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New calls for impeachment could give Pelosi cover to take next step, sources say

2 0 24 Sep 2019

An op-ed written by seven freshman House Democrats calling for impeachment hearings to address allegations about President Donald Trump and Ukraine is expected to give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the “cover” she needs to back a more formal impeachment proceeding against the president, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News on Monday night.

“This is major. It seems to me like it’s an inflection point,” one source said. Another described it as “a big shift.”

Elaine Luria of Virginia, who signed the op-ed published Monday night in The Washington Post, called it a “gamechanger.”

“The tide is changing,” Luria told Rachel Maddow on Monday night.

In the op-ed, Luria and Reps. Gil Cisneros of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia said their experiences in the military, defense and U.S. intelligence agencies helped shape their decision.

“We have devoted our lives to the service and security of our country, and throughout our careers, we have sworn oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States many times over. Now, we join as a unified group to uphold that oath as we enter uncharted waters and face unprecedented allegations against President Trump,” they wrote.

They urged Pelosi to start proceedings to examine whether the president used his “position to pressure a foreign county into investigating a political opponent,” and if “he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it.”

Trump has been accused of threatening to cut off funding for Ukraine in order to get prosecutors there to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

On Monday, the president said he had tied funding for Ukraine to the way that nation handles corruption — which he has alleged Biden’s family was engaged in there — before denying just hours later he’d made any such demand.

Senior administration officials told The Washington Post on Monday that in the days before a phone call in which he urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into Biden’s son, Trump instructed his chief of staff to place a hold on close to $400 million in military aid for the country. The phone call is said to have happened July 25, and the funds were released earlier this month, the Post reported.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley on Monday night denied those allegations. “The media pushed the Russia lie for almost three years with no evidence, and now they are doing it all over again,” he told NBC News. “These allegations are completely false, but because the media wants this story to be true so badly, they’ll once again manufacture a frenzy and drive ignorant, fake stories to attack this president.”

For months, Pelosi has tried to keep talk of impeaching Trump at bay — dismissing it as too divisive. But Pelosi is now asking colleagues whether they believe Trump’s own admission that he pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Biden is a tipping point, according to multiple Democratic aides, as first reported by The Washington Post.

Pelosi’s office is refusing to comment on the record.

Pelosi and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Monday spoke by phone today about the Trump whistleblower complaint and impeachment.

On Sunday, in a letter to colleagues, Pelosi threatened a “new stage of investigation” if the Trump administration and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire fail to provide a whistleblower complaint centered on Ukraine when Maguire testifies in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Maguire and Inspector General Atkinson are also set to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors Thursday afternoon, after appearing before the House Intelligence Committee.

Pelosi has called an all-caucus meeting for 4 p.m. Tuesday that is expected to cover impeachment. But no decisions on how to proceed have been made, according to a senior Democratic aide.

The idea of creating a select panel, which would be made of relevant committee chairs, to investigate Trump and his attempts to strongarm Ukraine into investigating Biden and his son is among the options, the aide said.

And though the speaker has not officially blessed anything, in the event a select panel is needed, the chairs would issue a report to the Judiciary Committee, which would handle any impeachment referral.

Some members are expected to publicly endorse this idea on Tuesday, according to the senior Democratic leadership aide.

The Democrats who wrote the opinion editorial in the Washington Post had discussed the potential collaboration for months as frustration mounted with the Judiciary Committee proceedings and how Nadler has handled them.

Their calls for impeachment proceedings were echoed by two other Democrats who had not previously made their positions known.

On Monday night, Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas called for Trump’s impeachment, as did Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan.

As of Monday night, 148 House Democrats had expressed support for some type of action regarding impeachment. Some have called for an inquiry or hearings, while others have gone further and support drafting articles of impeachment.

U.S. soldier allegedly spoke of targeting Beto ORourke, bombing major news network

6 0 24 Sep 2019

An Army soldier was arrested for allegedly passing on bomb-making instructions to fellow “radicals” and sought to blow up cell towers and news stations, authorities announced Monday.

Pfc. Jarrett William Smith, 24, stationed out of Fort Riley in Kansas, was arrested Saturday and charged with one count of distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.

In a chat Friday on the cloud-based instant messaging service Telegram, an undercover agent said he wanted to target a “liberal Texas mayor” for bombing and asked Smith if he had any other suggestions, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Brandon LaMar.

“Outside of Beto?” Smith allegedly responded, in an apparent reference to Democratic presidential candidate and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke. “I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died.”

Smith is a native of Conway, South Carolina, and had previous stints at Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Bliss in Texas, according to a U.S. Army spokesman.

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The suspect made an initial court appearance on Monday and was ordered to remain in jail until at least his next date before a judge. That will be Thursday afternoon in federal court in Topeka.

A defense lawyer for Smith could not be immediately reached for comment.

“We’re grateful to the FBI for their diligence in handling this case and for their work to keep our country safe in the face of domestic terror threats,” O’Rourke’s campaign press secretary Aleigha Cavalier said. “We take any threat like this very seriously, and our team is in direct contact with the FBI regarding this case.”

This past August, Smith told an FBI source that he also wanted to conduct “an attack within the United States” and that he was “looking for more ‘radicals’ like himself,” according to LaMar.

“Smith talked with the confidential source about killing members of the far left group, Antifa, as well as destroying nearby cell towers or local news station,” the affidavit said.

And on Aug. 21, Smith specifically told an undercover agent that he wanted to build a “large vehicle bomb” to attack a major news outlet, according to the FBI.

Smith said ordinary household chemicals could be used for bomb-making but said it’s important to buy the materials separately so “the randomness will aid you in the case of searches and the materials themselves usually aren’t considered suspicious,” LaMar wrote.

Smith, who enlisted in the Army in June 2017, could face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 if convicted.

Before talking about his alleged desire to target news stations, Antifa and O’Rourke, Smith’s fascination was with a far-right Ukrainian paramilitary group, according to LaMar.

During his 2018 flirtation with the Ukrainian militia, Smith passed on instructions on how to make improvised explosive devices that could be detonated with a cellphone, according to the FBI.

“Oh yeah, I got knowledge of IEDs for days,” Smith allegedly wrote in a Facebook chat on Dec. 18, 2018. “We can make cell phone IEDs in the style of the Afghans. I can teach you that.”

LaMar said he took Smith’s IED-making instructions to an FBI bomb technician who confirmed that the suspect’s directions were accurate.

Garrett Haake and Elisha Fieldstadt contributed.

Fredo: Trump mocks CNNs Chris Cuomo with Godfather name

10 0 24 Sep 2019

President Donald Trump praised Rudy Giuliani and mocked CNN anchor Chris Cuomo during remarks at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, referring to the journalist as “Fredo,” a pejorative reference to a weak-willed Italian American character in “The Godfather” saga.

“I think he was excellent,” Trump said of Giuliani’s heated interview with Cuomo last week. Trump’s comments came during an appearance on Monday afternoon with Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister of Singapore.

“I watched Rudy take apart Fredo,” Trump said. “Fredo’s performance was incompetent, Rudy took him apart.”

“Rudy Giuliani took Fredo to the cleaners,” he added.

Fredo Corleone is the ne’er-do-well brother of the powerful Italian mob family portrayed in “The Godfather” films and books. Cuomo got into a heated exchange with a man he accused of calling him “Fredo” in a now-viral video posted earlier this month, asserting that the term was a slur against Italian Americans.

Cuomo and Guiliani sparred last week in an interview on CNN, which eventually devolved into a shouting match, over allegations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

During the interview, the former New York mayor called Cuomo an “enemy” and “sellout.”

“Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?” Cuomo asked.

“No, actually, I didn’t,” Giuliani said before saying the opposite.

“So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?” Cuomo asked moments later.

“Of course I did!” Giuliani said.

Democrats have launched an investigation into Guiliani and Trump’s involvement in Ukraine and whether they tried to press the Ukrainian government into aiding Trump’s reelection campaign by digging up dirt on an opponent. Democrats have also been demanding more information regarding a whistleblower complaint from a member of the intelligence community that is now the subject of a weeks-long standoff with the administration.

According to the New York Times and other outlets, the complaint stemmed from a July phone call during which Trump is said to have asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company. On Sunday, Trump confirmed with reporters that he invoked Biden during the July call but denied any wrongdoing.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” he said.

Chanel Miller, woman sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, speaks out in first interview

5 0 24 Sep 2019

The woman who read a powerful statement at the sentencing of a college swimmer who sexually assaulted her at Stanford University is speaking out for the first time after revealing her identity earlier this month.

For years, Chanel Miller was known in legal proceedings as “Emily Doe,” the woman assaulted while unconscious by Brock Turner, a star swimmer at Stanford.

She now wants the world to know her name and her face, identifying herself in a memoir scheduled to be released Tuesday.

In an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Miller, 27, said she wanted to claim back her identity and write a book about her ordeal because she believed her story remained untold.

“In order to survive, you just shut everything down,” Miller said when asked about how she coped with what happened. “You have to function. You have to go to work in the morning. It was much easier to just repress everything.”

She was found by two students completely unconscious and half-naked behind a dumpster. Turner tried to flee, but the students tackled and pinned him down until police arrived.

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In Sunday’s interview, Miller revealed how she was left in the dark about the January 2015 assault for days before learning about what happened to her from an online news story.

Miller said some commenters questioned why she was so intoxicated that night.

“Rape is not a punishment for getting drunk,” she told “60 Minutes.” “We have this really sick mindset in our culture as if you deserve rape if you drink to excess. You deserve a hangover, a really bad hangover, but you don’t deserve to have somebody insert their body parts inside of you.”

Four years after the assault, she said the trauma remains just below the surface.

“I felt dirty and embarrassed,” she said.

“My dream is to write children’s books. I felt no parent,” she said, her voice breaking, “is going to want me as a role model if I am just the discarded drunk, half-naked body behind the dumpster.”

The emotional victim impact statement Miller read out at Turner’s sentencing went viral, serving as a rallying cry for those who suffered sexual abuse.

Many people were enraged when Turner was sentenced to six months in jail in 2016 after his conviction for felony sexual assault. He was released from jail after serving just three months.

“I was in shock,” Miller said talking about Turner’s sentence. “So, you’re saying I just put aside a year and half of my life so he could go to county jail for three months. There are young men, particularly young men of color serving longer sentences, for nonviolent crimes.”

That year, California toughened its laws to broaden the state’s legal definition of rape and mandate prison if the victim was unconscious after the uproar generated by the case.

Judge Aaron Persky, who imposed the sentence, was recalled by voters in 2018.

Last August, an appeals court rejected Turner’s bid for a new trial.

After her victim statement went viral, Miller said she received thousands of thankful letters from fellow survivors.

“It was really like medicine,” she said. “Reading these was like feeling the shame dissolve. You know, bringing all the light in.”

Huge operation to help stranded Thomas Cook travelers: Were going to get you home

4 0 24 Sep 2019

It was the oldest travel company in the world — a behemoth that ran its own hotels and flights, serving 19 million travelers every year and employing 21,000 people.

So when the Manchester, England, headquartered firm Thomas Cook collapsed on Monday after a last-ditch effort failed to resolve the billions in debt it had accumulated, hundreds of thousands of travelers worldwide were suddenly stranded, prompting an aviation regulator in the United Kingdom to scramble to get them home.

The United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority dubbed the hastily put-together plan “Operation Matterhorn” and said it was the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history, a complex effort to return 150,000 Britons.

The global operation is relying on about 45 aircraft operated by at least six different airlines. A Civil Aviation Authority press officer cautioned Monday evening that the exact number of jets could not be confirmed because the situation was “constantly changing.”

The fleet will return British citizens from as many as 18 countries around the world. CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty pleaded for patience from those stranded.

“We have launched, at very short notice, what is effectively one of the U.K.’s largest airlines.”

“We have launched, at very short notice, what is effectively one of the U.K.’s largest airlines, involving a fleet of aircraft secured from around the world. The nature and scale of the operation means that unfortunately, some disruption will be inevitable. We ask customers to bear with us as we work around the clock to bring them home,” he said in a statement.

In total, Thomas Cook has 600,000 customers abroad, including the British citizens, according to Reuters. Its collapse meant that travelers who were in the midst of pre-planned vacations to Turkey, Greece, Tunisia and other countries found out on Monday that their flights home had been canceled, and those who had vacations in the future they had already paid for discovered those had been nixed, too.

The CAA acknowledged the news “will be very distressing for its customers and employees” and said its repatriation program, launched at the request of the U.K. government, will go through Sunday, Oct. 6. Information on repatriation flights was available online, as were details about the Air Travel Organizer’s License, a program that gives financial protection to customers who have purchased vacation packages sold by British travel businesses.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps vowed to make the operation run as smoothly as possible.

“We’re going to get you home,” Shapps said in an interview with ITN. “Please be patient. This is a huge operation — the biggest repatriation in history. But we will get you home and make sure you enjoy the rest of your holiday.”

Travel woes proliferated on social media on Monday: customers who were suddenly forced to leave their hotels, honeymoons canceled, and hours-long lines to get on flights.

Many travelers were understanding of the sudden switch in plans, though, and said they were more worried for the tens of thousands of Thomas Cook employees who had lost their jobs than about their vacations.

“My honeymoon has gone down the drain as we had booked with #thomascook but I don’t care, I’ll get refunded. I care about the employees who have lost their jobs with no warning,” tweeted one.

Founded in 1841, Thomas Cook was struggling to reduce a debt pile of $2.1 billion that ballooned during the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, one of its top travel spots, and the 2018 European heatwave.

It is not the first British travel firm to fail in recent years. Two years ago, Monarch, a British carrier and tour operator, collapsed, stranding more than 100,000 passengers abroad and prompting the government to bring them home. At the time, it was the biggest airline collapse in U.K. history.

The name “Operation Matterhorn” was also used during World War II, when Allied forces attacked Japanese forces, mostly in India and China.

British travel firm Thomas Cook collapses, hundreds of thousands stranded

4 0 23 Sep 2019

LONDON — Hundreds of thousands of vacationers were in limbo around the globe Monday after British travel firm Thomas Cook collapsed, prompting the largest peacetime repatriation effort in the United Kingdom’s history.

The company went out of business after it failed to secure a rescue package from its lenders, Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser said early Monday.

The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirmed that Thomas Cook — the world’s oldest travel company — had closed its doors, and that the regulator and the government were mobilizing a fleet of aircraft from around the world to bring home more than 150,000 British customers currently abroad.

According to Reuters, Thomas Cook currently has 600,000 clients abroad, including the British citizens.

The CAA confirmed to NBC News that Thomas Cook customers were stranded in 18 countries around the world.

Thomas Cook passengers line up at Son Sant Joan airport in Palma de Mallorca on Monday. Jaime Reina / AFP – Getty Images

British Transport Minister Grant Shapps tweeted that the company’s collapse has led to the “biggest peacetime repatriation in the U.K. history.”

“We will bring everyone home,” Schapps said. “An enormous task, there will be some delays, but we’re working round the clock to do everything we can.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson questioned whether the directors of companies such as Thomas Cook were properly encouraged to avoid bankruptcy.

Johnson said Thomas Cook had made a request to the government for around 150 million pounds ($186 million), but that bailing it out would have set up “a moral hazard in the case of future such commercial difficulties that companies face.”

The CAA said that the first repatriation flight has left John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and was headed for the English city of Manchester with more than 300 passengers on board.

Due to the significant scale of the situation, “some disruption is inevitable,” it said.

Thomas Cook ran hotels, resorts and airlines for 19 million people a year in 16 countries. It also employed 21,000 people.

On Monday, the company’s website was down. Instead, it ran a message saying the U.K. business had “ceased trading with immediate effect and all future flights and holidays are canceled.”

Customers who were still in the U.K. and had yet to travel were told by the CAA not to travel to the airport as their flight would not be running. Those who were already overseas were also told not to go to the airport in their destinations until their flight back home has been confirmed.

Hundreds of stranded passengers took to social media to share their anger and disappointment.

“We’re currently in Turkey with our 7-year-old son due to fly home on Wednesday,” Liverpool-based Natasha Cook tweeted Monday. “Haven’t received any emails, unsure of what to do next, highly doubt our Thomas Cook rep will be at the hotel today and I couldn’t blame her. All those jobs gone! Awful, someone should be accountable!”

Greece’s tourism ministry said some 50,000 tourists were stranded in Greece, mainly on its islands. It is estimated that around 22,000 tourists will be repatriated within the next three days, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis said in a statement Monday.

Meanwhile, the head of Turkey’s Hoteliers Federation said Thomas Cook’s collapse meant Turkey could see 600,000 to 700,000 fewer tourists annually.

In an interview, Osman Ayik told Reuters there were some 45,000 tourists in Turkey who came from the U.K. and the rest of Europe via Thomas Cook.

Meanwhile, Tunisian tourism authorities alleged that Thomas Cook owed the country’s hotels 60 million euros ($66 million) for stays in July and August, Tourism Minister Rene Trabelsi told Reuters. Around 4,500 Thomas Cook customers are still in the country.

The British aviation regulator has been contacting hotels hosting Thomas Cook customers to tell them that they will be paid by a financial protection scheme. Some customers at a hotel in Tunisia said they were prevented from leaving the property unless they paid extra fees, the BBC reported.

While vacationers figured out how to get home, some of the company’s employees posted pictures of themselves walking from their last flights.

“I actually feel so sick and empty inside. My dream job gone in a blink of an eye,” Kia Dawn Hayward, a member of the company’s cabin crew, said on Twitter. “Us staff at Thomas Cook could fill a sea with all our tears right now.”

The liquidation marks the end of one of Britain’s oldest companies that started life in 1841 running local rail excursions before it survived two world wars to pioneer holiday packages and mass tourism.

Crippled by its 1.7 billion pounds ($2.1 billion) of debt, Thomas Cook has been hit by online competition and a changing travel market.

Reuters contributed.

Almost 50 Baltimore schools with no AC close early as temps hit 90 on first day of fall

5 0 23 Sep 2019

About 50 schools in Baltimore that lack air conditioning dismissed students early on Monday, the first day of fall, for the third time this month as temperatures hit a stifling 90 degrees.

Due to the high temperatures, about 50 schools without air conditioning were to dismiss three hours early, Baltimore City Public Schools said in a statement on Monday morning.

The school district previously announced the affected schools would dismiss three hours early on Sept. 12 and two hours early on Sept. 4, the second day of classes.

The schools are listed on the district’ website as designated for early dismissal on “extremely hot days.” Temperatures have repeatedly reached the low 90s in Baltimore this month.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wrote in a post on Facebook Monday afternoon that this was “the third time in the new school year that students are being deprived of valuable time in the classroom because of this problem.”

“I am appalled that this continues to detract from the education of thousands of young Marylanders who deserve a safe, healthy, and comfortable learning environment,” he wrote. “This is the third-highest funded large school system in America — where’s the accountability?”

Earlier Monday, in response to the third day of early dismissals, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s office referred to a previous statement the governor made after the first day of early dismissals this year.

“It is outrageous and completely unacceptable that the third-highest funded school system in America still refuses to put air conditioning in all their schools, and had to send kids home from 57 hot school buildings,” Hogan wrote in a statement on Sept. 4. “The Baltimore City School System must be held accountable.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, the city has some of Maryland’s oldest school buildings and a maintenance backlog of roughly $3 billion worth of projects. In an update to its air-conditioning plan published in May, the district said its buildings overall were the oldest of any school district in the state and “numerous buildings need significant system upgrades or complete replacement.”

In 2016, Hogan threatened to withhold millions of dollars in school construction funding, calling on officials to come up with a plan to install air conditioning in the schools.

The school district said in its May plan that it developed a plan in 2017 to ensure all buildings in its district would have air-conditioning by the 2022-2023 school year, but it added that completion by that time was no longer possible given available funding.

In a previous statement, the Baltimore Teachers Union said the early dismissals did not come as a surprise.

“Our scholars continue to suffer academically because their instructional time is interrupted due to these extreme conditions,” Diamonté Brown, president of the union, said. “While the district works to find and implement a resolution for this ongoing problem, we, as a community, must continue to develop creative and innovative solutions … to help our educators provide our scholars with a classroom environment that is conducive for learning.”

The union collected hundreds of fans for teachers to use in overheated classrooms.

The union and Baltimore City Public Schools did not respond to immediate request for comment Monday.

Amber Guyger was on phone with partner before shooting neighbor, prosecutor reveals

5 0 23 Sep 2019

Texas prosecutors Monday made their case that former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger’s cellphone records, web searches and text messages on the night she fatally shot her neighbor should be admissible during her murder trial.

Jason Hermus, the lead prosecutor for Dallas County, argued ahead of opening statements that such evidence goes “to show her state of mind,” and that she was not paying attention when she arrived at her apartment complex Sept. 6, 2018, got off on the wrong floor of the parking deck and then mistakenly entered the home of Botham Jean, 26, whom she said she mistook for a burglar.

Hermus also revealed that the texts show that Guyger, 31, had been having a sexual relationship with Martin Rivera, her partner on the Dallas police force, and that she was on the phone with him as she drove into the parking garage and just prior to shooting Jean.

In addition, prosecutors said, Guyger sent Rivera a sexually suggestive Snapchat message during the night of the shooting that said, “Wanna touch?” and that they had plans to meet up later.

Guyger’s defense team told state District Judge Tammy Kemp that the text messages and other information from her phone don’t speak to her mindset, and have maintained that she was still fatigued from work.

Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, center, arrives for the first day of her murder trial in Dallas on Sept. 23, 2019.Tom Fox / Dallas Morning News via AP

Kemp ruled the jury can hear about the text messages at trial, which opened Monday with the jury being seated and both sides making opening statements.

Legal experts previously told NBC News the prosecution will likely focus at trial on Guyger’s mental state on the night of the shooting and that she had the ability to prevent the deadly chain of events.

Her defense team, meanwhile, could argue that Jean’s death was a mistake with no criminal intent behind it.

A “mistake of fact” defense is enshrined under Texas law and will hinge on convincing the jury that Guyger made a reasonable error when she believed she was killing an intruder in her own home and exercising her right of self-defense.

Botham JeanHarding University

The case against Guyger, who was fired from the Dallas Police Department in the weeks after the shooting, has become one of the most anticipated murder trials in the city in decades. The shooting involving Jean, an accountant originally from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, has reignited conversations about racial bias, police use of force and concerns that law-abiding citizens are not safe even in their own homes.

Guyger is white and Jean was black. She was off duty but in uniform when she entered his apartment and fired her service weapon twice. She later told investigators that she had confused his apartment for hers and believed he was an intruder when she saw a “large silhouette” in the darkness.

Guyger said she tried to use her electronic key fob to open the door, but that it pushed open.

A gag order has been in place among the attorneys since January, so the trial is expected to illuminate long unanswered questions about what Guyger was doing before she returned home, how long she had been working and how she could not have realized she was at the wrong apartment.

Jean’s unit had a red floor mat outside the front door, while Guyger’s did not, prosecutors said.

Guyger faces a maximum of life in prison if found guilty of murder.

During the pretrial motions, Kemp said she would keep the jury sequestered for the duration of the trial. She also chastised someone in the courtroom who had defied her earlier instructions against the use of electronic devices.

“Our goal and objective here is a fair and impartial trial,” she said.

Trump suggests he tied Ukraine funding to corruption, cites Biden allegations

5 0 23 Sep 2019

President Donald Trump on Monday defended his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling it a “perfect” discussion, while suggesting he had tied vital funding for Ukraine to that country’s handling of corruption — which he has alleged Vice President Joe Biden’s family was engaged in there.

“We want to make sure that country is honest. It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?” Trump told reporters when asked what he had spoken about with Ukraine’s new president in a July phone call.

“It’s very important that, on occasion, you speak to somebody about corruption,” he said, moments after telling reporters: “Let me just tell you — let me just tell you. What Biden did was wrong.”

Trump’s conversation with Zelensky has come under sharp scrutiny following a whistleblower complaint by a member of the U.S. intelligence community that multiple outlets reported was tied to the summer call between the two leaders.

The Wall Street Journal and others have reported that Trump pressed the new Ukrainian leader to investigate the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter in Ukraine, and whether they affected the former vice president’s diplomatic efforts. For months, Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani have sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden, one of the president’s leading challengers in 2020.

Giuliani told Fox Business on Monday that he couldn’t be “100 percent” certain the president didn’t threaten to cut off military aid to Ukraine during the July phone with Zelensky.

“Did the president threaten to cut off aid to the Ukraine?” Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo asked Giuliani.

“No, no, that was a false story,” he responded.

“One hundred percent?” she replied.

“Well, I can’t tell you if it’s 100 percent,” Giuliani said.

Because the phone call occurred while Ukraine was awaiting military aid from the U.S., critics have raised the possibility Trump was attempting a quid pro quo arrangement.

In the weeks before the whistleblower complaint became public, the Trump administration froze $250 million in military aid to Ukraine for unclear reasons. Then, just before Democrats revealed the existence of the whistleblower complaint, the administration released the hold on Ukrainian military aid and pitched in an additional $140 million.

The controversy has sparked a new round of calls for impeachment by Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday assailed the Trump administration’s efforts to block a whistleblower complaint involving Trump’s apparent effort to have Ukraine investigate Biden and Hunter Biden’s role at a Ukrainian energy company. family.

In a letter to colleagues, Pelosi said the administration “will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation” if acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire fails to provide the complaint when he testifies in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. The complaint reportedly centers around Trump’s July conversation with Zelensky.

“It’s just a Democrat witch hunt,” Trump said on Monday. “Here we go again.”

Speaking to reporters Sunday morning, Trump denied anything improper but said he did discuss Biden with Zelensky in the July 25 phone call.

“No quid pro quo, there was nothing,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn. “It was a perfect conversation.”

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating the corruption already in the Ukraine, and Ukraine has got a lot of problems,” he added.

Speaking to reporters later on Sunday in Texas, Trump said, “I know when I give pressure.”

On Saturday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said he didn’t think Trump pressured Zelensky during the phone call. Trump and Zelensky are set to meet face to face on Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

Trump and Giuliani’s monthslong effort to get Ukraine to further investigate Biden and his son — an effort aided by the State Department — centers on Biden’s 2016 call, widely backed by the international community, for Ukraine to crack down on corruption. That included a call to remove a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was seen as ineffective and was later removed by the country’s Parliament. One of the cases that Shokin was investigating involved Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company, whose board at the time included Biden’s son.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. The then-Ukrainian prosecutor general told the news agency he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son. PolitiFact, meanwhile, reported it found no evidence to “support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind.”

Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands bracing for Tropical Storm Karen

3 0 23 Sep 2019

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands braced for Tuesday’s expected arrival of Tropical Storm Karen and its accompanying torrential rains and dangerous flooding, officials said.

The National Weather Service, in an advisory posted late Monday morning, said the region will experience “major rainfall” with flooding that “may prompt many evacuations and rescues” starting Tuesday morning.

Rain totaling 2 inches to 6 inches is expected along with winds up to 40 mph in eastern Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, forecasters said.

“Rivers and tributaries may rapidly overflow their banks in multiple places. Small streams, creeks, canals, arroyos, and ditches may become dangerous rivers,” according to the advisory. “Flood waters can enter many structures within multiple communities, some structures becoming uninhabitable or washed away.”

The agency warned residents on Monday to seek higher ground.

“Many places where flood waters may cover escape routes. Streets and parking lots become rivers of moving water with underpasses submerged,” the weather service said. “Driving conditions become dangerous. Many road and bridge closures with some weakened or washed out.”

As Karen moves north, it’s not expected to make any radical western turns and could spare Florida.