Democrat Senator Menendez Indicted On Bribery, Fraud Charges

Justice Department Indicts Sen. Robert Menendez On Corruption Charges – Wall Street Journal

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The Justice Department indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) on corruption charges Wednesday, bringing the first criminal charges against a sitting U.S. senator since the botched prosecution of Alaska’s Ted Stevens seven years ago.

Mr. Menendez, 61 years old, has said he plans to fight any charges, which are the culmination of a two-year investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the relationship between the senator and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.

A federal grand jury in Newark handed down a five count indictment, charging Mr. Menendez with crimes including conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud.

Dr. Melgen is already under investigation for possibly overbilling Medicare. The FBI has also probed whether Mr. Menendez used his position to try to help Dr. Melgen with his legal troubles and whether the senator sought to improperly aid Dr. Melgen’s business interests in a Dominican Republic port security company. Dr. Melgen’s lawyer has previously said the doctor acted appropriately at all times.

The probe began with an anonymous accusation about Mr. Menendez’s personal conduct while traveling with Dr. Melgen in the Dominican Republic in 2013. Investigators could never substantiate those claims, but the probe evolved into a far-reaching examination of the relationship between Dr. Melgen and the senator – a long friendship that included gifts, hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, and travel together, according to people familiar with the case.

Shortly after the FBI investigation began, Mr. Menendez repaid Dr. Melgen $58,500 for two private flights to the Dominican Republic that the senator hadn’t listed on financial disclosure forms, Menendez aides have said. Aides called the initial failure to list the flights an oversight.

As news of potentially pending charges spread in recent weeks, Mr. Menendez has acknowledged receiving gifts from the doctor but said they were the result of a close friendship, not corruption, and pledged he wouldn’t back down. Mr. Menendez has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees over the last year, according to public filings.

A prolonged legal battle between the senator and the Justice Department could have broader political and foreign-policy repercussions at a time when Senate Democrats need every vote they can get to confirm Obama administration nominees and muster support for the White House’s foreign-policy moves.

The case is already testing the limits of the Justice Department’s ability to investigate members of Congress. Much lawmaker activity is protected by a constitutional provision that makes them immune from prosecution and civil suits when they are involved in “legislative activity.”

Lawyers in the case have already been sparring on the issue. Prosecutors sought to compel two Menendez staffers who claimed such privilege to testify before a grand jury about actions allegedly taken on behalf of Dr. Melgen, according to a sealed appellate court document that was briefly posted on a public website last month.

Prosecutors’ last attempt to charge a sitting senator – Mr. Stevens – went badly awry, casting a dark cloud over the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, which is also pursuing charges against Mr. Menendez. The Justice Department won a 2008 conviction against Mr. Stevens on charges he made false statements on government paperwork, allowing him to conceal tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts, including free home renovations. Just a week after that verdict, Mr. Stevens narrowly lost his re-election bid.

The next year prosecutors reversed course and asked for a judge to vacate the conviction, based on an internal review which found key information had been withheld from the defense. Mr. Stevens died a year later in a plane crash.

Since then, the Public Integrity Section has been overhauled and brought a number of high-profile cases. It oversaw the successful prosecution of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife on corruption charges. Last year, Rep. Michael Grimm (R., N.Y.), pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion and said he would resign. Still, the constitutional protections for Congress weren’t at play in those cases.

The charges come at the same time as Mr. Menendez, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is playing a key role in some major foreign-policy issues. He has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s overtures to Iran and Cuba and has urged it to get more aggressive in combating Russia’s moves in Ukraine.

Senate Democrats have no hard-and-fast rules requiring a lawmaker to step down from committee assignments or leadership positions when facing legal troubles.

If he declines to step down, Democrats would have to decide whether to force his ouster, Senate aides said. Democratic aides said such a decision would be unlikely to occur until members return to Washington from recess in two weeks, though any public statements from rank-and-file lawmakers could be a harbinger of how the caucus might vote.

Charges against Mr. Menendez would also put Senate Democrats and the White House in an awkward position on the nomination of Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder. Ms. Lynch is facing a tight vote to win confirmation and, should Mr. Menendez choose not to vote to confirm the woman who could oversee his prosecution, the White House would have to find another Republican to back Ms. Lynch or she risks being denied confirmation.

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Senator Cruz Schools Leftist Journalist On Climate Change (Videos)

Ted Cruz Schools Journalist On Climate Change – Right Scoop

Man I love this guy.

Ted Cruz completely schooled a journalist who asked him about Climate Change in his Texas Tribune interview, a journalist who was clearly sympathetic to the cause. It was awesome to see.

Watch:

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That was just 3 minutes. Here’s the full Texas Tribune interview:

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……………………….Click on image above to watch video.

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Democrat Senator Menendez To Be Indicted On Federal Corruption Charges

Democrat Senator Bob Menendez To Be Indicted On Corruption – Townhall

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According to an exclusive report published first by CNN, Democrat Senator Bob Menendez will be indicted by the Department of Justice on federal corruption charges.

The Justice Department is preparing to bring criminal corruption charges against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, alleging he used his Senate office to push the business interests of a Democratic donor and friend in exchange for gifts.

People briefed on the case say Attorney General Eric Holder has signed off on prosecutors’ request to proceed with charges, CNN has learned exclusively. An announcement could come within weeks. Prosecutors are under pressure in part because of the statute of limitation on some of the allegations.

The government’s case centers on Menendez’s relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who the senator has called a friend and political supporter. Melgen and his family have been generous donors to the senator and various committees the senator is associated with.

Menendez has been under fire over the past three years for allegations of hiring underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, for accepting suspicious campaign donations and much more. Yahoo has a rundown of the scandals surrounding Menendez here.

I should point out that the timing of the indictment is interesting. Menendez has been a harsh critic of President Obama’s policy and negotiations with Iran and has been a staunch supported of Israel.

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Senator Vitter Asks Why AG Nominee Didn’t Prosecute Bank Employees Who Laundered Money For Terrorists (Video)

Senator To Loretta Lynch: Why Did No One Go to Jail For Laundering Money To Terrorists? – Daily Signal

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Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, is facing questions about why she let multiple bank employees who funneled millions of dollars to the Iranian government, Middle Eastern terrorists and Mexican drug cartels walk away without criminal prosecution.

Sen. David Vitter, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today launched an investigation into the matter. He cited the concern as a reason to delay Senate confirmation of Lynch, who was nominated to replace Eric Holder as the chief law enforcement officer in the United States.

“If Loretta Lynch and [the Justice Department] swept under the rug a serious money laundering scheme involving Mexican drug cartels and terrorist organizations, we need to know a heck of a lot more about it,” Vitter told The Daily Signal.

“This is especially true since American citizens may be completely unaware that their identities – including names and Social Security numbers – were compromised in this fraud.”

While serving as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Lynch, along with the Justice Department, oversaw a massive lawsuit against British banking giant HSBC. Bank officials and other employees faced accusations of laundering more than $200 million through its U.S. bank. The employees allegedly opened fake accounts using customers’ private information.

Federal prosecutors accused HSBC of “illegally conducting transactions on behalf of customers in Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma – all countries that were subject to sanctions enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the time of the transactions.”

Instead of criminally prosecuting those individuals responsible, Lynch helped negotiate a $1.92 billion dollar settlement with HSBC in December 2012.

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During her confirmation hearing for attorney general last month, Lynch said she has been “very aggressive” in pursuing white-collar crime.

“At the outset, no individual is ‘too big to jail.’ And no one is above the law,” she told Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

But in the case of HSBC – one of the most high-profile white-collar crimes to date – no one ever went to jail.

The Daily Signal has reached out to the Justice Department for comment on the lawsuit.

Some, like Vitter, perceive the settlement as nothing more than a “slap on the wrist.” He said: “A simple monetary fine is the equivalent of a slap on the wrist, and would cast serious doubt on Ms. Lynch’s capacity to serve as our top law enforcement official.”

After being tipped off by a WND reporter who has closely followed the case since its onset, Vitter and his staff yesterday spoke with whistleblower John Cruz, a former HSBC manager who took more than 1,000 pages of bank account records and recordings related to the money laundering before being fired.

Following that conversation, Vitter became suspicious about the settlement. For that reason, he plans to delay Lynch’s confirmation process until he has answers.

“There is a very credible whistleblower… who said folks at HSBC knew what was going on, actively were helping use fake bank accounts to help this happen on behalf of drug cartels and terrorists,” Vitter told the Judiciary Committee earlier today.

“That’s pretty serious to end up having a resolution with a pure money fine.”

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*VIDEO* Senator Cotton Sets Obama DOD Lackey Straight On Islamic Terrorists


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Senator Rubio Slams Commie-Loving Obama Over Irresponsible Cuba Deal (Video)

Marco Rubio: Cuba Deal Part Of Obama’s ‘Long Record Of Coddling Dictators And Tyrants’ – Business Insider

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) fiercely criticized President Barack Obama on Wednesday for moving to ease US-Cuba relations.

“It’s absurd and it’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established,” Rubio said in a Fox News interview.

Rubio, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, was reacting to the White House’s decision to beginning normalizing relations with the Cuban government following a prisoner swap between the two countries. Like Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who also slammed Obama Wednesday, Rubio warned that the deal will encourage other countries to kidnap Americans.

“It puts a price on every American abroad. Governments now know that if they can take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the United States,” he said.

In a separate interview with the Associated Press, Rubio further said the deal will help the Castro regime in Cuba become “permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.” The US has placed an economic embargo against Cuba since Fidel Castro overthrew the previous government. His brother, Raúl Castro, now leads the country.

“This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba,” Rubio said. “But it potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.”

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Rubio also released a lengthy statement vowing “to make every effort to block this dangerous and desperate attempt by the President to burnish his legacy at the Cuban people’s expense. ”

View his full statement below:

“Today’s announcement initiating a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Cuba is just the latest in a long line of failed attempts by President Obama to appease rogue regimes at all cost.

“Like all Americans, I rejoice at the fact that Alan Gross will be able to return to his family after five years in captivity. Although he is supposedly being released on humanitarian grounds, his inclusion in a swap involving intelligence agents furthers the Cuban narrative about his work in Cuba. In contrast, the Cuban Five were spies operating against our nation on American soil. They were indicted and prosecuted in a court of law for the crimes of espionage and were linked to the murder of the humanitarian pilots of Brothers to the Rescue. There should be no equivalence between the two, and Gross should have been released unconditionally.

“The President’s decision to reward the Castro regime and begin the path toward the normalization of relations with Cuba is inexplicable. Cuba’s record is clear. Just as when President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Castro family still controls the country, the economy and all levers of power. This administration’s attempts to loosen restrictions on travel in recent years have only served to benefit the regime. While business interests seeking to line their pockets, aided by the editorial page of The New York Times, have begun a significant campaign to paper over the facts about the regime in Havana, the reality is clear. Cuba, like Syria, Iran, and Sudan, remains a state sponsor of terrorism. It continues to actively work with regimes like North Korea to illegally traffic weapons in our hemisphere in violation of several United Nations Security Council Resolutions. It colludes with America’s enemies, near and far, to threaten us and everything we hold dear. But most importantly, the regime’s brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed. Access to information is restricted and controlled by the regime. That is why even more than just putting U.S. national security at risk, President Obama is letting down the Cuban people, who still yearn to be free.

“I intend to use my role as incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee to make every effort to block this dangerous and desperate attempt by the President to burnish his legacy at the Cuban people’s expense. Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office. As a result, America will be less safe as a result of the President’s change in policy. When America is unwilling to advocate for individual liberty and freedom of political expression 90 miles from our shores, it represents a terrible setback for the hopes of all oppressed people around the globe.”

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Menendez Blasts Obama On Cuba – Philadelphia Inquirer

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), whose parents immigrated from Cuba and who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a blistering critique Tuesday of the Obama administration’s decision to release Cuban spies as the Castro regime freed American Alan Gross from imprisonment.

“President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government,” Menendez said in a news release. “There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against our nation.”

Menendez added, “Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent. It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips.”

Gross was an American contractor who was serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba. He was trying to bring internet service to the country.

dministration officials have said the simultaneous releases were not part of a “swap” but part of a larger agreement. Menendez was not convinced.

“Let’s be clear, this was not a “humanitarian” act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American,” Menendez said in his statement.

Menendez, a hard-liner on Cuba policy, will give up the gavel on the foreign relations committee in January. He has butted heads with Obama over several foreign policy flare-ups.

He did call Gross’ return “a moment of profound relief for Alan Gross and his family.”

“He should have been released immediately and unconditionally five years ago,” Menendez said. “He committed no crime and was simply working to provide internet access to Cuba’s small Jewish community. His imprisonment was cruel and arbitrary, but consistent with the behavior of the Cuban regime.”

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U.S.-Cuba Policy Overhaul Sends Shockwaves Through Miami Exile Community – Miami Herald

The political ground shook in South Florida on Wednesday when President Barack Obama announced plans to restore full diplomatic relations with Communist Cuba.

Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community, reacted with a collective shock. Hardline opponents of the Castro regime lambasted the president for what they called a betrayal.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, a Republican whose father was a pilot in the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue mission, called the Democratic president a sellout.

“The Cuban exile community that has made a foundation out of standing firm against the Castro government has been, in essence, sold out,” he told the Miami Herald. “Those that have lost themselves to the straits of Florida, that have drowned, I feel that their memory has been sold out. The Brothers to the Rescue pilots – those American citizens – that were blown up, their memory and their families’ misery has been sold out.”

Maggie Khuly, the sister of Armando Alejandre Jr, one of the four Brothers to the Rescue members shot down, said the families of the failed mission’s victims were outraged.

“I was expecting this, but I can’t believe it,” Khuly told the Herald. “No one [in the federal government] had the decency of telling us anything.”

People across the city tuned in to watch Obama address the nation at noon. In Cuba, Raúl Castro spoke at the same time.

Several people gathered around a television set showing CNN at a waiting room at Doctor’s Hospital in Coral Gables to watch reporting from Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, where a small group of hardliners were protesting. Early on, though, there were more reporters than demonstrators.

Then, Obama spoke.

“Wow. Wow. Wow,” an unidentified woman said when the president finished.

“Maduro is screwed,” said another, referring to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a Castro ally. The crowd remained as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, appeared on the screen and criticized Obama from Capitol Hill.

The day began with the news that Cuba had freed American political prisoner Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds – and that the U.S. would swap three imprisoned Cuban spies in exchange for a U.S. intelligence officer detained on the island.

“We’re giving them a lot of stuff in payment for the exchange of a hostage,” Khuly told the Miami Herald. “What about human rights? It’s just incredible. I’m extremely disappointed in the president.”

Commissioner Bovo also called the move bad precedent.

“I don’t know what that does for other Americans traveling in Venezuela, in Nicarague – name your country – where now, literally, if want to extract something from the U.S., take a prisoner, trump some charges, and send them to jail,” he said.

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a Wednesday morning interview with the Herald that he was on his way to a phone briefing by the White House on the upcoming announcement. He said he didn’t know enough to critique the White House plan, but was critical of normalizing relations.

“The Cuban government hasn’t done anything to deserve this,” said Gimenez, who was born in Cuba. “If it’s going to happen, I hope there will be positive results.”

Miami police said it was monitoring local reaction in case Obama’s announcement drew crowds or protests. Police Chief Manuel Orosa said resources would be deployed as needed “to keep everything under control and let people demonstrate peacefully.”

The department placed all personnel on alert but did not activate any special plans. Orosa said police would pay particular attention to Spanish-language talk radio in case calls go out for rallies, either for or against the policy changes.

Despite criticism of the policy overhaul, there was widespread relief over Gross’s release after five years.

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council issued a statement welcoming Gross, a Washington resident, back to the country. Gross was arrested in December 2009 while working as a subcontractor with the United States Agency for International Development to help a small Jewish community in Cuba.

The statement thanked advocates who signed petitions and wrote letters to elected officials to keep them from forgetting about Gross’s imprisonment.

“We wish Alan Gross a full recovery from the ill health that resulted from his unjust and inhumane incarceration and we send our warmest wishes to his family who has suffered such great distress during this terrible ordeal,” the statement said.

“Last night, Jews around the world kindled the first light of Chanukah, celebrating a historical victory. Tonight, as we kindle the second Chanukah candle, we know it will burn that much brighter for us in gratitude for the release of Alan Gross and for all those who championed his cause for so long.”

Local public figures also applauded Gross’s release.

“On the first day of Hanukkah, #AlanGross is released from a Cuban prison. What a great gift for his family,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, a Cuban-American Democrat, posted to her Twitter account, @KathyFndzRundle.

Annette Taddeo, the former chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, linked to an ABC News story about the release. “Happy #Hannukkah indeed!” wrote Taddeo, who is Jewish, on her account, @Annette_Taddeo.

Miami Herald staff writers Douglas Hanks and Charles Rabin contributed to this report.

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Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu Gets Stomped Like A Bug In Louisiana Runoff Election

Landrieu Loses Reelection Bid In Louisiana To Republican Challenger Cassidy – Fox News

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Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu lost her reelection bid Saturday in a runoff race with Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy, despite a relentless, against-long-odds effort.

Landrieu, who was seeking a fourth term, trailed by double digits and had lost most of her support going into the election. With 100 percent of the precincts reporting late Saturday, Cassidy had received 56 percent of the vote, to 44 percent for Landrieu.

Landrieu barnstormed the state this week, driving some 1,200 miles in a rented SUV, stopping in little towns and bigger cities, making one last appeal to voters to give her another term in Washington.

“There is no quit,” Landrieu said in her concession speech. “It’s been nothing but a joy to serve this state for over 34 years.”

Cassidy’s win extends the GOP’s domination of the 2014 midterm elections that put Republicans in charge of Capitol Hill for the final two years of President Obama’s tenure.

Republicans will hold 54 seats when the Senate convenes in January, nine more than they have now.

“Once again, voters have spoken clearly,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said. “They have rejected the Democrat agenda and the Obama-Clinton policies that have produced higher healthcare costs and job-killing regulations.”

The race mirrored contests in other states that Obama lost in 2012, with Landrieu joining Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor in defeat. Democrats ceded seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia after incumbents opted not to run again.

Like victorious Republicans in those races, Cassidy, 57, made his bid more about Obama than about his own vision for the job. An Illinois native and medical doctor, Cassidy made few public appearances during the runoff, seeking to avoid missteps that could change the race.

But in a state where 73 percent of white voters on Nov. 4 told pollsters they “strongly disapproved” of the president, that was enough to prevent Landrieu, 59, from finding her footing. Cassidy also enjoyed a prodigious advertising advantage in the runoff: Of every dollar spent by outside groups during the one-month runoff, 97 cents benefited the congressman.

Landrieu had narrowly led a Nov. 4 primary ballot that included eight candidates from all parties. But at 42 percent, she fell well below her marks in previous races and endured a one-month runoff campaign that Republicans dominated via the airwaves while national Democrats financially abandoned her effort.

In the South, Democrats will be left without a single governor or U.S. senator across nine states stretching from the Carolinas to Texas. The House delegations from the same region are divided almost entirely by race, with white Republicans representing majority-white districts, while majority non-white districts are represented by black or Hispanic Democrats.

Landrieu tried several messages over the course of her losing effort.

Most recently, she had hammered Cassidy as being unfit for the job and interested more in partisanship than helping Louisiana. She directed her most pointed criticism at Cassidy’s medical teaching job with the Louisiana State University hospital system. Calling Cassidy “Dr. Double Dip,” Landrieu suggested the congressman collected a $20,000, taxpayer-funded salary for little or no work, describing gaps and discrepancies in Cassidy’s LSU time sheets. LSU said it’s looking into the time sheet questions.

She argued that the race shouldn’t be about Obama, but also targeted advertising on radio stations geared to the black community, where the president remains popular.

Her anchor argument was that her senatorial seniority was a boon for Louisiana, particularly her chairmanship of the Senate’s energy committee, an important panel for this oil-rich state. But that argument was gutted on Nov. 4 when Republicans won the Senate majority, meaning Landrieu would have lost her post even had she won.

Landrieu, who said a campaign canvasser was fatally struck by a vehicle Saturday, managed last month to get the Democrat-controlled Senate to vote on her bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have helped with voters in oil-rich Louisiana. But the measure failed when she could not get one more Democrat to vote in favor of the plan.

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