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Past US Headline News February 2019 Page 4

February 2019: Get the latest monthly headline news from multiple news sources and news links. Get real facts, real news from major news originations.  

Democrats and liberal groups on Friday pointed to a Supreme Court ruling in an abortion case to argue that Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, focusing their ire on Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who supported Kavanaugh’s nomination last year and faces a tough 2020 reelection. The outcry from the left follows the court’s 5-to-4 vote to block a restrictive Louisiana abortion law. The 2014 law, which has never been enforced, would effectively shutter most of the state’s abortion clinics by requiring physicians at those facilities to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. While Democrats hailed the decision, they pointed to Kavanaugh’s dissent as a sign that he is poised to side with conservatives in future rulings on abortion rights. In his dissent, Kavanaugh said there was a dispute about whether the physicians in the Louisiana case could obtain admitting privileges, and that a 45-day grace period would have provided time to settle that question.

For the second time so far this year, marijuana legislation in Congress has been officially designated with the bill number 420. It seems to be an obvious nod to the increasingly mainstream cannabis culture from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-OR) proposal, S.420, would deschedule marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), establish a federal excise tax on legal sales and create a system of permits for businesses to engage in cannabis commerce. Marijuana enthusiasts, of course, celebrate their favorite plant on April 20, also known as 4/20. “S. 420 may get some laughs, but what matters most is that it will get people talking about the serious need to end failed prohibition," Wyden said in an emailed statement. The new Senate bill, filed on Thursday, is far from the first time that the number 420 has officially been attached to cannabis legislation. Just last month, another federal lawmaker from Oregon, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), filed a congressional bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol, numbered H.R. 420. Also last month, Minnesota state lawmakers introduced a marijuana legalization bill designated as HF 420.

A second woman came forward Friday with claims that she had been sexually assaulted by Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax of Virginia, intensifying the weeklong political crisis in the state and leading some top fellow Democrats to call for Mr. Fairfax to resign. The woman, Meredith Watson, accused Mr. Fairfax of raping her while they were students at Duke University in 2000, saying in a statement that his actions were “premeditated and aggressive” and demanding that he resign immediately. Ms. Watson spoke out two days after Vanessa C. Tyson, a political science professor from California, said she was assaulted by Mr. Fairfax in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston. By Friday evening, Mr. Fairfax was facing a wave of calls for his resignation. Democrats in the Virginia House and Senate urged him to step down, saying he “could not longer fulfill his duties to the commonwealth.” Patrick Hope, a Democrat in the Virginia House, said he would introduce articles of impeachment against Mr. Fairfax on Monday if the lieutenant governor had not resigned by then. Mr. Fairfax, in a statement issued Friday evening, denied all of the allegations and called the latest one “demonstrably false.” He vowed he would not resign.

At his home on the misty slope of Costa Rica’s tallest mountain, Dario Angulo keeps a set of photographs from the years he tended the rolling fairways and clipped greens of a faraway American golf resort. Angulo learned to drive backhoes and bulldozers, carving water hazards and tee boxes out of former horse pastures in Bedminster, N.J., where a famous New Yorker was building a world-class course. Angulo earned $8 an hour, a fraction of what a state-licensed heavy equipment operator would make, with no benefits or overtime pay. But he stayed seven years on the grounds crew, saving enough for a small piece of land and some cattle back home. It’s a common story in this small town. Other former employees of President Trump’s company live nearby: men who once raked the sand traps and pushed mowers through thick heat on Trump’s prized golf property — the “Summer White House,” as aides have called it — where his daughter Ivanka got married and where he wants to build a family cemetery. “Many of us helped him get what he has today,” Angulo said. “This golf course was built by illegals.”

Despite his anti-immigration diatribes, Trump has employed dozens of undocumented workers at his New Jersey country club, The Washington Post reports. President Donald Trump has long employed undocumented workers at his New Jersey golf club despite his racist and anti-immigration policies and rhetoric, according to a new Washington Post investigation. The Post reported Friday it located more than a dozen workers in Costa Rica who said they were undocumented when they worked at Trump’s country club in Bedminster as groundskeepers, housekeepers and dishwashers. The former workers said their supervisors at the Trump club knew of their undocumented status, and some managers discussed obtaining fake documents. “This golf course was built by illegals,” Dario Angulo, who said he was an $8-an-hour grounds crew worker at Trump’s resort, told the newspaper. The former workers said dozens of other undocumented immigrants worked at the Bedminster resort, often following family members and friends there. Other undocumented workers came from El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala, among other Latin American countries, which Trump has regularly denigrated. A police report obtained by the Post through a public records request shows that as far back as 2011, officials informed Bedminster’s head of security about an undocumented worker’s false documents.

The battered US stock market enters the week’s final trading session with little hope of patching its previous-day wounds. Rather, trade war pessimism looks poised to deal further blows to the Dow and its peers, which are currently steeling themselves for major opening bell losses. The mood is slightly more positive in the cryptocurrency market where the bitcoin price has made a slight recovery. US-China Trade War Rattles Stock Market. On Friday, the US-China trade war continued to rattle the pre-bell futures markets. Most troubling was that US President Donald Trump confirmed that he would not meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the trade deal deadline on March 1. Previously, Trump said he would not sign a deal until he and Xi had ironed out several “difficult” sticking points between the two countries. Instead, Trump will focus his attention on preparing for a second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which will take place from February 27-28.

Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. allegedly told the Amazon CEO it would publish a “dick pic” and other private photos. David Pecker, the chief executive of American Media Inc., which publishes the tabloid National Enquirer, threatened to publish embarrassing photos of Jeff Bezos if he didn’t stop investigating Pecker’s company, according to the Amazon CEO. Bezos revealed the alleged threat, which was sent through AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard, in a blog post published to Medium on Thursday. In it, Bezos also claimed that an “AMI leader” told him that Pecker was “apoplectic” over an investigation the Amazon founder had launched into Pecker’s companies. “Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten,” Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, wrote. In the alleged letter to Bezos, Howard said its paper had obtained a “dick pic” of Bezos, as well as text messages and nine other images of Bezos and his mistress Lauren Sanchez. Bezos also published multiple emails, allegedly from AMI representatives, asking the Amazon CEO to release a public statement asserting that AMI’s reporting is not politically motivated. “Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption,” he continued. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”

Top Republican Party leaders on Wednesday began sensitive discussions over the scope of support the GOP can give now to President Trump's re-election campaign, amid talk of potential primary challenges, fresh evidence of sagging approval ratings and multiple ongoing government investigations. Members of a Republican National Committee (RNC) panel responsible for considering formal resolutions and changes to party rules on Wednesday affirmed their support for the president by passing a resolution offered by Oklahoma Committeewoman Carolyn McClarty that stated the party's "unequivocal support" of the president — a step that a president's own party has never before taken. But the ongoing special counsel investigation and intra-party squabbles could threaten Mr. Trump's standing as the presumptive nominee. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, former Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, and former Ohio Governor John Kasich have all been mentioned as potential challengers to Trump for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination — although none of the men have taken formal steps to begin a campaign.
(CNN Business) Jeff Bezos has told his side of the story. Now David Pecker is responding. Pecker, the head of American Media Inc., controls the National Enquirer. In a blockbuster blog post titled "No thank you, Mr. Pecker," Bezos on Thursday evening accused Pecker of an "extortion and blackmail" attempt. American Media said in a statement on Friday morning that the company "believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos." "Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him," the company said. "Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary." The company did not immediately elaborate on what the four-man board will be doing. Pecker is one of the board members.

Conservative political commentator and author Jerome Corsi has sued Roger Stone, claiming his former associate had waged a campaign against him to ultimately bring on a heart attack that would prevent Corsi from testifying at Stone’s upcoming trial. According to the lawsuit, obtained by the Washington Examiner, Corsi, 72, seeks $25 million in damages, accusing President Donald Trump’s former adviser of “defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault.” The suit claims that Stone, who was recently indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, carried out a campaign of threats against Corsi to cause him to “have heart attacks and strokes, in order that plaintiff will be unable to testify at Stone’s criminal trial.” The suit claims that as a result of Stone’s conduct, Corsi suffered “conscious pain, suffering, severe emotional distress and the fear of imminent serious bodily injury or death, and other mental and physical injuries.” The lawsuit alleges that Stone’s threats against Corsi stemmed from Stone's admiration for the Mafia. The suit claims that Stone liked to portray himself as a Mafia figure and frequently referred to “Mafia figures who he admires.” The documents cited Stone’s alleged threat to "take away" the dog of radio host Randy Credico as an example of his Mafia-style intimidation tactics. The suit also noted Stone’s admiration for other “unsavory types” alleged to have committed crimes, most notably former President Richard Nixon. Stone worked for Nixon’s re-election campaign and famously has a tattoo of the former president on his back. Stone has not responded to Newsweek's request for comment on Corsi's lawsuit.

The crimes reportedly under investigation—money laundering, fraud, conspiracy—could amount to a criminal enterprise. That’s how my team of prosecutors put away Detroit’s mayor. Referring to a cooperator as a “rat,” President Trump sometimes sounds like a mob boss. He may ultimately be prosecuted like one, too. While some reports say that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is winding down, it appears that another investigation is just gearing up. According to reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, a grand jury in the Southern District of New York recently issued a subpoena to the Trump inaugural committee, seeking documents relating to donors and spending. According to reports, the subpoena indicates that prosecutors are investigating conspiracy against the United States, false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and violations of campaign finance and inaugural committee laws. In addition, CNN has reported that federal prosecutors in Manhattan have expressed interest in interviewing executives from the Trump Organization. It is impossible to know exactly what the federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating, but the wide array of crimes brings to mind a case that was prosecuted in Detroit when I served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and several of his associates were convicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO. RICO is a statute that was passed in 1970 to prosecute organized crime. Until then, mob bosses would often insulate themselves from criminal exposure by directing underlings to commit crimes. In response, Congress enacted RICO, which, among other things, makes it a crime for any person associated with an enterprise to participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of the enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity. Pattern of racketeering activity is defined as two or more acts from a list of criminal offenses, such as mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, some of the very same crimes that SDNY prosecutors are reportedly now investigating. The penalties for violating RICO are heavy–up to 20 years in prison and forfeiture of the proceeds of the racketeering activity.

Federal prosecutors told a judge this week that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, might have lied to them about “an extremely sensitive issue” in hopes of increasing the chances that he would be pardoned for his crimes, according to a transcript of the hearing unsealed Thursday. The heavily redacted document leaves unclear what issue Mr. Manafort was being questioned about. Prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are accusing Mr. Manafort of lying to them repeatedly last year after he agreed to cooperate with their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race and the Trump campaign in exchange for a possibly lighter sentence. The discussion of whether Mr. Manafort could have been angling for a presidential pardon came during a closed session Monday in Federal District Court in Washington before Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Judge Jackson is exploring the prosecution’s claims that Mr. Manafort lied before she sentences Mr. Manafort for two felonies to which he pleaded guilty in her court. During the hearing, the prosecutors also detailed how they believed Mr. Manafort deceived them about his contacts with Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a longtime business partner in Ukraine who prosecutors say has contacts with Russian intelligence. One meeting between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik in New York after Mr. Trump had won the Republican presidential nomination “goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” said Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor on Mr. Mueller’s team. The prosecution’s statement about a potential pardon was misattributed in the transcript to a lawyer for Mr. Manafort, Richard Westling, but was actually made by Mr. Weissmann, according to a spokesman for the special counsel.

A global New York-based law firm has agreed to pay $4.6 million to settle a Justice Department investigation into whether its work for a Russia-aligned Ukrainian government violated lobbying laws. The investigation stems from work that the firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, did with Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman. The case overlaps with the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 election. As part of the settlement, the law firm agreed to register retroactively as a foreign agent for Ukraine in addition to paying the government $4.6 million, representing the money it earned from its work in Ukraine. The settlement between the firm and the Justice Department, which was made public on Thursday, is the latest indication that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry and related investigations are fundamentally challenging the lucrative but shadowy foreign-lobbying industry that has thrived in Washington. For decades, lobbyists and lawyers have collected millions of dollars to burnish the images of sometimes unsavory foreign interests in Congress and the news media, often skirting requirements that they disclose the work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The Justice Department, which is charged with enforcing the 80-year-old act, had largely turned a blind eye until Mr. Mueller began charging Mr. Trump’s associates, including Mr. Manafort, who had built a lucrative business advising Russia-aligned politicians and wealthy business executives in Ukraine.

The House speaker responded to Trump’s claim that he was the victim of “unlimited presidential harassment.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) succinctly summed up President Donald Trump’s ridiculed claim that looming investigations into his administration by the Democratic-controlled House were “unlimited presidential harassment.” Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she would not comment “on what the president has to say about our work.” Then she added:     “I always think that whatever the president says about us, he’s projecting his own unruliness. He’s a projector and that’s what it’s about.” Pelosi said that she was “very proud of the work of our committees” and that “even the Republicans have complimented the committees for being wise in how they proceed, in terms of subpoenas and the rest.” “We will not surrender our constitutional responsibilities for oversight. That would make us delinquent in our duties,” she added.

CNN's Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon discuss President Trump's tweet where he claimed President Obama never had to deal with scrutiny and oversight from Congress.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's office is alleging former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort continued work related to Ukraine after his 2017 indictment, according to a redacted transcript from Manafort's hearing with federal prosecutors on Monday. The hearing focused on whether Manafort breached his plea agreement by lying to investigators, including about his meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik, who is suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence. Prosecutors allege Manafort was talking about a redacted issue related to Ukraine as late as 2018. "This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the Special Counsel's Office is investigating," prosecutor Andrew Weissman said, according to the transcript, about Manafort continuing to work with Kilimnik on Ukrainian issues. Manafort's attorneys submitted a poorly redacted filing in January revealing Manafort shared polling data with Kilimnik during the campaign. In their response to Mueller claiming Manafort breached his plea deal, Manafort's attorneys inadvertently revealed the special counsel alleges Manafort "lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign." Manafort and Rick Gates, his former business associate, were indicted by a federal grand jury in late 2017. He was found guilty on five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to disclose his foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud, in August.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has accused Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, of continuing to try to minimize the conduct of an associate with alleged ties to Russian intelligence, even after Manafort agreed last year to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors, according to a newly released court transcript. The partially redacted transcript, of a lengthy hearing that took place behind closed doors on Monday, shows that Mueller’s team contended that when Manafort was debriefed by prosecutors and FBI agents, he seemed to be trying to avoid providing information that could be damaging to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian national who was deeply involved in Manafort’s political consulting work in Ukraine. “I think Mr. Manafort went out of his way in this instance … to not want to provide any evidence that could be used with respect to Mr. Kilimnik,” deputy special counsel Andrew Weissmann told U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson during the court session, which spanned more than four hours, including a lunch break. Prosecutors have accused Manafort of breaching his plea deal by repeatedly lying during debriefing sessions and during appearances before a grand jury late last year. Manafort’s attorneys say any misstatements were the result of confusion or foggy memory, rather than a deliberate effort to mislead.

Families of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims have won a series of victories in their defamation suits against the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that would open Mr. Jones’s business records to them and compel him to speak under oath. Ten families are pursuing lawsuits against Mr. Jones over his role in spreading bogus claims about the shooting, including that the victims’ families were actors in a plot to confiscate firearms from Americans. The families have endured death threats, stalking and online abuse. Mr. Jones, a far-right provocateur and the owner of Infowars, a radio show and website on which he sells diet supplements, survivalist gear and gun paraphernalia, has come under growing scrutiny over the past year and has lost access to much of his online audience. Facebook, Twitter, Apple and YouTube have all banned him, and a recent deal for his show to stream on Roku was revoked last month after public outrage.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the publisher of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc., attempted to extort him by threatening to release his intimate photos.

John Roberts joined the liberals to save the constitutional right to choose—for now.  On Thursday night, the Supreme Court blocked a stringent Louisiana abortion law by a 5–4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberals to keep the measure on hold. Roberts’ vote is surprising, but not a total shock: The Louisiana statute is a direct violation of the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, and until the court overturns that decision, the Louisiana law cannot take effect. To Roberts, this precedent matters. To Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it does not. Kavanaugh so disagreed with the majority that he wrote a dissent explaining why the Louisiana law should be allowed to move forward—an opinion that should not be taken as anything less than a declaration of war on Roe v. Wade. Thursday’s case, June Medical Services v. Gee, should be an easy one. It is a challenge to a Louisiana law that is nearly identical to the Texas statute invalidated in Whole Woman’s Health. Louisiana, like Texas, compelled its abortion providers to obtain surgical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. These privileges are often difficult if not impossible to obtain—hospitals can, and do, deny them because they oppose abortion. More importantly, they provide absolutely no medical benefit to women, as the Supreme Court ruled in Whole Woman’s Health. Because these measures impose a substantial burden on abortion providers (and their patients) while providing no benefit to women, the court found them to be unconstitutional.

Steven Mnuchin lauds the president's economic policies and takes a shot at what he sees as worrying socialist trends among lawmakers on the left. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday that President Donald Trump's economic plan is working, and he took a shot at what his party sees as a growing fascination with socialism among lawmakers on the left. "The U.S. economy is doing terrific," Mnuchin said from the White House. "And as the president talked about last night, his economic plan is working. We're not going back to socialism. We're going on an economic plan for America that works." "We don't believe in a centralized planned economy where the government puts restraints on it," he said in the "Squawk Box" interview. Mnuchin's comments came less than 24 hours after Trump's second State of the Union address to Congress. The president reiterated the importance of bipartisanship and called upon lawmakers to end "decades of political stalemate" by making progress on his political priorities like immigration, infrastructure and economic growth.

Jeff Bezos has accused the National Enquirer of extortion. The Amazon CEO published a personal blog post Thursday claiming the publication has threatened to publish his nude photos if he didn't stop questioning the company's motives. Bezos says the National Enquirer contacted his counsel this week claiming to have obtained intimate photos of him and Lauren Sanchez, the former news anchor he had been dating behind his wife's back. The National Enquirer was the first outlet to detail the affair and went so far as to publish explicit text messages between Bezos and Sanchez. The billionaire went on to launch a private investigation into the matter, attempting to find how exactly the tabloid obtained his private messages. There was also suspicion that the National Enquirer exposé was a politically motivated attack on Bezos. David Pecker, the CEO of National Enquirer's parent company American Media, is a longtime friend of President Donald Trump. Pecker previously admitted that in 2016 the publication paid ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 to ensure she did not publicize her alleged affair with then-candidate Trump. It's also important to note that Bezos has become one of Trump's most prominent adversaries. In 2015, Trump claimed the Bezos-owned Washington Post was a "scam" that was used to keep Amazon afloat. The president has also referred to Bezos as "Jeff Bozo" and has mocked the businessman's pending divorce.

The federal indictment in South Dakota alleges that he ran a criminal scheme from 1996 to 2018 using a chain of assisted living homes. Paul Erickson, the American political operative and boyfriend of admitted Russian agent Maria Butina, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in South Dakota on charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota is handling the prosecution, which is separate from the case that was lodged against Butina in Washington, D.C. Erickson, 56, was arrested on Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty at an arraignment, according to the court filings. His attorney, Clint Sargent, said in a statement: “Mr. Erickson is anxious to let the criminal justice process play out and believes a story different from the Government’s will emerge.” The indictment alleges that Erickson ran a criminal scheme from 1996 to 2018 using a chain of assisted living homes called Compass Care. Erickson also allegedly defrauded investors through a company called Investing with Dignity that claimed to be “in the business of developing a wheelchair that allowed people to go to the bathroom without being lifted out of the wheelchair.” The indictment says he also ran a fraudulent scheme that claimed to be building homes in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

"If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation," Trump said, to murmurs of disapproval from many Democrats in the House chamber. The message was simple: If you like the current run of economic prosperity and (relative) peace in the world, then you had better end the special counsel investigation being run by Robert Mueller and stop before you start any congressional investigations. If you don't, bad -- if amorphous -- things will happen to the country. That threat didn't hold for 12 hours. By Wednesday morning, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (California) announced he was launching a wide-ranging inquiry into Trump's finances and whether financial considerations were driving decisions made by the administration.

President Trump called Democratic investigations into his administration and business “ridiculous” and “presidential harassment.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in turn accused the president of delivering an “all-out threat” to lawmakers sworn to provide a check and balance on his power. The oversight wars officially kicked into high gear this week as House Democrats began investigating the Trump administration in earnest. With Thursday hearings scheduled on presidential tax returns and family separations at the Mexican border, and a Friday session to question acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, the lights are about to shine brightly on a president who has, until now, faced little examination from a Republican Congress. But Democrats are moving carefully after spending weeks forming their committees, hiring staff and laying the groundwork for coming probes — mindful that Trump is eager to turn their investigations into a political boomerang as his critics demand swift action to uncover various alleged misdeeds.

President Donald Trump pledged in his State of the Union address to “defeat AIDS in America and beyond” over the next decade. But over the past two years his administration has repeatedly attempted to slash the budgets of critical federal programs available to the 1.1 million people in the U.S. living with HIV and the nearly 20 million people living with the virus in sub-Saharan Africa. “My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years,” the president told Congress — the same body that has twice rejected his proposed budget cuts to HIV programs — Tuesday night. While details of the Trump administration’s proposal are scant — he dedicated only a few minutes to it in the nearly 90-minute speech — officials told the New York Times on Tuesday that it will focus on 48 counties that account for about half of the 40,000 new HIV infections that occur each year. These are primarily communities of color in the rural South and urban areas including Los Angeles, Miami, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

First, it was Virginia's governor. Then, the lieutenant governor. Now the state attorney general. The top three leaders in the state are all facing scandal. Attorney General Mark Herring admitted Wednesday he once wore blackface at a college party. Virginia Democratic lawmakers were in no mood to discuss the latest scandal to rock Richmond. As an undergraduate in 1980, he said in a statement, he and friends went to a party as rappers. "We dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup," Herring said. "I have a glaring example from my past that I have thought about with deep regret in the many years since." When word reached the statehouse, there were audible gasps and expletives from staffers.

Federal prosecutors subpoena Trump inaugural records - Alex Johnson, Tom Winter, Monica Alba
Investigators want documents related to inaugural committee donors and vendors, The Wall Street Journal reported. Federal prosecutors have issued a subpoena for documents from President Donald Trump's inaugural committee, a representative of the committee said Monday night. The U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York is investigating allegations that the committee misspent some of the tens of millions it raised from donations and that some donors gave money in exchange for access to influence Trump administration policy positions. "We have just received a subpoena for documents," the committee representative told NBC News. "While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry." The subpoena was first reported by ABC News. A representative of the U.S. attorney's office wouldn't comment Monday night. The Wall Street Journal, which said it had reviewed a copy, reported that the subpoena doesn't mention Tom Barrack Jr., the head of the committee. Barrack, a prominent real estate developer and longtime friend of the president's, was interviewed by investigators from the office of special counsel Robert Mueller as part of Mueller's investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Axios’ Alexi McCammond, LA Times’ Eli Stokols, The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff, Real Clear Politics’ A.B. Stoddard, and WaPo’s Phil Rucker on the explosive report examining Trump’s ‘executive time,’ and how the leak of his schedules has shaken the White House.

According to a report from Axios, President Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time during working hours as unstructured "executive time." CNN's Jim Acosta reports.

President Trump has spent about 60 percent of his time over the past three months in "Executive Time," according to leaked schedules obtained by Axios. A source told Axios that Trump typically spends the first five hours of his day in his residency. There he is understood to be watching television, reading newspapers and making phone calls to aides, lawmakers, friends, advisers and administration officials. "He's always calling people, talking to people," a senior White House official told Axios. "He's always up to something; it's just not what you would consider typical structure." Trump's first meeting of the day typically doesn't come until 11 or 11:30 a.m. and is typically an intelligence briefing or a half-hour meeting with his chief of staff, a schedule Axios also reported last year. Trump has been criticized for his use of "Executive Time" in the past, including by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

Just a decade ago, the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V. — who was a former KKK official in his younger days and apologized for that later in his political career — endorsed Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and was a member in good standing with the Democratic Party. Five years ago, the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, which was signed into law by a Democratic president with a complicated personal history of talking about race. But, after nearly the entire Democratic Party called for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after a 35-year-old racist yearbook picture of him surfaced (he denies being in the picture) and after he admitted to darkening his skin to look like Michael Jackson at an old dance contest, the party is united in demonstrating that it has zero tolerance for any past racist behavior from its politicians. Much of the reason: the current occupant of the White House, who led the “birther” crusade against Obama, referred to Haiti and African nations as “s---hole” countries, blamed "both sides" for what happened in Charlottesville, and tweeted that LeBron James was dumb (remember that?).

Last week the U.S. Department of Justice charged Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. The newly reported third investigation similarly deals with trade secrets, but carries the added weight of federal regulations around technologies with the potential for use in defense. The report sheds light on how far Huawei is willing to go for a competitive edge, and on the extent of FBI fact-finding operations involved in these investigations. The FBI raided a Huawei lab in San Diego and set up a sting operation at CES in Las Vegas in January as part of a third investigation into the smartphone maker, according to a new report by Bloomberg Businessweek. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, with an alleged violation of sanctions against Iran. It also charged Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile. The newly reported third investigation similarly deals with trade secrets, but carries the added weight of federal regulations around technologies with the potential for use in defense. It also sheds light on how far Huawei is willing to go for a competitive edge, and on the extent of FBI fact-finding operations involved in these investigations.

Trump's campaign launches a state-by-state effort to prevent an intraparty fight ahead of convention. Worried about a potential Republican primary challenge, President Donald Trump's campaign has launched a state-by-state effort to prevent an intraparty fight that could spill over into the general-election campaign. The nascent initiative has been an intense focus in recent weeks and includes taking steps to change state party rules, crowd out potential rivals and quell any early signs of opposition that could embarrass the president. It is an acknowledgment that Trump, who effectively hijacked the Republican Party in 2016, hasn't completely cemented his grip on the GOP and, in any event, is not likely to coast to the 2020 GOP nomination without some form of opposition. While any primary challenge would almost certainly be unsuccessful, Trump aides are looking to prevent a repeat of the convention discord that highlighted the electoral weaknesses of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter in their failed re-election campaigns. To defend against that prospect, Trump's campaign has deployed what it calls an unprecedented effort to monitor and influence local party operations. It has used endorsements, lobbying and rule changes to increase the likelihood that only loyal Trump activists make it to the Republican nominating convention in August 2020. Bill Stepien, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, calls it all a "process of ensuring that the national convention is a television commercial for the president for an audience of 300 million and not an internal fight." One early success for Trump's campaign was in Massachusetts, where Trump backer and former state Rep. Jim Lyons last month defeated the candidate backed by Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, a Trump critic, to serve as the state party chairman.

Other racist photos found in Northam's medical school yearbook - Mallory Simon, Sara Sidner, Ralph Ellis
(CNN) During a free-wheeling press conference to address a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he wouldn't be surprised if other photos like that were found in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. On Sunday, CNN found more racist and objectionable images in the book. None of them appear to show Northam. Democrats from across the nation demanded Northam resign after a yearbook photo surfaced showing one person wearing blackface and another dressed in the Ku Klux Klan's signature white hood and robes. The photo appears on Northam's personal yearbook page among other photos of him from school. After first apologizing for appearing in the racist photo, Northam now says he wasn't in it and won't resign. In that same yearbook, CNN found the following images:  On page 10 of the yearbook, a photo shows a man dressed up like a woman in a lowcut white dress, pearls, a black wig and blackface. Next to the photo is the caption, "'Baby Love', who ever thought Diana Ross would make it to medical school" -- an apparent reference to the lead singer of the Supremes, a Motown singing group made up of three black women. A woman behind him is wearing a hat as if she is dressed like a witch. The photo is on a page full of photos of other student outings and parties. Later in the yearbook, in a section devoted to student personal pages, a photo of three men with their faces blackened wearing white dresses, white gloves, pearls and wigs appears. That photo appears on the page before Northam's personal page. It is surrounded by other photos of this student at school and has no captions. On page 34, the pharmacology page, a photo of a white man, not in blackface, shows him holding a coffee mug bearing the words, "We can't get fired! Slaves have to be sold. On page 10, there's also a photo of a man groping a mannequin with the words "I try never to divulge my true feelings while examining my patients."

In the midst of the ongoing controversy over a racist photograph on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page, a photograph of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) posing in front of a Confederate flag is making the rounds on social media. Lots of folks tweeting out this photo of @senatemajldr so I asked his office about it. The photograph of McConnell, which apparently shows the senator posing in front of a large Confederate flag, had previously surfaced in 2015, according to Snopes. The photo was allegedly taken at a Sons of Confederate Veterans event in the early ’90s. Following the revelation of the racist yearbook photograph, Democratic Gov. Northam has refused to step down despite facing mounting pressure to resign. The photograph in question shows one person apparently wearing blackface posing with a person dressed in KKK robes. The governor initially apologized on Friday for appearing in the photo, before denying that he was either figure in the photograph in a news conference on Saturday.

The new troops are expected to deploy in mid-February, an official told ABC News. Approximately 3,750 additional active duty U.S. troops are heading to the southern border in support of Customs and Border Protection, according to a statement released by the Department of Defense on Sunday. "That support includes a mobile surveillance capability through the end of September 2019, as well as the emplacement of approximately 150 miles of concertina wire between ports of entry," the statement said. (MORE: House Democrat reveals 3,500 additional US troops heading to southern border, slams Pentagon for lack of transparency). The new troops are expected to deploy in mid-February, a U.S. official told ABC News. There are already about 2,350 active duty troops along the border in Texas, Arizona and California. In the statement, the DOD said the total number of active duty forces would only rise to 4,350, meaning some of those currently deployed troops would return to their bases. There are also about 2,200 National Guard troops who have been serving on the southern border since last April.

The Pentagon’s inspector general opened a case against Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson in June. President Trump has tapped a senior Navy officer who he considered last year to be his Veterans Affairs secretary for promotion to two-star admiral and to be his chief medical adviser, even though there is still an open Pentagon investigation against him into allegations that derailed his VA secretary nomination. The White House sent Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson’s name for promotion consideration to the Senate on Jan. 15. He was serving as the president’s doctor last April when Trump nominated him for the VA post, and withdrew from consideration after accusations of mismanagement and misconduct as White House physician emerged. A spokesman for the Defense Department Inspector General’s Office, Bruce Anderson, said his office’s investigation into Jackson is still ongoing. The office, considered the Pentagon’s top watchdog, said in June that it had opened a case against Jackson, though it would not comment on the scope of it.

US president intensifies pressure on socialist leader Nicolas Maduro to hand over power to opposition leader Guaido. President Donald Trump has said deploying the US military to Venezuela is "an option". "Well, I don't want to say that. But certainly, it's something that's on the - it's an option," Trump said on CBS's Face the Nation programme on Sunday when asked if he would use the American forces during Venezuela's crisis. The US recognised Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president on January 23, and is leading an international campaign to drive Nicolas Maduro from office. Trump also said Maduro requested a meeting with him "a number of months ago" but he declined it. "I decided at the time 'no' because so many really horrible things have been happening in Venezuela," he said, citing the "poverty, anguish, and crime" in a country that was once one of the wealthiest in Latin America. Trump again praised Guaido describing him as "a young and energetic gentleman". "If you talk about democracy - it's really democracy in action... I think the process is playing out - very, very big tremendous protests."

Amid the ongoing debate over whether to fund President Donald Trump's border wall to the tune of $5.7 billion, experts and industry leaders say there's a far more effective technology — at a fraction of the price. Fiber-optic cables have been previously tested at the US-Mexico border, and can detect a range of intrusions — from animals, to people, to vehicles — and determine their exact location. One Texas lawmaker, Rep. Will Hurd, has been arguing for years that stretching a fiber optic cable "from sea to shining sea" would do far more to secure the border than physical barriers. Even though the technology has been around for years, and is ready to be deployed, the US government has been slow to adopt it.  Roughly 10 years ago, a bizarre parade of animals, people, and vehicles lined up in the middle of the Sonoran Desert to trot, walk, and drive over a 100-foot cable stretched out across the dirt by a team of scientists. By the University of Arizona researchers' accounts, the experiment was a resounding success, heralding a new frontier in border-security technology. A fiber-optic cable installed in the loose, sandy soil could tell precisely what was moving above it — be it a 200-pound man, a group of people concealed in a cloud of dust from a passing car, a wandering dog, or a pair of cantering horses. "At the time, there was a lot of interest from the federal government," Moe Momayez, an associate professor of mining and geological engineering, told INSIDER. "But like anything else, it just dies off."

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia had a fragile, defiant hold on power on Sunday as he and a quickly eroding coalition of allies rebuffed demands for his resignation after the revelation of a racist photograph on his medical school yearbook page. Mr. Northam’s hopes for political survival, Democratic and Republicans officials increasingly believe, are a mounting humiliation for the state, and risk his fellow Democrats’ policy ambitions and their aspirations for crucial state elections this year, when all 140 legislative seats will be at stake. “The question now is: Can you lead? Can you help us heal?” said Representative A. Donald McEachin, Democrat of Virginia, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Given the actions that he’s demonstrated over the past 48 hours, the answer’s clearly no.” Mr. Northam has offered shifting accounts — first, a Friday night apology “for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo,” which shows one person dressed in blackface and another as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, followed on Saturday by professed certainty that neither person in the photograph was him. His stance, and refusal to step down amid a torrent of pressure from his party, has fueled a crisis in Virginia that has rippled into national politics. “I tell the truth. I’m telling the truth today,” Mr. Northam said on Saturday at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, where he denied a role in the yearbook photograph but acknowledged that he had darkened his face with shoe polish for a Michael Jackson costume at a dance contest in 1984. But elected officials and strategists in both parties said they believed Mr. Northam was too far compromised to remain in office, his authority and power undercut gravely by his whiplash-inducing efforts to contain the fallout from the picture, which appeared on his page in the 1984 yearbook at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

In the midst of extreme cold weather in the U.S. on February 1, Russia’s main state media outlet RIA Novosti published an article headlined “The MSNBC host stated, that Russia may cut off the heating in the U.S. during the freeze.” Referring to a tweet by WikiLeaks, the Russian news agency accused Rachel Maddow of implying that the extremely low temperatures in the U.S. are “somehow tied with Moscow’s actions.” She did not. WikiLeaks’ tweet implied Maddow said: “Russia will freeze you and your family to death.” She did not.     U.S. largest audience TV host, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow (Democratic party aligned) this evening: Russia will freeze you and your family to death. pic.twitter.com/2KL4STsQpg. Here is what Maddow actually said: “What would happen if Russia killed the power in Fargo today? What would you do if you lost heat indefinitely as the act of a foreign power on the same day the temperature in your backyard matched the temperature in Antarctica?” The RIA Novosti article went on to describe Maddow as “known for her anti-Russian position,” and concluding that her questions were baseless and merely a fraction of the U.S. media's “ambiguous statements demonizing Russia.” RIA Novosti is wrong – the MSNBC host’s concerns are based on U.S. government warnings.

Responses remind him of his dad’s birther conspiracy, “s**thole countries” dig at black nations — and Rep. Steve King. An outraged Donald Trump Jr. insisted on Twitter Saturday that the GOP would never be allowed to get away with the kind of racist scandal engulfing Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Then Twitter followers reminded him that his dad called black nations “shithole countries,” hailed Charlottesville protesters, including neo Nazis, as “very fine people,” and long pushed the “birther” lie that the nation’s only black president was born in Africa. Meanwhile, white nationalist GOP Iowa Rep. Steve King is serving his 16th year in Congress. (One Twitter response included a photo of President Donald Trump’s oldest son happily posing with King.) Leading Democrats have issued a crescendo of calls for Northam’s resignation following news that his medical school yearbook page included a photo of a man in black face posing with another in Ku Klux Klan garb. Northam initially apologized for the photo, but now insists neither figure, whose faces are hidden, was him. He did, however, confess that he once appeared in black face as Michael Jackson at a Halloween costume party. The startling explanation only triggered more demands for his resignation.

"He has lost the authority to lead. He's lost the authority to govern," Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va., told "Meet the Press." Top Congressional Black Caucus members said Sunday that Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam "has to resign" in the wake of his shifting explanations for a racist photo that appeared on his medical school yearbook page. Appearing on Sunday's "Meet the Press," Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the CBC and Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin said Northam's answers have only made the situation more untenable since the photo, which shows one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe, became public on Friday. "He has lost the authority to lead, he's lost the authority to govern. He has to resign," McEachin said. "It's in the best interest of the commonwealth, it's in the best interest of the party." Bass criticized Northam as "completely dishonest and disingenuous" and dismissed the idea that by staying in office, Northam is forcing a conversation on race. "He's forcing the wrong conversation. What he should do is resign, and if he has any integrity at all, he should participate in that conversation," she said. Their calls echoed Democratic figures across the country who have called for the governor to resign since the photo surfaced. The governor initially apologized "for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo" hours after the 1984 yearbook photos surfaced. But during a stunning Saturday press conference, Northam said that upon further reflection he realized he was not in the photo at all. He did admit that he once used shoe polish to darken his face while portraying Michael Jackson in a dance contest. Bass said that Northam's performance at the press conference only reinforced her belief he should resign.

Donald Trump Jr. will be indicted and used by special counsel Robert Mueller to ensnare his father President Donald Trump, a former prosecutor predicted. During a segment on MSNBC’s AM Joy on Saturday, Paul Butler, a former Department of Justice public corruption prosecutor, and host Joy Reid discussed the latest developments in Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign team and Moscow officials. “Does Mueller have to indict Trump in order to put the proper coda at the end of the long symphony?” Reid asked the ex-prosecutor. “Mueller is not going to indict Trump, because he’s going to follow the DOJ employee handbook, but he has leverage over the president in terms of Donald Trump, Jr.,” Butler explained. “We’ve seen Mueller use people’s kids to get to folks in the past. He could do this with Donald Trump, Jr.” He continued: “Trump, Jr. went into the Senate Intelligence Committee, took an oath to tell the truth, and lied his butt off.” “You think he will get indicted?” Reid asked. “If Roger Stone and Michael Cohen get indicted for lying to the Intelligence Committee and Donald, Jr. lied, then he gets indicted too,” Butler responded.

President Donald Trump's most recent public campaign against the US intelligence community has stunned current and former intelligence officials. "He's doing the enemy's job for them," one FBI agent told INSIDER. Another agent compared Trump's unwillingness to accept intelligence assessments that contradict his beliefs to the behavior of a toddler. "It's like when my son threw temper tantrums when I told him he couldn't do something or if I said something he didn't like. Of course, my son was three years old at the time and wasn't sitting in the Oval Office with the nuclear button," the second agent told INSIDER.  As a result of Trump's actions, intelligence officers are "more vulnerable to approaches by foreign intelligence services — and more vulnerable to accepting those approaches — than any other time in US history," Glenn Carle, a former CIA covert operative, told INSIDER. "For decades, the Soviet Union and, more recently, Russia, have denigrated the CIA and our intelligence professionals, attempting to delegitimize US intelligence in the process," another intelligence veteran, Ned Price, said. "Now our adversaries have a helper who sits in the Oval Office."  President Donald Trump's public insults against his top intelligence chiefs and apparent unwillingness to accept assessments that contradict his own beliefs pose a dire threat to US national security and create a goldmine for foreign intelligence services to exploit, current and former intelligence officials told INSIDER. Trump's latest attacks came after US intelligence leaders, including FBI director Chris Wray, CIA director Gina Haspel, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee at an annual hearing on Tuesday regarding the top global security threats facing the country. Trump grew enraged when, among other things, the officials testified that while Iran is still a global threat, it is complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an international deal the Obama administration spearheaded that's designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Don Lemon to Trump supporters: 'It can't just be about what you want it to be about'. CNN’s Chris Cuomo says a Bay Area restaurant owner’s decision not to serve customers in “Make America Great Again” hats makes sense since it might be interpreted as “I hate black people.” J. Kenji López-Alt, the chef-partner of Wursthall just outside San Francisco, made national headlines when he recently declared his policy on social media and described the iconic red hats as no different than “a swastika, white hood, or any other symbol of intolerance and hate.” Mr. Cuomo and his colleague Don Lemon found that position legally and ethically defensible Thursday evening on “CNN Tonight.” “How is this any different than the baker [who refuses to make a gay wedding cake on religious grounds]?” Mr. Cuomo hypothetically asked. “I don’t want to fall into the trap of underselling the significance of the trigger of the expression to people. I think the more appropriate analogy to say is if people were wearing shirts that say ‘I hate black people,’ would he be OK to say, ‘Don’t come into my place with that?’ And I think most people would be like, ‘Yeah.’ … Does that make it OK? I think that’s the right question.” “Your clothing tells a story about who you are, what you think about, and what you represent,” Mr. Lemon added. “Maybe that hat means the Central Park five to people, maybe it means birtherism to people, maybe it means Mexicans are rapists to people. And so you cannot erase those things from the story of that hat and say, ‘I’m just wearing it because I want stronger immigration.’ … It can’t just be about what you want it to be about.’”

Ralph Northam was on Friday night resisting growing calls from fellow Democrats as well as Republicans for him to step down. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam apologized Friday for appearing in a racially offensive photo on his medical school yearbook page that featured men in blackface and Ku Klux Klan robes. But a growing number of fellow Democrats and Republicans called on him to resign. "Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive," Northam said in a statement. "I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now." He added, "This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. "I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor." Five Democrats who have announced 2020 presidential runs or said they would form exploratory committees — Julián Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — said Northam should resign.

Joe Biden, weighing a 2020 White House bid, once advocated continued school segregation in the United States, arguing that it benefited minorities and that integration would prevent black people from embracing “their own identity.” Biden was speaking in 1975, when he opposed the federally mandated busing policy designed to end segregation in schools. In the past few decades, he has claimed he wanted desegregation but believed the policy of busing would not achieve it. Last year, he stated he had voted heroically to protect busing. In 2008, after being chosen as Barack Obama's vice-presidential running mate he said: "The struggle for civil rights was the animating political element of my life." He appears poised to make his civil rights record a centerpiece of any campaign, telling an audience in Fort Lauderdale this week that "I came out of the civil rights movement. He added that he first became aware of what an "awful thing" segregation was as a third grader, when he asked his mother why a bus was taking black children to a school away from where they lived. But 44 years ago, facing a backlash against busing from white voters, the future vice president voiced concerns not just about the policy of busing, which he had supported when first seeking election in 1972, but about the impact of desegregation on American society. He argued that segregation was good for blacks and was what they wanted. “I think the concept of busing … that we are going to integrate people so that they all have the same access and they learn to grow up with one another and all the rest, is a rejection of the whole movement of black pride,” said Biden. Desegregation, he argued, was “a rejection of the entire black awareness concept, where black is beautiful, black culture should be studied; and the cultural awareness of the importance of their own identity, their own individuality.” Questioning whether he might be a racist, Biden said he had asked "the blacks on my staff" whether he harbored something "in me that’s deep-seated that I don’t know."

Robert Lighthizer, the United States Trade Representative who is leading high-level negotiations with China, acknowledged Thursday that President Trump’s announcement on Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans was a “surprise.” Trump had told reporters in the Oval Office a short time before that China agreed to purchase 5 million tons of soybeans from the U.S., adding “that’s going to make our farmers very happy. That’s a lot of soybeans,” according to pool reports. Speaking to reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Lighthizer said this “was a surprise announcement in the sense that I didn’t know about it until a very short time before.” High level trade talks between the U.S. and China were in their second day Thursday. Trump claimed there was a “good chance” of a deal being reached between the two sides. Trump also asserted Thursday, “I think that we have made tremendous progress. It doesn’t mean you have a deal, but I can say there is a tremendous relationship and warm feeling and we’ve made tremendous progress.” The United States and China are seeking agreement on contentious issues like forced transfers of technology and intellectual property rights. Such a deal that would likely bring an end to the trade war between the two nations. But the talks are proceeding under a self-imposed deadline.

Bureau spied on California activists, citing potential ‘conspiracy’ against the ‘rights’ of neo-Nazis. The FBI opened a “domestic terrorism” investigation into a civil rights group in California, labeling the activists “extremists” after they protested against neo-Nazis in 2016, new documents reveal. Federal authorities ran a surveillance operation on By Any Means Necessary (Bamn), spying on the leftist group’s movements in an inquiry that came after one of Bamn’s members was stabbed at the white supremacist rally, according to documents obtained by the Guardian. The FBI’s Bamn files reveal: The FBI investigated Bamn for potential “conspiracy” against the “rights” of the “Ku Klux Klan” and white supremacists. The FBI considered the KKK as victims and the leftist protesters as potential terror threats, and downplayed the threats of the Klan, writing: “The KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda.” The FBI’s monitoring included in-person surveillance, and the agency cited Bamn’s advocacy against “rape and sexual assault” and “police brutality” as evidence in the terrorism inquiry. The FBI’s 46-page report on Bamn, obtained by the government transparency non-profit Property of the People through a records request, presented an “astonishing” description of the KKK, said Mike German, a former FBI agent and far-right expert who reviewed the documents for the Guardian. The report ignored “100 years of Klan terrorism that has killed thousands of Americans and continues using violence right up to the present day”, German said. “This description of the KKK should be an embarrassment to FBI leadership.” Shanta Driver, Bamn’s national chair, criticized the investigation in a statement to the Guardian, saying, “The FBI’s interest in BAMN is part of a long-standing policy … Starting with their campaign to persecute and slander Dr. Martin Luther King, they have a racist history of targeting peaceful civil rights and anti-racist organizations, while doing nothing to prosecute the racists and fascists who attacked Dr. King and the movement he built.” The FBI’s insinuation that Bamn’s actions could provoke violence was odd, said German, the former FBI agent, who is now a Brennan Center fellow. He noted that it was white supremacists “who have used this tactic for decades” and said the violent provocations of rightwing groups were well known when he worked on domestic terrorism for the FBI in the 1990s. The Bamn report, he said, gave the “appearance of favoritism toward one of the oldest and most active terrorist groups in history”. He added that the report should have made clear that the “KKK consists of members who have a bloody history of racial and antisemitic violence and intimidation and is known for staging public spectacles for the specific purpose of inciting imminent violence”.

Donald Trump’s top aide did it inadvertently on Twitter. Kellyanne Conway inadvertently made a strong case for not building President Donald Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall on Thursday, according to dozens of Twitter users. The apparent self-own came as Conway, a White House counselor to the president, celebrated the largest seizure of fentanyl in the history of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency with this tweet: “Our border patrol is amazing,” Conway wrote, hailing the bust. “They deserve more respect, more resources.” However, the 250 pounds of the deadly drug in pill form was discovered inside a truck carrying cucumbers at a border checkpoint in Nogales, Arizona — and not in an unmanned area of the border, across which Trump wants to build a barrier. It was a distinction that many tweeters were quick to highlight to the presidential aide. Others also pointed out the fact to Trump:

The Roman Catholic Church in Texas on Thursday released the names of almost 300 priests who it said had been credibly accused of child sex abuse over nearly eight decades. The action was the latest in a wave of disclosures by the church as it faces a series of federal and state investigations into its handling of sexual misconduct. The names were posted online by all 15 of the state’s dioceses and followed the publication in August of a bombshell report on clerical sex abuse by the Pennsylvania attorney general that has spurred investigations of the church in more than a dozen other states. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement on Thursday that releasing the names of the accused was the right thing to do.

There were a lot of gasps and “Wow!” exclamations when the U.S. Labor Department announced Friday that the economy added 304,000 jobs in January. It’s a massive number of hires, and it occurred in a month when the federal government was partially shut down and hundreds of thousands of federal employees went without pay. Some of the best forecasters in the country had predicted job gains of about 170,000, a substantially lower figure. So how did this extremely good jobs report happen? Here’s a brief rundown on how the shutdown did and did not affect the January unemployment report.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has sent a letter to President Trump outlining potential cost reductions for the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan. The letter calls for a full review of the military partnership, including a possible troop drawdown, a senior Afghan official confirms to CBS News' "Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan. The letter does not, however, advocate for a major U.S. troop withdrawal, as ordered by Mr. Trump. The Pentagon was ordered late last year to start planning a major drawdown of roughly 7,000 troops in Afghanistan, about half of the current force deployed there, CBS News' David Martin reported. Mr. Trump campaigned on getting out of long-running wars in Syria and Afghanistan, the latter of which is now the longest-running war in which the U.S. military has ever been engaged.  It began with the U.S. invasion in October 2001, meaning children born after the war began can now enlist to serve. The president has insisted it's time to stop fighting the costly wars and to divert the money to infrastructure and other domestic needs in the U.S.

Trump administration to suspend nuclear treaty with Russia - By Morgan Chalfant and Rebecca Kheel
The Trump administration announced Friday that it would suspend its  obligations under a decades old Cold War arms control pact with Russia  on Saturday, citing Moscow's violations of the treaty. The  White House announced the decision to stop complying with the 1987  Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in a statement early  Friday, just before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the move in remarks from the State Department. “Russia has refused to take any step to return to real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days,” Pompeo said. “The  United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF  Treaty effective Feb. 2, and we will provide Russia and the other treaty  parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from  the INF Treaty effective in six months pursuant to Article 15 of the  treaty,” he continued. The U.S. has publicly accused  Russia of violating the treaty since 2014 during the Obama  administration by fielding a cruise missile known as the 9M729. The  agreement, signed by then-President Reagan and Soviet Union leader  Mikhail Gorbachev, bans nuclear and conventional ground-launched  ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500  kilometers.

Russia created a playbook for spreading disinformation on social media. Now the rest of the world is following it. Twitter said on Thursday that countries including Bangladesh and Venezuela had been using social media to disseminate government talking points, while Facebook detailed a broad Iranian disinformation campaign that touched on everything from the conflict in Syria to conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11 attacks. The campaigns tied to various governments — as well as privately held accounts in the United States — followed a pattern similar to Russian disinformation efforts before and after the 2016 presidential election. Millions of people were targeted by content designed to widen political and social divisions among Americans. The global spread of social media disinformation comes in a year when major elections are set to take place in countries including India and Ukraine. Last year, social media disinformation played a role in a number of campaigns, including the highly contested presidential election in Brazil. “Elections are coming up around the world, and our goal is to protect their integrity to the best of our ability and to take the learnings from each with us,” said Carlos Monje Jr., Twitter’s director of public policy in the United States and Canada, in a blog post.


A member of the Sackler family that owns OxyContin’s maker directed the company to put a premium on selling high dosages of its potentially addicting painkillers, according to new disclosures in a lawsuit. Richard Sackler, a son of a founder of Purdue Pharma and its onetime president, told company officials in 2008 to “measure our performance by Rx’s by strength, giving higher measures to higher strengths,” according to an email written by Mr. Sackler, contained in the filing. The lawsuit, which was filed in June by the Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, claims that Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family knew that putting patients on high dosages of OxyContin for long periods increased the risks of serious side effects, including addiction. Nonetheless, they promoted higher dosages because stronger pain pills brought the company and the Sacklers the most profit, the lawsuit has charged. A Purdue spokesman dismissed contentions in the lawsuit that the company promoted high-dose opioid use. “None of the documents cited by the attorney general support her fictional narrative that the company was only interested in promoting higher doses,” that spokesman, Robert Josephson, said.

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