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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 10:04 pm

AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EST

The Associated Press

FBI contradicts White House on probe of former aide Porter

WASHINGTON (AP) Contradicting the White House, the FBI said Tuesday it gave the Trump administration information on multiple occasions last year about a top aide accused of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives, and the investigation wrapped up in January.

That account by FBI Director Christopher Wray challenged the White House assertion that Rob Porter's background "investigation was ongoing" and officials first learned the extent of accusations against him only last week, just before he abruptly resigned.

Wray's testimony marked the latest development in a scandal that has called into question the judgment of senior members of the White House staff, put new stress on the administration's already strained credibility with the public, and drawn accusations of tone-deaf handling of abuse allegations.

The week-long fallout from the allegations against Porter, President Donald Trump's staff secretary, has thrown the West Wing into chaos not seen since the earliest months of the administration and has sparked new rounds of recriminations inside the White House.

Privately, officials acknowledge that the public timeline offered last week that the administration first learned of the ex-wives' charges against Porter last Tuesday was flawed at best.

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ICE lawyer in Seattle charged with stealing immigrant IDs

SEATTLE (AP) The chief counsel for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle has been charged with stealing immigrants' identities.

Raphael A. Sanchez, who resigned from the agency effective Monday, faces one count of aggravated identity theft and another of wire fraud in a charging document filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

Prosecutors with the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section allege that Sanchez stole the identities of seven people "in various stages of immigration proceedings" to defraud credit card companies including American Express, Bank of America and Capital One.

Neither Sanchez nor his lawyer, Cassandra Stamm, immediately returned emails seeking comment Tuesday.

According to court rules, the type of charging document filed in Sanchez's case called an information can be filed only when a defendant has agreed to waive his or her right to be indicted by a grand jury; it's typically an indication that a plea agreement is in the works. The court's calendar showed that Sanchez is due to enter a plea Thursday.

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US intel sees signs of Russian meddling in midterms

WASHINGTON (AP) Three of the nation's top intelligence officials confirmed Tuesday that they have seen evidence of Russian meddling in the upcoming midterm elections part of what they say is Moscow's escalating cyber assault on American and European democracies.

"We have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle," CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Senate intelligence committee.

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and Adm. Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, agreed that Russia's interference is ongoing. "This is not going to change or stop," Rogers said.

They didn't describe the activity, other than to say it was related to information warfare.

"This is pervasive," Coats said. "The Russians have a strategy that goes well beyond what is happening in the United States. While they have historically tried to do these types of things, clearly in 2016 they upped their game. They took advantage, a sophisticated advantage of social media. They are doing that not only in the United States but doing it throughout Europe and perhaps elsewhere."

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10 Things to Know for Wednesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday:

1. WHO'S RAISING RED FLAG ON MEDDLING

Three top U.S. intelligence officials say that they have seen evidence of Russian meddling in the upcoming midterm elections part of what they say is Moscow's escalating cyber assault on American and European democracies.

2. FBI CONTRADICTS WHITE HOUSE

The agency says it gave the Trump administration information on multiple occasions last year about a top aide accused of domestic abuse. The aide resigned abruptly only last week.

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Reports of Russian deaths underscore dangers of Syria's war

WASHINGTON (AP) It's a scenario many feared in the fog of Syria's multi-front war: a confrontation in which U.S. forces, responding to a provocation, kill Russian soldiers or mercenaries on a crowded battlefield.

Russian news reports Tuesday described just such a scenario, with an unknown number of Russian military contractors killed in a ferocious U.S. counterattack last week. But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other U.S. officials said they had no such information on casualties, and the Kremlin did not confirm any Russian deaths. U.S. officials also said the Russian government had lodged no complaint about its citizens being killed.

What is not disputed is the fast-changing, often confusing nature of a battlefield in which forces of multiple countries are bumping up against one another, raising the prospect of violent collisions. Whether by accident or intention, such clashes risk plunging Washington and Moscow into a situation they studiously avoided even during some of the darkest hours of their relationship: their forces directly warring with each other.

Russian forces are supporting the Syrian government in its war with opposition groups, some of which are backed by the United States. Elements of both sides are fighting the last remnants of the Islamic State group in Syria. And U.S. and Russian military officials maintain daily contact to avoid battlefield mishaps.

Beyond doubt is the ferocious scale of the U.S. attack on Feb. 7, in response to what the Pentagon called a barrage of artillery and tank fire from several hundred "pro-regime" fighters in Deir el-Zour province, an area in eastern Syria where the last IS fighters have converged among oil fields. Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. air forces in the Middle East, told reporters a broad range of U.S. air power was unleashed.

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'New generation of Nigerians' marks Olympic bobsled debut

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, Akuoma Omeoga was raised on Nigerian food, language and culture. Next week, the 25-year-old will represent her parents' homeland in the Winter Games, hurtling down the bobsled track with her tresses dyed green as a tribute to the country flapping beneath her helmet like a flag.

"One of the biggest things my parents did was speak the language at home," Omeoga recalled in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. "It's super familiar to me, even though it's not something that I speak fluently ... I can also relate."

Omeoga and fellow brakeman Ngozi Owumere, along with driver Seun Adigun, are all Americans of Nigerian descent who will represent the African nation in its Winter Olympics debut. The country is one of eight African nations competing in South Korea as part of the largest contingent of African athletes ever at a Winter Games.

For Adigun, her roots are as important as her birthplace, which is what pushed her to create Nigeria's first-ever bobsled team. To be a first-generation Nigerian is to have the patriotism of your homeland "almost pounded into you" by parents who don't want you to forget where you come from, explains Adigun, who also competed as a track athlete for Nigeria in the 2012 London Games.

"Although we're American, we're also Nigerian," she said." We're actually Nigerian first. That's the one culture that we know, that we were raised to respect and understand. To show people that it's okay to be both and it's okay to represent where you're from is a powerful message that, hopefully, we've been able to translate."

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Column: Shani Davis: Brilliant career, complicated legacy

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) Shani Davis labored across the line, gulping for air, a shell of what he once was in a clapskate.

The years can be cruel that way.

"It's hard to stay on the top forever," said Belgium's Bart Swings, who went in the same pair with Davis and beat him to the finish by more than a full second over 1,500 meters a rout in speedskating terms. "Shani had an incredibly high level. I think with his highest level, he could still win here. But, of course, he's getting on in age now."

Indeed, he is.

At 35, Davis is very likely skating in his final Olympics. On Tuesday night, he finished 19th in his debut at Pyeongchang Games, hardly looking like the guy who will surely go down as one of America's greatest Winter Olympians.

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Police recommend corruption charges for Netanyahu

JERUSALEM (AP) Israeli police on Tuesday recommended that Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges in a pair of corruption cases, dealing an embarrassing blow to the embattled prime minister that is likely to fuel calls for him to step down.

Netanyahu angrily rejected the accusations, which included accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts from a pair of billionaires. He accused police of being on a witch hunt and vowed to remain in office and even seek re-election.

"I will continue to lead the state of Israel responsibly and loyally as long as you, the citizens of Israel, choose me to lead you," an ashen-faced Netanyahu said in a televised address. "I am sure that the truth will come to light. And I am sure that also in the next election that will take place on time I will win your trust again, with God's help."

The recommendations marked a dramatic ending to a more than yearlong investigation into allegations that Netanyahu accepted gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, and suspicions that he offered to give preferential treatment to a newspaper publisher in exchange for favorable coverage.

The recommendations now go to Attorney General Avihai Mendelblit, who will review the material before deciding whether to file charges. Netanyahu can remain in office during that process, which is expected to drag on for months.

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Off-duty Chicago police officer fatally shot during pursuit

CHICAGO (AP) An off-duty police commander was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon in downtown Chicago after he spotted a man matching the radio description of an armed suspect officers were chasing on foot, the city's police superintendent said.

Cmdr. Paul Bauer was shot multiple times after he "saw the offender and engaged in an armed physical confrontation," Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. He choked back tears as he spoke to reporters outside Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where Bauer was pronounced dead.

The shooting occurred near the James R. Thompson Center, the state government office building. Johnson said officers initially confronted the suspect because he was acting suspiciously. Police captured the man a short time later, and a gun was recovered at the scene, he said.

Bauer, 53, was a 31-year veteran of the department.

There were initial media reports that the man may have been involved in the robbery of a local business, but Johnson did not provide details about what the man was doing that prompted officers to want to speak with him.

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Giant schnauzer aims for giant prize at Westminster dog show

NEW YORK (AP) Ty the giant schnauzer has taken his first steps toward what could be a giant prize at the Westminster Kennel Club.

The nation's top-ranked show dog was judged best in his breed Tuesday. He moves on to the working group competition in the evening at Madison Square Garden.

America's top pooch will be picked Tuesday night. There will be seven dogs in the best of show ring. Already earning spots are Biggie the pug, Lucy the borzoi, Slick the border collie and Flynn the bichon frise.

Being No. 1 going into Westminster doesn't mean a dog will go best in show. Underdogs and upsets are way more than norm on the green carpet of the Garden.