who needs Wonder Woman when there’s Hillary Clinton?

I love that her superhero costume was bridal white, the eternal symbol of her gender; recalling both the fight for women’s suffrage and the institution of marriage, that for too long was the only way to lift women out of obscurity and into society.

I love that white wears ironic on her, because her marriage has both helped and hurt her. And because, when she spoke at the convention, Hillary Clinton was no man’s bride: She was a woman of history, a promise to the passionate that even if you’ve been beaten down, you can still triumph. And she dressed fittingly – fresh, luminous, new — for her wedding to our country.

I love that she began her speech as a mother, with gratitude and acknowledgment, starting with the most important person in her life — her child. I love that she’s the kind of leader who honors others for their role in her success. And that she’s the kind of person who can say of her onetime rival, President Barack Obama, “I’m better because of his friendship.” And I love that she chose to validate her latest rival, Bernie Sanders, with powerful words of promise: “You put economic and social justice issues front and center where they belong,” she said, telling his supporters, “I’ve heard you: Your cause is our cause.”

I love that despite what anyone says, she is still — by law — a wife. And she understands her complicated relationship to her complicated husband as a “conversation.” One that started in a law library 45 years ago and which, she said, has lasted “through good times that filled us with joy, and hard times that tested us.” It doesn’t get more honest or transparent than that.

I love that when the crowd cheered for her, she held her hand to her heart and that her smile was as wide as the cheers were wild.

I love that as a candidate she offers substance, experience and intelligence in abundance; that her policy positions are so studied and meticulous, I am confident that she can handle any worldly challenge and any world leader. Hillary doesn’t just say what she’ll do; she tells you how she’ll do it.

I love that when the House Select Committee grilled her during an 11-hour marathon hearing on Benghazi last October, she turned a pressure cooker into a political parley, and was so well prepared, answering question after question with wit and wisdom, she changed the hearing intended to destroy her into a prime-time presidential platform.

I love that her scandals have become meaningless to me. I don’t care that she had a private email server or that the Clinton Foundation has received donations from Gulf States, or that she earned money from Wall Street speeches. I don’t believe her commitment to public service and working class families is tempered in any way by self-interest and ambition. People are more than one thing, and I trust her moral commitment to the underserved, overlooked and ill-treated. I love how absurd it is that no matter how much measurable good she does — whether getting healthcare to children, recourse to sexual assault survivors, or support for 9/11 responders — conspiracy theories regarding her motives abound unabated by facts.

I love how she’s accused of flip-flopping positions out of political expediency when really it demonstrates her ability to change and grow and compromise. I love that her mistakes stem from her commitment to a 40-year career that has only increased in responsibility, prestige and influence. And that the people who criticize her for every little thing fail to see that her life of public service has demanded more of her as a person and citizen than most of us would ever want or allow.   

I love that she went undercover in a segregated school to study the role of race in education – 30 years ago. And that she advocated for universal healthcare a decade before Obama was even elected to the Senate.

I love that she is fiercely smart, ultra savvy, and hyper-qualified to run for president of the United States.

I love that loving her puts me into a club with Meryl Streep and Lena Dunham.

I love that when I tried to take notes during her speech, I couldn’t stop crying. Because I know what this means to my 93-year-old grandmother, who carved her own set of cracks in that stubborn ceiling. And I know what it would have meant to my mother, who worked hard and sacrificed, but knew too well the disadvantages dealt to women, to finally see her role model and idol accept the nomination for president. I cried because I know that this nomination means – for every woman in America and around the world who has been told, “No,” who has been paid less, who has been passed over, ignored, belittled, ridiculed, humiliated, raped, shoved aside, manipulated, exploited, cheated on, disbelieved and discounted – that a woman can rise to the world’s most powerful position. That the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards equal opportunity for all.

I love that a woman has what it takes to lead our country. I love that our next president might be blonde, wear mascara and drape jewels around her neck.

I love the hope, possibility and wonder Hillary’s story inspires: “When there is no ceiling, the sky is the limit.”

Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

Trump defends Star of David tweet: ‘Just a star’

Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his controversial “Star of David” tweet, insisting the “sick” media stirred it up to cover up for Hillary Clinton’s FBI interview on Saturday. 

“It was a star. A star. Like, a star,” Trump said during a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio on Wednesday. “It’s a star! Have you all seen this? It’s a star. My boy comes home from school, Baron, he draws stars all over the place, I never said, ‘Oh, that’s the Star of David, Baron, don’t!’ And it actually looks like a sheriff’s star, but I don’t know.”

In a lengthy rant, Trump blamed the media of “racially profiling.” 

“Behind it, it had money. ‘Oh but there’s money behind it,’” Trump said, imitating what he said was a report on CNN. “So actually, they’re racially profiling. They’re profiling, not us, because why are they bringing this up?”

“To me it was just a star,” Trump continued. “But when I really looked at it, it looked like a sheriff star.” 

Trump went on to defend his social media director, Dan Scavino, and pointed to his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and their three children to prove he’s not anti-Jewish. “Dan is a really wonderful guy. I didn’t get angry at him,” he said. “I said, ‘Dan, that’s a star! Don’t worry about it.’” 

On Tuesday, ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt 

FBI to recommend no charges in Clinton email probe, director says

The FBI will recommend to the U.S. Justice Department that no charges be filed over Hillary Clinton's use of private email servers while secretary of state, agency Director James Comey said on Tuesday, lifting a cloud of uncertainty over her White House campaign.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation found evidence of “extremely careless” handling of emails byClinton and that at least 110 emails contained classified information when they were sent, said Comey, announcing the result of a yearlong investigation.

But, he said, the FBI concluded “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

“Although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case,” Comey told reporters in Washington.

His recommendation will likely stand. The country's top prosecutor, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, said on Friday that she would accept the recommendations of career prosecutors and the FBI director on whether to charge Clinton for mishandling emails. 

The FBI probe has dogged Clinton for the past year, contributing to her low poll ratings on honesty and trustworthiness. Republicans pointed to the controversy as evidence that she considered herself above the law.

Donald Trump, Clinton's Republican rival in the Nov. 8 election, has hammered her on the issue, saying the investigation should disqualify her from being president. On Tuesday, he said the FBI decision was unfair.

“The system is rigged,” he said on Twitter. “As usual, bad judgment.”

Comey's announcement came hours before Clinton's first campaign appearance with President Barack Obama, set for later Tuesday in North Carolina. It also came less than three weeks before the start of the Democratic National Convention at which Clinton is to be nominated.

The FBI has been investigating whether Clinton broke the law as result of personal email servers kept in her Chappaqua, New York, home while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. One of the questions is whether she mishandled classified information on the servers.

The Clinton campaign issued a statement saying it was “pleased” with the FBI decision.


“As the secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again. We are glad that this matter is now resolved,” spokesman Brian Fallon said.

Clinton has repeatedly said she never sent or received classified information on her private servers. She underwent a voluntary 3-1/2-hour interview with the FBI on Saturday in Washington.

Comey said, however, there was “evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information.” 

But he said the FBI did not find that Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate the law, and that there was no “intentional misconduct” by her lawyers who sorted her emails.

He said her staff should have known Clinton's private email was an improper place for classified information, but there was no evidence that anyone had hacked Clinton's communications.

Comey said there were no previous cases that supported filing criminal charges against Clinton. Other cases had involved intentional mishandling of information, he said, and there was no evidence Clinton knew she was violating the law.

Last year, the FBI recommended that former CIA director David Petraeus be charged with a felony for his mishandling of classified information with his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. 

In that case, however, the FBI had evidence that Petraeus knew the information was highly classified. Petraeus eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information.

Republican lawmakers have called for an independent investigation of Clinton, saying they do not trust the Justice Department to handle the inquiry with impartiality.

Republican criticism of the process heated up after Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, met privately with Attorney General Lynch in Phoenix last week. Lynch, who was appointed by Obama, later said she regretted the meeting and said she and Bill Clinton did not discuss the investigation.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest ranking elected Republican, said Comey's announcement “defies explanation.”

“Based upon the director's own statement, it appears damage is being done to the rule of law. Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent,” Ryan said.

“The American people will reject this troubling pattern of dishonesty and poor judgment,” he said.

Would-be Miami synagogue bomber reportedly was Muslim convert, wanted to inspire other attacks

The South Florida man arrested for planning to bomb a Miami synagogue has been publicly identified and charged in federal court.

James Gonzalo Medina, 40, of Hollywood, appeared in court in Miami on Monday afternoon, several media outlets reported.

Medina, who according to court papers is a convert to Islam, was arrested on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in an attempt to blow up the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center during Friday night services, the last night of Passover. The Conservative synagogue has about 800 member families and houses an early childhood center, according to its website.

Local 10 News reported that the criminal complaint also accuses Medina of planning to attack the synagogue on Yom Kippur. Medina told a confidential informant more than once that he planned to strike during Yom Kippur using AK-47 assault rifles, Local 10 said, citing the complaint. When the informant told Medina the attack might look as if it were orchestrated by the Islamic State, Medina expressed pleasure, believing it would “inspire other Muslims to attack as well.”

Asked by the FBI informant why he wanted to attack the synagogue, Medina said it was his “call of duty” and something he had to do “for the glory of Allah,” the complaint said, according to the Washington Post. Medina also told the informant he believed “Jewish people are the ones causing the world’s wars and conflicts.”

According to the Sun Sentinel, Medina tried to make a speech during his court appearance, but was stopped by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff after saying, “I’ve got a few words of my own. … My name is James Medina, aka James Mohammed.”

Prosecutor Marc Anton told the judge that Medina talked about “obtaining a bomb he could either place under a car or throw it over the wall.”

After the undercover informant provided Medina with what he said was an explosive device, the FBI arrested Medina on his way to the synagogue. The device was not real, authorities said.

Medina is being detained at the Federal Detention Center in Miami and will remain there until at least Thursday, the day of his arraignment and bond hearing.

If convicted, Medina faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison, according to the Sun Sentinel. He has not indicated whether he will plead innocent or guilty.

In a statement published in the Sun Sentinel, the synagogue said its leadership “has been briefed by law enforcement and Jewish community security officials” and been assured “that the synagogue and school were never at risk at any time during the investigation and arrest, and that there are no credible threats directed against us at the present time.”

The synagogue and an affiliated school were operating as normal Monday.

Medina has several prior arrests, including one for sending violent threats via text message. He said in court that he is out of work, divorced and has no significant assets. He was provided a court-appointed lawyer.

U.S. drops legal action against Apple over encrypted iPhone

The Justice Department said it successfully accessed data stored on an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters and asked a court to withdraw an order compelling Apple to assist, according to a court filing on Monday.

The technology company fought a court order obtained by the FBI last month that required it to write new software to disable passcode protection and allow access to the phone used by one of the shooters, Rizwan Farook.

Apple declined immediate comment on Monday.

U.S. officials said last week that they were hopeful they would be able to unlock the iPhone without help from Apple.

In a two-page court filing on Monday, the Justice Department said the government “no longer requires” Apple's assistance.

At issue was a county-owned iPhone used by Farook, one of the husband-and-wife shooters in the San Bernardino, California, shooting in December in which 14 people were killed and 22 wounded. The couple died in a shootout with police after the rampage.

Israeli firm helping FBI to open encrypted iPhone

Israel's Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is helping the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's attempt to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California shooters, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Wednesday.

If Cellebrite succeeds, then the FBI will no longer need the help of Apple Inc, the Israeli daily said, citing unnamed industry sources.

Cellebrite officials declined to comment on the matter.

Apple is engaged in a legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department over a judge's order that it write new software to disable passcode protection on the iPhone used by the shooter.

The two sides were set to face off in court on Tuesday, but on Monday a federal judge agreed to the government's request to postpone the hearing after U.S. prosecutors said a “third party” had presented a possible method for opening an encrypted iPhone.

The development could bring an abrupt end to the high-stakes legal showdown which has become a lightning rod for a broader debate on data privacy in the United States.

Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan's Sun Corp, has its revenue split between two businesses: a forensics system used by law enforcement, military and intelligence that retrieves data hidden inside mobile devices and technology for mobile retailers.

U.S. asks to cancel Apple encryption hearing, may be able to access device

Prosecutors on Monday asked a federal judge to cancel a Tuesday hearing in their legal battle to force Apple Inc to break into an encrypted iPhone, stating that they may have found another way to access the device, according to a court filing.

The judge in the case, being handled in federal court in Riverside, California, scheduled a hearing for late afternoon on Monday to consider the request.

The unexpected development in the high-profile case raised questions as to whether the Justice Department might be backing off from its confrontation with Apple. 

In a court filing, the Justice Department said the new technique came to light on Sunday, but it provided no further details. 

The government has obtained a court order requiring Apple to write new software to disable passcode protections on a phone used by one of the shooters in the December attack in San Bernardino, California. 

Apple, with the backing of much of the tech industry, is fighting the order, contending that it will undermine computer security and privacy for all consumers.

Appellate judge Kelly considered for Supreme Court

The White House is vetting federal appellate Judge Jane Kelly for a possible U.S. Supreme Court nomination to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing a person with knowledge of the process.

The FBI has been conducting background interviews on Kelly, the Times said, citing the unnamed source. Scalia, a long-serving conservative justice, died on Feb. 13.

The White House declined to comment on the report.

Kelly, a white woman and former public defender, has served on the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since April 2013. She was confirmed to the post by the Senate on a 96-0 vote.

She had been mentioned by legal experts as a potential nominee in part because her earlier nomination to the appeals court was supported by Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that would review any Supreme Court nomination.

Grassley said at the time that Kelly was “well regarded in my home state of Iowa” and that he was “pleased to support” her nomination.

Kelly, 51, served as a clerk for now-retired Judge David Hansen, a friend of Grassley who served on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Republican leaders have so far rebuffed President Barack Obama's appeal to hold confirmation hearings and a vote on a nominee, including in a face-to-face meeting on Tuesday at the White House that failed to budge them from their vow to block anyone he offers for the job.

Republicans say the decision on who to nominate should be left to the next president, who takes office next January after the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election. Republicans hope to win back the White House then.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the president nominates Supreme Court justices and the Senate must confirm them. Without Scalia, the court has four conservative and four liberal justices, meaning any potential Obama nominee could tip the court to the left for the first time in decades.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a moderate Republican, took himself out of consideration for appointment to the Supreme Court last week, a day after his name surfaced in connection with the Scalia vacancy.

FBI versus Apple: The privacy threat is overblown

Fourteen killed; 22 seriously injured; the presumptive plot leader, Syed Rizwan Farook, dead; the remaining contents of Farook’s county-issued cellphone inaccessible to those investigating the details of the terrorist rampage that struck the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Dec. 2. These are the facts that should matter most to those assessing the reasonableness of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym’s Feb. 16 “Order Compelling Apple, Inc. to Assist Agents in Search.”

[The FBI and Apple: It’s not just about one phone]

Unfortunately, much of the ensuing controversy has focused on extraneous issues and false assertions intended to scare the public into believing that their personal privacy is at stake — and, perhaps not incidentally, to preserve Apple’s pre-eminent position in the cellphone marketplace. Instead of arousing alarmist suspicions that Big Brother has arrived 32 years after George Orwell’s prediction, let’s look at some facts.

1. Apple Can Comply With the Court’s Order

In the final paragraph of its Feb. 17 editorial supporting Apple, the Los Angeles Times grudgingly conceded, “At least one security expert who’s worked on the iPhone says that it’s technically possible to do what the judge has ordered.” Yet, in October 2015, Apple told another judge in New York that it “would not have the ability to do what the government requests — take possession of a password-protected device from the government and extract unencrypted user data from that device for the government.” 

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Feb. 16 “Message to Our Customers” strongly implies that the company’s earlier judicial representations were at least hyperbolic, if not duplicitous. Cook’s new party line is that “the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create.” Note carefully that Apple is no longer asserting any technical inability (a claim that may apply to models more recent than the iPhone 5C Farook was using), but rather that there are no guarantees against multiple future uses of a program which would disable the 5C’s feature that erases all phone data after 10 unsuccessful attempts to break the password.

2. The Floodgates Fallacy

The principal thrust of Cook’s message to Apple’s customers is that the barn door cannot be closed after the horse has escaped. “Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed,” Cook wrote, “the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.” Perhaps so. But what Cook conveniently ignores is that Apple itself controls the barn door.

Judge Pym’s order asks only for “Apple’s reasonable technical assistance” to defeat the phone’s 10-tries-and-erase feature. Her order suggests one technical means for accomplishing this goal, but clearly specifies that Apple is free to use “an alternate technological means from that recommended by the government” and can ask the court for relief if “Apple believes that compliance with this Order would be unduly burdensome.”

Moreover, nothing in Judge Pym’s order states, or even suggests, that Apple must relinquish control of the program it is being asked to create. Indeed, the order provides that such a program can be loaded on Farook’s phone “at either a government facility, or alternatively, at an Apple facility.” Thus, if the horse were to escape, it would be no one’s fault other than Apple. However, I am quite confident that Apple has all the knowledge, wherewithal and human/financial resources to prevent this from happening.

In addition, there is nothing inherently dangerous about the prospect that other crimes might be solved if the same decryption program were used on other iPhones. On Feb. 18, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. told a news conference that there are presently 175 Apple devices in his cybercrime lab that investigators cannot access. So long as judges are presented and act upon adequate and reliable evidence when asked to issue phone decryption warrants, prisoners will no longer be able to characterize iPhone encryption as “another gift from God,” as one New York city jail inmate reportedly did. And should Apple cater to the access demands of repressive foreign regimes, it would be because they chose to — not because they were forced to.

3. The Dead Have No Privacy Rights Over Phones They Don’t Own

Much of the discussion about “privacy rights” in the context of this high-profile dispute ignores two salient facts. First, as a matter of law, the dead have no privacy rights — whether they are criminals, criminal suspects or ordinary citizens. Just as one who is deceased can no longer bring a claim for defamation (libel or slander), so too do all personal privacy rights evaporate the instant one dies.

Second, even if Farook were able to assert a privacy interest from beyond the grave, the phone in question is the property of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, and the county long ago gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation permission to search it.

4. The All Writs Act Kerfuffle

Apple CEO Cook’s message castigates the federal government for “an unprecedented use” of the All Writs Act of 1789 to effect its goal of defeating the 10-tries-and-erase feature of Farook’s phone. Yet, this same law has been invoked to obtain warrants that yielded information in similar cases — including, in recent years, roughly 70 from Apple itself. The act merely provides that the government cannot require someone to undertake overly onerous actions to assist in executing a search warrant — hence, the “unreasonably burdensome” exception in Judge Pym’s order.

And if the concern is that a law dating back more than 200 years is unsuited for today’s technological age, will Apple refrain from invoking the First Amendment (ratified in 1791) whenever it claims, in this case or elsewhere, that its corporate free speech rights are imperiled?

5. An Unnecessary Public Spat

Perhaps the most unfortunate fact about this melodrama is that it took a court order based upon a judicial warrant to bring this issue to a head. Apple and the FBI could have, and should have, resolved this dispute quietly and privately, without need of any judicial intervention. 

At a Feb. 9 congressional hearing, FBI Director James Comey testified that such efforts had already been underway for “over two months.” And, on Feb. 18, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Justice Department officials had even considered filing court papers against Apple a month earlier, only to hold off in the hope of gaining more cooperation.”

At this point, it is too early to tell with certainty which party’s intransigence was the proximate cause of this impasse. However, now that Apple has engaged the services of Ted Olson, the former U.S. Solicitor General who successfully represented George W. Bush in the 2000 election litigation against Al Gore and challenged California’s anti-marriage equality Proposition 8, we can now rest assured that the public profile of this litigation will only continue to escalate.

Douglas Mirell is an attorney and a founding partner of Harder Mirell & Abrams LLP. His practice focuses on privacy rights, defamation, publicity rights, copyright, trademark and First Amendment litigation. He can be reached at dmirell@hmafirm.com.

The FBI and Apple: It’s not just about one phone

The tragedy in San Bernardino has launched an increasingly intense public debate about where the line should be drawn to protect citizens’ digital data from government intrusion. Those horrific shootings left the nation stunned, and the U.S. government should thoroughly investigate this terrorist attack.

But in its search for more information, how far should the government be allowed to go in compelling a company to create something it does not possess?

At issue is an iPhone used by one of the shooters and the encrypted data it contains. The FBI has obtained a court order directing Apple to hack into its iPhones by designing and writing custom software to defeat the phone’s security features.

[The FBI versus Apple: analyzing the claims]

Apple has cooperated with the investigation for the most part, but it has refused the FBI’s demand that it design and write what amounts to malware designed to defeat the security systems it has spent years building. The company has decided to fight the court order, and it should be applauded for standing up for its right to offer secure devices to all of its customers.

So this debate then is not simply about one phone. It is about every phone. And it’s about every device manufactured by a U.S. company in the ever-growing “Internet of Things.”

If the government gets its way, then every device — your mobile phone, tablet or laptop — will carry with it an implicit warning from its manufacturer: “Sorry, but we might be forced to hack you.”

As Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a congressional leader on privacy and technology, has stated, “If upheld, this decision could force U.S. technology companies to actually build hacking tools for government against their will, while weakening cybersecurity for millions of Americans in the process.”

One concern is government overreach. The government isn’t just asking Apple to give them access to documents or programs that already exist. Instead, the government is using a 227-year-old law, the All Writs Act, to order Apple to spend time and resources coming up with a new technology that Apple doesn’t want to work on — code to hack its own phones.

However, the All Writs Act does not permit the government to obtain an order compelling assistance by a party that does not have possession or control of the information the government seeks.

The court order risks setting a dangerous precedent. If the FBI can force Apple to hack into its customers’ devices, then so too can every repressive regime in the rest of the world. If the government demonstrates that it can compel Apple to break its own security in this way, the next demands may well come from China, and the next targets will be dissidents, not criminal suspects.

Of course, historically, the government has sought and obtained assistance from tech companies and others in criminal investigations — but only in obtaining information or evidence the companies already have access to.

So much is at stake. And so much surrounding this case is misunderstood.

One argument is that Apple has unlocked 70 phones in investigations of other crimes. That is simply not true. Apple has extracted data from phones using earlier software without unlocking them. It has helped the government recover data in criminal investigations, but it has not created new code to defeat the security systems — code that would make all Apple customers less secure.

The company has not been able to extract data tied to a passcode since September, 2014, when its iOS 8 operating system was introduced. Apple no longer has a way of breaking into its customers’ mobile devices.

As Apple CEO Tim Cook has said, “We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.”

Another misconception is that Apple could develop a dedicated program that would work only on the phone the FBI has seized. That risk might appear acceptable to some if it were possible to limit access to legitimate governmental purposes overseen by a judge.

But Apple’s Cook notes that so-called backdoors are inherently dangerous. “Once the information is known,” he says, “or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.”

Once the code is bypassed, that knowledge becomes a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle.

For the government, every “Internet of Things” device will be more than just a novel convenience — it will be a new window into your home. The fridge that responds to your verbal commands might have a backdoor to allow for remote listening. The TV that enables you to video chat with your family might be commandeered into a ready-made spy camera.

The security of data and safety of users everywhere isn’t worth sacrificing to a possible lead in any one case, no matter how important.

Hector Villagra is executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.

After San Bernardino shooting, Apple opposes FBI demands to unlock phone

Apple Inc opposed a court ruling on Tuesday that ordered it to help the FBI break into an iPhone recovered from a San Bernardino shooter, heightening a dispute between tech companies and law enforcement over the limits of encryption.

Chief Executive Tim Cook said the court's demand threatened the security of Apple's customers and had “implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, Judge Sheri Pym of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles said that Apple must provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators seeking to unlock the data on an iPhone 5C that had been owned by Syed Rizwan Farook.

That assistance includes disabling the phone's auto-erase function, which activates after 10 consecutive unsuccessful passcode attempts, and helping investigators to submit passcode guesses electronically.

Federal prosecutors requested the court order to compel Apple to assist the investigation into the Dec. 2 shooting rampage by Farook and his wife, killing 14 and injuring 22 others. The two were killed in a shootout with police.

The FBI has been investigating the couple's potential communications with Islamic State and other militant groups.

“Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily,” prosecutors said.

U.S. government officials have warned that the expanded use of strong encryption is hindering national security and criminal investigations.

Technology experts and privacy advocates counter that forcing U.S. companies to weaken their encryption would make private data vulnerable to hackers, undermine the security of the Internet and give a competitive advantage to companies in other countries.

In a letter to customers posted on Apple's website, Cook said the FBI wanted the company “to build a backdoor to the iPhone” by making a new version of the iPhone operating system that would circumvent several security features.

“The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers – including tens of millions of American citizens – from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals,” Cook said.

He said Apple was “challenging the FBI's demands” and that it would be “in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.”

In a similar case last year, Apple told a federal judge in New York that it was “impossible” for the company to unlock its devices that run an operating system of iOS 8 or higher.

According to prosecutors, the phone belonging to Farook ran on iOS 9.

Prosecutors said Apple could still help investigators by disabling “non-encrypted barriers that Apple has coded into its operating system.”

Apple and Google both adopted strong default encryption in late 2014, amid growing digital privacy concerns spurred in part by the leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski said on Tuesday that Apple might have to write custom code to comply with the order, presenting a novel question to the court about whether the government could order a private company to hack its own device.

Zdziarski said that, because the San Bernardino shooting was being investigated as a terrorism case, investigators would be able to work with the NSA and the CIA on cracking the phone.

Those U.S. intelligence agencies could likely break the iPhone's encryption without Apple's involvement, he said.