Diplomats pushed Ukraine to investigate, dangled Trump visit
WASHINGTON (AP) — Top U.S. diplomats encouraged Ukraine’s newly-elected president to conduct an investigation linked to Joe Biden’s family in return for a potentially high-profile visit to Washington with President Donald Trump.
That’s according to a cache of emails released late Thursday by House investigators following a 10-hour interview with one of the diplomats, Kurt Volker, who stepped down as former special envoy to Ukraine amid the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
The pages of text messages convey a distinct campaign among the diplomats, who — apparently against some of their stated better judgment — appear to be trying to help Ukraine reset its relationship with Trump by pushing his interest in investigating his Democratic rival.
Volker, in a text message on the morning of a planned July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, wrote: “Heard from White House — Assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / “get to the bottom of what happened” in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington.”
An adviser to the Ukrainian president appears to go along with the proposal, which entails investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of the company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv.
Not just Ukraine: Trump now calls for China to probe Bidens
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday publicly encouraged China to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden, snubbing his nose at an impeachment inquiry into whether a similar, private appeal to another foreign government violated his oath of office.
Trump declared at the White House, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.” He said he hadn’t previously asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to investigate the former vice-president and his son Hunter, but it’s “certainly something we could start thinking about.”
By publicly egging on China, Trump was amplifying the message he’d delivered in private to the president of Ukraine. That message, revealed by a government whistleblower, has spawned the impeachment investigation by the House. Trump, who has defended his contact with Ukraine as “perfect,” went further in expanding his request to China, a communist world power that has much at stake in its relationship with the United States in an ongoing trade war.
The boldness of Trump’s call Thursday also suggests he will continue to act as though requests for other countries to investigate potential opponents in the 2020 election are normal, even in the face of broad condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans. It’s a tactic Trump has used successfully before, pushing questionable secret conversations into the open, helping to inoculate him against charges that he is engaged in nefarious action, coverups or obstruction of justice.
Trump doubled down on his comments later Thursday, saying in a tweet: “As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!”
100s of accused priests living under radar with no oversight
Nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church considers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living under the radar with little to no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement, decades after the first wave of the church abuse scandal roiled U.S. dioceses, an Associated Press investigation has found.
These priests, deacons, monks and lay people now teach middle-school math. They counsel survivors of sexual assault. They work as nurses and volunteer at nonprofits aimed at helping at-risk kids. They live next to playgrounds and day care centres. They foster and care for children.
And in their time since leaving the church, dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault and possessing child pornography, the AP’s analysis found.
A recent push by Roman Catholic dioceses across the U.S. to publish the names of those it considers to be credibly accused has opened a window into the daunting problem of how to monitor and track priests who often were never criminally charged and, in many cases, were removed from or left the church to live as private citizens.
Each diocese determines its own standard to deem a priest credibly accused, with the allegations ranging from inappropriate conversations and unwanted hugging to forced sodomy and rape.
AP Exclusive: Colleges got millions from opioid maker owners
BOSTON (AP) — Prestigious universities around the world have accepted at least $60 million over the past five years from the family that owns the maker of OxyContin, even as the company became embroiled in lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic, financial records show.
Some of the donations arrived before recent lawsuits blaming Purdue Pharma for its role in the opioid crisis. But at least nine schools accepted gifts in 2018 or later, when states and counties across the country began efforts to hold members of the family accountable for Purdue’s actions. The largest gifts in that span went to Imperial College London, the University of Sussex and Yale University.
Major beneficiaries of Sackler family foundations also included the University of Oxford in England and Rockefeller, Cornell and Columbia universities in New York, according to tax and charity records reviewed by The Associated Press.
In total, at least two dozen universities have received gifts from the family since 2013, ranging from $25,000 to more than $10 million, the records show.
Some skeptics see the donations as an attempt to salvage the family’s reputation.
1 killed in shooting at Washington state apartment building
VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — A man opened fire Thursday in the lobby of a building for senior residents, killing a man and wounding two women and then barricading himself inside his apartment before surrendering, police said.
The injuries of the wounded people were critical and they were taken to a hospital, fire department officials said.
The shooter was identified by police Thursday evening as 80-year-old Robert E. Breck, a resident of the 15-story Smith Tower building. Vancouver Police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said he surrendered.
Breck was booked into Clark County Jail on suspicion of murder and attempted murder charges. It wasn’t known if he has a lawyer.
Some parts of the building had been evacuated during the standoff and other residents were told to stay inside their apartments. All were allowed back into their residences Thursday evening, police said.
Jury convicts man in killing of Chicago boy lured into alley
CHICAGO (AP) — A jury convicted a man of first-degree murder Thursday night in the shooting death of a 9-year-old Chicago boy who was lured into an alley with the promise of a juice box.
Prosecutors contended that Dwright Boone-Doty and fellow gang member Corey Morgan planned the November 2015 killing of Tyshawn Lee before Boone-Doty took a gun Morgan gave him and shot the boy.
The Cook County jury that found Boone-Doty guilty deliberated for a little more than two hours after a long day of closing arguments. A separate jury will decide Morgan’s fate, and the judge ordered those jurors sequestered for the night after they didn’t reach a verdict. They will resume deliberations Friday.
Prosecutors said Tyshawn was killed because Boone-Doty and Morgan believed his father belonged to a rival gang they blamed for fatally shooting Morgan’s brother and wounding his mother. The fourth grader, still wearing his school uniform, had headed to a park to play basketball.
Boone-Doty befriended Tyshawn to gain his trust after the boy arrived at the park, prosecutors said. He picked up the basketball that the boy had brought to the park, lured him into a nearby alley and shot him with a .40-calibre handgun multiple times at close range while Morgan watched from an SUV, they said.
MGM Resorts commits up to $800M to victims of Vegas shooting
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two years after a shooter rained gunfire on country music fans from a high-rise Las Vegas Strip hotel, MGM Resorts International has agreed to pay up to $800 million to families of the 58 people who died and hundreds of others who were injured, attorneys announced Thursday.
The out-of-court agreement will resolve lawsuits in at least 10 states seeking compensation from the hotel owner for physical and psychological injuries received in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Publicly traded MGM Resorts acknowledged no liability or guilt with the agreement that attorneys said was reached Monday and made public just two days after the second anniversary of the Oct. 1, 2017, massacre at a country music concert.
No one wanted to upstage victim memorials with the settlement, said attorney Robert Eglet, who represents about 2,500 of the 4,400 people with claims against publicly traded MGM Resorts.
And no one wanted to go through protracted litigation, he said.
White House prepares formal objection to impeachment probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is preparing to formally object to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry as soon as Friday, saying it won’t co-operate with the probe because it was initiated without a vote of the House.
The White House Counsel’s Office was preparing to send a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi objecting to the form of the impeachment investigation, a person familiar with the matter said late Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the letter before its dissemination.
Pelosi last week announced that the House was beginning the formal inquiry but didn’t seek the consent of the full chamber, as was done for impeachment investigations into former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, confirmed that the letter was forthcoming.
Trump allies have suggested for days that without a formal vote, the House is merely conducting standard oversight, entitling lawmakers to a lesser level of disclosure from the administration. The Justice Department raised similar arguments last month, though that was before Pelosi announced the impeachment investigation.
James Franco’s ex-students sue alleging sexual impropriety
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two actresses sued James Franco and the acting and film school he founded Thursday, saying he intimidated his students into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations far beyond those acceptable on Hollywood film sets.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, former students at the actor’s now-closed Studio 4, said in the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that Franco pushed his students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an “orgy type setting.”
Franco “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education,” the suit alleges.
The women say students were led to believe roles in Franco’s films would be available to those who went along.
The situations described in the suit arose during a master class in sex scenes that Franco taught at the school, which he opened in 2014 and closed in 2017.
Buehler, Muncy lead Dodgers past Nats 6-0 in NLDS opener
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Walker Buehler allowed one hit over six scoreless innings, Max Muncy drove in three runs and the Los Angeles Dodgers capitalized on mistakes to beat the Washington Nationals 6-0 in Game 1 of their NL Division Series on Thursday night.
Buehler struck out eight, walked three and retired his final seven batters after earning the start over veterans Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, whose 2.32 ERA was lowest in the majors this season.
Dodgers rookie Gavin Lux and Joc Pederson slugged pinch-hit solo homers in the eighth.
Nationals first baseman Howie Kendrick had two grounders roll under his glove, the second leading to the Dodgers’ second run in the fifth.
Washington’s Patrick Corbin stumbled through a rocky first inning. He issued four walks, joining Art Reinhart of St. Louis as the only pitchers to walk that many in the first inning they ever pitched in the post-season.
The Associated Press