McConnell sets Friday test vote on Kavanaugh nomination WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate braced for a crucial initial vote Friday on Brett Kavanaugh’s tottering Supreme Court nomination after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set his polarized…
McConnell sets Friday test vote on Kavanaugh nomination
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate braced for a crucial initial vote Friday on Brett Kavanaugh’s tottering Supreme Court nomination after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set his polarized chamber on a schedule to decide which party wins an election-season battle royale that has consumed the nation. A showdown roll call over confirmation seemed likely over the weekend.
McConnell, R-Ky., cemented the process late Wednesday and announced that sometime during the evening, the FBI would deliver to an anxious Senate the potentially fateful document on claims that Kavanaugh sexually abused women. With Republicans clinging to a razor-thin 51-49 majority and five senators — including three Republicans — still vacillating, the conservative jurist’s prospects of Senate confirmation remained murky and highly dependent on the file’s contents, which are supposed to be kept secret.
“There will be plenty of time for members to review and be briefed on the supplemental material” before Friday’s vote, McConnell said to the nearly empty chamber. In a rare moment of randomness in what’s been a deadly serious process, the normally meticulous lawmaker’s cell phone emitted a ringtone during part of his remarks.
Lawmakers were planning to begin reading the FBI report early Thursday, with senators and a small number of top aides permitted to view it in a secure room in the Capitol complex. Senators are not supposed to divulge the contents of the agency’s background reports.
The report was arriving at a Capitol palpably tense over the political stakes of the nomination fight and from aggressive anti-Kavanaugh protesters who have rattled and reportedly harassed senators. Feeding the anxiety was an unusually beefy presence of the U.S. Capitol Police, who were keeping demonstrators and frequently reporters at arms length by forming wedges around lawmakers walking through corridors.
GOP women in hot seat over Trump mocking Ford, vote looming
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump era has, at times, been uncomfortable for Republican women, especially the six senators who will be asked to vote for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation by week’s end.
On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump ridiculed Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school — a claim Kavanaugh denies.
Recent polls show a majority of women think the Senate should not confirm Kavanaugh. But Republican women, like GOP men, are overwhelmingly sticking with the nominee.
A look at how it’s playing out for female Republican senators:
Probes of Trump taxes carry potential for millions in fines
NEW YORK (AP) — Though President Donald Trump insists he did nothing wrong on his taxes, experts say he could be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in civil fines if state and federal authorities substantiate a New York Times report that found he and his family cheated the IRS for decades.
The statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges has long run out, but civil cases have no such limits, and the financial penalties could be staggering. Civil fraud charges for intentionally underpaying taxes, as the Times alleged the Trump family did, could include a penalty of up to 75 percent of the unpaid federal taxes and double the unpaid state amount, experts said.
The penalties “could be substantial, and if the allegations are proven in court, they should be levied,” said Norman Eisen, chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and former chief ethics counsel in the Obama administration.
The New York tax department said it is studying the Times’ 15,000-word report and “vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation.” New York City also said it would investigate. A spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service declined to comment.
Trump tweeted that the newspaper did “a very old, boring and often told hit piece on me.”
APNewsBreak: DEA’s Colombia post jarred by misconduct probes
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — New turmoil has roiled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s high-profile office in Colombia, where at least three agents have left in recent months amid investigations into alleged misconduct, including accusations that one passed secrets to drug cartels and another used government resources to hire prostitutes.
The DEA’s top-ranking official in South America, who was brought in three years ago in the wake of a scandal involving agents participating in sex parties with prostitutes, is under investigation after the agency received an anonymous complaint saying he directed Colombian drivers working for the U.S. Embassy in Bogota “to procure sex workers,” according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Associated Press and one current and one former law enforcement official. The officials spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Richard Dobrich, a regional director who is retiring from the DEA next month to take a private sector job, said in a statement and interview with the AP that the complaint is without merit and he would have to be a “complete idiot” to have anything to do with prostitution given the office’s history. He also denied his departure has anything to do with the accusation.
“There is nothing to this — zero,” Dobrich said of the anonymous complaint, adding he wants another probe into how it got out. Dobrich said he believes this “attempted assassination on my reputation” is a setup, perhaps by a disgruntled former DEA employee.
Dobrich said investigators from the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General interviewed him at his office in Colombia last month and seized his phone as a matter of routine. Dobrich said he was later told by an investigator that no misconduct was found, but neither the OIG nor the investigator named by Dobrich would comment on the status of the investigation.
US Navy veteran arrested in Utah in suspicious mailings
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A U.S. Navy veteran in Utah was arrested Wednesday in connection with suspicious envelopes that were sent to President Donald Trump and top military chiefs.
William Clyde Allen III, 39, was taken into custody in in the small northern Utah city of Logan, said Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the state’s U.S. attorney’s office.
The arrest comes after authorities confirmed an investigation into two envelopes once thought to contain ricin and later found to be castor seeds, the substance from which the poison is derived. They can cause injury if swallowed.
The FBI said there were potentially hazardous chemicals involved with their operation in Utah on Wednesday, but they declined to give additional details. No attorney was immediately listed for Allen.
The envelopes addressed to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the Navy’s top officer, Adm. John Richardson, were isolated at a mail screening facility and sent to the FBI. No one was injured, and neither envelope entered the Pentagon. Mattis is traveling in Europe this week.
Officer killed, 6 other officers wounded in South Carolina
FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — Seven South Carolina law enforcement officers were shot Wednesday, one fatally, in a confrontation with a man who held children hostage as he fired on the officers, officials said.
The suspect was taken into custody and the children weren’t hurt after a two-hour standoff in an upscale neighborhood just outside of Florence, not far from areas that were devastated by flooding from Hurricane Florence, authorities said.
The man shot three Florence County deputies from inside a home as they came to serve a warrant around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Florence County Sheriff’s Maj. Mike Nunn said.
The suspect then shot four Florence city police officers, one fatally, as officers from all around the area swarmed in to help, Florence Police Chief Allen Heidler said.
A bullet-proof vehicle had to be used to rescue the wounded officers as the man held children hostage inside for two hours, Nunn said.
NKorea said to have stolen a fortune in online bank heists
WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests have stopped, but its hacking operations to gather intelligence and raise funds for the sanction-strapped government in Pyongyang may be gathering steam.
U.S. security firm FireEye raised the alarm Wednesday over a North Korean group that it says has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars by infiltrating the computer systems of banks around the world since 2014 through highly sophisticated and destructive attacks that have spanned at least 11 countries. It says the group is still operating and poses “an active global threat.”
It is part of a wider pattern of malicious state-backed cyber activity that has led the Trump administration to identify North Korea — along with Russia, Iran and China — as one of the main online threats facing the United States. Last month, the Justice Department charged a North Korean hacker said to have conspired in devastating cyberattacks, including an $81 million heist of Bangladesh’s central bank and the WannaCry virus that crippled parts of Britain’s National Health Service.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned of the use of malware by Hidden Cobra, the U.S. government’s byword for North Korea hackers, in fraudulent ATM cash withdrawals from banks in Asia and Africa. It said that Hidden Cobra was behind the theft of tens of millions of dollars from teller machines in the past two years. In one incident this year, cash had been simultaneously withdrawn from ATMs in 23 different countries, it said.
North Korea, which prohibits access to the world wide web for virtually all its people, has previously denied involvement in cyberattacks, and attribution for such attacks is rarely made with absolute certainty. It is typically based on technical indicators such as the Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses that identify computers and characteristics of the coding used in malware, which is the software a hacker may use to damage or disable computers.
Little but uncertainty in Indonesian city hit by disasters
PALU, Indonesia (AP) — Life is on hold for thousands living in tents and shelters in the Indonesian city hit by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, unsure when they’ll be able to rebuild and spending hours each day often futilely trying to secure necessities such as fuel for generators.
Residents whose homes had been destroyed had little but uncertainty on the seventh day since the disasters. But they also had hope more aid would pour into the city of Palu and the surrounding Donggala district on the island of Sulawesi.
Some residents have taken to digging through reeking piles of sodden food and debris, searching a warehouse wrecked in the tsunami for anything they could salvage: cans of condensed milk, soft drinks, rice, candy and painkillers. Others carted away corrugated metal, wood, piping and other items to build temporary shelters or sell.
Andi Rusding, huddled with numerous family members under a tarpaulin, said they’d gotten some aid but its distribution was uneven and they felt shortchanged.
“Please tell the government and the NGOs if they’re really willing to help us with some foods please do not give it away through the command posts,” he said. “It is better to go directly to each and every tent. Because sometime (the relief goods) didn’t distribute evenly.”
Emergency alert test sounds off on mobile phones nationwide
WASHINGTON (AP) — Electronic devices across the United States sounded off Wednesday as the Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted its first-ever national wireless emergency alert test.
The tone went off at 2:18 p.m. EDT. The subject of the alert read: “Presidential Alert” and text said: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
FEMA officials estimated that about 225 million devices would receive the alert at about the same time, but the message was broadcast by cell towers for 30 minutes so some people got it later than others. Some got as many as four alerts on their phones; others didn’t get any.
In a real emergency, devices would get the alert at the same time or as close to the same time as possible.
A second alert on television broadcast and radio went off at 2:20 p.m. EDT. The TV and radio alert has been tested for several years.
Lawyers: Ronaldo accuser suffers from post-traumatic stress
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Lawyers for a Nevada woman accusing Cristiano Ronaldo of raping her nine years ago said Wednesday that their client has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and depression, conditions they argue would have made her legally incompetent to reach a non-disclosure agreement.
Kathryn Mayorga didn’t appear with her lawyers at a news conference in Las Vegas the same day that Ronaldo denied the rape accusations, using Twitter to say he had a “clear conscience” as he awaits results “of any and all investigations.”
“I firmly deny the accusations,” he said. “Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in. Keen as I may be to clear my name, I refuse to feed the media spectacle created by people seeking to promote themselves at my expense.”
Mayorga’s attorney Larissa Drohobyczer told reporters the psychiatrist’s recent medical opinion was that Mayorga’s psychological injuries were “caused by Cristiano Ronaldo’s sexual assault in 2009.”
The doctor, Norton Roitman in Las Vegas, did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.