Trump moves to escalate investigation of intel agencies
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. intelligence community to “quickly and fully co-operate” with Attorney General William Barr’s investigation of the origins of the multi-year probe of whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.
The move Thursday marked an escalation in Trump’s efforts to “investigate the investigators,” as he continues to try to undermine the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe amid mounting Democratic calls to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump is delegating to Barr the “full and complete authority” to declassify documents relating to the probe, which would ease his efforts to review the sensitive intelligence underpinnings of the investigation. Such a move could create fresh tensions within the FBI and other intelligence agencies, which have historically resisted such demands.
Barr has already asked John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to examine the origins of the Russia investigation to determine whether intelligence and surveillance methods used during the probe were lawful and appropriate. Still, Barr has been directly involved, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it publicly, and is also working with CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Trump has frequently claimed his campaign was the victim of “spying,” though the intelligence community has insisted it acted lawfully in following leads in the Russia investigation and conducted surveillance under court order.
Insults flying, Pelosi hits Trump’s fitness, he fires back
WASHINGTON (AP) — She’s calling for an “intervention” to save the nation from him. He says she’s “crazy.”
The enmity between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deteriorated Thursday into rude-and-then-some questioning of his fitness for office and her sanity, with personal attacks flowing from both the nation’s top elected officials after a dramatic blow-up at the White House.
However intended, the exchanges left uncertain ahead of the 2020 election whether Trump and the Democrats will be able to work together on serious, must-pass tasks, such as funding the government and raising the federal borrowing limit, let alone thornier issues such as immigration, national security and more.
Pelosi went first, with demure shrugs and practiced sass. Then, as a tornado warning blared across Washington, Trump followed with a derisive nickname — something he had declined to give her, up to now.
“She’s a mess,” Trump told reporters at an afternoon news conference in which he lined up White House staff to testify to his calmness the day before when he walked out after three minutes at a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer.
US charges WikiLeaks founder with publishing classified info
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a case with significant First Amendment implications, the U.S. filed new charges Thursday against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, accusing him of violating the Espionage Act by publishing secret documents containing the names of confidential military and diplomatic sources.
The Justice Department’s 18-count superseding indictment alleges that Assange directed former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history. It says the WikiLeaks founder, currently in custody in London, damaged national security by publishing documents that harmed the U.S. and its allies and aided its adversaries.
The case comes amid a Justice Department crackdown on national security leaks and raised immediate fear among news media advocates that Assange’s actions — including soliciting and publishing classified information — are indistinguishable from what traditional journalists do on a daily basis. Those same concerns led the Obama administration Justice Department to balk at bringing charges for similar conduct.
Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, said Thursday that the “unprecedented charges” against his client imperil “all journalists in their endeavour to inform the public about actions that have been taken by the U.S. government.” The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press called the case a “dire threat” to media freedom, and the American Civil Liberties Union said it was the first time in history a publisher was charged for disclosing truthful information.
But Justice Department officials sought to make clear that they believed Assange’s actions weren’t protected under the law, though they declined to discuss the policy discussions that led to the indictment. The new Espionage Act charges go far beyond an initial indictment against Assange made public last month that accused him simply of conspiring with Manning to crack a Defence Department computer password.
3 dead, state capital battered as storms rake Missouri
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — An outbreak of nasty storms spawned tornadoes that razed homes, flattened trees and tossed cars across a dealership lot, injuring about two dozen people in Missouri’s capital city and killing at least three others elsewhere in the state.
The National Weather Service confirmed that a large and destructive twister moved over Jefferson City shortly before midnight Wednesday.
The tornado cut a path about 3 miles long and a mile wide from the south end of Jefferson City north toward the Missouri River, said police Lt. David Williams. Emergency workers reported about two dozen injuries, Williams said, and around 100 of people went to shelters. Hospitals reported treating injuries such as cuts and bruises.
There were no immediate reports of any deaths or missing people in the capital city of about 40,000, and it appeared everyone was accounted for after door-to-door checks that were nearly complete Thursday evening, police Lt. David Williams said.
Many in Jefferson City considered themselves fortunate to survive.
Lawyer: Deal close in Weinstein sexual misconduct lawsuits
NEW YORK (AP) — A tentative deal has been reached to settle multiple lawsuits brought against the television and film company co-founded by Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by scores of women.
Attorneys involved in the negotiations told a federal bankruptcy court judge during a hearing in Wilmington, Delaware, Thursday that a breakthrough in a still-unfinished mediation had put a settlement within reach.
The amount of the deal wasn’t revealed in court, but a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press it was worth $44 million. The person wasn’t authorized to reveal details of the discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We now have an economic agreement in principal that is supported by the plaintiffs, the (New York attorney general’s) office, the defendants and all of the insurers that, if approved, would provide significant compensation to victims, creditors and the estate and allow the parties to avoid years of costly, time consuming and uncertain litigation on all sides,” Adam Harris, a lawyer for studio co-founder Bob Weinstein, told the judge.
He cautioned that there was still “a lot of work here to do.”
Modi surges to victory in India on Hindu-first platform
NEW DELHI (AP) — Charismatic but polarizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi surged to a landslide victory in Indian elections, propelling his Hindu nationalist party to back-to-back majorities in parliament for the first time in decades.
With most of the estimated 600 million votes counted by early Friday, Modi’s reelection mirrored a trend of right-wing populists sweeping to victory, from the United States to Brazil to Italy, often by promoting a tough security stance and protectionist trade policies. India’s elections were seen as a referendum on Modi’s Hindu-first politics, which critics say have bred intolerance, as well as his muscular stance on archrival Pakistan, with whom India nearly went to war earlier this year.
“India wins yet again,” Modi exulted in a tweet.
Election Commission data by Friday morning showed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party winning 287 out of the 525 seats in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament, well beyond the simple majority to form a government. Top rival Indian National Congress won 50 seats but lost one held by party president Rahul Gandhi, the scion of modern India’s most powerful political dynasty.
The All India Trinamool Congress led by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee won 19 seats. Results were not in for 42 seats, and the final tally was not expected until later Friday.
Serial killer who took 10 women’s lives executed in Florida
STARKE, Fla. (AP) — A serial killer who terrorized Florida with a murderous spree that claimed 10 women in 1984 was put to death Thursday, his execution witnessed by a woman who survived one of his attacks and aided in his capture.
Bobby Joe Long, 65, was pronounced dead at 6:55 p.m. Thursday following a lethal injection at Florida State Prison. Long had no last words, simply closing his eyes as the procedure began, witnesses said.
The killer terrified the Tampa Bay area for eight months in 1984 as women began showing up dead, their bodies often left in gruesome poses. Most were strangled, some had their throats slit, and others were bludgeoned.
Law enforcement had few clues until the case of Lisa Noland, who survived one of Long’s attacks. She witnessed Thursday’s execution from the front row.
Just 17 in 1984, Noland was abducted by Long outside a church that year. He raped her but ultimately let her go free. She left evidence of his crimes on the scene and gave police details leading to his capture. Long confessed to the crimes, receiving 28 life sentences and one death sentence for the murder of 22-year-old Michelle Simms.
Trade impasse: Trump pledges $16B to farmers; markets slump
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump rolled out another $16 billion in aid for farmers hurt by his trade policies, and financial markets shook Thursday on the growing realization that the U.S. and China are far from settling a bitter, year-long trade dispute.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that the first of three payments is likely to be made in July or August and suggested that the U.S. and China were unlikely to have settled their differences by then.
“The package we’re announcing today ensures that farmers do not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other trading partners,” Perdue said.
The latest bailout comes atop $11 billion in aid Trump provided farmers last year.
“We will ensure our farmers get the relief they need and very, very quickly,” Trump said.
Virtual reality helps police learn to interact with autistic
WASHINGTON (AP) — An autistic man walks out of a store without paying for a toy he picked up. He’s followed by a storekeeper demanding he come back inside. The situation quickly escalates, and police are called.
Officers arrive, their patrol car’s lights flashing and sirens blaring, to find the man in the parking lot, yelling and not responding to their commands. They have a choice: confront the man and risk having the situation turn violent or regroup to figure out a different approach.
The scenario is part of a virtual reality simulation for police that’s being developed by Axon — the company known best for developing the Taser — so officers can learn how to interact with people who have autism and de-escalate situations that could quickly turn awry. The developmental disorder that can involve varying degrees of language and social impairments, often including repetitive behaviours. In 2018, the U.S. government estimated about 1 in 40 kids is diagnosed with autism.
This week, the company announced a partnership with Chicago police to train officers by using virtual reality headsets. It will be making the program, developed with the help of mental health and autism experts, available to police departments across the U.S.
For now, they offer two training modules: one for autism and another for dealing with people who have schizophrenia.
APNewsBreak: Police won’t fight California use-of-force bill
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Major law enforcement organizations dropped their opposition Thursday to California legislation that strengthens standards for when officers can use deadly force, a shift that followed changes to the measure.
The measure would bar police from using lethal force unless it is “necessary” to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or bystanders. It was prompted by public outrage over fatal police shootings, including the killing of unarmed vandalism suspect Stephon Clark in Sacramento last year.
The current standard lets officers kill if they have “reasonable” fear they or others are in imminent danger, a threshold that makes it rare for officers to be charged following a shooting and rarer still for them to be convicted.
“With so many unnecessary deaths, I think everyone agrees that we need to change how deadly force is used in California,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, who wrote the measure. “We can now move a policy forward that will save lives and change the culture of policing in California.”
The issue has spawned emotional testimony from those who have lost loved ones in confrontations with police and from officers who have been involved in shootings on the job.
The Associated Press