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

By Julie K. Brown
Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest is reverberating in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party are calling for a criminal probe into former prime minister Ehud Barak’s personal and business ties with the accused sex trafficker, Israeli media is reporting. Barak, 77, served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001. This month he formed a new party to run for prime minister against Netanyahu, who called for new elections in September. Once political allies, Barak and Netanyahu have been sparring on social media, with Netanyahu producing a video raising Barak’s relationship to the multimillionaire New York financier, and Ohio billionaire Les Wexner, who has given money to Barak, the Times of Israel reported. Barak was a close friend and business partner with Epstein for years. Now some of those business partnerships are being scrutinized amid questions about Barak’s own source of wealth. The Times reported Saturday that Barak is exploring whether to sever business ties with Epstein, 66, who was charged last week with sex trafficking underage girls.

By Shannon Van Sant
Police say they are searching for the "person or persons" responsible for the death of Sadie Roberts-Joseph, a prominent community activist in Baton Rouge, La. and the founder of the city's African American history museum. Roberts-Joseph, who was 75, was discovered on Friday afternoon in the trunk of a car about three miles from her home. Police did not explain what led them to the car where they found her body. According to the Associated Press, investigators are waiting for a coroner to determine a cause of death. Roberts-Joseph was a respected civil rights leader in Baton Rouge. In 2001, she founded the Baton Rouge African-American History Museum, which according to its website, features exhibits of African art, and tells the stories of minority inventors. It also includes displays of historical artifacts from the civil rights era, including a 1963 bus used during the civil rights boycotts in Baton Rouge. Roberts-Joseph was also the founder of the non-profit organization Community Against Drugs and Violence, and each year, she organized a "Juneteenth Celebration," a commemoration of the emancipation of slaves in the American South.

By Devan Cole, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump used racist language on Sunday to attack progressive Democratic congresswomen, falsely implying they weren't natural-born American citizens. Trump did not name who he was attacking in Sunday's tirade but earlier this week he referenced New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when the President was defending House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A group of Democrats, who are women of color and have been outspoken about Trump's immigration policies, last week condemned the conditions of border detention facilities. The group of women joining Ocasio-Cortez were Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley are natural-born US citizens, while Omar was born in Somalia and immigrated to the US when she was young. Omar became a citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old, according to the New York Times. Trump implied in the series of tweets that the congresswomen weren't born in America and sarcastically suggested, "they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." Pelosi jumped to the defense of the congresswomen and condemned Trump's language. "When ⁦‪@realDonaldTrump⁩ tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to "Make America Great Again" has always been about making America white again," Pelosi tweeted. "Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power." New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the assistant speaker of the House, echoed Pelosi's sentiments on Twitter Sunday: "A racist tweet from a racist president."

President Donald Trump on Sunday called out progressive Democratic congresswomen in xenophobic terms, saying: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Trump‘s tweets were seemingly intended to exploit tensions with the House Democratic Caucus, though they drew a sharp rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been at odds with some of the most liberal members of her caucus. While the president didn’t mention them by name in his tweets, it appears he was attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a native of Somalia, and possibly Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), whose family is Palestinian. Both have been outspoken when it comes to Trump’s administration and the conditions of migrant detention centers on the border. “So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” the president wrote on Twitter.

Donald Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal to spite Barack Obama, according to a leaked memo written by the UK's former ambassador in the US. Sir Kim Darroch described the move as an act of "diplomatic vandalism", according to the Mail on Sunday. The paper says the memo was written after the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appealed to the US in 2018 to stick with the deal. The latest leak came despite the Met Police warning against publication. The first memos criticising President Trump's administration, which emerged a week ago, prompted a furious reaction from the US president and resulted in Sir Kim resigning from his role. What have we learnt from the latest leak? The Mail on Sunday reports that Sir Kim wrote to Mr Johnson informing him Republican President Trump appeared to be abandoning the nuclear deal for "personality reasons" - because the pact had been agreed by his Democrat predecessor, Barack Obama. Under the 2015 deal backed by the US and five other nations, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. However, President Trump said he did not think that the deal went far enough in curtailing Iran's nuclear ambitions and reinstated US sanctions after withdrawing from it in May 2018. In a tweet from June this year, the president also said he objected to Mr Obama having given Iran £1.8bn (£1.4bn) as part of the deal. Commentators later pointed out this was related to the settlement of an unfulfilled military order from the 1970s. Tehran recently announced it would break a limit set on uranium enrichment, in breach of the deal's conditions. However the UK, Germany and France say they are still committed to the deal. The British ambassador's memo is said to have highlighted splits amongst US presidential advisers; he wrote that the White House did not have a strategy of how to proceed following withdrawal from the deal.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
Confederate statues come down in Memphis
He declined to say whether he thought the state law should be changed, the Tennessean reported.
"I haven't even looked at that law, other than knowing I needed to comply with it, so that's what I did," Lee told the newspaper. "When we look at the law, then we'll see." CNN has reached out to the governor's office for comment. The proclamation was condemned by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. "This is WRONG," Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. "Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general & a delegate to the 1868 Democratic Convention. He was also a slave trader & the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK." The Texas Republican argued that Tennessee should not have an official day honoring Forrest and called on the state to change the law. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee echoed Cruz on Twitter. "We should not be honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and the perpetrator of the massacre at Fort Pillow," the Democratic congressman said on Twitter. "Gov. Lee should be bringing #Tennessee into the 21st century not backsliding into the 19th." Nashville Mayor David Briley said "no law should force us to honor" Forrest and called on Lee and Tennessee Republican lawmakers, who hold control in the General Assembly, to repeal the law. In a tweet, Briley called on his city to instead "remember those who fought against hate," pointing to Nashville civil rights activist Diane Nash and civil rights lawyer Z. Alexander Looby.

By David Morgan, Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department is trying to prevent two former members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team from testifying behind closed doors in Congress next week, when Mueller will testify before lawmakers, according to people familiar with the matter. The department is opposing testimony by Aaron Zebley and James Quarles before the Democratic-led Judiciary and Intelligence committees in the House of Representatives, two sources said. The men were expected to testify on July 17, the same day that Mueller is due as a witness before the two panels. Democrats said they still expect Zebley and Quarles to appear, arguing that the Justice Department has no authority over the behavior of former employees. But a third source told Reuters that the former Mueller team members were still negotiating with the committees. “We expect them to appear,” Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters. “We’ve got two hours with the Judiciary and Mr. Mueller, and two hours for the Intel committee with Mr. Mueller, and then some time afterwards with his staff.” Justice Department officials had no immediate comment and Zebley and Quarles could not be reached for comment. The episode is the latest example of Trump administration efforts to stymie congressional investigations by directing current and former officials not to cooperate with investigators who are seeking evidence of corruption, obstruction of justice and abuse of power in the Trump presidency.  

A series of high-profile prosecutions highlights the impunity that the rich have long enjoyed.
David A. Graham -Staff writer at The Atlantic
“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” the then-socialite Donald Trump told New York in 2002, in a profile of Jeffrey Epstein. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” The quote is stunning to read today, after Epstein’s arrest for the sex trafficking of minors, and an indictment that alleges he repeatedly recruited and abused victims as young as 14 years old. Why would Trump, in the same breath that he noted the financier’s preference for women “on the younger side,” liken himself to Epstein? But while Trump was unusually willing to say it out loud, he was hardly the only person aware of Epstein’s proclivities. In fact, they were widely known. The journalist Vicky Ward wrote on Twitter Monday that she sought to include reporting on allegations of sexual abuse in a 2002 Vanity Fair profile, but those mentions were cut from the story. Epstein was finally prosecuted in Florida in 2007, but as Julie K. Brown reported last year in the Miami Herald, he got off with a slap on the wrist. Following the Herald series, federal prosecutors in New York found a way to charge Epstein with fresh crimes, for which he could serve a lengthy prison term if convicted.

A federal judge on Wednesday granted a defense motion to keep jurors from hearing about former White House Counsel Greg Craig’s efforts to get a job for Paul Manafort’s daughter at Craig’s law firm while Craig was engaged in a multimillion-dollar assignment for the government of Ukraine. Craig is set to go on trial in Washington next month on two felony charges alleging that he made false and misleading statements to the Justice Department in connection with the project to prepare a report for public release on a controversial prosecution in Ukraine that many critics regarded as politically motivated. U.S. prosecutors wanted to buttress their case against Craig by telling jurors that the veteran Washington lawyer intervened with his Skadden Arps colleagues at Manafort’s request, urging them to hire Andrea Manafort, a new law school graduate, as an associate in 2012. “It shows he is willing to act at Mr. Manafort’s request and Mr. Manafort’s behest,” prosecutor Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez said. Campoamor-Sanchez said the episode with Andrea Manafort supported the notion that Craig was acting for Paul Manafort when Craig contacted New York Times reporter David Sanger about the Ukraine report in 2012. The prosecutor said Craig is expected to testify at trial that he made that contact to protect his own reputation, not on behalf of Ukraine.

By Thomas Brewster Forbes Staff
As many as 25 million Android phones have been hit with malware that replaces installed apps like WhatsApp with evil versions that serve up adverts, cybersecurity researchers warned Wednesday. Dubbed Agent Smith, the malware abuses previously-known weaknesses in the Android operating system, making updating to the latest, patched version of Google's operating system a priority, Israeli security company Check Point said. Most victims are based in India, where as many as 15 million were infected. But there are more than 300,000 in the U.S., with another 137,000 in the U.K., making this one of the more severe threats to have hit Google's operating system in recent memory. The malware has spread via a third party app store 9apps.com, which is owned by China’s Alibaba, rather than the official Google Play store. Typically, such non-Google Play attacks focus on developing countries, making the hackers' success in the U.S. and the U.K. more remarkable, Check Point said. Whilst the replaced apps will serve up malicious ads, whoever's behind the hacks could do worse, Check Point warned in a blog. "Due to its ability to hide it’s icon from the launcher and impersonates any popular existing apps on a device, there are endless possibilities for this sort of malware to harm a user’s device," the researchers wrote.

By Dan Mangan, Tucker Higgins
A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit challenging the legality of payments to President Donald Trump’s hotels by foreigners during his tenure in the White House. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Maryland and the District of Columbia do not have legal standing to claim that Trump violated the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. Trump still faces a similar lawsuit in Washington federal court filed by Democratic members of Congress. A federal appeals court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the legality of payments to President Donald Trump’s hotels by foreigners during his tenure in the White House. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously ruled that the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia do not have legal standing to sue under a claim that Trump violated the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause, contained in Article 1 on of the Constitution, bars government office holders from accepting gifts from foreign officials. Trump still faces a similar lawsuit in Washington federal court filed by Democratic members of Congress. On Monday, the Justice Department urged the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss that second suit. In its ruling, the Fourth Circuit appeals panel said that Washington and Maryland’s interest in enforcing that clause “is so attenuated and abstract” that it raises the question of whether their lawsuit is an appropriate use of the courts.

Foreign service officers are worried that the leak that led to Kim Darroch's resignation — and the president's bullying — is harming diplomats.
The swift downfall of Britain’s ambassador in Washington has rattled diplomats who are warning that the leak that led to it, as well as Donald Trump’s bullying along the way, is harming foreign service work around the world. Kim Darroch’s resignation Wednesday came after withering criticism from the president, who was incensed over leaked private diplomatic cables in which Darroch said Trump “radiates insecurity” and that his administration was “dysfunctional.” The dust-up is just the latest to occur after the public airing of sensitive diplomatic cables — an era that kicked off a decade ago when WikiLeaks began publishing troves of America’s classified cables. And it illustrates the increasing challenges facing diplomats wishing to share blunt and unflattering assessments. Trump’s furious reaction — he called Darroch a “pompous fool” and threatened to stop working with the diplomat — didn’t help, either, former officials said. “We have gotten to a point now where it would appear diplomats cannot report to their governments accurately in any way that is going to remain confidential, and that’s the essence of diplomacy,” said Roberta Jacobson, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Brett Bruen, a former U.S. diplomat who now does consulting work, argued that Trump’s reaction “puts American diplomats a risk.”

By Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is seeking to discourage Robert S. Mueller III’s deputies from testifying before Congress, potentially jeopardizing an agreement for two of the former prosecutors to answer lawmakers’ questions in private next week, according to two government officials familiar with the matter. The department told the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees last week that it was opposed to the testimony and had communicated its view to the two former members of Mr. Mueller’s team, Aaron Zebley and James L. Quarles III, according to a senior congressional official familiar with the discussions. A Justice Department official confirmed that account and said that the department had instructed both men not to appear. It is unclear what effect the Justice Department’s intervention will have on the men’s eventual appearances, but it raises the prospect that a deal lawmakers thought they had struck last month for testimony from Mr. Mueller, the former special counsel, and the two prosecutors could still unravel. Both Mr. Zebley and Mr. Quarles have left the Justice Department and are now private citizens, meaning that the department most likely cannot actually block their testimony. But the department’s view — depending on how strongly it is expressed — could have a chilling effect on two longtime employees and give them cover to avoid testifying.

By Tom Porter
A woman interviewed on NBC's "Today" show says the financier Jeffrey Epstein raped her in his New York City mansion when she was 15. Jennifer Araoz told NBC's Savannah Guthrie in the interview, which aired Wednesday, that she was approached by a woman outside a New York City performing-arts high school blocks from Epstein's Upper East Side mansion. Business Insider has contacted Epstein's lawyer about Araoz's account. NBC said his lawyer did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Epstein was arrested and, in an indictment that was unsealed this week, charged with the sex trafficking of minors, though NBC said Araoz was not part of that case.

The agency's National Threat Assessment Center analyzed 27 incidents, mostly shootings, during 2018.
By Pete Williams
WASHINGTON — Almost all the people who carried out mass attacks in the United States last year made threatening or concerning communications beforehand, and more than three-quarters prompted concern from others, the Secret Service said in a report Tuesday. The agency's National Threat Assessment Center analyzed 27 mass attacks during 2018, defined as incidents in which three or more victims were harmed. In all, 91 people were killed and 107 were injured. All but four of the attackers "made some type of communication that did not constitute a direct threat but should have elicited concern," the report said. It said the former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who killed 14 students and three staff members, "had a long history of behavioral problems and concerning communications." "Mental illness, alone, is not a risk factor for violence, and most violence is committed by individuals who are not mentally ill," the Secret Service said.

By Morgan Chalfant and Jacqueline Thomsen -
President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn will not be called by the government to testify at the upcoming trial of his former business partner Bijan Kian and is being listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, according to a court order issued Tuesday. The order from U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia cites a July 3 notice filed under seal by the government “stating that the government will not be calling Michael T. Flynn as a witness in its case-in-chief.” A separate court filing made by Kian’s attorneys that was unsealed Tuesday indicates that the government is no longer entirely confident in Flynn as a witness. The filing cites a July 2 email in which government attorneys wrote that they “do not necessarily agree” with Flynn’s characterizations about how he made a filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) that included false information about links between his company’s lobbying and the Turkish government. The email states that, according to Flynn’s new lawyers, he did not provide his attorneys with false information, did not read the FARA filing before he signed it, and didn’t know it contained false information. Flynn was never charged in connection with the Turkish lobbying campaign, but admitted to making false statements in FARA filings as part of a deal to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.

The interview was contentious at first, according to two people familiar with the matter, but investigators ultimately found his testimony credible and even surprising.
Christopher Steele, the former British spy behind the infamous “dossier” on President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, was interviewed for 16 hours in June by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, according to two people familiar with the matter. The interview is part of an ongoing investigation that the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has been conducting for the past year. Specifically, Horowitz has been examining the FBI’s efforts to surveil a one-time Trump campaign adviser based in part on information from Steele, an ex-British MI6 agent who had worked with the bureau as a confidential source since 2010. Horowitz’s team has been intensely focused on gauging Steele’s credibility as a source for the bureau. But Steele was initially reluctant to speak with the American investigators because of the potential impropriety of his involvement in an internal DOJ probe as a foreign national and retired British intelligence agent. Steele’s allies have also repeatedly noted that the dossier was not the original basis for the FBI’s probe into Trump and Russia. The extensive, two-day interview took place in London while Trump was in Britain for a state visit, the sources said, and delved into Steele’s extensive work on Russian interference efforts globally, his intelligence-collection methods and his findings about Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who the FBI ultimately surveilled. The FBI’s decision to seek a surveillance warrant against Page — a warrant they applied for and obtained after Page had already left the campaign — is the chief focus of the probe by Horowitz. The interview was contentious at first, the sources added, but investigators ultimately found Steele’s testimony credible and even surprising. The takeaway has irked some U.S. officials interviewed as part of the probe — they argue that it shouldn’t have taken a foreign national to convince the inspector general that the FBI acted properly in 2016. Steele’s American lawyer was present for the conversation.

By Alexander Bolton
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says he is open to hearings on the controversial plea deal Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta struck with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 to resolve multiple allegations of sexual molestation. “If this plea deal doesn’t withstand scrutiny then it would be the job of the Judiciary Committee to find out how it got off the rails. What kind of checks and balances do we have to make sure that complaints involving minor children are adequately investigated? This is an area of the law where the tie goes to the kids,” Graham told reporters Tuesday morning. “If we think somebody’s out there abusing children, no matter how hard the case may be, you want to bring it forward simply to get these people deterred if nothing else,” he added. Acosta was the U.S. attorney in charge of Epstein’s case when he struck what has now been criticized as an overly lenient plea deal that allowed him to spend just more than a year in jail and have work release. The plea deal with Epstein has faced new scrutiny following federal prosecutors unsealing new sex trafficking charges against Epstein on Monday, alleging abuse of dozens of female minors. He has denied all charges.

In a 3-0 decision, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the First Amendment forbids Trump from using Twitter's "blocking" function to limit access to his account, which has 61.8 million followers. US President Donald Trump violated the Constitution by blocking people whose views he disliked from his Twitter account, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. In a 3-0 decision, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the First Amendment forbids Trump from using Twitter's "blocking" function to limit access to his account, which has 61.8 million followers. "The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees," Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote, citing several Supreme Court decisions. Neither the White House nor the US Department of Justice immediately responded to requests for comment. The White House social media director Dan Scavino is also a defendant. Twitter had no immediate comment.

By Gregory Wallace, CNN
(CNN) - Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who as US Attorney in Miami oversaw a 2008 plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein, defended on Tuesday his handling of the case and tweeted he is pleased "prosecutors are moving forward." "The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence," Acosta wrote in a series of tweets on Tuesday. "With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator." In his latest tweet in the series, Acosta wrote, "Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice." Federal prosecutors in New York unsealed a criminal indictment on Monday charging Epstein with having allegedly operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls. Acosta's handling of the 2008 plea deal has come under intense scrutiny in recent months after a Miami Herald investigation. The non-prosecution deal with federal prosecutors allowed the hedge fund manager to plead guilty to two state prostitution charges and serve just 13 months in prison. The Herald investigation said Acosta gave Epstein the "deal of a lifetime" despite a federal investigation identifying 36 underage victims. The agreement, the Herald said, "essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe" and further granted immunity to "any potential co-conspirators" in the case.

By Kate Sullivan, Marlena Baldacci and Karl de Vries, CNN
Washington (CNN)Ross Perot, the billionaire tycoon who mounted two unsuccessful third-party presidential campaigns in the 1990s, died Tuesday, family spokesman James Fuller confirmed to CNN. He was 89. Perot died after a five-month battle with leukemia, Fuller said. A billionaire by his mid-50s after he sold a controlling interest in the data processing business he founded to General Motors for $2.5 billion, Perot's foray into presidential politics made him one of the more colorful political figures of the 1990s. His Texas twang, populist platform -- he memorably railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement, warning of a "giant sucking sound" of American jobs to other countries if passed -- and frequent TV appearances brought him wide recognition, and his 1992 campaign, in which he garnered nearly 19% of the vote and finished third behind Bill Clinton and incumbent President George H.W. Bush, remains one of the most successful third-party bids in American history. For years, Bush blamed Perot for his defeat, saying in a 2012 HBO documentary that he believed Perot "cost me the election." Election experts and scholarly research, however, has challenged that theory: The New York Times found Perot's effect on the outcome of the election "appears to have been minimal," and The Washington Post reported Clinton would have still won by a large margin if Perot hadn't run. In 1995, Perot created the Reform Party, and the following year received 8% of the vote in the presidential election as the party's candidate.

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