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With Iowa on the line, Biden bets on what he doesnt believe

62 0 31 Jan 2020

WAUKEE, Iowa — Voters usually want to know what a presidential candidate believes. Joe Biden is defining himself to Iowa caucus-goers by what he doesn’t believe.

“I do not believe we’re the dark, angry nation that Donald Trump sees in his tweets,” the former vice president said as he unveiled his stretch-run pitch in a school gym here Thursday morning.

“I don’t believe we’re the nation that rips babies from the arms of their mothers and thinks that’s OK. I don’t believe we’re the nation that builds walls and whips up hysteria about an invasion of immigrants that’s going to do terrible things to us. I do not believe we’re the nation that embraces white supremacists and hatred, as he has done.”

Finding himself at an unusual crossroad — the leading contender for the Democratic nomination in national polling but at risk of being hobbled by poor showings here Monday and in New Hampshire on Feb. 11 — Biden chose the day the president arrived for a rally in Des Moines to fully drape his candidacy in the theme that has more subtly animated him since he entered the race in April.

Biden is running as the antidote to Trump — no less and little more.

The elixir is one part political campaign and one part social movement, a mix that presents him as the singular vehicle for arresting the cultural destruction most Democrats and at least a few Republicans think Trump has wreaked on the country. The label Biden put on it Thursday — “character” — is a contrast point that might give him room both to beat up on Trump and to present himself as a unifier, because some Republicans believe that’s a trait that is deficient in the president.

Biden is not trying to sell caucus-goers or Democrats in other states on a grand vision, even though his party’s progressive wing has demonstrated new strength since he left the vice presidency three years ago. He’s betting he can win the nomination and the general election mostly by harnessing the force of a backlash against Trump.

“I don’t believe we’re a nation that bows down to Vladimir Putin, and I will not,” Biden said. “I do not believe we’re a nation that sees a free press as the ‘enemy of the people’ — justifies — legally justified inquiries as ‘witch hunts,’ congressional oversight as a ‘hoax.’ I don’t believe we’re a nation that says fulfilling your oath of office is an option, an option. And I don’t believe we’re a nation that, in fact, looks at the Constitution and thinks it’s OK to be laughed at, mocked or ignored.”

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In all, there were eight lines that began with what Biden doesn’t believe.

In the closing days before Monday’s caucuses — the quadrennial human cattle call when Iowans gather at schools, community centers and churches across the state to publicly select their favored candidates — the leading contenders are all turning to more personal and less policy-heavy appeals. For Biden, that’s a sweet spot.

He likes to remind Democrats that he faithfully served President Barack Obama, who is still popular, for two terms as vice president. Their general affinity for him has served him well as a shield against questions about his politically awkward statements and changes in his views on policy, which include reversals on matters related to abortion rights, gay rights and criminal justice.

Conversely, his top rival in polling nationally and in Iowa, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., made himself iconic with a focus on policy. Sanders vowed to talk more about his own biography in this campaign, and he has at times, but it has been something of a struggle for a man who is uncomfortable talking about his personal life and perhaps wary of diluting his policy-heavy brand.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Waukee, Iowa, on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020.Sue Ogrocki / AP

On Thursday, Biden argued that policy doesn’t matter as much as personal virtue in this election.

“Health care, climate, guns, national security, education, student debt, women’s rights — all these issues and more are on the ballot,” Biden said. “But something else is on the ballot, something even more important. Character is on the ballot. America’s character.”

Those other issues — the ones that top rivals Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and even dark horse billionaire Michael Bloomberg say are urgent priorities that the next president must address — are secondary, Biden argued. He was saying not only that his character is superior to Trump’s, an assertion with which Democrats in the room and across the nation surely agree, but also implicitly that it’s the best in the primary field.

Biden also defined what he believes in: A “uniquely American code” defined by New York Times columnist David Brooks as “an invisible moral fabric that binds this nation together.”

That fabric, he said, is threaded with traits like honesty, decency and fairness.

Randy and Cathy Cory, retired West Des Moines residents who plan to caucus for Biden, said the former vice president’s contrast with Trump is exactly what they’re looking for.

“If you don’t have a strong character and a moral fiber, your policy positions are not going to reflect that, and we’ve seen that and we’ve lived with that for the last few years,” Cathy Cory, 65, said after attending Biden’s rally here. “I think [Biden] has plenty of policy positions out there.”

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Her husband agreed but said there’s a generational divide not only in the state but also in their family.

“Our son is 24. He’s all in on Bernie,” said Randy Cory, 62. “We have some spirited arguments in our house, about every time he comes over, because he’s very concerned about ‘Medicare for All,’ climate change, social issues. We are, too. We think Joe is very strong on those issues.”

For some Iowa caucus-goers, the character case is a convincing way for Biden to hammer Trump and portray himself as a unifying force at the same time.

“The focus today, yeah, what he was talking about was sort of the negative,” said Heather Wheeler, 64, a substitute teacher from Urbandale. “But Biden is the unifier. He can pull this country together.”

Her husband, Dennis, 69, said the contrast is why Biden can win in November.

“We have Republican friends who would support Biden,” he said. “They’re more moderate. They’re embarrassed by what’s going on.”

Brexit caps Nigel Farages unexpected rise, and the triumph of nationalism over liberalism

60 0 31 Jan 2020

When we first met, in the fall of 2000, Nigel Farage did not seem like the man whose ideas would cause a crisis in British politics, let alone a crisis that would send shock waves across Europe, the wider Western world and beyond.

But 20 years on, that’s exactly what he has done. He realizes his dream of taking Britain out of the European Union on Friday, cementing his status as a leading figure in the populist backlash against liberal values that now dominates much of Western politics.

If the U.S. had tried to export its values to Russia after the end of the Soviet Union, we now live in a time when the nationalist rhetoric of Putin seems to have the momentum.

That fall, I had just left Russia, where I had reported on the rise to power of the country’s new leader, Vladimir Putin. Like Farage back then, he was also largely an unknown quantity. Twenty years on, both have succeeded where liberalism has failed. They have done so by listening to those voices and views that believers in the unstoppable spread of liberal democracy forgot and by turning the anger of the ignored into a political force.

Farage had been elected to the European Parliament the year before our meeting as a representative of the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, dedicated to pushing the U.K. to leave the European Union. He seemed friendly enough; as a newcomer to politics, he wanted to build bridges with the media.

In our meeting, we spoke about how European institutions used public money, and he offered examples of where he felt cash was being wasted. He struck me as quite interesting in a provocative way — but generally pretty unremarkable. A staunch opponent of Britain’s participation in the euro (hard to imagine now, but such a move was being discussed then), he wore a lapel badge in the shape of a “£” sign. That aside, he seemed much like any other suit-wearing, conservative compatriot of the kind we Brits might occasionally encounter abroad.

I wasn’t the only one to miss his potential. After all, his ideas were fringe at best. The far right and the far left in British politics had always liked the idea of the country’s departure from the EU, albeit for different reasons. Those on the right viewed the EU as a set of shackles on British sovereignty and a drag on entrepreneurship. The far left was wary of its promotion of free market economics and suspicious of what it saw as a club of capitalists bent on undermining workers’ rights.

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But those ideas put them deeply at odds with most British voters. It wasn’t that those voters were necessarily passionate pro-European. Most people just seemed content with the status quo, so much so that in 2006, the Conservative Party leader and future prime minister David Cameron dismissed UKIP members as“fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists, mostly.”

Indeed, Farage has never won elected office in Britain. He has run seven times to become a member of Parliament and failed every time. Ironically, he has had considerably more success as a representative with the institution he has made a career out of loathing and against which — with Brexit — he struck such a blow: the European Union.

Perhaps I also didn’t anticipate his rise because it seemed so counter to the currents of history. Before I arrived in Western Europe from Moscow, I had spent long periods since 1991 reporting on Russia’s troubled transition from communism to capitalism and democracy.

When Putin, a former KGB officer, became president right before I left, his ascension was seen as a corrective to the chaos of his predecessor, Boris Yeltin. Many of us Westerners then in Moscow thought a Putin presidency would steady Russia’s course as the country moved toward a more Western political and economic system.

I remember watching the live feed from the Kremlin of his first presidential inauguration in May 2000. Given the massive changes that Russia had undergone in the previous 10 years, it was hard to imagine then that this quiet, calm new leader would still be there in 2020.

There was no hint then that Putin would come to clash with the West as he has. Moreover, there was no sense that his might be the side to prevail, that in 2019 he could plausibly argue in an interview with the Financial Times that liberalism had “become obsolete.”

Putin was helped by the shocks of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, followed by the subsequent military campaigns by the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then the financial crisis of 2008, all of which have played their part in shaping the world since 2000.

The financial crisis in particular undermined faith in liberal, capitalist democracy — the system that the West had tried to export to Russia after the Cold War. In the U.K., a perception that the pain following the financial crisis was not equally shared helped to fuel discontent with the system, discontent that had an opportunity to express itself in the 2016 referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

If the U.S. had tried to export its values to Russia after the end of the Soviet Union, we now live in a time when the nationalist rhetoric of Putin seems to have the momentum. Asked in 2014 to name the world leader he most admired, Farage named Putin. And nationalist movements are growing across Europe, from Italy to Austria to Hungary.

Most significantly, perhaps, this brand of politics has crossed the Atlantic. President Donald Trump reflects a Putin worldview in which liberalism is dead and each nation puts its own — often narrow — interests above all else. Watching Russia playing an ever greater and more assertive role on the world stage during Putin’s two decades at the summit of power, it’s not hard to imagine that his slogan might have been “Make Russia Great Again.”

And what is Brexit but a celebration of nationalism and a retreat from the view that a unified Europe could be a force for peace and prosperity (and, tacitly, serve as a counterforce to Russia)? Trump, it’s worth noting, is a friend and political ally of Farage’s, as well as a champion of British withdrawal from Europe. In November, Trump even called in to Farage’s radio show to offer his advice on solving the Brexit logjam.

That logjam is cleared, but the country remains divided. The mere act of marking the U.K.’s departure has become a matter of national debate. (At least for those who can summon the energy to care after four years of ill-tempered political confrontation.) Right-wing newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph are upset over the likely failure of a campaign to get Big Ben ready to chime (it’s being renovated) and the news that Farage won’t be allowed to launch fireworks in central London.

If there’s a lesson in the success of Putin’s and Farage’s rises from relative obscurity to massive influence — one that the pro-Europeans can adopt — it’s this: Be prepared to play the long game.

But fireworks or not, Farage has won, and the argument is most likely over for a generation. So if there’s a lesson in the success of Putin’s and Farage’s rises from relative obscurity to massive influence — one that the pro-Europeans can adopt — it’s this: Be prepared to play the long game.

Both men had an idea of where they wanted their countries to be and were willing to wait. Their methods differed. Part of Putin’s popularity has been built on military success, particularly in Crimea and Syria. Farage has relied on influencing the political debate to such an extent that a mainstream party — Britain’s governing Conservatives — adopted his project, taking it from the fringes to become official policy.

But an overwhelming majority of Britain’s young people voted to remain in the EU. Should they continue to think that way, Farage the great disrupter may find his own dream disrupted in the future.

What if theres a tie vote? Everything you need to know about witnesses and Trumps trial

52 0 31 Jan 2020

Ahead of the vote Friday afternoon on whether to call witnesses at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, GOP Senate leaders believe they will have just enough votes to block additional testimony and documents.

For witness testimony to be approved, four Republican senators would need to vote alongside all Democrats.

So far, only Mitt Romney of Utah has indicated that he will vote in favor of witnesses, and Susan Collins of Maine has said it is likely she will, too. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has hinted at an interest in hearing from witnesses but has not provided a strong indication of how she will vote.

Other Republicans who were Democratic targets have recently said they will not be voting with the Democrats. They include Cory Gardner of Colorado, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Steve Daines of Montana. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said it is “very, very unlikely” he will vote for witnesses, and Jerry Moran of Kansas is also unlikely to do so.

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A couple of GOP senators are leaning no at the moment: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rob Portman of Ohio. If Romney, Collins and Murkowski vote for witnesses, either Alexander or Portman would be crucial to Democrats in breaking a tie and getting the 51 votes needed for additional testimony.

In the event of a 50-50 tie, the vote is expected to fail, as Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, is highly unlikely to weigh in.

Speaking on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday, Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said a tie vote would be “tricky,” adding that’s “because there’s a question of how much sway the presiding officer would have over that dynamic.”

Braun said Roberts “could” decide to break the tie.

“And then, if 51 senators don’t like the decision, you could overrule the presiding officer,” he said. “So we are getting into some territory that’s probably uncharted here.”

Democrats have demanded that the Senate call a series of witnesses, including Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton and his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. This week, The New York Times reported that, according to a manuscript of Bolton’s coming book, Bolton alleges that Trump directly linked Ukrainian aid and the investigations of Democrats he was seeking in an August conversation. Trump has denied having such a discussion.

NBC News has not seen the manuscript or verified the claim.

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Should witnesses be approved, Republicans have pledged to call for testimony from people like former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment proceedings, among others.

Every impeachment trial in history has had witness testimony. Twenty-six witnesses testified in the 2010 trial of Judge Thomas Porteous, the most recent impeachment trial, including 17 who did not testify before the House.

Video appears to show Trump and indicted Giuliani associate at Florida club

54 0 31 Jan 2020

WASHINGTON — A newly public video recording appears to show President Donald Trump with Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, further calling into question Trump’s assertion that he doesn’t know Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman.

In a 37-minute recording that NBC News obtained from Parnas’ attorney, Parnas and Fruman are greeted warmly by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who appears to recognize Parnas.

“Yeah, we’ve met before, yeah, how are things?” McDaniel appears to say. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Although photos released by the House had previously placed Parnas at the fundraiser on April 20, 2018, the recording further illustrates the significant access Parnas and Fruman had to Trump, as well as other top Republican figures. The two Florida businessmen’s work with Giuliani, an attorney for the president, to advance Trump’s goal of getting Ukraine to investigate his political opponents is a key matter in the president’s impeachment trial.

Former Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who became entwined in Giuliani’s and Parnas’ campaign to oust Marie Yovanovitch as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was also at the event, according to the recording. Multiple senior U.S. law enforcement officials have previously told NBC News that Sessions is the “Congressman-1” mentioned in a criminal indictment charging Parnas and Fruman with campaign finance violations. Sessions lost re-election in 2018.

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“We win when we gather ourselves together around a common theme, and that is the president of the United States that wants to make America great again,” Sessions appears to say on the tape. “It’s the common denominator for every single member of Congress.”

Trump can be seen in the beginning and end of the video, which was recorded on a cellphone, including as he poses for a photo with Parnas, who flashes a thumbs-up for the camera. The cellphone was placed on a table with the camera facing the ceiling, so the speakers can only be heard and not seen during most of the video.

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The recording was released Thursday by Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Parnas, who traveled this week to Washington from New York to make his presence known during the impeachment trial as he continues to offer to testify. Bondy said the recording is not under a protective order as part of the criminal investigation of Parnas.

Trump has maintained that he doesn’t know Parnas and Fruman as he’s sought to distance himself from the two men and their work with Giuliani to dig up dirt on the president’s political opponents. He’s dismissed the many pictures of himself with the two Soviet-born men as snapshots like those he takes with thousands of people at campaign events.

But Parnas has insisted that the president is “lying” about not knowing exactly who they are, along with their involvement in the Ukraine matters. Another recording, which was released from a donor dinner less than two weeks after the event at Mar-a-Lago, appeared to show Parnas and Trump speaking at length about Ukraine and Yovanovitch, with Trump calling to “get rid of her” without delay.

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The latest recording offers a window into how Parnas, through generous donations to Republican candidates and committees, enjoyed substantial access to powerful figures in the Republican Party, including McDaniel, the chairwoman.

“On a given day, the chairwoman greets hundreds if not thousands of people at events across the country,” RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said. “This is nothing more than that.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also present at the Mar-a-Lago event were former White House official Johnny DeStefano, according to a place card visible in the video, and the prominent Republican lobbyist Brian Ballard, according to a reference Trump makes in the recording. Pam Bondi, a lawyer on Trump’s legal defense team in his impeachment trial, joined Ballard’s lobbying firm last year.

GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander, a key impeachment swing vote, says he will vote against witnesses

57 0 31 Jan 2020

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a key impeachment swing vote, announced Thursday that he will not join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, suggesting that there may not be enough GOP votes for the trial to advance to that next stage.

“I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the U.S. Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense,” he said on Twitter.

Alexander, who’s retiring from Congress at the end of the year, was among a small group of Republican senators who had hinted during the trial that they could vote to hear from witnesses who had firsthand knowledge of Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.

In a lengthy statement, Alexander also said Trump’s conduct on his July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was “inappropriate,” but he suggested that it was not an impeachable offense.

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” Alexander said.

“When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

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Alexander also appeared to adopt the argument made by the president’s defense team during the trial, calling the inquiry a “partisan impeachment.”

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“Even if the House charges were true, they do not meet the Constitution’s ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard for an impeachable offense,” he added, saying voters should decide at the ballot box.

During the trial, the president’s defense argued that the articles of impeachment are not valid because the standard for impeachment requires a crime and Trump was acting within his powers as the head of the executive branch. However, House managers rejected that argument, calling it an “a remarkable lowering of the bar” and saying it would give a president broad powers to do whatever he or she wanted.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, another Republican whom Democrats were eyeing for support, said late Thursday that she would support calling witnesses, however.

“I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity. Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed,” she said in a statement after the second day of senators’ questions wrapped up.

Four Republicans would have to vote alongside all Democrats for new witness testimony to be admitted. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah were also considered to be top targets for Democrats who want to hear new witness testimony and documentary evidence at the Senate trial.

Alexander privately huddled with Murkowski during Thursday’s dinner break, according to a senior Republican aide close to Alexander. The two lawmakers discussed where they are on witnesses but were not coordinating their final decision, the aide told NBC News.

Murkowski said late Thursday that she had not made a decision. After Thursday’s session adjourned, she told reporters: “I am going to go reflect on what I have heard, re-read my notes and decide whether I need to hear more.”

Former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney are among the figures Democrats have called on to testify.

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Alexander, who served two terms as governor of Tennessee before two unsuccessful runs for president, has a history of bipartisanship. He worked with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and a handful of other Democrats to make it easier for the Senate to confirm presidential nominees.

As chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Alexander worked closely with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking member, to advance sweeping education reforms.

Alexander asked his first question during the Senate trial Thursday, along with two other senators, in which he pressed the House managers to compare the bipartisanship of the impeachment proceedings against Trump and presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Nixon resigned in 1974 before he could formally be impeached.

“Specifically how bipartisan was the vote in the House of Representatives to authorize and direct the House Committees to begin formal impeachment inquiries for each of the three presidents?” Alexander asked, signaling possible frustration that the House vote against Trump was not bipartisan.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who served on the House Judiciary Committee staff during the proceedings that could have led to Nixon’s impeachment and was a member of the committee during the Clinton and Trump impeachments, said neither of the earlier processes was truly bipartisan.

“In the Nixon impeachment,we look back and we think about the vote on the House Judiciary Committee that ended up bipartisan, but it didn’t start that way,” she said. “When it came to the Clinton impeachment, that was, again — it started out along very partisan lines. And it ended along partisan lines.”

Frank Thorp V and Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed.

Ohio police deny special treatment for NFLs Kareem Hunt after drugs, alcohol found in car

57 0 31 Jan 2020

Ohio police denied giving special treatment to Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt after he was found with drugs and alcohol in his car during a traffic stop.

Hunt, 24, was pulled over on Jan. 21 for speeding when an officer said he smelled marijuana in the vehicle, according to a police report from Rocky River Police.

The officer told the running back that he would let Hunt go as long as he didn’t find anything in the car. Upon a search of the car, the officer found “small amounts” of marijuana and a bottle of vodka.

Hunt was still let go with only a speeding ticket.

Hunt was suspended from the NFL and then cut by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018 after a video surfaced of a him kicking a woman after he had pushed her to the ground.

The Browns signed Hunt a few months later, despite pushback from advocates against gender-based violence.

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“I’ve lost everything already, sir,” Hunt said in dashcam footage of the stop, seemingly referring to his suspension and dismissal from the Chiefs. “Just give me a traffic ticket please, yes, sir.”

The officer, Lt. George Lichman, denied giving Hunt any preferential treatment to NBC affiliate WKYC Wednesday.

“No, this is how we would do things for any other motorist that we stopped,” Lichman said.

Lichman told NBC News in a statement Thursday that the officer spoke “extensively” with Hunt and did not observe indications of impairment that would have led to a more severe action. The bottle of vodka in the car had been previously opened but was sealed and in a closed bag in the backseat, he said.

“Even if the officer cited Mr. Hunt for possession of marijuana and open container, both offenses are minor misdemeanors and not arrestable; the officer would have issued citations and released at the scene,” Lichman said.

He also cited a new Ohio law passed last year that allows the possession of hemp products that contain up to 0.3 percent THC, the substance within marijuana that produces a psychoactive reaction. Testing of any substance to show the percent of THC in a substance would come at a high cost for the police department, Lichman said.

“As a result, several cities in Ohio, including ours, have suspended citing people for possession of small amounts of marijuana,” Lichman said. “Our practice is to seize the suspected marijuana and enter it into evidence.”

Hunt apologized for his off-the-field behavior after the video of him kicking the woman surfaced and then again after he signed with the Browns last year. “I am committed to following the necessary steps to learn and to be a better and healthier person from this situation,” Hunt said then.

The league’s suspension kept Hunt out of the first eight games this season, and he played in the remaining eight.

Neither the NFL nor the Cleveland Browns immediately responded Thursday to a request for comment.

14 more U.S. troops diagnosed with brain injury following Iranian missile attack

65 0 31 Jan 2020

The Defense Department said Thursday that 14 more U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury since the Iranian missile attack targeting U.S. forces at two Iraqi bases this month, bringing the total number to 64.

More than half, 39, have been returned to duty. The Pentagon characterized all 64 as having been diagnosed with “mild traumatic brain injury.”

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can include concussions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new number is an increase from earlier this week, when the Pentagon said 50 had been diagnosed. CNN reported the increase earlier Thursday.

“We’ll continue to monitor them the rest of their lives, actually, and continue to provide whatever treatment is necessary,” said Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “And we take great pride in the fact that these are our own and we’re going to take care of them.”

Milley said thousands of people were at Ain al-Asad air base, which was one of the bases attacked, and that those within distance of the blast were evaluated.

“All of those people were screened, and we’ve got a certain number, and then the number’s growing,” he said, adding that traumatic brain injury can take time to manifest itself and that screening is continuing.

The injuries were diagnosed after the Jan. 8 Iranian ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the United States’ killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was commander of its elite Quds Force, in a drone operation outside Baghdad’s airport.

The damage at Ain al-Asad air base housing U.S. and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, Iraq, on Jan. 13, 2020.Ayman Henna / AFP – Getty Images

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Twenty-one of the U.S. service members have been transported to Germany for further evaluation and treatment for TBI, Army Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement Thursday.

Eight have returned to the U.S., and nine others are scheduled to return.

Two service members were awaiting transportation to Germany from Iraq, and two others who had been transported to Kuwait for reasons other than traumatic brain injury but have since been diagnosed with TBI are awaiting transportation to Germany, Campbell said.

No one was killed. The day after the Iranian attack, President Donald Trump said no one had been hurt.

The chief Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said last week that a lot of TBI symptoms develop late and manifest themselves over time.

Trump told reporters in Davos, Switzerland, last week that “I heard they had headaches” and that “I can report it is not very serious.”

“I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen,” he said.

The president added that “I’ve seen what Iran has done with their roadside bombs to our troops” and that “I’ve seen people that were horribly, horribly injured in that area, that war.”

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Trump’s remarks prompted William “Doc” Schmitz, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, to say that Trump minimized the troops’ injuries and that he expected an apology from the president.

“TBI is a serious injury and one that cannot be taken lightly. TBI is known to cause depression, memory loss, severe headaches, dizziness and fatigue — all injuries that come with both short- and long-term effects,” Schmitz said in a statement Friday. He called Trump’s comments misguided.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said: “DOD is a leading contributor in the treatment and research of brain-related trauma. We do everything we can to identify, treat and help our service members recover and return to duty.”

Campbell said Thursday that the Defense Department “remains committed to providing the American people timely and accurate information about the care and treatment of our service members.”

Two Iraqi bases were targeted, but the military statement Thursday said all of the cases resulted from the attack on Ain al-Asad.

The CDC says on its website that some symptoms of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries can appear right away but that other symptoms might not be noticed for days or months.

State Department warns against travel to China amid coronavirus outbreak

56 0 31 Jan 2020

The U.S. State Department on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to China amid a deadly coronavirus outbreak that has sickened thousands of people in the country.

The State Department in its “do not travel” advisory also says “those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means.”

It said non-essential U.S. government personnel should defer travel to China because of the outbreak.

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By the end of Thursday, there were 9,692 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in China, and 213 deaths.

Earlier this week, a plane evacuated 195 Americans from China. Those people are at a military base in Southern California for monitoring, and officials say they have shown no signs of the illness.

The virus has spread to 18 other countries, including the United States. But the vast majority of confirmed cases are in China.

The State Department on Jan. 23 ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members from Wuhan.

On Wednesday, it authorized the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the consulates general in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang.

The department said it was doing so out of an abundance of caution and also because of disruptions in travel and the availability of health care in China.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency.

Also Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a sixth person in the U.S. has been confirmed to have novel coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV.

It is the first detected case of person-to-person transmission of coronavirus in the U.S. and involved the husband of a previously diagnosed person. The two live together, and the wife traveled to China in December to care for her father in Wuhan, officials said.

The five previously confirmed cases all involved people who had recently traveled to Wuhan, the CDC said.

“We understand that this may be concerning, but based on what we know now, our assessment remains that the immediate risk to the American public is low,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said during a call with reporters earlier Thursday.

New video appears to show Trump and indicted Giuliani associate at Florida club

64 0 31 Jan 2020

WASHINGTON — A new video recording appears to show President Donald Trump with Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club, further calling into question Trump’s assertion that he doesn’t know Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman.

In a 37-minute recording obtained by NBC News from Parnas’s attorney, Parnas and Fruman are greeted warmly by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who appears to recognize Parnas.

“Yeah, we’ve met before, yeah, how are things?” McDaniel appears to say. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Although photos released by the House previously placed Parnas at the April 20, 2018 fundraiser, the recording further illustrates the significant access Parnas and Fruman had to Trump, as well as other top Republican figures. The two Florida businessmen’s work with Giuliani to try to advance Trump’s goal of getting Ukraine to investigate his political opponents is a key matter in the impeachment trial.

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Former Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who became entwined in Giuliani’s and Parnas’s campaign to oust former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, was also at the event, according to the recording. Multiple senior U.S. law enforcement officials previously told NBC News that Sessions is the “Congressman-1” mentioned in a criminal indictment of Parnas and Fruman on campaign finance charges. Sessions lost re-election in 2018.

“We win when we gather ourselves together around a common theme, and that is the president of the United States that wants to make America great again,” Sessions appears to say on the tape. “It’s the common denominator for every single member of Congress.”

Trump can be seen in the beginning and end of the video, taken on a cellphone, including as he poses for a photo with Parnas, who flashes a thumbs-up for the camera. The cellphone was placed on a table during the event with the camera facing the ceiling, so the speakers can only be heard and not seen during most of the video.

The recording was released Thursday by Joseph Bondy, an attorney for Parnas, who traveled this week to Washington from New York to make his presence known during the impeachment trial as he continues to offer to testify. Bondy said the recording is not under a protective order as part of the criminal probe into Parnas.

Trump has maintained that he doesn’t know Parnas and Fruman as he’s sought to distance himself from the two men and their work with Giuliani to dig up dirt on the president’s political opponents. He’s dismissed the many pictures of himself with the two Soviet-born men as snapshots he takes with thousands of people at campaign events.

But Parnas has insisted the president is “lying” about not knowing exactly who they are and their involvement in the Ukraine matters. Another recording that’s been released from a donor dinner less than two weeks after the event at Mar-a-Lago appeared to show Parnas and Trump speaking at length about Ukraine and Yovanovitch, with Trump calling to “get rid of her” without delay.

The latest recording offers a window into how Parnas, through generous donations to Republican candidates and committees, enjoyed substantial access to powerful figures in the Republican Party, including McDaniel, the chairwoman.

“On a given day, the chairwoman greets hundreds if not thousands of people at events across the country,” RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said of the recording. “This is nothing more than that.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also present at the Mar-a-Lago event were former White House official Johnny DeStefano, according to a place card visible in the video, and prominent Republican lobbyist Brian Ballard, according to a reference Trump makes in the recording. Pam Bondi, one of the attorneys on Trump’s legal defense team in the impeachment trial, joined Ballard’s lobbying firm last year.

Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo undergoes fourth surgery for rare disorder

49 0 30 Jan 2020

“Stranger Things” star Gaten Matarazzo underwent another surgery for cleidocranial dysplasia, a rare genetic disorder he was born with that affects the growth of his teeth and bones.

Matarazzo called the operation — his fourth — a “big one” but did not go into detail in an Instagram post on Wednesday.

The 17-year-old also urged his followers to learn more about the condition at the CCD Smiles website.

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Cleidocranial dysplasia, also known as CCD, affects one in 1 million children and can be passed from a parent or caused by a random mutation, according to CCD Smiles.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said common characters of the condition are dental abnormalities, underdeveloped or absent collarbones and delayed closing of the spaces between the skull bones. There isn’t a specific treatment for CCD, but it can be managed with dental work and surgeries to correct any bone deformities.

Matarazzo has been very open about living with the condition and said during a 2018 appearance on “The Doctors” that he was born without collarbones and has more teeth than the average person although they don’t grow in properly.

He said that early in his career, he lost roles because of his teeth and a lisp caused by the condition.

“That’s one of the biggest reasons why I haven’t been getting roles,” he said. “I would go three times a week up for auditions and just ‘No’ constantly.”

That changed when he was cast to play Dustin in “Stranger Things,” which debuted on Netflix in 2016. Matarazzo said the show’s creators Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, known professionally as the Duffer Brothers, asked if they could incorporate his condition into the show.

“I think what the Duffer brothers, the directors of the show, what they really wanted to do was they really wanted to make sure that each character in the show was unique and they had something that was realistic and personal,” Matarazzo said.