‘I have not interfered in any way,’ acting U.S. AG Whitaker says of Mueller investigation – National

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WASHINGTON — Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker insisted on Friday that he had “not interfered” in the special counsel’s Russia investigation as he faced a contentious and partisan congressional hearing in his waning days on the job.

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“We have followed the special counsel’s regulations to a T,” Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee. “There has been no event, no decision, that has required me to take any action, and I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel’s investigation.”


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He also said he had never discussed with the White House special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential co-ordination between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign.

The hearing was the first, and likely only, chance for newly empowered Democrats in the majority to grill an attorney general they perceive as a Trump loyalist and whose appointment they suspect was aimed at suppressing investigations of the Republican president. Republicans made clear they viewed the hearing as pointless political grandstanding especially since Whitaker may have less than a week left as the country’s chief law enforcement officer.

WATCH: Whitaker was aware of Roger Stone arrest, unsure how CNN ‘tipped-off’






“I’m thinking maybe we just set up a popcorn machine in the back,” said Rep. Doug Collins, the committee’s top Republican.

Collins, of Georgia, called it a “dog and pony” show and criticized Democrats for disclosing derogatory information about Whitaker’s business dealings hours before the hearing.


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Whitaker vented frustration early on as he repeatedly insisted that he would not discuss his conversations with Trump and tried to shift attention to the conventional work of the Justice Department.

“Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes are up,” Whitaker said to the committee’s Democratic leader, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York.

WATCH: Whitaker says he has not spoken about Mueller probe to Trump, WH officials






But Nadler, who a day earlier had threatened to subpoena Whitaker to ensure his appearance, left no doubt about his party’s focus.

“You decided that your private interest in overseeing this particular investigation — and perhaps others from which you should have been recused — was more important than the integrity of the department. The question that this Committee must now ask is: Why?”

READ MORE: Acting attorney general says Mueller’s Russia investigation ‘close to being completed’

Whitaker laid the groundwork for a likely tussle with Democrats by saying in his opening statement that while he would address their questions, he would not reveal details of his communications with Trump.

“I trust that the members of this committee will respect the confidentiality that is necessary to the proper functioning of the presidency — just as we respect the confidentiality necessary to the legislative branch,” Whitaker said.

WATCH: Whitaker will not reveal details of conversations with Trump during judiciary hearing






He told lawmakers that there has been no change since his arrival in the job in the “overall management” of Mueller’s investigation. He said that he has run the Justice Department to the best of his ability, with “fidelity to the law and to the Constitution” and had never given any promises.

Whitaker is likely in his final days as the country’s chief law enforcement officer because the Senate plans to vote soon on confirming William Barr, Trump’s pick for attorney general.

Whitaker’s highly anticipated testimony Friday had been in limbo after the Democratic-led committee approved a tentative subpoena to ensure that he appeared and answered questions. Whitaker responded by saying that he would not come unless the committee dropped its subpoena threat, which he called an act of “political theatre.”

WATCH: ‘I’ve not been influenced by the White House’, Whitaker says






The stalemate ended Thursday evening after the committee chairman, Nadler, said the committee would not issue a subpoena if Whitaker appeared voluntarily.

Democrats who perceive Whitaker as a Trump loyalist were expected to ask him whether he has made any commitments to the president about Mueller’s Russia investigation and whether he has shared with Trump any inside information. Also expected to come up was Whitaker’s comment last week that he believed the investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign was nearly done.

Democrats said they would inquire about Whitaker’s past business dealings, too. Nadler and three other House committee chairmen released documents that they said show Whitaker failed to return thousands of dollars that were supposed to be distributed to victims of a company’s alleged fraud.

READ MORE: Roger Stone doesn’t rule out co-operating with Russia investigation

Whitaker has come under scrutiny for his involvement with the invention promotion company, which was accused of misleading consumers and has been under investigation by the FBI.

Whitaker had been chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced from the Cabinet last November as Trump seethed over Sessions’ decision to step aside from overseeing the Russia investigation. Whitaker was an outspoken critic of the investigation before arriving at the Justice Department in 2017.

Trump insists there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia.

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AG Michael Ferguson remembered in N.B. for ‘tremendous work ethic’

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Michael Ferguson is being remembered in his home province of New Brunswick as a good friend and a dedicated public servant.

Ferguson, Canada’s auditor general, died yesterday, Feb. 2 in Ottawa surrounded by family. 

A statement released by his office said the 60-year-old had been undergoing treatment for cancer since November 2018. 

Ferguson went to Fredericton High School, where he met Chris Mabie in 1975.

The two of them played hockey together at school and in various community and pick-up leagues for almost 30 years. 

« He had a quiet confidence about him, he was a guy who made us all both better hockey players and better people, » Mabie said of Ferguson.

Ferguson served as New Brunswick’s auditor general for five years, and held other various positions in provincial government. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Mabie remembers a tournament he and Ferguson went to in Orono, Maine, where their team of mostly 40-year-olds ended up in the finals against a team from Massachusetts fresh out of Division I hockey in the U.S.

« Mike won the game by himself, I think we won 2-1 or something, and it was largely due to the performance that he put on. »

He said Ferguson had a « tremendous work ethic, » both in hockey and his career.

« He was a leader and he led by hard work. He wasn’t a guy that talked about what he was going to do or anything like that, he just led by example. Seeing the commitment that he made and how hard he worked made everybody else work hard, » Mabie said.

Mabie kept in touch with Ferguson after he went to Ottawa, and said he enjoyed watching his friend’s career from afar.

Political praise

« People in Canada got a chance to see what those of us that knew him in Fredericton knew …  a guy in my opinion that this country could use more of. »

His political colleagues had similar praise for Ferguson.

Before becoming the federal auditor general, he served as he provincial auditor general for five years, and also spent five years as comptroller and a year as deputy minister of finance and secretary to the board of management.

Premier Blaine Higgs said Ferguson made New Brunswickers proud when he was appointed as Auditor General of Canada in 2011.

Higgs and Ferguson met while working as minister and deputy minister of finance, respectively.

« He came with such a high degree of integrity with the position he had held previously [as auditor general] … my first time to meet with him we hit it right off in terms of the results that we wanted to see coming out of government, » Higgs said.

« He had such respect within the system that he could get immediate answers … and he had such a knowledge of government operation in New Brunswick. »

While he was initially disappointed when Ferguson left New Brunswick for Ottawa, Higgs said it made him proud to see someone from New Brunswick as the country’s auditor general.

A statement from the premier’s office echoed that sentiment.

« The whole country was given the opportunity to see what New Brunswickers already knew — that he was a special person. » 

Kim MacPherson, New Brunswick’s current auditor general, said Ferguson’s death is a huge loss to the legislative audit community.

« Mike was always such a wise contributor and we all respect him a great deal, » MacPherson said.

« We worked together for years. We will really, really miss him. »

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Money laundering in B.C. estimated at $1B a year — but reports were not shared with province, AG says

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Documents that say money laundering in British Columbia now reaches into the billions of dollars are startling to the province’s attorney general, who says the figures have finally drawn the attention of the federal government.

David Eby said he’s shocked and frustrated because the higher estimates appear to have been known by the federal government and the RCMP, but weren’t provided to the B.C. government.

He said he recently spoke to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about information gaps concerning cash being laundered in B.C. and he’ll be meeting next week with Minister of Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair.

« I’ve been startled initially by the lack of response nationally to what appeared to me to be a very profound issue in B.C. that was of national concern, » said Eby.

Surveillance video shows bundles of $20 bills dumped at a B.C. casino in an example of apparent money laundering. (B.C. Ministry of Attorney General)

Last June, former Mountie Peter German estimated money laundering in B.C. amounted to more than $100 million in his government-commissioned Dirty Money report into activities at provincial casinos.

Eby said that number now appears low, especially after the release of an international report that pegs money laundering in B.C. at more than $1 billion annually, although a time period wasn’t mentioned in the report.

A second report by the RCMP estimates $1 billion worth of property transactions in Vancouver were tied to the proceeds of crime, the attorney general said.

The government had estimated that it was a $200 million-a-year operation, but the federal Ministry of Finance has provided estimates that pegs the problem at $1 billion annually, Eby said.

The provincial government only learned about the reports through media leaks or their public release and it wasn’t consulted about the reports, Eby said.

« The question I ask myself is, « Why am I reading about this in an international report instead of receiving the information government to government? »’ he said. « It’s those information gaps that organized crime thrives in and we need to do a better job between our governments. »

G7 report highlights billion-dollar problem

A report issued last July by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, a body of G7 member countries fighting money laundering, terrorist financing and threats to the international financial system, highlighted B.C. money laundering activities.

Eby said the report includes details about a clandestine banking operation laundering money in B.C. that was not fully known by the provincial government.

Surveillance footage of alleged money laundering. (Supplied)

« It is estimated that they laundered more than $1 billion (Canadian) per year through an underground banking network, involving legal and illegal casinos, money value transfer services and asset procurement, » stated the report.

« One portion of the money laundering network’s illegal activities was the use of drug money, illegal gambling money and money derived from extortion to supply cash to Chinese gamblers in Canada. »

The report stated the gamblers would call contacts who would make cash deliveries in casino parking lots and use the money to buy casino chips, cash them in and deposit the proceeds into a Canadian bank.

« Some of these funds were used for real estate purchases, » the report stated. « Surveillance identified links to 40 different organizations, including organized groups in Asia that dealt with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. »

B.C. ‘still’ hasn’t seen report: Eby

Eby said the G7 task force report included information about money laundering in B.C. from the federal government, via the RCMP, that the province didn’t have.

He said the B.C. government also confirmed the RCMP compiled an intelligence report about proceeds of crime connections to luxury real estate property sales in Vancouver, but his ministry doesn’t have the report.

« We still don’t have a copy of it, » Eby said.

Blair could not be reached for comment but, in a statement, said the federal government takes the threat posed by money laundering and organized crime seriously and is collaborating with the B.C. government and German.

Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

« We are taking action to combat this by enhancing the RCMP’s investigative and intelligence capabilities both in Canada and abroad, and our Financial Intelligence Unit further helps protect Canadians and our financial system, » said the statement.

German’s report to the provincial government last June concluded B.C.’s gaming industry was not prepared for the onslaught of illegal cash at the casinos and estimated more than $100 million was funnelled through the casinos.

He was appointed last fall to conduct a second review identifying the scale and scope of illegal activity in the real estate market and whether money laundering is linked to horse racing and the sale of luxury vehicles.

« We’re having some difficulty getting the information we need for Dr. German to make a true assessment of the extent of the problem facing B.C., » said Eby.

Peter German (left) a former deputy commissioner of the RCMP at the launch of his Dirty Money report in June 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

‘A lot of anecdotal evidence’

Maureen Maloney, a former B.C. deputy attorney general, was also appointed last fall to lead an expert panel on money laundering in real estate and report to the government in March.

« We do realize there is a lot of anecdotal evidence on the extent of money laundering in real estate, but we really don’t have a good handle on that, » said Maloney. « We’re looking at whether or not we can produce some good evidence of that. We’re looking at, do we have that data available in B.C., or indeed Canada. »

Confidential provincial government documents dated April 2017 and released through Freedom of Information requests show the government was tracking suspicious currency transactions at B.C. casinos, especially in $20 bills, for years. The high-point of these transactions was more than $176 million in 2014-2015.

In 2008, CBC journalists took $24,000 in cash to B.C. casinos to see just how easy money laundering would be. Turns out it wasn’t hard at all:

Investigation lauded in last week’s Peter German report on B.C. casinos 4:55

Documents dated August 2016 show the government’s Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch observed so-called « high roller » patrons at a Metro Vancouver casino for a year starting in January 2015 and concluded people connected to real estate were the top buy-in gamblers at $53.1 million.

A spokesman for B.C.’s gaming industry said reports from the gaming operators about cash transactions flagged concerns of money laundering.

Peter Goudron, B.C. Gaming Industry Association executive director, said casinos implemented measures to combat potential money laundering, including placing cash restrictions on players in 2015.

« This had the effect of reducing the value of suspicious transactions by more than 60 per cent over the next two years, » he said. « More recently, operators implemented Dr. Peter German’s interim recommendation requiring additional scrutiny of large cash buy-ins in January 2018 and this has further driven down the number of suspicious transactions. »

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CRA issues? How long they take to resolve depends on where you live, AG finds – National

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OTTAWA – The auditor general says the treatment you get from the Canada Revenue Agency depends on where in Canada you live and how friendly your local tax agent is.


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This violates the agency’s “taxpayer bill of rights,” which says every taxpayer deserves the same service as every other taxpayer in the same situation.

Auditor Michael Ferguson reports Tuesday that audits of some of the more difficult files in one regional office take about 320 days. In another, they take eight months longer. When taxpayers file new information that could change their tax bills in one region, getting an answer takes about three months. In another, it’s more like nine. And CRA can’t really explain why.

WATCH: Past Global News coverage of Canadians’ battling the CRA


The agency is allowed to waive fees and penalties in some cases when imposing them would cause a taxpayer extreme hardship, but Ferguson says that discretion is used inconsistently.


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From 2013 to early 2018, CRA waived $17 million in interest and penalties for taxpayers while they were in the middle of being audited because the agency wasn’t sure they were following the rules. In other cases, agents wouldn’t waive penalties even when it was CRA’s fault that taxpayers missed deadlines.

In its response to Ferguson’s findings, CRA promises to track its work better and get to the bottom of the inconsistencies by 2020.

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